U.S. Non-Proliferation Policy: Global Regimes and Regional Realities

Contemporary Security Policy, Volume 15, No. 1, April 1994


For over forty years, the United States government has led international efforts designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear and other non-conventional weapons. The existing regimes, institutions and "rules of the game" are largely the result of American interests and policies.0 The U.S. provided the primary impetus behind the creation of the Safeguards Division of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and American initiatives led to the formation of the London Nuclear Suppliers Group. Washington also took the lead in seeking to limit the use of plutonium under the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE) in the late 1970s, and attempted to imposed "full scope safeguards" through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. In related areas, the American government fashioned the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and pressed for the dismantling of Iraq's arsenal and nuclear program following the 1991 Gulf War.

In a broad sense, these efforts might be labeled a success. In 1963, President Kennedy told a news conference of his fears regarding nuclear proliferation. "I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which fifteen or twenty-five nations may have these weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger."1 Analysts wrote about "Nth" nuclear powers, and "life in a nuclear armed crowd".2 By the end of the 1970s, these fears had not been realized, and indeed, even in the 1980s, proliferation of nuclear weapons was slower than had been feared or predicted. In addition to the five existing nuclear powers, only India joined the "nuclear club", and even India's program was limited to a single test explosion in 1974.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, the pace of nuclear proliferation accelerated and the existing regimes and institutions, as well as the broad conceptions guiding non- proliferation policy, have proven inadequate. Pakistan and perhaps North Korea have apparently succeeded in assembling the components for nuclear weapons. Iraq managed to create a broad and sophisticated nuclear weapons program, and to import components from many sources, in blatant violation of NPT restrictions. Israel continues to reject the NPT and is generally credited with a nuclear weapons capability, and Iran, Algeria, Libya, and other states continue to seek such weapons. The breakup of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of Ukraine as a nuclear weapons state, and the links between the central Asian republics (with residual nuclear facilities and materials), and Iran are additional breaches in the NPT regime.

The pattern of renewed proliferation activity during this period is not evenly distributed around the world. The situation in Europe is unchanged from that of the 1960s, and no new nuclear powers have emerged. Nuclear arms races in South America, involving Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, have been halted by mutual agreement. With the notable exception of North Korea, there are few indications of proliferation in Asia. Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korean, and other potential proliferators have apparently decided against pursuing nuclear weapons. South Africa has also accepted the terms of the NPT, and has dismantled its nuclear weapons (but without IAEA supervision).

The uneven pace of proliferation, and the clear distinction between regions, suggests a number of important questions regarding the structure of the existing non-proliferation regime. The regime and most of its components are essentially global in nature. The terms of the NPT and the operations of the Safeguards Division of the IAEA are universal, and designed to apply on an identical basis to all regions and states. Unilateral components of the regime, such as the United States government's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 and additional legislation do not distinguish between regions, and do not contain language which would allow for adaptation to specific cases and conditions. (Although American non-proliferation legislation generally allows the President to exempt a particular state from sanctions for non-compliance with limitations and requirements, this process is ad-hoc, and does not alter the essentially global structure, as will be shown below.) U.S. policy makers have also failed to support, and in most cases, have opposed regional nuclear weapons free zones, both in South America and in the Middle East, claiming that multiple structures would undermine the IAEA system.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of global institutions and universal rules of behavior in the existing non- proliferation regime and American policy, and to analyze the significance of this policy in different regional contexts, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. The analysis will focus on the major components of the regime, including the NPT, IAEA and the safeguard system, London Suppliers agreements, U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, and, more recently, the MTCR and CWC. The second part of this paper will examine the proposals for regionally-based regime structures with particular application in the Middle East. The potential advantages, as well as the limitations of the regional alternative to non- proliferation will be assessed and compared to the global regime.

The Existing Global Regime
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The anchor of the existing non-proliferation regime, and of American policy, is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This agreement was signed in 1968, and entered into force in 1970. The terms of the treaty distinguish between legitimate civil applications of nuclear energy (including "peaceful nuclear explosions") and illegitimate military applications, and attempt to create a structure for encouraging the former while preventing the latter. Two classes of states are recognized; the 5 nuclear weapons states (U.S., USSR, UK, France, and PRC), and the non- nuclear weapons states, to which all other nations belong. While the nuclear weapons states are granted the right to possess these weapons, they pledge to make efforts to reduce their stockpiles though arms control agreements (Article VI). They also agree not provide any form of assistance, technology, or materials to other states which might be used to develop nuclear weapons (Article I). The non-nuclear state (NNWS) signatories promise not to develop nuclear weapons, (Article II), and but are allowed to acquire materials, technology, and facilities for civil nuclear applications.

