Inter Press Service » Peace http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Views Split on Nuclear Deal Implementation (Part Two)http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:21:29 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143861 Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan. Prior to that he was a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. Currently he is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.]]>

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan. Prior to that he was a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. Currently he is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

The implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal with the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) on January 16, which resulted in the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran, has split the views of current and former US politicians.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Two days later 53 U.S. national security leaders issued a statement welcoming the implementation of the nuclear agreement. The council included some leading foreign policy experts, including former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski; Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and Defense Secretary William Perry; Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Ryan Crocker and Daniel Kurtzer; military leaders Admiral William Fallon, Admiral Eric Olson and Lieutenant General Frank Kearney; and members of Congress Richard Lugar, Tom Daschle and Lee Hamilton.

In their statement, they pointed out that the success of the agreement “had reaffirmed the value of diplomacy as an invaluable tool for conflict resolution.” They added that “new mechanisms for cooperation should be established between the executive and legislative branches to monitor compliance and evaluate suspected violations.” The views of such eminent national security leaders cannot be easily ignored.

Coinciding with the Implementation Day, there was a successful prisoner exchange, involving five Americans and seven Iranians. A few days earlier, Iran had released ten US sailors who had “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters, in less than 24 hours.

A few years ago, these events could not be envisaged and the holding of American sailors could have resulted in intense hostility and even military clashes; with possible disastrous consequences of another war in the Middle East with a country much larger and stronger than Iraq to appreciate what has been achieved by diplomacy at a much smaller cost. Now having established a reliable channel of communication between the two countries, it will be much easier in the future to persuade Iran to help resolve some of the intractable crises in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Libya; as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This landmark agreement has shown how diplomacy can succeed when sanctions and military action fail. This provides an example for resolving other major crises in the Middle East and in the rest of the world. If two adversaries that had threatened each other for over 37 years are able to resolve their differences and extend the hand of friendship to each other, there is reason to hope that other complicated issues and crises in the world can also be resolved through persistent efforts, talks in an atmosphere of goodwill. Maybe one can begin to hope that the time of wars is coming to an end; making way for a new chapter in international relations.

However, the implementation of the Iranian nuclear agreement has not satisfied the hawks on neither side. On the Iranian side, the hardliners that control the Guardian Council, which vets the credentials of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) candidates, has disqualified a large number of reformist candidates. The Guardian Council has even rejected the qualifications of Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic revolution, as a candidate for the Assembly of Experts that is in charge of selecting the next Supreme Leader. Hassan Khomeini is regarded a reformist and in the controversial 2009 presidential election that resulted in a second term for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Khomeini had supported the Green Movement and the reformist candidates.

Many reformists fear that the hardliners wish to prevent President Hassan Rouhani from winning a second term, and in any case they will try to make his job much more difficult by the creation of a confrontational Majlis. Many candidates have appealed those rulings and some of the disqualifications may be reversed.

In the United States and Israel, the opposition to the nuclear deal has been strong and continuous. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reverted to his refrain about the deal, saying: “This is a very dangerous deal and it threatens all of us.” He appealed to American Jews to oppose the accord. One group of Jewish activists in Pittsburgh even warned that the deal would hasten a “Second Holocaust in Israel”, neglecting to mention that the deal had in fact blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of even a single nuclear weapon, while Israel possesses hundreds of such weapons.

Immediately after the Implementation Day, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that it was “akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1.” A number of Republican presidential candidates have even stated that they would not honor the deal. Senator Marco Rubio has threatened to tear the Iran deal up on day one if he were elected president. Iran’s ultimate goal, Rubio said, was to be able to “hold America hostage.” Senator Ted Cruz also echoed Rubio’s comments. During the September 2015 GOP debate he said: “If I am elected president, on the very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.”

Chris Christie strangely linked Iran’s nuclear deal with ISIS: “Well, I think we have to focus…on exactly what the priorities are. And to me, what I’ve always said is that the president has set up an awful situation through his deal with Iran, because what his deal with Iran has done is empower them and enrich them. And that’s the way ISIS has been created and formed here.” Another presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, is so scared of the implementation of the deal that he has said that it jeopardizes “the survival of Western civilization.” He continued, “this threatens Israel immediately, this threatens the entire Middle East, but it threatens the United States of America. And we can’t treat a nuclear Iranian government as if it is just some government that would like to have power.”

Despite all this hyperbole, all the experts who have studied the issue, the NIE, and above all the IAEA that has been closely monitoring Iran’s nuclear program agree that there has been no diversion of Iran’s nuclear program towards military uses. In his final assessment of the Iranian nuclear program, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano wrote: “The agency has found no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material in connection with the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

It seems that some people prefer to resort to force in resolving international problems, rather than resolving them through talks and negotiations.

(End)

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CTBTO’s Verification System Thwarts Nuclear Testshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:52:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143839 Dr. Lassina Zerbo is Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Dr. Lassina Zerbo is Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) – a 24-hour international watchdog body – is known never to miss a beat.

The Organization’s international monitoring and verification system has been tracking all nuclear explosions -– in the atmosphere, underwater and underground –- including all four nuclear tests by the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) – the only country in the world to test nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

“The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System has found a wider mission than its creators ever foresaw: monitoring an active and evolving Earth,” says Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of CTBTO, an Organization which also monitors earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large storms and drifting icebergs.

He said some compare the system to a combined giant Earth stethoscope and sniffer that looks, listens, feels and sniffs for planetary irregularities.

It’s the only global network which detects atmospheric radioactivity and sound waves which humans cannot hear, said Dr. Zerbo.

Asked how effective the CTBTO’s verification system is, Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association told IPS since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature 20 years ago, national and international test ban monitoring and verification capabilities have improved immensely and they now far exceeds original expectations.

He said there have been significant advances in the U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System capabilities across all of the key verification technologies deployed worldwide to detect and deter nuclear test explosions, including seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring, as well as on-site inspections — “as demonstrated in the November 2014 integrated field exercise in Jordan, which I observed directly.”

With the combined capabilities of the International Monitoring System (IMS), national technical means (NTM), and civilian seismic networks, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection.

By detecting and deterring clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, the CTBT and its monitoring systems effectively inhibit the development of new types of nuclear weapons, Kimball said.

“With the option of short-notice, on-site inspections, as allowed under the treaty once it enters into force, we would have even greater confidence in detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion,” he added.

According to CTBTO, the verification regime is designed to detect any nuclear explosion conducted on Earth – underground, underwater or in the atmosphere, and the purpose of the verification regime is to monitor countries’ compliance with the CTBT which bans all nuclear explosions on the planet.

Michael Schoeppner, Programme on Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, told IPS the verification system of the CTBT relies on diplomatic and technical means.

The technical verification aims at the physical proof whether a nuclear explosion has occurred or not, he said.

“The CTBTO has built an efficient and effective system to monitor the Earth around the clock for underground, underwater and atmospheric nuclear explosions. It delivers data to all member states and thus enables a sound decision-making of the international community,” he added.

The CTBT and its verification regime establish an international norm for countries to refrain from developing and testing new nuclear weapon types, Schoeppner said.

Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, told IPS the effectiveness of the verification system provided by the CTBTO demonstrates that similar real-time global verification required for nuclear disarmament is indeed possible.

He said the CTBTO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors nuclear reactors to ensure there is no diversion of fissile materials into nuclear weapons programmes, could meet some of the verification tasks for nuclear disarmament.

However, there would also need to be verification of the destruction of existing stockpiles and the destruction or conversion of delivery vehicles, he noted.

The United States has launched an International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification which is exploring the technologies and systems required, Ware said.

“The experience of the CTBTO shows that such verification systems can begin operating even before disarmament agreements are fully ratified and operational.”

In addition, Ware pointed out, the CTBTO provides additional benefits beyond the verification of nuclear tests.

Real-time information from the CTBTO network of seismic and hydro-acoustic monitoring stations is now available for the tsunami warning centres – providing warning time for tsunamis when there are earthquakes in ocean regions.

“The CTBTO network of radionuclide monitoring stations provides information which can be useful in time of a nuclear accident, such as the Fukushima disaster. It is likely that additional verification systems developed to monitor nuclear disarmament agreements could also provide spin-off benefits,” he pointed out.

According to CTBTO, the verification regime consists of the following elements: International Monitoring System International Data Centre; Global Communications Infrastructure Consultation and clarification; On-Site Inspection and Confidence-building measures.

The International Monitoring System (IMS) consists of 321 monitoring stations and 16 laboratories world wide. These 337 facilities monitor the planet for any sign of a nuclear explosion.

Asked whether there was even a remote possibility of a nuclear test circumventing the verification system, Kimball told IPS: “No monitoring system is one-hundred percent foolproof, but only a foolish leader would try to conduct a clandestine nuclear weapon test explosion because the likelihood of detection today is extremely high and the cost would be particularly severe.”

Unfortunately, he said, Pyongyang’s Jan. 6 blast is an uncomfortable reminder that 20 years after the conclusion of the CTBT, the door to further nuclear testing remains ajar.

Kimball said formal entry into force has been delayed by the failure of seven other states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—to ratify the treaty.

Some states, including Egypt and Iran, have not completed the monitoring stations in their territory or are not allow data from stations to be sent to the CTBTO.

Responsible states can do more to reinforce it pending CTBT entry into force this year, he noted.

“We are calling for a new, high-level diplomatic effort to encourage key states such as Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan to condemn North Korea’s test, reaffirm their support for the global testing moratorium, and promptly consider the CTBT.”

In addition, Kimball said, they could pursue the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure calling on all states to refrain from testing, declaring that nuclear testing would trigger proliferation and undermine international peace and security, and recommending that the treaty’s Provisional Technical Secretariat and Preparatory Commission, including the International Monitoring System, be considered essential institutions because of their critical role in detecting and deterring nuclear testing.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Violence Is a Preventable Diseasehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/violence-is-a-preventable-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-is-a-preventable-disease http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/violence-is-a-preventable-disease/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:55:00 +0000 mairead-maguire http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143837 Mairead Maguire, a peace activist from Northern Ireland is a 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate ]]>

Mairead Maguire, a peace activist from Northern Ireland is a 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

By Mairead Maguire
BELFAST, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The World Health Organization has said that ‘Violence is a preventable disease’ and people are not born violent, rather we all live in cultures of violence. This can be changed through nonviolent peacemaking and the persuit of ‘just peace’ and nurturing of cultures of peace.

