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Monday, 17 February 2020
The head of Nato on Saturday dismissed President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European “strategic dialogue” about the role of France’s nuclear weapons, saying a “tried and tested” deterrent was already in place. Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that thanks to the US and Britain’s atomic weapons, Europe was already protected by a long-standing and effective nuclear umbrella. While a Nato member, France does not make its atomic weapons available to the alliance, but in a major speech last week Macron called for dialogue among EU countries about what role the French nuclear deterrent could play. Stoltenberg, who last year clashed with Macron over the French leader’s claims Nato was suffering “brain death” in its geopolitical thinking, gave his latest suggestion a frosty reception (South China Morning Post)
See also: Macron envisions new era of European strength (Deutsche Welle)
See also: Macron ‘broke the nuclear taboo’: Poland rebuffs France’s play for European independence from the US (The Washington Examiner)
Yemen-related: Yemen airstrikes kill 31 civilians after Saudi jet crash
Thirty-one people were killed in air strikes on Yemen on Saturday, the United Nations says, the victims of an apparent Saudi-led retaliation after Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down one of Riyadh’s jets. The Tornado aircraft came down on Friday in northern Al-Jawf province during an operation to support government forces, a rare shooting down that prompted operations in the area by a Saudi-led military coalition fighting the rebels. The deadly violence follows an upsurge in fighting in northern Yemen between the warring parties that threatens to worsen the war-battered country’s humanitarian crisis. “Preliminary field reports indicate that on 15 February as many as 31 civilians were killed and 12 others injured in strikes that hit Al-Hayjah area ... in Al-Jawf governorate,” the office of the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen said in a statement. Lise Grande, the UN coordinator, denounced the “terrible strikes”. (The Guardian)
See also: Saudi-led coalition kills 31 in Yemen (The Washington Post)
See also: Dozens of Yemeni civilians killed in air strikes after Saudi jet crash (France24)
The UN-backed arms embargo in Libya has become a joke and the country’s financial position is deteriorating rapidly, the UN deputy special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, has said after foreign ministers met in Munich to try to enforce a ceasefire between the two warring sides. Since a meeting of world leaders in Berlin last month to draw up a Libyan peace plan, both sides in the civil war have ignored international appeals and turned back to their external sponsor nations for further arms and mercenary support. Last week the UN security council passed a resolution calling for enforcement of the arms embargo and a ceasefire. Williams said: “The arms embargo has become a become a joke. We all really need to step up here. It’s complicated because there are violations by land, sea and air, but it needs to be monitored and there needs to be accountability.” The crisis is threatening to turn into another show of international – and especially European – weakness. (Guardian)
See also: EU officials push for bloc to enforce Libya arms embargo (AP)
See also: EU agrees on new mission to enforce Libya arms embargo (Middle East Eye)
Syria-related: Syrian Forces Advance in Aleppo, Airstrikes Underway
The Syrian army said on Monday it had taken full control of dozens of towns in Aleppo's northwestern countryside and it would press on with its campaign to wipe out militant groups "wherever they are found". The advances were made after President Bashar al-Assad's forces drove opposition fighters from the M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus, reopening the fastest route between Syria's two biggest cities for the first time in years in a big strategic gain for Assad. Backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, the government forces have been fighting since the start of the year to recapture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighboring Idlib province where anti-Assad fighters hold their last strongholds. Regime airstrikes on Monday hit Darat Izza, near the Turkish border about 30 km (20 miles) north of Aleppo city, wounding several civilians and forcing two hospitals to close, according to hospital staff. Witnesses also reported airstrikes in southern areas of Idlib province. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
See also: Syrian forces consolidate control of Aleppo, air strikes underway (Reuters)
See also: Erdogan tells Assad’s army to end assault on Idlib (The Times)
See also: Syrian Attacks Draw Turkey Deeper Into Syrian War (The New York Times)
See also: Trump, Turkey call on Russia to stop backing Syrian ‘atrocities’ (Al-Jazeera)
ImageSat International (ISI) reported on Monday evening that heavy damage was inflicted upon Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sites at Damascus International Airport on February 13. Airstrikes appear to have hit warehouses, a shelter, headquarters and infrastructure. (The Jerusalem Post)
See also: ‘Unidentified’ Aircraft Strike Iranian Proxies Inside Syria (SOFREP)
