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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

 State Information Service(SIS)
Ministry of Information (MOI)
  Arab Republic of Egypt

Letter from Cairo

June 18 - June 20, 1998

Nuclear Or Not?

    To join the nuclear arms race or not is no longer a relevant question for Egypt, or the Arab or Islamic countries. It is equally futile to deliberateon whether it was right or wrong for Egypt and other Arab states to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the first place. The time for such questions is long past. No state today can venture on its own to build a nuclear reactor from scratch, certainly not after the Indian and Pakistani tests, which shook the five nuclear powers wide awake. The nuclear states will surely tighten their weapons monopoly and redouble their efforts to prevent the technology from leaking to other countries.

    The idea of the "Islamic bomb" is a meaningless slogan, since nuclear technology is irrelevant to faith or religion, wealth or poverty: its exorbitant price is not the issue. The development of nuclear technology is a matter of political will, which reflects a solid domestic situation, insight into national, regional and international challenges, and an awareness of the need to address them.

    The reactions of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council to the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan rendered certain assumptions, which had underlain the selective nuclear ban policy, null and void. Most of the world community, including Egypt, had been driven to sign nuclear non-proliferation agreements, which gave India and Pakistan every justification to apply their current policy.

    The Five Powers refused to admit India and Pakistan into the club of nuclear states, demanding instead that they halt the arms race, and left the issue at that, taking no further steps towards achieving total and comprehensive nuclear disarmament to save humanity from the threat of a nuclear war. India and Pakistan disapproved from the start of the discriminatory treaty that allowed five nuclear states to monopolize nuclear technology, leaving a state like Israel in possession of nuclear warheads, while preventing other nations from acquiring the same capabilities.

    The nuclear superpowers themselves - the US and Russia - have not yet ratified the START agreements on strategic disarmament. They continue to possess arsenals which can destroy human civilization many times over. Both superpowers keep their nuclear test sites open for tests in the future and apply flagrant double standards. How can we be sure that, in a moment of madness, all humanity will be destroyed in a nuclear conflagration?

    Some states, which support the partial ban, hold that such irrationality is to be expected only from recent converts to the nuclear creed. But the superpowers are clearly equally deficient in the self-control department. The US did no hesitate to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki into oblivion, and has used highly destructive strategic weapons in Vietnam and Iraq.

    The Security Council resolution condemning India and Pakistan has only served to exacerbate tension and increase nuclear anxiety in southeast Asia. But the world order as it appears today was not preordained, nor must our fate be decreed by others. Egypt should review its situation in light of President Mubarak's call for a new international treaty which would eliminate all nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction every where without exception, over a period of 15 to 20 years. While this proposal seems the only way to address nuclear proliferation, nuclear monopolies and double standards, it seems unlikely that the five nuclear powers will agree to it - and will it apply to Israel, too?

By: Salama A. Salama
Edited from Al Ahram Weekly

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