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"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."

– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
October 20, 2014
Jeff Abramson

Consensus Found at Small Arms Conference

Jeff Abramson

Delegates at a UN biennial meeting last month reached consensus on the next steps toward an international instrument to address the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. Although the commitments made were modest, the delegates’ ability to find consensus was seen as progress over their meeting in 2008, when they had to call a vote to reach agreement.

Ranging from items such as pistols that can be carried by hand to heavy machine guns and others weapons that are generally transported by a pack animal or light vehicle, the authorized transfer of small arms, light weapons, and associated ammunition is worth at least $6 billion annually, according to estimates by the independent research group Small Arms Survey. By its nature, however, the illegal trade is difficult to measure. It poses a “grave threat to peace and security,” Pablo Macedo of Mexico said in his opening statement as chair of the meeting. Delegates at the meeting discussed implementation of the politically binding 2001 Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and the 2005 International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, which grew out of the program of action. (See ACT, September 2008.)

In contrast to 2008, when the United States attended only for the day dedicated to the tracing instrument, the United States attended the entirety of this year’s week-long conference. U.S. delegation head Steven Costner made interventions on each of the meeting’s four main topics: combating illicit small arms trade across borders, improving international cooperation and assistance, implementing the tracing instrument, and strengthening follow-up mechanisms and preparations for the 2012 review conference. U.S. delegate William Kullman authored a discussion paper prior to the meeting and led the meeting’s paragraph-by-paragraph review of the text on the international tracing instrument to be included in the conference’s final document.

In general, states agreed to measures similar to the ones adopted in 2008: that they are committed to addressing the issue, should work together, and should develop national laws when needed. In a June 24 interview, a U.S. Department of State official, although emphasizing that the conference was able to reach a consensus decision, described the final agreements as generally driven to the lowest common denominator.

Delegates did discuss measures to improve the value of national implementation reports and upcoming meetings. Although states are invited to submit annual reports on the implementation efforts, only nine did so in 2009, and more than 35 have never done so, out of 152 member states plus the Holy See. In 2008 and 2010, however, more than 100 states submitted reports. Those higher-reporting years aligned with biennial meetings, and delegates agreed to “make every effort to produce, on a voluntary basis, a comprehensive report…every two years, timed with biennial meetings of States and review conferences,” according to the final draft text. (An official text of the agreement has yet to be released.) They also encouraged use of a new reporting template.

An open-ended meeting of governmental experts is scheduled for January 10-14, 2011, and a review conference for July 2-13, 2012. According to the final draft text of the biennial meeting’s outcome document, the content of the 2011 meeting will include international cooperation and assistance and “one or two” priority issues. That language represents a deliberate focusing of discussion from an earlier draft that read “one or more” and therefore could have allowed too many issues at once, according to the State Department official. UN First Committee and General Assembly meetings later this year may provide more guidance on the topics for the 2011 meeting, whether preparatory committee meetings will be established prior to the 2012 review conference, and the ultimate dates for such meetings.

 

Delegates at a UN biennial meeting last month reached consensus on the next steps toward an international instrument to address the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. Although the commitments made were modest, the delegates’ ability to find consensus was seen as progress over their meeting in 2008, when they had to call a vote to reach agreement.

News Briefs

U.S. Cluster Munition Use Alleged in Yemen

Jeff Abramson

Pictures released last month raised questions about possible U.S. use of cluster munitions in Yemen. On June 7, Amnesty International released photographs that appeared to show a U.S.-manufactured cruise missile and cluster munitions that struck the southern Yemeni community of al-Ma’jalah in December 2009, killing 55 people, including 14 alleged al Qaeda members, according to the organization’s press release. If the incident is confirmed as involving U.S.-fired weapons, it would be the first U.S. use of cluster munitions since 2003 in Iraq. Thus far, Washington has not responded to questions about the weapons. Whether they could have been transferred to Yemen and used by Yemeni forces is also unclear, but unlikely. The version of the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile identified in the photos, the BGM-109D, is not known to have been transferred to Yemen or any other country and is designed to be launched from ships or submarines that Yemen does not have, Amnesty International arms control researcher Mike Lewis said in an interview. Neither the United States nor Yemen has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which enters into force Aug. 1 and bars the use of the weapons in question.


 

IAEA Questions to Syria Remain Unanswered

Daniel Salisbury

Questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Syria about past nuclear-related procurements and activities still have not been answered, according to an agency report released May 31.

The report called for Syria to “cooperate with the agency on these issues in a timely manner.” Syria has provided some information, which the agency is currently assessing, the report said. The outstanding questions include previously unreported uranium-conversion activities using undeclared quantities of uranyl nitrate and yellowcake, a uranium concentrate, that the agency uncovered at a facility housing Syria’s Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR). (See ACT, December 2009.) Uranyl nitrate is a substance that is covered by safeguards and must therefore be declared to IAEA inspectors. Yellowcake, an early precursor for civil and military nuclear efforts, does not require safeguards.

The IAEA report says that the agency is still awaiting results of analysis undertaken using samples recovered during a physical inventory verification at the MNSR in March.

Syria’s initial explanation for the material in June 2009 was not supported by IAEA sampling, the agency said in a report last November. (See ACT, December 2009.) In November, Syria said the particles originated from domestically produced yellowcake. Syria has said the undeclared conversion experiment took place in 2004 and that the resulting uranyl nitrate was to be used in irradiation experiments. Conversion involves changing yellowcake to uranium hexafluoride gas, required for enrichment.

Syria has still not resolved “outstanding issues” related to the presence of chemically processed uranium at the Dair al Zour site, the IAEA report says. Israel bombed that facility in 2007, and Syria subsequently bulldozed over the site. (See ACT, November 2007.)


 

IAEA Board Discusses Israeli Nuclear Program

Daniel Salisbury

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors last month discussed Israel’s nuclear program during its quarterly meeting, the first time since 1991 it had done so.

