In NPT, US sacrifices its own policy goals to serve as Israel’s lawyer

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 12 Comments

Obama administration officials complained repeatedly that Israel was ‘singled out’ in the new Mid East NPT document, but it turns out that it was the U.S. itself that put Israel front and center.

In addition to Israel, Pakistan and India were also called out by name in the document, according to the latest reports. So was North Korea, in even harsher language. What do these four countries have in common? Well: none are NPT signatories.

But Israel is unique in two ways: It’s the only clandestine program (i.e. not publicly declared or tested weapons) and it’s the only country that U.S. officials went to bat for immediately following the agreement on the document. No mention from Barack Obama and Jim Jones about how Pakistan was being singled out. (Where’s the Pakistan lobby in the power rankings again?)

The language about India and Pakistan had been included in earlier drafts, but their status in the final version went unmentioned in other reports I’d seen. The Times story by Neil MacFarquhar, however, does note the demand that they join the NPT.

I can’t find a copy of the document online, but I’m eager to see in what manner Israel is "singled out" when at least three other countries are named.

The Times hints that the language about North Korea, though watered down from the what the U.S. wanted, was still severe ("its nuclear program constitutes a threat to ‘peace and security’").

However, the one reference to Israel, according to MacFarquhar, "basically repeats a previously stated position that Israel should join the 40-year-old nonproliferation treaty." I doubt the specific references to Pakistan and India could be less ambitious than that.

What’s more interesting, however, is that the U.S. was, at the NPT, once again acting as Israel’s lawyer when Arab states and Iran attempted to try their nuclear-armed neighbor in absentia. Gary Samore, Obama’s nuke czar, even said the U.S. "insisted in retaining a role as a sponsor" to the 2012 Mid East talks so that it can shield Israel.

The Washington Post noted it, too ("U.S. officials had fought to keep Israel from being named in the final document"), but here’s the Times‘ account:

Tensions over the content of the final document after a month of negotiations went down to the wire, with diplomats portraying the last few days as a poker game with the United States and Iran each trying to call the other’s bluff so that one might be blamed for the failure of the conference to reach consensus.

In the end, the United States accepted one reference to Israel in the final document, in the section on the Middle East… 

"…having that language in the Mideast section we think sends a really negative political signal,” Mr. Samore said. “It suggests the conference will be designed to single out Israel.” That would decrease the likelihood of such a conference ever happening, he said, which is why the United States insisted in retaining a role as a sponsor.

So that’s the stakes the U.S. was playing for? Trading watered-down language on North Korea and no mention at all of Iran for Israel’s sake? And just for limiting the number of Israel references to one? (In his statement on the document, Obama mentioned Israel twice and Jones six times! Who’s singling who out again?)

This should raise some questions about aligned interests and the burden that Israel plays on U.S. foreign policy. In an NPT forum it spearheads, the U.S. is sacrificing its own policy goals in order to defend an ostensible ally because that ally refuses to sign on to the Treaty at all. There’s supposed to be ‘no daylight,’ but at the NPT, the cracks seem to be chasms.

12 Responses

  1. lysias
    May 29, 2010, 10:29 am

    The Obama administration’s criticism of the Goldstone Report was similarly incoherent. They’re bound and determined to take the Israeli side in such things, and, if they can’t find good arguments for such a stand, they’ll just dream some up.

    • Kathleen
      May 29, 2010, 12:08 pm

      And the MSM barely touched the Goldstone Report. RAchel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and the rest of the talking heads..COMPLETE SILENCE.

      Of course never go near the fact that Israel continues to have stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that go undeclared, uninspected, and pose a threat to peace in the middle east.

      All the while Israel as well as the Israeli lobby in the states keeps pointing their fingers at Iran and the MSM marches right behind only echoing their orders. Rachel, Keith, etc hammer on Iran when they are ordered to do so.

  2. Chaos4700
    May 29, 2010, 10:42 am

    Nuclear proliferation is going to go down the toilet. Who’s going to sit down and be quiet while the United States pays lip service to disarmament and then maintains an apparent client state maintaining a secret arsenal of nuclear weapons conveniently located in the Middle East (meaning, a stone’s throw away from four separate continents)?

    I thought Bush was bad for our foreign policy, but I’m starting to think Obama is worse. Bush could be considered an aberration. Obama continue Bush policies shows the rest of the world that this is the way the US works. (Shows us that, too, apparently.)

  3. Richard Witty
    May 29, 2010, 10:48 am

    For the last few weeks, the US has been supporting the efforts for Israel to sign on to the NPT, including an article that you posted a couple days ago (but ommitting one that I sent you a couple weeks ago).

    You state, “I haven’t read” the report, but you are taking potshots anyway.

    I am castigated for not having read the Goldstone report in full, but writing about the parts that I have read, which you also wrote about a long length before reading.

    We both have to step up, but I am only writing comments on a blog.

    • Richard Witty
      May 29, 2010, 10:50 am

      Sorry to accuse Phil. I just noticed that Ali Gharib is the author.

      Phil and Adam are editing however, and publishing.

      Ali Gharib?

      • Chaos4700
        May 29, 2010, 10:52 am

        Sorry to accuse Phil.

        No you’re not.

    • Chaos4700
      May 29, 2010, 10:52 am

      Witty, various Administrations have been asking Israel nicely for decades to sign on to the NPT. This is not news, Witty.

      What is news? Israel actually did try to proliferate nuclear weapons, South African documents show.

      • Kathleen
        May 29, 2010, 12:10 pm

        Silence on MSNBC about this issue too. Not a mention about these documents coming out about Israel trying to sell South Africa nuclear weapons. Not a whisper

      • Cliff
        May 29, 2010, 12:20 pm

        I want Noam Chomsky to define what ‘identity’ controls American policies in the ME.

  4. potsherd
    May 29, 2010, 11:13 am

    The Pakistan lobby, if it exists, is probably busy countering recently announced US plans for a strike on its country in case of “links” between terrorist attacks in the US and Pakistanis.

  5. syvanen
    May 29, 2010, 1:01 pm

    The important story here is being missed. Official US press statements deploring that Israel is being treated unfairly is not news — that is the way it is. The important story is a formal diplomatic statement, signed by the US, acknowledging Israel as possessing nuclear weapons and, further, that these weapons will be subject to future NPT restrictions. Of course, we added caveats that seem to weaken the statement, but the important story is a precedent has been set.

    From now on it is universally and diplomatically recognized that Israel is a nuclear power and that this is a problem for the rest of the world. Israel’s official policy of ambiguity is now meaningless. I know Egypt is not popular on this blog but we should recognize their role in this major diplomatic accomplishment. What surprises me is the lack of response from the lobby and Israel. Perhaps they were taken unaware and haven’t crafted a reply yet.

  6. Psychopathic god
    May 29, 2010, 3:39 pm

    syvanen wrote:

    From now on it is universally and diplomatically recognized that Israel is a nuclear power and that this is a problem for the rest of the world. Israel’s official policy of ambiguity is now meaningless.

    Does that mean that very soon Eric Holder will initiate DoJ activity to curtail any further aid to Israel until Israel comes into compliance with US requirements that states receiving aid sign NPT?

    Will Congress form a committee to explore the implications of the US-Israel special relationship in view of Israel’s acknowledged possession of uncontrolled nukes?

    Some months ago, Prof. Ian Lustick explained to a Seattle audience that one of the major problems Israel has with Iran is that Iran’s nuclear policy obviates Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. If Israel’s nuclear posture is no longer ambiguous, does that mean Israel can stand down from its manufactured enmity towards Iran?

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