US Mideast Peace Plan: from a Paper Pharaoh & a Fake Moses

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Middle East & North Africa, Peace, TerraViva United Nations


A boy in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills where large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities took place. Credit: UNRWA

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb 3 2020 (IPS) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu was slapped corruption charges last week while he was hobnobbing with US President Donald Trump in Washington. Bibi has, apparently, done his homework in psychology. He knew the quickest way to get around Trump was to flatter him.

Addicted to praise, Trump is incapable of understanding that there is a great deal of deception if someone praises him too much. In a June 16, 2017 article, USA Today opinion columnist Windsor Mann wrote, “Flattery is Trump’s cocaine — he’s addicted to it — and, like cocaine, it’s not always genuine.”

Rarely does he get sincere praises from honest people. So, Trump often self-praises himself.

On Tuesday, when Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, Bibi was superlative in his praises. As the drama unfolded in a White House room full of sycophants ready with applauses to ego massage praise-addict Trump and insincere Netanyahu, it became obvious that the peace plan was not worth the paper it was written on.

It also became clear that Trump did not have a thorough knowledge of the Middle East, for he failed to identify a typo in the text on the teleprompter. He read al-Aqsa as al-Aqua.

Many believe that the timing of the announcement was aimed at bolstering the political base of both Trump and Netanyahu – Trump embroiled in an impeachment battle was trying to appease pro-Israeli evangelical Christian voters, a key component of his support base, while Netanyahu used the occasion to go one-up over his political rival Benny Gantz in Israel’s election battle of the right-wings.

When Trump, impeached by the House of Representatives, and Netanyahu, an indicted suspect in a corruption case — a paper pharaoh and fake Moses – make a plan, it will be far from being value-based.

No wonder, the peace plan they unveiled promotes anything but peace and is an agenda to legalise Israel’s illegal land grab on the West Bank. No wonder peace analysts are unanimous in condemning the Trump plan as ‘dead on arrival’. (DOA)

It is one-sided and a travesty of justice in breach of the hallowed legal principle Audi alteram partem —which requires that the other side also be listened to. There was no Palestinian side in this ex-parte ruling that Trump’s pro-Israeli son-in-law Jared Kushner was instrumental in drafting.

If there is one US president who cares no two hoots about the Palestinians, it is Trump. He stopped aid to Palestine and his country’s annual US$ 360 million contribution to the United Nations Relief Work Agency which cares for more than five million Palestinian refugees.

Trump, Kushner and Netanyahu could not find a single Palestinian to endorse the plan made by Zionists for Zionists to continue their crimes in Palestine. Pro-American Arab states, however, have welcomed the peace effort but avoided extending support for the content of the plan.

Key regional powers Turkey and Iran, meanwhile, have given an outright thumbs-down to Trump’s plan, which declares Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, thus ignoring the Palestinians’ aspiration of making East Jerusalem their future capital. The Palestinians are condescendingly told they can have their capital anywhere east of Jerusalem.

Rejecting the Trump plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem and “all our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain.”

The Palestinians have dismissed the plan as Balfour 2.0, whereby one country (the United States) is trying to hand over chunks of another’s country (Palestine) to a third country (Israel) just as Britain in 1917, through an atrocious colonial act of injustice, allowed the Zionist movement to set up a homeland in Palestine.

In 1947, the United Nations adopted a partition plan that unfairly divided historic Palestine, giving the Jews who were a little more than 30 percent of Palestine’s population, 55 percent of the land. Most of them were European migrants who came to Palestine following the 1917 Balfour declaration. The indigenous Palestinians who were about 67 percent of the population were given 45 percent of the land.

The Trump plan will leave the Palestinians with a mere 15 percent of historic Palestine. In other words, 85 percent of Palestine will come under Israel’s sovereignty while the balance to be declared as the State of Palestine will be bits and pieces of territory – or Bantustans connected by tunnels and roads guarded by the Israeli military.

Trump’s plan was unofficially conveyed to Arab leaders more than two years ago. This came after the Trump administration on December 6, 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

At the US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain in June last year, the plan was partially unveiled by Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Kushner. The Palestinians boycotted the event where they were promised billions in development aid if they accepted the plan.

To promote the plan, Kushner partnered Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. On December 3, 2017, a New York Times report said the Saudis had summoned Palestinian President Abbas to force him to accept Trump’s plan, where, instead of Jerusalem, the neighbouring town of Abu Dis that overlooks the Dome of the Rock mosque, was offered as the Palestinian capital.

When news leaked out that the Saudis were backing Trump’s plan and had no qualms over al-Aqsa– Islam’s third holiest site –being placed under Israeli sovereignty, the Saudi royals became jittery, fearful of the reaction on the Arab streets.

King Salman invited Abbas to Saudi Arabia again and assured his support for the Palestinians’ stand. Abbas’ Saudi visits indicated that the Saudi establishment is divided over the Palestinian issue. Once the old king becomes history, the kingdom is likely to endorse Trump’s plan.

In December 2017, after Trump misused the US veto to quash yet another United Nations mechanism to bring peace to Palestine, the world community overwhelmingly passed a UN General Assembly resolution asking nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem.

They did so, defying Trump’s threat to developing nations that they would face an aid cut if they voted for the Jerusalem resolution. Just as the then US president George W. Bush’s 2003 Middle East peace roadmap, Trump’s plan, touted as the deal of the century, is bound to collapse, because it is not founded on justice. It is the fraud of the century.

