Saturday, November 04, 2006

More NPT threats?

I couldn't help but notice that six, yes six, Arab states are beginning programs to develop nuclear technology, allegedly for peaceful purposes. The news report, linked from Drudge, states that the states want to use the technology for energy and desalination, but the proliferation of reactors in this area should, in my mind, be troubling. The states the article names are Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

Even if these programs are for peaceful purposes, allowed under the NPT, does this development have the potential to cause destabilization in the region(s)? The report notes that many of these states are worried by Iran’s recent actions, but the development of nuclear technology does not necessarily mean the development of weapons grade technology. However, we must realize that peaceful development puts them one step closer to weapons grade enrichment. Is this something that could cause a change in US policy toward these states, especially considering the destabilization that Iran is causing? Does this threaten the future of the NPT, as the article seems to imply?

Clearly, I think this forces the US to pursue a more delicate policy toward the region, but in general, I think we’re realizing that after the Iraq debacle. In terms of the NPT, I don’t think it’s a prima facie threat, but I think it’s a case that will have to strengthen the non-proliferation regime because of the potential danger that this causes. If the states, particularly those who are close to Iran and would have to serve as regional balancers, were to develop weapons, the NP regime would be placed under great stress. So, what I’m wondering is if the NPT could actually survive the challenges of proliferation in this region. Clearly the policy must be “trust but verify” but in the event of a crisis, I don’t think the regime would be able to survive. As much as I hate to admit it, I think the international community must take decisive action now against current proliferators to show potential proliferators that this will not be tolerated. Otherwise, we face certain crisis in the future.


The Geriatric Three said...
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The Geriatric Three said...

Speaking of 'trust but verify'- did you happen to save the URL for the article in question (I already googled-- no dice)? I'm not doubting your earnestness, Zabriske, but I'm curious as to how Algeria can develop a program during a low-level civil war and without a functional central government. Then again, North Korea managed it and their leading export is crazy.

Anonymous said...

I'm always interested in NPT questions because it's such a long-standing international regime. In terms of actual moves that can be made under the existing regime, there really isn't anything that can be legally done to stop nations from developing peaceful energy programs, and by the way, from a technical aspect--developing nuclear energy facilities and weapons-grade warheads are radically different actions.

I'll point out that France and several European countries have nuclear power and no nuclear weapons programs at all.

The real problem with the NPT is that it isn't written to deal with pariah states. North Korea has very little to lose from the outside world--I remain unpersuaded with Farley's estimation that to the rest of the world, North Korea is merely a country. It is a pariah state--Europe doesn't trust it much more than anyone else, and as mentioned by Geriatric, its leading export is, in fact crazy. The NPT is built upon the same mechanisms in the rest of the international legal system: primarly economic pressures.

Iran poses a similar problem, though Iran does play more with the rest of the system. In point of fact, if the U.S. backed off on its Axis of Evil--Iran might actually back off a bit on its own. Here, Farls' logic is more persuasive. Iran's not going to commit national suicide, so I'm not nearly as paranoid regarding the development of energy programs.

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