A Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (MEWMDFZ) is a vision for the future that many politicians, ambassadors and regional supporters have talked about for decades. Are we any closer to making this vision a reality today? The NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, the NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine, Peace Action, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the Global Security Institute and Peace Boat, in co-operation with the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the UN hosted a discussion this past Wednesday on the steps necessary in order to make the vision of a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East a reality.

Participants in Wednesday’s panel included Ambassador Dr. Mohamed Shaker from Egypt, Frank von Hippel and Emad Kiyaei, both members of Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security, and Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ). Both Mr. Shenker and Moderator, Randy Rydell, a high level representative from the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, have joined the Peace Boat onboard for the HORIZON 2012 Conference that focuses on working towards a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East.

With expert insight from representatives who represent Iran and Egypt, to Israel and the U.S., each panelist made firm statements regarding their understanding of what has been stalling a Middle East WMD Free Zone for so long.  The UN’s working definition of this zone is comprised of the Arab League, Iran and Israel, so much of the discussion was focused on the challenges these countries face in realizing this goal; from knowing who possesses WMD, to negotiating and demanding recognition of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr. Schenker of the PIJ noted that President Obama’s communication with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first between the U.S. and Iran since 1979, was a symbolic step towards peace between nations. However, as Mr. Emad Kiyaei further stressed, the WMDFZ has not been realized for over four decades already. So what can we do to move forward, and how can we truly understand the benefits of establishing such a zone?

Peace Boat strongly believes in the disarmament of all nuclear weapons, and supports the idea that nuclear arms are a THREAT, more than a sense of security for nations. Instead of viewing those with nuclear weapons as forceful or privileged, the international community must instead agree that the possession of nuclear weapons be viewed as a vulnerability. The international community should stigmatize those in possession of nuclear weapons, and instead recognize possession as antithesis to building peace.

Would you agree that nations possessing nuclear arms pose a greater threat to peace, or do you believe they provide nations with necessary security? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

By Trixie Cordova