It ignores international law, numerous UN resolutions, principles of justice, and norms of decency. Sri Lanka, as a true friend of Palestine, should not endorse Trump’s plan which promotes chaos and conflict instead of peace.

*Ameen Izzadeen is Editor International and Deputy Editor, Sri Lanka Sunday Times


US Mideast Peace Plan: Israelis Offered the Cheese & Palestinians the Holes

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Middle East & North Africa, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Credit: Palestine Campaign.Org

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 30 2020 (IPS) – The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has described the much-ballyhooed US Middle East peace plan as “more like Swiss cheese– with the cheese being offered to the Israelis and the holes to the Palestinians”.

“There are many ways to end the occupation, but the only legitimate options are those based on equality and human rights for all,” said the Jerusalem-based B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

“This is why the current plan which legitimizes, entrenches and even expands the scope of Israel’s human rights abuses, perpetuated now for over 52 years, is utterly unacceptable”, it said.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, based in Johannesburg, drew a parallel between Israel and apartheid South Africa of a bygone era.

“We concur with our Israeli comrades, and we painfully recall how Apartheid South Africa tried to impose its own plan during the 1980s where white people would own South Africa and the indigenous Black South Africans needed to be happy with small enclaves called Bantustans.”

“We rejected this then in Apartheid South Africa, and we, today, join those in rejecting it in Palestine-Israel,” said BDS in a statement released here.

Mouin Rabbani, co-editor Jadaliyya, an ezine focusing on the Middle East and produced by the Arab Studies Institute (ASI), told IPS the Trump Plan is not a peace initiative, that seeks to lay the basis for meaningful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve the core issues of the conflict.

Rather, it seeks to unilaterally implement a permanent status reality that is tantamount to the extreme reaches of the Israeli political spectrum, with the imprimatur of US recognition and legitimacy, he said.

Any analyst with even a passing acquaintance of this conflict can immediately recognize that it cannot possibly serve as a basis of negotiations, let alone a negotiated settlement, because it prejudges virtually every Palestinian right, claim, and interest, Rabbani argued.

“This is deliberate — the references to negotiations are no more than a diplomatic fig leaf to enable Israeli to proceed unilaterally with acts of territorial annexation, the liquidation of the refugee question, the transfer of Arab citizens of Israel to Palestinian jurisdiction (thus removing there status as Israeli citizens), and the like,” he added.

Credit: PalestineUN.Org

Ramzy Baroud, a syndicated columnist, editor of The Palestine Chronicle and a senior research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs in Istanbul, told IPS the Deal of the Century is a complete American acquiescence to the right-wing mentality that has ruled Israel for more than a decade.

This is certainly not an American peace overture, he pointed out, but an egregious act of bullying.

However, it is hardly a deviation from previous rounds of “peace-making,” where Washington always took Israel’s side, blamed Palestinians and failed to hold Tel Aviv accountable to its violations of previously signed treaties and international law, he noted.

“In truth, the Deal of the Century is not a ‘peace plan’, nor was it ever intended to be, despite what its chief architect and White House adviser Jared Kushner has been claiming”.

As expected, said Baroud, Trump has handed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu everything that he and Israel ever wanted.

He also pointed out that the Middle East Plan does not demand the uprooting of a single illegal Jewish settlement and recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided’ capital.

“It speaks of a conditioned and disfigured Palestinian state that can only be achieved based on vague conditions, rejects the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and doesn’t mention the word ‘occupation’ even once”, said Baroud, author of the newly-released book These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons.

According to Cable News Network (CNN), the Trump administration unveiled its much-anticipated Middle East plan, which it’s touting as a “realistic two-state solution.

But Palestinians definitely don’t see it that way. The plan caters to nearly every major Israeli demand, including the annexation of its settlements in the contested West Bank region, said CNN.

“A future Palestinian state, meanwhile, would get a capital in eastern Jerusalem, physically separated from the rest of the city. The plan doesn’t lay out what would happen to Palestinian refugees displaced by ongoing conflict”.

In a brutally frank comment, Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, was quoted as saying: “The message to the Palestinians, boiled down to its essence, is: You’ve lost, get over it.”

Rabbani said the peace plan is also not a framework for a two-state settlement.

“The potential Palestinian entity presented in the initiative, assuming it comes to pass, does not have any – I repeat, any – of the attributes of statehood as commonly understood.”

He said its objective is not the establishment of a Palestinian state but rather the permanent expansion of the Israeli state into occupied territory, less those areas heavily populated by Palestinians that Israel does not intend to annex.

The Palestinian entity, or rather the patchwork of Palestinian-populated regions within Israel according to this plan, are held together by some 15 bridges and tunnels, he noted.

“The purpose here is not Palestinian statehood, but rather achieving Israel’s long-term objective of maximum territory with minimum Arabs – an objective additionally furthered by the proposed transfer of Palestinian population centers within Israel to the jurisdiction of this entity”.

The broader purpose of this initiative, he argued, is to utilize the weakness, fragmentation, and polarisation of the Palestinians, and the Arab world more generally, to ram through a unilateral settlement of this conflict while the opportunity presents itself.

A second objective is to facilitate the formalisation of Israeli-Arab normalisation, though given the contours of this plan that is unlikely to be achieved.

In a word, the formalisation of Palestinian capitulation to not only Israel but a particularly extremist Israeli agenda, he declared.

