"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
September 2012
Edition Date: 
Friday, August 31, 2012
Cover Image: 

Managing the Security Risks of Emerging Technologies

Reviewed by Michael Moodie

Innovation, Dual Use, and Security: Managing the Risks of Emerging Biological and Chemical Technologies

Edited by Jonathan B. Tucker

Foreword by Richard Danzig

MIT Press, 2012, 352 pp.

For more than a decade, the world has witnessed an increasing confluence of rapidly advancing science and its embodiment in practical technologies, the extensive global diffusion of the knowledge and capabilities associated with those developments, and a seemingly unending shift in the international security environment. The scope and intensity of these interactions have generated concern about security risks stemming from the possible misuse of emerging science and technology. The issue is especially acute with respect to the life sciences and related technologies.

One reason is the issue of dual use—that is, that the materials, hardware, and knowledge that could foster enormous strides in medicine, agriculture, energy, and other areas valuable for humankind—also can be exploited for the illicit production of biological and chemical weapons. A dilemma lies at the core of the dual-use challenge, one vividly described by Richard Danzig, a former senior U.S. policymaker and longtime analyst of the challenge: “Put metaphorically, the nuclear weapons genie stands alone, whereas the biological and chemical weapons genies are [each] Siamese twins with one set of vital organs. We cannot kill the evil twin because we have to let the good twin into the world.”

Danzig offers this pithy formulation in his foreword to a new collection of essays, Innovation, Dual Use, and Security: Managing the Risks of Emerging Biological and Chemical Technologies, edited by the late Jonathan B. Tucker, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and a personal friend and frequent colleague for many years. This book represents Tucker’s final contribution to a demanding national security field in which he was recognized as an unquestioned leader. The book is a fitting tribute because it has all the hallmarks that made his work so important to so many people: keen scholarship, an insistence on clear prose that ensures access for the layman to often highly technical and complex science and technology, and an unwavering commitment to helping policymakers address a national security challenge of potentially vast dimensions.

Tucker assembled a stellar roster of contributors with wide and deep expertise on the full range of issues related to the dual-use problem. He and his team directed their efforts toward two objectives. Their “analytical” goal was to examine the characteristics of emerging dual-use technologies in biology and chemistry; the “practical” aim was to help policymakers devise effective “governance strategies” for managing risks posed by these innovative technologies while preserving their very real benefits.

The resulting volume consists of three parts. The first is a description of the methodology for formulating a “decision framework” to identify appropriate governance strategies for managing risks generated by key technological innovations related to the life sciences. The second part consists of a series of 16 case studies addressing specific technologies to which the authors applied the decision framework. A final discussion considers the findings and conclusions and their implications.

The case studies, which constitute about two-thirds of the book, cover critical developments across categories of life sciences-related technology that have been of concern for some time.[1] The authors use a common format to provide an overview of a given technology, address its history and utility, and consider its potential for misuse. They then examine that technology through the prism of the component factors of the decision framework to assess the risks of its misuse and its amenability to governance measures.

These case-study chapters are consistently strong, and the information and analysis they present are essential for understanding the contours of the problem. These chapters do a particularly good job avoiding highly technical jargon or discussion that would otherwise make them impenetrable to a general reader. In some spots, a greater degree of technical awareness would benefit the reader, but these passages are the exception. The combination of accessibility with the consistent application of a common analytical framework leads the team to succeed admirably in achieving the analytical goal they set for themselves.

For readers approaching the dual-use challenge from a policy perspective, however, the more germane part of the book may be its discussion of the development and application of the decision framework as a way of offering “practical” tools for shaping strategies to manage risks related to technological innovations. The results underline the obstacles to addressing the dual-use challenge successfully. They provoke the reader to ask a number of difficult questions about some of the team’s assumptions, analytical choices, and judgments with respect to the utility of the decision framework that lies at the heart of its endeavor.

Space does not permit a discussion that does full justice to the richness of the issues highlighted by this volume’s proposed approach to managing the dual-use problem or all the questions that still must be answered to achieve success. A few of the more interesting issues, however, are discussed below.

Risk Assessment

The starting point of the analysis, which Tucker offers in the first chapter, is spot-on—that the prerequisite for effective governance of innovative technologies is “the ability to assess the safety and security risks of a technology.” Tucker makes the important observation that traditional risk assessments in the chemical and biological arena have been “artifact-centric,” focusing on materials and equipment. He notes, however, that such an approach is no longer adequate for at least two reasons. “First, whereas the traditional definition of technology emphasizes hardware, equipment and tools, technology also encompasses people, processes, and know-how. Second, dual-use biological and chemical technologies are increasingly diffuse, globalized, and multidisciplinary and are often based on intangible information rather than on specialized materials and equipment.”

Recognizing the need to shift away from artifact-centric assessments to more complex analyses requiring attention to people, processes, know-how, intangible information, and other factors is a critical step for addressing the risks posed by emerging technologies. It changes the definition of the problem from a material- and equipment-based threat that can be eliminated to a knowledge-based risk that must be managed. If what people know is more important than what people have, then the crucial factor becomes the choice that people will make about how they use the knowledge they have.

This changes fundamentally the kinds of measures to which policymakers must give attention. Refocusing in this way is not easy because thinking about policy measures in the proliferation arena traditionally has been shaped by the nuclear challenge, and safeguarding and controlling nuclear materials remains the best way to stop development of nuclear weapons. Policymakers do not necessarily have extensive experience in addressing knowledge-based risks on a systematic and sustained basis. The tools for doing so are not plentiful, and those that exist are not especially robust. Innovation in the policy arena must be no less dynamic than that in science and technology. One might have wished that Tucker had pushed his analysis to begin the exploration of the kinds of novel measures such a task requires.

In Tucker’s discussion of risk assessment, he argues that doing biological and chemical risk assessment is extremely challenging because it depends as much on the intent and capabilities of the user as the characteristics of the technology itself.…Ideally, assessing the risk of deliberate misuse of an emerging technology should take into account the potential actors and their motivations, along with targets and scale of an attack. In practice however, such prospective assessments are extremely difficult to make in a rigorous manner.... An important issue in assessing dual use risk is the role of intent, which varies according to the potential user.

Later he argues that “making ‘intent to misuse’ a standard element of the decision framework would require speculation about human motives that is unsupported by the available evidence, particularly with respect to non-state actors.”

From these perspectives, Tucker draws two conclusions. One is that it “will always be difficult to predict whether or not a specific technology will be misused for harmful purposes,” particularly in the early stages of a technology’s development when uncertainty about the new technology is highest. The second is that, for analytical purposes, “the decision framework simply presumes the existence of malign intent on the part of certain potential actors.”

These conclusions are problematic. The first seems to run counter to the very purpose of the book, which is at least in part to assess the extent to which cutting-edge innovations in the life sciences create possible risks. To be sure, biological and chemical risk assessments are very difficult, but the high stakes involved demand that they be done and that they continue to improve. Moreover, it partly is uncertainty that makes these assessments so difficult, and Tucker is right that uncertainty about technology’s ultimate impact is highest in the early stages of that technology’s development. Yet, it is precisely in these early stages that risk assessments and the application of governance measures could have their greatest impact. Further progress in the technology’s evolution then perhaps can be channeled most readily in ways to diminish potential risks.

Another problem is that Tucker’s inclusion in his decision framework of the presumption of malign intent oversimplifies the analytical challenge. Most experts recognize that precisely evaluating the intent of a state or nonstate actor is a very difficult task, even for the intelligence community. Nevertheless, it should be part of the risk assessment process. Tucker himself argues that “intent is crucial to whether or not a particular technology will be misused.” More importantly, he notes that the book’s V-agent case study, authored by British analysts Caitriona McLeish and Brian Balmer, provides evidence that “runs counter to the traditional determinist view of dual use as an inherent characteristic of a technology, resulting inevitably in its application for hostile purposes.” He explains that “the transfer of Amiton [an insecticide] from the civil to the military sector required the active intervention of a socioscientific network made up of government and private sector actors, which served to translate a compound designed for peaceful purposes into a weapon.”

According to this very important argument, misuse is not an inevitability; rather, the “mediating influence of social processes is required for a technology to be misapplied for hostile purposes.” If this is true, then why incorporate an automatic assumption of malign intent into the analytical framework? Much of Tucker’s previous work highlighted the importance of human agency in moving proliferation developments in particular directions.[2] One wonders why a similar perspective was not as prominent in this analysis.

The Decision Framework

The central element of the book is the proposed decision framework, described as a “practical tool for decision-makers seeking to decide which emerging dual use technologies warrant the development of governance measures on a priority basis and what types and combinations of governance measures would be most effective.” The framework is conceived as a product of three interconnected processes: technology monitoring, technology assessment in terms of both risk of misuse and governance feasibility, and selection of governance measures.

In defining this approach, the analysis makes a useful and important distinction between “governing,” which refers to the “top-down efforts by the state to regulate the behavior of people and institutions,” and “governance,” a range of “complex sociopolitical administrative interactions” involving a variety of actors beyond the state, including scientists and engineers, policymakers and regulators, industry, and civil society groups. Governance is seen as incorporating not only a state’s laws and regulations but also “soft law,” which is not legally binding but has more of a voluntary character, such as professional guidelines or codes of conduct, as well as informal measures.

The book identifies a set of parameters that structures the assessments of the risks associated with a dual-use technology and of the technology’s amenability to governance measures. For evaluating the risk of misuse, those parameters include accessibility of the technology, ease of misuse, magnitude of potential harm from misuse, and imminence of potential misuse. For each of the specific technologies, these parameters were evaluated according to a three-level scale (high, medium, low). To assess governability, the parameters, using the same three-level scale, were maturity of the technology, number of scientific disciplines it brings together, whether it was embodied more in hardware or intangible information, its rate of advance, and the degree of its international diffusion.

Application of this framework to the 14 specific technology case studies yielded a matrix that highlighted several important results. First, only one technology—chemical microprocessing devices,[3] assessed in a chapter by Amy Smithson of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies—ranked high in both risk of misuse and amenability to governance. This leads Tucker and co-author Kirk Bansak in the book’s final chapter to recommend making the selection of governance measures to deal with this technology the top priority for policymakers. Five other technologies—synthesis of viral genomes (in the chapter authored by Filippa Lentzos of the London School of Economics and Political Science and Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School), combinatorial chemistry (Tucker), development of psychoactive drugs (Malcolm Dando of the University of Bradford), protein engineering (Catherine Jefferson of the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons), and synthesis of peptide bioregulators (Ralf Trapp, an independent consultant)—were deemed to have a combination of high and medium scores in those two categories, making them next on the list of priorities.

Even this very cursory description of the decision framework and its application conveys the rigor and discipline that characterizes this analysis. The authors make it difficult for a reader to take issue with their key findings regarding the specific technologies that they assessed.

It is easier to ask questions about their analytical process and some aspects of the framework’s application. First, given the evaluation parameters, determinations had to be subjective. This is not meant as a criticism; the variety and complexity of factors involved in this assessment do not lend themselves to objective standards. Moreover, the fact that the specific technologies were evaluated at least in part through the interactions of the team rather than by a single individual strengthens confidence in the final judgments. Yet, it still leads one to ask whether a different group with an equal level of expertise would have reached the same conclusions in all cases.

This question is more than an academic quibble. One of Tucker and Bansak’s key recommendations is the creation of a new entity, perhaps within the Executive Office of the President but bolstered by a high degree of technical expertise, whose sole mission is to oversee the implementation of the decision framework, which entails the critical task of setting policy priorities. Because different groups of experts could make different subjective judgments of risks and governance opportunities, the results could be a distinctly different set of policy priorities, with all that implies for resource allocations and impacts on the many stakeholders involved.