The U.S. "maximum pressure" policy aimed at isolating Iran will not work, but the regime would be willing to negotiate if the Trump administration returns to the Iranian nuclear deal and drops economic sanctions, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday. "Of course, sanctions naturally create some problems, but they will not yield any results for the enemies," Rouhani told state media. "Maximum pressure has failed. We are in a better situation in the region now." Rouhani said he doesn’t think President Donald Trump wants a war with Iran because it would “ruin” his reelection chances. In a rare bipartisan effort to curb Trump's powers, eight Senate Republicans aligned with Democrats last week to support legislation that would restrict the president's ability to wage war with Iran. The measure, which goes to the House, reflected lawmakers' concerns that U.S. tensions with Iran could escalate into a full-fledged war. (USA Today)
See also: ‘Revenge’ for U.S. Killing of Soleimani Is Not Over (CNS News)
Iran-related: Iran seeks compromise from Europe on nuclear deal
Iran would be willing to adhere to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal if Europe is ready to compromise, Iran's foreign minister has said. The deal has been on life support since the US reimposed sanctions on Tehran. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said there was room for maneuver in reimposing the 2015 agreement that kept Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. But he added it would only happen if Germany, France and the UK showed the same willingness to reinstate the deal's economic benefits for Iran. However, Zarif offered the European trio, and the other members of the accord, China and Russia, an olive branch when he spoke to reporters at the Munich Security Conference. "We have said that we are prepared to slow down or reverse these measures commensurate with what Europe does," he said at the annual meeting in Munich. "We will decide whether what Europe does is sufficient to slow down or to reverse some steps — we have not even ruled out reversing some of the steps that we have taken," he added. "We're not talking about charity. We're talking about Iranian rights and the rights of the Iranian people to receive the economic benefits." (Deutsche Welle)
See also: EU’s Borrell says remains committed to keep nuclear deal alive (Tehran Times)
See also: EU Shuttle Diplomacy to save JCPOA (The Financial Tribune)
American military leaders officially confirmed that revolutionary hypersonic missile may be equipped with a nuclear warhead. In today’s Armed Services hearing, Senator King asked U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) head Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy and Strategic Command head Adm. Charles Richar “Can hypersonics be nuclearized?” Senator King was concerned that some of hypersonic research should be going into defense because right now hypersonics are really a nightmare weapon, for an aircraft carrier, for all kinds of targets. He also asked heads of Northcom and Stratcom “can hypersonics be nuclearized? Can a hypersonic missile carry a nuclear warhead?” The answer was harrowing “Absolutely yes,” leading King to respond “So is this really triad 2.0? Because this is different – it’s not a ballistic missile it’s not a submarine it’s not aircraft or it could be, yes all three of those. Clearly we need to think about hypersonics in terms of the triad, in terms of our strategic deterrence.” (Defence Blog)
Small Arms & Light Weapons (SALW): Ugandan Army (UPDF) Demolishes Unwanted Ammunition
Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces carried out a demolition exercise at Karama Demolition Ground on Friday 14 February 2020. The army says the demolition exercise was aimed at getting rid of unwanted explosive ordinances and weapons, those that were used and did not explode as well as the old ones. Almost a ton of explosives was demolished which included, propelled grenades, Airforce missiles, mortars of destruction, grenades and loose ammunition. Brig Gen Solomon Amanya, the chief responsible for Military equipment who represented the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) thanked the UPDF for taking a stride in insuring safety in the country by demolishing the explosive since they are a danger to human life. (Chimp Reports)
President Donald Trump warned Germany that the United States will cut off intelligence sharing if Berlin does not ban Chinese telecoms company Huawei Technologies from its 5G infrastructure. The warning, announced by the US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, heightened tensions in US-German relations over Chancellor Angela Merkel's ambivalence to a company that Washington described as a "Trojan horse" for Chinese intelligence services. On Thursday, the US justice department accused Huawei of intellectual property theft. Its executive director, Meng Wanzhou, is facing an extradition trial in Canada which could result in her being sent to the US to answer criminal charges that include illegal dealings with Iran. (South China Morning Post)
See also: Esper to allies: Picking Huawei risks intel and security ties with the US (Defense News)
Singapore-based defence prime ST Engineering unveiled its updated Adder Micro remote weapon station (RWS), which has been optimised for unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) applications, at the Singapore Airshow 2020 exhibition held from 11-16 February.
