USIP Investigates the Dynamics of Iranian Politics

 The United States Institute of Peace held a conference Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in Washington, D.C., to present a series of commissioned papers on the changing and static elements of Iranian politics.

The papers focused on topics such as  the effects of welfare on Iranian society, the presence or lack of the rule of law, and how the Supreme Leader should be read as an institution rather than a personality.

One of the editors, Dan Brumberg, Senior Advisor to Center for the Conflict Analysis and Prevention, explained that reformists and liberals face hardliners who reject all reform as the first step on the slippery slope to oblivion. Continue reading

The History and New Directions of Biodefense

Dr. Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist and longtime advocate for biological disarmament, (and a  member of FAS’s Board of Sponsors) spoke Tuesday, June 26th  at a briefing hosted by FAS in Washington, D.C. on the recent history of biodefense and the need for oversight on biodefense efforts.

“Infective agents don’t stop at frontiers. They don’t have passports,” Meselson said. A biological attack against any nation, or a virulent disease outbreak can threaten the entire world.

Though President Richard Nixon renounced biological weapons on November 25, 1969, the decision had begun several years earlier, notably in 1963 when Secretary of State Dean Rusk began asking about  the potential for banning biological weapons.

In 1968, the Department of Defense looked deeper into the nation’s biodefense and BW programs and at first proposed a stronger BW and chemical weapon programs. At the time, the U.S.’s BCW programs were too small to be viable.

“Why would you want something that was small and not very good? The likely thing is that you would want something that is good,” Meselson said.

At about the same time, DoD officials in the Office of Systems Analysis investigated the strategic use of biological weapons and the threat of proliferation. They found there were no potential applications of lethal biological weapons that were preferred to the use of nuclear weapons. And the scenario for non-lethal biological weapons was so unlikely that non-lethal biological weapons were not worth it.

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Beyond Official North Korea

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This Monday, June 25, the Brookings Institution hosted John Everard, the former British ambassador to North Korea who spent two and a half years of his life in the country, from 2005 to 2008. The panel featured David Straub and Jonathan Pollack, with Richard Bush moderating. Everard gave a presentation on his experience in North Korea, entitled “Beyond Official North Korea: A British Diplomat’s Observations of Daily Life,” which consisted of observations that were the basis for his book on the topic. Everard described life in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as poverty-striken and desperate, but he put a human face on the citizens of the country. Continue reading

FAS Roundup: June 25, 2012

FAS issue brief and podcast on sanctions in Iran and North Korea, new CRS reports and much more.

Sanctions and Nonproliferation in Iran and North Korea

This week, FAS released a new issue brief, “Sanctions and Nonproliferation in North Korea and Iran,” co-authored by Mr. Daniel Wertz, Program Officer at the National Committee on North Korea, and Dr. Ali Vaez, former Director of the Iran Project at FAS, which offers a comparative analysis of U.S. policy towards Iran and North Korea.

Sanctions have played a major role in U.S. efforts for the denuclearization in Iran and North Korea. U.S. policymakers have had to find a balance between concerns over proliferation and other undesirable policies; between taking coercive action and considering humanitarian needs; and between taking immediate unilateral measures and seeking to build coalitions for a multilateral approach.

You can read the report here.

In a new edition of the FAS podcast series, “A Conversation with an Expert,” co-author Daniel Wertz discusses the similarities and differences in sanctions against North Korea and Iran,  the relationship between U.S. and UN sanctions, and China’s role as a trading partner with both countries.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Continue reading

New FAS Podcast: Sanctions and Nonproliferation in Iran and North Korea

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

This week, FAS released a new issue brief, “Sanctions and Nonproliferation in North Korea and Iran,” co-authored by Mr. Daniel Wertz, Program Officer at the National Committee on North Korea, and Dr. Ali Vaez, former Director of the Iran Project at FAS, which offers a comparative analysis of U.S. policy towards Iran and North Korea.

