Global Nuclear Arms Race

The consequences of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs are globally catastrophic.By Liam Bailey

Nov. 3 2006 will be remembered as the day the Middle East changed forever, six Arab states announced their intention to initiate programmes to master atomic technology. Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, want to start civilian nuclear energy programs, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates also showed interest. So many states, all predominantly Sunni Arab making simultaneous announcements of seeking nuclear power has prompted fears that their true intention could be to master the technology on the path to the first Arab atom bomb.

Despite these fears the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has consulted with all governments and will offer technical assistance in their development of nuclear power plants. The announcement was a complete reversal of Arab policy, which had previously been joint calls for nuclear disarmament throughout the Middle East, in other words the nuclear disarmament of Israel, the only Middle East state known to have a useable nuclear arsenal.

In my opinion the trigger for the Arab announcement was Iran firing “dozens” of long range missiles Nov. 2, including the Shahab 3, capable of carrying warheads of 1400 cluster bomblets anywhere within 1000 miles and the Shahab 2 with a shorter range but just as deadly. The Iranian missile tests came in response to the Oct 31 U.S led Naval exercises in the Persian gulf, in which 25 nations practised an operation to intercept and search a ship thought to be carrying weapons of mass destruction 20 miles from Iranian territorial waters. Despite what is becoming a significant U.S naval presence in the region, only one U.S coastguard vessel had an active role in the exercise; making the U.S Naval build-up seem somewhat suspicious.

One of the six Arab states announcing an intention to go nuclear: United Arab Emirates was involved in the exercise as an observer, all six are part of the Arab League, and all among the League’s ten richest states. Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait the other three Arab states involved in the exercise are also members of the Arab League, which has a long running rivalry with Iran.

With the exception of Iraq and Bahrain, the Arab League is made up of predominantly Sunni countries, many Sunni Arab countries in the Middle East are thought to be suspicious of Iran’s nuclear program, so you could say such an announcement from the countries rich enough to go nuclear was to be expected. In my opinion Iran’s firing of long-range missiles in response to an exercise involving Arab League countries was the trigger for six of the richest Arab League states to take a step towards mastering nuclear technology. What they will use this technology for and the reactions to their intended use remain to be seen.

So while Iranian missile tests threaten to provoke a nuclear arms race across the Middle East Pyongyang’s nuclear test Oct. 9 caused and is still causing reverberations throughout Asia. The test, which could have killed thousands in North Korea and neighbouring countries if in going wrong radioactive material was spewed across the region at the mercy of wind speed and direction. The test didn’t go wrong but the consequences look to be just as dire.

In the days and weeks before Kim Jong Il’s irrational act some hard-line Japanese conservatives such as former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone were quietly stating the need to develop nuclear weapons in the face of nuclear sabre-rattling by North Korea. Although his comments caused controversy among the Japanese political community, according to the Korea Times a large number of strongly nationalistic Japanese politicians supported his views. The successful test Oct. 9 added further validity to their cause and in the following weeks their case has been further strengthened by main-stream and prominent ministers like Foreign Minister Taro Aso showing his support for the controversial stance, saying Oct. 18 that it may be time for Japan to start discussions about nuclear armament.

Japan possesses enough Plutonium to make thousands of nuclear bombs and given its economic, academic and technological strength it is widely thought that they could develop nuclear weapons within months of starting such a program. Shinzo Abe’s assurances that Japan will neither have, make nor allow the import of nuclear weapons in Japan have done little to reassure their understandably anxious neighbours. Whether reflective of a genuine change in Japan’s stance on nuclear armament or not Foreign Minister Taro Aso adding credibility to former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s comments prompted a similar debate in South Korea. The day after Taro Aso’s remarks, former leader and presidential candidate for South Korea’s opposition GNP party Lee Hoechang questioned whether South Korea should reconsider nuclear armament in the face of Japan’s changing attitude and the recent actions of Kim Jong Il, saying during a lecture: South Korea will need to develop its own nuclear weapon when Pyongyang’s possession of a nuclear weapon becomes an accomplished fact and Japan starts moving for nuclearization.

A nuclear domino effect in Asia, long feared by the west and a main reason for preventing a nuclear armed North Korea threatens to become a reality. If Japan does move towards nuclear armament, likely pushing South Korea to follow suit, not only will it lessen the chance of denuclearisation in Pyongyang, no doubt it will prompt Kim Jong Il to further augment his nuclear prowess, possibly with another test. These actions could then become a catalyst for China, Russia and other regional powers to do the same; triggering a catastrophic arms race, which given the current tensions between the west, China and Russia over Iran’s fledgling nuclear program, could quickly spread around the world.

Depending on the Arab League intentions and the restraint of the Japanese and South Korean governments; two already unstable regions could well enter into a nuclear arms race. A race that would make both regions much more unstable, possibly drawing in other regions and undoubtedly bringing the world one step closer to its second use of the world’s deadliest weapons; something I hoped I wouldn’t see in my lifetime.



  1. jigmet said,

    April 9, 2008 at 7:38 am


  2. May 20, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Fantastic website. hope to come back..

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