According to company specifications, the Adder Micro RWS weighs less than 50 kg and is equipped with a servo-driven twin weapon cradle that can accommodate a variety of small arms, although the version showcased at the event is armed with two 5.56 mm Ultimax 100 light machine guns (LMGs). Each weapon is fed by a 100 rd drum magazine. (Jane's International Defence Review)
Relevant Diplomacy: Top diplomats from Japan, U.S. and South Korea discuss North Korea
Meeting on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also reaffirmed their cooperation on North Korea, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry. Next to agreeing on help regarding the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the ministers also discussed North Korea’s weapons program and efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to unveil a “new strategic weapon,” possibly breaking his promise with U.S. President Donald Trump not to carry out intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests. At their last meeting in mid-January, Motegi and his counterparts urged North Korea to refrain from military provocations and continue efforts to reach a deal that would see denuclearization rewarded with relief from crippling economic sanctions. Motegi and Kang also held a separate meeting Saturday amid a diplomatic feud between their countries over wartime history and trade policy. (Japan Times)
Relevant Diplomacy: Oman sees prospects of talks between Iran and U.S.
Oman is working to reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf and sees prospects of talks between arch-rivals Iran and the U.S., its foreign minister said. "We are in touch with the U.S. and Iran," Yousef Bin Alawi, Oman's foreign minister, was cited as saying on Sunday by the state-run Oman News Agency at the Munich Security Conference. "We feel that there is a possibility of dialogue between them." "We don't expect military confrontation in the region at the moment," Bin Alawi added. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a press briefing in Tehran that "there is no complicated, unresolvable issue between Iran and Saudi Arabia," but as far as the U.S. is concerned, his country will "never come to the negotiating table in weakness." (The Hour)
Relevant Diplomacy: US-Chinese confrontation hangs over summit
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began his speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday by defiantly rejecting the motto of this year's gathering: "Westlessness." "The West is winning, we are collectively winning. We're doing it together," Pompeo declared to the delegates sitting in the palatial main hall of the Bavarian hotel. "China encroaches on the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia," he said. "China has had a border or maritime dispute with nearly every nation bordering it … Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence. ... China demands silence on Taiwan and Hong Kong so that deals will keep flowing." (Deutsche Welle)
See also: US defense chief slams China as rising threat to world order (AP)
OPINION & ANALYSIS
With backing from several influential Republican lawmakers, U.S. President Donald Trump is requesting a 20 percent increase in the budget for the federal agency that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, which falls under the Department of Energy. Energy Secretary Dan Broulliette ― a former lobbyist for Ford Motor Company, and the deputy secretary until he was confirmed in December ― is supporting the National Nuclear Security Administration’s $19.8 billion budget, which must still receive congressional approval. Here’s part of his conversation with reporters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference Saturday. (Joe Gould for Defense News)
The clock is ticking as the Trump administration weighs the fate of the last major nuclear arms treaty with Russia, as fears of a world without accountability between the world’s two largest nuclear powers deepen. Last week marked exactly one year until the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expires. New START, as the deal is known, limits the number of deployable American and Russian nuclear weapons at 1,550. The accord also reduced by half the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers each side may have and set up a new inspection and verification regime to prevent cheating. The administration also is feeling pressure from Russia hawks who say a simple extension of the Obama deal next year is unacceptable. Sens. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, and John Cornyn, Texas Republican, joined Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, on legislation in March 2019 designed to block any funding for a New START extension unless China is brought into the talks and the full range of Russia’s nuclear threat is addressed. “America deserves better than a mere New START extension,” Ms. Cheney said at the time the bill was introduced. “Any meaningful arms control treaty must reflect reality as it is rather than the hopes and dreams of negotiators.” (Lauren Meier for The Washington Times)
