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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Daryl G. Kimball

United States, Others Miss Chance on Global Arms Trade Treaty

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Arms Control Experts Urge Key Leaders to Maintain Momentum

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2012, 6:45pm EST

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the start of a UN process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, 192 states came close to agreement on a treaty to require better regulation of the global arms trade and to set common-sense standards for arms transfers.

However, the United States, followed by Russia, announced earlier today that a few remaining issues (none of which are core treaty issues) must be clarified and that there is not enough time to resolve them.

"President Obama should have--but did not--provide the leadership necessary to close the deal on the arms trade treaty and help reduce human suffering caused irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering," said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Although the U.S. delegation had succeeded in inserting all of its preferred formulations in the treaty text and avoided all "red lines," the conference was told this morning that several issues must be further clarified or language must be further adjusted.

"The important support and momentum for a sound arms trade treaty must not be lost," said Kimball.

A statement read by Mexico on behalf of a group of over 90 countries--including France, Germany, and the U.K.--at the close of the conference declared: "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."

"Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text you put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work," the governments' statement read. "We believed that this would have been possible with extra work today and only very reluctantly now see that this is not possible," they declared.

The group called upon the conference president, Ambassador Moritan of Argentina, "to report to the General Assembly on the progress we have made, so that we can finalize our work. We are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible."

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require regular reporting of such transfers, which would help improve transparency and accountability. It has the potential to close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering. The latest treaty text also recognized "the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively in their territory …."

The most recent treaty text:

  • would have required that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • included a prohibition on arms transfers to states for the purpose of facilitating the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity;
  • would have obligated states not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.

"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to work with the large group supporters, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to conclude a sound agreement this year," Kimball urged.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the start of a UN process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, 192 states came close to agreement on a treaty to require better regulation of the global nuclear arms trade and to set common-sense standards for arms transfers.

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New Arms Trade Treaty Within Reach

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Security Experts Urge President Obama to Lead, Not Delay

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2012, 11:30am EST

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 ext. 117

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the UN launched a process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, states are coalescing around a final treaty text.

However, it appears that the United States is balking over a few remaining issues (none of which are core treaty issues) that it says must be clarified and that the U.S. delegation says the decision-makers in Washington may not have time to help resolve.

"President Obama must lead and not further delay this important and long-running process to help reduce human suffering as a result of irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering," said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Although the U.S. delegation has succeeded in inserting all of its preferred formulations in the treaty text, the conference was told this morning that several issues must be further clarified or language must be further adjusted.

"Indeed, the Arms Trade Treaty text issued Thursday evening can and should be adjusted today to close loopholes and clarify its protections against illicit arms transfers of all kinds, but there is tremendous momentum to conclude a sound text now. Today is the day to resolve remaining issues and questions," said Kimball.

"The conclusion of a sound Arms Trade Treaty would represent an important step forward for U.S. security and international security that President Obama and the U.S. Congress should embrace," Kimball said.

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require regular reporting of such transfers, which would help improve transparency and accountability. It has the potential to close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering. The current treaty text also recognizes "the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively in their territory …."

The most recent treaty text:

  • would require that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • includes a prohibition on arms transfers to states for the purpose of facilitating the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity;
  • obligates states not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.
"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to work with other states, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility needed to reach a sound agreement by tonight's deadline," Kimball urged.


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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the UN launched a process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, states are coalescing around a final treaty text.

Letter Calls on Obama to Close Loopholes and Support Arms Trade Treaty

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Humanitarian, Arms Control Groups Urge President Obama to Close Loopholes; Support Effective Arms Trade Treaty

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2012

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Frank Jannuzi, Head of D.C. Office, Amnesty International USA, 202-675-8585

(Washington and New York) Major U.S. humanitarian and arms control organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, Arms Control Association, and United to Prevent Genocide, are pressing President Barack Obama to work with other countries close the remaining loopholes in text of the Arms Trade Treaty now under negotiation.

In a letter sent earlier today to the White House, the leaders wrote: "While the July 24 treaty text that has emerged from this month's negotiation falls short in several areas, we believe that with some specific fixes, it still represents an important opportunity to reduce the impact of the illicit global arms trade and save lives, and it should be supported by the United States."

A robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty would establish international standards would ban all arms transfers that could facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes. It will also close the gaps in the current international system of laws by requiring countries to adopt strong laws that would govern the flow of weapons in and out of their borders.

"The end is in sight for a global arms trade treaty but its success depends on the United States," said Scott Stedjan, senior policy advisor with Oxfam America. "Washington needs to back a strong text to prevent the negotiations from collapsing."

"We urge the United States and other arms exporters to work with others, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility to reach an agreement by Friday's deadline," said Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Control Arms Association.

"As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined in remarks this week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention," stated the letter. "As she said, we can 'directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence.'"

The letter encourages President Obama and the U.S. negotiating team to address the following issues:

  • ensure that the treaty requires that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • includes a prohibition on arms transfers to states that they know may be used to commit or facilitate acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. This would be consistent with the vision outlined in Secretary Clinton's remarks this week;
  • ensure that states are obligated not to transfer weapons if they determine there is a substantial risk that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law;
  • be adjusted to ensure that it addresses all types of arms transfers, not just "exports," and
  • be adjusted so that it does not allow states to exempt arms sales under previous contracts or defense cooperation agreements that pose a serious risk of facilitating violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or international arms embargoes or otherwise violate the object and purpose of the treaty.

The call to action comes one day before negotiations conclude on July 27.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


July 26, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

RE: Arms Trade Treaty text under consideration

Dear Mr. President,

With one day left to conclude the first ever global Arms Trade Treaty, we write to urge you and your administration to close the remaining loopholes in the treaty text now under negotiation and to urge other key states to support the treaty, which can help reduce the substantial harm inflicted by the illicit arms trade.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined in remarks this week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention. As she said, we can "directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence."

