The summit of all fears

A UN summit is beginning tomorrow in New York aimed at repairing and renewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Signed in 1968, it has become gradually weakened over the years, with non-signatories like India developing nuclear weapons and the pace of disarmament slow on the part of those who have signed. The summit will involve weeks of complex negotiation and the success of the outcome will be measured in ‘shades of grey’.

Ahmedinejad is making an appearance – before he left Tehran he told reporters that the NPT had failed and that nuclear weapons were ‘the biggest threat to the world today’. (He also told them that he had documents linking the US and Israel to international extremism. Taba’an.) This is causing some perplexity in the US, with Hillary Clinton saying she is not sure why he’s coming – perhaps to ‘divert attention and confuse the issue’ but probably not to uphold his commitment to the NPT. It would seem a bit counterproductive for Ahmedinejad to divert attention from his nuclear program by turning up at a massive nuclear summit. Clinton’s confusion is a bit faux-naive, she knows it’s another power play.

The other issue is a proposal for a ban on nuclear weapons in the Middle East, advocated by the US, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Egypt, who is especially keen to see this through as it’s a good means of putting pressure on Israel. Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of states without nuclear weapons, Egypt secured a promise from the US and others to work towards a ban back in 1995, but is growing frustrated with their foot-dragging. In return for progress towards the ban the US will probably ask for support on the Iran issue amongst others. A ban is a more equitable solution to the problem of a nuclear Middle East, and according to US officials the proposal goes beyond anything the US has previously offered Egypt. Whether the ongoing ice age between Obama and Netanyahu will prevent any real progress on this remains to be seen.

P.S. Wall Street Journal – ‘The UN conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty…is expected to begin with a bang’, really? Come on, guys.

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