Japan’s remilitarization, Iran nuclear deal, Ukraine update and more
THE TERRIBLE ANTI-DEMOCRACTIC, ANTI-PEACE LEGACY OF SHINZO ABE
Unlike the soaring tributes to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the title of a searing 14 July 2022 assessment by The Nation’s Lisa Torio — The Misremembering of Shinzo Abe — could not be more apt, while the subhead captures the essence of the article itself:
In the wake of the former prime minister’s assassination, his antidemocratic legacy has been whitewashed—and his death has renewed calls for revisions to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.
First recalling how unpopular Abe was with the public in his final years, Torio then writes:
During Abe’s eight-year reign as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Japan also saw one of the most conservative, right-wing administrations in its postwar history, garnering widespread condemnation for its authoritarian tendencies.
After outlining many problematic polices, Torio writes:
Perhaps Abe’s most controversial initiative was his effort to remilitarize Japan by revising the postwar Constitution, particularly Article 9, dubbed the “peace clause,” which renounces Japan’s participation in war.
Despite massive nationwide protests, Abe’s administration rammed through a set of security bills authorizing offensive military operations overseas under the premise of “collective self-defense.”
The Abe administration even went so far as to pass an “anti-conspiracy” bill that expanded the ability of law enforcement agencies
to target activists and ordinary citizens with accusations of “preparing to commit a crime,” which many saw as an attempt to quell dissent ahead of his efforts to revise the Constitution. [emphasis added]
In a series of nine tweets Canadian law professor Craig Martin, an RI Senior Fellow and frequent guest lecturer at Japan’s Osaka University, succinctly explains further:
The assassination of Shinzo Abe is shocking and terrible for Japan on many levels.
But Western media are failing to recognize or appreciate the illegitimacy of his effort to “reinterpret” the Constitution in 2014/15, and the grave harm it did … 1/9https://t.co/dyuAqOxo0q
— Craig Martin (@craigxmartin) July 8, 2022
The tweets continue:
It was Abe’s goal to amend Art. 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits the use of force for anything other than individual self-defense, and limits the maintenance of armed forces. Art. 9 operated to keep Japan out of armed conflict for over 70 years…2/9
Failing to muster the support for a legitimate amendment in accordance with the amending provisions of the Constitution, he sought to “reinterpret” Art. 9 through a unilateral Cabinet Decision, revised agreements with the U.S., and amended national security legislation… 3/9
The “reinterpretation” purported to allow previously prohibited use of force for collective self-defense, allowed Japan to support allies in armed conflict, and lowered the criteria for self-defense, likely inconsistent with the jus ad bellum regime…4/9
An overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars in Japan viewed the “reinterpretation” as unconstitutional, both in terms of violation of the amendment procedure, and in terms of the substance of the “reinterpretation” itself…5/9
I’ve written on precisely how and why it was illegitimate, the harm it caused, and what lessons the “reinterpretation” events have to offer American and comparativist scholars of informal constitutional amendment …6/9
Now, formal amendment of the Constitution, particularly Art. 9, is a central issue in the Upper House election this coming Sunday. If the LDP and its allies are able to gain a supermajority, amendment will be likely…7/9
Human nature being what it is, the LDP will likely benefit in the election from this tragic event. It will be tragically ironic if Shinzo Abe succeeds in causing through his death what he could not achieve in life – the amendment of Art. 9. … 8/9
But all the more reason for those who care about preserving the core principles on limiting the use of force in Art. 9, to now develop alternative proposals for the amendment debate sure to come. … 9/9
Returning to the article by Lisa Torio, where she grounds Abe’s anti-democratic vision in the very history of his party, the LDP, aided as it was by the CIA in coming to power in the first place in post-war Japan as part of the U.S.-led anti-Communist cold war alliance, she continues:
With the Biden administration calling China “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order,” Japan’s remilitarization is a key part of what Washington calls its effort to “defend democracy” worldwide.
