April 26, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 210

Former Libyan Premier on the Danger of Nuclear Weapons in Arabs' Hands

April 26, 2001
Libya | Special Dispatch No. 210

In an article published in the Arabic daily "Al-Hayat", Libya's former Prime Minister, Abd Al-Hamid Al-Bakkush, warned of the danger of nuclear weapons in Arabs' hands:

"...The Arabs' efforts to create a balance of power with Israel is a welcome and desirable one. Not only did we lose all of our wars with Israel, but we also lost, and continue to lose, the battle for peace, which we term 'our strategic option'. Therefore, the effort to obtain weaponry that is in par with Israel's capabilities is a vital one not in order to go back to war, but in order to reach some kind of peace..."

"Following the Arabs' realization that they are either unwilling or incapable of an armed struggle with Israel, we all opted for peace...[however,] instead of discussing our need for military power - which will bring about the necessary degree of balance with Israel, so we can bring to the negotiation table a threat regarding what might happen should we withdraw from negotiations -- we turned to developing nuclear weapons..."

"True...without a reasonable degree of balance with our adversaries, we will not be capable of negotiations, since one has to take whatever others are ready to offer him if he can't make any kind of threat. And winners tend to give very little when they negotiate with those who are not capable of threatening them."

"[Therefore,] the demand for the attainment of elements of force is both needed and welcome."

"However, the call for the acquisition of nuclear weapons, in an attempt to resolve the [Arab] weakness complex, is a behavior that bears more danger to us than it does to others. While the attainment of non-nuclear power - which has no implications on mass destruction - is a matter which requires time and basic ingredients, the acquisition of nuclear weapons might occur with relative ease."

"In view of the current pan-Arab relations, let's imagine what could happen if one of us had a nuclear weapon: Pan-Arab relations, as we know them, are not only loose but such that may even be [further] damaged by tensions and fears on the pan-Arab level. He who examines the [pan-Arab] relations since WWII will find it full of plots and struggles (against each other). In such a state of mistrust how can we encourage one of us to attain a nuclear bomb?"

"Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the behavior of all the states that posses nuclear weapons has been characterized by a sense of responsibility. The bomb became the means for [the achievement of] deterrence only, without the party possessing it daring to use it..."

"However in our Arab region things are totally different...whoever examines the justified fears that prevail in our relations must feel sorry for us [if] one of us will acquire a nuclear bomb."

"Arab politics is, to a great degree, a result of emotions, fears and [unrealistic] ambitions which are hard to address and hard to appease. It is [even] possible...that, in the heat of the moment, one Arab would drop a nuclear bomb on the head of another Arab, with all due respect to our exaggerated talk about [Arab] solidarity..."

"He who truly loves us will not find it difficult to advise us not to encourage any one of us to posses weapons of mass destruction. Had we had [these weapons] we would have already dropped them in a time of conflict among us or during an invasion by one of us into another's territory."

"(True) the fact that Israel posses nuclear weapons gave it means of deterrence. Nevertheless, this can not justify our dream to posses that type of weapon. Moreover, the narrow [strip] between Israel and us makes the use of nuclear - or even biological or chemical-weapons a two-edged sword that might turn against us... [therefore] possessing nuclear weapons by some of us is more dangerous for us than the possesion of such weapons by Israel."[1]

[1] Al-Hayat (London), April 18, 2001.

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