Second, although the book effectively elaborates the decision framework’s assessment function, it is less successful considering the selection of “tailored” packages of governance measures. The analysis continually stresses the need for such packages of measures drawn from hard law, soft law, and informal efforts, but it provides virtually no discussion of or guidance for identifying the measures that might be included or determining how best to fit the elements together. In the final chapter, Tucker and Bansak make some observations that could serve as guidelines, such as, “[i]n general, the greater the governability of a technology, the more likely it is that formal regulations will be cost effective.” These statements are certainly correct, but without elaboration they are not likely to get a policymaker very far.

The book also misses an important discussion by not giving more attention to the challenges many countries will confront in assembling packages of governance measures that are genuinely effective. On several occasions, the analysis makes passing reference to the global diffusion of the technologies it addresses. Yet, those comments do little to convey the speed at which the process of technology diffusion is moving, the geographic breadth it has already achieved, or the resulting reality that managing the potential risks of misuse of these emerging technologies is a global responsibility.

One can argue that the risks of misuse are unlikely to manifest themselves in the United States or other countries with reasonably developed governance strategies. Rather, those actors who have no scruples about misusing technological innovations for malign purposes are to be expected to operate primarily in environments without governance strategies because such environments provide greater freedom of action. Those are not usually the environments where the scientific and technological innovations themselves occur, but today’s pattern of scientific and technological diffusion around the world means that critical technology and knowledge will appear in unusual and unexpected places. This is one area in which this or a similar team of experts could build on the work presented in this book. A strategy for working with others around the globe is urgent.

These comments may provoke the question of whether the volume achieves its practical goal of providing a tool for managing the risks associated with biological and chemical technological innovations. The book’s proffered decision framework may not be the final or complete answer to managing the dual-use conundrum. Yet, this does not diminish the book’s ultimate utility because it represents an essential first step on the journey toward such answers. By forcing readers to ask difficult questions, the approach presented here should launch a widespread and important discussion that, in the end, could result in a variety of more-effective mechanisms for managing the risks associated with emerging technological innovations.


Michael Moodie is assistant director for foreign affairs, defense, and trade at the Congressional Research Service (CRS). He is a former assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and president of a policy research center, in which capacities he focused on chemical and biological weapons issues. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent positions or policies of the Library of Congress or CRS.


1. These include technologies for the acquisition of novel biological or molecular diversity, such as combinatorial chemistry and DNA shifting; for directed design, such as protein engineering and synthetic biology; for the manipulation of biological systems, such as through psychoactive drugs and modulation of the immune system; and for production, packaging, and delivery, such as chemical microprocessing devices and aerosol vaccines. The book also includes historical studies of the United Kingdom’s development of V-series chemical nerve agents and the use of LSD by the U.S. Army and the CIA.

2. For example, see Jonathan B. Tucker, War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I to Al-Qaeda (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006).

3. Chemical microprocessing devices are miniaturized technologies for the production of chemicals that allow the precise regulation of chemical reactions and reduce the formation of unwanted by-products, producing safer, faster, more selective, more energy-efficient, and more cost-effective results compared to standard chemical reactors.

For more than a decade, the world has witnessed an increasing confluence of rapidly advancing science and its embodiment in practical technologies, the extensive global diffusion of the knowledge and capabilities associated with those developments, and a seemingly unending shift in the international security environment. The scope and intensity of these interactions have generated concern about security risks stemming from the possible misuse of emerging science and technology. The issue is especially acute with respect to the life sciences and related technologies.

Books of Note

Outlier States: American Strategies to Change, Contain, or Engage Regimes

Robert S. Litwak, Johns Hopkins University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2012, 256 pp.

Kelsey Davenport

In this book, Robert S. Litwak examines the challenges of altering the behavior of states that operate outside international norms and assesses the Obama administration’s strategy and proposed methods for re-integrating these states into the global community. Specifically, he looks at the conceptual shift from the designation of states pursuing illegal nuclear programs and state-sponsored terrorism, such as Iran and North Korea, as “rogue states,” which grew in prominence during the George W. Bush administration, to the “outlier states” terminology employed by the Obama administration. Litwak argues that the latter term implies a new focus on compliance as a criterion for their acceptance into the international community. In application, the engagement strategy associated with the “outlier” terminology signals to such states that they can achieve “political rehabilitation” by changing their behavior. In the specific context of nuclear proliferation, pursuing an outlier strategy decouples the issue of denuclearization from regime change and achieves the former goal through a “retooled” containment strategy, including coercive diplomacy, deterrence, and reassurance. This differs significantly from the strategy associated with the rogue state designation. That approach emphasizes regime change, as in the case of Iraq, because it views the regime’s noncompliance as stemming from its character, which cannot be readily altered. Although not all readers are likely to agree that an outlier strategy can address proliferation concerns, Litwak makes a compelling and well-reasoned argument for its prospects.


Arms Control in the 21st Century: Between Coercion and Cooperation

Oliver Meier and Christopher Daase, eds., Routledge Global Security Studies, June 2012, 247 pp.

Lauren Weiss

Oliver Meier and Christopher Daase, the editors of this collection of essays, argue that the international arms control and nonproliferation regime has experienced a “paradigm shift,” moving its focus from cooperation to coercion. According to Meier, a senior researcher with the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and the international representative and correspondent of the Arms Control Association, and Daase, a professor of international organization at the University of Frankfurt, arms control in the 20th century was based on verifiable, legally binding treaties, but in the beginning of the 21st century, the Bush administration instead emphasized informal arrangements to prevent countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. The first several chapters are devoted to identifying and explaining this shift. The middle section evaluates the effectiveness of coercion techniques, including sanctions and the use of force in a preventive strike. The final chapters offer perspectives from other regions, including Europe, India, and the Middle East, on U.S. use of coercive methods. Not all the authors in this section agree that President George W. Bush’s policies constituted a paradigm shift. Meier and Daase outline lessons they draw from the various essays, such as “[c]oercive instruments should be applied with extreme caution” and “[w]e need a global consensus on the legitimacy of coercive measures.” Ultimately, they say, it is up to policymakers to improve coercion techniques by reconciling them within the framework of cooperation.—LAUREN WEISS

Raising the Bar for Negotiations on an ATT

By Jo Adamson

As delegates filed away from the United Nations on the evening of July 27 at the end of the conference that had sought to conclude negotiations on an arms trade treaty (ATT), there was a palpable sense of disappointment among diplomats and civil society participants that we had fallen at the last hurdle and failed to adopt an ATT. In a cruel irony, the magnificent opening ceremony of the London Olympics was being broadcast in the UN as the hours ticked down on our conference. Our marathon gathering was over, as others were about to begin theirs.

I do not believe that we left empty-handed—far from it. In just a few weeks, we had produced a draft treaty that should forever raise the standards to be applied to global arms exports. The draft treaty was not adopted, but more than 90 countries, including the United Kingdom, declared that the draft “has the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work.” That group of key supporters of the ATT draft said, “We are disappointed, but we are not discouraged.”

The July 26 working paper issued by Roberto García Moritán, the conference president, provides a sense of what we accomplished and where we are heading next. The draft text includes

• an overall agreement to legally binding global regulation of the international arms trade;

• for the first time, legally binding controls on the export of small arms and light weapons, the weapons that fuel conflicts around the world on a daily basis;

• controls, including a risk assessment, on proposed exports of ammunition and parts and components;

• strict criteria to be applied before arms exports are approved, covering international humanitarian law, human rights, corruption, gender-based violence, and the impact on sustainable development, as well as the potential impact on international and regional security. In the first week, no one thought we could keep even sustainable development in the draft. Yet, by the final week, we did and agreed to even more;

• the creation of national export control structures and systems where none exist at present, forming a new global community of export control practitioners; and

• cooperation and assistance to help with implementation in those countries that lack the capacity to set up such systems on their own.

This adds up to a lot. It reflects many of the standards already in place in some of the most stringent export control systems, such as in the European Union and the United States.

We can always do better, but to have produced such a text under time pressure and with widely varying levels of ambition in the room should be acknowledged as an achievement—short of the ultimate goal, for the time being, but still beyond the expectations of the many participants and observers who thought it could not be done.

How the diplomatic conference worked together was as important as what it did. Many people commented throughout the month that only the skeptics’ voices were being heard. A person could be forgiven for such thoughts if he or she followed only the plenary sessions or the late-night sessions in the Indonesian Lounge, where García Moritán listened patiently to comments on his various drafts.

Joint Statement on an Arms Trade Treaty

On July 27, Mexico submitted the following statement to Roberto García Moritán, the president of the arms trade treaty negotiating conference:

Mr. President,

I am speaking on behalf of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, the CARICOM member states (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Burundi, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago), Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, the European Union and its Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom), Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Serbia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, Vanuatu.

We would like to thank you for your leadership and for your tireless efforts in leading this Diplomatic Conference.

We came to New York a month ago to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today.

We believe we were very close to reaching our goals. We are disappointed this process has not come to a successful conclusion today. We are disappointed, but we are not discouraged.

Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text you presented yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work.

In order to make this Treaty a reality, additional work and efforts are needed.

We had believed that this would have been possible with extra work today and only very reluctantly now see that this is not possible.


Mr. President,

We call on you to report to the General Assembly on the progress we made, so that we can finalize our work.

We are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. One that would bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity.

Thank you.

Away from the microphones, however, in the coffee shops and in smaller rooms, groups of countries from different regions were pushing each other to accept a stronger text and working together to turn aspirations into treaty language. In that way, many different countries became more invested in the process. The conference began to forge the community that will implement the future ATT. This common drive for high standards, reinforced by more than 90 countries on the final day, was an accomplishment in itself in an institution where lowest-common denominator is the usual currency.

Yet, we did fail to adopt the treaty text by consensus on the final day. A number of countries asked for more time to work on the text. A number of days had been lost to procedural wrangling in the first week of the conference, and despite many nights and weekends spent at the UN, we all struggled to catch up.

It was not for lack of encouragement by García Moritán, who pushed himself as hard as he pushed delegates. It was not for lack of effort by many delegations and by civil society. It was not for lack of support from our politicians. I spoke at least daily to my ministers in London, who always wanted to know how negotiations were progressing and what they could do to help delegates in New York to clinch the strongest possible treaty. I was fortunate to have two ministers come to New York in July, at one of the busiest times of the year, before London played host to the Olympics.

In the end, the request for more time meant that we could not achieve consensus. My biggest regret is that the international community has not yet been able to respond to the victims of conflict, to the families of those killed in conflict, with a strong treaty. Yet, this is an ATT postponed, not an ATT abandoned.

That brings me to what we should do next to capitalize on the momentum created over six years in the UN and many more years by civil society campaigners.

The United Kingdom was one of seven countries, the “co-authors,” that launched the ATT process at the UN in 2006, building on work by civil society since the early 1990s. The British approach always has been that we must aim for a treaty that is strong and enjoys the broadest possible participation, a message repeated by Foreign Secretary William Hague in his statement on July 28, the day after the conference ended.

There will be calls to go for the highest standards, irrespective of whether the major arms exporters are in or out. It is much easier to reach agreement with those who agree with you in the first place. There can be no shortcuts. A strong treaty on paper is not enough to achieve the global reach we seek. For an ATT to make the most impact on the ground, treaty supporters must continue to press all the arms exporters to join a strong treaty.

This is another reason why the British government is taking some time to reflect on the best course of action to bring a strong treaty home within the UN system. This pause is not because we do not sense the urgency, are not committed to the project, or do not have a plan. It is to allow time to talk to partners and think about the optimal way to navigate the next few months at the UN and lay the foundation for effective implementation.

