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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Cairo's Nuclear Treaty Policy

Cairo AL-AHRAM, 15 Jan 95 p 5 by Taha al-Majdub

In his recent press interviews, President Husni Mubarak defined Egypt's position on a central issue closely linked with the peace process: the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear arms. In doing so, President Mubarak has emphasized a firm strategic line in Egyptian policy. In his statements to Israeli Television and the Kuwaiti newspaper AL-WATAN, the president emphasized several points, the most significant of which were the following:

1. Egypt was the first to propose that the Middle East area be made free of mass-destruction weapons (his excellency announced his initiative in this respect in April 1990).

2. Egypt cannot force Israel to sign the treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, but it can refrain from signing the document to extend the treaty unless Israel signs it, because the establishment of peace demands that both Egypt and Israel sign the treaty.

3. The establishment of just and comprehensive peace in the area is Egypt's strategic option. It is Egypt's historic responsibility to try to spare the area the perils of comprehensive peace.

Israel has strongly opposed these Egyptian political views, because they represent pressure in an extremely important security issue. The United States also has opposed these views, because they contradict its planned strategy in the area, of which Israel represents one of the strategy's principal tools. Ambassador Thomas Graham, deputy director of the U.S. Agency for Arms Control, held a news conference in Washington last December following a visit to Cairo. He emphasized the need to convince Egypt that it is in its own security interests to accept the extension of the treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons for an unlimited period. He also affirmed that, "in principle," the United States would like Israel to sign this treaty, adding that no state can be forced to "take a step contrary to its national security." Graham termed "theoretical" Egypt's position that there are no future guarantees that Israel will not continue to possess nuclear weapons, adding that Israel is not Egypt's enemy; Iran and Iraq are.

We have several basic comments about Graham's remarks. Perhaps the most significant is the one regarding the clearly illogical paradox contained in his statement. He called on Egypt, which does not possess nuclear weapons, to sign the treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, because this would be in its own interests, but did not mention the effect of such a move on Egypt's national security. However, he did not offer the same advice to Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons, although this situation poses a serious danger to Egypt and the Middle East and although Egypt is considered Israel's second enemy after Syria, according to a classification by Israeli academic institutes and strategic thinkers.

As for Egypt's position, which Graham described as "theoretical," it raises some questions and confirms that his remark contradicts reality. Israel possesses nuclear warheads, and missiles that can carry them to any Arab capital. It also possesses nuclear bombs that American-made F-16 aircraft stationed at the Israeli Tel Nof airbase can carry. Does this not represent an actual threat not only to Egypt but also to all the Arab states that lie within the range of Israel missiles and the American-made aircraft?

Does not Israel's refusal to sign the treaty confirm that Israel wants to use its nuclear deterrent to influence all the states in the area and deepen the feelings of anxiety in Egypt and the Arab world? Does not this give Egypt and the Arabs every right to confront this threat and to demand that the least Israel can do is not only sign the treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, which allows it to retain its existing nuclear weapons, but also to call on it to get rid of all its nuclear stockpiles? This is a basic step for establishing the principles for complete arms control in the Middle East and for ending the arms race, allowing all states to devote their resources to development and to strengthening cooperation among their peoples.

Egypt has been exercising its full responsibility in this regard for many years, relying in its activity on President Mubarak's April 1990 initiative to clear the Middle East area of all mass-destruction weapons. However, everyone must fully realize the real dangers that will result from the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East if Israel is allowed to do what it likes and retain its "nuclear deterrent" to impose its hegemony on the area.

A concrete development has taken place in the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A shift from a state of armed conflict to a state of peaceful coexistence and from a state of war to a state of peace and regional cooperation has begun. This invalidates Israel's excuse to retain nuclear weapons. Economic cooperation will create common interests, requiring security cooperation to safeguard them. This will not be achieved before an essential initial step is taken to open the way to arms control in the area and prevent the possibility of an arms race, which can lead to disturbances, tension, and instability. This step is the joint signing of the treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons in the area.

From this premise, Egypt, supported by the Arab states, has insisted on the need to link comprehensive peace with the need for Israel to get rid of its nuclear weapons, fulfill its international obligations, and submit its nuclear installations to international inspection and examination. This Egyptian national and pan-Arab position is closely tied to the philosophical and scientific structure of the Egyptian national security strategy as an indivisible part of the Arab national security.

