2003 June 24 Tuesday
Kenneth Pollack Proposes Persian Gulf Security Condominium

Kenneth Pollack thinks a series of security agreements and security forums in the Persian Gulf might be able to solve security issues in the Persian Gulf region.

Beginning in the 1970s, NATO and the Warsaw Pact engaged in a host of security engagement forums, confidence-building measures, and arms control agreements (such as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks, and the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe) that were intended to deal with all of the continent's various security issues as a whole. Negotiating these deals took over two decades of painful wrangling. But in the end, they produced a Europe that was much more stable and secure than ever before.

In the Persian Gulf, such a security condominium would entail a similar set of activities bringing together the United States, the GCC countries, Iraq, and Iran. The process would begin by establishing a regional security forum at which relevant issues could be debated and discussed, information exchanged, and agreements framed. The members could then move on to confidence-building measures, such as notification of exercises, exchanges of observers, and information swaps. Ultimately, the intention would be to proceed to eventual arms control agreements that might include demilitarized zones, bans on destabilizing weapons systems, and balanced force reductions for all parties. In particular, the group might aim for a ban on all WMD, complete with penalties for violators and a multilateral (or international) inspection program to enforce compliance.

This may seem like an unrealistic proposal. To be fair to Pollack he does list many reasons why it may not be achieveable. Iran could limit its reach by either refusing to join or by demanding Israel's inclusion. The Western European countries realized they needed the United States as a security guarantor against the Soviet threat and this gave the US a degree of leverage in Europe that is missing in a Middle East where there is not one single threat recognized as such by all countries.

In my view the Mullahs in Iran are not interested in a set of security agreements as a substitute for the benefits of possessing nuclear weapons. They want the recognition and respect that they think they'd get from having nuclear weapons. Some in the Iranian leadership also fantasize about using nuclear weapons against Israel.

One big problem with Iran's nuclear weapons development program of course is that the Iranians would have nuclear weapons. But another problem is that as more countries get nukes that more other countries will think they either deserve to have them too or that they need to have them in order to defend themselves against their nuclear-armed neighbors.

The biggest problem I can see with Pollack's proposal is that if the US was to propose a large diplomatic initiative and to begin having negotiations with a large number of countries in the Persian Gulf - including Iran - that the negotiations would require many years to reach a point where they might result in an agreement that would prevent the development of nuclear weapons by countries in the region. But those years spent negotiating would be years that Iran could spend making a great many nuclear weapons. At this point it just doesn't seem like we have enough time to pursue such an ambitious diplomatic initiative if our chief goal is to prevent the next nation in the region most likely to go nuclear from actually doing so.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 24 08:53 PM  Politics Grand Strategy


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