Obama blamed for failure of international arms-trade treaty

The United Nations indefinitely suspended action on an international arms trade treaty Friday after the United States and several other countries asked for more time.

The decision sparked angry reactions from human rights groups often allied with the Obama administration, who believed a treaty to regulate the export of deadly weapons to rogue regimes was within reach. The UN had spent the entire month of July hammering out a deal, and Friday was the deadline for an agreement on a treaty that has met with the staunch opposition of the National Rifle Association and bipartisan concerns in the Senate.

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“This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough that would have required all nations to deny arms export licenses where there was an overriding risk that the weapons would be used to facilitate serious crimes against humanity.”

And Scott Stedjan, Oxfam America’s senior policy advisor, called the failure “a tremendous loss for thousands of innocent civilians around the globe who die each year from armed violence fueled by the unregulated transfer of arms.”

U.S. allies also expressed their frustration.

"We came to New York to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today. We believe we were very close to reaching our goals,” a group of 90 countries – including the U.K., France and Germany – said in a statement read at the end of the conference. "Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text you put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work. We believed that this would have been possible with extra work today and only very reluctantly now see that this is not possible."

The group held out hope that the UN could still reach consensus on a treaty this year.

Even then, the treaty would almost certainly fail to get the two-thirds majority needed for ratification by the U.S. Senate, where 51 senators have already signed on to a letter raising their objection to any treaty that would regulate “small arms" or "light weapons," as the draft treaty does. Proponents of the treaty, which include the National Association of Evangelicals, say there is nothing in the treaty that is incompatible with Second Amendment gun rights.