The June 10 discussion, described on the meeting’s agenda as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities,” was initiated by the Arab Group and Iran. A statement by Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group said, “Israel continues to defy the the international community, through its continued refusal to accede” to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In a statement to the board, David Danieli, deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that Israel had “always maintained a responsible policy in the nuclear domain.” He added that the 18 states had sought to “bring up the name of Israel along with the names of Iran and Syria,” whose nuclear programs are under investigation by the IAEA.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said his country “regrets that this issue has been brought to this Board.” Davies said that Israel had “broken no agreements under the purview of the Agency” and that the agenda item “represents a distraction from other pressing issues before the IAEA.”

Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons program, but has never openly declared it.


 

Open Skies Members Look to Future

Valerie Pacer

The parties to the Open Skies Treaty agreed last month to focus on adapting the treaty to the demands of the 21st century while keeping in mind the financial and technological constraints that many member states are facing.

In the conference’s final document, the parties agreed to consider working individually or with other countries to move away from film cameras and instead consider the technical and financial aspects of moving to digital sensors and cameras. “The requirement to plan financially for this transition now is imperative,” the document said.

Participants in the June 7-9 conference in Vienna also discussed the acquisition of newer, more modern aircraft for Open Skies flights. In addition, the final document considers expansion of treaty membership to more Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) countries as a way to “enhance the effectiveness and…provide the opportunity to broaden the security benefits” of the treaty. Currently, all treaty parties are OSCE members.

The treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 parties to conduct overflights of the entirety of a member’s territory as a confidence-building mechanism. The treaty requires member countries to make data acquired during their flights available to all parties on request, thus giving all parties equal access to information. According to the final document, there have been more than 670 flights since Russia conducted the first one on Aug. 5, 2002.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Celeste Wallander, co-chair of the conference, identified the “cooperation and transparency” that the treaty provides as “one of the pillars of conventional arms control and military transparency in Europe.” In its opening statement, the Russian delegation referred to the treaty as “a unique and unparalleled multinational instrument for strengthening confidence and security in a huge region.”

According to the final document, the treaty members “recognize that the Treaty might serve as a model for aerial monitoring regimes in other regions of the world.”

 

News Briefs

Indonesia to Ratify Test Ban Treaty

Meri Lugo

Indonesia will begin proceedings to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Foreign Minister R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa announced May 3. “Indonesia is initiating the process of the ratification,” he said during Indonesia’s opening statement at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations. “It is our fervent hope that this further demonstration of our commitment to the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation agenda will encourage other countries that have not ratified the treaty to do the same,” he added.

Indonesia is one of nine remaining “Annex 2” states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force; the other eight are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. Under Annex 2 of the CTBT, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force.

Indonesia signed the CTBT in 1996, on the first day it was opened for signature.

During a speech in Washington last June, then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda announced that Indonesia would ratify the CTBT as soon as the United States did so. Explaining the policy change at a May 4 press conference, Natalegawa said Indonesia hoped that its decision would “be a positive incentive for other states to follow suit.”

In their opening statements at the review conference, several speakers applauded Indonesia’s new policy. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth said May 6 that “the announcement is of crucial importance in moving the treaty closer to entry into force, and underscores the leadership role of Indonesia in regional and global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.”

In a May 4 statement, President Barack Obama thanked Indonesia “for its responsible leadership in the global effort to reinforce the nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

In April 2009, Obama pledged to pursue U.S. ratification of the CTBT and is expected to do so after Senate consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago and the Central African Republic deposited their instruments of ratification for the CTBT on May 26, bringing the total number of ratifications to 153.


 

U.S. to Give Missile Launch Notifications

Volha Charnysh

The United States has agreed to provide prelaunch notification for the majority of its ballistic missile and satellite launches, officials said last month.

The United States sent a confidential note to the secretariat of the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which coordinates HCOC information exchanges, said in a May 25 interview.

The U.S. move, which was first reported by the Associated Press, was “a confidence-building measure,” he said.

Under the HCOC, which has 130 members and is the most wide-ranging international agreement on missile proliferation, countries make a nonbinding commitment to provide prelaunch notifications on ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches. Although the United States has regularly provided the HCOC with annual reports, it has never supplied prelaunch notifications through the code. Moscow stopped notifying HCOC members of its ballistic missile launches in 2008 on the grounds that some current members have not been issuing prelaunch notifications. (See ACT, March 2008.)

A U.S. Department of State official said in a May 28 interview that Washington had recently completed a review of its policy on prelaunch notifications and decided to issue such notifications of commercial and NASA space launches, as well as “the majority” of its intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launches using the HCOC process. The United States had been abiding by the December 2000 Memorandum of Understanding on Notifications of Missile Launches with Russia instead of the HCOC, he said. Consistent with its position at the time of the HCOC’s creation in November 2002, the United States will “on rare occasions” withhold launch information on certain ballistic missiles or space-launch vehicles, he said.

Launsky-Tieffenthal said the U.S. prenotification plans were to be further discussed at the next regular meeting of the HCOC, scheduled for May 31-June 1.


 

Landmine Review Garners Congressional Support

Jeff Abramson

Sixty-eight senators last month expressed support for the Obama administration’s review of U.S. landmine policy as well as a potential presidential decision that would lead to joining an international treaty banning their use.

In a May 18 letter, the senators said, “We are confident that through a thorough, deliberative review, the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible.”

The senators were referring to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. Before the United States could join the treaty, at least two-thirds of the Senate—67, if all 100 senators are present—would have to support it. Treaty advocates said the 68 signatures on the letter make a decision to join the treaty easier for the administration.

Key members of Senate committees, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and ranking member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Senate Arms Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), signed the letter, which was circulated by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Obama received a similar letter from 57 House members.

In 2009 the administration announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of landmine policy and attended a meeting of treaty states-parties for the first time. (See ACT, December 2009.) That review is ongoing, and the administration has not indicated whether it plans to join the treaty.