While the July 24 treaty text that has emerged from this month's negotiation falls short in several areas, we believe that with some specific fixes, it still represents an important opportunity to reduce the impact of the illicit global arms trade and save lives, and it should be supported by the United States.

In the final hours of these ATT negotiations, we respectfully encourage you and your negotiating team to address these very important issues in the treaty text:

  • retains a clear prohibition on arms transfers for the purpose of facilitating -- or with the knowledge that those items will be used in -- the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. This would be consistent with the policy outlined by Secretary Clinton this week;
  • ensures that states are obligated not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is a substantial risk that the items will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law;
  • requires that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against circumvention of the treaty through irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • be adjusted to ensure that it addresses all types of arms transfers, not just "exports," and
  • be adjusted so that it does not allow states to exempt arms sales under previous contracts or defense cooperation agreements that may violate the object and purpose of the treaty.

With these points in mind, we encourage you to use your influence to bring other significant countries on board in order to open the way for the treaty's approval and opening for signature.

Thanks for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Eric Sapp,
Executive Director,
American Values Network

Suzanne Nossel,
Executive Director,
Amnesty International USA

Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director,
Arms Control Association

Sarah Holewinski,
Executive Director,
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

John Isaacs,
Executive Director,
Council for a Livable World

Don Krauss,
Chief Executive Officer,
GlobalSolutions.org

Raymond C. Offenheiser,
President,
Oxfam America

Bama Athreya,
Executive Director,
United to End Genocide

 

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(Washington and New York) Major U.S. humanitarian and arms control organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, Arms Control Association, and United to Prevent Genocide, are pressing President Barack Obama to work with other countries close the remaining loopholes in text of the Arms Trade Treaty now under negotiation.

Arms Treaty Text Emerges from UN Talks

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Arms Control Group Says Good Agreement Within Sight

For Immediate Release: July 24, 2012

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, ACA (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the first consolidated draft text of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) emerged from arduous negotiations at the United Nations. Governments have just three days to narrow any remaining differences before the conference concludes on July 27.

"The text that has emerged contains several loopholes that should be closed to improve the treaty, but on the whole the document now under consideration provides a solid basis for agreement by all responsible states. With further work in the remaining hours, a good Arms Trade Treaty is within sight," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Arms Control Association.

"We urge the major supplier states to work with others, including those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility to close the gaps in their respective positions and to reach agreement by Friday's deadline," said Kimball.

The July 24 treaty text issued today would require all states to establish national regulations on conventional arms transfers and brokering and require that states not authorize transfers that would violate arms embargoes, that would facilitate acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. The treaty draft now before the negotiators would also require states to regulate munitions so that their transfer will not circumvent the goals of the treaty.


The treaty text would also require states to evaluate whether arms transfers would be used to violate humanitarian law, international human rights law, be used by terrorists or organized crime, and if there is a substantial risk the transfer would do so, the treaty would oblige states not to authorize the transfer.

"The current text, however, should clarify that the treaty pertains to all types of arms 'transfers' (not simply arms exports) and clarify that the conventional weapons categories listed in the 'scope' section is illustrative and not exhaustive. The treaty should not, as the text currently suggests, allow multi-year weapons contracts to continue even if states know the weapons will be used for war crimes," Kimball urged. 

"With these adjustments, the Arms Trade Treaty can make a substantial difference in reducing the harm created by the illicit arms trade and it deserves the Obama administration's support," Kimball suggested.

Today, only 90 countries report having basic regulations on the international transfer of small arms and light weapons. Only 56 countries control arms brokers and only 25 have criminal penalties associated with illicit brokering. Worldwide, at least 400,000 people are killed by illegal small arms and light weapons each year, according to the U.K. government.

"The July 24 treaty text goes a long way toward meeting the United States' concerns on key issues, including ammunition and the criteria that states must evaluate before authorizing conventional arms transfers," Kimball said.

As Secretary of State Clinton outlined in remarks today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, the United States and others must put a new emphasis on prevention. As she said we can "directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence."

"An effective Arms Trade Treaty would help fill a gap in the international security architecture and help protect innocent civilians. The treaty can't stop all illicit arms transfers and won't stop all civilian deaths in conflict, but it can substantially reduce the human toll by making it harder and more expensive for weapons buyers and suppliers to flout common sense standards," Kimball argued.

"If by week's end, a few states try to block consensus agreement on a robust Arms Trade Treaty, we would urge the vast majority of states who do support the ATT to seek endorsement by the UN General Assembly and to open the treaty for signature," Kimball suggested.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the first consolidated draft text of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) emerged from arduous negotiations at the United Nations. Governments have just three days to narrow any remaining differences before the conference concludes on July 27.

Nuclear and Missile Systems We Can't Afford, Don't Need

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Volume 3, Issue 12, July 18, 2012

If the Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the booming federal deficit, they must work together to scale back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and unnecessary spending on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.

It has been more than two decades since the end of the Cold War, yet the United States maintains--and is poised to rebuild--a costly strategic nuclear triad that is sized to launch far more nuclear weapons than necessary to deter nuclear attack against the U.S. or its allies.

Today, the United States deploys some 1,737 strategic nuclear warheads, while Russia deploys some 1,492 strategic nuclear warheads. Each side has thousands more warheads in reserve.

Other than Russia, the only potential adversary with a long-range nuclear capability is China, which has no more than 40-50 warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The United States' has more than 30 times as many. Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine--loaded with 24 missiles, each armed with four 455-kiloton warheads--could kill millions.

As the Pentagon's new defense strategy correctly asserts, "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force...."

However, current plans call for 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total cost of almost $350 billion.

The Air Force is seeking a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles. Modernization and operation of the United States' 450 Minuteman III land-based ballistic missiles would cost billions more.

As, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright explained last year, "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it."

In a time of budget austerity, these ambitious and expensive schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems can and must be scaled back in manageable, cost-effective way.

