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Iran plans to forge ahead with its nuclear program, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad capitalizing on an ironclad consensus that crosses all party lines. Tehran's leadership is united in the need and legitimacy of an independent nuclear fuel cycle, though whether or not that leads to an atomic arsenal is another matter, says Kayhan Barzegar, a senior research fellow at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran. While the recent Iranian election sparked widespread violence and divided a number of senior clerics, the question of whether Iran will pursue nuclear capability for civilian use or for weapons will largely be determined by American policy. If the United States recognizes the legitimacy of the current regime, then negotiations between Tehran and Washington on the nuclear issue may bear fruit. But that window is quickly closing.
Israel's vociferous and open democracy hides a quiet taboo: the vast mass of the population supports the existence of a nuclear arsenal, but refuses to engage in any public discussion of the issue. Author Michael Karpin, the first to produce a documentary on the question of Israel's nuclear capacity, explores this tacit acquiescence. By putting the nuclear issue within the larger context of the nation's history--from Ben-Gurion's tears at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to the construction of the Dimona reactor to today's threat from Iran--he explains why Israel continues to choose silence as the most effective deterrent. If Iran produces nuclear weapons, however, it could finally push Israel away from its self-imposed ambiguity, accelerating a Middle East arms race.
In a fascinating Q&A, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency discusses why zero nuclear weapons is not just a utopian fantasy, how interdependence among states may be creating enough non-military leverages to do away with the need for weapons of mass destruction altogether, and why he is optimistic about a less militarized world in the future.
In contrast, a world moving toward zero nuclear weapons (the recently stated long-term goal of the Obama administration) could actually prove to be more dangerous than possessing The Bomb, argues Amitai Etzioni. Such an end-game should be rethought immediately. The more pressing issues are rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, and terrorist groups acquiring nuclear weapons. Etzioni outlines the possibility that a world with dramatically fewer nuclear weapons would forever alter the concept of mutually assured destruction, leading to dangerous instability.
The great fear of the Polish people revolves around once again becoming victims of East-West power politics and military balance. Wojciech Lorenz begins with a vivid report on life in the tiny Polish village of Templewo, once the site of a Warsaw Pact nuclear missile base, illustrating the tensions of the time when the village was a potential ground-zero for any NATO-Soviet nuclear exchange. Lorenz chronicles Poland's history since Roosevelt and Churchill bargained away his nation's independence following World War II. Now, Poland is yet again a potential target, this time with a proposed base for an American missile defense shield. Today a geopolitical puzzle piece in regional energy wars, Poland is now a member of the European Union and a NATO ally, yet still somehow reluctant to leave the Russian sphere. Looking forward, Poland struggles to engage Russia and the West without provoking either.
Showdown on the Subcontinent
Nowhere on the planet is the nuclear peril so fraught and immediate as between India and Pakistan, on whose frontier a competitive and contentious relationship evokes memories of the Cold War arms race. In vivid reportage, Megha Bahree examines the two truculent neighbors from within, highlighting a history of religious, economic, and political differences amid the threat of terrorism and insurgency that threatens to bring these nations to war. Though the chances for bettering their bond in the near term are slim, Bahree outlines some strategies for fostering trust between India and Pakistan, and the influence of such global players as China and the United States.
The Emperor's New Clothes: Can Japan Live Without the Bomb?
With Japan's long-dormant opposition now in power, some elements within Tokyo's leadership are considering a sea change in the nation's defense posture. Since World War II, Japan has depended on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for its national defense, but Masaru Tamamoto questions whether it can feel truly secure in President Obama's proposed nuclear-free world? Faced with the threat of a nuclear North Korea and an increasingly dominant China, Japan fears America's abandonment. Though pacifism has for decades been the prevailing mindset, some analysts are beginning to discuss seriously the possibility of Japan acquiring its own nuclear weapons. Ironically, Tamamoto warns, "the only victim of the atomic bomb may prove to be a hindrance to realizing a world free of nuclear weapons."
Rather than zero nukes or bilateral mutually assured destruction, "metastability" may prove to be the new global order, suggests World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman. While Andelman says we can no longer put the nuclear genie back in the bottle, effectively reducing the number of nukes to zero, we can make sure that inevitable proliferation carries with it a much wider and interconnected form of mutually assured destruction, across different regions of the world. But while metastability might still prevent states from using The Bomb, it might also encourage accelerated proliferation. Should Iran get the bomb, how long until Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the United Arab Emirates acquires a nuclear capacity?
Egypt is poised on the brink of the first handover of political power in a generation, but it's likely a familiar name that will take over the presidency. Michael Wahid Hanna looks at the coming transition and the questions surrounding President Hosni Mubarak's expected successor, his son Gamal. But if the likely heir takes power (as is almost assured), Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation, cautions that Egypt's "democracy" might suffer, sowing the seeds of massive societal destabilization in the near future.
PORTFOLIO: Yemen: Life on the Edge
Yemen, a fragile, increasingly violent, geo-strategic link between the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, faces a host of crises--some of its own making, some stemming from neighbors, and some simply from its unfortunate geography. One of the world's least-developed countries, Yemen can barely feed its own people, let alone some 250,000 Somali refugees who have migrated there since the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, seeking refuge, food, and shelter. Award-winning photojournalist Micah Albert chronicles the famine, drought, and civil war that threaten a beleaguered populace.
In the wake of the International Criminal Court's indictment of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir (the first sitting head of state to face charges before the tribunal), World Policy Institute senior fellow Belinda Cooper suggests that universal justice has complex and unforeseen regional political complications. While the increasing prominence of international criminal courts and tribunals marks a global commitment to hold accountable the perpetrators of humanity's most serious criminal offenses, the repercussions and efficacy of these mechanisms are still in question. Cooper questions whether justice can really exist within a vacuum: would it be better served by focusing on reconciliation in the wake of a conflict, or must it condemn ongoing strife and war crimes in the making?
Capitalism has failed global rainforests, with another acre razed every two minutes for often meager profit. William Powers weaves together a compelling narrative of economics, environmental science, and geopolitics to warn of the dangers of deforestation--and put forth a compelling opportunity. In economic terms, saving forests is not internalized in market decisions since the process lacks a real opportunity cost. But if "carbon ranching" were to be part of a U.S. or European cap-and-trade system, saving trees would provide real, tangible profits for governments, corporations, and the environment. All policymakers at December's climate change conference in Copenhagen need to do is finally see the forest for the trees.
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Since its founding in 1983, World Policy Journal has brought some of the most critical issues of our time to the attention of a global audience. The Journal's pages have generated many ground-breaking books including Ahmed Rashid's Jihad, Rajan Menon's End of Alliances, and Brian Steidle's The Devil Came on Horseback -which grew out of a photo essay published in World Policy Journal which played a major role in exposing the Darfur genocide. Essential reading for U.S. and global policy makers and thought leaders, World Policy Journal articles have been widely cited, including in a Canadian Supreme Court case.
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