Under a policy inherited by the Obama administration, the United States this year will forswear use of persistent mines, also known as “dumb mines,” but retain so-called smart mines, those equipped with self-destruct mechanisms. Both types of mines are prohibited by the treaty. So called “command-detonated” mines, which require an operator to detonate them intentionally, are permitted.


 

UK Ratifies Cluster Munitions Convention

Jeff Abramson

The United Kingdom, a key U.S. ally and past user and producer of cluster munitions, ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions May 4, becoming the 11th NATO member to do so. Since February, when the treaty met its minimum number of 30 ratifications needed to set an entry-into-force date, Ecuador, Samoa, and the Seychelles have also ratified the accord, bringing total ratifications to 34. In April, Mauritania signed it, raising the total number of signatories to 106.

 

Momentum Building for U.S. Accession to the Mine Ban Treaty

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Body: 

Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 6, May 25, 2010

Last week, 68 Senators delivered a letter applauding President Obama for his decision to conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy. That review, drawing in members of the Defense and State Departments and the National Security Council, is ongoing and will provide the president with advice on whether the United States should change policy and accede to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty.

In their statement, the bipartisan Congressional group said, "We are confident that through a thorough, deliberative review the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible."

With the support of Senators, members of the House of Representatives who also wrote a letter to the President last week, as well as national and international nongovernmental groups, momentum is building for the United States to accede to treaty, which bars the use of victim-activated antipersonnel landmines and sets timelines for clearance of mine-impacted areas and the destruction of existing stockpiles.

The substantial bipartisan support for a change in U.S. policy is due to the substantial security, diplomatic, and humanitarian benefits of U.S. accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.

The United States No Longer Uses-Nor Does It Need-Antipersonnel Landmines
The United States is not known to have used antipersonnel landmines since 1991, has not exported them since 1992, and has not produced them since 1997. Globally, the use, transfer, and production of these weapons have essentially ceased. Despite significant military engagements in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has found other solutions than to use the weapons banned by the treaty. Mines currently in place in South Korea are not under U.S. ownership and pose no barrier to U.S. accession to the treaty. This year, the United States will also officially reject any future use of persistent mines, bringing it into even closer alignment with the treaty.

In the 1990s and again in 2001, a significant number of retired senior military leaders recommended that the United States join the treaty, including Gen. David Charles Jones (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Gen. John R. Galvin (former Supreme Allied Commander Europe), and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf (former Commander, Operation Desert Storm).

Although he did not explicitly call for the United States to join the treaty, General James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff publicly stated May 13 in response to a question about landmines that there are weapons that "may be effective as lethal agents but they...have a social and cultural bias against them for good reasons.... The reality is...it is about the politics, it is about the people.... [I]f you ignore that, then your ability to actually wage and succeed in conflict is lost because you're trying to influence somebody's mind at the end of the day."

The desire to retain so-called "smart mines" remains the key difference between the treaty and U.S. policy, but because self-destructing mines are still indiscriminate and do not always self-destruct as expected, their use has been rejected by treaty members. Command detonated landmines, those with a "man in the loop," are permitted, however, and exist in the U.S. stockpile.

U.S. Accession Would Strengthen the Taboo Against Landmines and Enhance U.S. Global Leadership
Today, 156 countries are states-parties to Mine Ban Treaty, including all NATO members except the United States (Poland has already signed and intends to ratify the treaty in 2012) and all Western hemisphere countries with the exception of Cuba and the United States. Last year, for the first time, the United States officially attended a meeting of treaty states-parties and was widely welcomed.

A U.S. decision to accede to the treaty will immediately put pressure on hold-out states to join the accord. In many cases, countries use U.S. inaction as an excuse for delay.

Already, many states not party to the treaty indicate support for it through an annual UN General Assembly resolution on landmines. In 2009, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Oman, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, and the United Arab Emirates voted for the UN resolution, which invites all states to join the accord.

The bottom line is that the United States does not use or need the antipersonnel landmines prohibited by the treaty. Any perceived military utility is far outweighed by the substantial humanitarian and diplomatic benefits of U.S. accession.

A Majority of the Senate Supports a Shift in U.S. Policy on the Mine Ban Treaty
As a senator, Barack Obama recognized the need to revise the outdated U.S. policy on landmines. In September 2008, he told Arms Control Today that: "In general, I strongly support international initiatives to limit harm to civilians caused by conventional weapons.... I will regain our leadership on these issues by joining our allies in negotiations and honoring U.S. commitments to seek alternatives to landmines."

As the letter from more than two-thirds of the U.S. Senate makes clear, there are viable alternatives to the use of anti-personnel mines prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty and there is strong support for review and change in U.S. landmine policy. At the conclusion of his review of the Mine Ban Treaty, the President should:

  • announce that the United States has determined that it no longer needs to and will no longer use the weapons banned by the treaty;
  • indicate his intention to transmit the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent;
  • immediately begin planning for destruction of the U.S. landmine stockpile and identify (and, if necessary, make) any changes to U.S. military doctrine that are necessary to bring U.S. war planning into alignment with the treaty; and
  • reaffirm the United States' intention to remain a global leader in mine clearance and victim assistance.

By acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty, the United States would advance its security interests, improve the conditions on the ground for civilians and U.S. soldiers in conflict zones, and reestablish U.S. global leadership. - JEFF ABRAMSON

 

Description: 

Volume 1, Number 6

Last week, 68 Senators delivered a letter applauding President Obama for his decision to conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy. That review, drawing in members of the Defense and State Departments and the National Security Council, is ongoing and will provide the president with advice on whether the United States should change policy and accede to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty.

Country Resources:

News Briefs

Israel Charges Syria-Hezbollah Scud Transfer

Peter Crail

Israeli officials in April accused Syria of transferring short-range ballistic missiles to Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militia group the United States classifies as a terrorist organization. Such a transfer would provide Hezbollah with its first ballistic missile capability and extend the reach of its offensive systems to cover all of Israel.