She concludes with a timely question for us all:
As the LDP prepares to push for a revision to the Constitution, this current moment gives us, if anything, a chance to question for whom this “democracy” is intended—and what a true vision of democracy in Asia and in the world looks like.
LAST CHANCE FOR IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
In a detailed Arms Control Association Issue Brief entitled The Last Chance to Restore Compliance with the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal (armscontrol.org, 13 July 2022), Director for Nonproliferation Policy Kelsey Davenport provides this dismal summary of the current state of play in talks aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal:
After a three-month stalemate, indirect talks between the United States and Iran over restoring compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), resumed in Doha June 28.
Rather than producing a breakthrough and de-escalating tensions, the two days of talks underscored that the inflexibility of the U.S. and Iranian positions on issues extraneous to the JCPOA continue to jeopardize efforts to restore mutual compliance with the original 2015 nuclear deal.
No further talks are scheduled, and the United States and Iran continue to point fingers over who is to blame for the impasse.
In the view of the Arms Control Association:
Given the intransigence on both sides and the growing proliferation risk posed by advances in Iran’s nuclear program, it is increasingly likely that efforts to restore the JCPOA will soon collapse—unless Washington and Tehran are willing to be more creative and flexible in bridging the remaining gaps that stand in the way of an agreement to resurrect the nuclear deal.
For more on the American position, see the 5 July NPR interview with US Special Envoy Rob Malley available here.
Breakout on the brink
The Arms Control Association brief outlines in some detail the steps that Iran has taken away from the nuclear deal following America’s unilateral abrogation of the agreement under President Trump.
Iran’s breaches [initially modest and measured]… have grown more serious and more difficult to reverse as Tehran has taken increasingly drastic steps in an attempt to increase its leverage and to respond to attacks against its nuclear facilities and assassinations of its scientists, acts which Israel has often claimed credit for.
In the view of most experts Tehran is closer now to a nuclear bomb than it has been at any point in its history and is currently subject to the bare minimum of monitoring.
The Arms Control Association warns:
At this point, there is no guarantee that the international community could quickly detect an attempt by Iran to amass enough fissile material necessary for a nuclear weapon.
No good options if JCPOA not revived
The Arms Control Association is blunt in its assessment of the dire consequences of failing to reach a mutually acceptable deal:
If the Biden administration lets the door close on reviving the JCPOA, it has no good alternatives for effectively and verifiably reducing the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
USA and Israel sign declaration against a nuclear-armed Iran
never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome.
However, as the New York Times reported in a live update on 14 July:
Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, pushed President Biden on Thursday to go beyond his public commitment to stopping Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, declaring that all democratic nations “must vow to act” if the Iranians continue “to develop their nuclear program.”
Doug Mills of the New York Times continues:
The distinction between Mr. Biden’s commitment and Mr. Lapid’s declaration was more than semantic: It goes to the heart of their countries’ differing approaches in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Israel has conducted a series of covert sabotage and assassination operations to slow Iran’s ability to enrich nuclear fuel, while Mr. Biden has insisted that diplomacy, and a restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, are the best way to find a permanent solution.
Diplomacy with Iran Worth a Political Price
Coming back to the incisive and informative Arms Control Association Issue Brief, author Davenport writes:
The JCPOA is a proven and effective strategy that verifiably blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons. If fully implemented, it is the swiftest, most effective way to roll back Iran’s nuclear activities, put its program under a microscope, and provide Tehran with the sanctions relief necessary to revive its flagging economy.
The United States and Iran must agree to return to talks and hammer out a path forward for restoring the JCPOA before it is too late.
The most recent Government of Canada statement that we can find regarding this issue is that of 14 January 2020 entitled Canada supports diplomatic efforts established for Iran to return to full implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Global Affairs Canada, canada.ca).
Noting that Canada is a lead contributor to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) robust monitoring and verification of Iran’s implementation of its commitments, it continues:
We believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), when fully implemented, is the best way to restrict Iran’s ability to attain nuclear weapons capability and urge Iran to immediately restore its full commitments to the JCPOA.