Furthermore, this position is based on several fundamental elements, the most important of which are: During the past 25 years, the treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons has failed to achieve the purposes for which it was concluded -- first, because of the Cold War conditions; and second, because of the many faults it contains. These faults must be reviewed and amendments must be made so the treaty can become more effective and consistent with current conditions and the new world order. To form one of the new world order's pillars, all the countries of the world must implement the treaty. The removal of mass--destruction weapons should become universal.

The U.S. proposal to extend the treaty for an unlimited period without providing controls or guarantees does not seriously solve the arms problems in the Middle East, because it is based on double standards and unequal treatment of the parties concerned in the Middle East. It does not protect all the countries in the area against an Israeli nuclear threat and does not prompt Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal. This creates an extreme strategic defect in the balance of power in the area; consequently, peace loses one of its most important elements of stability: mutual security.

Israel's possession of nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles, and aircraft capable of carrying nuclear bombs raises some of the most complex problems for the future of Arab-Israeli relations and pose a security problem that could be more complex than the territorial problem. This is because the threat this time is directed against the peoples' existence and survival, where there is no room for bargaining or compromise solutions. The Arab citizen's feeling that Israel is still the "enemy" threatening his life and existence confirms the continued existence of this security problem. Therefore, the Arab states and the Middle East states, in general, will do all they can to possess mass-destruction tools and nuclear weapons. This is something that is not difficult to do anymore. Such a dangerous Israeli disposition makes Israel unqualified to face the peace obligations and responsibilities and safeguard regional security and stability. This will continue to be the case as long as it is unable to separate itself from the ideology of power, which is based on the principle of superiority stemming from Biblical fundamentalism and Zionist ideology. Israel's possession of nuclear weapons will undoubtedly increase the sense of discrimination and satisfy its fanatical instinct of superiority. However, it will stand in the way of any attempt to establish a close link with its Arab neighbors or become fully integrated into the area, because one of the most important elements of the conflict is still unresolved. While the Arabs might be prepared to accept Israel among them, they are not prepared to accept it with its nuclear bomb.

Undoubtedly, the nuclear issue has always been on the mind of Egyptian diplomacy. Despite all the skirmishes that took place on this issue in the past, it has not emerged as the center of the security issue in the Middle East as it has now. Egyptian diplomacy thought that the present stage in the peace process is the most suitable for linking the peace talks with the talks about this central issue. Otherwise, it would not be possible to do anything about it and the issue could then become detrimental to the peace process.

It was no longer possible for peaceful relations between two countries to continue while one party maintained its military superiority and possessed nuclear weapons. Otherwise, this party could attempt to base all solutions to economic, political, and security problems on power rather than on common or mutual interests. To deal with this vital issue, Egyptian diplomacy has acted, and its action was in the right direction. After clearly defining Egypt's position, Egyptian diplomacy tried to coordinate positions to create a unified Arab and international stand on the issue. It was also necessary to gain from experience in this respect. The Arab states signed the treaty and had continued to respect their obligations over the past 25 years, receiving no rights in return. However, the nuclear countries in the area continued to maintain their positions without any obligations. Israel persisted in its refusal to sign the treaty, whereas the Arab states continued to face pressure to extend the treaty indefinitely. This would have made it possible to confirm existing situations and freeze the ability to make any changes in the regional situation in this regard. Egypt, therefore, has refused to sign the treaty under these conditions.

Undoubtedly, the coordination of the Arab positions, championed by Egypt, represents an essential basis for a united Arab action to deal with the issue of arms control, as a vital factor for stability and security. Including Israel in any regional security arrangements would be difficult unless the nuclear threat to its expected partners is removed. This is the position of Egypt, which cares very much for the peace process. Egypt is not demanding that the peace process be suspended or canceled. But it is calling for Arab unity and a firm position on this vital issue. They should suspend any new steps to develop the peace process, particularly in terms of economic cooperation with Israel, as long as the latter continues to insist on retaining the nuclear deterrent. Pan-Arab responsibility demands that the Arabs adopt a unified position, supporting Egypt's demand to remove Israel's nuclear weapons and freeze cooperation with it as long as it continues to possess mass-destruction weapons, which threaten the future of the Arab homeland and its national security.

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