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Saudi Prince Proposes Middle East WMD Ban Built From Pieces

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal, shown in January, has urged Middle Eastern countries to pursue "sub-regional" arms control agreements as steps toward a broader regional ban on weapons of mass destruction (AP Photo/Michel Euler). Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal, shown in January, has urged Middle Eastern countries to pursue "sub-regional" arms control agreements as steps toward a broader regional ban on weapons of mass destruction (AP Photo/Michel Euler).

WASHINGTON -- Middle Eastern governments could build traction in a long-stymied effort to ban weapons of mass destruction from the region by first creating a patchwork of smaller, less ambitious arms control commitments, a former Saudi intelligence chief suggested in an analysis issued on Tuesday.

The “sub-regional zones” would allow member states to check on each other’s compliance and establish trust, according to Turki al-Faisal, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

After five to 10 years, the security arrangements could form the basis of an “expanded region-wide [WMD-free] zone,” he wrote in the report, published on Tuesday by Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

In a call implicitly directed at Israel, Iran and perhaps others, Turki demanded an immediate halt to “all activities by member states deemed contributory to nuclear weapons development.”

Israel is widely assumed to be the only nuclear-armed nation in the region, and Tel Aviv has taken some blame for a scuttled 2012 deadline for convening an international conference on the potential ban. No new date for the meeting has yet been set.

Turki said countries that join the regional pacts should be rewarded with civilian atomic assistance and a “nuclear security umbrella” from the world’s five recognized nuclear powers: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Countries that don’t join and are seen to be developing weapons of mass destruction [should] face not only economic and political sanction but also military sanction,” he wrote.

Turki echoed global fears that Iran is using its purportedly peaceful nuclear program as cover for developing a nuclear arms capacity, and he warned that the nation’s suspect nuclear efforts “could lead to untold and possibly tragic consequences.”

The Saudi prince last year suggested his country would pursue nuclear arms if Iran obtained them. However, a number of experts have questioned Riyadh’s readiness to follow through on the threat.

Prospects for a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone would also benefit from rapid steps to remove chemical weapons from Syria, “followed by Syrian, Israeli and Egyptian accession” to an international ban on chemical arms, Turki wrote. He did not elaborate on how such steps might be achieved.

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