The global nature of the treaty creates two forms of problems and limitations. In the first place, all NNWS signatories are treated on the same terms. Every state which signs the NPT is placed under the same safeguards framework, allowed access to nuclear research facilities, and entitled to assistance from the other states, including the five nuclear powers. The framers of the Treaty sought to encourage states eager to pursue a civilian nuclear energy program to accept the NPT. However, they also aided these states to acquire a nuclear infrastructure which can be applied to the development of nuclear weapons. Secondly, the treaty does not provide an answer for NNWS that view nuclear weapons as necessary to deter threats to national survival.

The first set of issues is a function of the nature of the international system, and the inherent difficulties in accommodating the widely differing concepts of international law among the various states and regions. As Scheinman notes, "Non- discrimination between states is one of the underlying principles of implementation; the [regime] does not make judgements about the credibility of a state's non-proliferation commitment."3

In reality, however, the credibility of this commitment differs widely among states. Status quo states, with an interest in international stability, such as the United States, Canada, Western Europe, view international agreements such as the NPT as binding obligations and the basis for stability and survival in the nuclear age. In contrast, for totalitarian regimes with territorial claims and no interest in the status quo, international agreements are meaningless, or minor obstacles to be overcome. Saddam Hussein, Muammar Khadaffi, and the leaders of the radical regimes in Iran and North Korea do not share an interest in international stability or the prevention of war. The NPT treaty begins by noting "the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war". Leaders who use chemical weapons again their own citizens and who are willing to risk national destruction to advance their interests and ideologies are not likely to be effected by concerns for "all mankind".

Indeed, by signing the NPT, such states were given preferred access to the very technology and materials necessary to acquire nuclear weapons. Article IV notes that "Nothing in this treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this treaty." The NPT goes on to assure access to this technology "on a non- discriminatory basis". Indeed, in terms of budget, personnel, and activities, the proliferation of nuclear know-how and technology has become the IAEA's major function, with training programs for states such as Iraq and Iran. From this perspective, a single universal regime, in which radical states are placed in the same category as Canada, Sweden, or Japan, is unrealistic and counterproductive.

In addition, with regard to the non-nuclear states, the NPT system does not recognize any legitimate basis for nuclear deterrence, or the possibility that in some circumstances, such deterrence may be stabilizing and prevent warfare. During World War II, the United States began developing atomic weapons in order to match similar programs in Germany. The subsequent decisions to develop nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union, France, the UK and PRC were defended in terms of deterrence and the requirements of national security.

Other countries facing threats to national security and survival have also sought to develop nuclear weapons for deterrence. Since gaining independence in 1948, the existence of Israel has been continuously threatened by the overwhelming conventional forces of the Arab states. Since the early 1950s, Israeli leaders have viewed the development of a nuclear deterrent as the only means of securing national survival against eventual Arab conventional superiority. Shalheveth Freier, who served as head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and was a major architect of the Israeli policy, argues that this capability is designed "to serve as possible caution to states contemplating obliterating Israel by dint of their preponderance of men and material."4 Although the situation is in many ways very different, Indian and Pakistani (and, more recently, Ukrainian) leaders have also seen nuclear weapons as necessary to guarantee survival.5

Although the development of nuclear weapons, under any circumstances, is generally viewed as destabilizing, there are some dissenting views. For example, Geoffrey Kemp argues that "On some occasions, weapons proliferation has led to greater caution between adversaries, and may have strengthened deterrence." He cites the specific example of Saddam Hussein's failure to use chemical weapons against Israel, attributing this caution to the fear of massive retaliation Israel retaliation.6 The NPT and other elements of the global approach to non- proliferation do not provide an answer or alternative to the concerns of these states.


The concept of an International Atomic Energy Agency was first mooted by President Eisenhower "Atoms for Peace" speech delivered in December 1953. After considerable negotiation, the IAEA was created in 1957, as an independent international agency. (It is linked to the United Nations, and the IAEA Board of Governors reports to the UN Security Council.) Following the signing of the NPT, the IAEA became responsible for the negotiation and administration of safeguards on nuclear materials and facilities transferred under the terms of the treaty.

The IAEA, like the NPT, is based on the principle (or the fiction) of equality among states and is open to all nations. The IAEA has over 100 members, which elect the Board of Governors (consisting of 34 nations). The Board, in turn, appoints the General Director of the Agency, and the Director General controls the Department of Safeguards and Inspection. Under the terms of the regime, each state within the system negotiates a specific safeguards agreement. In response to claims that intrusive safeguards would impinge on national sovereignty, and nosy inspectors could compromise proprietary information, or reveal industrial secrets (particularly in the 1950s and 1960s when the nuclear industry was growing), the safeguards and inspection procedures were designed to be largely non-intrusive. Safeguard agreements and reports are also secret, ostensibly for the same reasons. Although the IAEA has the formal right to request special inspections, this was never invoked prior to the case of Iraq in 1991. Evidence of a diversion or violation, if detected, is reported to the Director General, who then is authorized to bring it to the attention of the Board of Governors. The Board, consisting or representatives of states, is highly political and can be expected to act on some violations or suspected violations, while ignoring others for political reasons. (The Arab members of the IAEA did not press for action to slow the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, but led the effort to expel Israel following the attack on the Osiraq reactor in 1981.) At most, the Board can report its findings to the UN Security Council for action.