After six years of work and an intensive month of negotiations in July, ATT supporters have achieved a great deal and have nearly reached our goal. The British team is determined to get an ATT across the finish line soon and in good shape. We know that the next step will be for García Moritán’s report, which included his draft treaty of July 26, to be sent to the UN General Assembly, which begins its session in September. It is likely that the UN General Assembly First Committee will take up the ATT issue.

It is premature to say at this time what the United Kingdom’s approach will be. I can say that if our work in July is any indication, then I foresee some sleepless nights for the British team and other delegations and persistent lobbying for the highest-possible standards. Some of our work may be invisible—negotiations need space to produce results—but we will not relent in the quest to make the world a safer place through an effective and robust ATT. ACT


Jo Adamson was head of the British delegation to the July 2012 arms trade treaty diplomatic conference at the United Nations and is the United Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the British government.




As delegates filed away from the United Nations on the evening of July 27 at the end of the conference that had sought to conclude negotiations on an arms trade treaty (ATT), there was a palpable sense of disappointment among diplomats and civil society participants that we had fallen at the last hurdle and failed to adopt an ATT. In a cruel irony, the magnificent opening ceremony of the London Olympics was being broadcast in the UN as the hours ticked down on our conference. Our marathon gathering was over, as others were about to begin theirs.

The ATT Talks: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back?

By Alexander Kmentt

On July 27, after four weeks of negotiations, the diplomatic conference to negotiate an arms trade treaty (ATT) closed without accomplishing its goal of adopting a treaty. After the president of the conference, Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, submitted his revised final draft treaty on July 26, hopes and expectations rose among delegations and civil society that a successful outcome of the six-year process to achieve an ATT would be possible.

Following a U.S. statement that the treaty was not ready for adoption and further negotiations would be required, these hopes were dashed. Several other delegations, including Cuba, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela, immediately echoed this line of argument, effectively ending the conference and any chance of reaching consensus on a treaty. The conference concluded by adopting a procedural report to be submitted to the UN General Assembly, which must now decide how to proceed.

After this inconclusive ending of the conference, the future of the ATT negotiation process is highly uncertain. There are widespread concerns as to whether the momentum for a strong treaty can be maintained and that additional negotiations in this format may result in a further weakening of the draft treaty. Despite the frustration at this missed historic opportunity, there is also a degree of relief that the window for a yet more ambitious treaty remains open, at least in theory. An assessment of what the ATT conference did or did not achieve, why it ended without accomplishing its goal, and whether this augurs well or badly for the future process is necessarily difficult.

Progress and Loopholes

Despite the unsatisfactory outcome, some significant progress was made in the four weeks of negotiations. First, a very significant level of convergence emerged among an overwhelming number of states on the desirability of a strong and effective ATT and on the key elements that such a treaty must contain. On several occasions during the conference, joint statements were delivered on behalf of a large, cross-regional group of states expressing commitment to a strong and robust ATT. At the beginning of the last conference week, 74 countries underscored that “[w]e need a treaty to prevent authorization of transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that those weapons would, inter alia, be used for or facilitate serious violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, having a destabilizing effect or exacerbating existing conflicts[, or be] diverted to unauthorized users…. We need a treaty that encompasses all conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons and ammunition.”

The draft treaty that emerged by the end of the conference contained a number of more or less acceptable compromises on some of these key issues. The scope of the future treaty—that is, which weapons it would cover—was one of the most hotly debated aspects of the conference. In the end, the draft treaty stuck to the seven categories of weapons contained in the 1991 UN Register of Conventional Arms, but also included small arms and light weapons. Owing to resistance mainly from the United States, however, all attempts to include ammunition in the scope of the treaty—a key condition for a meaningful ATT, for the vast majority of states—were unsuccessful. Attempts to include “parts and components and technology” of weapons also were resisted by a group of several developing countries. Ammunition was finally included in a more limited manner in the implementation section addressing exports.

The negotiations to establish which criteria and parameters should be applied to the export of conventional arms under an ATT proved to be similarly difficult and contentious. In the final draft treaty, a three-layered structure emerged. In the first layer, violations of obligations under UN Security Council measures (for example, arms embargoes), violations of other international obligations or transfers that would facilitate genocide, and crimes against humanity or war crimes would trigger an automatic prohibition of transfers. A second layer of criteria would be applied in a national assessment and include whether a proposed export would undermine peace and security or could be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, or terrorism. If a national assessment demonstrated an “overriding risk” of such violations, the state-party would be obliged (“shall not”) not to authorize the export. The third layer of criteria to be considered when authorizing an export includes the possible diversion of arms into the illicit market, risk of gender-based violence or violence against children, corruption, and an anticipated negative developmental impact on the importing state.

Although the exact formulation of these key provisions in the draft treaty is far from ideal and hardly “the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms,” as mandated by the UN General Assembly, it is undeniable that an ATT comprising this scope and these export criteria and implementation measures would represent a significant improvement on the status quo. This was expressed in a joint statement of more than 90 countries at the closing of the conference, indicating that “the draft treaty had the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work.”

At the same time, the draft treaty contains significant loopholes and deliberate ambiguities that could have a seriously negative impact on the effective implementation of an ATT or undermine its credibility. For instance, under its terms, states establish a national control list specifying which arms fall under the scope of the treaty, thereby leaving it up to states and their national legislation to decide to include or to exempt certain types of arms. This clearly opens the door to inconsistencies in the interpretation or possibly to circumvention of the treaty provisions.

Another key concern was the sweeping exemption, included in the section of the draft text on general implementation, that “[t]he implementation of this Treaty shall not prejudice obligations undertaken with regard to other instruments. This Treaty shall not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations under defense cooperation agreements concluded” by ATT states-parties. With the provision formulated this way, states obviously could cite it as grounds for widespread exemptions from treaty obligations and thus potentially undermine the treaty. The provision on relations with states not party to the treaty represents another potential loophole by seemingly excluding the export of ammunition and parts and components to nonmember states from the treaty’s coverage. Other criticisms include the draft’s narrow definition of “trade,” excluding “gifts or loans” of arms from the scope of the treaty.

The concept of “victims’ assistance” was also not included in the draft. For many stakeholders, this demonstrated that the draft ATT was indeed merely a trade treaty and as such lacked a humanitarian underpinning. Finally, future amendments of the ATT would require consensus rather than a two-thirds majority, thereby raising the bar of future improvements to an unrealistically high level.

In short, although the sincere disappointment among states committed to achieving an ATT is understandable, it is apparent that the draft on the table contained serious flaws. The time available to rectify them was extremely limited, and furthermore, as the loopholes and ambiguities were specifically included to accommodate skeptical countries, revision was unlikely. As consensus on a text without these loopholes may have proved impossible, the lack of agreement on the text and the resulting requirement for additional negotiating time over the next few months may not be such a bad thing.

Why the Conference Fell Short

When García Moritán closed the conference, he graciously assumed sole responsibility for the lack of consensus, a claim that a number of delegations immediately rejected. Two questions prompted by the meeting’s result are whether another outcome could have been possible and who is ultimately responsible for the fact that the conference fell short of expectations.

García Moritán conducted the conference in a flamboyant and unusual style that might have left him open to criticism by some delegations. Much of the work of the conference in the final phase was conducted in informal open-ended consultations. Their chief purpose seemed to be to demonstrate how far apart the positions were, thus preparing the ground for the acceptance of the compromise text that García Moritán would submit toward the end of the conference.

These meetings were conducted in a conversational style that lasted until the early hours and can only be described as torturous. They were characterized by filibustering tactics by those countries apparently not interested in a strong treaty, such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, and some other states also frequently and lengthily complained about the process or reiterated that the approach being followed would be discriminatory and that the treaty should be more balanced.

Yet the tactics of these countries are not the reason that the conference failed. Although they seized the opportunity provided by the United States to delay agreement on the text, these countries had been largely marginalized in the negotiations. Whether they would have actually blocked consensus at the end of the conference remains uncertain. Interestingly, some of these states normally used to assuming leading roles on disarmament issues within the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) found themselves directly opposed by the very progressive and ambitious positions of large numbers of NAM countries. African, Caribbean, and several Latin American countries consistently expressed commitment to a strong and robust ATT.

García Moritán conducted the actual negotiations in very small and informal groups, comprising the skeptical large arms-importing and -exporting states, several states pushing for a strong treaty, and a few other states with mediating roles. For some of the most progressive states, among them several African countries, the Caribbean Community, Mexico, New Zealand, and Norway, the final text would have been difficult to accept due to its loopholes and the overall modest level of ambition. Despite these misgivings, these states probably would not have blocked consensus at the end of the conference.

Among the large arms-importing and -exporting countries, India had voiced several reservations and concerns during the negotiations about possible discriminatory export denials. Yet, it appeared relatively comfortable with the final draft and the ambiguous language it had promoted in several sections.

China had conceded to the demands for inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty and of international humanitarian law and human rights law. At the same time and with direct reference to the EU arms embargo against it, China rejected the possibility of accession to the treaty by regional organizations. This clause was not included the final draft put forward by García Moritán despite the strong requests by the European Union. At the end of the conference, China seemed to be in a position to accept the text.

Russia’s stance on the final draft is difficult to assess. Throughout the conference, Russia had questioned the value of an ATT, stating that it should focus on the prevention of illicit trade of arms and complaining that the conference had not taken up most of its proposals. Russia immediately supported the U.S. call for further negotiations. On balance, it is more likely, albeit not certain, that China, India, or Russia would not have objected to an eventual adoption of the final text.

The United States has been widely blamed for having “pulled the plug” on the conference. It had been very active and engaged during the conference and seemed to have achieved most of its objectives in terms of the structure of the draft treaty and the overall compatibility with existing U.S. legislation. The key U.S. redline was the inclusion of ammunition into the scope of the treaty, thereby requiring reporting, marking, and tracing of ammunition. In what appeared to be a workable compromise, García Moritán put ammunition into the implementation section, avoiding reporting obligations but still requiring that ammunitions exports be regulated in accordance with the criteria of the treaty. When the U.S. delegation in its final statement requested negotiations to continue beyond the July conference, it nevertheless declared that it did not have any “core objections” to the draft. It is speculative but not implausible that agreement on the draft treaty might have been possible if the United States had come out in support on the last day of the conference.

It is also a widely held view that the final U.S. position was motivated chiefly by domestic politics rather than the actual content of the draft ATT. Indeed, the degree of manipulative misinformation and vitriolic anti-UN rhetoric in much of the conservative U.S. media about what an ATT would aim to achieve and what its alleged impact on the rights of U.S. citizens under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution would be was quite shocking, at least from a European perspective.

In light of this fierce domestic opposition, one wonders whether the Obama administration could have afforded to agree to any ATT in an election year, almost irrespective of its actual content. As such, the decision to call for more time may have been an understandable way out, seen as the least damaging. Yet, it would seem that a potentially historic first step toward regulating the international arms trade has been missed due to primarily domestic political considerations.

Where to Go From Here?

Given the positions of the different stakeholders outlined above and the requirement for consensus, it is difficult to envisage how more time and further negotiations will fundamentally alter the situation and facilitate the adoption of an ATT. The process and scenarios are unclear.

Most likely, a resolution on an ATT will be tabled in the 2012 UN General Assembly First Committee. The resolution could propose the establishment of a new forum and mandate for negotiations. In that scenario, the timing could be contentious, with the United States and others favoring 2013 and like-minded pro-ATT states pushing for an earlier start. There could be a drive for the General Assembly itself to complete the negotiations. The more progressive pro-ATT countries may see this as an attractive option, as it would be a way to circumvent the requirement for consensus. For the same reason, it would be rejected by others, notably China, India, Russia, and the United States. The option of simply putting the final draft treaty to a vote without additional negotiation is a theoretical possibility but both unlikely and undesirable given the current status of the draft. Other scenarios may still emerge in the following months.