More broadly, said Rabbani, it seeks to replace international law and the international consensus with the principle that might makes right and thus the law of the jungle in which power is the sole principle for the resolution of international disputes.

From the Trump administration’s perspective this therefore has much broader application than only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he declared.

Baroud said the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ has confirmed what many have argued for years: a just and peaceful future in Palestine and Israel cannot be achieved with Washington at the helm.

“So obviously only Israel benefits from the plan, as the Zionist discourse, predicated on maximum territorial gains with minimal Palestinian presence, has finally prevailed.”

He said every Israeli request has been met, to the last one. Meanwhile, Palestinians get nothing, aside from the promise of chasing another mirage of a Palestinian state that has no territorial continuity and no true sovereignty.

Not only will Trump’s plan fail to resolve the conflict, he argued, it will exasperate it as well; it will divide the region into blocs, with some Arabs normalization with Israel and others refusing to do so, especially while Palestinians continue to live in perpetual suffering.

As for the economic component of Trump’s plan, history has proven that there can be no economic prosperity under military occupation. Netanyahu and others before him tried such dubious methods, of ‘economic peace’ and such, and all have miserably failed.

“Time and again, the UN has made it clear that it follows a different political trajectory than that followed by Washington, and that all US decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem, the illegal settlements and the Golan Heights, are null and void; only international law matters, and none of Trump’s actions in recent years have succeeded in significantly altering international consensus on the rights of Palestinians”.

As for the status of and Palestinian rights in their occupied city, said Baroud, East Jerusalem, renaming a few neighborhoods – Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis – as al-Quds, or East Jerusalem is an old Israeli plan that failed in the past.

The late Yasser Arafat rejected it, and neither Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian official would dare compromise on the historic and legal Palestinian rights in the city.

The writer can be contacted at


Achieving the Possible: “Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East”

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Middle East & North Africa, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Peace, TerraViva United Nations


Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (2002-2011), was responsible for safeguards and security policy, the Director General’s annual report on the Application of Safeguards in the Middle East and for the IAEA Forum on the Experience of NWFZs relevant for the Middle East.

Credit: United Nations

VIENNA, Nov 20 2019 (IPS) – A historic conference on the Middle East opened at the United Nations in New York on 18th November and will continue until 22nd November. The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction is presided over by Ambassador Sima Bahous of Jordan.

This matter has been before the international community since 1974 and remains controversial and unresolved to this day. On the one side, the Arab States of the region of the Middle East and Iran have called for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and the dismantlement of Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapon programme.

On the other side, Israel supported by the EU member States, Canada and the US, maintain that regional peace and security is a pre-condition for any negotiations on such a zone and that concerns about nuclear programmes in certain Arab States also need to be resolved first.

Thus, this matter has simmered for decades, plagued the proceedings and outcomes of the review conferences of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the annual General Conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as the First Committee and the United Nations General Assembly.

Now finally, pursuant to a decision by the General Assembly in December 2018, this conference is going ahead albeit without the participation of Israel and the United States.

Nuclear-weapon-free zones

The original concept of establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs) was conceived with a view to preventing the emergence of new nuclear-weapon possessor States.

Efforts to ensure the absence of nuclear weapons in other populated parts of the world have led to five regional denuclearization agreements—the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco covering Latin America, the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga covering the South Pacific, the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok covering Southeast Asia, the 1996 Pelindaba Treaty covering Africa, and the 2006 Central Asian NWFZ treaty, all are in force—thus the entire southern hemisphere below the Equator is covered by NWFZ treaties.

In addition, in 1992 Mongolia declared itself to be a nuclear-weapon-free space that was approved by the Great Hural in 2000 and endorsed by UNGA in 2002.

Also, certain uninhabited areas of the globe have been formally denuclearized. They include Antarctica under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty; outer space, the moon, and other celestial bodies under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1979 Moon Agreement; and the seabed, the ocean floor, and the subsoil thereof under the 1971 Seabed Treaty.

General Assembly resolution 3472 B (1975) defines a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as

    • any zone recognized as such by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which any group of States, in the free exercises of their sovereignty, has established by virtue of a treaty or convention whereby:
    a) The statute of total absence of nuclear weapons to which the zone shall be subject, including the procedure for the delimitation of the zone, is defined;
    b) An international system of verification and control is established to guarantee compliance with the obligations deriving from that statute.

NWFZs ban the production, testing and stationing of nuclear weapons, permit peaceful uses, include verification provisions and in some cases an institutional set up; and require security assurances from nuclear-weapon States.

Article VII of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) affirmed the right of States to establish NWFZs in their respective territories and the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference (NPTREC) expressed the conviction that regional denuclearization measures enhance global and regional peace and security.

The NPTREC adopted a Resolution on establishing a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as well as delivery systems in the region of the Middle East. The 2000 NPTRevConf reiterated the importance of the 1995 Resolution, and the 2010 RevConf mandated that a conference be held on such a zone by 2012; and the 2015 RevConf came to an inglorious end over disagreements on the Middle East zone.

Earlier in 2000, the IAEA General Conference adopted a Resolution for the IAEA Director General to convene a Forum on Experience of NWFZs Relevant for the Middle East. On joining the IAEA in 2002, the Director General assigned me the task to make the arrangements for holding this Forum – during the course of the summers of 2002-2004, I was able to get agreement on the Agenda but the Forum itself was convened only in November 2011.