The Rideau Institute comments:
Canada’s financial contribution to vital IAEA monitoring is most welcome — as would be an update on our support almost 30 months later. But the call for Iran to come back into compliance when it was the USA that first breached the agreement is frankly pitiful in its one sidedness.
At this critical juncture of negotiations to revive the JCPOA, and bearing in mind the implications for global peace and security, we urge the Government of Canada to assert the fundamental importance of a successful conclusion of the current negotiations to revive the JCPOA.
MORE REASONS WHY DIPLOMACY CRUCIAL TO ENDING UKRAINE WAR
Ukraine and arms trafficking: blowback anyone?
Back in 2016 Radio Liberty was sounding the alarm about black market weapons in Ukraine, observing that the country had long been a “nexus” in the global [illegal] arms trade.
Journalist Tony Wesolowsky then wrote:
Ukraine is already witnessing a boom in black-market sales of arms seeping out of the conflict zone, fueling what authorities say is a wave of violent crime in the country.
With untold numbers of ever more sophisticated weapons pouring into Ukraine from Western countries since the February Russian invasion, Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, stated in April that
its investigations indicated that weapons trafficking from Ukraine into the bloc to supply organised crime groups had begun and was a potential threat to EU security.
Rajesh Ahuja, writing recently for an Indian defence research website, provides further unsettling details:
Several weapon marketplaces on the dark web have started listing military-grade firearms such as Javelin and Stinger missiles that several Western countries had sent to support the Ukrainian army in its fight against Russia.
The author goes on to remind of the dire consequences for India of a similar situation in Afghanistan, writing that the US government is exhibiting
the same carelessness that it did in Afghanistan ensuring the whole region in the middle east and Indian subcontinent had to deal with the supply of sophisticated small arms.
The danger this time round, particularly for Europe, is exponentially greater given the sheer quantities of vastly more sophisticated systems being transferred.
A recent (partially paywalled) Financial Times article outlines new efforts by Western suppliers to address the proliferation risk:
NATO and EU states are pushing for better tracking of weapons supplied to Ukraine in response to fears that criminal groups are smuggling them out of the country and on to Europe’s black market.
According to the Financial Times:
the issue of arms trafficking from Ukraine was discussed at a meeting of the EU interior ministers this week, while on Monday the European Commission launched an “EU Support Hub” in neighbouring Moldova to provide expertise and co-operation to combat issues such as weapons smuggling.
The article cites a candid comment to reporters from Jana Černochová, the Czech defence minister:
It’s hard to avoid trafficking or smuggling — we didn’t achieve it in former Yugoslavia and probably won’t avoid it in Ukraine.
Canadian expert Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher with Project Ploughshares, told CBC back in March 2022:
There is the real threat that the Ukrainian government can potentially not control all of these weapons…. They could end up anywhere.
Canada maintains that it is controlling its arms exports to Ukraine through the requirement for “end user certificates” from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, but these guarantees are manifestly only as good as Ukraine’s ability to enforce them, which has proven to be a challenge well before the February invasion.
We call upon the Government of Canada to work in close cooperation with the USA and European allies and to take all necessary steps to facilitate tracking of Canadian arms exports to Ukraine.
The Rideau Institute comments:
Need we point out that the dire security consequences for Europe and beyond of vast quantities of sophisticated armaments ending up on the black market are yet another potent reason for NATO to get serious about supporting good faith negotiations to end the Ukraine conflict?
UKRAINE UPDATE: TIME TO MOVE BEYOND WISHFUL THINKING
We turn now to an article (available free through email registration) in Foreign Affairs entitled Ukraine’s Implausible Theories of Victory: The Fantasy of Russian Defeat and the Case for Diplomacy (8 July 2022).
MIT Ford International Professor of Political Science Barry R. Posen writes:
Ukraine’s leaders and its backers speak as if victory is just around the corner. But that view increasingly appears to be a fantasy.
Ukraine and the West should therefore reconsider their ambitions and shift from a strategy of winning the war toward a more realistic approach: finding a diplomatic compromise that ends the fighting.