Likewise, U.S. ballistic missile interceptor programs should be cost-effective, proven through real-world testing, and sized to address threats that actually exist. The fiscal year 2013 budget request would already provide $9.7 billion for all ballistic missile defense programs, and the administration projects spend another  $47.4 billion for these programs from 2013 to 2017.

The administration's missile defense budget includes $903 million for operating 30 ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles in Alaska and California to deal with a potential limited limited, long-range missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, neither of which have successfully tested such missiles. The system failed in their last two intercept tests, in January and December 2010. The MDA plans to have 52 GBI missiles by 2017.

Despite the GBI program's severe shortcomings and high-costs, some would have the taxpayer spend even more on the program than the administration has requested.

There are four principal ways in which the president and the Congress can trim unnecessary strategic nuclear force modernization programs and trim excess spending from the unproven Ground-Based Mid-Course strategic missile interceptor program--and still retain more than enough megatonnage to deter nuclear attack by any current or future adversary.

1. Rightsize the Strategic Nuclear Sub Fleet

The first step is to reevaluate and reduce the size of the future nuclear-armed strategic submarine force. In January 2012, the Pentagon said it would delay procurement of the proposed Ohio-class replacement nuclear-armed submarine (SSBNX) by two years, starting in 2031 not 2029, which could save some $6-7 billion in the next ten years.

However, without a reduction in the size of the force, the overall cost of the program will remain the same, and take resources away from the Navy's other priority shipbuilding projects. The Pentagon has requested $565 billion for the SSBNX program for fiscal 2013.

By reducing the Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to 8 or fewer boats and building no more than 8 new nuclear-armed subs, the United States could save roughly $27 billion over 10 years, and $120 billion over the 50-year lifespan of the program.

Furthermore, by changing prompt launch requirements developed during the Cold War and increasing the number of missile tubes and warhead loadings on each submarine, the Navy could still deploy the same number of strategic nuclear warheads at sea on a smaller, 8 sub fleet, as currently planned under the New START treaty (about 1,000).

2. Postpone Work on a New Strategic Bomber

Second, work on a new strategic bomber should be delayed. There is no rush to field a fleet of new bombers given the Pentagon's plan to retain 60 of its existing nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s, which will already cost approximately $4 billion to refurbish over the next 4 years. Delaying work on the new bomber program would save $18 billion over the next decade and approximately $292 million in fiscal year 2013 alone, according to the Pentagon.

3. Trim the Cold War ICBM Force

For additional savings, the Pentagon should reduce its land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force from 420 to 300 by cutting one squadron at each of the three Air Force bases where such missiles are deployed and foregoing a follow-on missile program to replace the existing force. This move would save approximately $360 million in operations and maintenance costs in fiscal 2013 alone and far more in future years.

Prudent U.S. strategic nuclear force reductions could also induce Russia to further reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal, which is already 200 warheads fewer than the United States, and prompt Moscow to delay or cancel some of its own costly plans for modernizing its strategic nuclear delivery systems.

4. Don't Spend More Taxpayer Money for Ground-Based Mid-Course Missile Interceptors That Don't Work

The United States already has two GMD sites on the west coast, with 30 interceptors deployed in California and Alaska, to counter a potential, limited long-range ballistic missile volley from a rogue state. Neither Iran nor North Korea has yet deployed long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The administration's budget request also includes $1.5 billion for the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which involves the SM-3 interceptor system to handle potential attacks involving short- and medium-range missiles from Iran. Iran does have such missiles.

Spending even more for the GBI system--which has not had a successful intercept test since 2008; has had two flight test failures in 2010; and cannot yet deal with decoys--is not prudent. Because the GBI cannot be relied upon to work in real-world conditions and because Iran and North Korea has not successfully tested long-range missiles, pouring more money into the program doesn't improve U.S. national security and drains resources from other, higher priority programs.

More Security for Less Money

Fresh thinking is in order. Programs that address low-priority threats must be scaled back to make room for more pressing national priorities and reduce the deficit. Smart reductions in spending on unnecessary new nuclear weapons systems would enhance U.S. security.--DARYL G. KIMBALL

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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If the Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the booming federal deficit, they must work together to scale back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and unnecessary spending on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.

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The Arms Trade Treaty and the NRA's Misleading Rhetoric

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Volume 3, Issue 11, July 11, 2012

The ongoing conflict in Syria-like recent wars in Burma, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Sierra Leone-underscores the urgent need for common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and ammunition, as well as legally-binding requirements for all states to review exports and imports--particularly for arms transfers that could lead to human rights abuses or violate international arms embargoes.

While the United States and a few other countries have relatively tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all.

The patchwork of national laws, combined with the absence of clear international standards for arms transfers, increases the availability of weapons in conflict zones. Irresponsible arms suppliers and brokers can exploit these conditions to sell weapons to unscrupulous governments, criminals, and insurgents, including those fighting U.S. troops.

For example, in 2010 Italian authorities revealed that the Italy-based smuggling ring of Alessandro Bon sent multiple shipments of military sniper scopes and other military goods via a Romanian front company through Dubai to Iran in violation of a UN arms embargo. This equipment, in turn, found its way into the hands of insurgents fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In response to this global problem, U.S. diplomats and representatives from some 190 countries are meeting at the United Nations to hammer out a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by July 27. The treaty would address all types of conventional weapons transfers, from naval ships and attack helicopters to small arms and light weapons.

The Arms Trade Treaty won't stop all illicit international arms transfers, but it is a common sense effort that can improve U.S. and global security because it can help reduce irresponsible international arms transfers and hold arms suppliers more accountable for their actions.

Second Amendment Nonsense

Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and some of its allies are engaging in a misleading lobbying effort alleging that the still-to-be-negotiated treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. It won't.

