In NPT, US is sacrificing its own policy goals for an ally’s

Obama administration officials complained repeatedly that Israel was ‘singled out’ in the new Mid East NPT document, but it turns out that it was the U.S. itself that put Israel front and center.

In addition to Israel, Pakistan and India were also called out by name in the document, according to the latest reports. So was North Korea, in even harsher language. What do these four countries have in common? Well: none are NPT signatories.

But Israel is unique in two ways: It’s the only clandestine program (i.e. not publicly declared or tested weapons) and it’s the only country that U.S. officials went to bat for immediately following the agreement on the document. No mention from Barack Obama and Jim Jones about how Pakistan was being singled out. (Where’s the Pakistan lobby in the power rankings again?)

The language about India and Pakistan had been included in earlier drafts, but their status in the final version went unmentioned in other reports I’d seen. The Times story by Neil MacFarquhar, however, does note the demand that they join the NPT.

I can’t find a copy of the document online, but I’m eager to see in what manner Israel is “singled out” when at least three other countries are named.

The Times hints that the language about North Korea, though watered down from the what the U.S. wanted, was still severe (“its nuclear program constitutes a threat to ‘peace and security'”).

However, the one reference to Israel, according to MacFarquhar, “basically repeats a previously stated position that Israel should join the 40-year-old nonproliferation treaty.” I doubt the specific references to Pakistan and India could be less ambitious than that.

What’s more interesting, however, is that the U.S. was, at the NPT, once again acting as Israel’s lawyer when Arab states and Iran attempted to try their nuclear-armed neighbor in absentia. Gary Samore, Obama’s nuke czar, even said the U.S. “insisted in retaining a role as a sponsor” to the 2012 Mid East talks so that it can shield Israel.

The Washington Post noted it, too (“U.S. officials had fought to keep Israel from being named in the final document”), but here’s the Times‘ account:

Tensions over the content of the final document after a month of negotiations went down to the wire, with diplomats portraying the last few days as a poker game with the United States and Iran each trying to call the other’s bluff so that one might be blamed for the failure of the conference to reach consensus.

In the end, the United States accepted one reference to Israel in the final document, in the section on the Middle East…

“…having that language in the Mideast section we think sends a really negative political signal,” Mr. Samore said. “It suggests the conference will be designed to single out Israel.” That would decrease the likelihood of such a conference ever happening, he said, which is why the United States insisted in retaining a role as a sponsor.

So that’s the stakes the U.S. was playing for? Trading watered-down language on North Korea and no mention at all of Iran for Israel’s sake? And just for limiting the number of Israel references to one? (In his statement on the document, Obama mentioned Israel twice and Jones six times! Who’s singling who out again?)

This should raise some questions about aligned interests and the burden that Israel plays on U.S. foreign policy. In an NPT forum it spearheads, the U.S. is sacrificing its own policy goals in order to defend an ostensible ally because that ally refuses to sign on to the Treaty at all. There’s supposed to be ‘no daylight,’ but at the NPT, the cracks seem to be chasms.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. This just reinforces the point I’ve made that a few words from David Petraeus (or anyone else, for that matter) mean little or nothing to the configuration of the US-Israelis relationship. And now I’m waiting to hear the official U.S. reaction to the murders carried out by the IDF in its raid on the Gaza convoy. The Lobby still rules.

  2. When US wallowing in geopolitical affairs inevitably reaches the point of drowning due to the US/Israeli special relationship, than we will see just how powerful the Israel Lobby is in American public affairs. I’ll also point out no one in the US government has sanctioned General Petraeus for his “few words” like the treatment profusely doled out to General Shinseki.

  3. Rfjk: The fact that “no one in the US government has sanctioned General Petraeus for his ‘few words'” tells you what, exactly? That the less said about his comments the better? Or are you inferring that the administration supports his view? If the latter, why no followup action — for actions, I’m sure you’ll agree, speak louder than words.

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