teleSUR, 10 June 2015 **** Front Page

UN Nuclear Conference Ends in Failure

By Johannes Hautaviita

At the UN nuclear summit, the US continued its long-standing policy of shielding Israel's nuclear weapons monopoly in the Middle East.

The 2015 NPT Review Conference (RevCon) ended in an unfortunate, but anticipated failure. The US, UK and Canada blocked the adoption of the final document put forth by the President of the conference on May 22. The trio objected to the part of the text calling for the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMDFZ) in the Middle East.

The creation of such a zone was placed on the UN's agenda at the 1995 RevCon. This was no small commitment. In 1995, the non-nuclear weapon states agreed to extend the NPT indefinitely, but in return, the Middle Eastern states in particular demanded that concrete steps be taken towards nuclear disarmament. The 2010 RevCon finally called on Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The US, along with the other nuclear weapon states (NWS), additionally committed themselves to convening a conference on a nuclear free Middle East by 2012. Obama, however, immediately accused the 2010 RevCon of “singling out Israel”, and assured Tel Aviv that Washington would not abandon its support. In 2012, his administration indefinitely postponed the nuclear conference after Israel refused to attend.

The inability of the NWS, the US in particular, to bring Israel to the negotiating table disappointed many, and it demonstrated the fragile state of the NPT regime. The lack of meaningful progress on this issue paved the way for the failure of the the 2015 RevCon.

The US delegation, however, put the blame for the problems of this year's conference on Egypt for making “unrealistic and unworkable” demands. The US representative Rose Gottemoeller further maintained that the language in the document was “incompatible with our long-standing policies.” Gottemoeller blamed certain states for trying to “cynically manipulate the RevCon — to advance their narrow objectives at the expense of the treaty, or of our shared long-standing principles.”

Apparently, the problem with the 2015 draft document, from the US point of view, was that the UN Secretary General alone would have had the authority to convene the conference even if no consensus between Israel and the other Middle Eastern states was reached. A non-negotiable deadline – “arbitrary”, in Gottemoeller's words – was set for March 2016. Would the final document have passed, the conference could not have been postponed like in 2012. This went against Israel's position, supported by the US, UK and Canada at the UN, namely, that the conference cannot be convened against the wishes of any state in the region.

It's well-founded to conclude, that the trio's persistence to protect Israel's regional nuclear weapons monopoly, or to use Gottemoeller's own phrase, “advance their narrow objectives at the expense of the treaty”, was a major impediment for a successful conference. Furthermore, the dynamic outlined above has been the status quo for decades. It has seriously damaged the credibility of the NPT-regime and increased the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region – a danger which is quite real.

The International Panel on Fissile Materials has underlined that in contrast to other regions, “the Middle East has emerged as a nuclear proliferation hotbed.” The panel, co-chaired by Professor Frank von Hippel from Princeton University, further elaborates: “Israel has held on to its nuclear weapons, refused to join the NPT, significantly expanded its stockpile of fissile material for weapons and developed advanced delivery systems. Clandestine nuclear-weapon programs were revealed in Iraq in 1991, in Libya in 2003, and in Syria in 2007 – all while these countries were parties to the NPT. In 2003, Iran was discovered to have an undeclared uranium enrichment R&D program and a reactor under construction that could potentially be used for plutonium production.”

Instead of pursuing the issue comprehensively through the establishment of a WMDFZ, the Western approach has been hypocritical. For example, while Israel is given the right to not even enter into negotiations over its massive nuclear weapons stockpiles, Iran in contrast has been issued military threats over its imagined nuclear weapons program.

In its closing speech, the US delegation stated that the mandate from 2010 to convene a conference on a Middle East WMDFZ has now effectively expired. Thus, unfortunately, the prospects for meaningful nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in the most militarized region in the world seem as remote as ever.


The archive : Johannes Hautaviita, Middle East, Ramzy Baroud, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Moshé Machover


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