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Nuclear terrorism and the threat to world peace

Al Quds Al-Arabi Opinion

This week's nuclear summit hosted by US President Barak Obama in Washington was dominated by a particular definition of "nuclear terrorism" to the extent that the summit's final statement focused on preventing "non-official parties" from obtaining nuclear materials for malicious purposes. This was a clear reference to organisations such as al-Qaeda, which America and its allies believe is determined to gain possession of nuclear materials for use in attacks against American and Western targets. This is what prompted President Obama to say, "If al-Qaeda gained possession of nuclear weapons, it would be a disaster for the world."

The fears of the US President and Western countries are no doubt well-founded. As such, it is essential to put in place new controls to prevent access to materials such as high grade uranium and purified plutonium. Both are important in the manufacture of nuclear weapons which could be used in attacks in which the number of victims would run into the hundreds of thousands, if not more.


Nevertheless, it is useful to recall that the first to use nuclear weapons against civilians was not al-Qaeda or any other "non-official parties" or terrorist organisations. Indeed, it was the United States of America the great democracy – which used "the bomb" against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to force Japan's surrender and bring the Second World War to a close.

It stands to reason that if terrorist organisations which pay no attention to international law and would not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction have to be prevented from gaining access to the materials necessary for making nuclear weapons, then those "official" parties which also flout international laws are no less a threat to world peace. Of course, the elephant in the corner at this week's Washington summit was the state of Israel which is, by any reasonable reading of international law and conventions, a "rogue state" ignoring such laws with apparent impunity. Such disregard for the international community and the laws which seek to maintain peace in the world has not prevented the Zionist state from being able to develop nuclear weapons without scrutiny by the international atomic weapons inspectors. Indeed, the state's main sponsor and protector, the USA, has effectively encouraged Israel by its silence and inaction.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel are no less dangerous than the potential threat of weapons in the hands of extremists groups such as al-Qaeda. Israel is an aggressively expansionist state which has killed numerous Arabs and Palestinians since its creation on Palestinian land in 1948. The killings, oppression and general misery caused by Israel over the years make the number of any potential victims of al-Qaeda pale in comparison. Israel is a state which was condemned by the UN's Goldstone Report last year for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza.

The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was correct to draw the attention of the participants at the summit to the existence of Israel's nuclear arsenal that threatens the region, if not the world. He demanded that Israel be dealt with in the same way as Iran and its nuclear programme. The opinion of American experts is that Iran's programme is confined to peaceful purposes and the country is a long way from having the capability to produce any nuclear warheads, so why is Israel allowed to get away with having nuclear bombs?

The nuclear summit is a novel idea worthy of praise, but it cannot realise its objective of achieving "nuclear security" and confronting "nuclear terrorism" as long as there is such scandalous duplicity regarding Israeli and Iranian nuclear capabilities. All states, without exception, should be bound by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, including Israel, which betrayed its guilt by its Prime Minister's boycott of the summit after learning that Arab countries such as Egypt would probably raise the Zionist state's nuclear weapons as an issue. If it truly has nothing to hide and wishes to be treated as a regular member of the world community, then perhaps it is time that Israel started to behave like one.

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