The article demonstrates the extremely remote possibility of Ukraine winning the war “on the ground”, in light of the fact that the Russian “collapse through attrition” theory is simply not panning out:
The Russians appear to have suffered fewer losses than many thought or have nonetheless found a way to keep many of their units up to fighting strength. One way or another, they are finding reserves, despite their stated unwillingness to send recent conscripts or mobilized reservists to the front. And if push came to shove, they could abandon that reluctance.
Perhaps the most important Western argument Posen questions is that the West can supply Ukraine with such superior technology that it will be able to “best the Russians”. Describing this theory as “fanciful”, he reminds:
Russia enjoys a three-to-one advantage in population and economic output, a gap that even the highest-tech tools would be hard-pressed to close.
Regarding the argument that sanction-driven economic deprivation will turn Russian elites and the general public against their leader, Posen makes a telling observation:
U.S. President Donald Trump tried and failed to strangle Iran, a much smaller and less developed but equally energy independent country. It is hard to see how the same strategy will work against Russia.
And on the costs that President Putin may be willing to absorb, rather than retreat, Posen recalls some relevant history:
Great powers often incur major war losses for years, even for flimsy reasons. The United States did so in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; the Soviet Union did so in Afghanistan.
He also reminds us that
Putin has so controlled the domestic narrative about his war that many Russian citizens see the fight the same way he does—as a crucial battle for national security. And Russia has more people than Ukraine.
To the negotiating table
While one cannot definitively rule out Russian collapse or surrender, in Posen’s view
these outcomes are highly improbable.
At present, the most plausible result after months or years of fighting is a stalemate close to the current battle lines.
As the months and years go on, Russia and Ukraine will both have suffered a lot to achieve not very much more than what each has already achieved—limited and pyrrhic territorial gains for Russia, and a strong, independent, and sovereign government with control over most of its prewar territory for Ukraine.
But Posen is quick to also point out that choosing diplomacy is not, in and of itself, a guarantee either. For recourse to negotiations to have any chance of success:
Both sides will have to recognize that these must be true negotiations, in which each must give up something of value.
If the only plausible outcome is negotiations, then the West must act accordingly
In such circumstances, Posen argues — and we agree —
it makes little sense for Western countries to funnel even more weapons and money into a war that results in more death and destruction with every passing week.
He is not suggesting the West abandon Ukraine’s defence but arguing they should
continue to provide the resources that the country needs to defend itself from further Russian attacks, but they should not encourage it to expend resources on counteroffensives that will likely prove futile.
Rather, the West should move toward the negotiating table now.
The risks and costs of diplomacy versus a stalemated war
Describing diplomacy as “an experiment with uncertain results”, Posen reminds that the difference from the current Western military strategy is that
diplomacy is cheap … [with] political costs [that] pale in comparison to costs of continued war.
Posen next discusses the outlines of a possible settlement, including the “painful concessions” that each side would have to make:
Ukraine would have to relinquish considerable territory and do so in writing. Russia would need to relinquish some of its battlefield gains and renounce future territorial claims.
He also advocates, as have many experts before him:
- Practical support and security assurances from the U.S. and Europe with Russia’s express acceptance
- Relaxation of many of the economic sanctions on Russia
- NATO and Russia negotiations to limit the intensity of military deployments and interactions along their respective frontiers; and
- U.S. leadership in achieving a diplomatic solution.
In Posen’s view, because the US is Ukraine’s principal backer and organizer of the West’s economic pressure campaign against Russia,
it possesses the greatest leverage over the two parties.
Posen acknowledges the difficulties:
It is easier to state these principles than it is to hammer them into the implementable provisions of an agreement. But that is precisely why negotiations should start sooner rather than later.
The role of the EU and OSCE in ending the Ukraine war
For some fresh thinking on the European role in ending the Ukraine conflict, see this Canadian analysis by Professors David Carment and Dani Belo entitled The war in Ukraine shows it’s time for a new way to ensure security in Europe (theconversation.com, 10 July 2022).