There are serious concerns among most stakeholders that the ATT process may have lost critical momentum and that, through more negotiations, the draft treaty may become diluted rather than strengthened. Can an effective ATT even be achieved in a consensus forum, or is it impossible for a UN process to deliver an outcome without watering it down so much that it becomes practically meaningless?

All outcomes are still possible. They range from a meaningful ATT achieved with consensus (or very near consensus) to a complete failure and unraveling of the process. The ATT process serves as a reminder that all constructive forces need to work together in order to demonstrate that viable solutions to urgent global challenges can be found through the United Nations and through multilateral cooperation. ACT



Alexander Kmentt is director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Austrian government.




On July 27, after four weeks of negotiations, the diplomatic conference to negotiate an arms trade treaty (ATT) closed without accomplishing its goal of adopting a treaty. After the president of the conference, Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, submitted his revised final draft treaty on July 26, hopes and expectations rose among delegations and civil society that a successful outcome of the six-year process to achieve an ATT would be possible.

Nearly at the Brink: The Tasks and Capacity of the 1540 Committee

By Richard T. Cupitt

In June 2005, the congressionally mandated bipartisan Task Force on the United Nations concluded that the UN Security Council, in adopting Resolution 1540, “created a potentially powerful tool for countering the nonstate proliferation threat.”[1] The task force thought that the effectiveness of the resolution, which obliges all states to take measures to combat the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery to nonstate actors, would depend heavily on the committee it established to carry out its directives.

In particular, the task force wondered what standards the 1540 Committee, as it is known, would use to evaluate how well states were implementing the resolution; how much the committee would press states to comply with the legally binding obligations of the resolution; and whether the work could be done with only seven committee experts. By 2012, the answers to those questions are none, very little, and no, respectively.

The committee does not evaluate states; it uses the lightest of touches to encourage them to comply with the resolution, and it has far too few resources to do the work envisioned by the task force. Nonetheless, the evidence suggests that states have taken many actions meant to meet their obligations and that Resolution 1540 and the 1540 Committee have become linchpins in the global nonproliferation regime.[2]

Although the 1540 Committee has had success so far, it must meet new challenges to sustain or enhance its achievements. Perhaps most importantly, the Security Council has added tasks to the committee’s agenda in each extension of the mandate[3] without a commensurate increase in its resources.[4] In its 2009 comprehensive review, the committee also received many requests from other states and international organizations to take on additional tasks.[5] Consequently, the 1540 Committee has experienced a rapidly increasing mismatch between its assigned tasks and its means. This article explores that issue and, on the assumption that a large increase in resources is unlikely, proposes some alternative means of closing the gap.

The 1540 Committee in Context

Prior to Resolution 1540, the regime for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) consisted of essentially distinct mechanisms, focused almost exclusively on the proliferation activities of states. With some exceptions, nonproliferation governance evolved in response to separate WMD concerns, each issue having its own unique and exclusive set of international legal instruments, its own international organizations or arrangements, and its own discrete sets of national authorities responsible for implementation. Resolution 1540 changed that landscape by linking these disparate elements, adding the dimension of nonstate actors to the mix.

Adopted unanimously under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the resolution creates more than 200 legally binding obligations for each state, covering specific proliferation-related activities. These obligations cut across the formerly distinct realms of proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery.[6] Implementing these obligations, particularly those that involve accounting for, securing, physically protecting, and managing trafficking in WMD-related materials, entails considerable costs. Despite these costs, states have done much to comply with the resolution. In its reports, for example, the 1540 Committee has found that many states have taken measures, without coercion, to meet their obligations under the resolution, a sure sign of legitimate and successful governance.[7] After more than eight years, the resolution has become a legally binding fixture to which many states now tie their own nonproliferation efforts.

At the same time, the committee has found that most states still have obligations for which they have taken no relevant measures to meet. For many obligations, the number of states in noncompliance remains quite large. Members of the Security Council understand that implementation by all states will take time and that some states require assistance in meeting their obligations. Still, some of the simplest signs of compliance have proven difficult for some states. In 2011, for example, the committee noted that 24 states still had not submitted an initial report to it, despite nonbinding requests in Resolution 1540 and each resolution extending its mandate, as well as in its formal communications and informal dialogue with states.

In crafting the resolution, the Security Council took care not to usurp national sovereignty or the influence of existing international nonproliferation authorities. The resolution makes this explicit in the case of international authorities and implicit, but clearly understood by all, regarding national sovereignty. Instead, the resolution details what states must accomplish to combat proliferation and what might help states in their endeavors to do so. How to implement the resolution, however, remains entirely up to existing national and international authorities.

Moreover, the Security Council did not give the 1540 Committee a mandate to establish norms, assess compliance, impose sanctions, or take other actions often associated with governance—precisely the roles against which the congressional task force believed success would be measured. The committee had a very limited initial mandate: examining implementation of the resolution and reporting its findings to the Security Council.[8]

Most notably, the committee goes to great lengths in practice to avoid assessing compliance by individual states. For example, the primary tool it uses for organizing data on what states have done, the 1540 Committee matrix, registers the presence or absence of relevant measures, but not how well those measures fit specific obligations or how well the state is implementing or enforcing the measures. Only after it became clear that almost all states extensively underreported their relevant laws and policies did the committee even agree to use other sources of information to prepare a matrix besides that reported directly to the committee by the state. Even so, the committee limits these sources to information the state publicly supplies about itself, such as through laws that appear in an official gazette, or what it reports and becomes publicly available through international organizations. The committee’s reports demonstrate this desire to avoid evaluation. They provide data only in aggregate global terms, such as the number of states with a measure to prohibit production of a weapon, without reference to individual states or even regions.

Just as it avoids assessing individual states, the 1540 Committee emphasizes that it is not a sanctions body. Instead of coercive measures, the committee relies on other means to promote compliance, particularly awareness raising, information sharing, and the prospect of assistance. It also distances itself from creating or endorsing international norms, standards, lessons learned, or best practices, although it identified an extensive catalogue of relevant international conventions, standards, and practices in its 2008 and 2011 reports.[9]

Subtle Governance

Although the 1540 Committee does not use several tools commonly believed to be necessary for effective international governance, it has other means of building the trust on which such governance depends, such as identifying key facts, providing forums for exchanging ideas, developing common understandings, and fostering a spirit of assistance and cooperation. Indeed, simply prompting national officials to monitor their own legal framework and policies for stopping the spread of WMD-related items has had its own subtle but significant impact on the current international nonproliferation regime.

In practice, efforts to meet the very diverse obligations of the resolution generally inaugurate pressure within a state to develop new interagency mechanisms that connect stakeholders from a wide range of authorities, often for the first time, just to prepare a robust report to the 1540 Committee. Although not an obligation itself, at a minimum these interagency mechanisms, whether wholly new or adapted from existing institutions, create opportunities for domestic authorities to share information on what steps each has taken or intends to take. The job descriptions of some officials, even at lower levels, require them to report on national activities relating to Resolution 1540. At higher levels of interaction, these mechanisms can improve coordination of nonproliferation policies and practices at the national level, making them more effective and efficient.

In the resolution, the Security Council calls on states to cooperate on nonproliferation issues with other states.[10] Going further, it calls on states, within the context of international and domestic law, “to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials,” which refers indirectly to the Proliferation Security Initiative.[11] Although seen as nonbinding, these words reflect the larger belief underlying the resolution, namely, that individual states, however powerful, cannot meet their national nonproliferation objectives on their own.

Although not an obligation, some states report such cooperation. Most of this information, however limited, covers assistance partnerships with other states or support for initiatives and programs in international organizations. Unlike the pressure created inside national governments, it is not clear that the resolution itself provoked greater cooperation among states outside of the context of international organizations. Still, one can anticipate that the pressure at the national level to create new interagency mechanisms for nonproliferation stakeholders also creates opportunities for cooperative dialogue among states with such domestic mechanisms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some national “coordinators” for Resolution 1540, although few in number, do engage in dialogue with their counterparts.

The resolution is very explicit about the relationship between the 1540 Committee and the norms and obligations of existing international nonproliferation conventions and their associated governance institutions. The resolution states that “none of the obligations set forth in this resolution shall be interpreted so as to conflict with or alter the rights and obligations” of states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, or the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) or change the responsibilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency or the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and, by analogy, the Implementation Support Unit of the BWC. Designed to address some of the gaps in and between existing nonproliferation treaties, Resolution 1540 builds on and complements these instruments and institutions rather than replacing them.

Within these constraints, however, the 1540 Committee cautiously but consistently moved to support efforts by international organizations to facilitate implementation of the resolution. The resolution does not call on international organizations to report to the committee or to cooperate with one another. Moreover, the short-term mandates given the committee in its early years implied that international organizations could simply ignore the committee in practice without consequence.

Despite these challenges, considerable evidence exists that the resolution and the 1540 Committee have had an impact on the behavior of a variety of international organizations. Many organizations, for example, have adopted resolutions or made formal decisions calling on their members to implement the resolution.[12] More concretely, some international bodies have developed new protocols, guidance, or recommendations specifically designed to reflect obligations of the resolution, while several have incorporated implementation of Resolution 1540 into their work programs, including three that have 1540 Committee “coordinators” to assist in their implementation efforts.[13] When adopting resolutions or revising work programs, these institutions typically call on the committee and its experts for input into these processes.

In practice, the convergence of these international mandates produced a growing number of formal and informal mechanisms for coordination between these organizations and the 1540 Committee. Perhaps more importantly, in the summer of 2007, the committee began informal efforts to link these international organizations with one another. This strategy became clearer and more formal during the open meetings of the committee held over three days in the autumn of 2009 in which 21 international organizations participated. There also was a parallel informal meeting of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The current apex of this strategy was reached in December 2010, when 27 international organizations gathered in Vienna to exchange information on their mandates stemming from resolution, on their relevant activities, and on how they could cooperate.[14] Although the 1540 Committee has yet to follow up comprehensively on this first meeting, the Global Partnership Working Group has picked up an important element—assistance—of this nascent effort at coordination.[15]

The Growing Gap

As noted earlier, the Security Council repeatedly has added tasks to the mandate of the 1540 Committee. Consequently, under its most recent mandate in Resolution 1977, the committee now has more than a dozen tasks in addition to monitoring implementation of the resolution, from matching assistance-seeking states with potential partners to building cooperation with international organizations.16 At the same time, the resources allocated directly to the committee have remained relatively stable and low.

The direct budget for the 1540 Committee, for example, covering UN Secretariat staffing, fees for experts, official travel expenses, and various operational costs, started at roughly $2.1 million in 2006 (the first full year for which experts were on staff), and grew to $3.1 million in 2011. Although this represents slightly more than a 50 percent increase, most of this growth stems from the addition of a single senior position in the UN Secretariat to service the 1540 Committee in 2009, the costs associated with relocating the offices of the committee experts as required under the UN Capital Master Plan, and increases in official travel budgets. As doing a robust assessment of just a single national nonproliferation export control system can cost more than $100,000, including fieldwork, even a $3 million budget seems to give the committee an underfunded mandate.

Similarly, the 1540 Committee as originally envisioned was to have six to seven experts, a number that rose to eight through a compromise made in early 2005. Prior to 2011, this maximum number of eight remained constant, with the actual number of experts in place dropping by two or three in months when personnel changed. From February 2005, when the first experts stared work for the committee, to April 2006, the committee had a full complement of eight experts. Coupled with frequent meetings of the committee and its subcommittees, the committee and its experts were able to accomplish their primary task and prepare a comprehensive report on the implementation of the resolution covering 129 UN member states.17 Even for that one task, however, expanding the coverage to 192 UN member states in the 2008 and 2011 reports increased the volume of work significantly.18

Perversely, the growing interest in the resolution among relevant stakeholders in the international community has worsened the task-resources gap. Consider the effort to promote and facilitate implementation of the resolution through outreach activities, arguably the second most important task of the committee, after monitoring. In 2005 the committee chairman, delegates, and experts participated in a total of 17 outreach activities, usually at the regional or international level. Although the exact number fluctuates, participation in these activities has followed an upward trend, reaching 54 events in 2011. This should not surprise anyone; as noted earlier, when states and international organizations work on Resolution 1540 issues, they usually want input from the 1540 Committee to avoid missteps.

