In the highly intricate conditions of current global security, the determination and assessment of where the international community is standing at the end of the NPT Review Conference related to the Middle East’s nuclear realities gains importance. For this reason, this paper aims to focus on two important questions. The first is related to the highly debated issue of whether there is any chance of a nuclear cascade becoming a reality in the Middle East assuming that the Iranian nuclear crisis is not been solved and remains in stalemate. The second question tries asks whether some members of the P-5’s new counter-proliferation attempts that are introduced to the Middle East region have any chance of working at all.

Key Words

Ballistic Missile, Extended Deterrence, Nuclear Proliferation, Security Guarantee, NPT, CTBT, FMCT, START, IAEA.


In the last decade, two important issues, namely the deadlock in the Iranian nuclear crisis and the increasing demands for nuclear power reactors in the Middle East, have caused the most concern among the members of the nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Western powers have come to the conclusion that unless the international community finds an appropriate means of dealing with these two issues there will be a high probability of having a new wave of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. For this reason, Western capitals, so as to overcome their general non-proliferation concerns related to both the continuing Iranian crisis and the nuclear power plants demands all over the Middle East, have rapidly been trying to find ways of substituting indigenous procurement methods of the nuclear fuel that will be required for the new reactors. However, the international communities’ search for finding a way of formulating a regional or international nuclear fuel bank is a contentious issue from the perspective of the non-nuclear states of the NPT. This highly controversial situation has actually come to the fore as Western countries have tried to convince the nonnuclear states of the Middle East of the merits of not generating the nuclear fuel themselves. The Western capitals have tried to get the Middle Eastern nonnuclear states’ consent on this matter in two ways. First, Western states have encouraged the states of the Middle East to sign up to special nuclear cooperation agreements with the permanent five powers with nuclear weapons (the P5). The UAE has voluntarily decided to sign a nuclear energy exchange agreement, with the condition of not developing indigenous nuclear fuel on its territory.1 In return, the UAE was guaranteed to have the safe and secure supply of nuclear fuel.2 Second, in the face of some of the Middle Eastern non-nuclear states’ insistence on preserving their Article 4 NPT Treaty, rights of having civilian nuclear energy programs, the nuclear states have accepted this reality and they accordingly have decided to sign numerous nuclear exchange agreements with the non-nuclear states of the Middle East. However, some P5 countries have purposefully made new and strengthened measures of nonproliferation, including the well-known means in the NPT and the IAEA, compulsory in these agreements. The reason for this is of course related to the nuclear states’ general concerns of deterring a new tide of expected nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Since 2005, the Western states have strongly believed that the Tehran regime can become a potential nuclear proliferation driver in the Middle East due to its continuing nuclear enrichment program. They believe that this situation can only be avoided if Iran is persuaded to reverse its decision to enrich uranium. For this reason, they have tried to search for every possible method to persuade Iran to stop its program. Therefore, the nuclear powers in the NPT have introduced new models of nonproliferation to the Middle East region. But, at the same time the US, taking the lead of the P5, has decided to show that the nuclear-armed states of the NPT are more serious about meeting their disarmament obligations under Article 6 of the treaty.3 In this regard, Washington has launched several important initiatives, such as the “US Nuclear Posture Review” of 2010 and “Quadrennial Defense Review” of 2010, where the possibility of a reduced role for US nuclear weapons is mentioned.4 Since then, the Obama Administration has started discussing possible ways of restructuring the US’s security guarantee for the regions that are thought to be in need of it, namely the Middle East, Europe and Asia-Pacific. With this, US President Barack Obama’s new nuclear posture, symbolized by a “zero nuclear policy”,5 actually quite matches the current US strategy that involves both reviving nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation tracks. The START treaty signed in 2010 as well as the “New York Nuclear Security Summit” of 2010 and the “NPT Review Conference” of 2010 have all strongly confirmed this US decision. However, all of the US’s efforts in nuclear disarmament that have been initiated so far have not dealt with the important unresolved issues of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, such as the future of the CTBT and the FMCT among others. As a result, the challenges that lie ahead of the new START agreement are real and still need to be tackled, such as the future of missile defense and tactical nuclear weapons. All in all, the main rationale behind all of these American disarmament efforts that were launched have been related to the aim of creating a new and constructive image of a Washington government that is now sincere in meeting its obligations under Article 6 of the NPT.6 Within the complex and changing security environment of the 21st century, the old debate that is reminiscent of the days of the Cold War, namely “extended deterrence” and “re-assurance/assurance of Washington’s allies or friends in the The Obama Administration has given serious thought about the changing dynamics of regional security since these new nuclear aspirant states have come about. While Washington assesses the new dynamics, it has to take into account its new urgent task of extended deterrence in the post-Cold War era where it has deter the enemy as well as assure US allies as well as friends and partners. References to this challenging mission can be found in most of the important US security and defense documents, where an emphasis is placed both on attaining the conditions of a safe, secure and credible US nuclear deterrence capability as well as on strengthening the regional security architectures through available means. In this regard, the government in Washington has in particular devoted the most attention to the regions where there are new and old security concerns, including the Middle East. The main reason for the initiatives mentioned in American national security documents is actually associated with the current government’s perceived security concerns related to the changing dynamics of the 21st century. These new American security concerns, which are very clearly detailed in the “Nuclear Posture Review” of 2010,8 have also helped in determining the future road map of the US’s nuclear stance. Hence, it would be very beneficial at this point to highlight the Obama Administration’s four basic concerns related to regional security structures, including the Middle East, as evaluated from the perspective of the US’s nuclear posture in 2010: (i) Middle East or elsewhere”, has certainly gained in importance.7 And this situation consequently introduced a new and lively debate among foreign and security policy practioners as well as among IR academics. the first concern is regional and global nuclear proliferation and disarmament anxieties; (ii) the second concern is associated the US’s aim of realizing the deterrence of potential and future nuclear rivalries at global and regional levels; (iii) the third concern is related to assuring Washington’s allies, friends and partners of the US’s role in extended deterrence in different regional security issues; (iv) and, finally, the last concern is related to Washington’s new objective of reviving and if possibly strengthening the traditional non-proliferation regimes. Washington, so as accomplish these ambitious nuclear objectives, has highlighted the importance of attaining and maintaining different capabilities and strategies as options. Under current conditions, it has been stated that the new US nuclear posture would involve situations, such as in the Middle East, in which the US might felt obliged to use all available means of extended deterrence, while in other places there may not be such a need. The introduction of ballistic missile defense and other American non-nuclear capabilities as other countermeasures as part of the US’s extended deterrence in certain regions has surely accelerated the already heated debates about the current credibility of the American security guarantees in such places as the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Under the current global security environment, the determination and assessment of where the international community was standing at the end of the NPT Review Conference of May 2010,9 which was related to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, becomes important. For this reason, this paper focuses on two very important questions. The first question is related to the highly debated issue of whether there is any chance of the so-called nuclear cascade becoming a reality within the current conditions of the Middle East assuming that the Iranian nuclear crisis is not solved or remains in stalemate. The second question looks at whether some of the P5’s new counterproliferation measures in the Middle East region have any chance of success in the light of US President Obama’s “zero nuclear weapons” policy. This is why this paper focuses on the general Western concerns of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.