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Commentary | 12 August 2014

An Authentic Voice on WMDs and Stability from the Arab World

The conflagration that has swept with increasing intensity through the Middle East during the past three years has underlined the urgent need for the development of authentic regional institutions, in partnership with the concerned international authorities, to promote human security as a durable foundation for prosperity. Such an approach ultimately seeks to move beyond the current erroneous reliance on the military-security complex as the single most important cornerstone of state stability. During the past 50 years, it is evident that the dignity of individual citizens has been sacrificed for the short-term and essentially illusory aim of political quietude. However, today’s deeply entrenched discontent across the region has ultimately proven the unviability of this approach.

These concerns have long been central to Jordan’s worldview. As such, I have repeatedly called for:

• The creation of an authentic and collective regional voice on security issues founded upon a common commitment to humanitarian values;
• A regional process for security and cooperation;
• A related commitment to a WMD-free Middle East;
• A reorientation of international and domestic Middle Eastern security policy away from a concentration on state security towards the development of stability premised upon human security;
• A more effective alignment of responses to the region’s countless and continuing humanitarian crises with more development-orientated approaches in order to create prosperity in marginalised uprooted communities, and thus smother extremism at source; and,
• An international commitment to the establishment and mainstreaming of a New International Humanitarian Order, as originally articulated by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, of which I was co-chair in the 1980s.

This path suggests how in the long-term any subsequent durable regional peace can be created once the current and seemingly intractable conflict blighting the region has been surmounted.

A number of other regional thinkers have also sought to define the steps towards creating a more stable Middle East. In September 2013 Egyptian Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy outlined a three-step plan at the UN General Assembly. This included the need for:

• Support for the concept of a WMD free zone expressed in open letters to the UN Secretary General by all Middle Eastern states, supported by similar declarations from the Security Council P5;
• A commitment to sign and ratify international conventions on WMDs by all regional actors – especially Israel, Syria and Egypt; and,
• The hosting of the delayed Helsinki conference before spring 2014.
While numerous academic efforts have taken place in the West to examine Arab and Muslim perspectives on WMDs, no similar attempt has been made within the region itself. As such, the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS), another organsiation with which I am associated, has sought to develop an authentic Arab and Muslim voice on WMD-related concepts, and articulate a common position. The objective of this work is to develop a common regional understanding on WMDs through an Islamic lens. The intended outcomes are to:
• Reflect an indigenous and responsible discussion on WMDs;
• Offer non-regional entities and experts a narrative that counters that espoused by extremists;
• Sensitise regional scholars to informed discussions on security issues in general and WMDs in particular, and build capacity where possible; and,
• Promote discussion of a common regional lexicon on WMDs.

Likewise, the Arab Forum on Security and Nuclear Non-Proliferation has proposed the establishment of a West Asian WMD-free zone. Partner organisations include the Arab Thought Forum, of which I am chairman and the Arab Institute for Security Studies at the University of Jordan.

Ultimately, true security in the Middle East can only be built upon a representative regional voice articulating a pluralist position on both WMDs and stability, with the consensus of both state and non-state actors alike. Only then will attempts to foster stability endure, through changing mutually assured destruction into mutually assured survival.


This piece has also been published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.