Waiting For The Godot Of Nuclear-Free Mideast Conference – OpEd


It is now 20 years since the NPT Review Conference adopted a resolution that called for “the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.” Yet, despite extensive international support and a litany of resolutions and related initiatives by the regional states, progress on this issue has been stymied by the United States and a few other Western powers, who have time and again rushed to protect the rogue nuclear state of Israel, which opposes an international conference that would inevitably throw the limelight on its clandestine nuclear arsenal.

Thus, just as in 2012, when the U.S. unilaterally cancelled a Helsinki conference on Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone following Israel’s objections, the 2015 NPT Review Conference has now ended with Washington, backed by Canada and England, torpedoing the global efforts to reinstate the conference in March, 2016. Incredibly, the U.S. officials have added a new meaning to the term hypocrisy by at the same time going on verbal offensive and blaming Egypt and other members of the Non-Aligned Movement for the failure to reach a consensus on this important conference. U.S. Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller announced there was “no agreement” and accused some countries of undermining the negotiations, thus standing the facts on their head and ignoring that only U.S. and two other countries from a long list of 190 signatories stood opposed to the final resolution and, in fact, it was them not Egypt and others who “wrecked the negotiations.”

The lame excuse that the 2016 proposed conference was “too early” and Israel would be “unprepared” for it does not wash, and the Western officials parroting Tel Aviv’s line ought to know better that in reality Israel will never be up to participating in such a conference without a fair amount of collective international pressure. By appeasing Israel again for the second time in three years, U.S. government has exposed itself to the legitimate criticism of the world community that it has adopted a double standard on nuclear proliferation, in effect exempting Israel from non-proliferation concerns.

At a crucial time when the Iran nuclear talks are progressing toward a final resolution, it is doubly difficult for the U.S. and other Western governments to defend and rationalize the above-mentioned double standard — that is also an affront to the NPT norms, which must be extended to Israel sooner or later, otherwise the NPT regime will suffer an erosion of global confidence. Already, the NPT regime is in serious trouble as a result of the growing chasm between the nuclear weapon-haves and have-nots, in light of the absence of practical progress on nuclear disarmament and the nuclear modernization and aggressive nuclear doctrines of the former.

The U.S.-led blocking of a Mideast nuclear weapons-free conference is inevitably another stab at the NPT as the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and will have long-term adverse consequences. In a word, it sends the wrong message about the universal application of NPT norms and the balanced commitment of Western signatories, who consistently fail to pressure Israel to join the NPT and to open its nuclear facilities to outside inspections.

As a result, no amount of verbal shenanigan by U.S. and other Western officials is going to hide the fact that they have once again prioritized (rogue) Israel’s interests over the global community’s interests reflected in the NPT Review resolution that was torpedoed by them. One of the goals of the proposed conference has been to “identify specific and practical confidence-building measures.” The current stalemate cannot be broken without the manifestation of good intentions as a first step toward this rather lofty objective. And yet, the only thing that the vast majority of NPT member states participating in the month-long review conference in New York can take back with them is the irrefutable evidence of lack of good intentions and confidence-building steps by U.S. and a few of its Western allies. Acting as Israel’s proxies at the review conference, these Western powers have caused serious disappointment on the part of other NPT member states, some of whom are Israel’s Arab neighbors and naturally concerned about Israel’s monopoly of nuclear weapons in the region.

By torpedoing the nuclear conference, the real message sent by U.S. is that Israel’s nuclear blackmail of its Arab neighbors will continue for the foreseeable future and the latter should not count on the U.S. for any change in the nuclear status quo. This is hardly reassuring about the future prospects of NPT.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D. is an Iranian-American political scientist and author specializing in Iran’s foreign and nuclear affairs, and author of several books.

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