It is an unfortunate fact that the Middle East is plagued by all
kinds of security threats, making it among the less safe regions in
These threats arise basically from unresolved conflicts over
territories and resources and from worsening economic situations
resulting from debt, poverty and unemployment. Other causes leading
to security threats can be the absence of democracies predicated on
political pluralism, the existence of extremist ideologies seeking
to undermine the rule of law, and, naturally, the widespread
escalation of conventional military hardware and the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems -
the latter further aggravated by the proliferation of potential
This paper aims to highlight the impact of weapons proliferation on
stability in the Middle East, and attempts to put forward a
security structure that can enhance regional balance in the
Theoretically, the possession of certain types or quantities of WMD
undermines security. In the event of a crisis, some leaders might
find it tempting to use such weapons, or an abrupt change of
government might leave those weapons in less responsible and
reliable hands. Furthermore, the perception of one's military
superiority and the possession of WMD could easily influence and
even justify decisions by governments to resort to armed conflicts
as a means of resolving pending regional problems. But most
importantly, a nation that produces and possesses those weapons,
even if it has no intention of using them, heightens anxiety among
its neighbors and adversaries.
The possession of weapons should be viewed, therefore, as a problem
necessitating the establishment of institutionalized mechanisms to
restrain the dissemination of and access to potentially dangerous
weapons technologies. Weapons control should thus strive to develop
criteria and standards that guide policy across nations and over
time in a consistent and uniform manner (Kellman, B., Theory on
Weapons Control, 1995).
Israeli Military Capabilities
Israel's nuclear capability and ambiguous nuclear policy represent
a driving force for the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other
WMD in the region. This strategic capability compelled a number of
regional states to declare that some form of an "in-kind"
deterrence should be developed or acquired.
In addition, Israel's tactical capabilities and technological
superiority - especially in air power and command, communications,
computers, intelligence and electronic warfare (C4IEW), have also
accelerated the acquisition and production process by other states
in the region of sophisticated conventional weapons and
surface-to-surface missiles, that may be used as an alternative
deterrent for WMD.
These processes and trends are likely to continue as more arms
deals have been and are being concluded. The Middle East and North
Africa (MENA) countries bought nearly half the $40 billion worth of
weapons sold abroad during 1996 (The Jerusalem Post, October 15,
1997; IISS Report, London). Those funds could have been better
spent on socioeconomic development where they are desperately
In terms of strategic objectives, this conventional arms race
firstly needs to be checked, and, secondly, WMD and their delivery
means must be eliminated from the region. That said, however, a
major problem remains: how best to achieve these objectives?
Through what process? Under what conditions and criteria? And
according to what timetable?
It is of the essence, therefore, that these questions and perhaps
many more be addressed in order to promote educational and
consensus-building efforts regarding arms control issues as well as
the spread of WMD.
Weapons Control and Regional Stability
Weapons control and disarmament negotiations are essential
components of international diplomacy. If successful, they can
enhance regional stability through the reduction of military
threats and the risk of war. Further, such negotiations can
decelerate the regional arms race, stabilize military balances
among states, and reduce fear and tensions between
Arms control measures would, thus, encourage states to resort to
peaceful means to resolve or manage conflicts, and would allow
them, instead, to conserve the badly needed resources for economic
and social development through the reduction of military
Such means will, ultimately, create confidence, minimize suspicion,
and promote better understanding among states. One effect of the
Gulf crisis, for example, has been the emergence of calls for "new"
approaches to long-standing Middle East questions. "New security
structures," "new regional order" and "new thinking" in the Middle
East have become increasingly familiar terms. At the end of both
world wars, parallel sentiments for a new world order emerged.
However, as the history of this century attests, blueprints did not
always work in such cases. The Middle East must strive to avoid a
similar outcome (address by HRH Prince Hassan bin-Talal of Jordan
to RUSI, London, December 1996).
Future Regional Security Arrangements
The security of the region is the responsibility of the states
living in it. The establishment of a regional security structure is
therefore essential to complement - not replace - bilateral and
multilateral security arrangements among states in the
The experience of other areas in the world shows that success in
security arrangements is a result of hard work and careful
adherence to regional and international norms. It is also important
to take into consideration the needs of other states in the region
to ensure that a process is established and stays on track.
No two regions or situations are the same. The design of
cooperative work and its division of labor must adjust to the
realities of each case with flexibility and creativity. The
Asia-Pacific region, for example, was offered the European model
and declined it as being partially successful, too
institutionalized, too firmly grounded in common norms and values,
and overly ambitious.
Ultimately the impetus for establishing a regional security regime
must come from within the region itself. However, outside powers
can be helpful and, in some instances, are even essential. The
United States, in particular, could, with the support of the
European Union, play a vital role in this domain.
Finally, any sub-regional or regional security arrangements must be
based on an acceptable set of principles, such as:
* Each state has the right to self-defense;
* Each state has the right to live in peace without fear of
aggression; there can be no security without peace and no peace
* All need to feel secure, free of the fear of acts of
* States have to appreciate that peace and security are not
zero-sum, but mutually reinforcing; and finally,
* No state should seek hegemony over any other state in the
According to a study on the security considerations of the states
in the Middle East, the authorities of the states concerned
perceive the existence and the danger of proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction as a growing threat. Although the modalities
suggested for overcoming that threat reveal differences among these
states, the various authorities, nonetheless, share a common view
regarding the necessity of dealing with the threat within the
context of a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle
East (a study by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament
In the context of a comprehensive, lasting and stable peace,
characterized by the renunciation of the use of force, and by
reconciliation and goodwill, both Jordan and Israel are committed
to work jointly "towards establishing a Middle East free of weapons
of mass destruction, both conventional and non-conventional"
(Article 4, Par. 7b of the Jordan-Israel Treaty of Peace).
In a similar vein, Mr. David Levy, Israel's prime minister, in his
address to the 52nd session of the UN General Assembly on September
29, 1997, stated that: "After the establishment of peace treaties
between Israel and every country of the region, it will be possible
to bring about the establishment of a regional security system,
which would provide multilateral and shared solutions to the range
of security problems in the Middle East, including a mutually and
effectively verifiable Middle East, of chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles."
Meanwhile, there is a real need for a holistic approach to security
to encompass the political, economic, environmental, social and
spiritual dimensions in the region. Such conceptualization would be
vital for regional stability, cooperation and eventual integration.
The chance now exists to make order out of potential chaos arising
from the unpredictability and uncertainty of future developments.
Clearly, an on-going dialogue - or what is called Track II
diplomacy - can help to counter all causes of instability in the
region. And, as has always been emphasized, "Dialogue might not
solve all problems, but it is impossible to solve any problem