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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
November 2014
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Cover Image: 

GETTING TO KNOW Capt. Richard Dromerhauser

November 2014

“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Captain Richard Dromerhauser of the U.S. Navy led one of the most significant arms control accomplishments in recent years: the maritime destruction of a large portion of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in July and August 2014. As commander of the MV Cape Ray, Dromerhauser oversaw the crew of 135 people that neutralized 600 metric tons of dangerous chemicals without mishap.

Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone on September 25 at the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy.

The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

What brought you to the Navy?
My goal was to graduate high school—just kidding. I was looking at a career in an engineering field, and I had looked into the Naval Academy. I had the desire to serve my country, and I thought this was a great opportunity to get an education. I came from a working-class background. I was the oldest child and also the first in my immediate family to go to college.

How did the Cape Ray assignment come to you?
We needed to move the neutralization operations to sea. The technology to do the neutralization was something we had proven. What we did then was to combine the two in a shipboard environment. I was able to bring a lot of experience that I had in past commands and also in different jobs that I had before to bear on this.

Were you following the story about the use of chemical weapons in Syria that led to the mission? A thousand people were killed with chemical weapons.
We follow closely all the activities and the issues that go on around the [Mediterranean] theater. I was following that, just as I was following all the other activities that were occurring at that time. Of course, what a horrible tragedy. And I think also, what a great opportunity that we were given: to remove this [material], from not just the Syrian arsenal, but from the global arsenal.

What does 600 tons of chemical weapons look like?
Like a lot of containers that you see on 18-wheelers. The Cape Ray and all the Cape-class ships are very large and able to carry a lot. We processed 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Navy Captain Richard Dromerhauser speaks to members of nongovernmental organizations aboard the MV Cape Ray on April 10. The ship was docked in Rota, Spain, while waiting to begin neutralizing Syrian chemical weapons materials. (U.S. Navy)Was there a most dangerous moment in the transfer of the chemicals?
No, I’m going to say outright I never felt like, “Hey, this is a bad situation.” It’s really a testament to the intense amount of planning and training that we had. When the ship first left the [United] States, there was a period of time where we were waiting for all the material to be [removed from Syria]. Rather than hang our heads and go, “Boy, what are we waiting for?” we jumped up on that.

That was a fantastic opportunity to train, to go over processes, look at the systems, and really chalkboard out how we were going to do this. I had the ability to meet each day with not only the master of the vessel itself, but the lead chemist. We made a point every day to meet at a set time, regardless of what was going on.

One of the best decisions we made was, we said we need to find a way to empower every single person on this [ship]. Whether they’re moving material or whether they’re a lookout, or working to keep the hot water going, [we said,] “If you see something that’s not right, stop everything and let’s reassess.”

How did it feel to get a call afterward from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel?
That was a great testament to all the hard work and accomplishments of everyone aboard. I was on the other end of the line, but I really wished we were able to get a speaker phone out to not just the ship, but to every one of the folks in the supporting allies, the folks who were out there with us.

Captain Richard Dromerhauser of the U.S. Navy led one of the most significant arms control accomplishments in recent years: the maritime destruction of a large portion of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in July and August 2014.

Kahl Tapped as Biden Aide

November 2014

By Kingston Reif

Vice President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 26 the appointment of Colin Kahl as his new national security adviser.

Prior to joining Biden’s office, Kahl was associate professor in the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. While at the center, Kahl authored numerous articles on Iran’s nuclear program, including “The Danger of New Iran Sanctions” in The National Interest in December 2013 and “Still Not Time to Attack Iran” in Foreign Affairs in January 2014.

Colin Kahl, who was recently named national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a panel discussion on Iran’s nuclear program on Capitol Hill on February 21, 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)From 2009 to 2011, Kahl served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.
“As both a scholar and experienced public servant, Colin has a unique perspective on a number of national security issues that our country faces today, particularly in the Middle East,” said Biden in a statement announcing the appointment.

