Richard Falk is professor emeritus of International Law at Princeton until 2011 and was special rapporteur for the United Nations on the Palestinian issue from 2004 to 2014. We spoke with him recently. Here’s how he began the interview:
“Today we live with a higher risk of a nuclear catastrophe than during the Cold War, and I don’t know to what extent this is avoidable: The possibility of doomsday, the incineration of the planet, is not limited to North Korea vs. the United States, but involves the militarist option inherent in the globalized world, which extends to India, Japan (despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki), Pakistan and a host of other allied countries. It is a global situation, and a very unstable and dangerous one. The leadership of this system of ‘nuclear apartheid’ lies first of all with the United States, which makes decisions and dictate orders to the rest of the world, invoking the principle of ‘national security’ at its discretion.”
How do you interpret the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize this year to the ICAN organization (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)?
The awarding of this Nobel is certainly a very important event, especially given how the Nobel Prizes have been seen up to today. This time, finally, it was awarded to the individuals and more than 140 international coalitions who for years have been pursuing the vision of a nuclear-free, less warlike world. Including organizations in California that I’m working with on this issue. But it remains difficult to say whether the award will have any immediate and direct effect on the present concentration of technological militarism.
Why such pessimism?
On the one hand, we have a treaty, signed by 122 member countries, for the outlawing of nuclear weapons. Those who oppose the Treaty, in addition to the five permanent members of the Security Council (France, the U.K., the United States, Russia and China), are Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea, all possessing a nuclear arsenal. And there are also other countries, like Italy and Japan, forgetful of its past. This shows the tension between global public opinion and the geopolitical motivations of the governments and leaders that dominate our world.
The United States is always the first to violently oppose any small step, even a modest one, that might diminish its dominance as the first nuclear power. This is a kind of “apartheid” by a few against the rest of the world, using and manipulating the norms of international law to accommodate their strategic power interests.
President Trump has decided not to certify the agreement with Iran on civil nuclear energy, a deal struck by Obama and signed by Europe, China and Russia. How will Tehran react, in concrete terms?
The government of Iran is ready to face serious consequences rather than surrender politically to Trump’s conditions. In reality, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified publicly that Iran is complying with the terms of the Treaty, which is not negotiable.
Trump is an irresponsible person, and the risk is that he will start a war to divert the attention of the world, and of his own voters, from his political failures.
In domestic policy, the Republican Party establishment, as reactionary as they are, when they go from rhetoric to action, they do it within the limitations of the “national security state,” and they act with the consent of the Democratic Party establishment as well. Trump moves outside the parameters of the “national security” system, out of the control of both Republicans and his constituents. Neither the Republicans nor the American people are in favor of a Third World War caused by Trump.
Do you think it’s possible that there will be initiatives from his own party to remove him from the presidency?
I’m surprised they haven’t already done it. The Republican establishment will somehow try to get rid of him, without the lengthy procedure of congressional impeachment, as soon as they have implemented the program of institutional revision that they have been pushing for over eight years.
What do you think of the Hamas-Fatah deal, condemned by Trump and Netanyahu, and of Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from UNESCO?
The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal appears more solid than the previous attempts. But tensions remain, and it is too early to say that it can lead to concrete results. We know that, behind the scenes, neither Israel nor the United States wanted to block this reconciliation, for fear they would be saddled with the responsibility for a humanitarian disaster.
Washington’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO is Trump’s way of showing his hostility to the U.N. In fact, UNESCO has always opposed the intentions and plans of the White House on Jerusalem, the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the interventions against Muslim tradition.