Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
There is a saying in English that people are judged by the company they keep. If this applied to countries, the United States would not fare well when it comes to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Although Washington signed the pact, which would ban all nuclear tests if it ever comes into force, in 1996, U.S. lawmakers have never ratified it. Eight other countries with nuclear activities must ratify the treaty before it can enter into force.
Those other hold-out countries are China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Pakistan. Two of those — Iran and North Korea — are members of a trio which U.S. President George W. Bush once referred to as the “axis of evil.”
Iraq, which was a member of Bush’s axis of evil until the U.S. invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, signed the treaty last month, though Iraqi parliament has yet to ratify it.
The treaty opened for signatures 12 years ago. Since then, 179 nations have signed and 144 ratified it. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno Ugarte told a news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York that “these nine countries must not hold the international community at bay.”
Ugarte was one of some 40 foreign ministers who issued a joint statement calling on the United States, Iran, North Korea and the rest to ratify the treaty.
Even veteran Hollywood Actor Michael Douglas, a U.N. messenger of peace, appeared at the United Nations in support of the CTBT alongside former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry and the Costa Rican, Australian and Austrian foreign ministers.
When the United States signed the treaty in 1996, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was in charge, but the then-Republican-majority U.S. Senate rejected it in 1999. When Bush took office in 2001 his administration made clear it did not want its options limited by such a treaty and never resubmitted it. It has has, however, continued to observe the U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing that began in 1992.
Perry, who was in Clinton’s cabinet when Washington signed the CTBT in 1996, made it clear that he supports Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, who Perry expects will push the U.S. legislature to ratify the treaty if he becomes president. Even Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, Perry said, might make a U-turn from the Bush administration on this issue in an attempt to reingratiate Washington with allies overseas.
Some analysts have said that if the United States fails to ratifies the treaty, it will most likely die.
What do you think? Should the next U.S. president push for ratification of the treaty banning all nuclear tests or would it be better to keep the door open to research on new and improved atomic weapons in the interest of keeping the United States and its allies safe?
The thought of Russian warships cruising the waters of the Caribbean instinctively revives memories of such Cold War episodes as the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Russia is sending a heavily armed nuclear-powered cruiser and other ships, aircraft and troops for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela, its first big manoeuvres in the United States’ self-declared backyard since the end of the Cold War.
The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions.
Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie.
Iraq’s leaders have overcome many hurdles in their struggle to rebuild their country after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003. But agreeing on the fate of the “ethnic tinderbox” of oil-producing Kirkuk is a particularly testing one.
Why has Kirkuk proven to be such an obstacle? For many, settling its fate seems to be an easy task.
Was the meeting in Geneva filled with “meandering” small talk? Or did the discussions between world powers and Iran begin work on an intricately woven carpet, that in time, would yield an “elegant and durable” outcome?
The two views, the first voiced by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the second by chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, say much about how the two foes approached Saturday’s meeting to resolve Iran’s long-running nuclear row with the West.
Hezbollah literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome home five prisoners released by Israel in a U.N.-mediated exchange deal. Securing the release of the last five Lebanese held by Israel was a major triumph for the group, which in turn handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a 2006 raid into Israel.
Having achieved a long-held goal, Hezbollah is holding up the exchange as further evidence that its uncompromising, armed approach to dealing with Israel brings results, directly challenging the policies of Arab leaders who have engaged in negotiations or signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. The New York Times called the prisoners’ homecoming a triumph.
In the past President George W. Bush accused Tehran of belonging to an “axis of evil”, compared negotiations with its president to appeasing Adolf Hitler, and warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would lead to World War Three.
His administration refused to join international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, which it suspects could be used to produce a nuclear bomb, unless Tehran halted enriching uranium. It pointedly declined to rule out military action if a diplomatic solution was not found.
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”
In the late 1990s, not long after pro-reform politician Mohammad Khatami swept to a landslide victory in the Iranian presidential elections, some Western observers started wondering if this was the step that would herald a collapse of the Islamic Republic — rather like the Soviet Union tumbled on Mikhail Gorbachev’s watch a decade earlier.
It was early days for me observing Iran. But an acquaintance of mine offered some analysis. Iran is not communist Europe. It is still a young revolution, he told me (at a time when it was
turning 20). There are still plenty of Iranians willing to die for the cause. Don’t expect it to come crashing down, he said.
There is a running joke among Western journalists, diplomats and other foreigners based in Iran who have the task of trying to understand what is going on behind the scenes: the longer you stay here, the more opaque Iranian policy making becomes.
It may be said lightheartedly, but it contains more than a grain of truth. The longer you spend trying to peel back the layers of the Iranian establishment to understand what the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is thinking, the more layers you discover.