Kahl succeeds Jake Sullivan, who left Biden’s staff in August to teach at Yale Law School. Sullivan remains a senior advisor on talks with Iran on its nuclear program.

The administration recently filled other senior positions dealing with nuclear weapons and nonproliferation policy.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall was sworn in Oct. 5 as deputy energy secretary. Sherwood-Randall, who was confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 18, previously served as White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control.

Adam Scheinman, also confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 18, was sworn in Sept. 22 as President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation. In that role, he will represent the United States at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Robert Wood was sworn in Oct. 2 as U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament. He had been confirmed by the Senate on July 15.

The administration is still seeking confirmation of Frank Rose to be assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance. He was nominated for the position on July 18, 2013. Rose is currently deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy.

Vice President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 26 the appointment of Colin Kahl as his new national security adviser.

Former Foe Vietnam Cleared for U.S. Arms

November 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The U.S. government will allow the sale of certain types of lethal weapons to Vietnam for the first time, the State Department announced Oct. 2. “This policy supports Vietnam’s efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities,” a State Department official said in an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

A Chinese coast guard ship (right) challenges a Vietnamese coast guard ship near the site of a Chinese oil rig being installed in disputed waters in the South China Sea off the central coast of Vietnam on May 14. (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images)The announcement followed a protracted confrontation between Vietnam and China last summer over the introduction of a Chinese oil rig into a part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam. In May, the State Department criticized the move as “provocative,” saying that “this unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.”

As the Chinese and Vietnamese navies jousted for position around the oil rig, ships from the two countries rammed each other, resulting in injuries, according to news reports. Although China withdrew the rig in July, relations between China and Vietnam remain tense.

“Never before have we seen a greater risk for miscalculation and incidents that may escalate to military conflicts than in the past few months,” Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s foreign minister, told a New York audience Sept. 24. A week later, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Pham and informed him that Washington’s long-time ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam was being partially lifted.

Vietnam’s maritime defense capabilities are “minimal,” according to Richard Aboulafia, an analyst for the Teal Group, which monitors the arms trade. With only four maritime surveillance aircraft, Vietnam is most likely to ask the United States for refurbished P-3 patrol planes, Aboulafia said in an Oct. 17 interview.

Whatever Vietnam requests in the way of lethal maritime security items will be on the U.S. Munitions List, the U.S. official said in the Oct. 17 e-mail. Transfers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the State Department and other U.S. agencies for compliance with the Arms Export Control Act, the Obama administration’s conventional arms transfer policy, and related considerations, the official said.

The U.S. government will allow the sale of certain types of lethal weapons to Vietnam for the first time, the State Department announced Oct. 2.

France Delays Arms Delivery Decision

November 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The controversial sale of a French amphibious assault ship to Russia remains in limbo after the French government dropped its original deadline for a decision.

A man demonstrates on September 7 in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire against the decision of the French government to delay the delivery of the Mistral amphibious assault ship to Russia. (Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images)On the eve of the NATO summit in early September, French President François Hollande announced he was delaying the scheduled delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers because of Russian intervention in Ukraine. At that time, Hollande said he had two conditions for approving delivery of the ship—a cease-fire in Ukraine and a political settlement that resolves the country’s crisis. He said he would make a decision in “late October.”

Germany and the United Kingdom had called on France to cancel the contract, which is worth 1.1 billion euro ($1.4 billion), so as not to bolster Russian military capabilities. According to news reports, France may have to pay a substantial penalty if it does not fulfill the contract, which was signed in June 2011.

In an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington pointed to remarks Hollande had made the previous day in Milan. In those comments, Hollande reiterated his conditions for approving the delivery of the first carrier, saying that the cease-fire “needs to be fully respected in Ukraine and the crisis resolution plan…needs to be fully implemented.”

The spokesman said that no date has been set for Hollande’s decision.

The controversial sale of a French amphibious assault ship to Russia remains in limbo after the French government dropped its original deadline for a decision.