During an April 13 meeting with French Prime Minister François Fillon, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Syria is playing “a double game,” Peres’ spokesman said afterward. “On the one hand it talks peace, yet at the same time, it hands over accurate Scud missiles to Hezbollah so that it can threaten Israel,” he said.

Syria and Lebanon have denied the claim. Hezbollah is also a Lebanese political party that holds seats in parliament.

Iran has reportedly supplied Hezbollah with “many types of rockets since 1992,” according to a U.S. intelligence report submitted to Congress in March. During the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, Hezbollah reportedly fired several thousand rockets into Israel.

The longest-range rocket Hezbollah is believed to maintain, the Iranian-supplied Zelzal-2, has a range of 350 to 400 kilometers.

It is unclear what type of Scud missile Syria is accused of transferring to Hezbollah. A 2009 National Air and SpaceIntelligenceCenter report indicates that Syria maintains the Scud-D variant, which has a range of about 700 kilometers.

Although U.S. officials have indicated that they have not yet determined whether the Scud transfer took place, the Department of State on April 19 summoned Syrian Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour to discuss long-standing concerns regarding the arming of Hezbollah.

Following that meeting, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah.”

The accusation comes as the United States prepares to appoint a new ambassador to Syria, Washington’s first in five years.


 

EU Calls for NPT Action Plan

Oliver Meier

The European Union is promoting the adoption of an “ambitious action plan” by members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at this month’s review conference to strengthen efforts to reduce nuclear weapons and prevent their spread.

In the March 29 EU Council Decision for the review conference, which begins May 3 at the United Nations, disarmament measures figure more prominently in the EU’s agenda than they did in the analogous document that the EU adopted for the 2005 NPT meeting. The EU reaffirms its “commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,” the new document says. It stresses “the need for more progress in decreasing” U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and reducing “the operational readiness of their nuclear weapon systems to the minimum level necessary.”

However, EU countries failed to agree on a joint working paper on tactical nuclear weapons because of the opposition of France and some central European states, diplomatic sources said. In an April 20 interview, a senior German official said there was “a misperception in some member states who viewed this as an introduction of internal NATO discussions into the NPT.”

The document emphasizes “the need to take resolute action in response” to the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. The EU also supports a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and calls on all states in the region “to refrain from taking measures that preclude the achievement of this objective.” In addition, the EU endorses strengthened nuclear export controls, particularly on technologies for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies, and promises to work within the Nuclear Suppliers Group toward making “adherence to the Additional Protocol a condition for nuclear supply.”

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is expected to present the EU’s position at the review conference.


 

U.S. Launch Stirs Space Weaponization Concerns

Jeff Abramson

The U.S. Air Force launched a reusable orbital test vehicle April 22, sparking concerns in some quarters about a space weaponization race. At a media briefing two days before the launch, Gary Payton, undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, highlighted the possibility of using the X-37B to conduct experiments with new technologies and stressed that the launch was primarily to test the vehicle itself. He did not provide details on the exact payload and some other features of the spacecraft. International media and U.S. experts pointed to potential military uses of a cargo-carrying, maneuverable space plane. An April 26 editorial in China’s Global Times, which is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, pointed to Chinese and Russian concerns about space security and said the world should demand greater public detail and request that the United States “commit to not using the space plane for military purposes.” At the media briefing, Payton said, “I don’t know how this could be called weaponization of space. It’s just an updated version of the space shuttle kind of activities in space.” The vehicle, built in part by Boeing, is much smaller than the space shuttle, unmanned, designed to land itself, and capable of staying in space up to 270 days. Payton indicated that a second X-37B could be launched before the first one returns.

 

Gates Outlines Export Control Overhaul

Jeff Abramson

The Obama administration is shifting U.S. policy on export controls by focusing its efforts on “crown jewel” technology and items, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said last month.

The plan, announced April 20 in a speech to a Business Executives for National Security meeting in Washington, would align procedures across multiple bureaucracies in the near term without new legislation. It also calls for working with Congress to adopt new laws that would make a single agency responsible for export licenses, possibly by the end of this year. Many key elements have yet to be detailed, including which specific weapons and dual-use goods might be moved to new tiers or removed entirely from control lists. Dual-use goods are items, technology, and information that have both military and civilian uses.

Gates said that President Barack Obama hopes to work with Congress “to turn these proposals into legislation that the president can sign sometime this year.” That plan, however, has not garnered significant congressional support.

After the April 20 speech, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Gates had “delivered a forceful rationale” for revising U.S. export control systems. Berman has been working on a new Export Administration Act (EAA), which regulates dual-use items. He said that he has been “closely consulting” with the administration and expects to introduce legislation “shortly.”

He was more noncommittal on the broader overhaul. He noted that Gates had “set forth his own vision of how the…export control systems might be fully merged. Should the president propose such a step later this year, I will carefully consider it.” A congressional source said in an April 22 interview that, for now, legislators considered the administration proposals as only a “study.”

In a statement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) said, “I am confident that we can work closely with Secretary Gates on a bipartisan basis and with other committees in the Congress to make sure that the system protecting our technology is as excellent as the technology itself.” Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, welcomed the chance to “carefully study” the proposal and stressed “national security as the paramount factor in the export control system.”

On Jan. 27, Gates and other administration officials briefed congressional leaders on the ongoing review. According to congressional sources, there was some resistance at that time to aspects of the review and some of its assumptions. In the April 20 speech, Gates said, “I valued the feedback and the suggestions they provided at the time, and look forward to further dialogue.”

Opponents of export control overhaul cite concerns about national security and the danger of weapons and technology ending up in the hands of enemies of the United States and its allies. In the speech and in responses to questions, Gates admitted that previous export control reform efforts had failed, noting that the Department of Defense at times contributed to those failures. The Pentagon “has not overflowed in the past with enthusiasts for this kind of change,” he said.