These factors have seriously weakened the potential effectiveness of safeguards with respect to would-be nuclear weapons states. As in the case of Iraq, undeclared facilities are outside the realm of IAEA inspectors. At most, the existing IAEA system is able to provide timely warning of a diversion from safeguarded facilities, but the effectiveness of even this measure has depended on the ability of the member states (led by the United States) to deter violations by threatening sanctions. Closed non-democratic states are able to hide evidence of a nuclear weapons program much more successfully than open democratic states. In addition, non-democratic regimes such as Iraq and North Korea are able to resist the impact of sanctions, and survive in power for a significant period. Thus, leaders who conclude that a nuclear program could escape detection until the last stages, or that sanctions are acceptable (or that the threat of sanctions is not credible), are not deterred by existing IAEA safeguards.

Iraq provides the primary example of the limits of the existing regime and the universal approach of the IAEA system. Iraq is an NPT signatory and signed an IAEA safeguards agreement. In the late 1970s, Baghdad acquired a French reactor, under IAEA safeguards, but as IAEA inspectors later testified, the inspection system, which allowed Iraq to chose the nature and timing of the inspections and the nationality of the inspectors, could not detect evidence of diversion. After Israel destroyed the Osiraq reactor in 1981, (a demonstration of the Israeli lack of confidence in the IAEA and NPT), Saddam's nuclear program continued, with the assistance of technology and materials acquired from Germany, the U.S., and other states (also in violation of the terms of the NPT). Iraq built two independent facilities for the enrichment of natural uranium (centrifugal and electromagnetic isotope separation) which were never reported to the IAEA and never under safeguards. Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, who headed the UN Special Commission in Iraq, admitted that "There was a sprawling nuclear weapon design center that no one noticed (Al Atheer)."7 The Iraqi reactor that was under IAEA safeguards was also used to produce fissile material, without detection. Had it not been for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the American led attack in January 1991, and the dispatch of the UN Special Commission under the terms of the cease-fire, the Iraqis would have succeeded in manufacturing nuclear weapons in a short period of time.

The case of Iraq, although most blatant, is not unique. Spector reports that in September 1981, the IAEA inspectors feared that material had been diverted from reactors in India and Pakistan. Although the deficiency at the Indian plant was apparently resolve, the Pakistani case is less clear, and Spector concludes that spent fuel containing plutonium might have been diverted from the Pakistani reactor.8 No action, however, was ever taken, and in February 1992 Pakistan declared that it had produced the components necessary for nuclear weapons.9 The extended "cat and mouse" between North Korea and the IAEA is another example of the weaknesses inherent in the existing global regime. In 1985, following detection of an unsafeguarded reactor at Yongbyon, North Korea was pressured to sign the NPT. However, for many years, Kim Il-Sung's regime avoided negotiation of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and this was not signed until 1992. Since then, IAEA inspectors have been prevented from carrying out the required inspections, and the DPRK is believed to have developed the elements for a nuclear capability. In March 1993, North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the NPT, but, under American pressure, this declaration was suspended. However, the IAEA was still unable to inspect key nuclear facilities and sites, and informed the United Nations that it was unable to verify that North Korea had not diverted fissile material from the reactor. Following the removal of fuel elements from the North Korean reactor, the United States sought to gain the support of the members of the Security Council for economic sanctions, but these were opposed by Russia and China. The sudden death of the Kim Il-Sung further increased uncertainty and delay and allowed time for reprocessing and extraction of the plutonium.

However this issue is resolved, the years of delay and negotiation during which the DPRK was able to avoid the NPT and IAEA requirements demonstrate the weakness of the regime. Indeed, in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Korea, it is clear that the IAEA's single and undifferentiated global system of safeguards and inspections has failed to stop nuclear proliferation. The London Nuclear Suppliers Group

The NPT agreement did not prevent suppliers from exporting materials and technology which could be used for military purposes. In the early 1970s, the nuclear industries in the U.S., France, FRG, Canada and Italy were competing for contracts to sell power reactors, enrichment facilities, and other critical technology to a number of developing states and potential proliferators, both within and outside the NPT system. While the NPT prohibited the unsafeguarded transfer of technology for weapons programs, there was no agreed definition of this technology. The developing states often used the competition between supplier states in order to gain critical technologies as part of the transaction. For example, when Brazil announced that it would purchase a number of power reactors, it also demanded enrichment and reprocessing facilities as part of the deal. While the U.S. government refused to allow the export of this technology, the West German government had no such limitations, and by agreeing to the Brazilian demands, gained the contract for the German firms.