NNSA Reviewing Nonproliferation Work

November 2014

By Daniel Horner

The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is reviewing its approach to its nonproliferation programs and expects to issue the results of that review early next year, the head of the semiautonomous agency said Oct. 29.

Speaking at a briefing for reporters, retired Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said that, for more than a year, the NNSA has been “going through an assessment of how we view the world situation, how we view technology development, and where we can best have an impact in achieving the overall goals of nonproliferation and implementing safeguards across the globe.”

A major part of the impetus for that review, he indicated, was the end of the four-year period that President Barack Obama established for securing “vulnerable nuclear material around the world.” Obama announced the four-year effort in his speech in Prague in April 2009.

As Klotz noted, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has established a task force under the auspices of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board to take a broad look at the way the department addresses nuclear nonproliferation issues. Klotz said the department is planning to publish a document reflecting the review when the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 is released.

The task force, which is expected to issue its report around the end of the year, produced an interim report in August. According to the report, “The U.S. government does not yet have a compelling vision for the future of its nonproliferation efforts or how [the Energy Department’s] programs fit in that larger picture, though [the department] has launched an effort to develop one.” An important task for the department, the report says, is to “[l]ay out a vision and set priorities.”

The report notes that the Energy Department’s nonproliferation budget has declined by hundreds of millions of dollars in the past several years. Although that is partly the result of “projects being completed or efforts being put on hold while [the department] reviews its approach to them,” in some cases “it appears that important nonproliferation work is being slowed or canceled because of lack of funds,” the report says.

Other observers of the nonproliferation work have reached similar conclusions. In August, 26 senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget seeking increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs for fiscal year 2016. (See ACT, September 2014.)

One particular focus of the interim report is U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation, which, for a number of reasons, “will not be easy, is likely to encounter delays, and will require creative approaches and sustained attention,” the report says. But the United States should pursue this cooperation in spite of the obstacles because it “remains critical to U.S. national security interests,” the report says.

The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is reviewing its approach to its nonproliferation programs and expects to issue the results of that review early next year, the head of the semiautonomous agency said Oct. 29.

Congress Leaves Nuclear Issues in Limbo

November 2014

By Kingston Reif

Lawmakers left Washington for November’s congressional elections without resolving a host of key nuclear weapons policy and budget decisions for fiscal year 2015, which began Oct. 1.

Congress failed to pass a final National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping bill that establishes spending ceilings and legislative guidelines for Defense Department programs and the activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The initial House and Senate versions of the legislation contain different policy provisions on issues ranging from implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to nuclear security cooperation with Russia.

Congress also did not approve any fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills, opting instead to extend the previous fiscal year’s funding levels until Dec. 11. The absence of new legislation leaves unsettled a disagreement between the House and Senate about whether to fund the administration’s plans for a new fleet of nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs).

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials continue to raise doubts about the feasibility of the overall U.S. nuclear modernization plan in the face of projected military spending reductions mandated by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Plans to maintain and rebuild the nuclear triad of air-, land-, and sea-based weapons and their associated warheads could cost $355 billion over the next decade, according to a December 2013 analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The USS Wyoming, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on June 28.  The Navy is planning to replace the Ohio-class submarines, but the cost of the replacement is prompting a debate in Washington. (U.S. Navy)Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters on the sidelines of the Air Force Association’s annual meeting on Sept. 17 that nuclear modernization is “a big challenge” and “a lot of things [will] have to be paid for at the same time,” according to the Breaking Defense website. Two weeks later, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus stated at a press briefing that the country must begin a debate about how to pay for the cost of building a fleet of 12 new, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines. He added that if the Navy is forced to foot the entire bill, it would “break something else” in the Navy’s budget.

In comments at an Oct. 7 roundtable discussion with reporters, Andrew Weber, outgoing assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, said the growing cost of nuclear weapons “causes us to have to take a hard look at the priorities. What are the trade-offs? Is [the] current strategy affordable and executable, or does it need to be modified?”

The White House is currently overseeing an interagency review of the multibillion-dollar modernization plans, which will inform the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to Congress. (See ACT, September 2014.)

House GOP Targets New START

The House version of the defense authorization bill seeks to prohibit funding to implement New START reductions until Russian armed forces “are no longer illegally occupying Ukrainian territory” and Russia “is respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” The bill would also condition funding for New START on a return by Moscow to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaties.

The U.S. State Department determined earlier this year that Russia is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty. (See ACT, September 2014.) Russia suspended its implementation of the CFE Treaty in December 2007.

The House passed its version of the defense authorization bill on May 22 by a vote of 325-98. The next day, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its own version, which does not place constraints on New START implementation. The full Senate has yet to debate the committee measure.

The Republican majority in the House has sought to legislate curbs on implementation of New START in every defense authorization bill it has passed since the treaty entered into force in 2011. But the Democratic-led Senate successfully watered down or blocked these efforts in the final version of the bills.

The pending House legislation also seeks to place certain restrictions on the Pentagon’s and the NNSA’s nuclear material security cooperation programs with Russia (see page 28). In addition, it requires the maintenance of 450 operational Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. The provision does not include an end date for that requirement.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, does not restrict nuclear security cooperation activities with Russia. The Senate legislation also does not include a directive on how many ICBM silos the Pentagon must keep.

The schedule for final passage of the defense authorization bill remains uncertain. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in late September that he expects Congress to pass a bill when lawmakers return during a postelection session.

Levin also said that members and staff of his committee and its House counterpart have begun meeting behind closed doors to discuss reconciling differences between the two bills.

New Cruise Missile in Doubt

Meanwhile, the House and Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittees allotted different amounts for the ALCM warhead life extension program for fiscal year 2015.

The Senate subcommittee did not fund NNSA’s $9.4 million request to study refurbishment of the warhead, citing concerns that the Air Force has yet to identify sufficient funding to design and build a new cruise missile to deliver a life-extended warhead. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed the new missile program by three years.

In contrast, the House of Representatives approved $17 million for the study of the cruise missile warhead.

The fiscal year 2015 appropriations legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on Sept. 19 funds all government programs at last year’s levels from Oct. 1 to Dec. 11. According to a congressional staffer, the NNSA cannot spend money on the ALCM warhead study under the law, known as a continuing resolution, because the program is considered “a new start” that was not funded in fiscal year 2014.

At the Oct. 7 discussion, Weber said that the administration is examining whether the United States could “live with perhaps either delaying or forgoing the follow-on to the ALCM,” given that the B61 gravity bomb is undergoing a major upgrade.

It is unclear what kind of appropriations legislation Congress will pass once the current legislation expires on Dec. 11. One option is to approve another short-term continuing resolution. Another option, which Congress chose last year, is to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that provides new funding for Defense Department and NNSA programs.

Lawmakers left Washington for November’s congressional elections without resolving a host of key nuclear weapons policy and budget decisions for fiscal year 2015.

Images Suggest N. Korea Reactor Shutdown

November 2014

By Kelsey Davenport

Satellite images suggest that North Korea may have shut down a nuclear reactor that has been a key part of the county’s nuclear weapons program, according to an analysis by a Washington think tank.

In an Oct. 3 brief, David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini of the Institute for Science and International Security wrote that images of the Yongbyon site from August and September show that there is no longer steam venting from the reactor or water being discharged from the secondary cooling system. These observations led the two analysts to conclude that the reactor may have been shut down “possibly for either partial refueling or renovations.”

Steam and water discharge are typical indications that a reactor is operating. These signatures were present in past satellite images that the authors analyzed in April and June.

North Korea has not issued any statement on the operational status of the reactor, but a spokesman for the National Peace Committee of Korea said on Oct. 7 in Pyongyang that the North Korean government was continuing to “bolster its nuclear deterrent.”

The reactor produces plutonium, which, when separated, can be used for nuclear weapons. Built in the 1980s, the reactor was shut down and disabled in 2007 as a part of Pyongyang’s negotiations over its nuclear weapons program with six countries, including the United States. Before being shut down, the reactor produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for North Korea’s estimated arsenal of eight to 12 nuclear weapons.

In April 2013, North Korea announced its intention to restart the reactor. (See ACT, May 2013.) Analysis of satellite images from August 2013 indicated that the reactor was likely operational again. (See ACT, October 2013.)

Albright and Kelleher-Vergantini said the reason for the shutdown is unknown but it is unlikely that North Korea is removing the entire core of the reactor. Cores typically last several years, but a partial refueling could have caused the shutdown, the authors wrote. North Korea could also be performing maintenance on or renovating the reactor, they said.

If the reactor was shut down for any of these reasons, it is likely that North Korea will restart it in the future, Albright and Kelleher-Vergantini said.

Satellite imagery from September also shows that North Korea has completed an upgrade to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, Nick Hansen said in an Oct. 1 piece published by 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Hansen, a former military imagery analyst, wrote that satellite images of the Sohae site show the completion of a “major construction program” that began in early 2013, including an upgrade of the launch pad. The upgrade will enable North Korea to launch rockets that are larger than the Unha-3 satellite launch vehicle, Hansen said. North Korea launched two Unha-3 rockets, which have three stages and are liquid fueled, from the Sohae facility in 2012.

Citing modifications that increased the height of the tower and widened the access road to the launch, Hansen said rockets that are up to 50 meters tall can now be launched from the site. The Unha-3 is about 32 meters tall.

There is no evidence of preparations for another rocket launch, Hansen wrote, but North Korea is “ready to move forward” and could launch a rocket by the end of 2014 if it chose to do so.

Hansen also said the satellite images indicate the completion of several other construction projects at the site, such as new roads, a railroad spur to the main launch pad, and an underground data cable network that links the major facilities at the site.

Satellite images suggest that North Korea may have shut down a nuclear reactor that has been a key part of its nuclear weapons program, according to an analysis by a Washington think tank.

Cluster Munitions Plague Ukraine, Syria

November 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The use of cluster munitions has spread to battlefields in Ukraine and Syria, according to groups seeking to ban the weapon.

In a report released Oct. 20, Human Rights Watch documented the use of cluster munitions in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in more than a dozen urban and rural locations. “While it was not possible to conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks,” the report said, “the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk,” the largest city in eastern Ukraine.

In 12 incidents, Human Rights Watch said cluster munitions killed at least six people and injured dozens. The group’s investigators and a reporter from The New York Times found evidence in early October of Russian-made, surface-fired 220-millimeter Uragan (Hurricane) and 300-millimeter Smerch (Tornado) cluster munition rockets.

A man passes by the remains of an Uragan rocket lying in front of a burning house in Donetsk, Ukraine, on October 5. Uragan rockets can be used to deliver cluster munitions. (John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)The Ukrainian government denied responsibility. “The Ukrainian military did not use weapons prohibited by international law; this applies to cluster munitions as well,” a spokesman said Oct. 21, according to RIA-Novosti.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which monitors the Ukraine conflict zone, said it had received no evidence that government troops had used cluster bombs, according to an Oct. 22 Reuters report.

Cluster munitions are rockets or bombs that contain dozens or hundreds of smaller munitions. After launch, the container for these submunitions disperses them over a wide area. The submunitions, while designed to explode when they hit the ground, often fail to do so, remaining explosive and dangerous to anyone who touches them.

The Kiev government has not acceded to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), joined by 114 countries. The treaty bans the use of cluster munitions because of the danger they pose to civilian noncombatants.

In Syria, the government’s cluster munitions have killed at least 1,600 people in the past two years, by far the deadliest use of the weapon in a decade, according to the annual report of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), issued in August. Of the reported victims, 97 percent were civilians. Syria is not a party to the CCM.

