In this timely and straightforward book, eight authors have examined the issue of arms control in the Middle East. Each author presents the perspective of a different country in the region. The authors define the concept and explain the difficulties involved in its implementation. Although they are writing from different perspectives, they all agree that the introduction of an arms-control mechanism is a complicated matter requiring extreme care; that arms control cannot be achieved unless accompanied by confidence-building measures; that political agreements must go hand in hand with arms reduction; that all weapons, conventional, chemical and nuclear, must be included in the negotiations for arms control; and, that outside suppliers must cooperate in the attempt to reduce tension in the region. This analysis, however, remains mostly theoretical.
M. Zuhair Diab explains Syria's view of arms control. He discusses the difficulties inherent in the attempt to achieve a military balance between Israel and the Arab states and offers a recipe for arms control. It includes the following requirements: mutual deterrence, mutual national security, equality in armaments taking into account the different mix of forces and the technological gap between Israel and the Arabs, reciprocity in arms reductions, a comprehensive political solution, an effective verification regime, and time and patience
Presenting the Egyptian perspective of arms control, Ahmed Fakhr argues that the failure to implement an arms-control plan stems from the inability of the parties in the Middle East to agree on the definition of the terms disarmament, arms control or arms limitation. He proposes a different approach, which he calls arms adjustment. By this he means that each country will have the necessary means to defend its vital areas of interest. According to this criterion, Egypt should have the vital means to defend targets such as the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam. Such an approach, Fakhr argues, constitutes a genuine arms limitation, since it compels all parties to concentrate on defending their vital targets, and not on an indiscriminate accumulation of weapons. In addition, the author advocates a "two-track approach" to arms control, according to which military negotiations must go hand in hand with political negotiations.
Analyzing the Israeli perspective, Dore Gold argues that arms control could be achieved mainly by the active involvement of the states in the Middle East. A global agreement of arms reduction could do little to promote peace in the region. No arms control can be successful unless the political differences between the states of the region are resolved. Arms control requires an inordinate degree of flexibility. A country must give up certain demands and concentrate on limited options. The approach to arms control must be realistic, gradual and incremental. It must begin with limited and modest goals and then proceed to other, more complex ones. This would allow the process of confidence building to take root. No country can be expected to forgo its weapons of mass destruction unless such a process has entered an advanced stage. In addition, Gold advocates simultaneous negotiations, peace talks on the one hand and arms reduction on the other. Such a two-track dialogue can help arms-control negotiations, and thereby lead to a genuine peace in the Middle East.
Turkey's perspective on arms control is discussed by Ali L. Karaosmanuglu, who argues that the global defense arrangements designed to promote security in the Near East during the Cold War era are no longer useful. These global, strategic arms reduction schemes were instrumental in protecting the region from Soviet encroachments on the one hand and provided the Soviet Union protection against the Western threat on the other. However, they do not deal effectively with Turkey's current defense needs. Therefore, he calls for a new, regional strategic scheme capable of providing security for Turkey and its neighbors. Turkey, he argues, needs a strategic arms-control regime suitable to the region's need. Such a regime should deal with Turkey's conflict with Greece and Bulgaria. It should encompass all aspects of arms control. Furthermore, he argues that for any arms-control scheme to be successful, there must be "transparency" of arms. Each side should be able to have an accurate count of the arms owned by his opponent. In addition, there must be a political dialogue in order to keep the momentum of negotiations going.
The Palestinian view on arms control is the subject of a chapter by Ahmed S. Khalidi. The author argues that since the Palestinian state is only in its early stages of development, it is difficult to identify an official consensus on arms-control issues in the Palestinian camp. Since the Palestinians are in an inferior technological position compared to Israel, they are likely to be less discriminating about the arms-control regime. One of the main concerns of the Palestinians is Israel's possession of weapons of mass destruction. The only way to allay Palestinian and Israeli fears is to introduce confidence-building measures, to promote transparency and inspection by both sides. The author argues that, due to their organizational and technological weakness, the Palestinians can offer very little besides a commitment to support the establishment of such a regime. The burden of reducing tension in the region lies mainly on Israel's shoulders. In his analysis of the Iranian perspective on arms control, Hassan Mashhadi argues that nuclear weapons pose a serious threat to security in the region. The proliferation of nuclear weapons should be controlled by a regime requiring all parties to sign a non-proliferation treaty. Such a treaty must be respected by all parties, Israel included. The attempt to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons must include not only the Middle East but Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent as well. In order to achieve peace in the region, all nuclear and chemical weapons must be eliminated. In addition, the flow of conventional arms to the region should be controlled. The author insists, however, that the introduction of confidence-building measures is essential before any of these steps could be implemented. The author suggests the following requirements: open discussion of national security issues; development of means to enhance transparency in armaments; negotiating ways to curb defense spending; set time limits on the import of arms; collaborating on plans to convert from military to civilian production; announcing any decision to move troops near the borders; revealing what weapons they plan to purchase; being sensitive to the nature of arms they deploy on their borders; and allowing for mutual inspection visits.
According to Abdullah Toukan, who discusses the Jordanian perspective on the issue of arms control, any attempt to limit arms, whether conventional or nuclear, must be accompanied by peace negotiations. These should be conducted at the global and regional levels. Here too, there is an emphasis on transparency. Any arms-control scheme should be multilateral. Countries of the region should devote energy to educate their citizens on issues of arms control. In his discussion on the general problems of arms control in the region, Hussein J. Agha argues that there is a difference between arms control in the West and in the Middle East. A serious arms-control scheme should include dealing with the differences inherent in the cultures of the different regimes in the Middle East. Arms control should not be based solely on the quantity of weapons of a certain type but also on the differences, technical and otherwise, among the nations involved.
This collection of articles is useful and timely, covering myriad problems affecting the introduction of arms control into the region. It appears, however, that the discussion is somewhat superficial and theoretical. No attempt has been made by any of the authors to draw on the attempts at arms control that have been made on several occasions since World War I. These should be discussed and lessons should be drawn. Also, it would have been useful to construct a complete model of a workable arms control regime. In sum, this clearly written study constitutes a good preliminary discussion of a vital topic for the Middle East that would be of interest to scholars and students of politics and military affairs.