In 1976, the major exporters, including the U.S., FRG, Canada, the UK, the USSR, Japan, and, somewhat later, France, adopted a "trigger" list of items which could only be transferred under IAEA safeguards. Representatives of this group, which initially convened in London, met periodically to discuss and coordinate policy. In 1976, a wider list of guidelines were adopted.10

The global suppliers' guidelines can be considered as a partial success. The transfer of technology, facilities, and materials slowed in the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s, particularly to Asia and South America. However, the guidelines did not prevent Iraq from acquiring what was loosely described as "dual-use technology" necessary to develop nuclear weapons. Indeed, in this area, the guidelines were entirely ineffective and billions of dollars of this technology was sold without safeguards of any kind. In 1992, an effort was made to tighten the guidelines and include the transfer of dual-use technology, but the effectiveness of these changes remains highly uncertain. Just as the IAEA's approach to safeguards failed to differentiate between specific cases and regions, the global approach to supply- side restrictions on the transfer of nuclear technology has also proven inadequate with respect to regions such as the Middle East.

U.S. Unilateral Regulations and Bilateral Agreements

The U.S. government has acted in a number of ways to reinforce the global non-proliferation regime. The Nuclear Non- Proliferation Act of 1978 was designed to supplement the NPT system by extending controls to countries which had not signed the Treaty or which operated nuclear facilities outside IAEA safeguards. This legislation linked the provision of U.S. nuclear assistance, particularly fuel for nuclear reactors, to the adoption of full scope safeguards, regardless of whether the recipients were NPT signatories. Although supporters spoke of "incentives" for cooperation, the objective was to pressure the near-nuclear non-NPT states, such as Pakistan, India, Brazil, Israel, Argentina, etc. to adopt full-scope safeguards.

As the importance of nuclear power declined, this legislation had little impact on the pace of proliferation. Few of the target states had significant nuclear power programs, and most, if not all, had access to alternative fuel sources for existing nuclear research programs.

The use of "sticks" to gain acceptance of U.S. nuclear proliferation guidelines, such as full scope safeguards, extended to areas beyond nuclear technology and assistance. In 1976, legislation sponsored by Senator Symington required the President to end economic and military assistance to states that receive or supply unsafeguarded uranium enrichment, spent fuel reprocessing facilities, or obtain these materials (Section 669 of the Foreign Assistance Act).11

This and similar legislation, such as the 1985 Solarz Amendment, are global in nature, and designed to apply equally to all regions, from Latin America and Asia to the Middle East. (This amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act bans aid to states that illegally export or attempt to export nuclear-weapons related materials or technologies from the U.S..) The only exceptions are provided by language authorizing the President to waive sanctions if "the termination of such assistance would have a serious effect on vital United States interests" and "he has received reliable assurances that the country in question will not acquire or develop nuclear weapons or assist other nations in doing so." Indeed, amidst a great deal of controversy, this clause was invoked in 1979 by President Carter to allow continued American aid to Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As a result, Pakistan received military and economic assistance from the United States while making progress towards developing nuclear weapons.

The American legislation designed to pressure non-NPT signatories to accept safeguards and slow the pace of nuclear proliferation had little effect on these states. More importantly, this legalistic and formal approach had no impact on the NPT signatories that continued to develop nuclear weapons. U.S. non-proliferation legislation did not apply to Iraq, because this state was an NPT signatory, and during the 1980s, American technology continued to flow to Iraq without export restrictions.


In the effort to limit the proliferation of missile technology, the U.S. government sponsored the established the Missile Technology Control Regime in 1987. Although the MTCR focused on ballistic missile technology, these systems are most dangerous and destabilizing when used with nuclear warheads, and the MTCR should be considered to be part of the global nuclear proliferation regime.12

The MTCR, like the NPT, the IAEA safeguards, and the London Suppliers Group, has had some success and some notable failures. This agreement had some immediate impact in the South America and the Middle East by effectively ending the Condor missile project, which included Argentina, Iraq, and Egypt, and was based on European-supplied technology. The MTCR, however, was not effective in preventing Iraq from manufacturing and modifying Scud-B missiles, which were used against Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, and which were capable of carrying Iraqi chemical warheads. MTCR signatories such as Germany, Britain, and the U.S. were instrumental in the development of the Iraqi missile program, and the U.S. even provided loan guarantees which were applied to these purchases.13

In October 1991, the U.S. succeeded in pressuring Israel into signing the MTCR, and Beijing has reportedly canceled the agreement to sell M-9 missiles sought by Syria. However, North Korean deliveries of Scud-C and longer-range Nudong missiles to Iran and Syria were not halted.14 If the MTCR is to be successful in the Middle East, it will have to end all missile acquisitions in the region, including Iran and Syria.

In a broader sense, the effort to use the global approach to the problem of ballistic missile proliferation in the Middle East is flawed in a manner similar to the cases of the NPT and the IAEA. The 1990 report of the Aspen Study Group recognizes that the differences between states, such as Israel and Iraq "mandate different goals" in responding to their respective missile programs.15 A single standard of conduct for all states is unrealistic in this area, as in others.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

The CWC represents the most recent addition to the global non-proliferation regime. After many years of negotiations, the text of the CWC was opened for signature in January 1993, and is expected to enter into force in January 1995, assuming that the requisite 65 countries have ratified the agreement.