The ATT will only apply to international export, import, and transfer of conventional weapons. Nevertheless, the NRA's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre spoke today before a nearly empty hall at the UN and tried to argue that the treaty will regulate or even deny domestic gun-ownership by U.S. citizens and undermine the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This follows months of misleading lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. A statement posted in March on the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Web site characterized attempts to draft the ATT as "insidious efforts to use supranational authority to destroy our nationally-recognized and protected right."

The NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, wrote a July 2 op-ed for The Daily Caller alleging that the ATT "could seriously restrict your freedom to own, purchase and carry a firearm."

That's wrong and the NRA knows it. The regulation or registration of domestic gun ownership is clearly outside the scope of the treaty.

The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty currently underway was established by UN Resolution 64/48 in 2009. The resolution, which establishes the framework for negotiations, explicitly acknowledges "the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory."

The NRA also ignores the fact that the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it opposes any infringement on national arms transfer and ownership.

The Department of State Web site lists "Key U.S. Red Lines" on the ATT, including:

  • upholding of the Second Amendment;
  • no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms, and
  • no dilution of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms.

Furthermore, the Obama administration succeeded in getting other states to agree that the UN conference can only produce an Arms Trade Treaty text on the basis of consensus, which allows the United States to prevent it from crossing any of its "red lines."

As Galen Carey, Director of Government Relations for the National Association for Evangelicals summed it up at a June 26 briefing for reporters: "Some critics claim--wrongly, in my view--that an Arms Trade Treaty would threaten our second amendment rights.  In fact, the framework for the treaty negotiations specifically excludes any restrictions on domestic gun sales or ownership.  This issue is a red herring."

Mischaracterizing U.S. Senate Views

LaPierre also claimed today in his address at the UN that: "already 58 Senators have objected to any treaty that includes civilian arms."

That's a distortion of two separate July 2011 letters from Senators on the ATT.

A letter authored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and signed by 44 other Senators to President Barack Obama "... encourages your administration to uphold our country's constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership."

The 45 Senators who signed the Moran letter don't say they will oppose a treaty that includes the undefined term, "civilian firearms," they say: "... we will oppose ratification of an Arms Trade Treaty ... that in any way restricts the rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens to manufacture, assemble, possess, transfer or purchase firearms, ammunition, and related items."

A separate July 16, 2011 letter authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and signed by 12 other Democratic Senators actually expresses support for the ATT. They write: "We support efforts to better regulate the international trade of conventional weapons .... We should not allow the unregulated trade of these weapons to continue fueling conflict and instability in nations around the world." Their concern is simply that "the Arms Trade Treaty must not in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession or sales of firearms or ammunition."

The Senators' concerns about private gun possession are unfounded because the ATT will not regulate and would not affect domestic gun ownership rights and regulation and the Obama administration has made it clear it will not support a treaty that would.

Fox News Questions LaPierre's Claims

In a July 5 interview on Fox News, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre went so far as to say that the proposed treaty "says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government, and the government will protect you."

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reminded LaPierre that the treaty is about "global arms sales" not "domestic sales." She reminded the viewers that, "...the administration has said we support this but it doesn't infringe on our Second Amendment rights here. As a practical matter you tell us, to gun owners watching this program right now, what would it mean for them?"

LaPierre went on to make the make the incredible claim that: "Right now it would affect every handgun, rifle and shotgun American citizens own."

Kelly asked: "How?"

In response, LaPierre suggested that: "It sets up global agencies, data centers, tracking, monitoring, surveillance, supervision, it institutionalizes the whole UN gun plan within the bureaucracy of the United Nations with a permanent funding mechanism."

In reality, the ATT would require individual governments to set up national systems to review and license imports and exports of conventional weapons--not internal arms transfers or arms registration.

Nor would the ATT set up a "global agency." In the view of the vast majority of states--including the United States--the treaty would establish an "implementation support unit" consisting of no more than 3-4 persons and they would be directed by the member states of the treaty, not the UN. This small unit would be funded out of the UN's general budget.

It's not surprising that LaPierre could not back up his claim that the ATT "would affect every handgun, rifle, and shotgun American citizens own" with any specific facts--because the allegation that ATT poses a threat to U.S. Second Amendment rights is not grounded in reality.

What explains all the hyperbole? In his Fox News appearance, Mr. LaPierre provided a clue. He said: "I hope everyone joins the NRA as an act of defiance against this UN plan."

In other words, the NRA's false claim that the ATT threatens the legal rights of U.S. citizens to possess firearms may really just be a cynical ploy designed to funnel more donations to the already wealthy organization.

The "More Guns to Sudan" Argument

NRA lobbyist Chris Cox makes the Orwellian argument in his July 2 oped that the ATT would undermine the security of civilians in Sudan threatened by the authoritarian regime in Khartoum.

Cox writes that the government officials negotiating the ATT "... ought to see how far their gun-confiscation agenda resonates with hundreds of thousands of defenseless Sudanese men, women and children who live in constant fear of being beaten, raped, sold into slavery or murdered."

In reality, the ATT is not a gun confiscation plan, and the ATT has the support of influential Sudanese leaders who have their people's best interests in mind and the experience to understand what works and what doesn't in their country. One such individual is Bishop Elias Taban, the President of the Sudan Evangelical Alliance, who was once forced to become a child soldier in the Sudanese Liberation Movement.

In a July 10 interview with The Christian Post, Taban explained that in Sudan "in most cases even if you have weapons you will not be able to defend yourself."

The problem in the Dafur and Nuba mountains region of Sudan is that the population is under assault from the government's overwhelming firepower, which consists of tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, machine guns, military aircraft, helicopters, and bombs, all of which is supplied by weapons manufacturers in Belarus, China, and Russia.

Galen Carey, who served for over 25 years as an overseas missionary in Mozambique, Croatia, Kenya, Indonesia and Burundi noted that "As Christians, as humanitarians who support evangelical work, we try and make sure that supplies and weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."