In a nutshell their argument is:
the path toward ending the war in Ukraine requires focusing on the security priorities of those who have the most to gain from a diplomatic solution — European nations, not the U.S. Peaceful co-existence is dependent upon successful negotiations among European capitals and Moscow.
They expand on the “tangible, measurable steps towards de-escalation” that both Putin and Zelensky must take in support of a choice of compromise over continued war:
This would include an agreement to establish a ceasefire zone. A ceasefire could mean further efforts to reduce tensions, including a withdrawal of forces where possible, an increase in the number of crossing points across buffer zones and lines of contact, eliminating land mines and returning people to their homelands.
With Moscow perceiving the US as a key player in supporting a proxy war in Ukraine, Carment and Belo argue:
That’s why the EU and the OSCE acting as intermediaries is crucial.
As for the West, they argue:
To avoid a frozen conflict — in which the fighting has ended but no peace treaty is in place — sanctions on Russia will need to be lifted according to its contribution to a constructive and lasting outcome.
In conclusion, they issue a very realistic warning to Ukraine, given the stringent requirements for EU membership:
Ukraine, on the other hand, must be convinced that a prolonged war will only diminish the prospects for long-term economic and political stability, with the likelihood of EU membership diminishing rapidly over time.
The Rideau Institute comments:
We do not see an inherent contradiction between Posen’s view that the US is an essential player in the negotiations and the Carment/Belo view that the EU and OSCE are central to a sustainable diplomatic solution. All three sets of actors are critical and early action by the EU might, in turn, impel the US also to get involved.
This week Canada made an entirely appropriate decision to grant a sanctions waiver allowing the return to Germany of turbines needed to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany and thus to prevent serious energy shortages in that country and other European allies.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
The fact that the decision was greeted by a torrent of criticism from Ukrainian President Zelensky, Federal court action by the Ukrainian World Congress and parliamentary hearings to “probe” the decision, is extremely potent evidence of just how removed from reality much of the public debate over Ukraine has become.
With Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations apparently due to sign a deal next week aimed at resuming Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, now is the time for Canada and other Western countries to begin to change course.
We reiterate past calls for Canada to start working in all appropriate forums, as well as bilaterally with the United States, in support of a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine conflict, on as fair and just terms as can be achieved.
SOME WELCOME GOOD NEWS ON CANADA AND PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
Against the ugly backdrop of President Biden’s cringingly unctuous trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, we are extremely pleased to provide some better news on the home front.
Peter Larson, author of Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP), explains in a new post:
Flags of Canada, Palestine and the University of Waterloo grace the stage on the May 24 launch of the university’s new “Foundation for Palestinian Studies” at a gala event attended by over a hundred academics, university administrators, former diplomats and others.
The foundation is the brainchild of Shawky Fahel, a Palestinian Canadian businessman with the support of private donors and the University itself.
This is Canada’s first educational institute focussed on the study of Palestine and will have four main types of activity:
- An annual public lecture series which will bring distinguished international experts to Waterloo from within and beyond the academic community, throwing light on genuine Palestinian realities.
- Subsidized international study experiences that will change the lives and open the minds of our students through travel to the Palestine-Israel region.
- Research awards for faculty and graduate students aimed at deepening understanding.
- Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards to attract and support rising stars of Palestinian studies or those whose research intersects with Palestinian Studies.
Peter Larson’s post includes an interview with Shawky Fahel, the Palestinian Canadian businessman who has partnered with the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo to create this foundation, available here.
The post also features guest speaker Dr. Reem Bahdi’s moving and uplifting speech, which is available here. Dr. Bahdi is the first woman dean of any Canadian law school and the first Palestinian Canadian Dean at any Canadian university.
Peter Larson comments:
The University of Waterloo has academic partnerships with several Israeli institutions including the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University. It is significant that Palestinian studies are now an additional focus.
We end with these words from Shawky Fahel, highlighted in the Canada Talks Israel Palestine blog post:
Our vision is education, education, education. Understanding begins with education and awareness. Changing minds can change the course of history.
Photo credit: Voice of America (anti-Japan demonstrations in China)