The verification procedures under the CWC are considered far more stringent and intrusive than those of the existing IAEA safeguards. The CWC Inspectorate is given responsibility for continuous monitoring of processes and facilities that have the potential for being used in production of chemical weapons. Each signatory agrees to cooperate with the Inspectorate in gathering detailed information and observing activities of chemical producers, and to allow for "challenge inspections" (although the individual states have means to prevent frivolous challenges unrelated to the mandate of the CWC).

However, in many ways, the framework of the CWC is similar to the structure of the NPT/IAEA. The prohibitions, guidelines, verification, and governing bodies all based on a global and undifferentiated approach. The CWC will be managed by a 41- member Executive Council, which, like the Governing Board of the IAEA, will rotate based on elections by the member states. Operational control will be vested in the Director General, and suspected violations of safeguards and prohibitions are to be referred to the United Nations Security Council for action. Thus, structurally, the CWC suffers from the same defects that characterize the other elements in the global non-proliferation regime.

There many questions regarding the operation of the CWC system, particularly with respect to the Middle East. The states in this region, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Iran have the largest and most developed chemical weapons capabilities in the world (with the exception of the major powers). Although Israel and Iran have signed the CWC, the other key states, such as Egypt and Syria, have not, making enforcement in the region difficult. In addition, their are many reports that Iran has developed a CW capability,16 and the closed nature of the society will present a major test of the credibility of the verification system.

Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence

As noted above, the NPT and IAEA system, as well as the unilateral American efforts, do not distinguish between the diverse motivations of states seeking nuclear weapons. Policies designed to prevent nuclear proliferation do not consider the threats to the security or survival of particular states. In such cases, a nuclear deterrent is often seen as necessary to ensure national survival, and the threats of sanctions and limitations on aid are viewed as less damaging alternative. Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was quoted as declaring that his citizens would eat grass rather than surrender the nuclear option.17

Israel is perhaps the most prominent example of this situation. Since the late 1950s, Israel has been subject to continuous pressure from the United States to sign the NPT, to allow inspection of the Dimona nuclear complex, and to take other actions consistent with the international non-proliferation regime. During most of this period, Israeli leaders rejected these efforts. Although cursory American inspection of Dimona was accepted briefly in the 1960s,18 Israel has continued to develop its nuclear deterrent capability. As noted above, this capability is considered essential for national survival, and Israeli policy makers have linked any moves to surrender this capability with a full settlement to the Middle East conflict, and an end to the threat to national survival.

In a limited concession to American non-proliferation interests, and in order to limit factors that might accelerate the development of nuclear weapons by the Arab states, the Israeli program has been characterized by "deliberate ambiguity". No public declaration regarding a nuclear capability have been made, and no tests have been announced.19 However, as noted, the threat of American sanctions did not end the development of Israeli nuclear capabilities.

In other words, for countries whose national survival is threatened by an existential attack, either from massive conventional forces, or from non-conventional weapons, and for whom a nuclear deterrent provides the best available response, the existing global non-proliferation regime provides little support. For these cases, a universal and undifferentiated formula, designed to apply to all regions and states, despite the differences between them, is inadequate, and is likely to remain so, regardless of external pressures, as long as the external threats remain. To provide alternatives for these states and regions, but maintain the objectives of non-proliferation, regional frameworks should be considered.

The Alternative: Regional Processes and Institutions
Regional Factors in Proliferation Processes

As noted above, the paths and dynamics of nuclear proliferation are not uniform around the world, and vary according to regional patterns and factors. The processes of proliferation in South Asia, South America, and the Middle East are specific to each region, and the major factors are largely independent of events and processes in other regions.

In South America, for example, the role of local political variables, such as the military regimes in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile were the major determinants of the rate of proliferation in this region. When the regimes changed and were replaced by civil rule and democratic governments, the development of nuclear arms slowed.

In South Asia, the pace of nuclear proliferation is largely based on the relationship between India and Pakistan.20 During periods of tension between these states, the prominence of nuclear weapons programs of both states increased while in periods of detente, the prospects for mutual limitation increase.

In the Middle East, nuclear proliferation is closely linked to the numerous and overlapping regional conflicts which characterize this region. Israel, Iraq, Libya, Algeria, and Iran all have nuclear weapons programs, and the nature of these efforts, and the factors which motivate the leaders of these states differ significantly.21

Given the defuse nature of regional proliferation patterns and causes, it would be surprising if any global approach and regime was successful in dealing with the various regions and factors. Indeed, as noted above, the institutions and practices of the global non-proliferation regime, including the NPT, IAEA, and Nuclear Supplier's Agreements, have failed in the Middle East and South Asia.

