Monday, May 31, 2010

Wonderland II

The November 8th, 2009 blog entry, 'Hyperbolic trend?', (see reprinted below) observed that close examination of times when the Obama administration brought together parties with widely differing and/or contradictory perspectives (achieving 'success' in getting them to "agree" on a declaration, subsequently hailed by some as "historic," game-changing, etc., etc.), showed that in each case "... a sufficient degree of ambiguity was included which allowed the various parties to 'agree' to the formulations, without actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!" Prime examples at the time included the "Teucigalpa / San Jose Agreement" and UNSC 1887...

Well, this past week the month-long NPT Review Conference wrapped up, adopting a consensus final document, "... the first one achieved... in ten years...". Significant achievement, or...? With the "non-aligned' countries led by Egypt pushing for concrete steps towards a WMD-free zone in the Middle East (MEZFWMD), and other countries pushing for concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament by the "haves", how exactly did this happen? Well, by the aforementioned process (i.e. an artful "compromise").

Regarding the timetable for disarmament, the "haves' managed to make sure that no actual date was set for disarmament, agreeing instead to work towards that goal and to report back on their progress. Regarding the MEZFWMD, the agreed-upon final statement "... calls for holding a conference in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment¨ of such a zone.It also mentions ¨the importance of Israel's accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards...¨

Once again, an "agreement' between multiple parties "without (any) actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!" So, the U.S. gets much of what it wanted (including a strengthening of the nonproliferation regime; a reinforcement of the IAEA; calls for strengthening export controls; tightening the requirements around treaty withdrawal; and many other provisions). At the same time the U.S. ignores the parts it doesn't like (mainly the MEZHWMD), as demonstrated by:
  • The Department of State web page recapping the NPT Review Conference final document, while providing information on the main provisions has no mention of the MEZHWMD at all.
  • As reported, administration officials characterized the conference to be held in 2012 as "a modest step", and said that the U.S. would not pressure any government (read Israel) to attend the conference.
  • The President's statement on the final document included: "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security." U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones characterized this as a "gratuitous" attempt to single out Israel, and indicated that it is the U.S. view "... 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..." i.e. full peace in the Middle East before a MEZHWMD!
Wonderland it is!

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final Document (U.S. State Dept.)
NPT RevCon Produces Consensus Final Document
NPT Rev-Con achieves consensus document
ACA Welcomes NPT Review Consensus
Obama hails 'balanced' non-proliferation accord
Nuke session approves early steps to disarm
U.N. Nuke Meet Ends with Good Intentions and Empty Promises
NPT Review Adopts Outcome Document at Last Moment
Success of NPT Review Conference great news

Commitment to WMD-free Middle East in doubt as NPT conference ends
In NPT, US sacrifices its own policy goals to serve as Israel’s lawyer
Jones: NPT review a "gratuitous" attack on Israel
A Middle East Zone Free of Weapons OF Mass Destruction
Yossi Melman: U.S. sacrificed Israel for success of NPT conference

Previous related blog entry:
Hyperbolic trend - Nov 8th, 2009

The blog entry 'No surprise' discussed the situation in Honduras, while the 'UNSC Resolution 1887' entry covered the United Nations Security Council resolution on nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament... In both cases the Obama administration brought together parties with widely differing and/or contradictory perspectives, and then achieved 'success' in getting them to "agree" on a declaration, that was subsequently hailed as "historic," game-changing, etc., etc. However, in each of these cases a close reading of the text showed that a sufficient degree of ambiguity was included which allowed the various parties to 'agree' to the formulations, without actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!

In the case of the "Teucigalpa / San Jose Agreement," subsequent events have demonstrated the true worth of the agreement (note, Honduras is not a case where one side violated the written agreement, it is a case of where the agreement turned out to be more aspirational than real), while with UNSC 1887 we have not yet come to a time when facts on the ground will show the strength or hollowness of the agreement...

OK, so two events do not a trend make... yet. However, in conjunction with other events such as the 'also hailed as historic' agreement with Iran over its enriched uranium (which is still up in the air), and the "unprecedented" Israeli settlement concessions (that turned out to be anything but, prompting SecState Clinton to spend the next several days 'walking back' her comment), there seems to be a slight whiff of "Wonderland" in the air...

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