Representatives from all five zones and Mongolia attended and made presentations at the IAEA Forum; however, under the-then Director General the Agency acceded to pressure from certain sources to ensure that the Forum was a one-off event and that there would not be any follow-up activities.

In terms of new NWFZs, the Middle East remains an old unfulfilled aspiration. First jointly proposed by Egypt and Iran in 1974 through a General Assembly resolution, the concept was broadened in 1990 through the Mubarak Initiative to cover all weapons of mass destruction.

There is as yet no general agreement on the contours and details of a WMD-free zone (WMDFZ), however keeping to basics it is possible to identify practical measures and elements – as is endeavoured in the draft treaty text prepared by The METO Project.

Middle East

Traditionally, Egypt has taken the lead in promoting efforts for the implementation of the 1995 NPTREC Resolution on the Middle East in the NPT review process, as well as at the IAEA General Conference and at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the establishment of a NWFZ in the region of the Middle East.

Last year, UNGA First Committee adopted by voting (103 yes :3 no : 71 abstentions) decision (A/C.1/73/L.22/Rev.1) co-sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt,* Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and State of Palestine on Convening a conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The UNGA decision A/73/546, adopted on 22 December 2018 by a vote of 88 to 4 with 75 abstentions, called on the UN Secretary General to:

    • convene a conference for the duration of one week to be held no later than 2019 dealing with the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction;
    • the conference shall take as its terms of reference the 1995 NPTREC resolution;
    • all decisions emanating from the conference shall be taken by consensus by the States of the region;
    • all States of the Middle East, the three co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, the other two nuclear-weapon States and the relevant international organisations (IAEA, OPCW, BTWC ISU) to participate;
    • the Secretary-General to convene annual sessions of the conference for a duration of one week at United Nations Headquarters until the conference concludes the elaboration a legally binding treaty establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region ; .

Accordingly, Under-Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu and the Department for Disarmament Affairs made the preparations to hold the conference on 18-22 November 2019.

The main areas of contention between the Arab States and Israel can be summarized as follows: that there still continues to be a long-standing and fundamental difference of views between Israel, on the one hand, and other States of the Middle East region, on the other hand, with regard to the establishment of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the region of the Middle East (MENWFZ/WMDFZ).

Israel takes the view that MENWFZ/WMDFZ and related regional security issues, cannot be addressed in isolation from the regional peace process and that these issues should be addressed in the framework of a regional security and arms control dialogue that could be resumed in the context of a multilateral peace process.

These should help reduce tensions, and lead to security and stability in the Middle East, through development of mutual recognition, peaceful and good neighbourly relations and abandonment of threats and use of force by states as well as non-State actors as means to settlement of disputes.

Following the establishment of full and lasting peaceful relations and reconciliation among all nations of the region, such a process could lead to the adoption of confidence-building measures, discussion of arms control issues, and eventually pave the way to regional negotiations of a mutually and effectively verifiable regime that will establish the Middle East as a zone free of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons as well as ballistic missiles.

Israel also holds the position that any modalities, obligations or provisions should be solely addressed by the states concerned through direct negotiation.

The other States of the region maintain that there is no automatic sequence which links the establishment of the zone, the application of IAEA comprehensive safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East, to the prior conclusion of a peace settlement, and that the former would contribute to the latter.

The Arab States maintain that all of them have acceded to the NPT, while Israel continues to defy the international community by refusing to become a party to the Treaty or to place its installations under the Agency’s comprehensive safeguards system, thus exposing the region to nuclear risks and threatening peace.

Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is likely to lead to a destructive nuclear arms race in the region; especially if Israel’s nuclear installations remain outside any international control.

Most Arab States of the region of the Middle East consider that:

    • the 2018 UNGA decision A/73/546 on convening a conference on the zone was a breakthrough;
    • the new initiative through the UNGA is directed at all States of the region of the Middle East, the three co-sponsors of the1995 NPTREC Resolution are invited and no States of the region shall be excluded;
    • while the UNGA route was not ideal, it was resorted to as there was no realistic alternative due to the prevailing situation regionally and globally; and
    • the initiative shall be fully inclusive, involve direct dialogue, be based on arrangements freely arrived at, there will be no singling out of any State of the region; however, if any State of the region does not attend, this cannot prevent other States of the region to attend the conference slated for November this year.

Regarding the question of how to deal with the Middle East issue at the 2020 review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the following points are relevant:

    (a) the NPT review process remains the primary focus and the UNGA initiative is not an alternative to the NPT process but should be regarded as parallel and complementary;
    (b) it can alleviate pressure on the 2020 review conference;
    (c) there is no intention to hold the review conference hostage to the Middle East issue and the NPT States of the region want the review conference to be successful;
    (d) the UNGA conference shall be open to all States and now it is important to start engagement and preparations on the modalities and procedural aspects;
    (e) the assertion is incorrect that Israel was not consulted in advance on the 2018 resolution at UNGA, in fact it was consulted in advance of the decision;
    (f) the decision garnered more than 100 affirmative votes at UNGA, which was a clear majority;
    (g) the 2019 NPT PrepCom should take factual note of the UNGA decision to convene the conference in November;
    (h) the Middle East zone issue remains within the NPT process and the 2020 review conference would have to reaffirm and recognize this;
    (i) the November conference provides an opportunity to all States to meet and discuss zone matters, express views, all decisions shall be by consensus, it is an opportunity for direct consultations among the States of the region of the Middle East, and it is up to the States of the region to decide whether to sign/ratify a future MEWMDFZ treaty;
    (j) the Middle East zone now can be considered as the fourth pillar of the NPT;
    (k) it is regrettable that some States (Israel and the United States) had urged the IAEA (and other relevant international organizations) not to attend the November conference;
    (l) the NPT States of the region believe in collective not selective security and this calls for the universalization of the NPT and the cessation of granting privileges to States not party to the Treaty (Israel);
    (m) regarding the three co-sponsors (Russia, UK, USA) of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference Resolution calling for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction: the UK has voiced support for the vision of a MEWMDFZ and is attending the November conference; the Russian Federation endorsed the convening of the conference also is attending the November conference which it regards as easing pressure at the 2020 review conference; while the US has indicated support for the goal of a Middle East free of WMD based on direct dialogue and consensus but has condemned the General Assembly decision of 2018 to convene the November conference as “illegitimate” and is boycotting the conference; and
    (n) Israel too has decided not to attend the November conference.

