If an imaginary cartoon becomes real

“The Third World war erupted in the year 2008, and the struggling (engaged) nations have used magnetic weapons, that are far more dangerous than the classical ones…”

You may not know where this quote comes from but most Arabs in the Middle East are familiar with it, especially those who are in my age group. It is the opening narration of each part of a memorable Japanese cartoon, which used to be aired on several Arabic TV channels during 80s.

While the original name of the cartoon was “Conan: The Boy in Future” produced in late 70s in Japan, all Arabs remember it by its Arabic name “Adnan wa Lina“.

It was probably one of the most beloved cartoons for the Arab audiences which stayed on about 5 years after the beginning of Iran-Iraq war.

As an Iranian child who fled from Khorramshahr after the city was occupied by Iraqi troops, I was one of “Adnan wa Lina” fans while taking refuge in Booshehr, south of Iran, around 20 kilometers near the now famous nuclear plant, closed at that time.

Recent reports and stories about Middle East’s nuclear surge, which is interpreted by some analysts as an “Islamic nuclear arms race” reminded me of the adventures of Adnan.

Based on the apocalyptic cartoon, mankind faces the threat of extinction in July 2008. An ultra-magnetic weapon, far more devastating than any nuclear weapon known, destroys half the world in a single instant. The earth’s crust splits away, the earth veers off of its axis, and five continents are torn completely apart and sink deep below the sea…

Now in 2007, it seems the imaginary cartoon is somehow turning into reality, considering the start of Middle East’s nuclearization. In recent months, several Arab countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The UAE, Yemen and Lybia have boosted their nuclear programs or announced their intentions for reaching “peaceful nuclear capability”. But many experts believe that Arab countries — some of whom enjoy huge oil incomes — are simply preparing themselves against the Iranian nuclear threat.

While deterrence is the main rationale for the measures this or that Arab nations takes, some non-proliferation experts like Joseph Cirincione interpret the nuclear surge in the Middle East to be a result of global powers’ interests and their competition to sell their nuclear technology.

If this is the case and if world powers cannot restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, then the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which apparently allows IAEA members to enrich uranium for “peaceful purposes” should be amended.

The fourth article of the NPT has been interpreted by some states to grant them a right to uranium enrichment for fuel. But there seems to be an ambiguity. Because there is no explicit prohibition against the technology of enrichment but implicit understanding that any nuclear activity including enrichment, which is aimed at building nuclear weapons, is banned.

Obviously, enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation as well as nuclear weapons. As a signatory of the NPT, Iran claims it has a right to enrich uranium and in the last 4 years, “enriching ” or ” not enriching” has been the core of the conflicts between Iran and the rest of the world.

The Iranian regime claims enrichment is its “absolute right” but the US, her allies and some other countries reject that claim. Somehow it seems the NPT is deficient as a regulatory regime. Either enrichment is the right of a select group or the right of all signatories.

And a nightmare looms. Imagine a nuclear Middle East following an Iranian-style interpretation of NPT safeguards: Many countries eventually deterring one another with nuclear arsenals by targeting their weapons at each other; in a region full of political, racial, ideological and territorial disputes.

The story of “Adnan wa Lina” depicted a miraculous condition in which some part of the globe together with its plants and inhabitants survived the devastation and a number of children, including Adnan and Lina, together with a group of adults were trying to save the annihilated earth by fighting against evil rulers and their oppressive rule.

But in the real world what would be the result of having unconventional weapons in the hands of Middle Eastern leaders?

Nima Tamaddon is a Prague-based journalist who is currently working as a radio broadcaster in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Persian Service.

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