Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for March, 2007

WMD Civil Support Team for Wyoming Completes Training

Posted by K.E. White on March 16, 2007

WMD

Did you know that the Department of Defense trains WMD Civil Support Teams?

Currently America has 48 of these teams, with Wyoming’s team certified just two days ago.

GlobalSecurity.org provides some of the history behind these teams:

In a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1998, President Bill Clinton announced that the nation would do more to protect its citizens against the growing threat of chemical and biological terrorism. As part of this effort, he said, the Department of Defense would form 10 teams to support state and local authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction.

The WMD Civil Support Teams were established to deploy rapidly to assist a local incident commander in determining the nature and extent of an attack or incident; provide expert technical advice on WMD response operations; and help identify and support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets. They are joint units and, as such, can consists (sic) of both Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel, with some of these units commanded by Air National Guard lieutenant colonels.

The mission of Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CST) is to support local and state authorities at domestic WMD/NBC incident sites by identifying agents and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional military support.

This program has come to be under the duties of U.S. National Guard:

Mission: To assess a suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attack, advise civilian responders on appropriate actions through on-site testing and expert consultation, and facilitate the arrival of additional state and federal military forces.

Overview: The CST is composed of 22 people, 7 Officer and 15 Enlisted, from both the Army and Air National Guard, with a variety of specialties. Assigned vehicles include a command vehicle, operations van, a communications vehicle called the Unified Command Suite (provides a broad range of communications capabilities including satellite communications), an Analytical Laboratory System van (contains a full suite of analysis equipment to support the medical team, and other general purpose vehicles). The CST normally deploys using its assigned vehicles, but can be airlifted if required. A deployment distance of up to 250 miles can usually be covered faster by surface travel, given the time required to recall an aircrew and stage an aircraft.

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Posted in Counter proliferation, Homeland Security, WMD, WMD Civil Support Team, Wyoming | Leave a Comment »

Blair Preserves UK’s Nuclear Deterrent, For Now: Post-Vote Wrap Up on the Trident System

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2007

The Bulletin offers excellent coverage of the Trident issue. 

Tony Wins Today, But What About Tomorrow?But here are some highlights of the post-vote coverage. 

From the Bulletin

After Prime Minister Tony Blair relied on Conservative leader David Cameron to force through the white paper on renewing Trident, MPs from several parties joined protesters outside the Houses of Parliament and vowed to continue the campaign to persuade the government to implement its treaty obligations and eliminate Britain’s nuclear arsenal. In rallies in Edinburgh and London, they made clear that this was a long-term security issue, and it would have to be won by long-term, persistent campaigning. Civil resistance at Faslane and Aldermaston is only just getting started, and local and Scottish parliament votes scheduled for May 3 are likely to be viewed as a referendum on Blair’s legacy, including his nuclear proliferation policies.

As predicted, the government’s motion was carried. With both main parties imposing a three-line whip–the strongest level of party instruction–409 voted in favor, with 161 opposed. To the uninitiated, these figures might make Blair’s victory look comfortable: It was not. In a dramatic blow to Blair’s prestige, almost half of Labour’s backbenchers–88 in total–rebelled and joined the Liberal Democrats and others in voting against the white paper.

The Australian pitches the same theme more directly: 

Eighty-seven MPs from Mr Blair’s Labour Party voted yesterday against his plan to spend £15billion to £20billion ($37billion to $49 billion) on new nuclear-armed submarines to replace those due to be decommissioned in about 2024.

It was the biggest revolt against Mr Blair since a 2003 vote backing war in Iraq and the largest on a domestic issue in his decade in power.

The revolt could have overturned Mr Blair’s 67-seat majority in the 646-member lower house of parliament, but backing from the opposition Conservatives helped him secure a 409-161 vote in favour of renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

And the Cambridge Evening News portrays a more personal portrayal of the vote, and gives us words from the Conservative leader, David Cameron:

Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, pictured far right, was among those who voted with the Government to ensure it had a majority of 248 in a House of Commons vote.

He voted despite being inconvenienced by a broken leg suffered when he fell off a bale of hay at his smallholding in Hardwick.

