Obama says nuclear-free Middle East is good goal– with an asterisk

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 19 Comments

Well, the five-year review conference of the UN’s Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty yielded some headlines in its waning moments: NPT countries, including the U.S., produced a document calling for a 2012 conference to discuss a nuclear free Middle East.

The U.S. reaction to this more-than-reasonable goal, however, has been tepid, to say the least.

Both President Obama and, 45 minutes later, National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones lament that Israel is "singled out" in the document (neither statement is online yet; they’re attached below this piece). It’s fair enough to "deplore" that Iran goes unmentioned by name despite its program, but why not "single out" Israel? Israel has "singled out" herself by being the only country in the region to not sign the NPT and subsequently develop a massive nuclear arsenal. Israel and her stateside allies whine about the "double standard" to which it is held by human rights groups, yet in this case they demand nuclear transparency and compliance with the NPT, while Israel comes nowhere close to offering either. (Iran, by the way, goes unmentioned because it actually is signed onto the NPT and therefore sits in the conference and holds a veto over the document.)

In the Washingon Post, we learn that "U.S. officials said the plan might go nowhere because of language singling out Israel’s secret nuclear program":

Gary Samore, Obama’s nuclear coordinator, said that naming only Israel in the context of the Middle East conference sent a signal that the event would be used to isolate the Jewish state.

"We will not support a meeting that puts Israel in that kind of position," he told reporters.

Again — Israel put herself in "that kind of position." Jones suggests that’s OK:
 
The United States will not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel’s national security.  We will not accept any approach that singles out Israel or sets unrealistic expectations. 

Another qualification in Obama and Jones’s statements that could doom the 2012 conference to failure was their reiteration that a nuclear-free Middle East can only occur once their is "peace" in the region. From whence does the U.S. get its policy? WaPo, funnily enough, describes this as Israel’s long-held position: "Israel has said it would agree to a zone free of weapons of mass destruction only after it has reached peace agreements with its neighbors, something unlikely to happen for years."

It’s always worth mentioning here that the region’s most fraught conflict, its longest lasting one, is a belligerent occupation of the Golan Heights (Bibi refuses to negotiate), the West Bank (Bibi will build again), and Gaza (pinned down under a constant and oppressive act of war — a seige). This military occupation was, of course, started by Israel when it annexed captured lands after the 1967 war.

But let’s end with some positive points. In Jones’s statement, full inclusion is highlighted as an essential component to the meetings two years from now:

The proposed regional conference, to be effective, must include all countries of the Middle East and other relevant countries.

As usual from the realist corner, this is all justified by Jones as a national security interest. He says that because the document focuses on "inspection and compliance," it will serve "to strengthen the national security of the United States and our allies, including Israel." Well, I guess not purely the national interest, but we’ll leave well enough alone.
 
Statements follow:

 
 
1. Statement by the President on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
 

The United States welcomes the agreements reached at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime.

 
The NPT must be at the center of our global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons around the world, while pursuing the ultimate goal of a world without them.  This agreement includes balanced and practical steps that will advance non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which are critical pillars of the global non-proliferation regime.  It reaffirms many aspects of the agenda that I laid out in Prague, and which we have pursued together with other nations over the last year, and underscores that those nations that refuse to abide by their international obligations must be held accountable.

The document includes an agreement to hold a regional conference in 2012 to discuss issues relevant to a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems.  The United States has long supported such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment.  We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security. 

The greatest threat to proliferation in the Middle East, and to the NPT, is Iran’s failure to live up to its NPT obligations.  Today’s efforts will only strengthen the NPT as a critical part of our efforts to ensure that all nation’s meet their NPT and non-proliferation obligations, or face consequences.  Together, we must work for a world where nation’s benefit from the peaceful power of nuclear energy, while also being secure from the threat posed by nuclear proliferation.

 
2. Statement by the National Security Advisor, General James L. Jones, on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

The United States welcomes the agreements reached at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime.

The final document broadly supports our strategy to strengthen the NPT, which is essential to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons around the world and pursuing the ultimate goal of a world without them.  The document includes balanced and practical steps to advance nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which are critical pillars of the global nonproliferation regime.  In particular, the document calls for measures to strengthen inspections and compliance with the treaty, which will support our efforts to deal with countries like Iran who are seeking a nuclear weapons capability in violation of their international obligations.  For this reason, we believe the document serves to strengthen the national security of the United States and our allies, including Israel.

Despite our agreement to the final document, we have serious reservations about one aspect of the Middle East resolution it contains.  The final document includes an agreement to hold a regional conference in 2012 to discuss issues relevant to a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems.  The United States has long supported such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment.  Just as our commitment to seek peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons will not be reached quickly, the U.S. understands that a WMD free zone in the Middle East is a long-term goal.

The proposed regional conference, to be effective, must include all countries of the Middle East and other relevant countries.  The United States will insist that this be a conference for discussion aimed at an exchange of views on a broad agenda, to include regional security issues, verification and compliance, and all categories of weapons of mass destruction and systems for their delivery.  The conference would draw its mandate from the countries in the region in recognition of the principle that states in the region have sole authority regarding any WMD free zone in the Middle East.

To ensure the conference takes into account the interests of all regional states, the United States has decided to co-sponsor the conference, along with the UK, Russia, and the UN Secretary General.  Together, we will identify a host for this conference and an individual to facilitate its preparation.  In addition, we will insist that the conference operate only by consensus by the regional countries, to include agreement on any possible further discussions or follow-up actions, which will only take place with the consent of all the regional countries.

The United States will not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel’s national security.  We will not accept any approach that singles out Israel or sets unrealistic expectations.  The United States’ long-standing position on Middle East peace and security remains unchanged, including its unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.  

In this respect, the United States deplores the decision to single out Israel in the Middle East section of the NPT document.
 

The failure of the resolution to mention Iran, a nation in longstanding violation of the NPT and UN Security Council Resolutions which poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region and to the integrity of the NPT, is also deplorable.
 

As a cosponsor charged with enabling this conference, the United States will ensure that a conference will only take place if and when all countries feel confident that they can attend.  Because of gratuitous way that Israel has been singled out, the prospect for a conference in 2012 that involves all key states in the region is now in doubt and will remain so until all are assured that it can operate in a unbiased and constructive way.

 

    Leave a Reply