Syrian forces exploded at least 249 cluster munitions, covering 10 of Syria’s 14 provinces, according to the ICBL-CMC report. The groups found that at least seven types of Russian- and Egyptian-made cluster munitions have been used in Syria, including air-dropped bombs, dispensers fixed to aircraft, and ground-launched rockets, as well as at least nine types of explosive submunitions.

Not since the U.S.-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003 have dispersed small explosives injured or killed so many people. According to a 2003 Human Rights Watch report, the invading forces used nearly 13,000 cluster munitions, containing an estimated 1.8 million submunitions, in three weeks of major combat. UNICEF estimated that more than 1,000 children in Iraq were killed or injured by U.S.-made cluster munitions in 2003.

The ICBL-CMC report also noted the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine last year, but said its researchers could not determine whether the Ukrainian government or the rebels were responsible.

The use of cluster munitions in Syria and Ukraine “will only prolong the humanitarian consequences of these devastating conflicts in the years to come, with very little, if any, military benefits,” said André Sobral Cordeiro of the Portuguese Foreign Ministry at the annual meeting of CCM parties in San José, Costa Rica, in September.

Twenty-five countries condemned Syria at the meeting, while another 17 countries condemned the recent use of cluster munitions but did not cite Syria by name.

The use of cluster munitions in Syria and Ukraine has not yet reached the level of use in Laos and Lebanon, the two countries in the world most contaminated by the weapons.

Laos remains by far the world’s most contaminated state as a result of the U.S. military dropping more than 270 million submunitions on the country between 1964 and 1973. Lebanon is second, primarily as a result of Israel’s war against the Shiite militia Hezbollah in July-August 2006, when Israeli forces used as many as 4 million submunitions.

Eleven people have been killed and 31 injured by cluster munitions in Lebanon since 2006, according to a report issued by the Mine Advisory Group, a UK organization that seeks to ban landmines and cluster munitions.

Casualties have been reported in Laos, but researchers say there are no reliable tallies of the numbers.
Laos and Lebanon, which are parties to the CCM, also did the most to dismantle and destroy the weapons in 2013, according to the ICBL-CMC report. Together, the two countries accounted for 82 percent of the submunitions destroyed worldwide in 2013 and 72 percent of the land cleared.

Watchdog groups say governments in Damascus and Kiev are using indiscriminate explosives against rebels and that most of the victims are civilians.

Syria Declares More Chemical Facilities

November 2014

By Daniel Horner

Syria has declared four additional chemical weapons facilities, UN diplomats and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said last month.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations to oversee the removal and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons materials, speaks at Georgetown University on September 30 in this video image. (C-SPAN)After a UN Security Council briefing Oct. 7 on the status of Syria’s chemical weapons program, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a tweet, “UN’s @SigridKaag said 4 facilities identified that regime failed to declare.” Sigrid Kaag is the Dutch diplomat who has been overseeing the effort to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Media reports citing anonymous UN diplomats’ accounts of the closed briefing said the declaration comprised three research facilities and one production facility. In an Oct. 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Paul Walker, director of environmental security and sustainability for Green Cross International, said the production facility and one of the research facilities were for ricin. The other two research facilities were for more general research on chemical weapons, said Walker, a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee and current member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.

OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan confirmed that Syria had made the declaration, but declined to provide details beyond the number of facilities. In an Oct. 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he noted that the OPCW in April had established a “declarations assessment team” (DAT) to "clarify anomalies and discrepancies that have arisen with Syria’s initial declaration” of its chemical weapons program. The Syrian government declared the additional facilities “after reaching agreement with the DAT on their declarable status,” he said.

The OPCW is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which Syria joined a little more than a year ago.

In response to an August 2013 chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, which the United States, other countries, and most independent analysts attributed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Obama administration appeared poised to launch punitive military strikes against Syria. But Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov negotiated a deal under which Syria, which has close ties to Russia, agreed to join the CWC and destroy its chemical arsenal under an accelerated schedule.