"When we lived in Burundi, we actually were at a Bible study when the town was shelled by rebels who had taken control of some of the hills outside the town, and so there were shells landing all around us. So it is not only just local people, but also missionaries and humanitarian workers and even military who are threatened by this loose control of weapon."

Carey says he believes that it is perfectly legitimate for the government to use weapons for self-defense and to keep the peace, but not to wreak violence and harm others.

The purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty is to make it harder for unscrupulous government suppliers and arms brokers to transfer conventional weapons and ammunition across international borders in violation of international arms embargoes and to governments committing human rights abuses and to criminal gangs and terrorists.

The Small Arms and Light Weapons Issue

The one serious issue raised by the NRA, as well as some members of Congress, is whether the ATT negotiators should include small arms and light weapons within the scope of the treaty.

The NRA's misplaced fear that the ATT will affect "civilian" firearms has led them to suggest excluding small arms and light weapons from the treaty. Some members of Congress have expressed concerns that by including small arms and light weapons in the treaty, it becomes "too broad" and is therefore unenforceable.

This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices.

Today, only 90 countries report having basic regulations on the international transfer of small arms and light weapons. Only 56 countries control arms brokers and only 25 have criminal penalties associated with illicit brokering.

That is why the Obama administration--and the vast majority of other states--is on record in support of including small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty.

Furthermore, illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons are a big part of the problem that demands action by responsible states. The British government estimates that at least 400,000 people are killed by illegal small arms and light weapons each year.

The only states joining the NRA in opposition to including small arms and light weapons are a few not so honorable arms exporters and importers--China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and Venezuela--who would rather be able to continue to sell and buy conventional weapons without common-sense global standards.

The Bottom Line

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international standards for regulating the global arms trade.--DARYL G. KIMBALL AND WYATT HOFFMAN

Additional Resources

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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The ongoing conflict in Syria-like recent wars in Burma, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Sierra Leone-underscores the urgent need for common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and ammunition, as well as legally-binding requirements for all states to review exports and imports--particularly for arms transfers that could lead to human rights abuses or violate international arms embargoes.

Op-ed: Time to Curb the Illicit Global Arms Trade

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By Frank Jannuzi and Daryl G. Kimball

The following piece was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor on July 9, 2012

Each year, hundreds of thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered by conventional weapons that are sold, transferred by governments, or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups. The enormous human toll from the unregulated trade of conventional arms undermines international security and impedes economic and social development.

But the governments and arms brokers that contribute to crimes against humanity by pouring guns and ammo into conflict zones are not violating any international law and are often outside the jurisdiction of national laws. This hole in the fabric of international security can and must be fixed beginning this month.

After three years of preparations, diplomats from the United States and more than 100 other countries are meeting at the United Nations in New York to work out a new legally binding, global arms trade treaty by a July 27 deadline. The goal is to establish common standards for the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms and ammunition.

While the US and a few other countries have relatively tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all. The result is that there are more international laws governing the trade of bananas than conventional weapons, like AK-47s.

In the absence of international standards and effective national controls, irresponsible arms suppliers exploit the gaps for profit. For years, for instance, Russian firms have supplied helicopters to Syria which have reportedly been used by the Assad regime to attack civilian population centers in recent weeks.

Weapons, ammunition, and equipment made in Belarus, China, and Russia continue to flow into Sudan, supplying government military forces that commit atrocities in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains regions.

As US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security Thomas Countryman said in April, when it comes to the arms trade there must be “a new sense of responsibility upon every member of the United Nations that you cannot simply export and forget.”

The arms trade treaty won’t stop all illicit arms transfers, but it has the potential to change behavior by requiring states to put in place basic regulations and follow common sense criteria that reduce irresponsible international arms transfers and hold arms suppliers more accountable for their actions.

To succeed, the assembled ambassadors must put sons over guns and daughters over slaughter. At a minimum, the new treaty should require states to withhold approval for the international transfer of arms in contravention of UN embargoes or when there is a substantial risk the items will be used to commit serious violations of human rights. Despite its strong, pro-human rights rhetoric, the Obama administration has not yet endorsed such a formula.

Negotiators must also ensure that the treaty covers all types of transfers and the full range of conventional weapons, from military aircraft to small arms.

The treaty must also cover the import and export of ammunition. The world is already full of guns. The constant flows of ammunition feed and prolong conflicts and armed violence. The exclusion of ammunition from the scope of the treaty would greatly reduce its ability to achieve many of its most important goals. The United States already licenses the import and export of ammunition, and there is no compelling reason why Washington should not ask the rest of the world to step up to the US standard.

For the treaty to have teeth and ensure that civil society can hold governments accountable, it should require states to report regularly and publicly on their arms sales and purchases.

Finally, the treaty should also require states to regulate the activities of international arms brokers, such as convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, as their desire for profit has fueled gruesome violence against civilians in recent conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and elsewhere. Today, only 52 of the world’s 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers and less than half of those states have criminal or monetary penalties associated with illegal brokering.

Allegations made by some here in the United States that an arms trade treaty would infringe on the domestic rights of US citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. The treaty will govern international arms transfers and fully respect the sovereign rights of nations to regulate gun ownership as they see fit. No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade.

World leaders must act now. A high-quality treaty will make it more difficult for states to justify arms sales to the Assad regime and similar brutal governments, and make it more costly for unscrupulous suppliers to do business. Over time, this will help prevent human rights abuses and make the world a safer place.

Frank Jannuzi is the head of the Washington office of Amnesty International USA. Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the independent Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C.

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The following piece was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor on July 9, 2012

Each year, hundreds of thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered by conventional weapons that are sold, transferred by governments, or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups. The enormous human toll from the unregulated trade of conventional arms undermines international security and impedes economic and social development.