Arguably as early as April 2006 in Resolution 1673, which reaffirmed Resolution 1540 and extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee, the volume of tasks before the committee had overwhelmed its capacity to complete them. With Resolution 1977, the Security Council officially recognized this fact. It asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to elevate the 1540 Committee experts into a more formal “group of experts” and asked the committee to consider recommendations on expertise, leadership and other requirements for this new group of experts on which they would report by August 31, 2011.19

The report, which was not submitted until December 30, 2011, makes several important recommendations designed to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and legitimacy of the 1540 Committee experts, including how outside specialists, especially former experts, might be used.

The Security Council also decided that the 1540 Committee needed to explore possibilities for strengthening support from the UN Secretariat, a topic on which it was supposed to issue a separate report by January 2012, and encourage states and international organizations to support the work of the committee through contributions of technical expertise, “in kind” resources, and funding.20 Unfortunately, as of mid-2012, the committee has not finalized this report.

Closing the Gap

On June 29, 2012, the Security Council adopted a short resolution to expand the number of committee experts from eight to nine, although in practice the actual number of experts in place had fallen from eight in April 2011 to two by that time. If the 1540 Committee needed eight experts to monitor the status of implementation of the resolution in 2005, nine experts do not seem sufficient to accomplish that task, which already now involves more work than in 2005, and a dozen more tasks. At the same time, Resolution 2055 and the December 2011 report suggest that one can anticipate only marginal increases in the resources of the committee for the near future. How can the committee navigate this restriction on its resources and accomplish its tasks?

First, the committee needs to do more to prioritize its tasks. Although no consensus exists in the committee for giving priority to one set of obligations over another, it has on occasion sought and reached agreement on the priority given to some of its many tasks. Doing this more regularly and comprehensively will require close coordination between the chairman and the coordinators of the committee working groups on what tasks to assign the experts, with realistic input from the experts on what they can achieve.

In that regard, monitoring the implementation of the resolution should remain a very high priority for the committee. Its efforts have produced the first truly comprehensive and systematic view of national nonproliferation policies and practices from 2006 to 2011. (With few exceptions, this information is available on the committee website.) Updating and refining the information in the committee matrix for each state takes considerable time, but the work has made several contributions to efforts to combat proliferation. The committee experts, for example, use this information as a guide to their discussions with states on implementation and assistance. Experts supporting several UN sanctions and counterterrorism committees use these observations in their work, such as in providing a baseline understanding of national export or border control systems. National officials have employed the matrix in preparing their plans for implementing the resolution, among other uses.

NGOs also have used the information in their efforts to promote nonproliferation norms, such as in the “report card” for the 2012 nuclear security summit by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which relied heavily on the 1540 Committee matrices. As important, the monitoring function of the committee is one that remains largely under its direct control, whereas national and international authorities, not the committee, have the necessary funds, personnel, and legal mandates for direct action in the areas of assistance and implementation by individual countries.

The committee will need to increase time spent on making strategic decisions, particularly on what specifically it should achieve and how to achieve it. An inordinate amount of time at meetings of the committee and its working groups goes toward editorial tasks, decisions on individual additions to e-mail distribution lists of its already publicly available materials, or similar matters. At the same time, committee members’ requests for facts, such as how many states have established interagency bodies responsible for implementing the resolution, have gone unanswered because collecting the necessary data would have required the committee to make a strategic decision months or even years earlier.

The delegates on the 1540 Committee, who are usually generalists in international security issues, may be ill-prepared to discuss strategy in the absence of experts or guidance from their capitals. In the 2009 comprehensive review, however, Russia proposed having experts from national capitals participate in committee meetings. That proposal was reflected in Resolution 1977. Continued advances in modern communications technologies make this real-time participation an ever more feasible option.

Even these changes will not be enough. States and other actors will have to do more themselves, proactively fulfilling various needs. The 1540 Committee, however, can make these efforts more effective and coordinated if it shares its priorities widely. States that have identified their own national 1540 interagency bodies or implementation plans, for example, should set up a mechanism through which they can exchange views directly on challenges to implementation, lessons learned, and ways to improve international cooperation, but not necessarily bound to an already overextended committee.21 By sharing its priorities, the committee could guide this mechanism without attempts, which probably would be futile, to exercise control over it.

Initially, the major challenge facing the resolution and the 1540 Committee seemed to stem from questions raised about their legitimacy.22 In the years since the Security Council created the committee, however, states have rarely questioned the legitimacy of the resolution when given a formal opportunity. By 2012, almost every state has taken the affirmative step of voting to support the resolution either as a member of the UN Security Council or another international organization. Several dozen states have done both.

Today, a much more concrete challenge to the legitimacy of the 1540 Committee has emerged. Unless the committee adopts new approaches to its work in the coming years, failure and inconsequence will eventually cost the committee its hard-won success.




Richard T. Cupitt is an independent consultant in Washington. He served as an expert with the 1540 Committee from 2005 to 2012. Prior to 2005, he held posts in the U.S. government and several universities and research institutions.






1. Task Force on the United Nations, “American Interests and UN Reform, “ U.S. Institute of Peace, 2005, p. 67, www.usip.org/files/file/usip_un_report.pdf.

2. UN Security Council, “Letter Dated 25 April 2006 From the Chairman of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004) Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/2006/257, April 25, 2006 (hereinafter 2006 1540 Committee report); UN Security Council, “Letter Dated 8 July 2008 From the Chairman of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004) Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/2008/493, July 30, 2008 (hereinafter 2008 1540 Committee report); UN Security Council, “Letter Dated 12 September 2011 From the Chair of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004) Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/2011/579, September 14, 2011 (hereinafter 2011 1540 Committee report). For an independent view on the impact of the resolution and the 1540 Committee, see Cole J. Harvey, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Slow, but Steady Progress Implementing UNSCR 1540,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 20, 2011, www.nti.org/analysis/articles/unscr-1540/.

3. The UN Security Council extended the original mandate of the 1540 Committee for two years in Resolution 1673, passed in 2006; for three years in Resolution 1810, passed in 2008; and for 10 years in Resolution 1977, passed in 2011.

4. For the year 2005, see UN General Assembly, “Estimates in Respect of Special Political Missions, Good Offices and Other Political Initiatives Authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council: Report of the Secretary-General: Addendum,” A/59/534/Add.1, November 23, 2004, pp. 94-97. For the year 2011, see UN General Assembly, “Estimates in Respect of Special Political Missions, Good Offices and Other Political Initiatives Authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council: Thirteenth Report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions on the Proposed Programme Budget for the Biennium 2012-2013,” A/66/7/Add.12, December 2, 2011, pp. 14-22.

5. For the final document, see www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2010/52.

6. The total count differs depending on how one defines and isolates specific activities and obligations in the text.

7. See 2006 1540 Committee report; 2008 1540 Committee report; 2011 1540 Committee report.

8. UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004, para. 4.

9. See 2008 1540 Committee report, app. 17; 2011 1540 Committee report, app. 16.

10. UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004, para. 9.

11. Ibid., para. 10.

12. See 2006 1540 Committee report (sections on international cooperation); 2008 1540 Committee report (sections on international cooperation); 2011 1540 Committee report (sections on international cooperation).

13. The three are the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Caribbean Community, and the Central American Integration System.

14. See 2011 1540 Committee report.

15. The Global Partnership Working Group is an offspring of the Group of Eight Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which now includes more than 30 states and international organizations that provide assistance for WMD nonproliferation efforts.

16. These tasks include identifying effective practices and guidance (including drawing on, where appropriate, civil society and industry); working with states and international and regional organizations to promote the sharing of these practices and guidance, as well as experiences and lessons learned; liaising with states and international and regional organizations on the availability of assistance programs; being a clearinghouse and matchmaker for assistance requests and offers; drawing up assistance templates; helping states prepare assistance requests and national implementation plans if asked; conducting visits to countries for more-intensive dialogue on implementation and assistance efforts; building cooperation with the two main Security Council counterterrorism committees, as well as with other UN bodies; promoting, organizing, and participating in international, regional, subregional, and national outreach events; instituting further measures to build transparency; and conducting annual reviews of its work, plus two comprehensive reviews.

17. See 2006 1540 Committee report.

18. The 1540 Committee chose to limit the findings of its first report to the 129 states that had submitted reports to the committee by the winter of 2006. In subsequent reports, the committee allowed the examination of the status of implementation in all UN member states, even those that had yet to submit an initial report. See 2006 1540 Committee report; 2008 1540 Committee report; 2011 1540 Committee report.

19. UN Security Council, S/RES/1977, November 9, 2011, para. 5.

20. Ibid., para. 22

21. Ibid., para. 8.

22. For example, see Ian Johnstone, “Legislation and Adjudication in the Security Council: Bringing Down the Deliberative Deficit,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 102, No. 2 (April 2008): 275-308.

In June 2005, the congressionally mandated bipartisan Task Force on the United Nations concluded that the UN Security Council, in adopting Resolution 1540, “created a potentially powerful tool for countering the nonstate proliferation threat.”[1] The task force thought that the effectiveness of the resolution, which obliges all states to take measures to combat the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery to nonstate actors, would depend heavily on the committee it established to carry out its directives.

African States and the ATT Negotiations

By Guy Lamb

Africa is arguably the continent that has experienced the most destructive consequences of the largely unregulated global arms trade.

This point was pertinently emphasized by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who, in a video address to the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiating conference this July, reminded government delegations that the “Liberian experience and other experiences in Africa and other parts of the world show that, without such a treaty, armed violence and wars will continue to be fueled by irresponsible arms transfers.”

Nonetheless, African states did not have a shared vision for an ATT during the period from the 2006 establishment of the ATT consultations at the United Nations until the start of the actual treaty negotiating conference this past July. In fact, the majority of African states played a relatively minor role in shaping the outcome of the ATT preparatory meetings, overshadowed by states that are major arms producers and states that devoted considerable diplomatic capital to securing a robust ATT.

The principal exceptions were Algeria, Egypt, and Kenya. Kenya was one of the co-authors of the key 2006 UN General Assembly resolution on the ATT and remained a major proponent of a robust treaty to govern the arms trade. Algeria and Egypt actively engaged in the ATT consultations and raised repeated concerns about the content of an ATT and manner in which it would be negotiated. In the 2012 ATT negotiation conference, however, sub-Saharan African states became more active, which led to them having a relatively influential role in the negotiations.

Prior to the 2012 negotiating conference, the absence of African unity on the content of a future ATT was evident in the formal statements prepared by the African Group. These statements typically included uncontroversial commitments to an ATT, but were short on detail.[1]

The fault lines between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa were particularly prominent. Some North African states, concerned that a treaty regulating arms transfers might undermine their ability to defend themselves in the context of the precarious Middle East dynamics, particularly relations between Israel and its neighbors and issues related to the ongoing Arab Spring, were apprehensive about an ATT. A large majority of sub-Saharan African states were supportive of the ATT process, largely because sub-Saharan Africa is the region most undermined by armed violence. In that region, there have been concerted efforts to combat the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, along with ammunition. Zimbabwe was one of the exceptions, as it voted against the UN General Assembly resolutions in 2008 and 2009 to initiate and sustain formal discussions that would be the basis for ATT negotiations. Zimbabwe’s decision might have been due to internal political developments and diplomatic squabbles at the time.

