Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Global Nuclear Arsenal: The World's Current Situation

Image from Reuters
One of planet earth’s biggest fears is self-destruction by its inhabitants and it is not global warming; it is nuclear proliferation.  The question is, where does the world currently stand on this issue?  A simple way to answer this question is that in addition to the five countries that signed the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (United States, Russia, China, France and England), North Korea, Israel and Iran are the most worried about nations containing nuclear power and have yet to sign the treaty (NPT), causing a growing angst throughout the globe.  These countries are making the rest of the world increasingly anxious due to the possibility of illegal distribution of nuclear weaponry to terrorist organizations and countries without a substantial government (Nuclear Proliferation).  The future holds many different possible solutions as the most important and stressed one is the process of disarmament.  This is the solution in which I believe would reduce tensions between several nations and to prevent the possibility of a nuclear weapons based war. 
        To understand the situation completely, we must examine the statuses of each controversial nation claiming their acquisition of nuclear weapons.  North Korea is currently one of the most feared nations due to its secrecy and unpredictable actions and a nuclear test may arrive sooner than later.  According to an ABC News article by Eric Talmadge, due to the nation’s recent long-range missile launch failure, the communist leader Kim Jong-Un has been rumored to respond to this failure with a nuclear weapons test.  “Satellite imagery also suggested stepped-up activity at the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing site,” and “sooner or later, however, a test is highly likely.”  Even if this future test does not succeed to the fullest, the communist nation will be satisfied with a partial success with its nuclear weapons testing.  Another reason why North Korea is such a nation to fear is due to the possibility of sharing its nuclear weaponry with terrorist organizations. 
Image from Reuters
In an early March, 2011 hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, the issue is regarding “North Korea’s Sea of Fire: Bullying, Brinkmanship and Blackmail.”  At around this time, “North Korea [had] attempted to ship arms to Hamas and Hezbollah, both proxies of the Iranian regime and both designated by the U.S. Department of State as foreign terrorist organizations.  China has also been the topic of discussion when it comes to nuclear weapons, as the nation is one of the few to embrace the neighboring North as an ally and top-trading partner.  In addition to China being one of the five nations to sign the NPT, “every day that Beijing fails to pressure Pyongyang is a day that brings the North closer to having a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.”  China must succumb to the United States’ side in this matter as this is also making these two superpower nations growing at unease, and a relationship with the world’s top economic power must not be tampered with.  On the other hand, China has taken the right steps in improving this growing tension with the United States by suggesting that they and Russia, the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenal, to impose a great number of weapons cuts to decrease the influence of nuclear power.  From an article in Reuters by Frederik Dahl, “Ambassador Cheng Jingye, head of the Chinese delegation, said all nuclear weapons states should publicly undertake ‘not to seek permanent possession’ of atomic bombs.”  In this case, China understands that the only way to prevent a global nuclear power fear, the chief countries must make the first moves in reducing the size of their atomic arsenals.  The ambassador continues by saying, “as countries with (the) largest nuclear arsenals, U.S and Russia should continue reductions in their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner.”

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S President Barack Obama
Image from Digital Group
Shifting to the Middle East, the nation of Iran has been in the spotlight due to its recent accusations of being close to obtaining a nuclear arsenal.  Like North Korea, Iran is on the list of most feared nations, likely even more worrisome.  “A nuclear Iran would alter the strategic balance in the tense Middle East and, some say, possibly trigger a regional atomic arms race,” (Rising Tension).   Despite sanctions from the United States and Europe, Iran has been unfazed by these actions and has yet reduce the enrichment of uranium or correctively operating their nuclear program to the right standards (Rising Tension).  The nation most threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambitions is the United States’ close ally, Israel.  An extremely close physical proximity to Iran, Israel should also be on the spotlight regarding this issue.  Not only has the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly state “Israel must be wiped off the map,” but with the added support of the Palestine state, the president continued to preach by saying “the establishment of a Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world.”  Ahmadinejad will likely not think twice when it comes to striking Israel with a full frontal nuclear arsenal as he did publicly say such a thing without hesitation.  Corresponding back to a statement by Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Ernst David Bergmann in 1952, “we shall never again be led as lambs to the slaughter,” referencing the Holocaust (Nuclear Proliferation).  This will likely stand as Israel’s current state of mind with regarding any lethal attacks made by opposing nations.    

Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility in Iran
Image from The Christian Science Monitor
Israel also plays a vital role, as it is currently the sole nation in the Middle East to contain nuclear weaponry.  This could also pose as a threat to Iran and I believe Ahmadinejad would use this fact as leverage for making a pre-emptive strike on the Jewish state.  In addition, with the recent allegations of an Israeli Mossad spy for killing an Iranian nuclear scientist at Tehran University in 2010, Ahmadinejad responded by hanging the one responsible.   Iran claims “he was trained by Israel’s spy agency to carry out one of the first attack on Iranian scientists in a suspected shadow war against Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.”  This new “shadow war” is the perfect term to describe the current situation between the two nations as a future war may very well be foreshadowed from this execution, as did many wars in the past such as World War I.   On the other hand, Israel has made it clear that a pre-emptive strike on their behalf is more realistic. “Israel has long contended that if the West waits to see if sanctions work, Iran will have time to bury key nuclear facilities deep inside mountain bunkers, making them inaccessible to even the most powerful bombs,” (Rising Tension).  The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded by saying that retaliation on their behalf  “would be 10 times worse for the interests of the United States” than for their own (Rising Tension).  These three nations are currently in this standoff, cold war-like situation and each country awaiting any forthcoming actions to be made.   It seems it is every nation for themself at this point.  The nation that should be worried the most at this point is actually the United States.  According to the U.S News World and Report, “A U.S or Israeli military strike on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities is unlikely this year, but could happen as soon as 2013, say several senior American officials.”  One of the main reason for which is that it is currently an election year and President Barack Obama will not submit the nation into another unnecessary Middle East dilemma to sustain his presidency for his hopeful second term in office.  He is also working with Israeli officials to also avoid any plans for a pre-emptive strike that would result in American involvement.  Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state under the Bush administration, simply stated the earliest a strike would occur:  “It’s 2013.”

As for the sole, dire solution to this issue that has been urged for decades ever since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, disarmament is the only way out of this global mess.  The first attempts at doing so were the two Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I and SALT II).  SALT I occurred from November 1969 to May 1972.  During this time period, “the United States and the Soviet Union negotiated the first agreements to place limits and restraints on some of their central and most important armaments.”  This attempt, however, landed no success.  The SALT II negotiations occurred in November 1972 and the main goal “was to replace the Interim Agreement (from SALT I) with a long-term comprehensive Treaty providing broad limits on strategic offensive weapons systems.”  Today, there have been several attempts from important figures around the world striving for the reduction of nuclear arms.  Ban Ki-Moon, the current Secretary General of the United Nations, started a disarmament campaign in 2009 called WMD (We Must Disarm).  As you can see in his promotional video, Ban Ki-Moon urges the world to join his nuclear disarmament awareness campaign by warning the public that “nuclear terrorism is real” and proclaiming: “I have a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”  As stated earlier, in addition to the Secretary General’s campaign, China has also strived for global disarmament and having the world’s top economic power demanding such actions is crucial for the rest of the world. 

As fearsome as it sounds, a nuclear weapons based war may soon become a reality rather than a brushed off thought.  A war like this is will leave the world more crippled than it's ever been if it turns nuclear and by spreading the awareness of disarmament throughout the globe, it will only react positively with when it to peace and prosperity between all nations on this planet.  With additional nuclear disarmament awareness campaigns such as the We Must Disarm.  By having the United Nations represent campaigns such as these, issues regarding nuclear arms will become a more relevent issue to talk about and subject to debate during the United States presidential election of 2012 and beyond.  Nuclear weapons nations guarded by the non-proliferation treaty must act now and collaborate together to negotiate what needs to be done to initiate the beginning steps of disarmament.

Works Cited:
Bennett, John T. "Former Officials: 2012 U.S., Israel Attack on Iran Unlikely." U.S News World and Report. 14 May 2012. Web. 15 May 2012. <>.
Dahl, Frederik. "China Wants "drastic" U.S., Russia Nuclear Arms Cuts." Reuters. 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 12 May 2012. <>.
Fathi, Nazila. "Wipe Israel 'off the Map' Iranian Says." The New York Times. 27 Oct. 2005. Web. 11 May 2012. <>.
Flamini, Roland. "Nuclear Proliferation." CQ Global Researcher 1 Jan. 2007: 1-26. Web. 17 May 2012.               

lamini, Roland. "Rising Tension Over Iran." CQ Global Researcher 7 Feb. 2012: 57-80. Web. 17 May 2012
"Iran Hangs Alleged Mossad Agent in Widening Shadow War over Tehran’s Nuclear Ambitions." The Washington Post. Associated Press, 15 May 2012. Web. 15 May 2012. <>.
"Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II (SALT II)." Arms Control Association. Department of State. Web. <>.
"Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I)." Arms Control Association. Department of State. Web. <>.
Talmadge, Eric. "N. Korean Nuclear Weapons: How Real Is the Threat?" ABC News. Assiciated Press, 8 May 2012. Web. 12 May 2012. <>.
United States. Cong. House. Committee on Foreign Affairs. North Korea's Sea of Fire: Bullying, Brinkmanship and Blackmail. 112 Cong., 1st sess. H. Rept. 112-6. Washington, D.C: U.S Government Printing Office, 2011. U.S Government Printing Office, 10 Mar. 2011. Web. 12 May 2012. <>.
We Must Disarm. Perf. Ban Ki-Moon. Youtube. United Nations, 6 Aug. 2009. Web. 16 May 2012. <>.