April 16th, 2010
03:14 PM ET

In Middle East, nuclear summit more a puzzle than an answer

Forty-seven nations attended President Obama's Nuclear Security Summit this week in Washington. Among them were eight from the Middle East, including six Arab nations. Iran wasn't at the summit, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided at the last minute not to attend but sent a representative instead.

Netanyahu's move got most of the reaction in Arab media and on the Arab street. A majority believes that Israel once more undermined the United States and signaled trouble for the region, while other smaller but effective groups said Netanyahu did Arabs a service by bolstering the Arab position as moderates in the world.

"Thank you Netanyahu" for not showing up at the nuclear summit, said columnist Abdul Rahman al-Rashed in an op-ed for the Saudi Asharq Alawsat. Al-Rashed's sarcasm and direct criticism of the Israeli prime minister was not widely echoed across the Middle East. However, it was an opinion shared by many intellectuals among Arabs, the moderates and those with cool enough attitudes to analyze what's going on rather than offer the usual reactive opinion when it comes to Israel, Arabs and the United States.

In his column, al-Rashed explained how Netanyahu with his "inexplicable" actions is single-handedly moving his country toward international isolation.

From the United Arab Emirates, a headline in Gulf News on an opinion piece by Georges S. Hishmeh speaks the voice of the Arab masses: "Israel's intransigence undermines Obama. Netanyahu's absence from the nuclear summit struck another blow against peace," Hishmeh said. The accompanying political cartoon is an honest depiction of the region's widespread belief that Israel possesses nuclear warheads.

Arab eyes aren't only on Israel. They're very much concerned about Iran as well. They see both countries as potential nuclear threats to the region.

They're watching their moves with great interest as trouble between the two countries means bigger trouble for all of them. They're also concerned about the role played by the U.S. in the middle of the ongoing tensions between Iran and Israel. Many in the Arab world criticize the U.S. stand against Iran's nuclear ambitions while accusing Washington of ignoring any nuclear activities Israel might be involved in.

At the conclusion of the summit, Obama stressed that all nations, including Israel, should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He said, "Whether we're talking about Israel or any other country, we think that becoming part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is important."

Israel's daily Haaretz reported on this call. "Israel operates a policy of 'nuclear ambiguity,' refusing to deny having atomic weapons - but has not signed the treaty and is believed by analysts to possess between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads," the article said.

The belief that Israel is a nuclear power is accepted across the Middle East - a fact that concerns leaders and ordinary people alike, even though Israel won't confirm or deny it. The concern doubled after Iran announced its nuclear ambitions and capabilities.

As for Iran, Obama pressed for "bold, swift" sanctions on suspicion Tehran is developing nuclear weapons despite being a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He also added, "Sanctions aren't a magic wand. What sanctions do accomplish is hopefully to change the calculus of a country like Iran, so that they see there are more costs and fewer benefits to pursuing a nuclear weapons program."

Lebanon's Assafir newspaper highlighted that Israel rejected Obama's call to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a speech he made in Jerusalem following the summit. Barak said, "To our friends and our allies we say there is no room to pressure Israel into signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

These messages send waves of concern in a region already skeptical of Israel's intentions and what people there believe is the international community's inability to control any situation that might arise.

A political cartoon from Asharq Alawsat sums up the Arab skepticism that change will ensue from the U.S. president's efforts.

The nuclear summit is represented by a negotiating table, but three key countries - North Korea, Iran and Israel - have their rear ends turned to the table, while a puzzled world looks on.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Jay

    I suspect that it is an oversight that I am willing to accept as a sloppy oversight - Iran was not invited to the conference according to several news sources that you can easily Google!!

    Of course, you did not say why Iran was not there, but you did say:

    "...but three key countries – North Korea, Iran and Israel – have their rear ends turned to the table, while a puzzled world looks on."

    So, maybe you know why now?!

    April 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    "The accompanying political cartoon is an honest depiction of the region's widespread belief that Israel possesses nuclear warheads."

    Um, yeah. The accompanying cartoon is also an honest depiction of the anti-semitic caricature accepted as fact by the region.

    April 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alvin

    Israel defies America whenever it pleases. Israel receives $4 billion a year from America and yet feels confident to defy President Obama. Why? Because of the influence and power of the jewish lobby. Israel knows that the jewish lobby will always take its side over America. Congress which is in the pocket of jewish lobby will side with a foreign government over our own President.

