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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
Alicia Sanders-Zakre

UN Reports Syrian Chlorine Attacks

A UN report found the Syrian government used chlorine as a weapon four times from January to July 2018, as the international community issued strong warnings against future chemical weapons attacks in a prospective Syrian assault on the Idlib province. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established in 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council, has issued 15 other reports, finding that chemical weapons were used in 34 attacks in Syria as of January 2018, most of which were attributed to the Assad regime.

Syrians reportedly suffering from breathing difficulties following Syrian regime’s Feb. 4 air strikes on the northwestern town of Saraqeb rest around a stove at a field hospital. (Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)The report blamed the Syrian government for weaponized chlorine use in Karm al-Rasas, near Douma, on Jan. 22 and Feb. 1; in Saraqeb on Feb. 4; and in Douma on April 7. Investigations of the April 7 attack are ongoing, and the report could not confirm if another agent in addition to chlorine was used. (See ACT, May 2018.) The Syrian American Medical Society and the investigative website Bellingcat reported five chemical weapons attacks in January and February and two in March. (See ACT, April 2018.)

France, the United Kingdom, and the United States publicly declared that they will launch airstrikes against governmental targets if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons in Idlib province, where about 3 million civilians are imperiled.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

UN Reports Syrian Chlorine Attacks

Pentagon Sees Chinese Missile Advances


The U.S. Defense Department annual report on China’s military power says that Beijing is developing new nuclear weapons delivery systems and is moving to deploy a new missile defense interceptor. The report, released Aug. 16, said China is developing two air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which may be nuclear weapons capable. That missile has been flight-tested five times, according to an April report in The Diplomat. This development is significant because air-launched ballistic missiles cannot be intercepted in the boost- or midcourse phase.

China displayed the DF-31AG intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), an enhanced version of the DF-31A, for the first time in 2017 at the People’s Liberation Army’s 90th anniversary parade, the Defense Department report notes. China “appears to be considering” additional launch options for the DF-41 ICBM, which is still under development after being tested 10 times, including rail-mobile and silo-based launch options, the report notes. The report also cited Chinese development work on a new nuclear-capable bomber, with an estimated range of at least 8,500 kilometers (5,300 miles), that could debut within a decade.

The HQ-19 midcourse missile defense interceptor, which was still being tested in 2016, “may have begun preliminary operation in [w]estern China,” the report states. The system is designed to intercept medium-range missiles, likely from regional countries such as India and North Korea.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Pentagon Sees Chinese Missile Advances

India’s Agni-5 ICBM Advances


India's Agni-5 missile is displayed during a dress rehearsal for the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 23, 2013. (Photo: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images)India’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), still under development, is expected to be inducted into the strategic arsenal after one more test, which could occur as soon as October. The Agni-5 has been tested six times, most recently in June. (See ACT, March 2018.) It is a three-stage, road-mobile missile able to carry a 1,500-kilogram payload a distance of 5,000 kilometers. India reportedly has been working to develop multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) for the missile, Franz-Stefan Gady wrote in The Diplomat, which would provide India with a second-strike capability. Analysts believe India is developing the long-range missile to bolster its nuclear deterrence with China. The Agni-5 will need to be tested several more times after it has been inducted before it can be operationally deployed.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

India’s Agni-5 ICBM Advances

What You Need to Know About Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

Updated March 14, 2019 Why are chemical weapons attacks in Syria of so much concern to the international community? Over the course of the horrific five and a half years of the Syrian civil war, the government of Bashar al-Assad, his Russian allies, and extremist fighters, have committed numerous war crimes. Some 500,000 people have died, and more than 10 million have been displaced. There is no military solution to the conflict, yet the killing continues. Among the most heinous aspects of the war has been the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime since late 2012, including the...

U.S. Sanctions Russia for CW Use


September 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

U.S. sanctions on Russia for its use of the nerve agent Novichok in an alleged UK assassination attempt took effect in late August, and the Trump administration faces a legal deadline to impose still harsher measures in November.

Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok along with her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, speaks to journalists May 23 in London. The UK and United States blame Russia for the assassination attempt using a banned chemical weapon. (Photo: Dylan Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. exports to Russia related to national security are banned under the initial sanctions, including gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits, and testing and calibration equipment that were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis. Waivers may be issued for some exports related to space flights and commercial passenger safety.

The United States and United Kingdom say Moscow was behind the poisoning in March of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the Russian chemical agent in Salisbury in March. (See ACT, April 2018.) “The attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, was a reckless display of contempt for the universally held norm against chemical weapons,” said a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, according to Reuters.

The sanctions were triggered by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Elimination Act of 1991, which stipulates that the United States must apply sanctions within 60 days of determining a country has used chemical weapons. The Trump administration initially missed the act’s deadline. The act has been invoked twice previously, in response to Syria’s chemical weapons use in 2013 and a fatal 2017 chemical poisoning in Malaysia attributed to North Korea. (See ACT, April 2017.)

Many of the goods sanctioned in August were already banned by military- and security-related sanctions, but the United States in November likely will impose more powerful sanctions. Under the law, Russia will face additional penalties unless it provides reliable assurances that it is no longer using chemical weapons, will not do so in the future, and will allow international inspectors to verify its assurances.

Russia is unlikely to comply with these demands given its repeated denial of use or recent possession of chemical weapons. Some options for additional sanctions include targeting multilateral bank assistance to Russia, U.S. bank loans to the Russian government, or aircraft landing rights.

In an Aug. 10 phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again denied his country’s use of chemical weapons and rejected the sanctions, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russia will “consider countermeasures to this most recent unfriendly move by Washington,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Aug. 9.

 

Russia denies the charge and threatens “countermeasures.”

Governments and NGOs Mark the International Day Against Nuclear Tests

August 29 marks the eighth international day against nuclear tests. Less than ten countries have tested over 2,000 nuclear weapons since the United States exploded the first nuclear weapon in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The day against nuclear tests was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2009, when it adopted Resolution 64/35 . The resolution was introduced by Kazakhstan to commemorate the 1991 closure of the Semipalatinsk testing site. The day is observed each year by events around the world, including symposia, conferences, exhibits, competitions, publications,...

Senate Holds Hearing on Bill to Expand RECA

On June 27, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing about expanding the compensation benefits granted under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) , together with amendments passed later, created an administrative program to provide compensation for some victims exposed to radiation during U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing and some employees of the U.S. uranium mining industry. Some advocates and lawmakers have criticized the act for excluding some individuals who were impacted by nuclear weapons testing and production. Senator...

Time to Address China's Expanding Nuclear Weapons Program

A newly released Pentagon report reveals unsettling moves by China to expand its nuclear weapons program, including the development of new types of nuclear-capable missiles. These new weapons systems have largely slipped under the radar as North Korean and Russian nuclear weapons programs continue to grab headlines. However, these developments threaten to further destabilize a shaky global nuclear order, highlighting the critical need for engagement with China. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China’s nuclear arsenal—now an estimated 280 warheads—has...

Nuclear Disarmament: Challenges and Opportunities

These remarks were delivered on August 2 in Hiroshima at the International Conference Against A & H Bombs to an international audience of nuclear disarmament activists and government representatives. On the 73 rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, the global nuclear disarmament enterprise is in a state of crisis. Nearly 50 years after the adoption of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the five states that signed as nuclear weapon states have failed to give up their weapons. Dramatic nuclear reductions have brought global nuclear weapons arsenals down from 60,000 nuclear...

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