The annual month-long meeting of the General Assembly’sFirst Committee, responsible for issues of international peace and security, begins today in New York. Two issues have been on the media’s agenda: disarming Syria of its chemical weapons and the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and the E3+3. Both involve a degree of optimism, perhaps even an excitement around the possibilities, rarely seen in theU.N.corridors in recent years. Perhaps it is because these openings for progress have been so unexpected.
BASIC's Executive Director, Paul Ingram, reflects on the NPT and where we are on the establishment of the Middle East WMD-free zone:
The NPT PrepCom this week has been overshadowed by the near-universal frustration over the lack of progress on holding a conference on a Middle East zone free of WMD. State after state got up in plenary to express that frustration, many condemning the co-sponsors’ decision in late 2012 to postpone.
Officials from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (“P5”) held their third special forum since 2009 to discuss nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, this time in Washington, DC. Separately, representatives from Iran and the P5 plus Germany, have met at various levels without producing a breakthrough over Iran’s nuclear program amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
NATO completed its Deterrence and Defense Posture Review with mixed results. Diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program picked up pace. A National Academies panel released its updated assessment on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty’s implications for U.S. security, with apparent positive conclusions for supporters.
BASIC recently wrapped up a series of events in Cairo, including a joint press workshop with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and an off-the-record seminar on the politics of regional nuclear proliferation. BASIC staff met with senior officials and former officials to discuss the status of the 2012 conference on a WMD-Free Zone, as a piece in the complex jigsaw of regional politics currently unfolding.
Nuclear weapons non-proliferation and disarmament developments seemed to be caught in a holding pattern, despite the upswing in news on the Iran and North Korea programs during recent weeks, including the release of the more detailed IAEA report on Iran’s alleged nuclear weaponization efforts.
Although implementation of the New START nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States was moving along, disagreement over missile defense continued to pose a serious blockage in the relationship. Diplomatic efforts around North Korea were at an uptick, and India and Pakistan have managed to revive stalled peace talks.
NATO proceeded quietly with its Strategic Deterrence and Defense Posture Review, while U.S. and Russian disagreements over missile defense continued. The United States was also conducting a review of nuclear targeting. In the United Kingdom, the “successor” to the Vanguard-class submarine that carries Trident missiles officially entered “Initial Gate,” or the initial design phase.
Russia and the United States have begun the exchange of information on their nuclear arsenals under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) as they assess next steps on arms control and also try to resolve their differences over missile defense. The Iranian and North Korean nuclear situations showed no signs of resolution, and instead pointed to more difficulties ahead.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) officially entered into force on February 5, 2011, and Russian and American leaders expressed their expectations for another, more challenging round, of arms control negotiations. BASIC has established a new high-level Trident Commission to examine the decisions around the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons system.