Government representatives from more than 190 countries, under the watchful eyes of gun control advocates such as Amnesty International and the Control Arms Coalition, are currently in negotiations at the United Nations headquarters in New York to hammer out the terms of the first UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The treaty is supposed to fill the gap caused by the absence of commonly agreed international standards for the transfer of conventional arms, including guns, and their diversion to the illicit market.
Negotiators are working feverishly towards completing their work so that a treaty will be ready to be signed by the end of this month. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be in New York for the occasion.
Things got off to a curious start as the Palestinians tried to take a short-cut towards achieving upgraded UN member state status by attempting to be seated as a full-fledged state party to the treaty negotiations. The gambit did not work, but the Palestinians did secure a seat in the front row of the conference room where talks on the treaty are taking place. And the Palestinians’ patron Iran was elected to a vice president position on the 15-member executive committee steering the
After that inglorious beginning, the talks began in earnest. Some of the talks are being held behind closed doors. Other meetings, including a plenary session, are open to the press. Documents compiling member state comments as well as working committee chairman drafts are periodically circulated among the participants.
One such working draft of possible treaty language, dated July 14, 2012, tried to assuage the concerns of gun rights proponents, particularly in the United States, that the treaty would interfere with their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. It did so by affirming in its preamble “the sovereign right of States to determine any regulation of internal transfers of arms and national ownership exclusively within their territory, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership.”
The problem is that preambles have no binding legal effect in a treaty or a contract. Thus, the disclaimer is legally meaningless. What counts are the operative provisions within the body of the document. The proposed treaty language does not clearly define its jurisdictional limitation to covering only exports and imports between and among the member states. It could be interpreted as requiring regulation and control of the domestic possession and sale of firearms if there is any chance, no matter how remote, that such firearms could be, in the words of the draft text, “diverted” to “unauthorized end users.”
In practical terms, in order to ensure against such diversions to unauthorized users outside the United States in violation of the UN treaty, the federal government would need to impose very rigorous regulations and controls on the possession and sale of all guns, together with registration, detailed record-keeping on U.S. gun ownership and surveillance of the whereabouts of privately owned firearms at all times. The treaty could end up giving foreigners access to the records of American gun owners.
Ironically, the Obama administration can be expected to use the results of its own horribly botched Fast and Furious escapade, which led to the unaccounted for diversion of weapons that government agents were supposed to track on the way to Mexican cartels, as justification for strict regulations imposed on gun possession and sale by private individuals within the United States.
Moreover, while the proposed treaty deals primarily with military-type conventional weapons such as tanks, military aircraft, naval vessels and missiles, the category of “small and light weapons” is a different story. The language proposed in the July 14th working draft does not limit this category to weapons intended and designed for military use. In other words, the UN treaty would extend its reach to guns manufactured and used solely for civilian purposes. Attempts by a few member states to insert a proviso in the operative provisions of the treaty to make clear that its scope is limited to small and light weapons intended only for military use have met major resistance. Regulation of ammunition is also included within the scope of the current draft treaty language.
In addition to imperiling individual freedoms of Americans under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, the treaty language as currently drafted could imperil America’s vital interests. For example, the treaty could preclude the United States from transferring weapons to help states fight terrorists, on the grounds that the weapons would be helping the states commit alleged human rights violations against “resistance fighters.” This will surely be the charge leveled against U.S. transfers of arms to Israel, for example.
Regardless of the consequences to Americans’ constitutional freedoms and national security, the Obama administration appears ready to go along with the treaty. It is yet another example of President Obama’s willingness to outsource American foreign policy and individual liberties to the United Nations.
UN Rewards Iran With Top Arms Trade Conference Post
Last May, according to Reuters, a panel of sanctions-monitoring experts reported to the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee that Iran shipped weapons to the Syrian regime, helping to enable the regime to massacre its citizens and violating a UN ban on weapons exports by Iran.
“Iran has continued to defy the international community through illegal arms shipments,” the report stated. “Two of these cases involved [Syria], as were the majority of cases inspected by the Panel during its previous mandate, underscoring that Syria continues to be the central party to illicit Iranian arms transfers.”
But at the UN, bad conduct is often ignored and even rewarded. Former Secretary General Kofi A. Annan, Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria, was asked last month at a press briefing whether he thought that Iran could play a positive role in finding a solution to the violence in Syria. His answer, incredibly, was, “I think Iran, as an important country in the region, I hope will be part of the solution.”
By late June, Kofi Annan became even more enthusiastic about the role the illegal weapons exporting Iranian regime could play. “Iran should be part of the solution,” he declared.
The current UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, apparently agrees. At the daily press briefing at UN headquarters on July 11th, a spokesman for Ban Ki-moon described Iran as part of the solution to the current crisis in Syria.
In addition to all this expression of confidence in the Iranian regime’s potential as a peacemaker in Syria, despite its illegal arms exports to the Assad regime, Iran impressed its fellow UN member states so much that it was elected on July 3rd to a top post on the UN Arms Trade Treaty conference. This disturbing news came to light thanks to an exclusive report by the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch.
“Right after a UN Security Council report found Iran guilty of illegally transferring guns and bombs to Syria, which is now murdering thousands of its own people, it defies logic, morality and common sense for the UN to now elect this same regime to a global post regulating the transfer of guns and bombs,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
“This is like choosing Bernie Madoff to police fraud on the stock market. And the U.N.’s scandalous choice of Iran is exactly why we fear that Syria’s declared bid for a U.N. Human Rights Council seat is not impossible.”
The UN Arms Trade Treaty conference is so shrouded in secrecy that the UN conference website and summary failed to name the 15 members elected, including Iran. This conference is currently hammering out in secret the details of a treaty on the regulation of trade in small arms that some observers believe will infringe on the Second Amendment rights of American citizens in legal possession of firearms if the Obama administration climbs on board, as it is expected to do.
The United Nations has a long history of feigning displeasure with Iran’s conduct while rewarding Iran at the same time. For example, a United Nations body, the World Intellectual Property Organization, has reportedly violated UN sanctions itself against both Iran and North Korea by providing computer equipment to the two rogue nations.
“Providing these thugs with sensitive technology has the potential to enable their dangerous agendas,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee which is investigating the UN’s flouting of its own sanctions, said in a statement. “This serious offense cannot go overlooked or unpunished.”
This is not an isolated example. The UN bureaucracy system-wide has been operating at cross-purposes with UN sanctions for years to help Iran, through an inter-agency UN team coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It has aided Iran to obtain potential dual-use technology enabling, in the words of a document issued by the United Nations Country Team in Iran, the “transfer of knowledge in science and technology through technology-based services,” programs to “improve technological capacity in industries,” and “joint international research projects.” This included “advance processing technologies and innovative system design.”
The United Nations Development Programme has worked with the Iranian regime to strengthen its export, import and production capacities. The UNDP’s extensive activities on the Iranian regime’s behalf, and the hard currency pumped into Iran’s economy by the UNDP and its affiliated UN agencies, have operated at cross-purposes with the ongoing efforts by the UN Security Council and Western democracies to isolate Iran from the international financial community.
Iran’s term on the executive board of the UNDP just expired at the end of 2011. But the gravy train continues in 2012, as the executive board – even without Iran – approved the final country program for Iran.
The United Nations is helpless in trying to quell the violence in Syria and to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That’s a given, particularly in light of Russia’s and China’s recalcitrance. However, does the UN really have to go out of its way to reward Iran in spite of its numerous bad acts? Apparently so.
(Article by Joseph Klein)