Der Befund ist brisant: Maßgebliche Unterzeichnerstaaten des Atomabkommens mit dem Iran von 2015 drehen an der Eskalationsschraube: die Iraner durch ihre kalkulierten Vertragsverstöße; Deutschland, Frankreich und Großbritannien, die E3 – vorübergehend – durch ihre höchst riskante Initiative vom Jänner, den im Abkommen vorgesehenen Streitschlichtungsmechanismus in Gang zu setzen. Der Vertrauensschwund zwischen den drei Europäern und Teheran ist überdeutlich; dahin ist ihre glaubwürdige Vermittlerrolle gegenüber den USA genauso wie gesichtswahrende Initiativen mit Blick auf ein vielleicht doch gesprächsbereites Teheran. Die Erwartungen Irans an die Europäer unter den Bedingungen der Trump-Administration sind strukturell nicht erfüllbar, dass also die E3 im Rahmen des JCPOA-Tauschgeschäfts kaum Wege finden werden, wie Teheran unter Umgehung der US-Sanktionen sein Öl verkaufen kann. Die Europäer versuchten Anfang Februar zu deeskalieren. Sie setzten den Mechanismus, der höchstwahrscheinlich zum UN-Sicherheitsrat und damit zu umfassenden Sanktionen geführt hätte, aus. Dafür lassen die Iraner die Kontrollen und Inspektionen der Internationalen Atomenergiebehörde weiterhin uneingeschränkt zu. An diesem Faden hängt das Abkommen derzeit. Beide Seiten haben in den Abgrund geschaut – und sind vor den selbst angedrohten Maßnahmen zurückgeschreckt. Aber sieht so Konfliktmanagement aus? Ein kühl kalkuliertes Vorgehen kann man den E3 nicht zubilligen. Die Korrektur- und Warnfunktion der "Neuen 3" wäre dringend geboten. (Marc Finaud, Heinz Gärtner, Bernd W. Kubbig for DerStandard)
T hirty years ago, designers and scientists talked about simulations as though they faced a choice about using them. These days there is no pretense of choice. Theories are tested in simulation; the design of research laboratories takes shape around simulation and visualization technologies. This is true of all fields, but the case of nuclear weapons design is dramatic because here scientists are actually prohibited from testing weapons in the physical realm. (Sherry Turkle for the MIT Press Reader)
The Philippine president’s proposed cancellation of a 32-year-old military pact with the United States gives regional power China chances to strengthen its influence in Asia as U.S. military units would visit less often. Chinese naval ships, military aircraft and coast guard-escorted fishing vessels would find it easier to move around the disputed South China Sea, which lies west of the Philippines, analysts in Asia say. Naval ships also could more freely enter the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan – the first-island chain. Those waters are usually considered an American sphere of influence. China, a political rival of the United States since the Cold War, already gives billions in aid and investment to the fast-growing but impoverished Philippines. More may be on the way, consecrating Chinese influence there, scholars believe. (Ralph Jennings for Voa News)
Over the last year, the OPCW has faced a series of leaks related to the Fact Finding Mission’s (FFM) investigation into the Douma chemical attack. The OPCW have now released their investigation into these leaks. These leaks appear to have originated from two former employees: Inspector A, who is Ian Henderson and Inspector B, a.k.a “Alex”, who is almost certainly Brendan Whelan. In previous parts of this series we looked at the claims associated with Whelan and Henderson, and consulted chemists, toxicologist and chemical weapons experts. It became clear that Henderson and Whelan’s claims were flawed, overstated and at times actively misleading. We also assessed what would be required for a “false flag” attack to have taken place in order to result in the the huge amount of evidence found related to this incident. Once available information is taken into account, it is clear that faking the Douma chemical attack would have been effectively impossible. (Bellingcat Investigation Team for Bellingcat)
What are killer robots and what do they have to do with feminism? Killer robots are weapons systems that will select targets and decide to engage without meaningful human control. So robotic weapons systems making life and death decisions. Scary right? But why is this a feminist issue? Why are so many feminists working hard for a new international treaty to ban them? And is there a feminist solution? In general, autonomous weapons would magnify the power imbalances and biases that feminists worldwide are trying to dismantle. For that reason alone, achieving a ban on fully autonomous weapons or killer robots is a feminist issue. Below are some of the main problems with and solutions to killer robots from a feminist perspective. (Campaign to Stop Killer Robots for Medium)