The new element this time, he argued, is broad interagency support for the reform effort. He specifically identified Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher as backing the effort.

In his speech, Gates criticized the current system for trying to control too much and argued that requiring licenses on spare parts for certain military equipment already exported, such as F-16 fighter jets, hampers cooperation with allies. He said that defense trade cooperation treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia, which remain in the Senate awaiting its advice and consent, would be a “step in the right direction,” but that fundamental reform was needed. (See ACT, January/February 2010.) “Frederick the Great’s famous maxim that he who defends everything, defends nothing certainly applies to export control,” Gates stated.

Gates emphasized that the administration, rather than Congress, needed to act first. “[M]y hope is that as we streamline the process that the executive branch is responsible for, that there will be those in the Congress who can then lead some efforts to streamline the effort up there,” he said.

Higher Walls and Consolidated Processes

The guiding concept behind the administration’s export control reform approach is often described as “higher fences around fewer items.” Obama previewed that theme in a March 11 speech at the Export-Import Bank’s annual meeting when he said, “What we want to do is concentrate our efforts on enforcing controls on the export of our most critical technologies, making America safer while enhancing the competitiveness of key American industries.”

In the April 20 speech, Gates added a bit more detail, identifying items and technologies “relating to global terrorism, the proliferation and delivery of systems of weapons of mass destruction, and advanced conventional weapons” as being of primary concern. Goods that “have no significant military impact or that use widely available technology could be approved for export more quickly,” he said.

Currently, the departments of Commerce, Defense, and State all play major roles in approving and monitoring U.S. exports of defense items and dual-use goods. Under the Arms Export Control Act, the Defense and State departments oversee the transfer of defense articles and services listed on the U.S. Munitions List. Under the EAA, the Commerce Department oversees the Commerce Control List covering dual-use goods. (See ACT, January/February 2008.) Gates specifically called this “bureaucratic apparatus” a “major obstacle” and one that “results in confusion about jurisdiction and approval.”

The administration plan aims to consolidate the export control system via four “singles.” They are a single control list, a single licensing agency, a single enforcement agency, and a single information technology (IT) system.

In the first two phases of the three-phase plan, the administration would refine existing control lists and create a new tiered system that would allow for an item or technology to “be cascaded from a higher to a lower level of control as its sensitivity decreases,” according to Gates. During this period, congressional notification would be required to remove items from the munitions lists or transfer them to the dual-use list, according to a White House fact sheet released the same day as Gates’ speech. In the final phase, which would require new legislation from Congress, the two lists would be merged.

According to the fact sheet, licensing would similarly be streamlined to harmonize procedures among existing agencies at first, in order to “achieve significant license requirement reduction.” Whether the eventual single licensing agency would be housed in an existing agency or within an entirely new one is still under consideration, according to one of the senior Pentagon officials who conducted a background briefing April 19. Gates said he expects a presidential decision this spring on the agency’s location.

The administration also has not determined where it would locate the consolidated enforcement agency, but the officials said that it is currently being considered as separate from the licensing agency. They stressed the coordinating role of the enforcement agency, explaining that “even once reform is accomplished… there will still be multiple players involved in enforcement.” One of the officials cited “ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], State [Department] enforcement, Commerce Export Enforcement Office, FBI, and many others” as part of the enforcement system.

The proposed single IT system would encompass licensing as well as enforcement information. Like the other steps, an enterprise-wide IT system would be fully implemented only in the final phase of the plan.

Tackling IT issues has been an ongoing effort. The Bush administration called for reforms of underlying technology so that all agencies could review the same data. (See ACT, March 2008.)

A senior Defense Department official indicated at the April 19 briefing that the Pentagon’s IT system is “likely to be the backbone of where we go forward.”

Plan Support and Antecedents

Aspects of the plan, including an emphasis on administration-based action, can be traced to a 2009 National Academy of Sciences study, which found that “the current system of export controls now harms our national and homeland security, as well as our ability to compete economically.” Until December 2006, when he became defense secretary, Gates co-chaired the committee associated with the study.

Industry groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Aerospace Industry Association, expressed general support for the new approach, which echoes arguments they have made for years in favor of loosening control on widely available technologies and streamlining licensing processes. In an April 20 statement, NAM Vice President for International Economic Affairs Frank Vargo said, “Manufacturers are pleased the Administration is moving forward with changes to modernize the current Cold-war era system.”

The Obama administration announced the start of its export control review in August 2009. (See ACT, September 2009.) At the April 19 briefing, a senior Pentagon official said that the National Intelligence Council assessed the U.S. export control system and came to “the frank and unfortunate conclusion” that “the system itself poses a potential threat to national security.” Gates simply noted the need for urgent action “given the harmful effects of continuing with the existing set of outdated processes, institutions, and assumptions.”

 

The Obama administration is shifting U.S. policy on export controls by focusing its efforts on “crown jewel” technology and items, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said last month.

The plan, announced April 20 in a speech to a Business Executives for National Security meeting in Washington, would align procedures across multiple bureaucracies in the near term without new legislation. It also calls for working with Congress to adopt new laws that would make a single agency responsible for export licenses, possibly by the end of this year. Many key elements have yet to be detailed, including which specific weapons and dual-use goods might be moved to new tiers or removed entirely from control lists. Dual-use goods are items, technology, and information that have both military and civilian uses.

U.S. Incendiary-Weapons Policy Rebuffed

Jeff Abramson

In a rare step, 17 European countries objected in February to conditions the United States put on its decision to be bound by an international arms control protocol.

At the broadest level, the controversy revolves around Washington’s stance that incendiary weapons can be used when they would cause less harm than other weapons. So far the disagreement has drawn little attention, but some hope the objections will prevent what they see as efforts to weaken the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

On Jan. 21, 2009, the United States deposited its consent to be bound by the third protocol to the CCW, which bans the use of incendiary weapons against civilian targets (see sidebar). By protocol definition, incendiary weapons, such as flamethrowers, are “primarily designed to set fire to objects or cause burn injury to persons…by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target.”

In its depositary notification, the United States made a reservation that allowed for “the right to use incendiary weapons against military objectives located in concentrations of civilians where it is judged that such use would cause fewer casualties and/or less collateral damage than alternative weapons.” In a clarification to the reservation, Washington stated that those responsible for the use of incendiary weapons could be judged only on the basis of information they had at the time, not on information acquired afterward (see sidebar).

The notification sent to the United Nations in 2009 did not contain additional arguments that incendiary weapons were needed to destroy certain targets, such as biological weapons facilities, although that has long been a U.S. position. In prepared remarks at an April 15, 2008, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that discussed the protocol, Charles Allen, deputy general counsel for international affairs at the Department of Defense, reiterated that “incendiary weapons are the only weapons that can effectively destroy certain counterproliferation targets such as biological weapons facilities, which require high heat to eliminate biotoxins.” (See ACT, October 2008.) Although not included in the final reservation language, those arguments are repeated as part of the understanding for the reservation in the committee’s report on the protocol.

Between Feb. 1 and Feb. 5, 17 countries expressed objections to the U.S. reservation. According to a European diplomat, the EU body charged with overseeing issues related to the treaty raised concerns about the reservation only in December, resulting in a “whirlwind of correspondence between EU countries whilst they tried to figure out how to respond.”

Under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, countries are considered to have accepted a reservation if they have not objected within 12 months. The UN-issued depositary notification for the U.S. reservation is dated Feb. 5, 2009.

Varied Reasons

The 17 objecting countries gave a variety of reasons for their actions. Many simply stated that they found the U.S. reservation to be against the object and purpose of the treaty. The French objection noted that, “despite the assurances given by the United States of America, it cannot guarantee the protection of civilians, which is the raison d’être of the Protocol.” The German objection argued that the U.S. position was unacceptable because it “would leave the decision of whether or not the respective norms of the Protocol should be applied to the discretion of a military commander.”

Only a few of the objections specifically mentioned the possibility of justifying weapons use in the narrow circumstances of targeting biological weapons facilities or other counterproliferation targets. Denmark acknowledged U.S. intentions to “provide greater protection for the civilian population” and expressed “its willingness to engage in any further dialogue, which may serve to settle differences in interpretation.” The British objection offered to consider the U.S. position as not counter to the object and purpose of the treaty if it could be interpreted narrowly enough.

All the objections, with the exception of Denmark’s, include a statement that allows the protocol to enter into force between their country and the United States. Marie-Louise Overvad, Denmark’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said in a March 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today that her country “has not expressed any intention precluding the entry into force of Protocol III.”

Diplomats contacted by Arms Control Today expressed different views on the legal meaning of those statements. One interpretation is, as the Swedish objection put it, that the United States is bound by the protocol without “benefiting from its reservation,” meaning that the reservation does not apply but the protocol does. The United States does not agree with that view, insisting that it is bound only to the extent that it has expressed its consent.

One European diplomat downplayed the impact of the objections, saying that they were raised “purely on legal grounds.” Another European diplomat indicated that the U.S. reservation “means that use of incendiary weapons in civilian areas is not completely forbidden anymore.” The second diplomat said, “Therefore we fear that such a reservation could weaken the CCW and its Protocol III.”

In a Feb. 16 e-mail, Stephen Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, expressed hope that the objections to the reservations will have “a big impact on how the United States may use incendiaries in the future, and also have an impact on those who may want to make weakening reservations to any CCW protocol in the future.”

In 2004 and 2005, the United States faced accusations of improper use of white phosphorus in civilian areas in Iraq, as has Israel for operations in Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008-2009, respectively. (See ACT, May 2008.) A material that is often used for illumination, white phosphorus burns readily against the skin and can cause severe burns and death if used as an incendiary weapon. In his 2008 prepared Senate statement, Allen reiterated U.S. claims that white phosphorus “does not fit the definition of incendiary weapon in the protocol…. White phosphorous [sic] is a lawful weapon used for target marking and limited antipersonnel purposes against military objectives and enemy combatants.”

Possible Steps

Thus far, the United States has not responded to the recent objections. One possible next step will be for Washington to correspond with the secretary-general of the UN, which is the depositary of the treaty, with reaction and clarifications. States-parties may raise the issue at the regular annual meeting for the CCW in Geneva November 25-26. However, the issue may wait to be resolved until 2011, when the CCW holds a more thorough five-year review conference, likely in November of that year.

Objecting states, the ones most likely to raise the issue at the meetings, include Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

On Jan. 21, 2009, the first full day of Barack Obama’s presidency, the United States deposited its consent to be bound not only to the protocol on incendiary weapons, but also two other protocols and an amendment to the 1980 CCW. The CCW has five separate protocols that, in order, encompass weapons with fragments undetectable by x-rays; landmines and booby traps; incendiary weapons; blinding lasers; and explosive remnants of war. A 2001 amendment expands the treaty to cover conflicts within states. The unamended treaty only applies to conflicts between states. Prior to the 2009 deposits, the United States had accepted the treaty and the first two protocols. (See ACT, October 2008.)

Excerpt From CCW Protocol III

Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons

Article 2

2. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.

3. It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.


 

U.S. Consent to be Bound

January 21, 2009

Reservation

The United States of America, with reference to Article 2, paragraphs 2 and 3, reserves the right to use incendiary weapons against military objectives located in concentrations of civilians where it is judged that such use would cause fewer casualties and/or less collateral damage than alternative weapons, but in so doing will take all feasible precautions with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

Understanding

It is the understanding of the United States of America that any decision by any military commander, military personnel, or any other person responsible for planning, authorizing or executing military action shall only be judged on the basis of that person’s assessment of the information reasonably available to the person at the time the person planned, authorized, or executed the action under review, and shall not be judged on the basis of information that comes to light after the action under review was taken.

 

 

In a rare step, 17 European countries objected in February to conditions the United States put on its decision to be bound by an international arms control protocol.

U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deal Angers China

Michael Ashby and Jeff Abramson

Despite strong objections from China, the Obama administration on Jan. 29 unveiled an arms deal with Taiwan worth $6.4 billion. The deal, versions of which have been under consideration since 2001, includes 60 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, 114 PAC-3 missiles and their accompanying radar systems, two Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, 12 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and an array of advanced communications equipment.

Initially conceived as an $18.2 billion package including eight diesel-electric submarines, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, and six Patriot missile batteries, the deal’s path to approval has been complex. Periods of tension between China and Taiwan, Taiwan domestic political wrangling, and Bush administration concerns over the U.S. relationship with China have stalled agreements over the course of the negotiations.

By law, Congress had 30 days to raise objections to the arms sales before the administration could proceed. That period expired Feb. 28 without congressional action.

The arms sale comes at a time of heightened tension between China and the United States over a host of issues, including climate change, trade policy, Google’s threat to leave China, and Iran’s nuclear program.

When asked about the reason for the arms sale, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley said Feb. 1, “We’ve taken this action consistent with our one-China policy and [the] Taiwan Relations Act. We think that these defensive arms will contribute to security and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Under the one-China policy, the United States does not formally recognize or support Taiwan’s independence. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act commits the United States to the defense of Taiwan and authorizes arms sales to aid its defense.

The Chinese response to the announcement of the deal has been sharp. “The U.S. move pose[s] grave danger to China’s core interests and hurt bilateral ties seriously, which will inevitably affect bilateral cooperation on some major regional and international issues,” Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said during a Feb. 2 press briefing in Beijing. China announced that it is suspending its military ties with the United States and that U.S. companies involved in the sale will face sanctions. “In disregard of the strong opposition of China, relevant U.S. companies insisted on selling arms to Taiwan. China will impose sanctions on those companies,” Ma said.

Alan Romberg, a former staff member on China issues at the National Security Council and now a distinguished fellow at the HenryL.StimsonCenter in Washington, wrote on the group’s Web site that Beijing may be miscalculating its leverage. “No one should sell short the importance of ‘the Taiwan issue’ to [China]. It is fundamental. But understanding that does not define the entirety of the issue or limit the legitimacy of the national interests of other players in maintaining peace and stability in the region.”

Notably absent from the sale are F-16C/D fighter jets and diesel-fueled submarines Taipei has been seeking for years. Taiwan’s state-sponsored Central News Agency quoted Premier Wu Den-Yih as saying, “Buying weapons at a reasonable price for the country’s self-defense is the government’s basic guideline. The purchase of F-16C/D jets and submarines is still under discussion, and Washington is evaluating the sale, but negotiations on the submarines will be difficult because of their very high price.” The administration said that it is still reviewing whether the sale of the F-16s is necessary for Taiwan’s defense. Taiwan currently operates a force of earlier-model F-16 A/B fighter aircraft.

A Jan. 21 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment of Taiwan’s air defenses, which the Washington Times posted on its Web site, says China has recently “increased the quantity and sophistication of its ballistic and cruise missiles and fighter aircraft opposite Taiwan, which has diminished Taiwan’s ability to deny [Chinese] efforts to attain air superiority in a conflict.” The report outlines shortcomings in Taiwan’s air force and its missile defense capabilities.

Responding to the report, Huang Xueping, spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense said at a Feb. 25 press briefing, “We are highly concerned about the report because the Taiwan issue is a matter of great significance to China’s core interests.” Xinhua, China’s state news agency, suggested this report might be used to justify the sale of the F-16s Taiwan has been requesting.

The controversy may make international cooperation on a global arms trade treaty more difficult. Argentine ambassador Roberto García Moritán, chair of a UN process to develop such a treaty, said during a Feb. 11 meeting in Vienna that “suddenly the political climate certainly has changed.” He added that the proposed sales “will have certain effects in July” when the United Nations resumes work on the treaty. Last year, countries agreed to a series of meetings leading up to a UN conference on the treaty in 2012. Although China has participated in previous expert and working groups related to the treaty process, it has abstained on past votes moving it forward. (See ACT, November 2009.)

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said China and the United States can continue to cooperate on proliferation challenges in spite of the controversy over the deal. “We envision this relationship as one where we can work together on issues of mutual concern. We’ve worked together on issues of proliferation, particularly around North Korea,” he said during a Feb. 4 press briefing. “I think that the Chinese will continue to work with us on the important next steps that we have to take relating to Iran because it’s not just in our interest or in others’ interest, it’s quite clearly in their interest as well.”

 

 

Despite strong objections from China, the Obama administration on Jan. 29 unveiled an arms deal with Taiwan worth $6.4 billion. The deal, versions of which have been under consideration since 2001, includes 60 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, 114 PAC-3 missiles and their accompanying radar systems, two Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, 12 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and an array of advanced communications equipment.

Cluster Convention Set to Enter Into Force

Jeff Abramson

The United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Feb. 16, setting the treaty to enter into force Aug. 1.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. They sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. International outrage at the use of these weapons by Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 led to the so-called Oslo process and ultimately the treaty, which was opened for signature and ratification in December 2008. (See ACT, December 2008.)

The convention bars the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates countries to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims. It enters into force on the first day of the sixth month after the month in which the 30th instrument of ratification has been deposited.

Burkina Faso and Moldova provided the 29th and 30th ratifications Feb. 16. Montenegro and Denmark deposited their instruments earlier this year.

Although the United States has not supported the treaty, a number of its allies have. Of the 30 ratifying states, 10 are members of NATO. Ten other NATO members have signed but not yet ratified the treaty. Afghanistan and Iraq have also signed the accord, which allows for military cooperation between member and nonmember states, provided that countries bound by the treaty do not “expressly request the use of cluster munitions where the choice of munitions used is within [their] exclusive control.”

Instead of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Washington has preferred to seek agreement on limiting the use of cluster munitions through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). A group of governmental experts is scheduled to meet April 12-16 and Aug. 30-Sept. 3 to continue work on a possible sixth protocol to the CCW, led by new chairperson Jesus Domingo of the Philippines. Many of the countries that have committed to the new treaty and are also party to the CCW have stressed that any agreement in the CCW must not weaken controls on the weapons, drawing into question the likelihood of reaching consensus within the CCW. (See ACT, December 2009.)

The 30 states that have ratified the new treaty are Albania, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, the Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Uruguay, and Zambia. Another 74 countries have signed the treaty.

In a statement released by his spokesperson Feb. 16, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all states to become party to the treaty. “[T]he Convention’s entry into force just two years after its adoption demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons,” he said.

 

 

The United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Feb. 16, setting the treaty to enter into force Aug. 1.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. They sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. International outrage at the use of these weapons by Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 led to the so-called Oslo process and ultimately the treaty, which was opened for signature and ratification in December 2008.

News Briefs

W. African Pact on Small Arms Enters Into Force

Andrew Fisher

Signaling further progress on controlling the transfer of small arms and light weapons in Africa, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced Nov. 20 the entry into force of the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, three years after it was opened for signature in 2006.

In a statement at the ECOWAS Council of Ministers meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, ECOWAS Commission President Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas said the convention “provides for a ban of arms transfer by member states, with possibility of exemption for legitimate defense and security needs, law enforcement and participation in peace support operations” and prohibits “without exception, arms transfer to non-state actors without the approval of the importing country.”

The ban came into force following the Sept. 29 ratification by Benin, which joined Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo as a party to the treaty. The other members of ECOWAS are Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Under the terms of the 2006 treaty, it enters into force on the date of deposit of the ninth instrument of ratification.

The convention replaces a 1998 political commitment to a moratorium on the import and export of small arms.


New CTBT Station Draws Iranian Rebuke

Meri Lugo

Calling the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) a “security and espionage treaty,” an Iranian official said in early December “it is clear” that the purpose of a recently constructed seismic monitoring station in Turkmenistan is “to monitor Iran.”

Abolfazl Zohrehvand, an adviser to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, made the comments to Iranian state news outlet IRNA; they were reported by the Associated Press Dec. 9.

The seismic station, which operates continuously, was recently completed near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a few kilometers from the Iranian border. As part of the International Monitoring System (IMS), it is one of 337 planned monitoring stations around the world designed to verify the CTBT by detecting nuclear tests. More than 250 stations  have already been built and certified and are actively transmitting data, according to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which is responsible for building the monitoring network.

The Ashgabat station is now undergoing testing and is expected to be certified in 2010.

In a Jan. 4 e-mail to Arms Control Today, CTBTO spokesperson Annika Thunborg said Iran “is a very active member of the CTBTO and participates in all its meetings.” All CTBTO member states “have equal rights when it comes to receiving all information registered by the [IMS],” she said.

The construction and establishment of the Ashgabat facility did not differ from those of any other IMS station, Thunborg added. The type and location of the station “were decided already in the treaty negotiations in the mid 1990s in which Iran partook,” she said.

Currently, Iran has three IMS stations within its borders—one certified and two in the testing stages.


Defense Trade Treaties Remain in Committee

Jeff Abramson

Although the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed more optimism than his predecessor about moving forward on two defense trade cooperation treaties, the pacts remained stalled in the committee after a Dec. 10 hearing. The 2007 treaties with Australia and the United Kingdom provide a framework for licensing exemptions for preapproved defense projects and firms; proponents argue that the accords will help speed development and deployment of counterterrorism and other technology.

But, at a May 2008 hearing on the treaties, then-Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) asked for greater detail on how the treaties would be implemented. Some of the questioning focused on changes that might be needed in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. (See ACT, November 2008.)

Since then, the Department of State submitted draft regulations, which Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) noted as progress in his opening remarks at the December hearing. Kerry said he intends “to move forward in drafting and passing a resolution of advice and consent to ratification.”

Lugar raised numerous questions about the schedule for completing the draft regulations, how the treaty would be enforced, and congressional involvement in monitoring arms trade and implementation of the treaty. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Associate Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker said they would try to have additional written answers and revised regulations by mid-January.


Poland, U.S. Sign Agreement for Missile Site

Volha Charnysh

Poland and the United States signed an agreement Dec. 11 to station some 100 U.S. soldiers on Polish territory to install and operate a set of short- and medium-range missile interceptors. According to the U.S. Department of State, the status of forces agreement (SOFA) “will facilitate a range of mutually agreed activities including joint training and exercises, deployments of U.S. military personnel, and prospective Ballistic Missile Defense deployments.”

The signing of a SOFA is a prerequisite for stationing U.S. troops abroad. According to a Dec. 11 report by RIA Novosti, the first troop rotation is expected to arrive in Poland by the end of March 2010 and will service Patriot missiles.

The December agreement strengthens the national security of Poland, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said. The Polish news agency PAP quoted Klich as saying that the agreement would enable the United States to meet its commitments under the Declaration on Strategic Cooperation, which was signed Aug. 20, 2008. The declaration allowed parts of a U.S. missile defense system to be stationed in Poland.

The SOFA comes three months after the Bush-era missile defense system plan in Poland and the CzechRepublic was modified. (See ACT, October 2009.) Under the new plan, the United States would deploy a mobile, land-based version of the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) in central Europe and ship-based SM-3s in the North and Mediterranean seas. The troops to be stationed in Poland under the SOFA are a part of that plan.


Two More Countries Ratify Cluster Convention

Jeff Abramson

Belgium and New Zealand deposited their instruments of ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December, becoming the 25th and 26th states to do so, while Cameroon became the 104th signatory state. The treaty was opened for signature in December 2008 and will enter into force six months after the 30th state ratifies it. The pact bans the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates states to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims. (See ACT, December 2008.)

 

 

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