Regional Structures: Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZ)

Instead of the exclusive focus on the singular global structure, regionally based non-proliferation regimes have been proposed as more useful and flexible structures in response to the particular problems of the Middle East and South Asia. In an analysis of non-proliferation policies, the Aspen Strategy Study Group concluded that the "global approach has reached a point of diminishing marginal returns".22 The existing regime is "not sufficient....What is needed are regional and country specific policies to complement those pursued at the global level."23

Some regional structures already exist, and others are under discussion. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (the treaty of Tlateloclo) created a nuclear- weapons free zone in this region. The signatories agreed to accept full-scope safeguards, under the auspices of the IAEA. In addition, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL) is given the authority to undertake special inspections when requested by signatories. Although the terms of the treaty have not come into force in the key countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, progress in this direction has been made in the last few years, and the terms of the treaty provide a promising background for the development of a regional arms control and limitation regime. A series of reciprocal visits to nuclear facilities have taken place, and in 1990, Argentina and Brazil signed a Declaration on Common Nuclear Policy, aimed at prohibiting nuclear weapons and testing.24

In South Asia, preliminary arms limitation processes conducted on a regional basis have progressed. India and Pakistan negotiated and implemented a number of confidence- building measures. In 1985, the two states pledged not to attack each others's nuclear facilities and centers, and in 1991, this agreement was ratified. The terms state that each party will "refrain from undertaking, encouraging, or participating indirectly or directly in any action aimed at causing the destruction or damage to any such installations or facilities in the other country."25 The agreement also provides for the transfer of lists of power, research, and enrichment plants covered under the measures. Since December 1990, Indian and Pakistani military leaders have held weekly meetings and an advance notification agreement to cover military exercises is being negotiated.26

In the Middle East, regional non-proliferation frameworks have been proposed by a number of states. Although the details differ, Egypt, Israel, and even Iran have supported the concept of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. A regional system or MENWFZ which includes mutual inspection and real-time safeguards, and is based on direct, face-to-face negotiations can be adapted to the particular conditions and problems of the Middle East. The creation of Middle East section of the IAEA, in which Israel, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and other states would negotiate a mutually acceptable framework has also been proposed. Such a regional structure would force each of the states to address each other's problems and concerns, rather than attempting to use the international organizations, such as the IAEA, to impose limitations unilaterally on the other.

The foundations of a regional framework for the Middle East have been created in the Arms Control and Regional Security workshop of the multilateral negotiations that began following the 1991 Madrid Conference. Four plenary sessions have been held in Moscow and Washington, and a number of subgroups were created in the areas of search and rescue, crisis communications, pre- notification of military exercises, and information exchange.

Participants include Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and a number of North African and Persian Gulf states. However, a number of critical states, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Libya are boycotting this process, limiting the concrete measures that can be taken. If these states agree to participate, it is possible that the ACRS workshop could provide a basis for a number of far reaching regional arms control measures, including, in the long term and in the context of Arab-Israeli peace agreements, limits on non-conventional weapons. Without the participation of these key states, agreements will be limited to "confidence and security-building measures" (CSBMs) and perhaps some measures with respect to conventional weapons.

The Link Between Nuclear and Other Weapons

The global non-proliferation regime, based on the NPT, the IAEA, and the suppliers' agreements, have focused exclusively on nuclear weapons, without recognition of any link with other weapons or technologies. However, as noted above, in some regions and circumstances, the proliferation of nuclear weapons is directly related to and inseparable from threats posed from other weapons, both conventional and weapons of mass destruction. In the Middle East, the Israeli nuclear capability was developed as a means of countering massive Arab conventional weapons purchases, and the threat posed to survival. Israeli national security interests require that any limits in the nuclear area be matched by a corresponding decrease in the threat posed by conventional weapons in the region. In other words, a regional non-proliferation regime must link conventional as well as nuclear weapons.

At the same time, a number of states in the region, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Iran, have developed chemical weapons capabilities. (Iraq is also suspected of developing biological weapons.) Although in most of these cases, the development of chemical agents was unrelated to developments in Israel,27 in the 1989 Paris conference on Chemical Weapons, a number of the Arab states argued that chemical weapons were "the poor states' nuclear weapons", and an answer to the Israeli "bomb in the basement". As a result, in this region, efforts to prevent or manage nuclear proliferation require a comprehensive framework, including nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons. This integrated structure contrasts greatly with the existing global regime and institutions, in which each type of weapons technology is treated independently.

Changes in the American Approach?

As noted above, the United States government has generally neglected, and in many cases, opposed regional approach to non- proliferation. U.S. policy makers have expressed the fear that regional approaches and alternatives would undermine the IAEA and other global institutions, and the NPT system in general. Dr. Lewis Dunn, former Assistant Director of ACDA and Ambassador to the 1985 NPT Review Conference, has summarized this position, noting, "Traditional nuclear non-proliferation institutions and measures remain the bedrock of [American] nuclear proliferation strategy. ... The NPT is essential for fostering a norm of non- proliferation ..."28 While the U.S. has offered a number of proposals designed to strengthen the NPT and IAEA safeguards system,29 American policy also seeks the indefinite extension of the NPT, without major modifications, at the 1995 NPT Review Conference.

