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13/14 November 2013

Report of Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East Meeting in Amman

Impact on Global Non-Proliferation Efforts

This conference, organised by the Arab Institute for Security Studies (ACSIS) and sponsored by the European Union, the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Austria and Atomic Reporters was attend by many distinguished delegates including the Minister of Presidential Affairs Tunisia,  HE Adnen Mansur, The EU Special Envoy to the Middle East Process,  HE Andreas Reinicke and the Deputy Director to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Grace Asirwatham. Pierre Razoux, Research Director in charge of regional security studies at Institute for Strategic Research of the French War College gave the following information.


The geopolitical parameters in the Middle East Region also known as Western Asia are shifting because

1) The energy requirements of the region are increasing and could rise by 77% in the next decade, some ME nation states have stopped exporting oil and some have become net oil importers. The discovery of  large quantities of natural gas in the Levant gives Israel and Cyprus leverage to strengthen their position in the Middle East.

2) Uncertainty in Egypt, governmental collapse in Tunisia, the rise of  Jihadism in Yemen and elsewhere, the war in Syria, which like the Spanish war in the 1930s is attracting combatants from other places, are unsettling influences.

3) Russia is becoming re-involved with the region and bilateral dialogue is occurring between the US and Russia.

4) US  influence is altering, A number of factors are occurring. It is withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and  starting dialogue with Iran.  Shale oil has been discovered in US territory. The financial turmoil the US is experiencing and the necessity to consider its relationship with China and the Pacific area are producing the feeling of the necessity to preserve the US from Middle East problems.

Ambassador Reinicke suggested that one of the difficulties is the dialectic between the Israeli contention that recognition must precede disarmament discussions and the Arab contention that disarmament must precede recognition. He suggested that this was not an either /or situation and that Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) were the way to proceed toward a WMFDFZ_ME. He suggested the following CBMs.

1) Israel and Egypt to sign (Egypt) and ratify (Egypt and Israel) the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

2) Fissile material controls

3) Steps to control and eliminate weapon delivery vehicles (basically missiles)



Grace Asirwatham (Deputy Director of OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its remarkable work in Syria, stated that the best way forward is to secure universal adherence to the CWC.  6 states are still outside this convention (Egypt, Israel, South Sudan, Angola , North Korea and Mianmar).

The Middle East has suffered from chemical weapon use for the past 30 years. Declarations of intent are not enough, verification is vital. Each State Party has to account to other State parties. The OPCW is always ready to provide a complete package of training and capacity building advice. She issued a plea to Egypt and Israel to join the CWC for its local, regional and global benefits. Verifying the peaceful use of chemicals is a national responsibility and if there is suspicion of illegal possession or use of chemicals, this should be reported to the OPCW who will do a challenge inspection.


Zia Mian, a physicist from Princeton University's  programme on  Science and Global Security advised the following.

Simple fission weapons (nuclear bombs) require 5 kg of plutonium 239  or 15 Kg of Highly Enriched Uranium 235 (HEU).                  

Naturally occurring uranium has only 0.7% of Uranium 235. Most  nuclear reactors require naturally occurring uranium to be enriched to contain 3-5% of Uranium 235(Low Enriched Uranium-LEU).

There are some nuclear reactors that use HEU rather than LEU Plutonium does not occur naturally and is manufactured in nuclear reprocessing plants. Some nuclear reactors use plutonium. (check this)



Measures to serve as strong technical and political barriers to attempts  to seek nuclear weapon capability

a) A ban on the separation  and/or use of plutonium and uranium 235  

b) A ban on the use of HEU as a nuclear reactor fuel

c) Limitation of enrichment of uranium to less than 6%

d) An agreement in countries that enrich, not to stockpile enriched uranium but rather to a adopt a 'just in time' system of production.

e) A pause in the build up  of Iran's enrichment capacity. Iran has stocks of LEU sufficient for the next 10-25 years.

f) A commitment to phase out national enrichment facilities and place any enrichment activities under multinational control. (URENCO controls the uranium enrichment facilities in US, Holland Germany and Britain).

Syria was building a plutonium production plant but this was destroyed by Israel in 2007. Iraq in 1990 tried to divert HEU from a research reactor to develop nuclear weapons but the conflict in Iraq halted this project. 

Libya and Iran both have small research reactors supplied by China which use HEU. China is switching its research reactors to LEU and presumably this could be done at the reactors in Libya and Iran.


Nuclear Freeze, Transparency and Phased Reduction

a) End ongoing production of separated plutonium and HEU. It is believed that Israel's nuclear arsenal is plutonium based and the plutonium is produced by irradiating natural uranium in a reactor at the Negev Nuclear Research Centre near Dimona and that plutonium is chemically separated from the irradiated uranium in an underground reprocessing plant there. The complex may also house a small gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant. The Dimona plant is over 50 years old and becoming dangerous. Shutting down the Dimona reactor and reprocessing plant would cap the amount of plutonium in Israel's stocks.

b) Declare plutonium and HEU stocks and begin to put them under safeguards. The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) Israel has produced 850 kg of plutonium. One war head requires 4-5 kg of plutonium.

Israel has a research reactor at Soreq which uses HEU. This has recently been put under the control of the IAEA but Dimona is still closed to international inspection.


Heat from fissile material can be detected by airborne infrared sensors. This can verify reactor shutdown by detecting reduction of temperatures in the reactor containment building and the cooling towers.

The end of reprocessing is verifiable by offsite monitoring of gaseous sources of fission products. Krypton -85 is released when irradiated nuclear fuel is reprocessed to produce plutonium. This gas can be detected more than 80 miles away from the plant.


Establish a regional verification structure, which includes a multilateral inspection team. The verification organisation would provide regional as well as IAEA monitoring, transparency and improved safeguards on all nuclear material used in any enrichment facility in the region and in the conversion of uranium into UF6 for enrichment or from UF6 after enrichment. It would also oversee the mining  and purification and import of uranium and the operations of any fuel cycle facility in the region.


Andreas Reinicke, EU special representative to Middle East Peace Process Christian Weidlich, Graduate Research Assistant at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt Germany spoke on this issue.

The 1995 mandate for a Middle East free on weapons of mass destruction included delivery systems (missiles, aircraft, drones an submarines).

85% of the missiles used since 1945 have been used in the Middle East. Missiles are destabilising because they  are fast and difficult to defend against. They are ideally suited to deliver WMD and once launched cannot be recalled. The countries of the Middle East are very close to each other so there is very little decision time.

Possible Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)

a) No First Use declaration

b) Exchange of information on missile projects and activities via hotlines or data exchange.

c) Pre-notification of flight tests or space rocket launches for civilian purposes.

d) De-targeting and redeploying beyond missile ranges.

e) Moratorium on missile flights.

Discussion and debate about missiles could play a facilitating factor in the disarmament process- an area of initial dialogue. It could decrease deeprooted mistrust and promote regional dialogue. It could have a spin over effect on dialogue on WMD in the area and could explore possibilities for bargaining.

IPPNW was represented at the Meeting by

Dr Ahmed Sa'adaVice President of Middle East Region

Dr Tony WaterstonMedact

Dr Elizabeth Waterston Medact



Learn about Nuclear Weapons

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