David CameronHe said: “We voted with the Government because it was in the national interest. That is part of being a responsible opposition.”

His leader, David Cameron, said:

“In a dangerous and uncertain world, unilateral nuclear disarmament has never been and will never be the right answer.”

And BBC News makes clear that the fate of the Trident System is still far from set in Labour continues to hold Parliament:

Mr Blair’s decision to press ahead with the vote – something he appeared keen to do as part of his legacy – appears to have removed that threat even though the issue is likely to return in a few years’ time.

Few issues can divide Labour so instantly or comprehensively as this one and the party spent much of the 1980s with a unilateralist manifesto which, it is claimed by New Labour politicians, helped keep them out of power.

During the latest debate, party bosses often abandoned attempts to argue the case for and against Trident with rebels, resorting instead to warning them of the dangers of a return to those days.

In the end the opponents were left able to claim the government may have won the vote, but had failed to win the argument.

They will certainly want to ensure this is not the last time they get their say.

While Labour backbenchers may be upset now, Blair’s decision to force the vote may have just secured Gordon Brown as Britain’s next Prime Minister.

Can Labour afford to be seen as ‘weak on defense’ before the next general election? Obviously the Labour party has not decided yet, and it will probably take another general election result to get them to consensus.

But this is for certain: it’s a debate Labour would rather not have as a newly minted opposition party.

Posted in Britain, David Cameron, Nuclear, Tony Blair, Trident | Leave a Comment »

Why No Anti-Iraq War Resolution? Scott Lilly explores Congressman Obey’s “Liberal Idiots” Remark

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2007

Why haven’t the new Democratic majorities sent a resolution against the Iraq War to the President’s desk?

Proliferation Press can’t answer that question, but it can offer this belated case study.

Last week Congressman Dave Obey (D-WI) called anti-war activists “liberal idiots.”

The Daily Kos reflects the immediate responsive from the progressive blogosphere.

This press clipping actually reports on what took place.

But Center for American Progress’s Scott Lilly gives some much-needed perspective on the blog-worthy spat:

Scott LillyMembers of Congress of both parties have overwhelmingly gone on record against such an approach. Many of the individual states and congressional districts responsible for the President’s party losing control of Congress were won by candidates who specifically promised their constituents that they would not support such a strategy.

Well-meaning people can argue about whether or not such a strategy would be good policy or whether or not it would be good politics. But there is little room for argument as to whether such a stance is a viable legislative strategy. There are 435 members of the House and if all are present and voting, 218 must support a proposition before it can even clear the House and be sent to the Senate.

If your opposition to the war extends beyond the blogesphere into the real world where laws are made and decisions have consequences, you have to think about 218 votes, where they might come from and what specific language might make it possible to attain them. It is hard work and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it is a struggle that we will probably go through repeatedly in the coming months as the Congress and the White House face off on ways to put an end to our tragic involvement in Iraq.

At a very minimum, I would urge my fellow Ozarker, Tina Richards, to refocus her efforts in at least one respect. Your representative in Congress is not Dave Obey; it is
Jo Ann Emerson, who is also a member of the Appropriations Committee. Unlike Obey, however, she does not (at least openly) agree with you on the President’s Iraq policy. If you, your friends, and your neighbors would spend more time talking to Emerson, then Obey might find the votes for language that you and he would both like better than the language on which he will likely be forced to settle.

Posted in "liberal idiots", Center for American Progress, Daily Kos, Dave Obey, Iraq, Scott Lilly, Tina Richards | 1 Comment »

A Question of Fairness? EU Rejects Balkans Nuclear Power Request

Posted by K.E. White on March 14, 2007

The EU has signaled that it will not allow Bulgaria to restart two old nuclear power plants. Bulgaria, who had agreed to shut down the plants as part of their EU accession, asked for the change citing an 80-100 percent increase in their power costs.

While good news for those looking to curb the proliferation of dangerous nuclear power generation (which is a stone’s throw from weapons production), is the ruling fair?

From the BBC:

The European Commission told BBC News that it had not yet considered the Balkan proposal, but Ferran Tarradellas, spokesman for the EU energy commissioner, said that conditions had not changed.

