David Shariatmadari  Thurs 22nd July


In a world of competing national interests, political differences, clashes not just of personalities, but of civilisations, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing of any significance all our leaders agree on. The need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, however, may qualify. This is why Iran now finds itself facing toughened sanctions, why Barack Obama, just like George W Bush before him, sees preventing an Iranian bomb as an urgent foreign policy priority, and why North Korea, it was announced yesterday, will receive similar treatment.

Iran and North Korea are just the latest states to come under the nuclear spotlight: proliferation has obsessed the international community since the beginning of the atomic age. Hawks would argue that the risks of allowing it to occur unchecked are severe enough to justify pre-emptive war. Doves are likely to favour diplomatic solutions. Both, however, would be in agreement about the need to take action.

But what if either approach made proliferation more, not less, likely? If anti-proliferation policies themselves acted as an incentive to acquire nuclear weapons? It would be a bitter irony.

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