US scuttles Mideast nuclear-free zone —for Israel

The 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded at the UN in New York on May 22 without approving a final document—due to US blocking of a provision on creating a Middle East nuclear-free zone. The US blocked the document, saying Egypt and other Arab states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by setting a March 2016 deadline for Middle East nations to meet on the proposal—including Israel. The US was joined by the UK and Canada in blocking the document. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US Secretary of State John Kerry for blocking. Israel of course had no vote, as a non-signatory to the NPT. (AP, Interfax, The Guardian, May 23; Xinhua, May 22)

The US sent assistant secretary of state Thomas Countryman to Israel before the talks. Five years ago, the US angered Israel by signing on to a declaration proposing talks on the nuclear-free zone by 2012. This time, the US sought a compromise that would satisfy the Arab states but not alienate Israel. (RFE/RL, May 22) But failing that, the US this time around caved to Israeli pressure. The nuclear-free zone proposal has blocked progress at NPT meetings since it was first introduced by Egypt in 1990. Israel, while refusing to confirm that it has nuclear weapons, has insisted the proposal should be in the context of a general peace settlement in the Middle East, and be subject to "mutual verification measures"—conditions rejected by Egypt and the Arab states. (Arms Control Association, May 2015)

  1. Israel threatens to nuke Iran

    Iran has protested to the UN over a (barely) veilied Israeli threat to use nuclear weapons. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said May 5 when asked about "dealing with a threat like Iran," as reported by Lobe Log:

    I can imagine some other steps that should be taken. Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision or the operation. Of course, we should be sure it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

    I do remember the story of President Truman was asked, How do [you] feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs [at] Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000 casualties? And he said, When I heard from my officers that the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I saw it was a moral decision.

    We are not there yet. But that [is] what I’m talking about. Certain steps in cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations or something like that.

    "Certain steps." Very cute.