Right-Wing Media's U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Double Standard

The right-wing media spent Wednesday stoking fears about the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) following reports that Iran was selected to serve on the 15-nation “Bureau/General Committee” of states during the treaty negotiations. Curiously, the same news organizations that engaged in Iran fearmongering have also uncritically promoted the National Rifle Association's opposition to the treaty. In fact, the positions of Iran and the National Rifle Association on the Arms Trade Treaty are remarkably similar: Both entities oppose a treaty that regulates the international import and export of small arms.    

According to the United Nations, “Bureau” states will “assist the President in the general conduct of the business of the Conference and, subject to the decisions of the Conference, shall ensure the coordination of its work.” Considering that Iran's and other “Bureau” members' conduct will be “subject to the decisions of the Conference,” it hardly appears that Iran would be able to single-handily hijack negotiations. 

Whatever role Iran plays in the negotiations, the ATT will not lead to domestic regulation of firearms in the United States -- as the NRA vacuously warns -- because the United States will not agree to a finalized treaty that places “restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

But the opportunity to include Iran in fearmongering surrounding the treaty was too much for the right-wing media to pass up.

An article on FoxNews.com warned that "[a] treaty being hammered out this month at the United Nations -- with Iran playing a key role -- could expose the records of America's gun owners to foreign governments -- and, critics warn, eventually put the Second Amendment on global trial." FoxNews.com further reported: “The world body has already been criticized for appointing Iran to a key role in the talks, even as Tehran stands accused by the UN of arming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on rebels.”

An article on CNSNews.com, with the hysterical headline “Iran to Oversee U.N. Arms Treaty Conference; 'Like Choosing Bernie Madoff to Police Fraud,'” included claims by Iran state-controlled media outlet Iran Daily that “some 193 participating countries unanimously voted in favor of Iran” to serve as a “Bureau” state. It was only after airing out the Iranian claims that the article noted that “according to the conference website bureau members are chosen by their respective geographic groups, not voted on by the plenary.”

On Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, an article entitled “United Nations Votes For Iran To Police Arms Control” drew the following analogy while reporting on Iran's selection to the “Bureau”:

Let us propose a thought experiment - suppose you were assembling a Neighborhood Watch party specifically designed to find and stop locals from using drugs. Would you elect someone as a member who makes an open secret of the fact that their basement is stuffed with cocaine?

If you're the United Nations, the answer is apparently, “Of course, why on earth not?” Except instead of stopping individual people from using drugs, this particular neighborhood watch is meant to prevent countries from developing weapons, and instead of cocaine, in Iran's case it's a potential cache of nuclear weapons that is being (poorly) hidden. 

The fact that right-wing media would heavily promote the NRA's opposition to the treaty while also engaging in scare tactics by highlighting the role of Iran in the negotiations is bizarre because both Iran and the National Rifle Association are opposed to a final treaty that covers small arms.

According to the Arms Control Association, a non-profit organization supporting treaty negotiations, “The only states joining the NRA in opposition to including small arms and light weapons are a few not so honorable arms exporters and importers -- China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and Venezuela -- who would rather be able to continue to sell and buy conventional weapons without common-sense global standards.”

Indeed, Iran has conditioned its support for the treaty on the absence of small arms regulations. In a July 10 statement issued at the ATT negotiations, Iran wrote, “In our view, a well-defined and universally accepted scope for a potential Arms Trade Treaty would be a determining factor in the acceptance of its provisions. In this regard, we are not in favor of the inclusion of missiles, Small Arms and Light Weapons and ammunition in the scope of the Treaty.”

Similarly, appearing before the United Nations yesterday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre stated, “The only way to address NRA's objections is to simply and completely remove civilian firearms from the scope of the treaty. That is the only solution. On that, there will be no compromise.”

Research intern Ausan Al-Eryani contributed to this item.