Syria, Iran & NRA vs ev­ery­body

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Carol Gi­a­como

It was al­ways wish­ful think­ing to ex­pect that all of the United Na tions’ 193 mem­ber states would ap­prove the treaty reg­u­lat­ing global trade in con­ven­tional weapons that was ne­go­ti­ated in New York this week. But the con­clu­sion reached on Thurs­day was stark: On one side, op­pos­ing the new pact, were three of the world’s pariah states – Syria, Iran and North Korea. On the other side, favour­ing the new pact, was … ev­ery­body else.

The con­trast among in­ter­est groups, not vot­ing, but in­flu­enc­ing the process from the wings, was equally stark. Those ad­vo­cat­ing for the treaty in­cluded Ox­fam, the in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion; the Washington-based Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion, which pro­motes nonpro­lif­er­a­tion; and re­li­gious groups such as the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Evan­gel­i­cals, the Na­tional Coun­cil of Churches and the Vat­i­can.

The op­po­si­tion in­cluded the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion and the Na­tional Gun Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. As usual they ginned up dark vi­sions of how any lim­its on con­ven­tional arms sales would de­priveAmer­i­cans of their weapons, which is to­tally false: The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion bent over back­wards to make sure the treaty ex­cluded domestic sales and, in any event, as theAmer­i­can BarAs­so­ci­a­tion af­firmed, the treaty did not and could not in­fringe on Amer­i­cans’ con­sti­tu­tion­ally-guar­an­teed Sec­ond Amend­ment Rights.The treaty is es­sen­tial. The world is awash in con­ven­tional weapons with a mar­ket val- ued at up­ward of $70 bil­lion a year. Th­ese arms are fu­elling con­flicts and killing in­no­cents in Syria, Su­dan, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and be­yond. But while trade in vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor com­mod­ity, from oil to bananas, is sub­ject to strong in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, con­ven­tional arms, ab­surdly, are not. The treaty would re­quire states to re­view all cross-bor­der arms con­tracts, es­tab­lish na­tional con­trol sys­tems and deny ex­ports to pur­chasers who might use the weapons for ter­ror­ism or vi­o­la­tions of hu­man­i­tar­ian law.

In­dia, the world’s num­ber one arms buyer, tried to carve a huge loop­hole by propos­ing that the pact ex­empt de­fence co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments. In the end, the lan­guage was mas­saged in a way that arms con­trol and hu­man rights groups said would save face for New Delhi while not over­rid­ing the treaty. The ne­go­ti­at­ing con­fer­ence re­quired con­sen­sus to ap­prove the treaty and then send it on to mem­ber states for sig­na­ture and rat­i­fi­ca­tion. But the op­po­si­tion by Iran, North Korea and Syria, while an un­for­tu­nate stum­bling bloc, doesn’t mean it is dead.

Pro­po­nents can and will take it to the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly, pos­si­bly next week, where a less oner­ous but still bind­ing ma­jor­ity vote is all that’s nec­es­sary for ap­proval. Af­ter that, we hope Pres­i­dent Obama, who was very in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing the treaty to this point, will lead the way in quickly sign­ing it and that the Se­nate will move ex­pe­di­tiously to rat­ify it. It’s in­con­ceiv­able that any se­na­tor could jus­tify agree­ing with Iran, North Korea and Syria on this is­sue. — The New York Times

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