Nuclear Weapons: Less Is More

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Volume 3, Issue 10, July 9, 2012

In the coming weeks, following a long bipartisan tradition, President Barack Obama is expected to take a step away from the nuclear brink by proposing further reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals. This would be a welcome step toward making the United States safer while redirecting defense dollars to higher priority needs.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1986, shifted U.S. policy away from ever-higher nuclear stockpiles--which peaked at about 30,000 nuclear warheads--and started down the path of reductions that continues today. U.S. and Russian arsenals have now been reduced by more than two-thirds, and the world is safer for it.

U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all contributed to reducing the nuclear threat. Within weeks, President Obama is expected to announce revisions to outdated U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements that would allow another round of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpile reductions beyond those mandated by the 2010 New START treaty.

As President Obama said in March, "we have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal."

Military, Bipartisan Support

President Obama's efforts to reduce excess nuclear weapons stockpiles have strong military and bipartisan support. In April, Gen. James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, called for reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by 80 percent from current levels. He wrote, along with other authors including former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), that the current U.S. and Russian arsenals "vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence."

In March 2011, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) wrote that, "Deeper nuclear reductions... should remain a priority," and that the United States and Russia, which led the buildup for decades, "must continue to lead the build-down."

Senator Carl Levin  (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in June: "I can't see any reason for having as large an inventory as we are allowed to have under New START, in terms of real threat, potential threat." He added, "The more weapons that exist out there, the less secure we are, rather than the more secure we are."

Today, it is clear that the United States can maintain a credible deterrent at lower levels of nuclear weapons than the 1,550 deployed strategic warheads allowed by New START. There is no reasonable justification today for such high numbers.

Decisions Expected Soon

President Obama and his National Security Staff are now considering options that could lead to major changes in the purpose, size and structure of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The current process--known as the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Implementation Study--will also establish the basis for further nuclear arms reduction talks with Russia beyond New START.

The Obama administration outlined its approach to U.S. nuclear policy in its April 2010 NPR, which states that, "the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners." This is a major shift away from the Cold War-era strategy of "prevailing " in a nuclear war and using nuclear weapons to counter conventional military threats.

By signaling that the United States is prepared to accelerate reductions and go below New START ceilings, Washington could induce Moscow, which is already below New START levels, to rethink its plans to build up its forces, including a new long-range missile with multiple warheads. It could also eventually open the way for discussions with other nuclear-armed states to limit their stockpiles.

Further nuclear reductions would also help trim the high cost of maintaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear forces, which is estimated to cost $31 billion annually.

Nuclear Weapons Strategy, Deterrence, and "Overkill"

Unlike earlier post-Cold War reviews in 1994 and 2001, Obama's 2010 NPR suggests that deploying thousands of strategic nuclear weapons to perform a wide range of missions, including defending U.S. forces or allies against conventional and chemical attacks, is neither appropriate nor necessary for security and stability in the 21st century.

To truly put an end to outdated Cold War thinking, President Obama should:

  • Eliminate entire target categories from the current nuclear war plan, which now include a wide range of military forces, nuclear weapons infrastructure, and military and national leadership targets, and war-supporting infrastructure, mainly in Russia. These targeting assumptions were developed decades ago to deplete war-fighting assets rather than ensure there is a sufficient retaliatory capability to deter nuclear attack in the first place.
  • Direct war planners to discard old assumptions for how much damage must be accomplished to ensure that a target is destroyed. Current plans require hitting many targets with more than one nuclear weapon. To deter a nuclear attack, adversaries need only realize the United States is capable of reducing key targets to radioactive rubble rather than a fine dust.
  • Eliminate the practice of keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch within minutes. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said the practice is "outdated" and "increases the risk of catastrophic accident or miscalculation." A reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately if U.S. nuclear forces and command and control systems can survive an attack--and they can.

These and other changes would significantly reduce the number of targets and the number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems "required" to hit them.

Shifting to a more realistic, "nuclear deterrence only" strategy would allow for steep reductions in the number of strategic U.S. nuclear warheads (to 1,000 or fewer deployed and nondeployed) and the number of delivery vehicles (to 500 or less).

By the Numbers

During George H. W. Bush's four years in office, the total U.S. arsenal shrunk from about 22,200 weapons to 13,700--a 38 percent cut. In George W. Bush's eight years, the total U.S. arsenal dropped from about 10,500 weapons to just over 5,000--about 50 percent fewer.

Still, the U.S. and Russian arsenals remain by far the largest of any of the world's nuclear-armed states. Together the U.S. and Russia possess approximately 90% of all nuclear weapons.

Today, the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles (not including warheads awaiting dismantlement) each exceed 5,000 nuclear bombs, any one of which could devastate Washington or Moscow.

As of March 1, 2012, the United States deployed some 1,737 strategic nuclear warheads and has approximately 500 operational tactical nuclear bombs, with an estimated 2,700 nondeployed warheads (i.e. warheads in reserve), putting the total number of active U.S. nuclear weapons at about 5,000.

Russia deploys some 1,492 strategic nuclear warheads, has an estimated 2,000 operational tactical nuclear bombs, and 2,000 in storage, for about 5,500 total.

Under New START each country is still allowed to deploy as many as 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons. Under current plans, thousands of additional warheads would be held in reserve.

Other than Russia, the only U.S. potential adversary with a significant nuclear arsenal is China, but Washington's arsenal of long-range strategic nuclear weapons outnumbers Beijing's by 30 to 1.

The Cost of Maintaining Nuclear Forces

Another factor the President and the Congress much consider is the significant cost of maintaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear forces.

According to a new study by the Stimson Center, U.S. spending on nuclear weapons is approximately $31 billion per year and the projected costs for maintaining and modernizing the current U.S. nuclear force will amount to hundreds of billions in the coming decade.

During the 2003 Senate hearings on the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell noted: "We have every incentive to reduce the number [of nuclear weapons]. These are expensive. They take away from soldier pay. They take away from [operation and maintenance] investments. They take away from lots of things. There is no incentive to keep more than you believe you need for the security of the Nation."

Within the next couple of years, key decisions must be made regarding costly, long-term strategic submarine and bomber modernization programs.

