What if we took one of the most volatile regions on earth and made it a nuclear weapons free zone?
Good idea, isn't it.
So good, in fact, that the 189 countries party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty have already pledged to work for that goal. They did that in 1995.
Imagine. The Middle East completely free of nuclear weapons. You can feel your blood pressure go down even as you say it. The goal combines reason -- it just makes sense to ban the bomb in an area where conflict is rife -- with integrity and compassion.
Nuclear weapons are designed to wipe out large numbers of people in their homes, destroying cities in the process. These weapons are a huge risk anywhere. Their danger only increases in a region plagued by terrorist acts and ongoing conflict.
Unfortunately, since 1995, there has been little progress. There is the much publicized worry that Iran may eventually get nuclear weapons. But the far less publicized problem is that Israel already has them. (Dr. David Kreiger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation estimates that Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons.)
So what do we do? Shrug and wait for the first nuclear strike?
Wouldn't it be better to call on President Obama to adopt the goal of a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone? It would be a tangible, logical step towards "the peace and the security of a world without nuclear weapons," as the President himself put it.Last week in Cairo, President Obama said,
"It is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is... about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path."
Well, I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the President, but I have to say his statement is not enough. We don't need a warning about how grave the danger is. We need action.
Right now, most countries in the Middle East support a nuclear weapons-free zone. In fact, they see agreement on this zone as a requirement for the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
So I'm asking President Obama to use the convening power of the United States to begin negotiations on a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.
This would mean that all countries in the Middle East, including Israel, commit themselves not to manufacture, acquire, test, or possess nuclear weapons.
Establishing a zone in the Middle East will be a significant step on the path to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.
You can help, too. Take a moment to write an email to President Obama today. Here's link to make it easier.
This is what the letter can say:
"Dear President Obama,
Thank you for highlighting the importance of preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East during your June 4th speech in Cairo.
The surest way to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is to create a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the region. The United States and all other countries that are part of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) agreed in 1995 to do just this.
Several regions in the world have already established NWFZs, including most recently in Central Asia in March 2009.
American leadership in this effort is critical. It is an essential step toward achieving your stated goal, which I share, of "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
A possible venue for discussing this important nuclear security issue is the Global Summit on Nuclear Security that you proposed in your speech in Prague in April. Beginning negotiations on a NWFZ in the Middle East will help achieve success at the 2010 NPT Review Conference and closer to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."
With President Obama in office, we have a historic opportunity to make progress towards nuclear disarmament, to really change the world for the better.
So let's get behind him, support him and even give him a nudge when necessary.
Nuclear weapons pose the most immediate catastrophic threat the world has ever known. Isn't it worth a little of your time?
Follow Steven Crandell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stevencrandell