Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams & Thalif Deen / IPS News – 2015-05-26 22:14:20
Israel Thanks Obama for Sabotaging Nuclear Nonproliferation Deal
US officials blocked deal last week, sparking
concern and criticism around the world
Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams
(May 26, 2015) — The US sabotage last week of an international agreement aimed at eradicating nuclear weapons stockpiles has been met mostly with alarm and frustration around the world — but gratitude from one key US ally: Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally called US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday to thank the White House for leading the charge to block a final document that would have expanded the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — of which Israel is not a signatory.
Netanyahu conveyed “his appreciation to President Obama and to the secretary,” an anonymous Israeli official told media outlets. “The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East.”
But Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams on Tuesday, “It is appropriate for Israel to be singled out, as Israel is the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East.” With an estimated 200 nuclear warheads, the Israeli government has repeatedly refused to publicly acknowledge its arsenal.
Bennis said the latest US move “flies in the face of the statement recently made by Obama that the US would have to at least consider changing its posture at the United Nations and reconsider its consistent protection of Israel at the United Nations. It’s now clear that this is not seriously underway.”
After weeks of negotiations at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the US — backed by Britain and Canada — led the charge on Friday to reject the final document from the gathering, which requires consensus to pass. The treaty will not be reviewed again until 2020.
The US cited the attempt by states, including Egypt, to establish a Middle East conference within months aimed at eliminating “weapons of mass destruction” in the Middle East. US officials accused the push for the conference as an attempt to “manipulate” the process to single out Israel.
According to Alice Slater of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Abolition 2000, the focus should be on the “aggressive” policies of the US, which along with Russia, accounts for the vast majority of the world’s nuclear stockpiles.
“The fact is that our country is going to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to build two new bomb factories plus submarines, airplanes, and missiles to deliver nuclear weapons and is constantly refurbishing weapons we have,” Slater told Common Dreams. “This is incongruous with what was promised in the treaty in 1970.”
The WMD conference is not a new concept, Slater added, but in fact was promised to Middle Eastern states as early as 1995, yet has never gotten off the ground.
Iranian delegate Hamid Baidinejad charged that, by blocking consensus, the US and Britain were seeking to “safeguard the interests of a particular non-party of the treaty which has endangered the peace and security of the region by developing nuclear-weapons capability” without global oversight.
Ban Ki-moon last week expressed dismay last week that nations were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”
Slater, however, said that civil society organizations around the world are finding hope in a humanitarian pledge that emerged from the NPT review, signed by 107 non-nuclear weapons states, calling for an all-out prohibition of the weapons: “What we have now are whole movements to get an international ban.”
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Failure of Review Conference Brings World Close to Nuclear Cataclysm, Warn Activists
Thalif Deen / IPS News
(May 24, 2015) — After nearly four weeks of negotiations, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ended in a predictable outcome: a text overwhelmingly reflecting the views and interests of the nuclear-armed states and some of their nuclear-dependent allies.
“The process to develop the draft Review Conference outcome document was anti-democratic and nontransparent,” Ray Acheson, director, Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), told IPS.
She said it contained no meaningful progress on nuclear disarmament and even rolled back some previous commitments.
But, according to several diplomats, there was one country that emerged victorious: Israel, the only nuclear-armed Middle Eastern nation, which has never fully supported a long outstanding proposal for an international conference for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
As the Review Conference dragged towards midnight Friday, there were three countries — the United States, UK, and Canada (whose current government has been described as “more pro-Israel than Israel itself”) — that said they cannot accept the draft agreement, contained in the Final Document, on convening of the proposed conference by March 1, 2016.
As Acheson put it: “It is perhaps ironic, then, that three of these states prevented the adoption of this outcome document on behalf of Israel, a country with nuclear weapons, that is not even party to the NPT.”
The Review Conference president’s claim that the NPT belongs to all its states parties has never rung more hollow, she added.
Joseph Gerson, disarmament coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) told IPS the United States was primarily responsible, as in the 2005 review conference, for the failure of this year’s critically important NPT Review Conference.
“The United States and Israel, that is, even if Israel is one of the very few nations that has yet to sign onto the NPT,” he pointed out.
Rather than blame Israel, he said, the US, Britain and Canada are blaming the victim, charging that Egypt wrecked the conference with its demands that the Review Conference’s final declaration reiterate the call for creation of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.