    April 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. vb

    No, dear paranoid anti-Semite Alvin, Israel defies USA because it makes unreasonable demands based on political consideration that are only of benefit to the US, disregarding Israel interests and sovereign rights. The $4 billion you speak of, is a rental fee for US to be able to use it's only Middle-Eastern ally as a hub for its operations and to keep the Hebes from killing off all the Palestinians.

    April 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. observer

    iran has signed npt and has adhered to its principals ..... iran does not have a nuclear bomb

    but usa is in breach of npt by keeping 10,000+ nuclear bombs

    so whic hcountry has it's rear end turned to the table ? ....... of course usa and other countries that posses atomic bombs ...

    April 17, 2010 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. Pete

    America's double standard in Middle East is the reason many people want to destroy it with or without nuclear bombs. Why the american public can't see that? maybe it's the kind of suggestive thinking they are fed by their mainstream media.. I'm just saying..

    April 17, 2010 at 5:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. jhel Villaruel

    Any nuclear enhancment either its civilian or not in all corners of the earth is like installing landminds, triggering erruption and cause mass distruction. The United State must, a considered the mother of all nation along with its allies should slowly define nuclear enhancment and prulifiration to total hault and further enhance other alternatives sources that is environmentally friendly.

    April 17, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Doremi

    As long as social unrest in the nuclear nations is dormant, what treaty can avoid nukes from falling in the wrong hands. The summit is a mascarade call to gevernments. These are persons and individuals who have no control on their own interior relations. The military manipulations and social injustice, and many other factors make more fears than hope or caution. The summit is a break to laugh and worry in the same time. Look who is talking, my God do not insult our intelligence. The religious generals are ruling the world and go by their holy book prophecies in every nuclear rocket room and submarine. It is time to realize that the Apocalypse is coming but perhaps the summit is meant to regualte it and organize Armageddon because this one is more obviously coming than winning the war on poverty, and famine. Pessimism is the best way for hope. Do not ealax as long as there is one spot of injustice in the world: This is going to be the spark.

    April 17, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tam

    Most every one is misinformed about Israel, and that is just the way Israelis like it. Israel is NOT getting 4 billion of our tax dollars per year. Go look it up, you will have to search very hard. They are only reporting US Tax dollars given as military aid to Israel that is written down on paper, and even that is a lie. Israel just got 15 billion last year, so the media is lieing even about the actual amount of money that is written down on paper. The fact is that when you consider all the Military, economic, Housing, Infrastructure, and all other aids given to Israel, and adding to it the additional money and resources that are given to Israel "under the table", you will notice that Israel is getting at least more than 90 billion dollars of US tax dollars per year. Now add to it the Holocaust extortion money that they get from Germany and other European countries. Also consider that the US went to war with Iraq and has spent more than one trillion dollars in that war, which was all done for the benefit of Israel. Everything you read or hear about Israel in the traditional mass media is a lie on top of another lie. They tell you that they are only getting two or three billion dollars here and there because of the Holocaust crimes, and yet, in fact they are getting five or ten times as much. And the So called Jewish Holocaust crimes of the Germans, are all one hundred percent lies. That is obvious to any logical person who spends some time reading and researching the Holocaust. After all, Why are there laws against asking to see scientific evidence for the Holocaust? Many Historians and professors are beaten, jailed, fined, and even killed, in the European countries for the crime of asking to see actual scientific or archaeological evidence for the Holocaust!!! Why do they have such a fear of the people who ask to see unfabricated real facts about something that presumably occurred 65 years ago? The only logical answer is that the official Holocaust mythology is all lies and the Israelis and their supporters are making tons of money from these lies. Other officials are either blackmailed, threatened, killed, or put in jail as Holocaust Heretics.

    April 17, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Albright

    Micah 7:3
    Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire–they all conspire together.

    Nothing New under the sun....

    Just a clear picture of what we have going on..

    April 17, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sharon C

    So Iran announces nuclear ambitions which it claims are peaceful: results – sanctions,
    Israel will NOT say if it has nuclear capabilities or indeed actual warheads: results – continued treatment as a victim in the region and the US' ultimate ally. Obama must deal with this contradiction as a matter of urgency not only to affect positive change in the Middle East, but to live up to his own promise of change, I am afraid his speech to the Arab world last year is not enough. The Israel factor in peace in the Middle East and in the WORLD must be confronted.

    April 18, 2010 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |