Nuclear Proliferation in MENA

The topic of Weapons of Mass Destruction has long been issue of debate and concern in the Middle East and North Africa. To begin Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) can be defined as any biological, radiological, chemical or nuclear weapon. While the definition of WMD’s is somewhat broad, the majority of concern is placed in the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons, while categorized as WMD’s have a few very specific characteristics which leads to so much focus. The main fear when concerning nuclear weapons is the threat of proliferation. Nuclear weapons have the benefit of providing security unlike any other form of weapon.

Mutually assured destruction (MAD) was essentially the basis of the Cold War between Russia and the United States. It dictated that in the event of a nuclear attack by one country, the other would reciprocate and both countries would be destroyed. This leads to a protective shield provided to countries who have nuclear weapons in that they will not be used but the simple threat off use prevents attack.

Having one country with a nuclear weapon prevents all others who do not have nuclear weapons from attacking at all. This is because they do not have the benefits of MAD and therefore cannot retaliate. This creates an imbalance and allows one country considerably more power. This is the basis for some theorists arguing that proliferation can be beneficial in that it reduces threat of nuclear attack by evening the playing field.

Looking to the example of the Middle East it makes sense from a defensive standpoint that Iran would want nuclear weapons. With the overwhelming regional hostilities between GCC states and Iran as well as the massive military spending exhibited by rival Saudi Arabia, Iran would gain a considerable amount of regional security through the development of a nuclear weapon.

Currently there is a deal in order between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that states, in the event of Iran developing a fully functioning warhead, Saudi Arabia will purchase a nuclear warhead from Pakistan. This is where the issue of proliferation comes into play.

The threat of the Iranian nuclear program is not that one country, Iran, will gain a warhead, but that the entire region will develop nuclear warheads. This is especially troubling due to the large numbers of terrorist groups as well as the instability of regimes.

The threat of a terror organization stealing or obtaining a nuclear weapon and using it for “nuclear terrorism” is very troubling. By their very nature terrorist groups do not have a “state” which can be retaliated against, therefore the chances of a terror group using a nuclear weapon is much greater than a traditional state using a nuclear weapon.

As previously stated the region, in recent years has been plagued by unstable regimes and a high prevalence of terror groups who have taken matters outside of the region and have been targeting a great deal of attacks on the West.

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