But, the tail was once again wagging the dog, said Gerson, who is also the AFSC’s director of Peace and Economic Security Programme.
He said that Reuters news agency reported on Thursday, the day prior to the conclusion of the NPT Review Conference, that the United States sent “a senior US official” to Israel “to discuss the possibility of a compromise” on the draft text of the Review Conference’s final document.
“Israeli apparently refused, and (US President) Barack Obama’s ostensible commitments to a nuclear weapons-free world melted in the face of Israeli intransigence,” said Gerson.
John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, told IPS the problem with NPT Review Conference commitments on disarmament made over the last 20 years is not so much that they have not been strong enough. Rather the problem is that they have not been implemented by the NPT nuclear weapon states.
Coming into the 2015 Review Conference, he said, many non-nuclear weapon states were focused on mechanisms and processes to ensure implementation.
In this vein, the draft, but not adopted Final Document, recommended that the General Assembly establish an open-ended working group to “identify and elaborate” effective disarmament measures, including legal agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear weapons free world.
Regardless of the lack of an NPT outcome, this initiative can and should be pushed at the next General Assembly session on disarmament and international security, this coming fall, said Burroughs, who is also executive director of the U.N. Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).
Acheson told IPS that 107 states — the majority of the world’s countries (and of NPT states parties) — have endorsed a Humanitarian Pledge, committing to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
The outcome from the 2015 NPT Review Conference is the Humanitarian Pledge, she added.
The states endorsing the Pledge now and after this Conference must use it as the basis for a new process to develop a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.
“This process should begin without delay, even without the participation of the nuclear-armed states. The 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has already been identified as the appropriate milestone for this process to commence.”
Acheson also said a treaty banning nuclear weapons remains the most feasible course of action for states committed to disarmament. “This Review Conference has demonstrated beyond any doubt that continuing to rely on the nuclear-armed states or their nuclear-dependent allies for leadership or action is futile,” she said.
This context requires determined action to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons.
“Those who reject nuclear weapons must have the courage of their convictions to move ahead without the nuclear-armed states, to take back ground from the violent few who purport to run the world, and build a new reality of human security and global justice,” Acheson declared.
Gerson told IPS the greater tragedy is that the failure of the Review Conference further undermines the credibility of the NPT, increasing the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation and doing nothing to stanch new nuclear arms races as the nuclear powers “modernize” their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems for the 21st century continues apace.
He said the failure of the Review Conference increases the dangers of nuclear catastrophe and the likelihood of nuclear winter.
The US veto illustrates the central importance of breaking the silos of single issue popular movements if the people’s power needed to move governments — especially the United States — is to be built.
Had there been more unity between the US nuclear disarmament movement and forces pressing for a just Israeli-Palestinian peace in recent decades, the outcome of the Review Conference could have been different, noted Gerson.
“If we are to prevail, nuclear disarmament movements must make common cause with movements for peace, justice and environmental sustainability.”
Despite commitments made in 1995, when the NPT was indefinitely extended and in subsequent Review Conferences, and reiterated in the 2000 and 2010 Review Conference final documents to work for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, Obama was unwilling to say “No” to Israel and “Yes” to an important step to reducing the dangers of nuclear war, said Gerson.
“As we have been reminded by the Conferences on the Human Consequences of Nuclear War held in Norway, Mexico and Austria, between the nuclear threats made by all of the nuclear powers and their histories of nuclear weapons accidents and miscalculations, that we are alive today is more a function of luck than of policy decisions.”
The failure of Review Conference is thus much more than a lost opportunity, it brings us closer to nuclear cataclysms, he declared.
Burroughs told IPS debate in the Review Conference revealed deep divisions over whether the nuclear weapon states have met their commitments to de-alert, reduce, and eliminate their arsenals and whether modernisation of nuclear arsenals is compatible with achieving disarmament.
The nuclear weapon states stonewalled on these matters.
If the nuclear weapons states displayed a business as usual attitude, the approach of non-nuclear weapon states was characterised by a sense of urgency, illustrated by the fact that by the end of the Conference over 100 states had signed the “Humanitarian Pledge” put forward by Austria.
It commits signatories to efforts to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences”.
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