–Kevin Martin, Executive Director
To paraphrase one of my least favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan (though today he’s practically be a liberal), there they went again.
Once again, despite President Obama’s recent assertion that the U.S. would cease knee-jerk support for and protection of Israel at the United Nations, the U.S. delegation to the every-five-years Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon) did just that. Joined by Canada and the United Kingdom and at Israel’s behest, last week the U.S. rejected the convening of a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone conference, even though it was agreed by consensus at the last RevCon in 2010, and was supposed to have been held in 2012. Binyamin Netanyahu went so far as to publicly thank the U.S. for its interference-running (Reuters).
The WMD-Free Middle East Zone issue was not the only problem preventing the conference from issuing a consensus final statement on a program for further progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as it customarily does. Failure of the existing nuclear states to get serious about abolishing their arsenals, as required by the treaty’s Article VI, is a source of ongoing frustration.
As a matter of fact, the Nuclear Nine (U.S., UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea), led by the U.S., are moving in the wrong direction, as all have ludicrous, nuclear “modernization” schemes in process or on the drawing board. Uncle Sam is the worst, planning to squander up to $1 trillion of our tax dollars (not. gonna. happen. we will stop this madness!) over 30 years to upgrade the entire nuclear weapons complex, soup to nuts.
Every country has signed the NPT except Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea. (North Korea had signed but later withdrew.) I don’t expect any countries will withdraw from the treaty in frustration, or worse to pursue the Bomb, though that is a possibility. On a more promising note, 107 countries have signed onto the Humanitarian Pledge, led by Austria, committed to pursuing global nuclear weapons abolition as an urgent humanitarian priority, coming out of three recent international conferences focused on the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nukes. That’s obviously not a binding treaty, but it could become one, as there is movement to negotiate a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, starting (unfortunately) without the nuclear states, in order to establish an international norm that nuclear weapons are illegal, as chemical and biological weapons and land mines are.
The timing of this RevCon and the spotlight on its failure over defending Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the world’s most volatile, war-riven region is particularly interesting given the ongoing, promising P5+1 (U.S., UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) peace negotiations with Iran. The talks to reach an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program and close off all paths to a bomb should it decide to build an arsenal (which it has not) may well succeed within a matter of weeks. It’s too soon to tell whether the NPT flap will affect the Iran talks, but it seems like it was an unnecessary risk and complication. After all, what was at issue was picking up a ball that was dropped previously but that had consensus support coming out of the 2010 RevCon. Would it have been so hard to agree to convene the confab later this year, perhaps capitalizing on the momentum of a possible agreement with Iran? Nobody expects Israel (or the U.S. for that matter) to give up its nukes immediately, but neither is its regional nuclear monopoly sustainable. Without a WMD Free Zone, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Turkey or others might pursue the Bomb, or at least be sorely tempted to do so. Also, ISIS has made public its desire to acquire the Bomb. Shouldn’t that focus attention on the gravity of this matter?
For Peace Action’s part, we continue to support any and all proposals for global elimination of nuclear arms, regardless of the mechanism or forum (a treaty could be written on the back of a cocktail napkin for all we care!). We were proud to be a leader in convening the Peace and Planet mobilization prior to the NPT RevCon, and look forward to continuing to build the movement for nuclear abolition as part of a broader effort to create peace, social, economic, racial and environmental justice.
For more views on the failure of the NPT RevCon and the hypocrisy of the nuclear states, see our colleague Joseph Gerson’s op-ed on truthout, an article by IPS News (also re-published by Common Dreams), and a piece on Pressenza by Tony Robinson.