The METO Project

The Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) Project for a zone free of WMD in the Middle East represents a civil society initiative on “Achieving the Possible” was launched and sustained by Sharon Dolev of the Israeli Disarmament Movement and has attracted support from experts from States of the region of the Middle East as well as from other countries. The METO project has developed the elements of a text of a MEWMDFZ treaty that has been shared with the States of the Middle East region and is designed to serve as a catalyst for them to jump start discussions on such a treaty.

Ii is hoped that the States attending the current conference can draw motivation, ideas and elements from the draft treaty text prepared by the METO Project as they discuss the possible elements and provisions of a future treaty that can garner the support of the States of the region.

Some may find shortcomings or omissions in the draft text but States of the region and other concerned parties are invited to further develop, enhance and enrich the elements presented in the draft text.

This effort needs to be joined not by sceptics nor naysayers but by optimists and those who are serious about promoting the cause of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and of its transformation into a region of peace, justice and security.


The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction now underway at the United Nations in New York provides a belated but important opportunity to address regional security, non-proliferation and disarmament matters in the region of the Middle East.

It sets into place an annual process focusing on discussing matters pertaining to eliminating the threats, dangers and risks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the region; achieving universal adherence in the region to the NPT through the verified elimination of Israel’s nuclear weapon programme, and also securing universal adherence in the region to and compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention that prohibit biological and chemical weapons, and signature and/or ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) that prohibits all types of nuclear explosive tests.

Bringing peace and security to the region of the Middle East should be accorded the highest priority by the States of the region as well as by all other States.

The views expressed are the writer’s personal observations.


Trump Poised to Withdraw from Open Skies Treaty

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Peace, TerraViva United Nations


KINGSTON REIF is director of disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association and SHANNON BUGOS, research assistant.

WASHINGTON DC, Oct 18 2019 (IPS) – The Trump administration is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, according to lawmakers and media reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, first sounded the public alarm in an Oct. 7 letter to National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the Trump Administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty and strongly urge you against such a reckless action,” Rep. Engel wrote. “American withdrawal would only benefit Russia and be harmful to our allies’ and partners’ national security interests.”

Slate columnist Fred Kaplan reported Oct. 9 that former National Security Advisor John Bolton pushed for withdrawing from the treaty before departing the administration.

Following Bolton’s departure in September, White House staff continued to advocate for withdrawal and convinced President Trump to sign a memorandum expressing his intent to exit the treaty. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the signed document directed a withdrawal by Oct. 26.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) joined Rep. Engel in an Oct. 8 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper denouncing a possible withdrawal.

The lawmakers wrote that “pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, an important multilateral arms control agreement, would be yet another gift from the Trump Administration to Putin.” They also noted that the treaty “has been an essential tool for United States efforts to constrain Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

The United States and several allies in December 2018 conducted an “extraordinary flight” over eastern Ukraine under the Open Skies Treaty. The flight followed a Russian attack in late November 2018 on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea.

Republican lawmakers also expressed concern about ditching the treaty. In an Oct. 8 statement, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) stated that he has “yet to see a compelling reason to withdraw from Open Skies” given the “valuable access to Russian airspace and military airfields” the United States gains from the treaty.

Signed in 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed, observation flights over the others’ entire territories in order to collect data on military forces and activities. The treaty entered into force in January 2002 and currently has 34 states-parties, including the United States and Russia.

According to the treaty, states-parties must give one another 72 hours advance notice before conducting an overflight. At least 24 hours in advance of the flight, the observing state-party will supply its flight plan, which the host state-party can only modify for safety or logistical reasons.

No territory is off-limits under the treaty. Each participating country is assigned a quota of overflights it can conduct and a quota, based on its geographic size, of overflights it must accept every year.

Since 2002, there have been nearly 200 U.S. overflights of Russia and about 70 overflights conducted by Russia over the United States. After the overflight, the information collected must be provided to all states-parties.

In recent years, disputes over implementation and concerns from some U.S. officials and lawmakers about the value of the treaty have threatened to derail the pact.

For example, Washington has raised concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty, citing, in particular, Russia’s restricting of observation flights over Kaliningrad to no more than 500 kilometers and within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In response, the United States has restricted flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska.

The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization act included a provision that would reaffirm Congress’ commitment to the treaty and prohibit the use of funds to suspend, terminate, or withdraw from the agreement unless “certain certification requirements are made.”

The Senate version of the bill did not include a similar provision. The House and Senate continue to negotiate a final version of the bill.