According to a 2011 report,[2] 28 sub-Saharan African states were ranked in the top 58 countries experiencing lethal violence. In many of these African countries, small arms and light weapons and ammunition were among the main instruments of violence. In most cases, such weapons and ammunition would have originally been transferred from foreign countries to these African states, either legally or illegally. The high levels of violence have seriously undermined poverty reduction efforts.

More than three-quarters of African states have existing legal obligations that are directly relevant to an ATT, particularly subregional conventions and protocols to regulate and monitor the trade in small arms and light weapons and ammunition. This is especially the case in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa, southern Africa, and West Africa. For example, all of the African subregional instruments dealing with small arms and light weapons require member states of the relevant subregional organization to cooperate in and share information on the implementation of these instruments, establish national controls to implement the provisions of these instruments, and adhere to UN Security Council arms embargoes.

There were a variety of general statements by more than half of the sub-Saharan African states during the four ATT preparatory committee meetings that took place in New York between July 2010 and February 2012. These states particularly highlighted the need for international standards to regulate the conventional arms trade, for the future treaty to include small arms and light weapons and ammunition, for humanitarian and human rights law to be taken into account in decisions on arms transfer authorizations, and for adequate international cooperation and assistance with regard to treaty implementation. Despite the firm normative commitments, however, the majority of statements lacked sufficient technical detail to have a sustained and noticeable impact on the outcome of the preparatory discussions. There are two main reasons for this state of affairs.

First, only a handful of sub-Saharan African states have industries that manufacture conventional arms and related technology, with even fewer states consistently exporting these weapons. South Africa, which is the most prominent arms exporter on the African continent, was the 16th-largest global exporter of conventional arms between 2007 and 2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Given the concentration of arms exports in the hands a small number of states, however, South Africa’s actual annual contribution to global arms exports during that period did not exceed 2 percent. In terms of imports, Africa accounted for only 9 percent of global trade, but South Africa was the principal African arms importer, accounting for 41 percent of sub-Saharan arms imports.[3] Consequently, conventional arms controls in most African countries were relatively unsophisticated compared to major arms-exporting states. As a result, for many of the states in question, there was insufficient national experience to formulate detailed technical interventions at the meetings.

Second, during the preparatory committee meetings, a significant number of African states did not include relevant arms control specialists on their delegations, mainly because of budgetary constraints. In many cases, states were represented by officials from their permanent missions to the UN. Lacking the necessary expertise, these officials tended to limit their interactions to reading out previously prepared statements from their capitals. These circumstances restricted the opportunities for African states to devise cooperative strategies, establish lobbying blocs, or to join interregional lobbying efforts. Certain African states did not actively engage in the preparatory committee meetings, perceiving that their views were sufficiently covered by the statements prepared by the African Group.

During the July negotiating conference, sub-Saharan African states were noticeably more outspoken in their views on an ATT and regularly presented substantial recommendations that had practical applications. These states also established lobbying initiatives, with the one pursued by the states from the Economic Community of West African States being the most prominent, or participated in multiregional petitioning efforts. Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia were some of the more prominent states in this regard. During the third week of the conference, at a critical point of the negotiations, a group of 74 states, 23 of which were from sub-Saharan Africa, compiled a statement that was read by the Malawian delegation. The statement called for an ATT to be comprehensive in its scope and to include robust arms transfer criteria.

The more proactive approach to an ATT by sub-Saharan African states was not an anomaly. Since September 2011, there had been considerable efforts by a variety of governments, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, and civil society entities to encourage more-substantial African involvement in the ATT process. Meetings, workshops, and seminars were held; research was undertaken; and ATT-related documents and resources were produced and distributed. In addition, the majority of African states included arms control officials or legal advisers on their delegations, which enhanced the states’ capacity to interact more substantively in the negotiations.

A key initiative was the attempt by the UN Regional Centre on Peace and Disarmament in Africa to facilitate the drafting of an African Union (AU) common position on an ATT. AU member states met in Togo in September 2011 to compile such a document, but it was not finalized because of the opposition from some North African states. Following consultations by the AU Secretariat, a second meeting was held in May in Ethiopia, with the financial support of the Australian government, in an attempt to reach greater consensus on a draft common position. Primarily due to the postponement of the 19th AU summit, the AU did not officially endorse the draft document.[4] Nonetheless, these developments empowered a greater number of African states to engage in the ATT negotiations more vigorously and substantively.

Three related processes also made important contributions to more-effective sub-Saharan African involvement in the ATT negotiations. First, in late February, government representatives from southern and East Africa participated in an ATT seminar in Kenya organized by the UN Institute for Disarmament Research with the support of the European Commission. Second, representatives from Amnesty International, Control Arms, and the International Action Network on Small Arms enthusiastically lobbied African governments to support a robust ATT. Third, in consultation with a number of African governments and with the financial support of the British government, the Institute for Security Studies compiled an ATT negotiation tool kit for African states in an attempt to contribute to a leveling of the ATT negotiation “playing field.”

On the final day of the negotiating conference, it became evident that, despite the efforts of numerous states, the conference participants would not be able to agree on a treaty text. Shortly before the closure of the conference, Mexico took the floor and read a statement that had been signed by 94 states, 15 of which were from Africa. The July 27 statement said in part,

We came to New York a month ago to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today.

We believe we were very close to reaching our goals. We are disappointed this process has not come to a successful conclusion today. We are disappointed, but we are not discouraged.

Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text [that Roberto García Moritán, the conference president] put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work.

Successfully negotiating an ATT within the UN system was always going to be a tall order, as the international conventional arms business is intrinsically linked to considerations of national security and national interest. Arguably, it was these considerations by two of the largest arms-producing states, namely Russia and the United States, that ultimately trumped the ATT aspirations of the majority of UN member states. The future of an ATT now will be determined by the UN General Assembly First Committee later this year. Either the treaty will be finalized by means of a General Assembly resolution, or UN member states will decide that they need a second round of negotiations. Given the significant amount of diplomatic capital that most African states have devoted to the ATT process, it is likely that these states will continue to advocate for a robust ATT in the coming months.

In light of the harm that African people and governments have suffered as a result of the poorly regulated arms trade, most African states have the moral authority to apply pressure on major arms-producing states to support the finalization of a robust ATT. The delayed outcome of the ATT process provides the AU with a key opportunity to make use of the enhanced African commitment to an ATT to revisit the AU common position on an ATT, as well as devise a strategy for the next round of negotiations.


Guy Lamb is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa. He has been working with various African governments for nearly a decade to improve arms control and disarmament systems and measures. He is principal author of the ISS report “Negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty: A Toolkit for African States” (2012).


1. For statements by the African Group, see www.un.org/disarmament/ATT/statements/.

2. Geneva Declaration Secretariat, “Global Burden of Armed Violence 2011,” October 27, 2011, www.genevadeclaration.org/fileadmin/docs/GBAV2/GBAV2011-Ex-summary-ENG.pdf.

3. Paul Holtom et al., “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2011,” SIPRI Fact Sheet, March 2012, http://books.sipri.org/files/FS/SIPRIFS1203.pdf.

4. See African Union, “African Union Common Position on an Arms Trade Treaty,” September 2011, www.gca.org.za/LinkClick.aspx?link=AU_common_position_ATT.pdf&tabid=1120&mid=7919&language=enUS (draft).

Africa is arguably the continent that has experienced the most destructive consequences of the largely unregulated global arms trade.

In Memoriam: Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. (1924–2012)

Matthew Bunn

With the passing of Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. on August 10, the world lost a courageous leader in the struggle to control the horrifying dangers posed by nuclear weapons. In a career that spanned the nuclear age, Spurgeon was a determined and persistent warrior for a nuclear policy based on reason and restraint.

His first job, in 1948, was tracking the Soviet atomic bomb project for Air Force intelligence. He continued to focus on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy throughout his remarkable career. In the late 1950s, Spurgeon moved to the office of the president’s science adviser, where he worked on the Eisenhower-era efforts to ban nuclear testing. He was a key staffer for the Gaither Committee, but disagreed with the hawkish call to arms of the 1957 final report.

Spurgeon served in the White House during the administrations of Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon and was often the most informed expert for all things nuclear, serving on the staffs of the National Security Council and the science adviser. In the early 1960s, he played a key role in the Gilpatric Committee, which first identified the proliferation of nuclear weapons as a major threat to U.S. national security and laid out a policy approach that led to the negotiation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

In 1969, Spurgeon became assistant director for science and technology at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). He was a central player in all of the decisions that led to the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement (SALT I) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

During Nixon’s second term, Spurgeon left the government and worked at the MITRE Corporation, where, among other activities, he directed the seminal study Nuclear Power Issues and Choices, which set the terms of the elite debate over nuclear energy at the time, and in particular made a prescient case for forgoing reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, given the broad availability of uranium and the proliferation hazards of separating plutonium.

Spurgeon then returned to government in the Carter administration, when Paul Warnke hired him as ACDA deputy director. There, Spurgeon took the lead in the Washington backstopping for SALT II and played a major part in the numerous nonproliferation struggles of the late 1970s.

When President Ronald Reagan came into office, with an agenda of overturning SALT II, confronting the Soviet Union, and building up the already vast U.S. nuclear arsenal, Spurgeon left government and became a resident scholar at the National Academy of Sciences. While there, he led the drafting of the invaluable book Nuclear Arms Control: Background and Issues, which made the case for the arms control enterprise Spurgeon had done so much to build and which was then under sharp attack.

During that time, he helped establish the academy’s Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC), which played an important role in keeping U.S.-Soviet dialogue going when government-level relations were virtually frozen. The committee also provided a back channel where many ideas that later found their way into negotiated agreements were first discussed.

Spurgeon served on CISAC for decades, as it produced a series of crucial studies on matters ranging from the future of nuclear weapons policy to disposition of excess weapons plutonium to monitoring of nuclear warheads and fissile materials and as the committee’s agenda expanded to include dialogues with scientists and nuclear experts from Europe, China, and South Asia. A major non-nuclear item on the expanded agenda was a program on control of biological weapons.

In 1985, Spurgeon took over as president and executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA). Working with Jack Mendelsohn, his deputy director; Gerard C. Smith, the SALT I negotiator who was then chairman of the board; and others, Spurgeon led the way in strengthening and expanding the ACA, increasing the size of the staff, turning Arms Control Today from a small newsletter to the journal of record in the field, launching a series of press conferences and media campaigns on key topics of the day, and greatly enlarging the organization’s portfolio of publications.

Under Spurgeon’s leadership, the ACA became the principal nongovernment voice advocating an expanded use of the tool of arms control to promote U.S. and international security. (Contrary to the view of some critics, Spurgeon and the ACA never advocated arms control for its own sake, but rather pushed arms control as one critical element of an overall national security policy.)

Throughout his career, Spurgeon had a remarkable eye for talent. He brought in key technical experts at ACDA, such as James Timbie, who has played a critical role on myriad arms control issues ever since, and Edward Ifft, who became a senior arms control negotiator and deputy director of the On-Site Inspection Agency.

Notable hires at the ACA included James P. Rubin, who later became assistant secretary of state and spokesman for the State Department; Michèle Flournoy, who served until recently as undersecretary of defense for policy, making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the department; Lee Feinstein, later deputy director of policy planning at the State Department and then ambassador to Poland; Jon Wolfsthal, until recently Vice President Joe Biden’s nonproliferation adviser; Wade Boese, currently chief of staff to Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller; and many others. He also helped create an internship program whose alumni list now reads like a who’s who of the next generation of arms controllers.