The Navy is seeking 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total lifecycle cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force wants a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles that would cost billions more.

In July 2011, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Cartwright explained that "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it."

In January 2012, the Pentagon said it would delay procurement of the proposed Ohio-class replacement nuclear-armed submarine by two years, which could save some $6-7 billion in the next ten years. However, without a reduction in the size of the force, the overall cost of the program will remain the same, and take resources away from the Navy's other priority shipbuilding projects.

Significant cost reductions can only be achieved if Obama shifts U.S. nuclear policy and eliminates the current "requirements" for Cold War-sized nuclear forces. This would enable President Obama and the Congress to:

  • Reduce the total number of new strategic subs it plans to buy in the coming years. By delaying procurement of new replacement subs by two years as now planned, and by reducing the current Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to eight or fewer boats, and building no more than eight new nuclear-armed subs, the United States could save roughly $18 billion over 10 years, and $122 billion over the 50-year lifespan of the program.
  • Delay spending on a new fleet of nuclear-capable strategic bombers. Given the Pentagon's plan to retain 60 of its existing nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s there is no rush to replace this capability. Delaying work on the new bomber program would save $18 billion over the next decade, according to the Pentagon.
  • Reduce the land-based strategic missile force from 420 to 300 by cutting one squadron at each of the three Air Force bases where such missiles are deployed and foregoing a follow-on missile program to replace the existing force, which can be maintained for years to come.

There is bipartisan support for such steps. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) proposed a plan in July 2011 outlining similar cuts to the nuclear force that he said would save $79 billion over the next ten years.

Fresh thinking is in order. The United States does not need and cannot afford oversized strategic nuclear forces. Programs that address low-priority threats can be scaled back to make room for more pressing national priorities and reduce the deficit.

By discarding outdated nuclear war plans, President Obama can open the way for lower U.S.-Russian nuclear force levels, enhance the prospects for mutual, verifiable reductions involving the world's other nuclear-armed states, and reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will be used ever again.--Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

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In the coming weeks, following a long bipartisan tradition, President Barack Obama is expected to take a step away from the nuclear brink by proposing further reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals. This would be a welcome step toward making the United States safer while redirecting defense dollars to higher priority needs.

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Pursue the Diplomatic Track on Iran

Daryl G. Kimball

Nearly 10 years have elapsed since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had secretly built a uranium-enrichment facility. Nearly seven years have passed since talks between Iran and the European Union stalled and Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Since then, Iran and the P5+1—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have fumbled fleeting opportunities to reach a deal that reduces the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran in exchange for a rollback of proliferation-related sanctions.

There is still time for diplomacy, but both sides need to move with greater urgency toward a lasting solution. Iran apparently has not made a strategic decision to pursue nuclear weapons and does not yet have the necessary ingredients for an effective nuclear arsenal, but its enrichment capabilities are improving. By year’s end, Iran could install more-advanced centrifuges and significantly increase its enriched-uranium stockpile.

A deal that ties Iran’s enrichment activities and its stockpiles to the actual needs of Iran’s nuclear power plants, combined with more extensive IAEA safeguards, could sufficiently guard against a nuclear-armed Iran. Pursuing such a course is difficult, but it is the best option on the table.

Tighter international sanctions can help slow the advance of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and increase pressure on Tehran to negotiate seriously. Yet, sanctions alone will not halt Iran’s nuclear pursuits. The so-called military option would be counterproductive and costly for all sides. Potential Israeli or U.S. air strikes could set back Iran’s program for no more than a couple of years and would likely lead its leaders to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and openly pursue nuclear weapons. Further cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear installations may buy time, but also deepen mistrust and increase the determination of Iran’s leaders to expand their nuclear program.

Given the infrequency of serious, direct talks with Tehran on its disputed nuclear program, the failure to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the latest meeting in Moscow is disappointing but not surprising. There is a risk that both sides will harden their stances and effectively put the tenuous diplomatic process on hold until next year. That would be a serious mistake.

The three rounds of nuclear talks in 2012 have revealed the substantial differences between the two sides, but an initial confidence-building deal is still within reach if both sides provide greater flexibility and creativity.

Iran’s reported proposal for “operationalizing” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons, its call for sanctions relief in return for cooperation with the IAEA, and its reported offer to consider limits on enrichment above normal fuel grade are all worth exploring. The task now is to acquire sufficient detail on the proposals, sort out sequencing issues, and recalibrate positions to achieve a win-win deal at the next round of discussions.

The top priority for the P5+1 must continue to be a deal that halts Iran’s accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium, which is above normal fuel grade and closer to weapons grade, in exchange for fuel assemblies for its Tehran Research Reactor and medical isotopes. This would be consistent with the principle that Iran has the right under the NPT only to enrich in full compliance with safeguards and only for legitimate civilian purposes and could serve as a basis for a broader deal to limit the size and scope of its enrichment program.

To help get to “yes,” the P5+1 should offer to suspend the European oil embargo that formally goes into effect this month, offer to ease the restrictions that will bar European shipping insurers from covering ships that carry Iranian oil to buyers around the world, or both. The effect would be largely symbolic because most EU states have already stopped buying Iranian oil. If Iran does not follow through with tangible steps, these new sanctions could be formally reinstated.

Failure to find a way to halt Iran’s accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium would be irresponsible, as it would make it easier for Iran to acquire the capability for a faster nuclear weapons breakout.

For its part, Iran could make a deal and sanctions relief more likely if it would immediately cooperate with the IAEA on inspections of key sites and personnel to ensure that past weapons-related experiments have been discontinued. In addition, Iran must clarify when it will allow IAEA inspections under the terms of an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement.

Some cynics and critics of the diplomatic option wrongly suggest that further negotiations with Iran only allow Iran to “buy time” for nefarious nuclear pursuits. The reality is that international and national sanctions will remain in place until Iran takes the steps necessary to provide confidence it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran’s enrichment program goes no faster or slower as talks continue. Without a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear pursuits, however, Iran’s capabilities will only grow over time.