According to specialists on the CWC, it is not unusual for countries to make minor revisions to their initial declarations as their chemical destruction progresses. But reports have circulated for months that the Syrian discrepancies went beyond that category.

On Sept. 21, Kerry expressed “deep concerns regarding the accuracy and completeness” of Syria’s initial declaration. Power, in her Oct. 7 tweet, said, “Must keep pressure on regime so it doesn’t hide [chemical weapons] capability.”

At an Oct. 7 roundtable discussion with reporters, Andrew Weber, outgoing assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, said that “[t]he strategic threat of Syria’s chemical weapons has been eliminated” but that there may be “some tactical, small things that were not declared by the Syrian regime.” There is “a system in place to deal with that,” led by the OPCW, he said.

Another ongoing part of Syria’s chemical disarmament is the destruction of 12 production facilities—five underground structures, which are part of a system of tunnels, and seven aboveground hangars. After extended negotiations with Syria, the OPCW on July 24 announced an agreement on a plan for destroying the facilities. (See ACT, September 2014.) Under that plan, destruction was to begin in late September. By late October, however, the work had not started. In his Oct. 27 e-mail, the OPCW’s Luhan said it “has been delayed by contract issues.”

In Sept. 30 remarks at Georgetown University, Kaag said the destruction of the facilities “hopefully” would be completed by April. Kaag was speaking on the last day before the official expiration of the OPCW-UN joint mission that she headed.

The OPCW has responsibility for pursuing the remaining issues related to Syria’s chemical weapons program. Kaag will continue to have a role in this effort as an adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In September 2013, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2118, which approved a plan formulated by the OPCW Executive Council for destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal. (See ACT, October 2013.)

When it joined the CWC last year, Syria declared about 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons agents. About 10 percent of the stockpile was destroyed in Syria; the rest was shipped out of the country for destruction elsewhere. About 600 metric tons were neutralized aboard the MV Cape Ray, a U.S. ship, in July and August. The remainder, along with the effluent from the Cape Ray operation, went to facilities in the United States and Europe to be processed.

As of October 20, about 98 percent of the declared arsenal, including all the high-priority chemicals, had been destroyed, according to the OPCW.

Syria has declared four additional chemical weapons facilities, according to UN diplomats and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Iran, P5+1 Press for Deal in November

November 2014

By Kelsey Davenport

Negotiators for Iran and six world powers are focused on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal by Nov. 24 and are not discussing extending the talks, officials representing the two sides said last month after three days of meetings in Vienna.

After little progress was made during talks in September to narrow the remaining gaps between the positions of Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1, some officials and analysts said a deal may not be possible by the Nov. 24 deadline. (See ACT, October 2014.)

But that sentiment seemed to shift after talks in October. In an Oct. 15 press briefing, a senior U.S. official said that negotiators “have not discussed an extension” and remain focused on a “full agreement” by Nov. 24.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Oct. 16 that there are “tough decisions” that must be made before the deadline but that there is “no need to even think about” an extension. In August, Zarif had said a deal by the deadline was unlikely.

In July, Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) agreed to extend negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal through Nov. 24. An interim deal reached by Iran and the P5+1 in November 2013 originally set a target date of July 20 for reaching a final agreement.

In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Oct. 23, Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said that “this is the time to finish the job.”

Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator, said that Iran “will have no better time” than between now and Nov. 24 if Iran “truly wants to resolve its differences with the international community” and bring about a lifting of sanctions.

Since July, members of the Iranian and P5+1 delegations have met in a variety of formats, including bilateral talks between the United States and Iran in August. The P5+1 and Iran also met for more than a week in New York in September.

Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on October 15. Ashton and Zarif are the lead negotiators in the talks between six world powers and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program. (U.S. Department of State)Most recently, on Oct. 15, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1. A meeting of representatives from all seven countries took place the following day.
 