More than hiring capable people, he also created an environment of intense focus on particular goals; regular brainstorming on positions and tactics; quick-turnaround writing that he insisted be clear, accurate, concise, and precise; and constant interaction with the policy community inside and outside government. This mixture provided outstanding training for a career as a policymaker or nongovernmental policy entrepreneur. No one who participated in the countless discussions in Spurgeon’s office of how to react to the latest arms control developments and proposals will soon forget them—or the workings of Spurgeon’s incisive and stubborn mind. He shaped all of us who worked for him; we are all part of Spurgeon’s enduring legacy.

Spurgeon was not a mesmerizing public speaker, but he was a wordsmith of considerable skill, who wrote with precision, passion, and care. Often after a press conference at which other speakers had seemed more enthralling, the cold black and white of the transcript would reveal misty thinking and leaps of logic on their part, but every point of Spurgeon’s hit home.

Often, Spurgeon would assign a junior staffer such as myself to write the first draft of an editorial for Arms Control Today, but such drafts never satisfied him. After several rounds, our goal became to get a version that was close enough that it showed him the path he wanted to take himself, provoking him to throw it in the trash and start over rather than sending us back for yet another redraft. This was outstanding training for writing short, punchy policy assessments.

In private, Spurgeon was often quick with a quip. One of my favorite Spurgeonisms, though, was said without any intention of being funny. In discussing the possibility that the Reagan administration would put forward an arms control proposal dramatically different from those then under negotiation, Spurgeon warned, “You have to be careful not to rock the boat by throwing a wet cat on the table, or the whole thing might come unraveled.”

Spurgeon was not a narrow specialist but a broadly cultured man, having grown up in a home frequented by leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. He had broad interests in history and science, was an admirer of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, and was an avid gardener. His wife, Sheila, who passed away last year, was his steadfast partner, entertaining literally thousands at their home in the service of arms control and using her calm and charm to smooth seas Spurgeon had managed to roil. They both were devoted to their three children.

Spurgeon had an encyclopedic knowledge of the technology and history of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, but more than that, he had a profound understanding of several crucial truths. First, the awesome destructiveness of nuclear weapons means that they really can serve no useful purpose but deterring the use of nuclear weapons by others.

Second, any use of nuclear weapons carries with it enormous dangers of escalation to all-out nuclear war, making it extremely dangerous to pursue any doctrine that might mislead policymakers into thinking they could undertake controlled, limited use of nuclear weapons without running terrible risks. In 1981, Spurgeon and his friend and intellectual partner Wolfgang K.H. “Pief” Panofsky wrote a seminal article in Foreign Affairs, “MAD vs. NUTS: The Mutual Hostage Relationship of the Superpowers,” arguing that mutual assured destruction was simply a fact of the nuclear age, arising out of the very existence of large and survivable U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals, and that attempts to get around this fact with elaborate doctrines of limited nuclear war—which they labeled “nuclear utilization target selection,” the NUTS of the title—were even crazier than relying on MAD.

Third, expanding weapons arsenals are not only a symptom but also a cause of mistrust among nations. Negotiated restraint—arms control—can reduce military dangers, avoid wasting resources on unneeded weaponry, build confidence, and reduce the risk of war. It should be pursued even with adversaries one deeply distrusts. Of course, not every arms control agreement succeeds in these objectives. The continued expansion of the strategic nuclear forces of the Soviet Union and the United States long after the arms control process began was surely one of the great regrets of Spurgeon’s life.

Today, we live in a world in which the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms competition that animated so much of Spurgeon’s career is long past. The risk of U.S.-Russian nuclear war has declined dramatically, although it has not disappeared. The active U.S. nuclear stockpile today is finally heading down to the levels of the Eisenhower administration, when Spurgeon first joined the White House staff. Arms control—the tool Spurgeon did so much to build, promote, and preserve—is now a commonplace fact of international life, from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to the NPT and its associated regime to arms agreements incorporated in cease-fires all over the world.

Yet Spurgeon recognized that terrible dangers remain, along with many thousands of nuclear weapons and oceans of conventional arms still killing tens of thousands every year. From Iran to North Korea to the nuclear confrontation in South Asia to the possibility of nuclear terrorism, there is much left to do to reduce nuclear dangers. Now it is up to a new generation to use the tools and the insights that Spurgeon left behind to carry on his work.


Matthew Bunn, an associate professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, worked closely with Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. at the Arms Control Association from 1986 to 1992 and at the Committee on International Security and Arms Control from 1992 to 1995. He is a member of the ACA Board of Directors.


With the passing of Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. on August 10, the world lost a courageous leader in the struggle to control the horrifying dangers posed by nuclear weapons. In a career that spanned the nuclear age, Spurgeon was a determined and persistent warrior for a nuclear policy based on reason and restraint.

India Moves Closer to Nuclear Triad

Kelsey Davenport

India announced the successful development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in July, bringing the country one step closer to completing the strategic nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers.

On July 31, at a yearly awards ceremony for the defense sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented an award to A.K. Chakrabarti of India’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory for the “successful development” of India’s first SLBM system. India has been working on producing its first SLBM, the K-15, for a number of years, conducting the first undersea trial of the weapon in February 2008, although tests of components probably began much earlier. (See ACT, April 2008.)

The K-15 has a range of at least 290 kilometers and can carry a 1,000-kilogram payload, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Media accounts from the 2008 test place the range closer to 750 kilometers.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

The K-15 is likely to require further testing before becoming fully operational, according to Indian defense officials. The missile has been tested from submerged vessels, but not from the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that India is developing as a delivery platform for its sea-based deterrent. The ballistic missile submarines have been subject to numerous delays, but according to a May 8 statement by Defense Minister A.K. Antony, the first in the fleet of at least three submarines should go into service by mid-2013.

A week after the K-15 announcement, in an Aug. 7 speech marking his retirement, Adm. Nirmal Verma, India’s chief of naval staff, said that the Indian navy is “poised to complete the triad” and that the first submarine platform for the K-15, the INS Arihant, will “commence sea trials in the coming months.”

Click image to enlarge

In a June 25 speech, Verma had said a sea-based deterrent that is “credible and invulnerable is an imperative” for India, given New Delhi’s no-first-use commitment. New Delhi’s ability to deploy SLBMs will align India’s naval capabilities with its nuclear doctrine, according to Verma. In a 1999 publicly released draft of its nuclear doctrine, New Delhi stated its intention to develop a “triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets” and said it required “sufficient, survivable, and operationally prepared nuclear forces” for deterrence.

Indian, Pakistani, and U.S. experts are concerned that India’s pursuit of the triad could lead Pakistan to develop its own SLBM capability. Abhijit Singh, a research fellow at New Delhi’s National Maritime Foundation, argued in a June 29 article that the expansion of India’s navy has “become an excuse” for Pakistan to expand its own capabilities to include naval nuclear missiles.

Although Pakistan did not respond to India’s announcement on the K-15, Adm. Asif Sandila, Pakistan’s chief of naval staff, said in a Feb. 20 interview with Defense News that the “nuclearization of the Indian Ocean” would not contribute to regional stability and that Pakistan would be taking “necessary measures to restore the strategic balance.” In a May 19 press release, Sandila announced the establishment of Pakistan’s Naval Strategic Force Command, which he said would oversee a sea-based second-strike capability that will “ensure regional stability.”

India already possesses the capabilities to deliver nuclear warheads using land-based missiles and bombers (fig. 1).

New Delhi is working to improve the range and accuracy of its nuclear-capable land-based missiles, which currently comprise primarily the short-range Prithvi-1 and Agni-1 systems. India has deployed two medium-range solid-fueled missiles, the Agni-2 and the Agni-3, although some experts question whether both systems are fully operational. The Agni-2, which has a 2,000-kilometer range, was tested successfully Aug. 9. According to a Defence Ministry statement, all systems “functioned fully.” The Agni-3 was last tested in February 2010.

India also is developing longer-range systems and successfully tested the Agni-5 on April 19. This three-stage solid-fueled ballistic missile has a tested range of 5,000 kilometers. Under the most commonly used classification system, 5,500 kilometers is the dividing line between intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Indian air force is believed to have three types of bombers capable of flying nuclear missions. In January, the Indian government announced it would be buying a fourth type of nuclear-capable fighter plane, the Rafale, from France.

India announced the successful development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in July, bringing the country one step closer to completing the strategic nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers.

Bid to Craft Arms Trade Treaty Stalls

Farrah Zughni and Daryl G. Kimball

A month-long UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the first-ever treaty to regulate the international arms trade failed to reach consensus on a final document by its July 27 deadline as a handful of key countries, including the United States, said they needed additional time to resolve their concerns with the proposed draft of the pact.

The meeting, which brought together more than 190 countries at the United Nations July 2-27, overcame procedural difficulties as well as numerous conflicting positions on substance and appeared to be close to agreement on a 12-page treaty text that was circulated by conference president Roberto García Moritán on July 26. The general aim of an arms trade treaty (ATT) is to require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers, establish common international standards for approving the transfers, and mandate regular reporting (see box).

The apparent momentum for an agreement was halted by the unexpected announcement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman of unresolved U.S. objections to the July 26 draft treaty text. Addressing the plenary meeting on July 27, Countryman said he did not see problems with the document’s general framework but that he still had concerns about a few aspects of the text.

The United States “wishes to see all progress preserved for a successful treaty, but I have to say that my capital does not have the time that is needed to address these issues; we need to not take a step backward but to get this right,” Countryman told the conference.

Shortly after Countryman spoke, Russia and a handful of other delegations joined the call for more time to negotiate a final text. In a July 27 story, the Associated Press quoted a Western diplomat as saying the United States had “derailed” the process and that it was likely that no further action would be taken on the treaty until after the U.S. elections in November.

Many states expressed disappointment with the outcome, particularly because the July 26 draft negotiated by the conference had incorporated major U.S. proposals and avoided U.S. negotiating “redlines,” according to several diplomats.

“We came to New York to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today. We believe we were very close to reaching our goals,” said the Mexican delegation in a written statement on July 27 on behalf of more than 90 countries, including major arms exporters France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

“Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text…put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community,” the governments’ statement said.

Some major human rights organizations blamed the United States for the outcome. “This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a July 27 statement. “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough,” she said.

Key Elements of the Proposed ATT

The July 26 draft text of an arms trade treaty (ATT) would require all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized, and require annual reporting of such transfers. In particular, the July 26 ATT text would

• require that states “shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list” and “shall designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the international transfer of conventional arms.” (Currently only 90 countries have international arms transfer regulations.)

• prohibit arms transfers to states if the transfer would violate “obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes;” other “relevant international obligations;” or would be “for the purpose of facilitating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, [or] war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions”;

• prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” “a serious violation of international human rights law,” or an act of terrorism;

• require that states “shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope” of an ATT and shall apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition;

• require that each state “shall take the appropriate measures, within its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms under the scope” of an ATT; and

• enter into force when 65 states ratify the treaty.

Tough Negotiations

Before and during the July conference, it was not clear whether it would be possible for so many states to achieve consensus on a treaty in such a short time. The start of the conference’s work was delayed for two days when a group of countries, led by Egypt, proposed that the Palestinian Authority be granted voting status at the conference. A walkout by some states that oppose voting status for the Palestinians was avoided when a compromise was forged that granted the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican observer status.

Through long hours of parallel working sessions and informal consultations, the diplomats offered divergent perspectives and struggled to reach agreement on core elements of the treaty, including its scope and the criteria for evaluating arms transfers. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) By the last week, bottom-line positions became more apparent, and García Moritán presented a consolidated draft text on July 24. A revised version followed on July 26, just one day before the scheduled close of negotiations.

Some states pushed for an ATT with a relatively broad scope, while others sought a narrower one. In the end, the states could agree only that the draft treaty text should cover seven categories derived from the existing UN Register of Conventional Arms—battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers—plus small arms and light weapons.

