Insisting "every nuclear weapon is a catastrophe waiting to happen," Queen Noor of Jordan told Yahoo News on Tuesday that President Barack Obama must make good on a pledge he made in Prague in April 2009 to reduce the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The queen said it was incumbent on the United States to work in concert with Russia to reduce both countries' nuclear arsenals in a process that could then coax other nuclear states to begin to disarm as well.
"If we do not seize this moment it may be impossible to rein in the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world," Queen Noor said in an exclusive interview.
Queen Noor is the widow of King Hussein, who ruled Jordan from 1952 until his death in 1999, and the leader of Global Zero, an international organization working to eradicate nuclear weapons around the world.
In the interview, the queen acknowledged that the nuclear ambitions of rogue states like North Korea and Iran complicated Global Zero's mission. But she said she was "profoundly concerned" at the prospect of the U.S. taking military action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"There are many in Israel and in the U.S. and in our region who consider it would be impossible to effectively deal with another country's nuclear program through military strikes," Queen Noor said.
Obama has refused to rule out military action to stop Iran's nuclear capability even as the U.S. has imposed crippling sanctions and other efforts to pressure Iran to end its ambitions. Vice President Joe Biden reiterated that position in a speech before the pro-Israel organization AIPAC on Monday, saying, "The president of the United States doesn't bluff."
Queen Noor said she feared an escalation of nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East that would be "impossible to rein in."
She added, "Israel would be more secure if the entire region did not become a nuclear tinderbox, and Iran would be far safer if it didn't have a program like that."
Queen Noor said residents of the Middle East were anticipating with interest Obama's much-publicized visit to Jordan and Israel later this month.
"People are looking with interest at what the president will bring to the region in terms of ideas," she said, saying she hoped the U.S. would play a "constructive role" in addressing humanitarian concerns throughout the Middle East.
As for the so-called Arab spring in which Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt have overthrown autocratic leaders in recent years, Queen Noor said it would take time before it was clear whether those countries would reject extremism and embrace hopes for greater democracy and freedom instead.
"You have to give it some time, and yet you have to be vigilant and engaged in trying to help nurture constructive, positive, inclusive and open systems of governance, constitution, development and the institutions of civil society that are so essential," she said.
Queen Noor said that despite setbacks for women's rights in those countries post-Arab spring, she was optimistic women would work their way back.
"With every revolutionary process that's occurred throughout history, women are often the first sacrificed," she said. "Women have so much to offer in our region on so many fronts. It's a question of evolving a sense of how much they are needed at every level to participate, for their voices to be heard."