Members of Congress and Pentagon officials have placed a growing emphasis on U.S. programs to develop hypersonic weapons as a part of an effort to acquire the capability for the United States to launch attacks against targets around the world in under an hour. Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapons may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but restricted funding for several years. Recently, efforts to develop a long-range prompt strike capability, along with other efforts to develop extremely fast hypersonic weapons, have garnered increased support. (USNI)
Seven years ago, member states of the African Union gathered in Addis Ababa- Ethiopia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the organisations’ founding. It is also at that gathering in 2013 that representatives from across the continent singled out armed conflict as the biggest barrier to development on the continent. So since 2013, have gains been made in Africa’s call to end violent conflict? And what new moves will the AU need to make for a conflict free continent beyond 2020? (CGTN Africa)
In the sixteenth episode of this podcast about young women working in nonproliferation, Grace, Sam, Arielle, and guest Jamie discuss new mediums for public engagement in nonproliferation, the false narratives of paradise in Oceania, and emotions as knowledge. (Big Nuke Energy)
New York City Divest the City’s Pension Funds
In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.
Last Tuesday (January 28), the Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.
Click here for the written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money.
The draft measures were introduced to the council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos. Since then, New York peace, climate and disarmament activists have been campaigning to build endorsement from enough council members for the adoption of these two measures.
The campaign has included directed research, lobbying of councillors, public events & actions, and open letters in support such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, plus investors and entrepreneurs.
‘City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told a support action organised by the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign in front of City Hall in October 2019.
‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’
New York Administration resistance addressed by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money
One unresolved issue from the hearings is which city department would oversee the implementation of the two measures. Another issue is what resources, including budget, would be required for implementation and from where these would come.
The New York City administration was represented by Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City's Commissioner for International Affairs, who argued that her department (the Mayor's Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted. She argued that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NY City and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting to the UN on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but not to engage in national security policy or international disarmament which was the mandate for the Federal government – not the city.
Mr Jonathan Granoff, representing Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, responded in his oral testimony that the remit from these resolutions was not that the City engage inadvocacy at the United Nations, but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that are applicable to cities as well as to federal governments. This is exactly what her department is doing with respect to SDGs, and is what they have a mandate to do for nuclear disarmament.
‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty ,’ said Mr Granoff, who is also President of Global Security Institute and an internationally respected lawyer.
‘Ms Abeywardena, in outlining her department’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, seems to be unaware that SDG 16 includes the obligation to implement such international law at all levels of government, including at city level. As such, the Commission on International Affairs does indeed have the mandate to implement these measures if and when they are adopted.'
With regard to the human resources required to implement the measures, Mr Granoff agreed with Ms Abeywardena that her commission and the City Council did not have much expertise on nuclear weapons. ‘This is exactly why an advisory committee is required – to provide that expertise, and that expertise is here in this room, and you can have our expertise for free. The only resource standing in the way of getting rid of nuclear weapons is emotional, spiritual and political will.’
Click here for the oral testimony of Mr Granoff.
Click here for the written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, which includes experience of nuclear weapons divestment by cities, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other investors from around the world.
New York City and Mayors for Peace
The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.
Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace - including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and urged she that they do so.