However, following the 1991 Gulf war, there was some recognition of the need to change the existing policy and to promote regional frameworks, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia. Some analysts and government officials acknowledged the role of regional security arrangements and discussions.30 In May 1991, the Bush Administration published an initiative specifically designed to further arms control in the Middle East.31 This proposal included limitations on the transfer of conventional weapons, as well as missiles, chemical and biological weapons, and nuclear technology, materials, and components. By placing these elements in a single framework, the proposal marked a major change in U.S. policy. In addition, the American effort recognized that the region was complex, extending from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, to North Africa.

Despite the regional context of this initiative, the text subordinated these measures to the global regime. Bush included a call for adherence to the NPT, and acceptance of IAEA safeguards, although these measures were described as steps to the longer term goal of creating a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone. In September 1993, President Clinton introduced a proposal calling for an end to the production of fissile material, but the details of this initiative have not been presented, and the context is global, rather than regional. Evaluation of the Regional Approach to Non-Proliferation

As noted, the causes of proliferation are closely linked to the particular nature of conflict and political relations in each region. The global approach to non-proliferation, and the existing global regime, including the NPT, IAEA, and MTCR, have failed when applied to regions such as the Middle East and South Asia. Regional approaches, based on dedicated regimes, and negotiated and operated by the various states in the region, may provide more useful alternatives.

This will require not only a major change in approach by the states involved, but also a radical shift in U.S. policy. The existing global regime largely reflects the U.S. perspective and approach, and the American government has generally distanced itself from regional alternatives to the existing global structure. Unless the United States government, as the main supporter of non-proliferation, shifts to a regional approach, in which all forms of weapons and technology, including conventional weapons, are linked and limitations are interdependent, the prospects for arms limitation in South Asia the Middle East will remain low.

Advocates of a regional approach to non-proliferation emphasize the flexibility of such local regimes, and the ability to adapt to the specific circumstances and requirement of each region. However, critics of U.S. non-proliferation policy have alleged that the current system is already too flexible, and has allowed the emergence of a "double standard." Despite clear evidence of a Pakistan nuclear weapons program, both the Carter and Reagan administrations allowed the government in Islamabad to continue with these efforts in order to maintain support for U.S. policy in Afghanistan following the 1979 Soviet invasion.32 Similarly, critics note that the United States government has provided economic and military assistance to Israel despite Jerusalem's nuclear program.33 Some American analysts and policy makers recommend exerting stronger pressure on Israel to gain compliance with the NPT and other elements in the global regime.34 From this perspective, even the current system has too much room for maneuver, and rather than dismembering the current system, what is needed is a tighter, less flexible set of rules and regulations for controlling nuclear proliferation.

Detailed analysis, however, does not support these claims. In the Middle East, past efforts to impose limitations based on the single standards of the global regime have failed, and further pressures may even exacerbate the situation. Increased pressures on Israel, without prior removal of the threats that led the Jewish state to seek a deterrent in the first place could exacerbate Israeli fears and "bring the bomb out of the basement".

A number of regional non-proliferation regimes varying in content and structure could also undermine the concept of a single global standard for behavior on which much of international law, the actions of the United Nations, and the existing NPT system and the other elements of the regime are based. According to this view, in international law, as in domestic law, a single standard of behavior is necessary for the development of a uniform and non-discriminatory code. If the common ground rules are replaced by a number of differing regional regimes, it is feared that the NPT system and norms regarding non-proliferation will lose their universal legitimacy. As a result, some analysts have been willing to consider regional verification arrangements as parallel structures to supplement the NPT and IAEA regime.35


The case for the development of regional non-proliferation regimes is neither simple nor without limitations. At the same time, however, the existing global system has not, in fact, succeeded in creating a single standard of behavior. Some states have signed and ratified the NPT, yet violate its terms blatantly and continue to seek develop nuclear weapons. The response of the international community has been slow and inadequate to deter such violations. In other cases, as noted, the concept of a single system of rules and safeguards is inappropriate, particularly when national survival is seen to depend on the development of a nuclear deterrent.

As noted above, in addition to the global regime, some regional non-proliferation structures have been created and are functioning in South America and the South Pacific. A regional structure also seems to be emerging in South Asia involving India and Pakistan. In a broader sense, the various superpower arms control agreements, beginning with the Partial Test Ban in 1963, and including the SALT, ABM, INF, and START agreements can be seen as part of a local regime. Thus, the concepts of global and regional approaches to non-proliferation are not mutually exclusive.

Both global and regional approaches to non-proliferation have distinct advantages and limitations, and some combination of a global framework, supplemented by regional regimes and agreements seems optimal. While some American policy makers have focused increasing attention on regional factors, the primary emphasis is still on global structures, including the NPT, IAEA, MTCR, CWC, etc., in which all states are treated on an equal basis. Greater attention to regional frameworks, particularly in the problem areas of the Middle East and South Asia, would now seem to be appropriate.

