OpinionOp-EdSyria, Iran and the N.R.A. versus everybody

Syria, Iran and the N.R.A. versus everybody


New York Times: It was always wishful thinking to expect that all of the United Nations’ 193 member states would approve the treaty regulating global trade in conventional weapons that was negotiated in New York this week. The New York Times


It was always wishful thinking to expect that all of the United Nations’ 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, favoring 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 Rifle Association. As usual they ginned up dark visions of how any limits on conventional arms sales would deprive Americans 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 the American Bar Association 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 valued at upward of $70 billion a year. These arms are fueling 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 defense 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.

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