Mairead Maguire

Mairead Maguire

In Northern Ireland for over thirty years we faced violence from all sides, as we lived in a deep ethnic/political conflict. This violence only ended when everyone acknowledged that militarism and paramilitarism could not solve our human problems, and only through unconditional, all inclusive dialogue and negotiations could we reach a political agreement based on nonviolence, forgiveness, compromise and cooperation. We spoke ‘to our enemies’ and made peace with them, because we recognized that without peace nothing is possible, and with peace, everything is possible. We also began to tackle the root causes of our violence, by painstakingly making policy changes. Today in Belfast, while it is good for all its citizens to live in a city at peace, we all acknowledge that our peace process is a work in progress and we must continue to work on justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.

This is a time when, I believe, Europe is at cross-roads and hard choices regarding policies and priorities have to be made. Today’s refugees and migration challenge has shown the best and the worst of European values, often beamed via television onto our screens. The best have been the compassionates response of some spiritual leaders such as Pope Francis and the people of Italy, government and political leaders, such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and millions of ordinary citizens across Europe, moving to help in any way they can the refugees, and migrants who have arrived from war torn countries.

The worst has been the fearology fuelled by negative forces which has resulted in an increase in racism, islamophobia, hate crimes and speech, and fascism in some European cities, hitherto known as cities of cultural diversity and tolerance. The stream of refugees andmigrants from Africa, Middle East and Asia, will continue pouring in to Europe, and the question is: what is the role of Europe and its citizens? I hope that Europe will continue to demonstrate compassion and offer to host those who are so desperate they had to flee all they loved in order to save their lives, or for a better life elsewhere.

The consequences of NATO/US policies of invasions and occupation is the destruction of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, to name but a few. A real question now to be asked by Europeans is: Do you want to continue being part of the perpetual wars of US and its most belligerent states of UK and Israel, and the militarization and nuclearization of Europe to continue?

All across the European Union (UE) young Europeans are travelling to other EU countries and further afield, trying to find jobs, and many continue to immigrate overseas. Austerity cuts, imposed by many European Union (UE) governments, are driving people deeper into poverty. In spite of this lack of jobs and falling In to poverty for many families, political leaders insist on governments policies, supporting foreign wars instead of human security of EU citizens, health care, education and the environment.

The British government has implemented austerity cuts which have devastated social services for many poor families and it is currently promising the renewal of the UK nuclear trident missile (these nuclear weapons, although on European soil, are in the control of the US government). This is all done in the face of millions of citizens protesting nuclear weapons and calling for a nuclear weapons free Britain and World.

Many governments in Europe are in denial that they are in a crisis but unless courageous policy reversals are implemented and more funding put into human security by dealing with unemployment and poverty, things will not change for the better for our societies in the forseeable futre. But we do not need austerity cuts, we live in a very rich world it’s just that we have got our priorities wrong!

Billions of Euros spent by NATO and Europe hosting war exercises, increases fearology, prepares people mentally for enmity and war, and lines the pockets of the rich, of arms manufacturers and war profiteers. In November 2015, while the worlds political leaders, and media, focused on the refugee crisis and the violence of illegal groups of Daesh (Islamic state) and other fundamental Islamic extremists, almost unknown to the civil community, as it was little reported, one of the great threats to the survival of humanity was taking place in Northern Europe, across three European states. Some 36,000 military troops, 200 fighter aircrafts and more than 60 warships carried out NATO’s biggest war games in 13 years.The military troops were from over 30 states.

They were carrying out war exercises preparing to fight together in battle groups if necessary in a war, which should it come to pass, would be a horror of horrors and one of the greatest crimes against humanity, a nuclear/conventional war on European soil, and spreading quickly across the world. The NATO (led by the US) has fought many illegal wars. They argue that it is necessary to fight terrorism and that it must defend its members from threats from the Middle East and North Africa.

The cold war propaganda against Russia continues and NATO by its expansionist and aggressive strategy has brought Europe to a situation similar to that of the Cold War causing a new dangerous confrontation with Russia.

I believe Europe (and indeed the world) must now ask the tough questions and make hard, brave and courageous choices: ‘Do we continue down the road of re-arming Europe and the World, and building a culture of militarism and war, creating enemy images and demonizing other countries and their leaders, implementing ‘regime change’ through bogus ‘right to protect’ military intervention, or do we choose to start disarming our conscience, hearts and minds, dismantling our weapons, ending militarism and war and implementing International law?’

Europe and the world needs a New Vision of Unity and Demilitarization of Regions, with power devolved to communities where people feel empowered and true democracy can be established. A demilitarized world is something we can all work together to build.

It is not an impossible dream, but begins with each one of us, choosing to live lives of nonkilling and nonviolence and building friendships between peoples and regions in order to cooperate as the human family on the problems we all need to deal with such as environment and poverty. We have imagination and genius and with confidence and trust in ourselves and each other, we can move away from nationalism and war, towards regional solutions built on demilitarized societies of peaceful co-existence ¬ we can and we must learn to live together in all our diversity. Peace Demilitarized and Devolved Democracy is possible and is a human right for all.

(End)

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The Nuclear Deal Implementation Day: A Win-Win Agreement (part one)http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 15:27:39 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143828 Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford]]>

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

After many years of unprecedented, crippling Western sanctions that stopped Iran’s oil exports and even banking transactions, the long and arduous negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) culminated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed on 14 July 2015. That agreement finally reached the Implementation Day on 16th January 2016, coincidentally 37 years to the day when the late Mohammad Reza Shah left Iran for good and paved the way for the victory of the Islamic revolution.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

In a Joint statement, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, speaking for the European Union, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated:

“Today, we have reached Implementation Day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Ever since Adoption Day, we worked hard and showed mutual commitment and collective will to finally bring the JCPOA to implementation. Today, six months after finalization of the historic deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has implemented its nuclear related commitments under the JCPOA.”

On the same day, United Nations sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program were lifted, and the Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA, terminated the provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2007), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008), 1929 (2010) and 2224 (2015).

In order to reach Implementation Day, Iran had to carry out its part of the deal, which it did meticulously and ahead of the deadline. According to the JCPOA, Iran halted its production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, removed the core of the heavy water reactor in Arak and filled the channels with cement, rendering it inoperable. Iran dismantled over 13,000 centrifuges, leaving the country with 6,104 first-generation IR-1 machines, of which 5,104 are enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, and 1,044 machines at the Fordow site will remain inoperative. Meanwhile, all of this has been carried out under strict IAEA supervision, which will also continue to closely monitor Iran’s future nuclear activities.

The Implementation Day coincided with the successful prisoner exchange, involving five Americans (including four dual citizens) held in Iran, in return for seven Iranians (including six dual citizens) who had been charged with violating US sanctions against Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry called it “one of the days that I enjoyed the most as secretary of state.”

A few days earlier, Iran had released ten US sailors who had “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters. Initially, it was said that the two boats travelling between Kuwait and Bahrain, equipped with three 50-caliber machine guns, had developed mechanical problems, or their GPS equipment had failed, or that they had run out of fuel, but later all those excuses were proven to have been incorrect. So far, US authorities have provided no satisfactory explanation as to how two US Navy ships had lost their way together and had ended up miles away in Iranian waters next to Farsi Island, a very sensitive Iranian naval base. Some Iranian hardliners saw it as a provocation and an attempt to spy on Iranian military installations.

It should be noted that Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr on the eve of Implementation Day. Al-Mimr’s execution led to attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, leading to Saudi Arabia cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran and forming a mainly Sunni coalition against that country. Some conspiracy theorists have wondered whether al-Nimr’s beheading and the US Navy ship that “drifted” into Iranian waters might have been a last-ditch effort by some of the opponents of the deal to derail the agreement.

Be that as it may, some hawks in Washington immediately accused Iran of aggressive behavior and called for harsh punishments. Sen. John McCain criticized what he called Iran’s “provocative behavior”. Sen. Cory Gardner even suggested that President Barack Obama had to postpone his State of the Union address until the sailors had been released. The columnist Charles Krauthammer seized on the incident to discredit the nuclear deal. He wrote: “The premise of the nuclear deal was that it would constrain Iranian actions. It’s had precisely the opposite effect.” However, the speedy release of American sailors disappointed the hawks on both sides and paved the way for closer cooperation between the United States and Iran.

President Obama rightly celebrated the combination of those events as the vindication of his efforts over the previous years. In a Sunday 17 January 2016 statement at the White House, the President said: “This is a good day, because once again we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy.” The President touted his administration’s efforts at diplomacy and advancing relations between the two adversaries, “rather than resorting to another war in the Middle East”.

Obama also pointed to the speedy release of the U.S. sailors as more evidence of the benefits of diplomacy. “Some here in Washington said this was the start of another hostage crisis,” Obama said, referring to some Republicans in Congress. “Instead we secured their release in less than 24 hours.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, speaking almost simultaneously with President Obama, said that the official implementation of the landmark deal had satisfied all parties except radical extremists. He said the deal had “opened new windows for engagement with the world.”

He described the deal as a win-win agreement for all negotiating parties and all factions inside Iran and in the West: “Nobody has been defeated in the deal, neither inside the country nor the countries that were negotiating with us.”

The agreement has provided the best example of the resolution of one of the most difficult international issues through negotiations and without resorting to war, which would have had a devastating outcome for the region and beyond. Indeed, it can serve as a model for the resolution of other difficult conflicts such as the civil wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

(End)

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Western Powers Protect Arms Markets Ignoring Civilian Killingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/western-powers-protect-arms-markets-ignoring-civilian-killings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=western-powers-protect-arms-markets-ignoring-civilian-killings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/western-powers-protect-arms-markets-ignoring-civilian-killings/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 22:06:32 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143598 Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 2016 (IPS)

The West continues its strong political and military support to one of its longstanding allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia –- despite withering criticism of the kingdom’s battlefield excesses in the ongoing war in neighbouring Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition has been accused of using banned cluster bombs, bombing civilian targets and destroying hospitals – either by accident or by design—using weapons provided primarily by the US, UK and France.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last week the armed conflict in Yemen continues to take a terrible toll on civilians, with at least 81 civilians reportedly killed and 109 injured in December.

As a result, the toll of civilian casualties, recorded between 26 March and 31 December 2015, are estimated at more than 8,000 people, including nearly 2,800 killed and more than 5,300 wounded.

But Western powers — which are quick to condemn and impose sanctions on countries accused of civilian killings– have refused to take any drastic action against Saudi Arabia or its coalition partners, including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

The Saudi stranglehold is increasingly linked to a thriving multi-billion dollar arms market — with British, French and mostly American military suppliers providing sophisticated weapons, including state-of-the-art fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, battle tanks and electronic warfare systems.

The arms supplying countries, for obvious reasons, are unwilling to jeopardize their markets, specifically Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi arsenal alone includes Boeing F-15 fighter planes (US supplied), Tornado strike aircraft (UK), Aerospatiale Puma and Dauphin attack helicopters (French), Bell, Apache and Sikorsky helicopters (US), Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning Control System (US), Sidewinder, Sparrow and Stinger missiles (US) and Abrams and M60 battle tanks (US).

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Research Fellow with the Security Studies Programme in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS that for years, the US government has documented Saudi human rights abuses in its own reports, including the State Department.

“Yet the United States continues to provide a largely open-ended weapons supply line to the Saudi government. It’s time for the US government to act in accordance with the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and with its own laws and suspend arms transfers to Saudi Arabia,” she said.

She argued US weapons manufacturers’ profit motives for continuing massive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia should not drive US military and foreign policy.

“The US Defense Department may benefit in the short term by keeping some weapons supply lines open with foreign orders. But the risks to US military personnel and US interests should be given far greater weight in decision making,” said Goldring who also represents the Acronym Institute on conventional weapons and arms transfer issues, at the United Nations.

The current issue of Time magazine says Saudi Arabia continues to spend a bigger portion of its economy on defence than any other nation (11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 3.5 percent by the US).

“It burns through $6 billion a month to bomb Yemen, an ill-advised war that has come to define the abrupt change brought by King Salman since he assumed the throne a year ago,” said Time.

But future military spending is likely to falter due to a sharp decline in oil prices—dropping to less than $30 per barrel this week, down from $110 in early 2014.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, from 2010-2014, the United Kingdom and the United States were Saudi Arabia’s top weapons suppliers.

The United Kingdom accounted for 36 percent of the Saudis’ weapons deliveries, just edging out the United States, which accounted for 35 percent of Saudi weapons imports. France was a distant third at 6 percent.

In an article in Counter Punch published last November, William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor, said the recent surge in US arms transfers to the Middle East is part of an unprecedented boom in major US arms sales that has been presided over by the administration of President Barack Obama.

“The majority of the Obama administration’s major arms sales have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia topping the list with over $49 billion in new agreements.”

“This is particularly troubling given the complex array of conflicts raging throughout the region, and given the Saudi regime’s use of U.S.-supplied weaponry in its military intervention in Yemen,” Hartung said.

He also pointed out that the Obama administration has made arms sales a central tool of its foreign policy, in part as a way of exerting military influence without having to put “boots on the ground” in large numbers, as the Bush administration did in Iraq—with disastrous consequences.

“The Obama administration’s push for more Mideast arms sales has been a bonanza for U.S. weapons contractors, who have made increased exports a primary goal as Pentagon spending levels off. Not only do foreign sales boost company profits, but they also help keep open production lines that would otherwise have to close due to declining orders from the Pentagon,” said Hartung.

For example, he pointed out, earlier this year it was reported that Boeing had concluded a deal to sell 40 F-18s to Kuwait, which will extend the life of the programme for another year or more beyond its current projected end date of early 2017.

Similarly, the General Dynamics M-1 tank has been surviving on a combination of Congressional add-ons and a deal for tanks and tank upgrades for Saudi Arabia.

“But it’s not just about money. U.S.-supplied arms are fueling conflict in the region. The most troubling recent sales is a deal in the works that would supply $1 billion or more in bombs and missiles for the Saudi Air Force, again for use in the Yemen war,” Hartung added.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the Canadian capital of Ottawa last month demanding the cancellation of a hefty 10.5 billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia which included light armoured military vehicles.

The contract, signed by the previous government, was described as one of the largest arms deals between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

The protest was triggered by the execution of 47 prisoners, including a Shiite cleric, on terrorism charges.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who dismissed the protest, was quoted as saying: “What is done is done and the contract is not something that we’ll revisit.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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TAIWAN: Polls Harken End of Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power/#comments Wed, 13 Jan 2016 13:51:11 +0000 Dennis Engbarth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143575 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power/feed/ 0 … And All of a Sudden Syria!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/and-all-of-a-sudden-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=and-all-of-a-sudden-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/and-all-of-a-sudden-syria/#comments Tue, 05 Jan 2016 11:21:54 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143516 By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jan 5 2016 (IPS)

The “big five” – i.e., the most military powerful states on earth (US, UK, France, Russia and China) have just agreed that it would be about time to end the Syrian five-year long human tragedy.

Baher Kamal

Baher Kamal

Before reaching such a conclusion, they waited until 300,000 innocent civilians were killed; tons of bullets shot; 4.5 million humans lost as refugees or homeless at home; hundreds of field testing of state-of-the-art drones made, and daily US, British, French and Russian bombing carried out.

So, with these statistics in hand, they on 18 December 2015 adopted United Nations Resolution 2254 (2015) endorsing a “road map” for peace process in Syria, and even setting a timetable for UN-facilitated talks between the Bashar al Assad regime and “opposition” groups.

They also set the outlines of a “nationwide ceasefire to begin as soon as the parties concerned had taken initial steps towards a political transition.”

“The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria,” the Resolution states.

The UN Security Council also requested that the UN Secretary-General convenes representatives of the Syrian Government and opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process “on an urgent basis”, with a target of early January for the initiation of talks.

“Free and Fair Elections”

The “big five” then expressed support for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations which would establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months and set a schedule and process for the drafting of a new constitution.

Furthermore, the Security Council expressed support for “free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, to be held within 18 months and administered under United Nations supervision,” to the “highest international standards” of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians — including members of the diaspora – eligible to participate.

And they requested that the UN Secretary-General report back on “options” for a ceasefire monitoring, verification and reporting mechanism that it could support within one month. They of course also demanded that “all parties immediately cease attacks against civilians.”

The road-map says that within six months, the process should establish a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance,” with UN-supervised “free and fair elections” to be held within 18 months.

The whole thing moved so rapidly that the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan di Mestura, has already set the 25 January 2016 as the target date to begin talks between the parties.

All That Is Fine, But…

… But the resolution gives no specific answer to a number of key questions:

To start with, the Syrian National Coalition (SCN) has dismissed the whole idea as “unrealistic,” Deutsch Welle reported. The Coalition objects to a fact that the Security Council’s Resolution carefully “omits”: what future President Assad has.

According to Deutsch Welle, the SNC expressed annoyance that the UN language talked of ISIS terrorism but not of the “terrorism” of the Assad government. Russia has called for the transition to leave the question of governance up to the Syrians, while France and at times the US have demanded Assad’s immediate ousting as a condition of the deal.

If so, which “opposition” should sit to talk with the Syrian regime? While the US, UK and France support what they decided to consider as “rebel” or “opposition” groups, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia would have different criteria.

In this regard, it was decided to work out a mechanism for establishing which rebel groups in Syria will be eligible to take part in the peace process. For this purpose, Jordan, which was tasked with listing terrorist organisations in Syria, has reportedly presented a document that includes up to 160 extremist groups.

Even though, would President Bashar al-Assad be able to run for office in new elections?

How will the UN monitor the requested ceasefires, and control so many different sides involved in the armed fighting, including the US, UK, France and Russia? And what if the ceasefires do not work? More Syrian civilians to die, flee, migrate? How to control DAESH and so many diverse terrorist groups operating there? What to do with those millions of Syrian refugees, scattered in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, while hundreds of thousands of them are being “trafficked” by organised crime bands, reportedly including DAESH itself?

And last but not least, which Syria will exist at the end of the 18 months which has been fixed as a target to hold free, fair elections?

Will it be the current Syria or a new, refurbished one after cutting part of it to establish a brand new “Sunni-stan” that US neo-con, neo-liberal, Republican “hawk” and former George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has recently recommended to create on the territories to be “liberated” from DAESH in Syria and Iraq?

Too many key questions without and clear answers. And too may gaps for this road-map to gain credibility. Unless the idea is to implement a Libyan-style solution, that’s for another Western-led military coalition, under NATO’s umbrella, to attack Syria, let Assad be murdered, and leave the people to their own fate. Exactly what happened in Libya in 2011.

(End)

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Accord Calls for First Global Conference on Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/accord-calls-for-first-global-conference-on-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accord-calls-for-first-global-conference-on-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/accord-calls-for-first-global-conference-on-peace/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2015 07:49:30 +0000 Vasu Gounden http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143415 Vasu Gounden, ACCORD's Chief, addresses high level expert group on climate and migration.

Vasu Gounden, ACCORD's Chief, addresses high level expert group on climate and migration.

By Vasu Gounden
DURBAN, Dec 22 2015 (IPS)

On 21 November 2015, during ACCORD’s 2015 Africa Peace Award celebration, I made a call for the United Nations to convene the first ever UN Global Conference on Peace.

The call was made during the presentation of the Africa Peace Award to the African Union Commission (AUC), in recognition of its central role in contributing to peace and promoting development in Africa. The award was made at a gala dinner by the Chairperson of ACCORD, Madame Graca Machel, and received on behalf of the AUC by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AUC.

Over the past few months, our television screens and social media have again exposed us to the graphic nightmares currently plaguing humanity. Terrorism, violent uprisings, and devastating conflicts now afflict several parts of the world, with no corner of our planet immune to either these challenges or their consequences.

Conflicts throughout the world have multiplied in complexity and intensity. The previous paradigm of warfare, where two nations fight one another across borders, is no longer the norm. Today internal conflicts around a number of grievances dominate, and are complicated by the rapid expansion of amorphous groups of radicalised and militant individuals.

As evidenced by the current challenges in Syria and Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Yemen and Ukraine, the consequences of the violence are devastating and will scar these societies for generations to come. Our global community can no longer afford to pursue exclusively military-oriented responses, nor can states afford to remain indifferent to situations that are beyond their immediate concerns or borders. We need a new paradigm for peace.

With an exponentially growing population, unprecedented urbanisation often into unplanned cities, destabilising climate change, a shaky global financial system, growing unemployment, mass migration, and expanding wealth inequality, our planet is in a race against time to create a sustainable future and prevent these global challenges from accelerating and entrenching global instability.

As our work on climate change has shown, challenges such as these can trigger conflict and so even adaptation measures need to be conflict sensitive. While humanity is equipped with unprecedented technological advancements and incredible demographic opportunities to build a better future, we must channel the collective expertise of our global community to find sustainable and transformative pathways forward. The need for sustainable global peace is urgent and the stakes are rising as the challenges deepen. The choice of inaction could close the door on the future for which many strive. We must act quickly!

Collective political dialogue is the only true pathway to begin addressing inter-connected challenges in a sustainable and holistic manner. Over our 23-year history and through engagements with governments, armed groups, civil society, and regional, continental, and multi-lateral bodies, ACCORD has found this maxim to be true.

Our global systems for peace have grown more fragile and stressed just as our conflicts and challenges have evolved with ever increasing complexity. Our dialogue must focus on strategies to resolve current crises, prevent future deterioration, and ensure that peace and prosperity finally take root equitably and sustainably. Further, an urgent need exists to promote critical reflection, earnest debate and mutual solidarity amongst all people. We must underpin these efforts by shepherding a collective shift from an exclusive focus on ‘national interest’ to a collective focus on ‘global responsibility’. There are no easy answers, and no nation on its own has the solution for the challenges of today and more importantly the challenges of tomorrow.

Since its inception the United Nations has convened a number of World Conferences. However, to this day there has not been a UN-sponsored World Conference focused explicitly on peace. Bringing the entire community of humanity under one forum to deliberate earnestly has in the past contributed to tangible landmark global commitments from governments, the private sector and non-state actors alike. Our institutions and processes often limit discussion but a global conference creates a space where all are placed on an equal footing. Many of the current achievements on human rights, social development, climate change, and gender were built on the fresh foundations created by global conferences and dialogue. Such foundations create paradigm shifts, which then lead to practical outcomes.

It is our hope therefore that the Republic of South Africa, in collaboration with other African nations and under the auspices of the African Union, can propose to the UN General Assembly to host the first ever UN Global Conference on Peace in 2019 in Durban, on the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy.

In advance of such a UN Global Conference on Peace and to support a global debate on peace we intend to assemble a multi-disciplinary gathering of experts from around the world in 2017, two years prior to the UN gathering.

As we face our future together we remember that South Africa’s peaceful transition was the result of collective global action and the struggle and outcome gave inspiration and courage to many. Unanimous and collective opposition to apartheid, from Africa and beyond, were critical in supporting the emergence of a peaceful and democratic South Africa against expectations and great odds. We therefore call the entire world to join once more in a free and peaceful South Africa, in the same spirit of collective unity, to begin charting a way forward to deliver global peace.

Now is the time!

(End)

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UN Discovery of Secret Detention Centre Revives Nightmareshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/un-discovery-of-secret-detention-centre-reopens-all-nightmares/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-discovery-of-secret-detention-centre-reopens-all-nightmares http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/un-discovery-of-secret-detention-centre-reopens-all-nightmares/#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2015 10:26:31 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143308 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/un-discovery-of-secret-detention-centre-reopens-all-nightmares/feed/ 0 Another Himalayan Blunderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/another-himalayan-blunder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=another-himalayan-blunder http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/another-himalayan-blunder/#comments Thu, 17 Dec 2015 11:42:36 +0000 N Chandra Mohan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143381 By N Chandra Mohan
NEW DELHI, Dec 17 2015 (IPS)

South Asian integration remains a distant dream as some member countries like Nepal resent India’s big brotherly dominance in the region. They perceive that they have no stakes in India’s rise as an economic power. Ensuring unrestricted market access perhaps would have made a big difference in this regard. Their resentment has only deepened as this hasn’t happened. Instead they have registered growing trade deficits with India! The on-going travails of the Himalayan kingdom vis-a-vis India exemplify the problematic nature of integration in a region that accounts for 44 per cent of the world’s poor and one-fourth of its’ population.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

Nepal appealed to the UN to take “effective steps” to help remove an “economic blockade” imposed on it by India. According to SD Muni, Professor Emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, this situation is reminiscent of what happened in 1989 when King Birendra’s decision to import anti-aircraft guns from China and his refusal to reform the Panchayat system in the face of a democratic movement precipitated tensions in bilateral relations. India closed down the special entry points for trade and transit, resulting in a severe shortage of essential supplies. Twenty-six years later, Indian trucks have been stopped from entering Nepal.

This blockade similarly has resulted in a shortage of fuel, food and medicines in the Himalayan Kingdom. Supplies of vaccines and antibiotics in particular are believed to be critically low. UNICEF has warned that this will put more than three million infants at risk of death or disease as winter has set in. More than 200,000 families affected by earthquakes earlier in the year are still living in temporary shelters at higher altitudes. The risks of hypothermia, malnutrition and shortages of medicines will disproportionately affect children. As if all this weren’t bad enough, fuel shortages are resulting in illegal felling of forests.

Nepal’s non-inclusive constitution is the proximate cause of this development disaster-in-the-making. The blockade is being spearheaded by ethnic communities who make up 40 per cent of the population like the Madhesis and Tharus from the southern plains or the Terai These minorities have strong historic links with India and are protesting that the recently promulgated constitution marginalizes them. They have stopped goods from India entering the country by trucks since September. India of course formally denies that it has anything to do with the blockade but it is concerned that the constitution discriminates against these minorities.

As Nepal shares a 1,088 mile open border with it, India is concerned that the violent agitation over the constitution will spill over into its country. The bulk of the Himalayan Kingdom’s trade is with India, including a total dependence on fuel. It is also a beneficiary of special trading trade concessions and Indian aid. Nepali soldiers in the Indian army constitute one of its leading infantry formations — the Gurkha Regiment. Nepali nationals freely cross the border and work in India. Normally, such interdependence should occasion closer bilateral ties and integration. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened till now.

Nepal’s ballooning bilateral trade deficit is of course one factor behind the lingering resentment of India. Realizing this, India’s PM Narendra Modi assured South Asian leaders during a summit meeting in Kathmandu in November 2014 that this trade surplus was neither right nor sustainable. That India stood ready to reduce deficits which South Asian countries were incurring in exchange of their goods and services. This is as clear as it gets that India might roll out unilateral trade liberalization; take whatever they have to offer to boost trade within South Asia from the lowly five per cent level at present.

India’s compulsions to do so are simple. If the drift in South Asian integration is allowed to continue, it will only be to the advantage of China. The dragon’s shadow is indeed lengthening over the region, as it is rapidly developing port and transport infrastructure in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It has promised aid to Nepal to develop its northern border districts. Nepal has also opened more border trading points with China. That China has become Bangladesh’s largest trading partner is a painful reminder to India of its failure to deepen economic cooperation in the neighborhood. Clearly, the challenge for India is to defend its turf against China.

It is in Nepal’s interests, too, that it addresses the sources of discontent over the constitution through dialogue to ensure broad-based-ownership and acceptance. Its top leadership has also agreed to amend the constitution within three months. A more harmonious relationship with India, too, is in its interests. For instance, it has not been able to tap its abundant water resources by developing hydroelectricity generation. South Asia’s diverse topography lends itself to greater cross border power trade, but political inhibitions have ensured that progress has been less than the potential. Some power trading is taking place in the region bordering Bhutan and India.

Nepal has of late seized this opportunity but politics can swiftly derail this process. The signing of a much delayed $1.4 billion deal between the Investment Board of Nepal and India’s GMR Group to develop a 900 MW dam and tunnel system on the upper Karnali River is exactly the sort of big ticket project that can transform the economy of this Himalayan kingdom. Another Indian firm, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited signed a deal with the Nepal Government to build a 900 MW project known as Arun-3 in east Nepal. These are just two examples of India’s involvement to help Nepal realize its hydro power potential.

Nepal is also part of India’s efforts to secure greater connectivity by road, rail and sea within South Asia with Bangladesh and Bhutan. These countries have signed a motor vehicle agreement for freer movement of passenger, cargo and personnel traffic within these countries. These processes must be allowed to fructify. This is exactly the sort of stake that Nepal needs to develop in an economics and business-driven partnership with India. Allowing the processes of regional integration to drift is another Himalayan blunder that Nepal can do without.

(End)

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Analysis: Kurdish-Led Peace Conference Is Best Hope for Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/analysis-kurdish-led-peace-conference-is-best-hope-for-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-kurdish-led-peace-conference-is-best-hope-for-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/analysis-kurdish-led-peace-conference-is-best-hope-for-syria/#comments Wed, 16 Dec 2015 17:09:26 +0000 Joris Leverink http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143373

Joris Leverink is a writer and political analyst based in Istanbul. He is an editor for ROAR Magazine and a columnist for TeleSUR English, where he frequently reports on Turkish and regional politics.

By Joris Leverink
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Dec 16 2015 (IPS)

While the war in Syria continues to draw in more outside forces, the work towards finding a political solution to this five-year old conflict carries on. In the past week, no less than three separate conferences were organized by different clusters of opposition groups. Conferences were held in three places: Damascus, Dêrîk – a city in the Kurdish-controlled northern part of Syria – and Riyadh, the Saudi capital, respectively.

With the Damascus conference widely regarded as a sham, organized with the permission and under the firm control of the Assad regime, and the conference in Dêrîk being all-but ignored by the international media, the eyes of the world were fixed on the proceedings in Riyadh.

The conference in the Saudi capital was sponsored by a number of international allies to the various warring factions inside Syria. The intended outcome was to unite the Syrian opposition so that it could present a common front in upcoming negotiations with the regime, as determined by the Vienna talks held in November.

Remarkably, little attention was paid to the conference in Dêrîk – called the “Democratic Syria Congress” – organized by Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies. This conference brought together more than a hundred delegates representing religious and ethnic groups from all over Syria, with an important role reserved for women and youth organizations. It was the first peace conference of its kind organized in opposition-controlled territory inside Syria – a fact that goes a long way in pointing out the significance of this particular event. Contrary to the one in Riyadh, this was a conference by Syrians, and for Syrians, not controlled by the agendas of powerful international allies nor obstructed by the dogmatic views of some of its participants.

The Riyadh conference was attended by political bodies such as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change, as well as rebel factions like Jaysh al-Islam, the Southern Front and Ahrar al-Sham, a salafist group fighting in alliance with the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front.

Tellingly, the New York Times reported that in the final statement of the Riyadh conference the word “democracy” was left out because of objections by Islamist delegates, and replaced with “democratic mechanism” instead.

In contrast, the final resolution presented at the Democratic Syria Congress in Dêrîk underlined the delegates’ commitment to democracy, social pluralism, and national unity. It confirmed the participants’ determination “to form a democratic constitution to enable solutions to the Syrian crisis through democratic, peaceful discussion, dialogue and talks; … to hold free and democratic elections required by the current process in Syria; [and] to secure the faith, culture and identities of all Syrian people.”

The Dêrîk conference also saw the establishment of the Democratic Syrian Assembly, which will serve as the political representation of the newly formed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a Kurdish-dominated coalition of rebel factions, including Arab, Syriac, Turkmen and Yezidi forces. In recent months, the SDF has proved to be ISIS’ most formidable enemy, and the international coalition’s most reliable ally in the fight against the terrorist organization.

It might come as a surprise, then, that neither the SDF nor any other Kurdish organizations were invited to the Riyadh conference. As a faction that controls an area many times the size of that under control of the National Coalition – or any other rebel group for that matter – and which has been able to claim a string of victories against ISIS, it naturally ought to play a role in any post-Assad, post-ISIS future plan for Syria.

The Kurds’ absence in Riyadh has everything to do with Turkey’s position in the Syrian conflict. From the Turkish perspective, the Kurds in Syria pose a bigger threat to its national security than ISIS.

Turkey fears that the establishment of the autonomous regions, or “cantons,” in the Kurdish parts of northern Syria might inspire its domestic Kurdish population to pursue a similar goal. The fact that the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the most powerful political body in the region, is a sister organization to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a 35-year insurgency against the Turkish state, only adds insult to injury.

Commenting on the Riyadh conference, PYD co-chair Saleh Moslem stated that “it doesn’t pay regard to the current political and military reality in Syria and the region, as the most active and dynamic actors and representatives of the actual Syrian opposition haven’t been invited. In the circumstances, such meetings will have no seriousness.”

Before it even started, the precarious alliance formed in Riyadh was already on the verge of collapse. Ahrar al-Sham threatened to pull out of the talks, condemning the presence of “pro-Assad forces” and deeming the final statement “not Islamic enough.”

The goal to bring all the different opposition factions to the table, to explore common ground and to form a united front against the Assad regime is a noble one. Unfortunately it is doomed to fail when the alliance neglects to reflect the reality on the ground as well as the will of the Syrian people.

When it is merely the outcome of external parties pushing their agendas for personal benefits – whether it is to strengthen the position of local allies on the ground, to obstruct the efforts of the Kurdish autonomous administration or to explore options for negotiations with Assad in order to be able to focus all energy on destroying ISIS – any alliance will be too weak to withstand the test of time, let alone the test of war.

In this regard, despite the lack of international attention, the conference in Dêrîk might actually supersede the one in Riyadh in terms of importance. Despite the increasing involvement of outside forces, diplomatically, politically and, most important, militarily, any real solution to the crisis in Syria must be initiated by the Syrian people, not any outside power.

The Democratic Syria Congress in Dêrîk has shown that there is not only a will to work towards peace, but that there is also an infrastructure in place, a platform, where the first, cautious steps towards a peaceful future and an “alternative democratic system aiming at change” have been made.

(End)

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New Poll Highlights Need for Reform in the Middle Easthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/new-poll-highlights-need-for-reform-in-the-middle-east/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-poll-highlights-need-for-reform-in-the-middle-east http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/new-poll-highlights-need-for-reform-in-the-middle-east/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2015 17:23:22 +0000 Derek Davison http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143335 Queuing up to vote in Cairo. Credit: Khaled Moussa al-Omrani/IPS.

Queuing up to vote in Cairo. Credit: Khaled Moussa al-Omrani/IPS.

By Derek Davison
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 2015 (IPS)

A new public opinion survey undertaken in six Arab countries, Iran, and Turkey finds that people are more likely to blame “corrupt, repressive, and unrepresentative governments” and “religious figures and groups promoting extremist ideas and/or incorrect religious interpretations” for the rise of violent groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State than they are to blame “anger at the United States.”

These findings are the result of a series of face-to-face polls conducted by Zogby Research Services on a commission from the Sir Bani Yas Forum in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and released at a Middle East Institute-sponsored event on Wednesday. In September, ZRS interviewed a total of 7,400 adults across eight countries—Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE—on a broad range of topics, including the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen; the Israel-Palestine situation; the Iranian nuclear deal; and the threat of religious extremism. Respondents in Iran and Iraq were also asked a separate series of questions about internal affairs in those countries.

the two most commonly cited factors in the development of religious extremism were “corrupt governments” and “extremist and/or incorrect religious ideas"
With respect to Israel-Palestine, the poll found that people in five of the six surveyed Arab nations are less likely to support a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal now than they were back in 2009, when Zogby International’s “Six-Nation Arab Opinion Poll” asked a similar question of respondents in those five countries. In Egypt, which has seen the sharpest decline in support for a peace deal, almost two-thirds of respondents said that they would oppose a peace deal “even if the Israelis agree to return all of the territories and agree to resolve the refugee issue,” compared with only 8% who answered similarly in the 2009 survey. This represents a potential risk for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has worked to improve Egyptian-Israeli relations despite the apparent feelings of most of the Egyptian public. Similar, albeit smaller, shifts were seen in Jordan (where 24% oppose a deal today, compared with 13% in 2009), Lebanon (30% vs. 18%), Saudi Arabia (36% vs. 18%), and the UAE (19% vs. 8%). Iraq was not part of the 2009 survey, but 59% of respondents in this survey said that they would also oppose a comprehensive peace deal with Israel.

On Iran and the P5+1 nuclear deal, the poll reveals several divergences in terms of the way Arabs and Iranians approach the deal’s terms. Majorities in Egypt (63%), Jordan (53%), Saudi Arabia (62%), and the UAE (91%) said that the deal would be “only good for Iran, but bad for the Arab states,” and that they were “not confident” that the deal will keep Iran from developing a “nuclear weapons program.” Large majorities in Egypt (90%) and Saudi Arabia (66%) predicted that any additional revenue that Iran sees as a result of sanctions relief would primarily go to “support its military and political interference in regional affairs.”

Inside Iran, on the other hand, 80% of respondents said that they “supported” the deal, but 68% agreed that it was a “bad idea” for the Iranian government to accept limits on its nuclear program—or, as ZRS managing director John Zogby put it at the poll’s roll-out event, “they’re for the deal, but they don’t like it.” On the question of whether Iran should have nuclear weapons, roughly 68% of Iranians said that it should, either because Iran “is a major nation” or because “as long as other countries have nuclear weapons, we need them also.” However, the percentage of Iranians saying that their country should have nuclear weapons “because it is a major nation” declined from 49% in 2014 to only 20% this year, and the percentage of Iranians who said that “nuclear weapons are always wrong and so no country, including my own, should have them” rose from 14% last year to 32% this year.

Meanwhile, in contrast with Arab fears about Iranian expansionism, Iranians themselves seem to be growing increasingly isolationist. Just 19% of Iranian respondents agreed with the statement “my country should be the dominant player in the Gulf region,” while a plurality, 44%, agreed with the statement “my country should not be involved in the Gulf region; it should focus on internal matters.” And whereas majorities of Iranians agreed that Iran should be involved in Syria (73%), Lebanon (72%), Iraq (64%), and Bahrain (57%), those numbers each declined sharply (by 10% or more) from last year, and a majority of Iranians (57%) now oppose Iran’s involvement in Yemen (which had 62% support last year). For Iranians, “the first priority is always economic, followed by greater political freedom,” the Atlantic Council’s Barbara Slavin pointed out, “there is not and has never been a huge enthusiasm for intervention in what Iranians call ‘Arab causes.’”

Still, it was in the area of extremism and its causes where the poll generated its most interesting findings. When asked to rate eight factors on a 1-5 scale (where 1 means “very important factor”) in terms of their importance as a driver of religious extremism, respondents in all eight countries gave “anger at the U.S.” the fewest number of ones and twos, although that factor was still rated as important by a majority of respondents in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkey. Zogby argued that this was a sign that Barack Obama’s attempt to leave a “softer U.S. footprint in the region pays off.” However, when asked whether the United States is playing a positive or negative role in combating extremist sectarian violence, large majorities in each country said that the U.S. was playing a negative role.

Instead, the two most commonly cited factors in the development of religious extremism were “corrupt governments” and “extremist and/or incorrect religious ideas.” Other commonly cited factors, like “lack of education,” “poverty,” and “youth alienation” also speak to a consistent sense that extremism is an internal problem stemming from poor governance. Majorities in each of the eight countries except Iran agreed that “countering the messages and ideas promoted by recruiters for extremist groups” and “changing the political and social realities that cause young people to be attracted to extremist ideals” were “most important” in terms of defeating violent extremist groups like the Islamic State. Within Iraq, majorities from all three of the country’s major ethno-religious groups (Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, and Kurds) agreed that “forming a more inclusive, representative government” is the best way to resolve the conflict there, but even larger majorities from each group said that they were “not confident” that such a government will be formed within the next five years.

As with any public opinion poll, these results must be considered with the caveat that respondents may have different ideas about the concepts in question. One respondent in one country may define “corrupt government” or “extreme religious ideas” much differently than another respondent in another country. Theoretical public support for a “Joint Arab Force,” which the poll showed was consistent across all six Arab countries surveyed, could break down very quickly if such a force were really to be formed and then deployed in an actual conflict zone. Middle East Institute scholar Hassan Mneimneh noted that “even when elements seem to align, we’re not necessarily in alignment.”

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

 

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Sri Lanka: A Ray of Hope for those Looking for War Missinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/sri-lanka-a-ray-of-hope-for-those-looking-for-war-missing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lanka-a-ray-of-hope-for-those-looking-for-war-missing http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/sri-lanka-a-ray-of-hope-for-those-looking-for-war-missing/#comments Thu, 29 Oct 2015 17:44:21 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142836 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/sri-lanka-a-ray-of-hope-for-those-looking-for-war-missing/feed/ 2 Opinion: The Nuclear Deal’s Impact on Iranian Domestic and Foreign Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-the-nuclear-deals-impact-on-iranian-domestic-and-foreign-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-nuclear-deals-impact-on-iranian-domestic-and-foreign-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-the-nuclear-deals-impact-on-iranian-domestic-and-foreign-policy/#comments Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:08:02 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142735

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the final of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Oct 19 2015 (IPS)

As in most countries, in Iran too there are hardliners and moderates. All polls show that a large majority of Iranians support the nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany), while a small but powerful group of hardliners opposes it. The Iranian parliament has finally approved the deal, but after a great deal of controversy and with some reservations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Despite the fact that in the 2013 presidential election, in which 72 per cent of eligible voters participated, more than half of the electorate voted for Hassan Rouhani, a centrist and moderate cleric, hardliners have a tight grip over practically all other branches of power in Iran.

Hardliners control the judiciary, and have a majority in the current Majles or Iranian Parliament. They control the Assembly of Experts that has the power to elect the Supreme Leader’s successor, the Guardian Council that acts as a second chamber, the National Broadcasting Organization that has a virtual monopoly of all radio and television broadcasting, and many other organizations.

However, with President Rouhani’s election, the dominance of hardliners over the executive branch came to an end, and elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts are due on 26 February 2016, and they could alter the internal balance of power. The nuclear agreement has begun to swing public support back to the reformists.

After the initial revolutionary upheaval that isolated Iran from most of the world, and after 36 years of estrangement from the West, this landmark agreement has ushered in a new era of relations between Iran and the West. While most analysts in the West are primarily concerned about its effect on Iran’s foreign relations, for most Iranians its significance lies in what it can do to improve the economic and political situation at home.

The fact of the matter is that Iran has made many concessions, but its nuclear program has received the seal of approval from the Security Council and the West. Even above and beyond the nuclear issue, the JCPOA has opened the prospect of the reintegration of Iran into the global economy and of it playing a much more prominent role in world affairs.

This is precisely what the hardliners fear, because they are worried that Iran’s revolutionary values would be undermined and that Western values would weaken Islamic sentiments. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards chief warned of “nuclear sedition,” aimed at derailing the Islamic Republic from its revolutionary path.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned against “infiltration” attempts by the West and has banned further negotiations with Washington.

The main question is whether Iran still wishes to remain in the past and retain its revolutionary zeal, or whether she feels confident enough to look forward and embrace change. It is quite clear that the majority of Iranians have shown that they are in favor of change and coexistence with the rest of the world, while also retaining their distinct religious and cultural values.

Most Iranians are strongly opposed to regime change in the way that has happened in a number of neighboring countries. They are in favor of evolution and reform, rather than revolution and violence. Nevertheless, they have a number of legitimate demands that cannot be suppressed by force.

President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to expand political and social freedoms for all Iranians, including freedom of expression. Although some restrictions have been eased, the pace of change has been far too slow. Iran still has one of the largest numbers of executions per capita in the world, and one of the highest numbers of political prisoners. Iranian women still do not enjoy equality with men.

It is true that the government does not have much control over the judiciary or security organizations, but it cannot use this excuse to shirk its responsibilities towards the Iranian people. It must understand that the maintenance of the status quo is not an option. If change is not to be imposed through violence or from outside, the government with the support of the majority of the population must bring about meaningful change.

The JCPOA has opened new horizons for Iran. In the foreign policy field, it has lifted the shadow of war and has made Tehran the diplomatic and economic capital of the Middle East. Now, it is time for Iranian leaders to begin a new chapter of relations with the world. As Ambassador John Limbert, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former US hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, has said: “Both sides, after 34 years, have made a very startling discovery, that diplomacy ­ long-neglected tools of listening, of seeking small areas of agreement, of careful choice of words ­ can actually accomplish more than shouting insults, making threats and the wonderful self-satisfaction of always being right.”

The same principle also applies to the domestic situation. Iranian leaders will be surprised to see how much small areas of agreement and small but steady steps towards greater freedoms and democracy can accomplish in putting an end to the alienation between the people and the government, and allow Iran to find its rightful place in the world, and avoid the chaos rampant in many neighboring countries. It is time to use this great opportunity to move forward both at home and abroad, confident in the common sense and patriotism of Iranian people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Only 1325 National Plans will trigger the Resolutions Implementationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/only-1325-national-plans-will-trigger-the-resolutions-implementation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=only-1325-national-plans-will-trigger-the-resolutions-implementation http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/only-1325-national-plans-will-trigger-the-resolutions-implementation/#comments Wed, 14 Oct 2015 16:29:35 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142692 By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 14 2015 (IPS)

This week, the United Nations Security Council is holding an open debate to undertake its High Level Review of the 15 years of implementation of the landmark Resolution 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security.”

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Resolution 1325 is very close to my intellectual existence and my very small contribution to a better world for each one of us. To trace back, 15 years ago, on the International Women’s Day in 2000, as the President of the Security Council, following extensive stonewalling, I was able to issue an agreed statement that formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued contribution women have always been making towards the prevention of wars and building peace.

The Council recognized in that statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women in all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 was sown. Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they have the broader and long-term interest of society in mind.

In choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee’s citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.” The committee further asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” Resolution 1325 is the only UN resolution so specifically noted in the citation of the Nobel Prize.

Thanks to 1325, the Security Council is gradually accepting that a lasting peace cannot be achieved without the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives and participation in peace processes. The Council has also met with women’s groups and representatives of NGOs during its field missions on a fairly regular basis.

Much, nevertheless, remains to be done. We continue to find reports that women are still very often ignored or excluded from formal processes of negotiations and elections and in the drafting of the new constitution or legislature frameworks. The driving force behind 1325 is “participation.”I believe the Security Council has been neglecting this core focus of the resolution. There is no full and equal participation of women at any level. There is no consideration of women’s needs in the deliberations.

The main question is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making and as peacekeepers to ensure real and faithful implementation of 1325.

Gender perspectives must be fully integrated into the terms of reference of peace operations related Security Council resolutions, reports and missions. A no-tolerance, no-impunity approach is a must in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. As a matter of fact, I would recommend that all prospective peace-keepers must pass the “1325 test” before they leave their countries and there should be no relaxation with regard to this qualifier. Troop contributing countries should be aware that repeated violations by their contingents would put them on a global blacklist.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.” It is a reality that politics, more so security, is still a man’s world. Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts. Here I would add emphatically that, to be true to its own pronouncements, I believe it is absolutely high time that in its seven decades of existence, the United Nations should appoint the first woman as the next Secretary-General.

After 15 years of the adoption the UNSCR 1325, our sole focus should be on its true and effective implementation. In real terms, the National Action Plan (NAP) is the engine that would speed up the implementation of Resolution 1325. It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not. So far, only 50 out of 193 UN Member-States have prepared their plans after 15 years – a dismal record. There has to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs – for example, setting a target of 100 NAPs by 2017. UN Women needs to work more proactively with the Member States so that their 1325 NAPs are commenced and completed without any further delay.

Anniversaries are meaningful when they trigger renewed enthusiasm amongst all. Coming months will tell whether 1325’s 15th anniversary has been worthwhile and able to create that energy.

(End)

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Iran’s nuclear deal and the regional countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/irans-nuclear-deal-and-the-regional-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=irans-nuclear-deal-and-the-regional-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/irans-nuclear-deal-and-the-regional-countries/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:50:55 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142526

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the ninth of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 29 2015 (IPS)

Although some regional countries initially opposed the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany), once the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by the two sides in July 2015, practically all regional countries welcomed it. After the initial agreement in Lausanne, U.S. President Barack Obama invited all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders to a Camp David summit in May and all of them expressed support for the deal.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the nuclear agreement was announced, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait both congratulated Iran and the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi hailed the deal as a historic event which constituted the first step to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. He called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to get rid of her nuclear weapons. As the head of the Arab League he speaks officially for all the Arab countries.

After the meeting between Obama and the Saudi King Salman at the White House on September 4th, the two sides issued a joint statement. In the statement King Salman expressed his support for the JCPOA “which once fully implemented will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and thereby enhance security in the region.”

For his part, Obama has indicated that the region needs a new approach toward regional security. He said the Sunni Arab states shouldn’t blame Iran for all their problems, and he called on them to engage Iran in a “practical conversation” to reduce sectarian divisions and address shared threats from terrorism.

At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has talked about the possibilities for cooperation with Iran’s neighbors on common challenges in a spirit of “mutual respect, good neighborliness, and Islamic brotherhood.”

Turkey, which has worked closely with Iran over many years to resolve the nuclear issue (in May 2010, Turkey and Brazil tried to broker a deal between Iran and the West), is also fully supportive of this agreement. This leaves Israel as the only regional country that still opposes the deal.

With the very sensitive nuclear issue taken off the table, it is much easier now to deal with a number of critical regional issues. If the U.S. focuses exclusively on the agreement and does not test opportunities for collaboration with Iran on other issues, it may miss a historic opportunity to reshape relations with the Islamic Republic, as well as to usher in a new political and security order in the Middle East as a whole.

Iran of course poses a number of challenges to U.S. interests in the region, and in many arenas American and Iranian interests seem to be fundamentally at odds. Chief among these disagreements are Iran’s policies towards Israel, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Dubbed the “axis of resistance,” the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hamas-Hezbollah grouping was supposed to highlight Iran’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. Iran is accused of supporting the Shi’a militias in Iraq to the detriment of the Sunni minority. Iran supports and arms the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and is also accused of supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

However, as the result of changed circumstances in the region none of these problems is insurmountable. As far as Hamas is concerned, after the civil war in Syria and the expulsion of Palestinians from that country, Hamas turned initially towards Turkey and towards the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Since the coup in Egypt, Hamas has turned more towards Qatar and has even mended relations with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, hardly any links exist at the moment between Hamas and Iran.

Hezbollah forces are fighting in Syria to support Assad’s government against ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups. This is a cause that the West shares. With the flood of refugees towards Europe, many European leaders have realized that no matter how much they loathe Assad, he is preferable to the terrorists that pose a deadly threat to the region and even to the West.

In a joint press conference in London, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that although Assad had to go, nevertheless, it might be necessary to talk to him as part of a deal over a transitional period. Neither Iran nor Russia has said that Assad should rule Syria forever, but they argue that first the terrorists should be defeated, and then Assad’s fate should be decided by the Syrian people in a supervised election.

As far as Yemen is concerned, U.S. officials have admitted that Iran does not play any direct role in that conflict. In an interview with The New York Times in July, Obama said that Tehran had even tried to dissuade the Houthis from capturing Sana’a back in 2014. According to a report released on September 19 by Yemen’s Civil Coalition, over 6,000 Yemenis have so far lost their lives, and a total of 14,000 people have been injured, most of them civilians. The latest deadly stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, killing at least 717 and injuring over 800 with a few hundred people still missing, has added to Saudi woes. The combination of these tragedies, as well as growing domestic discontent, might persuade the Saudi rulers to turn towards diplomacy and regional cooperation.

Turkey has recently softened her position towards Assad, and by placing its airports at the disposal of U.S. aircraft fighting ISIS, Turkey has shown that it takes the terrorist threat seriously. Recently, there have been some moves by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to form a security belt, including Russia, Iran, Egypt and Syria against ISIS. The response from the U.S. to Putin’s proposal has not been hostile. In the wake of their meetings in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. and Russian presidents might reach an agreement over how to jointly tackle the menace of terrorism.

During his recent visit to New York to take part in the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that ties with the U.S. had improved, but there was still a “long road to travel” before they could normalize their relations. Nevertheless, what we are seeing on the ground looks quite different. If the new rapprochement between Iran and the West is not to fizzle out, there is a need to broaden the scope of cooperation over regional issues.

Recent developments have shown that there is an increasing possibility for new geopolitical alignments throughout the region. The growing menace of terrorism, Iran and the U.S.’s tacit cooperation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia’s growing problems in Yemen, Turkey’s shift to greater cooperation with the U.S, and now Russia’s greater involvement in the fight against ISIS show that all these countries have some shared interests in fighting terrorism, and establishing security and stability in the region through cooperation.

The status quo in the Middle East cannot survive much longer. The winds of change are blowing throughout the entire region, and there is a possibility of new beginnings. This opportunity should not be missed.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Israel’s Opposition to the Nuclear Treaty with Iranhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/israels-opposition-to-the-nuclear-treaty-with-iran/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=israels-opposition-to-the-nuclear-treaty-with-iran http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/israels-opposition-to-the-nuclear-treaty-with-iran/#comments Sat, 26 Sep 2015 21:12:45 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142503

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the eighth of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 26 2015 (IPS)

Relations between Iran and Israel go back almost to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, following Turkey, and the two countries had very close diplomatic and even military cooperation for many decades.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the 1953 coup, which restored the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to power, relations improved further, and Israel and the CIA played a significant role in establishing the dreaded SAVAK, Iran’s intelligence organization, and training its personnel. Also, after the Six-Day War in 1967, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs.

However, after the 1979 revolution, Iran severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel. The Islamic government does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but despite hostile revolutionary rhetoric against Israel, relations between the two countries have not always been too acrimonious. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq war, in order to prevent Saddam Hussein’s victory, Israel joined the mission to Iran under U.S. President Ronald Reagan and even provided Iran with some weapons in what later on came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Iranian funding of groups like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which Israel regards as terrorist organizations, and Israeli support for terrorist groups such as the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, the Jundullah, a militant terrorist organization based in Baluchestan that has carried out a number of deadly attacks against Iran, as well as Israeli covert operations in Iran, including assassinations and explosions, have intensified animosity between the two countries and have led to a number of tit-for-tat attacks on each other’s citizens.

The turning point from cold peace toward hostility occurred in the early 1990s, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Iraq in Desert Storm. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel was regarded as a U.S. bulwark against pro-Soviet Arab governments.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel could no longer continue to play that role. The removal of Saddam Hussein also removed a formidable enemy. Therefore, Israel directed all its attacks against a new enemy, namely Iran.

So, it is not a mere coincidence that Israel’s intense opposition to Iran’s nuclear program coincided with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the removal of the threat from Iraq. Although Iran’s nuclear program had developed under the late Shah with active Israeli, South African and U.S. participation, after the revolution, when Iran tried to revive her program, Israel became its most vociferous opponent. Under the Iranian reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami there were some moves for a rapprochement with the West, including the recognition of Israel, but the George W. Bush Administration rebuffed those offers.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been continuously warning that Iran is on the verge of manufacturing a nuclear weapon and posing an “existential threat” to Israel. As early as 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years. In 1993, he claimed that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.This has been his constant refrain ever since the early 1990s and right up to the present time.

The interesting point is that the current and some former heads of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad have contradicted Netanyahu’s claims. They maintain that there has been no indication that Iran is moving towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons or poses an existential threat to Israel.

It is important to remember that Netanyahu has not only tried to incite war against Iran, he even made the same false claims prior to the Iraq war in 2003.

Therefore, the propaganda against the Iraqi and Iranian alleged nuclear weapons have had less to do with the existence of such weapons and more to do with the perception that those two countries were hostile to Israel and had to be attacked in order to bring about a regime change.

It should be stressed that Netanyahu’s views in no way represent the views of the majority of American Jews who are on the whole liberal and peace loving. Indeed, poll after poll has shown that the support for the nuclear deal with Iran is stronger among American Jews than among the population at large.

Netanyahu’s attempts to kill the deal with Iran have been futile and counterproductive. His intrusion into American domestic politics, and his cynical use of the U.S. Congress to undercut a major foreign policy achievement, have been acts of gross discourtesy to the president and to the American people, and a violation of diplomatic protocol.

The real reason for Israeli opposition to Iran’s nuclear program has been the fear of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the U.S. administration as far as the Middle East is concerned. Iran’s alleged nuclear bomb also been used as an excuse to divert attention from Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and illegal expansion into occupied Palestinian territories.

Instead of continuing with this campaign of vilification and inciting a military attack on Iran, it would be wiser for Israel to try to reach a settlement with the Palestinians and pave the way for peaceful coexistence with regional countries, including Iran. The emergence of terrorist organizations that pose a serious threat to the entire world should bring Iran and Israel closer to fight that dangerous menace. The two countries should tone down their ugly rhetoric and violent activities against each other, and realize that dialogue and compromise always produce better results than war and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, it is time to focus on Israel’s nuclear weapons and establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Iran’s commitments under the Nuclear Treaty are just short of total surrenderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/irans-commitments-under-the-nuclear-treaty-are-just-short-of-total-surrender/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=irans-commitments-under-the-nuclear-treaty-are-just-short-of-total-surrender http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/irans-commitments-under-the-nuclear-treaty-are-just-short-of-total-surrender/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:12:24 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142495 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 25 2015 (IPS)

Speaking about the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached between Iran, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States­ plus Germany) and the European Union, Joseph Cirincione, a leading nuclear expert and president of Ploughshares Fund, said:

“We have just achieved what may be the biggest diplomatic triumph in a generation. We have reached an agreement that not only stops Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but it prevents a new war in the Middle East. It has profound implications for the security of America, for the security of Israel, for the security of the world. It sets a new gold standard for nuclear agreements. Every state that wants even a token enrichment capability now will have to agree to the same intrusive verification measures Iran has just agreed to…”

Contrary to the extensive propaganda about it being good for Iran and bad for the United States, the deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has achieved something that no one thought was possible. Speaking at the American University shortly after the agreement was signed, President Barack Obama said:

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.”

After 13 years of intensive talks and a fast-developing nuclear enrichment program, Iran has agreed to the most intrusive, restrictive and comprehensive set of demands to which any member state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has ever been subjected. In reality, as some Iranian commentators have argued, Iran has relinquished most of her rights as an NPT member, short of total surrender.

In order to understand the magnitude of what Iran has given up and what she is required to do in return for the lifting of the sanctions, one has to look at some of the main provisions of the JCPOA. All the following actions must be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as complete before the implementation day, which comes 90 days after the unanimous approval on 20 July of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA, assuming that Iran provides the IAEA with the required information.

The Security Council requested that the IAEA undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s compliance, and it reaffirmed that Iran should cooperate fully with the agency to resolve all outstanding issues. Upon receipt of a positive report from the IAEA, the Council would terminate the sanctions set out in resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2015.

Iran must disassemble, remove and store under IAEA seal more than 13,000 excess centrifuges, including excess advanced centrifuge machines.

Out of more than 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6[DSJ1] , and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, Iran must reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to no more than 300 kg.

Iran had built its Fordow uranium enrichment facility deep in the mountains in order to have a more secure site for enrichment in case Israel or America bombed its main facility at Natanz. However, according to the agreement, Iran must convert the Fordow site to a research & development facility with no fissile material.

Iran had built a heavy water plant in Arak to have a different route to nuclear fuel, but she must remove and disable the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor.

Although Iran had not officially signed the Additional Protocol, an expanded set of requirements for information and access adopted in 1997 to assist the IAEA in its verification work, she must allow and make the necessary arrangements for additional IAEA access and monitoring in keeping with its requirements.

Key restrictions that will last significantly more than a decade include:

Iran may retain no more than 5,060 of the 19,000 centrifuges that Iran had installed.

She is not allowed to install more advanced centrifuges than she has already developed, and is allowed to carry out only limited research & development on advanced centrifuges for the next 15 years.

She is allowed only limited development of advanced centrifuges so that enrichment capacity remains the same.

Testing of centrifuges with uranium may carried out only at Natanz.

IAEA access to the site must be provided within 24 hours.

No new heavy-water reactors, no reprocessing or R & D allowed.

Iran makes a commitment not to process spent fuel.

There will be continuous surveillance of centrifuge production areas.

There will even be continuous surveillance of uranium mines and mills. Thus, the IAEA will have access to all Iranian activities from the mining of uranium to the construction of mills and centrifuges.

Even after all those initial restrictions, the NPT will remain in force banning the pursuit of nuclear weapons. This restriction has no time limit and will remain in force for as long as Iran remains a member of the NPT. Leaving the NPT would of course constitute a grave violation of the rules, and strong action would be taken against Iran.

In order to sabotage the talks, some critics of the nuclear deal, supported by fabricated documents, had raised the issue of Iran’s alleged military experimentations (the so-called previous military dimension, or PMD). Nevertheless, Iran must provide the IAEA with all the information necessary to complete its PMD investigation by October 15.

Another excuse that the opponents of the deal have used to undermine it was the issue of “the breakout period.” There is no provision in the NPT for any such limitation. The member states will be able to have any amount of enrichment to any level of purity, so long as they do not manufacture a nuclear weapon. However, an exception is made in the case of Iran regarding how long it would take her to have enough enriched uranium sufficient for a single bomb.

This is despite the fact that Iran does not possess any reprocessing facilities and that even if she enriches uranium to the more than 90 percent purity needed for a bomb, she still has to weaponise[DSJ2] it, test it and find the necessary means of delivery, none of which Iran possesses at the moment and which would be easily detected by the IAEA. Nevertheless, the agreement has required that Iran should have a breakout period of at least one year.

In addition to all the nuclear-related restrictions, the Security Council still prohibits Iran from importing or exporting weapons for five years and missile parts for eight years. In other words, the fuss was not only about Iran’s nuclear program, but her military capabilities as well.

As the result of this agreement, the P5+1 have re-written the rules and have gone completely beyond the requirements of the NPT and even the Additional Protocol. Nevertheless, all Republican and some Democratic senators in the U.S. still oppose it and are trying to legislate amendments that would undermine its implementation, despite the fact that this international agreement has been endorsed by more than 100 U.S. former ambassadors, 60 former top national leaders, 75 nuclear non-proliferation experts and another 29 top U.S. nuclear scientists, as well as by all the other five leading countries of the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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U.N.’s 8.3 Billion Dollar Peacekeeping Operations Under Scrutinyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/u-n-s-8-3-billion-dollar-peacekeeping-operations-under-scrutiny/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-s-8-3-billion-dollar-peacekeeping-operations-under-scrutiny http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/u-n-s-8-3-billion-dollar-peacekeeping-operations-under-scrutiny/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2015 23:30:29 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142408 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 17 2015 (IPS)

As the United Nations commemorates its 70th anniversary, the world body is re-assessing and re-evaluating its 16 peacekeeping missions costing a staggering 8.3 billion dollars in 2015-2016 – even as military conflicts and domestic insurgencies continue to spread, mostly in Africa, including the Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But with peacekeepers increasingly caught in crossfires, is the United Nations planning to gradually abandon its objective of keeping the peace and instead transform its peacekeepers into a fighting force?

The United Nations says it’s not true — but civil society organisations are sceptical.

Mel Duncan, founding Director of Advocacy & Outreach Nonviolent Peaceforce, told IPS the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) headed by Jose Ramos Horta, a former president of Timor Leste, strongly recommended in June the need for unarmed strategies to civilian protection in conflict zones.

But Duncan pointed out that when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon forwarded his report to the General Assembly and Security Council, the recommendations for unarmed approaches were deleted.

“Instead the emphasis is on armed approaches,” he noted.

He said a change in the overall culture of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is required for substantive reform.

This cultural shift, he noted, must be initiated from the top down. Increased accountability like naming and shaming and suspending payments are good steps but more fundamental changes are required.

“Our experience is that U.N. peacekeeping sites are often highly sexually charged. Military environments depend on the threat and use of violent force and domination. And U.N. peacekeepers are less than four percent women.”

He also pointed out that unarmed civilian protection (UCP) is based upon nonviolence and relationship building. UCP groups are over 40 percent women in the field.

Asked for an official response, U.N. Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “My colleagues who worked on the report don’t share the premise about ‘deleted paragraphs’.”

It is simply the case that the secretary-general’s (SG) report was 28 pages long, while the Panel’s report was 104 pages, he said.

In the case of protection of civilians, this meant that the Panel’s report had 24 paragraphs on that topic and the SG’s report had to boil this down to five paragraphs.

On substance, he said, the SG’s report, includes the following:

— The first paragraph of the section is entirely focused on unarmed protection; it picks up on the HIPPO recommendation to work more closely with communities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

— The next para on the protection of civilians section moves on to the additional unarmed protection actors within the missions (role of civilian components within missions), emphasising the importance of political advocacy and adding that this is a “mission-wide” task, he explained.

James Paul, a former longtime Executive Director of the Global Policy Forum told IPS each UN peace operation has its own Security Council mandate which specifies its purpose and something about what is called by the military “rules of engagement” – that is, when and how use of force comes into play.

Some people in these missions are non-military, including police and civilian experts, but the great majority are soldiers who these days are increasingly well-armed and prepared to use deadly force.

“The soldiers mostly do not speak the language of the country and they are not trained much in the task they have been given. They have difficult and dangerous work, for which they are ill-equipped,” he said.

The 8.3 billion dollar peacekeeping budget is in contrast to the U.N.’s 5.4 billion regular budget, both for the biennium 2015-2016.

Every one of the 193 member states is legally obliged to pay for peacekeeping operations based on a special scale of assessments on each country’s ability to pay.

The three largest contributors are the United States (which pays 28.4 percent of the peacekeeping budget), Japan (10.8 percent) and France 7.2 percent).

The United Nations points out that 8.3 billion is less than one half of one percent of the world’s military spending estimated at 1.7 trillion dollars in 2013.

The largest troop contributing countries are mostly from South Asia, including Bangladesh (9432 troops), Nepal (9346), India (7794) and Pakistan (7533).

According to U.N. figures, there are currently about 124,000 peacekeeping personnel serving in 16 U.N. missions, including 105,000 uniformed military and 13,000 police officers. The rest are civilian staff.

Paul said it would be interesting to know where the opposition to an unarmed peace force is coming from. Do the South Asians want to keep selling their soldiers to the UN? Does the P-5 (the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely the U.S.,UK, France, China and Russia) always prefer the violent “solution”?, he asked.

Does the DPKO prefer force because of the momentum of longstanding practice? And the military culture that is to be found throughout the department.

“The U.N. is marching down the road to war and it needs to turn back,” said Paul, who has monitored the United Nations for nearly 20 years as head of a New York based NGO.

“More effective use of force is not a solution that will work. Cholera, rape, destruction, failure to make peace, deployments lasting years. No reforms of this system will get us where we want to go,” he declared.

At his annual year-end press conference Wednesday, the secretary-general told reporters that today’s crises highlight the failures of long-established peace and security and development responses.

“My concern led me to establish a high-level panel, which reported to me earlier this year. Last Friday I issued my own assessment of the future of United Nations peace operations. My report sets out the actions I believe we must take to maximize our impact today while putting in place the foundations for more long-term transformation.”

Ban said he is calling for three key changes: (a) an urgent emphasis on conflict prevention and mediation; (b) steps to improve the speed and agility of U.N. peacekeeping and political missions; and (c) deeper partnerships with regional organisations, in particular the African Union.

“We do not have many opportunities to reform U.N. peace operations in such a comprehensive way. It is essential that we act urgently and collectively. I am moving ahead with what can be done under my own executive authority. Much depends on the General Assembly and the Security Council, and I urge Member States to give this effort their full support.”

He said the future of UN peace operations also depends on concerted action to rid U.N. peace operations of sexual exploitation and abuse.

“It is shameful when U.N. and other personnel sent to protect people compound the suffering and become part of the problem.”

Ban said he has set out a number of new measures, and doing everything within his authority to stamp out this “unacceptable behaviour.”

“I have stressed to all my special representatives the need for their vigilance and leadership. Member States must also do more to train their personnel and hold them accountable,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Nuke Test Ban Treaty Still in Limbo, U.N. Complainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/nuke-test-ban-treaty-still-in-limbo-u-n-complains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuke-test-ban-treaty-still-in-limbo-u-n-complains http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/nuke-test-ban-treaty-still-in-limbo-u-n-complains/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 22:53:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142391 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 16 2015 (IPS)

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1996, has still not come into force for one primary reason: eight key countries have either refused to sign or have held back their ratifications.

The three who have not signed – India, North Korea and Pakistan – and the five who have not ratified — the United States, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel – remain non-committal 19 years following the adoption of the treaty.

When the United Nations last week commemorated International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed once again to all remaining States – especially the eight holdovers — to sign and ratify the Treaty as “a critical step on the road to a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

Currently, there is a voluntary moratoria on testing imposed by many nuclear-armed States.

“But moratoria are no substitute for a CTBT in force. The three nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) are proof of this,” Ban said

The warning comes amidst reports Tuesday that North Korea has re-started its programme to produce nuclear weapons.

But chances of all eight countries coming on board in the not-too-distant future are remote, says John Hallam of the Human Survival Project (HSP) and People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND), a joint project between PND and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.

“I think it is most unlikely that the recalcitrant 8 states will sign and ratify by 2016,” Hallam told IPS.

They include the United States itself, which though has signed, he said, but the Republicans have made it very clear they will not ratify..

Hallam said this also includes both India and Pakistan who have made it clear they have no intention of either signing or ratifying – “least of all, India under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi (although the nuclear disarmament movement in India has over the years advocated signature and ratification of the CTBT for India).”

Finally, he said, it includes China and one or two others who say they will ratify as soon as the United States has done so.

At a high-level panel discussion last week to commemorate International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Ban said: “The goal of ending nuclear tests has been a leading concern throughout my diplomatic career. “

As Secretary-General, and depository of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, “I have made achieving a legal ban on nuclear testing a personal priority.”

He said he has been to Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the site of 456 tests, including some of the largest in history.

“I have met with victims of nuclear tests. I have witnessed the lasting societal, environmental and economic damage nuclear tests have caused.”

Since the first test in New Mexico 70 years ago, he pointed out, the world has endured over two thousand nuclear tests. Those tests devastated pristine environments and local populations around the world.

Many have never recovered from the legacies of nuclear testing – including poisoned groundwater, cancer, birth defects and radioactive fallout, he noted.

“The best way to honour the victims of past tests is to prevent any in the future,” he declared.

The CTBT is a legally-binding, verifiable means by which to constrain the quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear weapons.

Hallam told IPS over 1100 nuclear tests were carried out by the United States in Nevada, Alaska, the Marshall Islands, other parts of the Pacific, and in outer space.

Tests carried out in Nevada resulted in large-scale contamination of downwind inhabitants and large-scale morbidity.

He said the largest ever U.S. test was the 15Megaton Castle Bravo test, which contaminated the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon, bringing about an agonizing slow death from radiation sickness, and contaminating the Marshall Islands.

The largest nuclear test ever was carried out by the Soviets in the early ’60s in Novaya Zemlya, a large island above the arctic circle, and known as ‘Tsar Bomba’ (King of Bombs), he noted.

At 60 megatons, it vaporized the sacred hunting grounds of the Nenets people, sent fallout right around the world and caused the planet to ring like a bell with seismic shock for hours.

Hallam said the Soviets carried out around 800 nuclear tests, many of them at the Semipalatinsk test site, and causing widespread radioactive contamination with catastrophic effects on local populations.

In addition, nuclear tests have been carried out by the UK, (many of them in Maralinga and Emu Field, Australia), France (Algeria and the Pacific), China (Sinkiang), India (Pokhran, Rajasthan) Pakistan (Baluchistan), and the North Korean, French, Chinese, and British tests have all inflicted radiation-based disease and death on local populations and participants.

Nuclear testing is the backbone of nuclear arms-racing and proliferation. A resumption of nuclear testing, or the conducting of a new nuclear test by any country – including the DPRK – helps to inch the world toward an abyss into which we hope it will never go, Hallam said.

The best way to halt proliferation and nail down a ‘no nuclear testing’ norm is for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws nuclear testing, to come into force, he declared.

Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has launched an international Project, called ATOM (the acronym for Abolish Testing. Our Mission), a worldwide e-campaign, calling on world leaders to end nuclear tests, once and for all.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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