I would like to thank Prof. Charles Lipson and the members of the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security at the University of Chicago for their comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article.


0- For a detailed discussion of the concept of international regimes see Stephen D. Krasner, ed., International Regimes Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY 1983

1- New York Times, March 22, 1963, p.4

2- Albert Wohlstetter, Moving Toward Life in a Nuclear Armed Crowd? (Los Angeles, PanHeuristics, 1976); Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better, Adelphi Paper No. 171, (London, IISS, 1981); see also Stephen Van Evra, "Primed for Peace", International Security Vol.15. No.3 Winter 1990/1

3- Lawrence Scheinman, "Nuclear Safeguards and Non-Proliferation in a Changing World Order", Security Dialogue Vol. 23, Number 4, December 1992, p. 40

4- Shalheveth Freier, "A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East and its Ambience", unpublished manuscript (1992)

5- Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik, "India and Pakistan", in Security with Nuclear Weapons? (New York, Oxford U. Press, 1991); see also John J. Mearsheimer, "The Case for a Ukrainian Deterrent", Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993

6- Geoffrey Kemp, The Control of the Middle East Arms Race, Carnegie Endowment, Washington DC, 1992. In contrast to Kemp, there is a strong tendency among analysts, journalists, and policy makers to ignore the origins of the Israeli nuclear deterrent. See, for example, the testimony of Kathleen Bailey, Proliferation and Arms Control, Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, May 17 1990, p.53.

7- Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, "The Iraqi Experience and Multilateral Approaches to Controlling Nuclear Proliferation", Center for Security and Technology Studies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, March 16, 1993, P.1

8- Leonard Spector, Nuclear Ambitions: The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, 1989-1990 Westview, Boulder Colorado, 1990 p.422

9- Leonard Spector, "Deterring Regional Threats from Nuclear Proliferation", U.S. Army War College Third Annual Conference on Strategy, (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, February 1992) p.21

10- Spector, pp.433-434

11- Zachary Davis, "Non-Proliferation Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of Policies to Control the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons and Missiles" , CRS, Washington DC, April 1 1991, pp.13-14

12- For a discussion of the origins of the MTCR, see Aaron Karp, "Ballistic Missile Proliferation", in SIPRI Yearbook 1990: World Armaments and Disarmament (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1990)

13- Gary Milhollin, Licensing Mass Destruction: U.S. Exports to Iraq, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Washington, DC 1991

14- Ha'aretz, (Israel) April 9, 1993

15- New Threats: Responding to the Proliferation of Nuclear, Chemical, and Delivery Capabilities in the Third World, An Aspen Study Group Report, University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland, 1990, p.22

16- Middle East Defense News, 15 December 1992, 24 February 1993, 19 April 1993.

17- The basis for the Israeli and Pakistani opposition to the NPT is fundamentally different from the Indian argument. While the former claim that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter existential threats, Indian representatives reject the fundamental distinction between the five nuclear weapons states and all the other non-nuclear states.

18- See Yitzhak Rabin, Pinkas Sherut (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Maariv, 1979) pp.129-30

19- In 1979, US early warning satellites detected a "mysterious flash" in the South Atlantic near South Africa. This has often been attributed to a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test, but no evidence of this has ever surfaced, and the technical information does not indicate that the signal was caused by a nuclear explosion.

20- Historically, proliferation in this region was closely linked to the conflict between China and India. For the past decade, however, the role of China as a catalyst has diminished and the major factor is the relationship between India and Pakistan.

21- Since the Israeli program remains secret, it is difficult to assess the reliability of publications that purport to provide information on the number and types of weapons in the Israeli arsenal. Recent speculative efforts include Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option (New York, Random House, 1991) and "Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal", Sunday Times, (London), 5 October 1985.

22- Aspen Study Group Report, p. 20

23- Aspen Study Group Report, 1990, p.x

24- Cited by Zachary Davis, "Non-Proliferation Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of Policies to Control the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons and Missiles" , CRS, Washington DC, April 1 1991, p.9

25- Kemp, p.171

26- Ibid.

27- Egypt used chemical weapons in the 1960s in Yemen, and Iraq developed this capability to use against Iran.

28- Lewis A. Dunn, "Containing Nuclear Proliferation", Adelphi Paper 263, (London, IISS, 1991), p.4

29- See, for example, Lawrence Scheinman, The International Atomic Energy Agency and the New World Order, (Washington, DC: Resources for the Future, 1987)

30- Dunn, p.37

31- Fact Sheet on Middle East Arms Control Initiative, White HOuse Office of the Press Secretary, May 29, 1991

32- Leonard Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, Boulder, Westview Press, 1990, pp.91-2

33- See, for example, Hersh, The Samson Option

34- See, for example, the testimony of Ambassador Gerard Smith, Proliferation and Arms Control, Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, May 17 1990, p.4,

35- Scheinman, op cit note 3, p.48