Most states argued that the treaty’s scope should include transfers of ammunition, but some, including the United States, resisted its inclusion in the scope section of the treaty. The July 26 text struck a compromise that would obligate states-parties to regulate only the export of ammunition.

There also were competing proposals on how the treaty should address arms transfers that contribute to human rights abuses. The July 26 treaty text contains a compromise formula that would prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” “a serious violation of international human rights law,” or an act of terrorism.

Toward the end of the conference, treaty supporters were most concerned about the possibility that countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, and Syria—all of which had voiced strong opposition to central components of the agreement—might decide to block consensus. Prior to Countryman’s statement, however, no delegation had publicly declared that consensus at the conference would not be possible.

Once it became clear that adoption of a final treaty text was out of the question, the conference approved a report for the UN General Assembly relaying the meeting outcome.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement July 27 calling the forum’s “inability” to conclude its work a “setback.”

“There is already considerable common ground and states can build on the hard work that has been done during these negotiations,” he said.

U.S. Concerns

In his July 27 remarks, Countryman listed a number of specific issues that the U.S. delegation found problematic in the July 26 text. None of the points he raised, however, disputed the core treaty elements, such as the scope, criteria for determining whether an arms transfer should be authorized, and prohibitions on certain transfers.

Countryman criticized language in Article 5 that says the treaty “shall not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations under defence cooperation agreements.” Diplomatic sources say the provision was included at the insistence of India over the objections of many states. Countryman argued that the language was “so broad that it threatened to undermine the treaty’s goals” of setting the highest common standards to regulate the international arms trade. Countryman said a provision of Article 3 stipulating that a state-party shall not authorize a conventional arms transfer that would “violate its relevant international obligations” was too ambiguous. He also said that Article 9, which calls on importing and exporting states to “cooperate and exchange information” with “transit and transshipment” states, would need to be rewritten in a manner that is “consistent with international law.” Countryman did not elaborate on the U.S. objection or how it could be addressed.

Some aspects of Countryman’s critique echoed concerns outlined by a group of 51 U.S. senators in a July 26 letter to President Barack Obama. Referring to the first consolidated treaty text of July 24, the senators said the draft treaty text’s requirements for national regulations on international transfers, including those that transited through national territory, and for national reporting of arms transfers potentially infringe on individual gun-ownership rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The lawmakers, including eight Democrats, said they “will oppose the ratification” of any ATT that does not “explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful activities associated with firearms.”

In a July 31 press briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell underscored that, “from our perspective, this treaty and this text, and indeed, in all of the rounds of the text that we saw, in no way would infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

The July 26 text explicitly recognizes “the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems.”

Next Steps Unclear

Most ATT supporters said the July conference’s failure has postponed but will ultimately not prevent the treaty’s adoption. “An ATT is coming. It did not happen on [July 27], but it is coming soon,” said Jo Adamson, British permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, in a July 31 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The July 27 multicountry statement affirmed its signers’ determination “to secure” an ATT “as soon as possible.”

The French government said in an Aug. 1 statement, “France is not resigned to this situation. The UN General Assembly…must follow up on this process. The efforts made in recent weeks were not in vain. The text of July 26 must be considered the basis for negotiations whose accomplishments must be preserved.” France said that “this text is not perfect.… [W]e would have liked to see more robust, clearer language on munitions and technologies.”

In an Aug. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil said the draft text was “a work in progress” that “provides ample material for proceeding further.”

“Any negotiations for a future arms trade treaty,” Khalil wrote, “must take place within a multilateral framework and under the auspices of the United Nations…. It is important to keep in mind that the value of an ATT depends on its universal adherence including from major arms exporters and importers.”

According to diplomatic sources, treaty backers are considering their options ahead of the next session of the UN General Assembly, which convenes in September. Unlike the ATT diplomatic conference, the UN General Assembly does not operate by consensus, and resolutions can be approved with the support of a two-thirds majority of UN member states.

The United States has maintained that it would accept an ATT only if it were adopted on the basis of consensus. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a July 27 written statement that the United States did not support the adoption of an ATT in the General Assembly. Rather, Nuland said, the U.S. government favors “a second round of negotiations, conducted on the basis of consensus” on a treaty “next year.” At the July 31 briefing, Ventrell acknowledged that, with respect to getting a commitment to another round of ATT negotiations, “We’re not there yet.”

A month-long UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the first-ever treaty to regulate the international arms trade failed to reach consensus on a final document by its July 27 deadline as a handful of key countries, including the United States, said they needed additional time to resolve their concerns with the proposed draft of the pact.

Future of Iran Talks in Question

Kelsey Davenport

The future of senior-level negotiations between Iran and six world powers remains unclear after several rounds of lower-level discussions in July and August appear not to have made decisive progress toward an agreement that addresses international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

The parties had agreed on the sequence for the July-August lower-level talks at the end of the last round of senior-level meetings, which took place June 18-19 in Moscow. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) At that time, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who led the six-country delegation in its talks with Iran, said “significant gaps” existed between the positions of the two sides.

The six-country group is known as the P5+1 because it includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 resumed in Istanbul last April after a 15-month hiatus. They were followed by two other rounds of senior-level negotiations, a May session in Baghdad and the June talks in Moscow.

The first of the lower-level talks, a technical-level meeting, took place July 3 in Istanbul. The purpose of the meeting, according to the EU Foreign Office, was to provide further details on the technical aspects of the proposals made by Iran and the the P5+1 during the earlier senior-level talks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that although the talks were not a failure, they did not produce a breakthrough or “decisive progress.”

The experts meeting was followed by a July 24 deputy-level meeting in Istanbul and an Aug. 3 phone conversation between Ashton and Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.

Ashton released a statement after the call, saying she pressed for Iran “to address the issues” now in order to “build confidence” and that she and Jalili were planning to talk again at the end of August “after further reflection.” Jalili told Iranian news outlets that, during the conversation with Ashton, he requested a “clear and specific response” from the P5+1 to Tehran’s proposals. Neither side mentioned a resumption of the high-level political talks.

Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Aug. 13 that there is “every reason to continue” the P5+1 negotiations “while time and space remains.” Carney’s comments came the day after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called on the P5+1 countries to say that the “talks have failed” during an interview on Israel Radio.

U.S. Sanctions Strengthened

In the absence of progress in the negotiations, Congress and the Obama administration instituted harsher sanctions against Tehran in July and August. Carney described the effort as the “stiffest, most severe sanctions ever imposed” on a country.

On July 31, the administration issued an executive order expanding existing sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical industry and authorizing sanctions against individuals or entities that provide support for the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company, or the Naftiran Intertrade Company.

On the same day, the White House announced that it was sanctioning China’s Bank of Kunlun and Iraq’s Elaf Islamic Bank for violating the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. According to the administration’s July 31 press release, the two banks were sanctioned under the act’s provisions that prohibit providing financial services to Iranian banks that are “designated for their connection to Iran’s support for terrorism or proliferation.” David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the penalties “cut off Kunlun and Elaf from the U.S. financial system.”

The next day, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation imposing additional sanctions after Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) worked out a compromise reconciling versions of a bill that passed the House of Representatives in December 2011 and the Senate in May. The new bill passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 421-6 in the House.

The legislation includes provisions that will sanction any entity or individual that works in or provides services to Iran’s energy sector, purchases Iranian debt, helps Iran evade sanctions, or helps transport Iranian oil.

The legislation also further restricts the administration’s ability to provide waivers under the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that allow foreign countries to continue purchasing oil from Tehran without penalty. (See ACT, June 2012.) Countries now must demonstrate that they are moving toward a complete cessation of Iranian oil imports to receive a renewal of its waiver, as opposed to reducing it “significantly.” Waivers are granted for 180-day periods.

Johnson said that the bill would send a “clear signal” to Iranian leaders that they will face “even greater economic and diplomatic pressure” if they do not “come clean on their nuclear program” and end support for terrorist activities.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Aug. 10

U.S. Charges Pair With Export Violations

A federal grand jury in Washington indicted two men for allegedly seeking to purchase and illegally export U.S.-origin materials to Iran that could be used to “operate and maintain gas centrifuges,” according to a July 13 Justice Department press release.

The two men are accused of having placed orders in the United States between October 2008 and January 2011 for materials that Iran cannot legally purchase because of sanctions imposed by Washington and the UN Security Council. U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen said in the press release that the indictment “underscores” the commitment to “aggressively enforcing export laws.”

One of the materials that the men allegedly attempted to obtain is maraging steel, a special high-strength steel that can be used for developing advanced gas centrifuges and ballistic missiles. Posing as a toymaker, Zongcheng Yi attempted to purchase 20 tons of the material from a U.S. company, the Justice Department said. His Iranian partner, Parviz Khaki, intended to ship the material to Iran after it arrived in China, according to the department. The U.S.-based steel company that Yi allegedly contacted informed U.S. officials about the unusual request. Federal agents then began communicating with Yi and eventually Khaki; the agents claimed they could help the men buy and export the maraging steel, the Justice Department said.

In the following months, according to the press release, Khaki continued to contact the agents, requesting assistance with purchases of other nuclear-related materials, including radioactive sources and mass spectrometers. Khaki was arrested in the Philippines on May 24. Yi, believed to be in China, has not been detained.

The case “sheds light on the reach of Iran’s illegal procurement networks” that “continue to target U.S. and Western companies,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said in the press release.

Separately, German officials on Aug. 15 announced the arrest of four men who allegedly “helped in the delivery of special valves” in 2010 and 2011 for construction of a heavy-water reactor in Iran. Although the statement from the prosecutor did not mention a specific site, Iran is constructing a heavy-water reactor at Arak. Tehran says it hopes the reactor will begin operations in 2013. The United States is concerned that it could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

International Response

Russia and China, however, have publicly criticized the U.S. government’s unilateral expansion of sanctions, indicating that the unity of the six powers behind the sanctions effort may be fracturing.

On Aug. 13, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the sanctions imposed by Washington “under the veil of concern about [the] Iranian nuclear program” are unacceptable and that Russia would “reject the methods” applied by the United States. Such an approach “cripples the chance for a settlement” and “compromises the process of negotiations,” the ministry said.

China reacted to the administration’s decision to sanction the Bank of Kunlun, which is affiliated with the country’s largest gasoline producer, the China National Petroleum Corporation. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Aug. 1 that the sanctions “seriously violated norms governing international relations” and requested that the United States “correct” its actions and revoke the restrictions imposed on the bank. The statement said that China’s cooperation with Iran in the energy sector has “nothing to do” with Iran’s nuclear activities and does not violate UN Security Council resolutions.

Israeli officials have criticized sanctions efforts over the past several weeks, but for a different reason. In remarks delivered Aug. 1, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the restrictive measures are hurting Iran’s economy, but “neither sanctions nor diplomacy” are having “any impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

A panel of experts, however, came to a different conclusion, reporting to the UN Security Council in June that sanctions are slowing Iran’s uranium-enrichment and ballistic missile efforts. The panel was authorized in June 2010 under UN Security Council Resolution 1929 to assess the effect of UN sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. The Security Council first imposed international sanctions on Iran in December 2006, after Tehran failed to comply with an earlier resolution calling on the country to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment.

The panel of experts concluded that although Iran’s nuclear activities are continuing, sanctions are slowing the procurement of “critical items required for its prohibited nuclear program” and hampering Tehran’s ability to “expand some aspects of its fuel cycle activities.” According to the report, the panel observed that countries demonstrated a “marked increase in awareness” of the need to implement sanctions.

The future of senior-level negotiations between Iran and six world powers remains unclear after several rounds of lower-level discussions in July and August appear not to have made decisive progress toward an agreement that addresses international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.


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