The Role of Emerging Technologies in Military Conflicts

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations


Izumi Nakamitsu is UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs*

Credit: UN peacekeeping

STOCKHOLM, Oct 10 2019 (IPS) – Throughout history, technology has transformed armed conflict. The carnage of First World War battlefields is a stark example of what happens when advances in weaponry outpace the normative frameworks around its use.

Today, we are experiencing a technological revolution that holds incredible promise for human development and welfare. From genome editing to quantum computing and artificial intelligence, emerging technologies offer us powerful new ways to achieve our shared commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our networked society is promoting a “democratization” of technological dissemination. Ease of understanding and using technology is greater than ever before. Yet these benefits also bring with them clear risks for international peace and security.

Before I address the trends and consequences of the current technological context, I want to add my usual caveat: it is important not to be alarmist about the ramifications of technology, but at the same time not dismissive either.

With that, let me share with you some of the major trends in conflict risk as I see them and the implications they carry for international peace and security.

First, the application of technology to new means and methods of warfare is aggravating an arms-racing dynamic in both conventional and nuclear weapons. This dynamic is evident in the eye-watering amounts of money spent on weapons – some 1.8 trillion dollars last year, according to SIPRI – and the nuclear modernization campaigns that are, in effect, a qualitative nuclear arms race.

This is both exacerbated by, and in turn exacerbates, the absence of transparency and confidence in international relations. As States strive to develop newer and better weapons, it threatens to undermine stability and increase the prospects for unintended and potentially uncontrollable escalation.

This dynamic is not limited to States with advanced technological bases. The democratic characteristics of technological innovation provide for creative asymmetric responses – the digital IEDs, if you will.

The second trend I want to highlight is how technology is opening new potential domains for the conduct of hostilities.

Military operations using emerging technologies and in new domains can involve actions that are not easily classifiable or fall below traditional thresholds for an armed attack or an act of aggression.

This creates challenges for international peace and stability, as even non- permanent means of disrupting or disabling a military capability can prompt a conventional armed response.

Take, for example, what is commonly referred to as “cyber warfare”.

The frequency of malicious cyber incidents is growing, along with their severity. Such acts are contributing to diminishing trust and confidence among States and encouraging them to adopt offensive postures for the hostile use of these technologies.

The difficulty of attributing responsibility for cyber-attacks could result in unwarranted armed responses and escalation. Constraints agr the case of cyberattacks that do not cause physical damage and are not lethal.

New domains and methods of warfare will also change the impact on civilians in ways that are less kinetic but equally damaging. For example, “casualties” in a cyber conflict could include millions of people who have had their bank accounts wiped out by an offensive cyberattack.

Put differently, some of these new technologies could not only change the size and speed of destruction in conflict, but also the character and nature of destruction in war.

A third and related trend is how certain new technologies, in particular armed uncrewed aerial vehicles, are undermining civilian protections. Lower risks to armed forces and comparatively lower levels of physical violence risk lowering the threshold on the use of armed force in situations where it would not otherwise have been contemplated.

Such actions not only endanger civilians, but risk escalating conflict.

The fourth and final trend I want to draw attention to is the emerging nature of warfare enabled by networked militaries, autonomy, uncrewed vehicles, advanced sensors, and weapons that can attack at hypersonic speeds.

This form of warfare is not yet fully realized, but technological innovation, coupled with evolving military thinking, is trending the world in this direction with several significant risks.

So-called “hypersonic weapons” pose particular concerns because they could both reduce decision-making times while also adding ambiguities related to the nature of their targets and their own payloads, whether conventional or nuclear.

Increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) may lead to decision-making processes faster than human cognition and concern has been expressed about the potential for unpredictable and non-transparent behaviour by AI in armed conflict.

Increasing autonomy in the critical functions of weapons systems raises serious ethical and legal questions for existing frameworks and how to ensure human accountability for the use of force. The growing use of UAVs and increased autonomy could lead to perceptions of casualty-free warfare.

The possibility of third parties with malicious intent interfering in control systems to incite conflict cannot be discounted.

The potential for such advances to exacerbate political divisions and global tensions would be alarming even in the most benign of international environments.

However, we are currently mired in a geostrategic context defined by distrust, the militarization of international relations and a dearth of dialogue. Relations between the so- called “great powers” are eroding as the rules-based international order – including the disarmament and non-proliferation regime – is being challenged.

Other global issues – climate change, mass migration and social unrest – will also continue to affect the nature and conduct of armed conflict.

In this unsettling environment, where brakes on warfare are being removed, the utmost caution should be exercised in the deployment of technological innovations with disruptive ramifications.

Having said this, it is easy to list risks and challenges. It is a much harder task to elaborate solutions.

I would like to suggest today what might be some of the key elements, from the United Nations’ perspective, for our joint work ahead to elaborate possible solutions. Some of them relate to substance, others to the process and partnerships we must forge.

First, a few points related to the development of norms and their operationalization or implementation.

One of the most prominent debates in the governance of emerging technologies has been whether international frameworks can adequately contain new risks and concerns. There is divergence over whether existing law is sufficient or whether new legal instruments are required.

Some new technologies, such as armed drones, have prompted concerns about how they can tempt some to reinterpret international law.

What we need is an honest debate about how international law applies to any possible use of emerging technologies as weapons, how any such uses are constrained or prohibited by existing international law and where new approaches, including new law, is needed to mitigate foreseeable risks.

