Israel was the big loser in the nuclear review conference in New York – and Iran the big winner.
Posted by alanmirs on May 29, 2010
Iran narrowly wins UN nuclear battle
Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Saturday, 29
May 2010 14:23 UK
Reynolds World affairs correspondent, BBC
News website Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may see the meeting as a diplomatic
Israel was the big loser in the nuclear review conference
in New York – and Iran the big winner.
The cause of nuclear non-proliferation was haltingly served in that the
conference did reach a consensus, unlike the last time, and a number of
watered-down measures were agreed to seek ways of strengthening the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But overall, there was not the decisive
strengthening that some states wanted.
Instead, governments rallied round one objective – the concept of a nuclear
weapons-free zone in the Middle East. This was first called for 15 years ago but
until now neglected.
To its annoyance, Israel found that the US did not block a proposal to hold a
one-off conference in 2012 on setting up such a zone. In addition Israel was
named for not being a party to the treaty and for not having its nuclear
activities under international inspection. Being named like this is always
regarded as a diplomatic defeat.
It will produce further soul-searching about the relationship between Israel
and the US administration of President Barack Obama, which has often been tense
and which will now be more so. Israel has already denounced the agreement as
Mr Obama came out with a statement afterwards that spoke of the US being
"strongly opposed" to efforts to "single out Israel" but he did not use the veto
available to him.
Whether the conference will be held is debatable (conditions are already
being attached) and whether it will do anything practical is doubtful. Israel
opposes any nuclear-free zone until there is a comprehensive peace. So does the
Arab countries, led skilfully by Egypt, managed to manoeuvre the US into
agreeing. Washington did not want to be blamed for wrecking the conference. It
would have undone much of the goodwill that Mr Obama has engendered over the
past year through his efforts to reduce the American stockpile of nuclear
weapons and to reconfigure US nuclear policy.
The UN’s nuclear deliberations typically draw anti-nuclear
On the other hand, Iran was not named, despite being in violation of
instructions both from the IAEA, which administers the nuclear non-proliferation
treaty, and the Security Council that it should suspend the enrichment of
uranium. Instead there were a couple of references to countries not being in
compliance and since Iran is the only such state, Iran is meant. But it is not
named. Iran would have blocked the necessary consensus if it had been.
It was ready to stop a consensus. The US was not.
"It is good that there was an outcome," said Mark Fitzpatrick of the
International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
"It restores the consensus about the importance of the NPT, which had been
unravelling. The NPT was in danger and some new health and vitality has been put
back into it.
"However it doesn’t move the ball forward or strengthen the NPT and is
therefore a missed opportunity."
One example is that the US had pressed for countries leaving the NPT (as they
can with three months’ notice and as North Korea did) to face sanctions. This
was not adopted, but at least it was stated that North Korea would not be
recognised as a nuclear-weapons state, which will please South Korea.
Another is that there is not much immediate hope of getting the stronger
inspections of nuclear plants that the US wanted. If no such action is
forthcoming, the US attitude towards further disarmament could well be affected.
Nor, from the opposite side, was there agreement to set a deadline or even a
target for nuclear-weapons states to negotiate their weapons away. Some
non-aligned countries had wanted sometime after 2025 as the target. There is no
date in the document. Instead there is language pressing for progress. Indeed,
there has been some progress over the past year, with a new agreement between
Russia and the United State as an example.
The next NPT review conference is in 2015.
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