Iraq war and disarmament double standards
NEW YORK-- The United States, which has virtually abandoned multilateralism
in favour of unilateralism, is also undermining the international
disarmament machinery created over the past couple of decades.
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Monitoring, Verification
and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) are the only two international
agencies legally mandated to declare whether or not Iraq possesses
weapons of mass destruction.
But last week the Bush administration declared that neither of the
two agencies would be permitted to go back to US-occupied Iraq.
Mohamed ElBaredei says his agency continues to be the "sole
organisation with legal powers derived both from the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) and successive Security Council resolutions to verify
Iraq's nuclear disarmament.''
Hans Blix, head
of UNMOVIC, says it would be advisable for US military forces to
forego their search and permit an international team of arms inspectors
to verify Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Such an international
verification process would also have more credibility -- particularly
at a time when there is widespread speculation that the US may "plant"
its own weapons and then blame the Iraqis.
US and British intelligence sources produced a letter purportedly
sent by Iraq to Niger relating to the purchase of uranium for Iraq's
nuclear weapons programme. But the IAEA discovered the letter was
At the international
level, the US has walked away from several disarmament treaties,
including the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which it has abrogated.
The US has
also said it has no plans to seek ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); is not a party to the anti-landmine convention;
and has rejected an inspection and verification programme for the
biological weapons treaty.
former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US and currently UN Under-Secretary-General
for Disarmament Affairs, is disappointed by the growing trend against
multilateral diplomacy to achieve disarmament. "There is a
general feeling that the disarmament machinery is just not working,"
out that calls in 1978 for the prevention of outer space being converted
into another arena for war are being overtaken by concrete plans
today for the weaponisation of outer space and new physical principles
a predominantly American audience, including US congressmen and
senators, at the Alan Cranston Peace Award in San Francisco last
week, Dhanapala posed the question: "Do we seriously believe
we can ensure forever the indefinite possession of weapons of mass
destruction to a chosen few while others are denied them selectively
by the use of force?"
only five declared nuclear powers are all veto-wielding permanent
members of the Security Council: the US, Britain, France, Russia
The three countries
outside of the Security Council possessing nuclear weapons are India,
Pakistan and Israel. For the first time last week, the North Koreans
publicly declared that they have successfully developed nuclear
weapons, although this has long remained an open secret.
When US President
George W. Bush recently enunciated his new military doctrine of
"pre-emptive" strikes on countries developing weapons
of mass destruction, he specifically warned Iraq, Iran, and North
Korea to clean up their acts or face dire consequences.
But he deliberately
left out Israel, India and Pakistan from his potential "hit
list". With Iraq as the first military casualty of the "pre-emptive"
doctrine, there is now a call for an even-handed US policy on nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons.
The first salvo
was fired last week when Syria circulated a draft resolution in
the 15-member U.N. Security Council calling for the establishment
of a "nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East."
been three similar regional initiatives - one by Iran in 1974, a
second by Egypt in 1985 and a third by Syria in 1989 - all of which
never got off the ground. The current draft resolution in the Security
Council is implicitly directed at Israel, the only Middle East nation
armed with nuclear weapons.
But the current
initiative is likely to fail because Washington would block any
attempts at disarming Israel, a staunch US ally which is also the
recipient of over $3 billion in outright American military and economic
years now, most of the Arab states have refused to declare their
imports and exports of conventional weapons in the UN Arms Register
published annually - "until Israel declares its weapons of
the Washington Post quoted US intelligence sources as saying that
Israel may have as many as 300 nuclear weapons and missile warheads.
Joseph Cirincione, lead author of "Deadly Arsenals: Tracking
Weapons of Mass Destruction," says that if there is one assumption
that will certainly still be true after the Iraq war, it is that
the existence and spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
will remain an urgent public concern and policy problem.
line, he argues, is that "you cannot get rid of chemical, biological
or nuclear weapons programmes in Arab countries unless you also
address the elimination of Israel's nuclear and chemical programmes."