- By Colum Lynch
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. national security advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.
Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the National Rifle Association are grabbing all the headlines for opposing an Arms Trade Treaty that is designed to prohibit the delivery of weapons to countries accused of committing gross human rights violations or subject to an international arms embargo.
But they are not the only ones with misgivings about a new global arms trade treaty. In all, 23 governments cast abstentions, a gesture designed to show discomfort, if not open hostility, to the new arms accord. It would have been 24, but Venezuela, which has not paid its U.N. arrears, is barred from voting in the U.N. General Assembly.
China and Russia, two of the world largest arms exporters, abstained. Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, registered his disapproval by noting that while the draft had some "positive elements" it also suffered from " a number of other shortcomings." Chief among them: the lack of an explicit prohibition on the supply of weapons to non-state actors that would, for example, restrain the ability of Syria’s armed opposition from building up its stockpile.
Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the opposition to the treaty, not only by Syria, Iran, and North Korea, but also by Russia, was politically motivated. "It’s no surprise these countries are not supporting the treaty. There is no surprise that Russia expressed qualms about this. Bashar al-Assad‘s regime is depending on Russian and Iranian military aid and that assistance would be prohibited if this treaty were in force today."
But those arming the Syrian opposition were no happier with the arms treaty than Russia.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Persian Gulf powers reported to be arming the Syrian opposition, were among the 23 U.N. members who cast abstentions on the vote for the landmark treaty in the U.N. General Assembly. Others included their Persian Gulf allies, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Yemen. The United Arab Emirates was alone in the region voting in favor of the new arms pact.
India, a major arms importer, had complained before today’s vote that the draft treaty was "tilted" in favor of the world’s leading arms exporters. That was after New Delhi extracted a concession that explicitly guaranteed that the treaty would have no impact on defense cooperation agreements between governments. But during today’s General Assembly meeting, India’s chief negotiator, Sujata Mehta, said the text "falls short of our expectations." Among its shortcoming, he said, it "is weak on terrorism and non-state actors."
While support for the treaty was widespread in Latin America and Africa, there were notable pockets of resistance. Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua — countries that frequently vote against the United States and its allies — cast abstentions. A Bolivian diplomat denounced the treaty as the product of a "death industry" that cares more about "profit" than "human suffering.
In Africa, where support for the treaty was strongest, a handful of countries — Angola, Egypt, Sudan, and Swaziland — cast abstentions. There were reports, however, that Angola supported the treaty but accidentally hit the "abstain" button during the vote.
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