Thursday, 6 May 2010

Israel Matzav: Egypt's 'nuclear free zone' game

Egypt's 'nuclear free zone' game

In an earlier post, I said that I was trying to figure out Egypt's game in pressing for Israel to become a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, since the Egyptians are allegedly at least as concerned about Iran as we are. Focusing on making Israel join the NPT at this time is just going to take pressure off Iran. So why are the Egyptians doing just that?

Aluf Benn reminds us that we've been here before - sort of.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the fourth time this week, and he shows Netanyahu more warmth than any other world leader. The reason is clear. Egypt and Israel share concerns about the rising strength of Iran and its Hezbollah and Hamas allies. But at the same time, Egypt is conducting a constant diplomatic battle to disarm the same Israeli nuclear program that supposedly deters Iran.


The situation is reminiscent of 1995. The prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, talked with Mubarak a lot while the latter's foreign minister, Amr Moussa, waged a diplomatic campaign against Israel's nuclear program. Israel and the Arabs were in the middle of a peace process, Iraq was defeated and demilitarized, the Soviet Union had collapsed and the multilateral talks dealt with arms control. But since then things have changed for the worse.

The Egyptian double dealing is reminiscent of 1995. But the situation with Iran is completely different and much more serious. While Iran has been working on nuclear weapons since the fall of the Shah, it was clearly nowhere near as close as it is today. So what's the Egyptians' game?

I've done some thinking about this, and I've come up with a few possibilities:

1. It's Mubarak's attempt to steal some of the thunder from putative Presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, a past President of the IAEA.

2. The Egyptians are trying to show the 'Arab street' that while they oppose a nuclear weapon for Iran, they're also as anti-Israel as everyone else.

3. They're trying to embarrass Israel just because they want to embarrass Israel. They know this is never going to happen anyway.

4. They want Israel to take care of Iran, but they want to make sure Israel doesn't use nuclear weapons to get the job done (I'm sure Israel prefers not to use nuclear weapons as well - Israel has always said that it would not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East theater).

Feel free to note any other rationales you might think of in the comments.

Israel Matzav: Egypt's 'nuclear free zone' game

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