Tag Archives: USA

Symmetry of adversary

Yesterday evening a framework document for (yet) further technical discussions on enhancing transparency about Iran’s nuclear activities was announced. A formal group picture was issued.

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/625/media/images/82100000/jpg/_82100070_026598317-1.jpg

Anything peculiar?

Notice how symmetrical current and historic adversaries are paired up:

  • China – USA
  • France – UK
  • Germany – Russia
  • White over black – Black over white

A deeper message or a trick of the (English) alphabet and diplomatic decorum?

Days of Future Past

Russia proposed to return to negotiations on a legally binding protocol to strengthen treaty implementation at the Meeting of Experts of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which was held in Geneva from 4–8 August. Its informal note discusses the creation of an international body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons (OPBW). It also tackles two frustrations prevalent among states parties: the convention’s institutional deficit and the lack of any progress in the so-called intersessional process—a series of annual Meetings of Experts (MX) during the summer followed by Meetings of States Parties (MSP) in December in between the quinquennial review conferences.

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The Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime at a Crossroads

Memorandum No. 137, Tel Aviv: Institute for National Security Studies, May 2014

Editors: Emily B. Landau , Azriel Bermant

The articles compiled in this volume grapple with questions and dilemmas that arise from a growing sense in recent years that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has reached a critical juncture, and that its continued role as the centerpiece of the nuclear nonproliferation regime is at risk. This is the result of a process that has unfolded gradually since the end of the Cold War, which also spelled the end of the bipolar global structure that, in the minds of many, helped keep nuclear proliferation in check.

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Taking stock of the chemical weapon ban

On 20–21 March the University of Rome III hosted a roundtable discussion to reflect on the current status of the prohibition on chemical weapons (CW) and the future challenges to that ban. Although convened by the Law Department, the speakers represented an eclectic group of experts with backgrounds in international law, political sciences, chemistry and biology, as well as practitioners. Notwithstanding, the meeting yielded considerable coherence in arguments, with questions, challenges and supplementary insights contributing further to an already rich multi-disciplinary texture.

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Hybrid disarmament framework and slowdowns

The publication of the 4th monthly report by the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month drew worldwide attention to Syria missing important interim deadlines for the removal of chemicals from its territory. US Ambassador Bob Mikulak’s head-on criticism of Syria’s procrastination at the latest OPCW Executive Council meeting reflected  frustration shared by many states. The responsibilities Syria assumed under the US-Russian Framework agreement of 14 September, as a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and under UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) include the removal of the Priority 1 chemicals by 31 December and the shipment abroad of all other declared chemicals with the exception of those it must destroy by itself (essentially isopropanol and the mustard agent residue in the original containers) by 5 February. The tripartite status-of-mission document, which stipulates the operational roles for Syria, the OPCW and the UN, was finally signed on 6 February. According to Resolution 2118, this agreement should have been concluded by 1 November. Being critical to organising the whole destruction process within the tight deadlines, the UN and the OPCW had already handed the Syrian government a proposal on 16 October.

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Public Outreach in Destruction of Syrian CW

Open letter to Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel

February 3, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry

US Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington DC 20520

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

US Department of Defense

1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington DC 20301-1400

RE:  Public Outreach and Stakeholder Involvement in Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons

Dear Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel:

We the undersigned environmental, public health, nonproliferation, and arms control experts have been closely following all aspects of the Syrian chemical disarmament process.  We believe that the most urgent issue today is to make sure that all relevant chemicals from the Syrian stockpiles are speedily delivered to the port of Latakia and loaded onto the Norwegian and Danish ships.

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Sea-based destruction of Syria’s CW proposed

A few days ago the press revealed that the United States has offered to neutralise some of Syria’s most dangerous chemicals aboard the Maritime Administration vessel MV Cape Ray. In the margins of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) currently underway in The Hague, more details about the proposed neutralisation process have become available. At the time of writing, it appears that the US proposal is the only viable chemical weapon (CW) disposal method on the table.

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Not so dead lines

If ever you had the impression that things had calmed down over the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons (CW), you may be in for a bad surprise. The already frenzied pace of developments has just picked up again.

On 15 November the OPCW decided on the timelines for the destruction and removal of Syria’s chemical weapon (CW) capacity. In parallel developments, countries that had been hoped to host the destruction operations kindly thanked the United States for the honour and politely refused. It basically left the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—aka the global community—with very few options: destruction operations inside Syria or move them to the sole space on this planet not controlled by a government, a risk-adverse parliament or a NIMBY civil society, namely the high seas. In practice, it looks increasingly probable that the United States will take charge of out-of-Syria destruction operations using off-shore facilities (ships or platform).

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Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons – Annotated commentary

This is a very quick reaction to the agreement between Russia and the United States to address Syria’s chemical weapons. My interpretations may change as more background information becomes available. I am sure that over the next few days there will be many background briefings to add texture to the individual paragraphs in the agreement. I welcome comments challenging or supplementing my views, and will revise this posting accordingly.

Generally speaking, the bilateral agreement takes the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the fact that Syria has just submitted its instrument of accession to the UN Secretary General as the point of departure. The Executive Council (EC) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will play its full role in the determination of the of the specific destruction timeframes, even though Russia and the USA are likely to press their case very strongly. The EC comprises 41 states parties. They are elected within and proposed by their respective regional caucuses. All voting in the OPCW decision-making bodies is on the basis of one state party/one vote. Under normal circumstances, states parties strive for consensus in their decision-making, but given the urgency with which Russia and the USA wish to have the Syrian question addressed, one should not be surprised to see majority voting results emerge from the EC meetings. Such majority voting should also not be viewed as undermining the legitimacy of the process, because it is foreseen in the treaty text.

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US assessment of chemical weapons attack near Damascus

The US State Department has just published the Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013 and a map of the suburbs affected.

This is the first credible account of events released by any government. Credible, because it contains assertions and caveats, but most importantly, because its details are falsifiable. The elements can be verified against other sources, most notably the preliminary report of the UN investigative team, which should be with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon within the next 72 hours or so (Sunday or Monday).

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