Sanctions have played a major role in U.S. efforts for the denuclearization in Iran and North Korea. U.S. policymakers have had to find a balance between concerns over proliferation and other undesirable policies; between taking coercive action and considering humanitarian needs; and between taking immediate unilateral measures and seeking to build coalitions for a multilateral approach.

In a new edition of the FAS podcast series, “A Conversation with an Expert,” co-author Daniel Wertz discusses the similarities and differences in sanctions against North Korea and Iran,  the relationship between U.S. and UN sanctions, and China’s role as a trading partner with both countries.

Click here to download the podcast.

The podcast transcript is available here (PDF).

U.S.-Yemen International Science Partnership Project Underway

The FAS International Science Partnership (ISP) pilot project is set to take off in Amman this week with a workshop hosted by the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS). The workshop will bring together an international team of engineers from the U.S. and Yemen to design collaborative projects that help address both countries’ interests in ensuring access to a safe and reliable supply of water and energy. Continue reading

Can Nuclear Compete?

On Tuesday, June 19, 2012, I spoke on a panel at the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council’s summit on new nuclear energy outlook and opportunities in Washington, DC. I spoke on the role and risks of nuclear power and you can view my presentation slide here.

Modernization Progress of Nuclear Arsenal Proves Contentious

United States Capitol (Credit: Allen Dodson)
United States Capitol (Credit: Allen Dodson)

While the New START Treaty provides an unprecedented exchange of information between the United States and Russia, in a hearing on June 21 some senators aired their concern with the Obama administration’s commitment to fulfill its promise to modernize the U.S. arsenal.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee analyzed the Treaty’s implementation since February 2011. Massachusetts Senator and Committee Chair John Kerry and committee ranking member Richard Lugarof Indiana presided over the hearing. The panel of witnesses included Thomas D’Agostino, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; Rose Gottemoeller, acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; and Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense of Global Strategic Affairs. Continue reading

Reintegrating “Outlier States” into International Community

 

In 2007, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote “In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it.” On June 20, 2012, Robert Litwak investigated a similar idea regarding the relationship between terminology and United States policy.

The event, called the National Conversation, was the first of a series produced by the Wilson Center and National Public Radio. Litwak, the Vice President for Scholars and Director of International Security Studies at the Wilson Center, presented his new book Outlier States about the United States’ policy dealing with states like Iran and North Korea, though the discussion focused on Iran. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winner, discussed points with Litwak, while Steve Inskeep, the host of Morning Edition on NPR, moderated.
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Kiriakou Calls Leak Prosecution Selective, Vindictive

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is charged with unauthorized disclosure of a covert officer’s identity and other classified information, says that the case against him is driven by government animosity, and that he is a target of selective prosecution.

“When White House aides leaked stories about the heroes who killed Osama Bin Laden, they were not prosecuted.  When the Washington Post was granted access to the covert director of the CTC for a profile of those directing America’s ‘war on terror,’ no one was prosecuted,” his attorneys wrote in a newly disclosed motion for dismissal.

“But when John Kiriakou gave an interview where he admitted the United States used waterboarding and when he further opined that waterboarding was ineffective, the government went after him,” the motion stated.

“The United States has improperly selected him for prosecution based on his exercise of his constitutional rights and on the animus the United States holds toward him” while “the government has tolerated other disclosures because they resulted in press favorable to the government.”

A copy of the June 12 defense motion was cleared for public release yesterday.

In a separate motion for dismissal, Mr. Kiriakou’s attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the statutes under which he is being prosecuted, including the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and section 793(d) of the Espionage Act, which they argued are “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”

Furthermore, because overclassification is rampant, they said, the classification status of any particular information is not a reliable index of its sensitivity.

“The government’s acknowledged practice of over-classification means that not all classified information actually has the potential to damage national security if released….  The fact that information is classified does not actually clarify whether its disclosure… could cause any injury to the United States.”

A government response to the defense motions is due by July 2.