Shift in Iran

According to an Iranian analyst following the talks, there is a “change in tone” and an “increased optimism” in Iran that a deal will be reached by the November deadline.

In Iranian media coverage and political commentary, there are positive signs regarding the prospects for reaching an agreement that were not present after the September round of talks, the Iran-based analyst said in an Oct. 20 interview. Now, he said, it appears that political leaders in Iran are laying the groundwork to prepare the public for an announcement of an agreement.

But he cautioned that an agreement would be reached only if it “respects the rights of Iran and its nuclear vision.” The analyst was referring to Iran’s plans to build additional nuclear power plants.

Throughout the talks, the size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program has been the most significant issue.

Iran says it needs to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors it plans to build. Under a contract that runs through 2021, Russia is supplying the fuel for Iran’s only currently operating power reactor, at Bushehr.

The P5+1 wants to reduce Iran’s enrichment capacity and put limits on other elements of its nuclear program, including the stockpiles of enriched material that Iran maintains and the types of new centrifuges that Tehran is developing. These limits would increase the amount of time it would take for Iran to enrich uranium to provide enough weapons-grade material for one bomb. In such material, more than 90 percent of the material is uranium-235. Iran currently is enriching uranium to less than 5 percent U-235, an enrichment level that would make the material usable in power reactors.

In his Oct. 16 comments, Zarif said progress is being made on “all the issues.”

Sherman said in her Oct. 23 remarks that the United States is ready to reach an agreement and that the P5+1 has put forward a “number of ideas that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with Tehran’s expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program and that take into account that country’s scientific know-how and economic needs.”

Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs and the head of the U.S. delegation to the talks on Iran’s nuclear program, speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on October 23 in this video image. (U.S. Department of State)She said that the United States hopes that “leaders in Tehran will agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that this program will be exclusively peaceful” and thus end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation. If an agreement is not reached, “the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran,” she said.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Uranium Proposals

Citing diplomatic sources, the Associated Press reported on Oct. 17 on a U.S. proposal that would allow Iran to retain a larger number of operating centrifuges than the P5+1 originally proposed if Tehran shipped out a significant portion of its stockpile of reactor-grade uranium for storage in Russia.

Iran currently has about 10,200 operating first-generation centrifuges and an additional 9,000 installed machines that are not enriching uranium. The country has a stockpile of about 7,500 kilograms of uranium gas enriched to reactor grade.

A spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Oct. 22 that options for defining the dimensions of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program are being discussed, including the numbers of centrifuges and the transfer of the stockpile out of Iran.

An official based in Vienna said on Oct. 17 that a number of options are being “considered and tweaked” to find a solution. He said there is no “single proposal” on the table for uranium enrichment. An agreement that “everyone can sell” domestically on this issue is possible, the official said. He declined to elaborate on the description of the U.S. proposal in the press.

In an Oct. 23 interview with Bloomberg, Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, said that Iran’s last proposal on uranium enrichment was to “keep what they have right now” and have an option to scale up when its nuclear power program expands.

That position is not acceptable to the international community, Araud said. Araud, who served as the French negotiator for nuclear talks with Iran between 2006 and 2009, said that if Iran does not change its position on the centrifuges, it is difficult to see how a deal can be reached by Nov. 24.

In that case, Araud said that the “preferred scenario” would be prolonging the interim agreement reached last November. (See ACT, December 2013.)

The Iranian analyst, however, said that gathering support for extending the talks will be difficult in Iran. Some political factions do not want Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to succeed in reaching a deal because it could increase his popularity, he said.

In addition, Iran is concerned that the upcoming U.S. elections could result in Republican control of both chambers of Congress, he said. The Republicans currently control the House of Representatives and are seen as having a good chance of gaining a majority in the Senate. This will make some in Iran “less sure that the United States will follow through” on sanctions relief in a deal, he said.

Negotiators for Iran and six world powers are focused on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal by Nov. 24 and are not discussing extending the talks, officials said

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