THERE is no doubt that if these mad men ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many people as possible,” President Obama. The fourth Nuclear Security Summit headed by President Obama ended with announcement of following objectives: Evolving threat and steps that can be taken together to minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium, counter nuclear smuggling and deter and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism. The global effort required to prevent nuclear terrorism.
The urgency of the summit can be discerned from the fact that President Obama wanted to leave a legacy of doing substantial work in the field of Nuclear Safety against threat of nuclear terrorism. Is it the guilt of destabilizing the Middle East or something already foreseen by the US establishment? Meanwhile changing landscape of the Middle East has allowed ISIS to expand her operations, it seems to be operating in Arabian Peninsula, Horn of Africa, North Africa and even into mainland Europe.
As the strategic chaos in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region culminates into more ugly and ruthless domain, the Islamic World and her leadership remains oblivious to the spectre of Nuclear Holocaust. Recent media chatter on possibility of Nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamic State were brushed aside by mainstream media in Pakistan and Middle East, however a deep insight into projections of trajectories of the conflict in the MENA region, tells another story.
MENA region stands on the brink of a nuclear holocaust because of following reasons: One, the Iraqi test lab under the supervision of the West and because of selfish motives of the states in MENA has uncovered the ugly head of sectarianism with Shias and Sunnis on each other’s throat; sectarianism has entered the new phase of ‘I will kill you because you are..’ and it is very simple. Two, creation of entities like ISIS in the vacuum left by loss of state authority in Iraq, Syria and Yemen has made vast expanses of spaces and demographic units ungovernable. If we combine these non-governable areas from Libya and Syria to Yemen and Iraq, we can easily form a Disunited States of Arabia (DSA) of more than 40 million people
Three, the two poles of schism in Islamic World, Iran and KSA have neither realized the possibility of a nuclear holocaust nor made any effort to stop the madness of sectarianism. Four, the organizations of collective action within Islamic World like OIC, GCC and the Arab League etc, have no capacity to stop the madness. Despite recent initiative by Pakistani politico military leadership to cool the temperatures in the Iran-KSA tension, the leadership in the regions appears to be mired in point scoring. Even the recently held OIC Summit in Turkey could not resolve the teething problems faced by a divided Islamic World.
Five, apathy to loss of life and death has crossed all limits, the new ‘normal’ in MENA region is the day when you have less than 50 deaths in conflicts and wars. Bashar Al Assad’s Barrel Bombs and beheading by IS are becoming the new Infotainment with people watching and sharing these on social media channels with the words, RIP, and OMG, and that’s all. Islamic World is sitting on a nuclear powder keg with sectarianism as its adopted ideology. How will the scenario of nuclear holocaust play in MENA region? The stage is set. I have tried to do some crystal ball gazing and developed two possible scenarios for a nuclear holocaust in MENA region.
By 2017, ISIS has become an acceptable household name in MENA region and beyond. The international media had been building a false story since 2015 that IS was getting some technology from countries like Pakistan or through KSA and then the news is broken on CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC that IS has finally acquired a crude nuclear devise. Meanwhile Iran announces that it cannot tolerate IS to hold nuclear weapons and goes nuclear. By end of 2017, ISIS has advanced over Baghdad and Shia community is massacred in big numbers, Iran threatens to retaliate. IS or Iran take the initiative and hit opposing urban centres with nukes. Entire region goes up in flames with Muslim countries getting involved based on what sect the majority follows. More than twenty million Muslims perish within a short span of three months and it becomes difficult to identify who is buried in which grave.
MENA suffers huge economic loss, a false case is built against Pakistan for proliferation of nukes and international community moves in to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Whereas the KSA and Iran avoid direct conflict, the simmering war continues into early 2020 with IS expanding her area into Iraq, Syria, Jordan and even Yemen. Iran becomes a declared nuclear power and KSA also acquires nuclear capability. IS has now a full-fledged military with crude nukes smuggled by Israel. By March 2020, the simmering conflict has divided the Islamic World on sectarian grounds, Shia Crescent of Iran, Southern Iraq, Western Syria and Hezbullah on one side and rest of MENA barring IS on the other.
In one of the terrorist attacks within Iranian metropolitan cites, IS succeeds in developing a perception that it was done on Saudi’s behalf, Iran retaliates with strikes in the coastal region of KSA and a general war commences between Shia and Sunni Islam with no hold bars. Due to poor command and control mechanisms, the wars enters into nuclear domain, total cost is flattening of the MENA region and death of 100 million Muslims, the entire region becomes a cauldron of human tragedy ; however the conflict between Shias and Sunnis comes to an end as none is left to fight for another day.
Food for thought, can the Islamic World develop an alternative trajectory to avoid this nuclear holocaust? Do we have some sane people left who can see writing on the wall and take action to stop the slide of Islamic world into the nuclear hell hole?
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.