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The Week Ahead Nov. 18-22: Iran talks resume; Lugar honored; Syria CW Challenges

Arms Control NOW

WeekAheadSOLOThis bulletin highlights significant events in the world of arms control in the coming week, as compiled by staff and friends of the Arms Control Association. (Send your suggestions for events to be covered here.)

- the Editors at Arms Control Today

Iran Talks to Resume in Geneva

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and Germany) resume in Geneva on Nov. 20. The two sides appear to be very close to a "first phase" agreement that would pause Iran's nuclear progress and address the most urgent activities of proliferation concern in exchange for limited and reversible relief from some the tough sanctions now in place against Iran.

The talks come on the heels of the IAEA's latest quarterly report on Iran nuclear program, which found that Iran has voluntarily halted many sensitive activities but still retains a the capability to expand its uranium enrichment capabilities in the absence of a verifiable deal with the P5+1 group.

Reported differences between France and the other Western powers on the issue of the still-to-be-completed Arak heavy water reactor appear to have been non-existent despite comments made during the Nov. 7-9 round talks by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The key issue that separated the two sides Nov. 9 -- how to characterize Iran's "right" under Article IV of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear power -- may have been settled, according to weekend news reports.

For a more detailed analysis, see: "What Kind of Deal Is Possible and Necessary to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran?" (ACA Issue Brief, Oct. 10 2013)

Senate to Vote on Goettemoeller

The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination Rose Goettemoeller to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security this week.

The Senate Foreign Relations approved Gottemoeller's nomination without objection by a voice vote on Oct. 31. With the endorsement of Sen. Bob Corker, Goettemoeller is expected to be confirmed.

Gottemoeller was the main U.S. negotiator for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which the Senate approved in December 2010. (See "Senate Approves New Start," Arms Control Today, January/February 2011.)

Lugar to Be Honored for Threat Reduction Work

On Nov. 20, former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, for his work in seeking to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.

Lugar, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is perhaps best known for co-sponsoring Nunn-Lugar legislation that launched the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative. The project has locked down unsecured nuclear material around the globe with the aim of keeping weapons of mass destruction out of terrorist hands. The Arms Control Association named Lugar as the "Arms Control Person of the Year in 2009,' "his long-running support for U.S. financial contributions to assist with the construction of Russia's chemical weapons demilitarization complex."

OPCW Approves Plan for Syrian CW Destruction, But Problems Lie Ahead

Late on Friday Nov. 15, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) approved an aggressive schedule and plan for the elimination of the bulk chemical agents in Syria that involved removing the chemicals from the country for disposal. But as The New York Times reports today, the physical removal of the chemicals through war-torn Syria poses a major security challenge and, so far, no country has agreed to take the tons of toxic chemical agents for disposal.

For a detailed analysis of the success of the effort so far and the looming challenges, see: "Ridding Syria of Chemical Weapons: Next Steps," by Ralph Trapp and Jean Pascal Zanders in Arms Control Today, Nov. 2013.