News / Middle East

Concern Grows Over Middle East's WMD Arsenal

Concern Grows Over Middle East's WMD Arsenali
X
October 01, 2013 3:11 PM
Efforts to secure Syria's chemical weapons and regulate Iran's nuclear program have again raised the idea of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. But analysts say regional rivalries stand in the way. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.
"Concern Grows Over Middle East's WMD Arsenal" - related video report by Elizabeth Arrott
Elizabeth Arrott
Efforts to secure Syria's chemical weapons and regulate Iran's nuclear program have again raised the idea of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. But analysts say regional rivalries stand in the way.  
 
A U.N. mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, and efforts to regulate Iran's nuclear program, have raised hopes the Middle East is on its way to limiting the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
 
But for political analysts like Professor Emad Shahin of the American University in Cairo, it's a long-standing, and long-odds, dream.
 
“The region will be much better off it is chemical free and nuclear free." he said. "However, this has been on the table for decades.”

Transparency is one of the obstacles. Iran dismisses Western accusations it is seeking nuclear weapons. Syria only confirmed its chemical stockpile when threatened with a U.S. missile strike.
 
Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Iran are all believed to have chemical weapons, as is Israel, which also has unacknowledged nuclear capability.
 
While piecemeal efforts to contain the threat are underway, political sociologist Said Sadek argues the problem should be looked at in its totality.
 
“This has to be a joint effort by all participants," he said. "But as long as there is conflict, there is always justification for keeping the weapons.”
 
As with many issues in the region, debate often turns to Israel. Emad Shahin said, “There is a kind of a defense doctrine that has been imposed on the region, whether it is deliberate or not, but it's a de facto doctrine that Israel should be militarily superior to all its neighbors combined.”

The perception of a regional imbalance colors current efforts at disarmament, despite the apparent deterrence such weapons imposed on Israel and Syria for decades. Again, Emad Shahin said, “Dismantling these arsenals as a way of pressuring countries, while at the same time maintaining this strategic imbalance between regional powers, this is what really creates lots of problems.”
 
So, too, argue some, is the way President Obama handled the Syrian crisis. backing down from strikes for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, says Said Sadek, will encourage the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by others.

"For Obama, he wanted face saving. He wanted new ways," he said. "There is no way you can solve Iran's nuclear program. And the credibility of the U.S. has been bruised with this Syrian chemical issue.  Assad got away with it."
 
Although Iran maintains its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, many in the region, not just Israel, are skeptical.
 
“It can also push some countries like Egypt and also Saudi Arabia to seek their own nuclear programs and try to do some balance,” he said

It's a scenario, Sadek says, that despite international efforts, could push the volatile region into an even greater arms race.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs