Guest blog by Ben Soffa
Other CND people at the NPT are blogging on the following sites:
Dave Webb and Sarah Cartin via Yorkshire CND
Alan Mackinnon at Scottish CND
Chris Wood at Ekklesia
A big opening day, with Ban Ki-moon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hillary Clinton all addressing delegates, along with other countries and blocs .
Many would doubtless like to tell the story of some sort of duel between Ahmadinejad and Clinton. But to reduce the NPT talks down to the demands made by a state with thousands of nuclear weapons on a state with zero nuclear weapons would be to let all other nations off the hook. Ahmadinejad provided plenty of material for those who want to cover his position as merely a string of denunciations of the West, but his repeated condemnation of the immorality nuclear weapons will no doubt receive less air-time. This position won’t hold much water with some, but should definitely be part of the mix when assessing Iranian intentions. Repeating the long-established line of Iran’s religious/political leadership Ahmadinejad told delegates “The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity, rather than a weapon of defence. The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride. Its possession is disgusting and shameful.”
Whilst former CND members have almost certainly addressed the NPT (on behalf of the UK and more positively, on behalf of South Africa – one of the few states to have disarmed itself) the speech by Cathy Ashton on behalf of the EU was probably the first by a former officer of CND. Her speech had its good points – pushing for those not in the NPT (Israel, India and Pakistan, also North Korea) to join as non-nuclear weapons states and support for treaties against testing (the CTBT ) and bomb materials (FMCT ). The most direct role that the EU could play – ridding its member states of US bombs hosted through NATO was referenced, but only to encourage the US and Russians to negotiate them away. Sadly, there was little new which the EU brought to the table.
Clinton did announce some positive actions: releasing official warhead numbers for the first time and support for several nuclear weapon-free zones. The US clearly has a much better story to tell at this review than at previous ones, but although Clinton told delegates “we come here with a much larger agenda [than discussing Iran]” that was the clear focus of much of her statement. She correctly noted that it was the Middle East which “may present the greatest threat of proliferation” and pledged to support practical measures to bring about a nuclear-free zone there. Given Israel’s decades of intransigence – not even admitting its possession of nuclear weapons, only serious US pressure could really change this situation. That seems doubtful, even though Israeli nuclear weapons are the spur for others in the region to seek their own.
The New START reductions are an excellent first step – but they are just that – a beginning. We need the US to be bringing forward further serious proposals to boost the disarmament pillar of the NPT. They weren’t contained within this statement, but hope they will be introduced into negotiations over the next few weeks here.