Increased transparency and accountability in the use of new technologies could help increase confidence in adherence to international law. When it comes to the weaponization of new technologies, broadened use and transparency of weapons reviews – those required under article 36 of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions – would build confidence about the legality of those weapons systems.

Regardless of where States sit on this debate, protecting civilians from the effects of armed conflict must continue to be a central concern when addressing the means and methods of warfare.

This is a tenet that we cannot lose sight of as States rush to utilize technological innovations in armed conflict.

We must reinforce mechanisms for the protection of civilians, including respect for and compliance at all times with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.

While Member States will continue to have primary responsibility in matters of international peace and security, twenty-first century norm-making cannot be just straightforward treaty negotiations between States.

Much of the technology we have been discussing today is either dual-use or even enabling. Its creators need to be brought into the fold.

The importance of developing effective multi-stakeholder platforms that can bring together experts from Member States, industry, academia and civil society should be a priority.

This is important not only to ensure that intergovernmental deliberations are adequately informed, but also that technical communities are aware of the context and possible consequences of their work.

Modern norm-making should consider a broad spectrum of responses, from self-regulation such as code of conducts, to political initiatives such as transparency and confidence-building measures, to comprehensive and multifaceted efforts in the traditional intergovernmental negotiations.

Secondly, while each of these technologies will have a disruptive individual impact, it is at their convergence where the real challenges lie.

We need to generate a better understanding of the combined effects, especially of enabling technologies such as cyber and AI that will impact everything, not least each other. What, for example, will be the impact of autonomous malware?

I am particularly worried about how the combined use of technological innovations could upend strategic stability and lower the barriers to the use of a nuclear weapon.

Concepts such as “left of launch” missile defence – the disabling of nuclear command and control structures by cyber means – could create “use it or lose it” mentalities for first strikes.

Experts have raised the possibility of AI deep fakes to spoof command and control or early warning systems, as well the prospect of so-called “data poisoning”, the deliberate alteration of the data on which AI runs to produce unintended outcomes.

Because of such risks, Cold War concepts, including classical deterrence models, should be re-evaluated for the digital age where terms such as “cyber deterrence” could have dangerous escalatory consequences. In this era, instead of deterring conflict we need to better focus on preventing it.

In the UN context, we have made good progress to address some of the challenges posed by innovations in technology.

On autonomous weapons, States considering this issue within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons have produced three consensus reports. My office stands ready to support Member States to build on the commonalities identified in those reports, including by elaborating measures to ensure that humans remain in control of the use of force.

Five UN Group of Governmental Experts have agreed that international law applies to the use of ICTs and that the UN Charter applies in its entirety. In 2015, the GGE was able to forge 11 voluntary non-binding norms to reduce risks to international peace, security and stability. That work continues now in two forums – an Open-Ended Working Group that met earlier this month, and another GGE that will convene later this year.

To help facilitate responses to their potential risks, my office, together with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, published a study on hypersonic weapons. The study makes the case for multilateral discussion of these weapons, the development of which cannot be seen in isolation from the current deterioration in strategic arms control. We have now convened two track 1.5 meetings to inform and explore its findings.

Member States have taken practical steps to preserve peace and security by developing and commencing the implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities.

Later this year, the First and Fourth Committees of the General Assembly will convene a third ad hoc meeting on possible challenges to space security and sustainability.

A GGE on the prevention of an arms race in outer space also met earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was unable to agree on a substantive report, but nevertheless had the most substantive dialogue since the item was introduced to the Conference on Disarmament in 1985.

As you can see, there have been good discussions taking place in various individual areas of new technology. It is important to start now in understanding what might be the possible combined impact of these technologies in today’s international security environment. This leads me to my third and final key issue.

The disruptive nature of technological innovations and the convergence between them has prompted calls for new thinking in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.

As the Secretary-General said in February this year: “We need a new vision for arms control in the complex international security environment of today.”

Any new vision would need to preserve the indispensable benefits of the existing frameworks but could address many of the issues I have already mentioned. It should encompass all kinds of nuclear weapons and their qualitative developments.

It could consider particularly destabilizing categories of weapons such as hypersonic weapons. It could take into account new developments in technology and the potential vulnerabilities these have exposed, as well as the convergences between them, and new models of governance.

It should preserve and further develop or strengthen measures for protection of civilians in any type of conflict. And it should enable the use of these technologies for our collective benefit, in conflict prevention and peace-building mechanisms, and also arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

The UN has the convening power to create different types of platforms and discussion mechanisms. It is uniquely situated to be an impartial convener and bring in non-government actors so that multiple stakeholders can learn from each other and develop creative, mutually beneficial solutions.

I believe that the UN system, due to its broad expertise, is also well-placed to act as a catalyst for innovative thinking. I believe the UN has to play a central role in bringing together the security and humanitarian discourses in a new vision for arms control and disarmament.

And I believe the UN should contribute creative ideas to maximize the benefits and minimize the challenges of disruptive technology.

The use of technology in warfare in ways that undermines our collective security is not a forgone conclusion. Through dialogue, transparency, negotiation and cooperation, we can build the normative framework that prevents the direst of scenarios from taking place. I look forward to working together to secure our common future.

*In an address to the fourth annual Stockholm Security Conference at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)


Women Human Rights Defenders Face Greater Risks Because of their Gender

Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Population, TerraViva United Nations


Masana Ndinga-Kanga is Crisis Response Fund Lead with global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

JOHANNESBURG, May 16 2019 (IPS) – Does the name Ihsan Al Fagiri ring a bell? How about Heba Omer or Adeela Al Zaebaq?

