US Cancels Mid East Conference on Nuke-Free Zone

The US blamed regional turmoil, but it was Israel's refusal to attend that prompted cancelation

by John Glaser, November 24, 2012

The US has called off a major international conference on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, claiming turmoil in the region prevents action on the issue.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement released Friday that the US supports the goal of banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but that conflict in Israel-Palestine and, ironically, Iran’s supposed defiance on the nuclear issue, required it be canceled.

The real reason, of course, that the US canceled the conference is because Israel – the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons – refuses to give up its regional monopoly on nukes.

A diplomat involved in the conference told the Associated Press that “Israel had decided not to attend,” and, “Key sponsors had said that the meeting was possible only if all countries, especially Israel, would participate.”

While Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has publicly pledged its opposition to nuclear weapons development, has subjected itself to thorough international inspections, and in fact has exactly zero nuclear weapons, Israel has done none of the above and has approximately 200 nuclear warheads. Iran is being severely punished and threatened with attack, Israel is supported with unparalleled economic, military, and diplomatic support.

If Israel agreed to dismantling its vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons and to a deal enforcing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East – a deal Iran and Israel’sArab neighbors have repeatedly proposed – the supposed threats Israel faces in the region would disappear.

But Israel refuses to give up its nuclear monopoly, insistent on maintaining its excuse to build up its military and distract from the Palestinian issue.

As former CIA Middle East analyst Paul Pillar has written, “the Iran issue” provides a “distraction” from international “attention to the Palestinians’ lack of popular sovereignty.”

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