Nearly 10 years have elapsed since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had secretly built a uranium-enrichment facility. Nearly seven years have passed since talks between Iran and the European Union stalled and Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Since then, Iran and the P5+1—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have fumbled fleeting opportunities to reach a deal that reduces the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran in exchange for a rollback of proliferation-related sanctions.

Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations Begin July 2

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Volume 3, Issue 9, June 30, 2012

Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups.

In response to this global problem, diplomats from the United States and over 100 other countries will meet at the United Nations in New York for four weeks beginning on Monday July 2 to try to hammer out a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The goal is to establish common standards for the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms and ammunition.

The Arms Trade Treaty won't stop all illicit arms transfers, but it has the potential to significantly and positively change behavior by requiring states to put in place basic regulations and follow common sense criteria that reduce irresponsible international arms transfers and and hold arms suppliers more accountable for their actions.

The Unregulated Global Trade In Arms

The conflict in Syria--like recent wars in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Congo--underscores the urgent necessity of common-sense rules to prevent the international transfer of weapons when it is determined there is a substantial risk of human rights abuses or if the weapons are going to states under arms embargoes.

An unregulated arms trade increases the availability of weapons in conflict zones. Arms brokers can exploit these conditions to sell weapons to criminals and insurgents, including those fighting U.S. troops.

According to a recent report published by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition has been imported since 2000 by countries operating under arms embargoes. The figures show the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

While the United States and a few other countries have relatively tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all. Making matters worse, only 52 of the world's 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers; less than half of these have criminal or monetary penalties associated with illegal brokering.

This patchwork of national laws and the absence of clear international standards allows irresponsible arms brokers to operate in the black holes of the international regulatory system and circumvent the jurisdiction of countries like the United States.

Amazingly, there are more international laws on the trade of bananas than conventional weapons, like AK-47s.

An Historic Opportunity

Human rights, development, security, and religious organizations across the globe are working together to press key governments--particularly the United States--to act and to act responsibly on the ATT during the July 2-27 talks.

To help prevent the next humanitarian disaster fueled by the illicit arms trade, they are pressing President Obama and other global leaders should spare no effort to seize the historic opportunity to negotiate a robust, bulletproof ATT.

In a letter to President Obama delivered last month, the organizations call on the U.S. government to secure a treaty "with the highest possible standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms."

The letter was endorsed by leaders representing 51 human rights, development, religious, and security organizations, including: Amnesty International USA; Arms Control Association; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Human Rights Watch; NAACP; Oxfam America; National Association of Evangelicals; and others.

ATT campaigners will soon deliver a global petition at the UN calling on states to negotiate an effective global Arms Trade Treaty.

Key Issues

To ensure an effective treaty, the United States and other key states must reach agreement on:

  • Strong Criteria Explicitly Linked to Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law--The ATT must prevent states from transferring conventional arms in contravention of UN arms embargoes and when it is determined there is a substantial risk the items will be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.
  • Comprehensive Coverage--The ATT must apply to the broadest range of conventional arms possible--from military aircraft to small arms--as well as all types of international trade, transfers, and transactions in conventional weaponry. To help prevent "merchants of death" like the notorious Vicktor Bout, the ATT should also specifically require that national laws regulate the activities of international arms brokers and other intermediaries.
  • Include Ammunition in the Scope of the Treaty--The world is already full of guns. It is the constant flows of ammunition that feeds and prolongs conflicts and armed violence. The exclusion of ammunition from the scope of the treaty would greatly reduce its ability to achieve many of its most important goals.

U.S. officials have said the administration supports the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty. On ammunition, Ann Ganzer, director of the Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction at the Department of State said: "We do not have a problem with the regulation of ammunition. The United States licenses the manufacturing, import, and export of ammunition. The issue comes in with some of the other requirements of the treaty--reporting requirements."

Myths and Realities

Unfortunately, here in the United States, the value of an ATT has been obscured by the misleading lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association and its proxies in Congress who allege that the still-to-be-negotiated treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. That is not the case.

Second Amendment Nonsense: Some of these concerns are reflected in 2010 letters circulated by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and signed by 55 other senators. Although both letters recognize the security and humanitarian benefits of the treaty, the Moran letter expresses concern that the ATT might monitor certain internal arms transfers.

Such measures are undeniably outside the scope of the treaty and the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it opposes any infringement on national arms transfer and ownership.

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery.

As Galen Carey, Director of Government Relations for the National Association for Evangelicals puts it: "Some critics claim--wrongly, in my view--that an Arms Trade Treaty would threaten our second amendment rights.  In fact, the framework for the treaty negotiations specifically excludes any restrictions on domestic gun sales or ownership.  This issue is a red herring."

The 2009 UN General Assembly resolution establishing the ATT negotiation process explicitly acknowledges the exclusive right of states "to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections."

The Arms Trade Treaty will level the playing field by keeping unscrupulous operators in other countries from doing what our laws already prohibit.    

Advocates of legal civilian gun possession should recognize the value of an ATT in reducing the carnage created by illicit and irresponsible international arms transfers.

Small Arms and the ATT: A second concern expressed by Sen. Moran is the likely the inclusion of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition within the scope of the treaty. Moran claims this makes the treaty too "broad" and therefore unenforceable.

This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices. The Obama administration--and the vast majority of other states--are on record in support of including small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty.

Time to Come Together Around a Common Sense ATT

Congress should support the Obama administration's effort to secure an effective Arms Trade Treaty that raises the arms transfer standards of other states closer to those of the United States.

No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade.

Additional Resources

  • "If You Resist, We'll Shoot You," Amnesty International report on arms suppliers fueling killings and rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, June 12, 2012.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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Volume 3, Issue 9, June 30, 2012

Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups.

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