It’s likely that these names, among countless others, are not known to the average news consumer. But their tireless and dangerous work, however, has made news headlines as protests led to historic political change in Sudan.

To the communities of protesting women in Sudan, these names represent the valiant efforts to defy the authoritarianism of the Omar Al Bashir regime.

The sustained efforts of these women include mass mobilization, calling people to the streets of Sudan through ‘Zagrouda’ (the women’s chant) in response to rising costs of living amidst the country’s worst economic crisis.

These rallying calls of #SudanUprising, have been led by Sudanese women who are teachers, stay-at-home-mothers, doctors, students and lawyers. And yet, when President Al Bashir stepped down on April 11, the names of the women who spearheaded this political shift, were largely missing from the headlines.

This erasure is not uncommon. Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are often erased or slandered in efforts to intimidate them into quitting continuing their human rights work. In Egypt, Guatemala, Saudi Arabia, Uganda or the Philippines they are often called agents of international interests.

In Kenya, the United States and South Africa, their sexuality is called into question and they are harassed online. In China and the United Arab Emirates, they are detained for reporting or highlighting endemic levels of harassment. And yet, they refuse to be silenced.

These women are not alone at the interface of sustaining justice in sexual and reproductive health, environmental rights, economic accountability and conflict areas.

In spite of restrictions against them, WHRDs have campaigned boldly in the face of mounting opposition: #MeToo #MenAreTrash, #FreeSaudiWomen, #NiUnaMenos, #NotYourAsianSideKick, #SudanUprising and #AbortoLegalYa are just a few social campaigns that represent countless women at the coal face of systemic change for equality and justice. More and more WHRDs worldwide are working collectively to challenge structural injustices and promote the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

But there is a stark absence of knowledge on their work. Media reporting on the courageous work of women defenders tends to focus more on the challenges they face. Awareness of their restrictions is critical to the push for justice but equally important is knowledge about the work they do to sustain women’s rights globally.

Combined with the risks of ostracization and assault from relatives, community members and the state, WHRDs defy these risks to sustain social justice. Recognizing them only for their restrictions further contributes to the erasure they experience daily from state and others.

One way the narrative on WHRDs can shift is by focusing on the critical role they play in pushing forward a progressive agenda of change for all.

In Ireland last year, activists working in sexual and reproductive health and rights achieved a landslide referendum victory in which two thirds of voters chose to legalise abortion, after many years of pro-choice campaigning.

In the southern African kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, the first ever Pride march was held last year in support of LGBTQI rights. LGBTQI groups in Fiji also scored the same first that year – the country’s inaugural Pride event, a victory of freedom of assembly for LGBTQI activists around the world.

The power of collective action was also on display in January when five million women formed a human chain across the southern Indian state of Kerala. The massive protest was organised in response to experiences of violence against women attempting to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, a prominent Hindu pilgrimage site.

In Iran, a small women’s movement challenging the compulsory rule that requires women to fully cover their hair, has been developing. While in Colombia, activist Francia Marquez organised a 10-day march of some 80 women to protest against illegal mining on their ancestral land in the east of the country.

This activism is often thankless and dangerous work. Indeed, 2017 was the deadliest year on record for environmental women human rights defenders, with 200 environmental campaigners murdered.

WHRDs are at increasing risk of harassment not just from state actors, but also from multinational corporations, their communities and in some cases, their own families. International policy frameworks have tried to keep up with the heavy-handed crackdown from states on environmental WHRDs.

Last September, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet launched the For All Coalition to integrate human rights and gender equality throughout all major multilateral environmental agreements, including the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Coalition is an important step in highlighting the ways in which climate change disproportionately affect WHRDs, and also recognises the role of local and indigenous communities of women in the realisation of environmental protection.

These policy gains are the first step in creating an enabling environment for WHRDs working in remote areas on land, indigenous rights and climate justice. They are often labelled as ‘anti-development’ for calling for accountable and transparent change.

In South Africa and Honduras, the gains of environmental women campaigners have been some international recognition of their work, but at high costs: for some, these costs sometimes include their lives. Since 2001, 47 human rights workers in the Philippines have been killed for their work of attempting to document environmental violations.

In order to take seriously the work of women human rights defenders, the mechanisms for protecting them have to begin to adapt to respond to their nuanced needs as women. They need to be sensitive to other dimensions that affect WHRDs such as sexual orientation, gender, race, class and indigenous status. Adequate institutional and policy support must be built on intersectional feminism which is consultative and responsive.

What will create a more favourable policy environment for women activists? That answer should include decriminalizing sexual and reproductive rights, for example, and removing restrictions on the registration of associations supporting WHRDs.

Governments should also conduct training and sensitisation programmes for law enforcement agencies, members of the judiciary and staff of national human rights institutions on the challenges faced by WHRD, and develop a national action plan for the protection of WHRDs.

To this day, resources do not reach WHRDs in remote areas and on the frontlines, and not because they are not applying! Gender-sensitive resourcing is critical to address the gap.

These suggestions are a smaller part of a larger need for systemic change but point to the need for consistent global activism to support women human rights defenders at all times – oftentimes before crises emerge.

The victory of Sudanese women, and the ensuing capture of the end of dictatorship this year, should give us pause to remember particularly the women who push on through layers of repression, risking all, to demand basic rights.