PRINCETON, NJThe recent nuclear agreement with Iran could serve as a first step toward a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. There is more that needs to be done, however, according to a recent report issued by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), a group based at Princeton University and made up of nuclear experts from 18 countries.
In order for the Middle East to become a nuclear-weapon free zone, all states in the region including Iran would have to agree to steps that permanently reduce the risk of civilian nuclear facilities being used as a cover for secret nuclear-weapons programs. Under such a zone, Israel the only regional state with nuclear weapons would have to cease its production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the key materials for nuclear weapons. Israel also would have to declare and begin to reduce its current stockpiles, eventually eliminating them.
"Together, these measures would bring about a nuclear weapon-free Middle East and would make that zone more robust when in force," said Frank von Hippel, a founder of the Woodrow Wilson School's Program on Science and Global Security, co-chair of IPFM and professor emeritus of public and international affairs.
The idea of a nuclear weapon-free zone has proven successful in Southeast and Central Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1974, a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East was first proposed by Iran and Egypt as an attempt to roll back Israel's nuclear weapons and restrain further proliferation in the region. Since then, all Middle East countries have signed the United Nations' Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), except for Israel.
IPFM estimates that Israel has produced enough plutonium to make on the order of 200 nuclear warheads, assuming each weapon would need four to five kilograms. A nuclear arsenal of this size would be the fifth large
|Contact: B. Rose Huber|
Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs