Can Talks with Iran Lead to Obama's 'World without Nuclear Weapons'?

In one key conflict area-Iran-President Barack Obama appears to be keeping, at
least for the moment, his campaign commitment to engage rather than threaten,
to use diplomacy rather than force.
As talks with Iran go forward, hope continues to rise for serious diplomacy
that could, just maybe, lead us a few steps closer to the "world without
nuclear weapons" that Obama has called for.

But achieving that goal means more than just talking, as earlier
administrations always did, of preventing other countries from obtaining nukes.
It means recognizing-and implementing-Washington's own obligations under the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, obligations to move towards complete nuclear
disarmament. That was the treaty's deal: Countries without nuclear weapons,
like Iran, agreed not to seek or make such weapons, in return for access to
nuclear power and nuclear technology for peaceful uses, and for a commitment by
the Nuke Five (the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia) to get rid of their
nuclear weapons once and for all.

Reaffirming that commitment to our own nuclear disarmament should be the
starting point of any U.S. negotiations over anyone else's

If negotiations with Iran mean Washington simply goes through the motions, just
to be able to say "we tried" before escalating to harsher sanctions
or even military strikes later on, diplomacy doesn't stand a chance.

So what should real nuclear engagement with Iran seek? One great medium-term
goal would be the creation of a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone across the entire
over-armed and volatile Middle East. A number of countries in the region have
argued for such a zone for years, including U.S. allies such as Egypt. Iran
would almost certainly be very interested.

But there's already a powerful nuclear weapons arsenal in the Middle East,
whose very existence is instigating a regional nuclear arms race, and
undermining non-proliferation efforts. That arsenal belongs to one of the small
group of outlaw countries that have refused even to sign the Non-Proliferation
Treaty. Its arsenal is widely known, but not officially acknowledged, and the
UN's nuclear watchdog agency has never been allowed to inspect the hundreds of
high-density nuclear bombs.

That country is Israel. And Obama, so far, has accepted Israel's policy of
"strategic ambiguity," in which Tel Aviv refuses to acknowledge its
nuclear arsenal. Israel rejects a nuclear weapons-free zone, because it would
mean having to open its nukes to immediate international inspection and then
quickly getting rid of them. Other countries that built and tested nuclear
weapons, such as India and Pakistan in 1998, faced serious U.S. sanctions. But the
U.S. refuses to hold Israel accountable for its dangerous nuclear weapons.

Regional nuclear weapons-free zones-which exist all over the world-help build
global campaigns to strengthen disarmament and international law. A nuclear
weapons-free zone in the Middle East would mean Israel would have to get rid of
its nukes. Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and everyone else in the region would
have to continue their current obligation not to create nuclear weapons. And
the U.S. would be prohibited from sending nuclear weapons on ships, subs or
planes into the no-nuke zone.

The great secret is that support for such a nuclear weapons-free zone in the
Middle East is already U.S. policy. In 1991, in the United Nations
resolution ending the Gulf War, the U.S. included a call for "establishing
in the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and all missiles
to deliver them." The whole region-no exceptions. And UN Security Council
resolutions are binding, so now it's the law-for the U.S. and the whole world.

A nuclear weapons-free zone would allow everyone in the Middle East to sleep a
little better. And it would make future negotiations-over issues including
Iran's nuclear power facilities and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict-much more
likely to succeed.

weapons-existing or potential.

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