“Bulgaria has undertaken a commitment to close units three and four in Kozloduy as part of the accession treaty,” Mr Tarradellas said.

He added that the EU had already provided hundreds of millions of euros in assistance to Bulgaria to soften the blow of the closure.

The chief European Commission representative in Bulgaria, Michael Humphreys, acknowledged that Bulgaria’s decision to close the two Soviet-built reactors had been difficult.

But he told BBC News that “any request to change that decision would be unacceptable, because it would entail a renegotiation of the accession treaty, a unanimous consent of the 27 member state governments and ratification by 27 parliaments”.

SofiaEcho.com expresses an alternative view:

Economy and Energy Minister Roumen Ovcharov said that the only reasons for the NPP units closure were bureaucratic. By demanding the closure EU was acting against its own policy for safety of energy supplies, guarantee of European economy competitiveness and fight against climate changes, Ovcharov said.

Bulgaria was the fourth largest European energy exporter in 2006 and covered almost 100 per cent of the energy deficit in the Balkan region. Now it can guarantee only its domestic energy needs and export no more than 10 to 15 per cent, Ovcharov said.

Dwindling energy supplies–or that perception–is pushing countries of all stripes to take another look at the nuclear option. And now is even upseting (however minorly) EU expansion

Just a simple example of how geo-energy politics can be hard to resolve, let alone within multinational organizations.

Posted in Bulgaria, energy politics, European Union, Ferran Tarradellas, Nuclear | Leave a Comment »

News Brief: Taliban Holding Two Pakistani Nuclear Scientists

Posted by K.E. White on March 14, 2007

Unbelievable, but apparently true.

From the Islamic News Agency:

Two top nuclear scientists of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) are currently in Taliban custody. The two were working at PAEC’s facility in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The two scientists were kidnapped about six months ago. To avoid international embarrassment Pakistan Government has kept this information under wraps, said an Indian private news channel “Zee News”.

Posted in kidnap, Nuclear scientists, Pakistan, Taliban | Leave a Comment »

Japan and Australia Sign Defense Pact

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2007

Shinzo AbeJohn HowardToday Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a defense pact between the two countries today. 

From BBC:

The defence deal – Japan’s first with a country other than the US – includes co-operation on border security, counter-terrorism and disaster relief.

It is the result of closer co-operation on security matters in Asia that Japan and Australia have been pursuing.

The four part agreement Mr Abe signed with Australian PM John Howard in Tokyo sets out priorities for co-operation on counter-terrorism activities, maritime security, border protection and disaster relief.

China, a strategic rival of Japan, was considered to frown upon the deal as proof of containment on the part of the United States, Australia, and Japan.

The China Post Front Page featured a Reuters report titled Australia-Japan Defense Pact Won’t Not Hurt China:

A defense pact between Australia and Japan will not jeopardize the country’s ties with China, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard said on Sunday.

Howard will sign a defense agreement, which is expected to include greater intelligence sharing and joint training exercises in Australia, with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during a three-day visit to Tokyo.

Howard is due in Japan late on Sunday.

“I don’t think anybody in their wildest imagination would suggest that our relations with China aren’t very good and very close,” Howard told reporters in Sydney.

“But our relations with Japan are very good and very close — and bear in mind that Japan is a democracy who shares many things with us that are special.

“Because of that I don’t expect there will be any enduring sensitivities on the part of China any more than there are any enduring sensitivities on the part of China in respect of our close alliance with the United States.”

Xinhua reports on Qin Gang’s, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, responses to questions about the deal:

Qin GangWhen asked to comment on whether the declaration would prompt China to spend more on its military modernization, Qin said China’s defense development does not pose a threat to other countries.

“China pursues the road of peaceful development. The modernization of our armed forces is defensive in nature,” he said.

“We hope the relevant countries can objectively understand China’s foreign and defense policies,” he added.

When commenting on statements by the Australian and Japanese leaders that their security pact is not aimed at China, Qin said “we hope what they said is true.”

“China will not invade or threaten other countries, so we have nothing to fear. We remain unperturbed,” Qin said.

But this security pact may be a last hurray of sorts of Australian Prime Minister Howard, who is growing increasingly unpopular at home. The opposition Labor party is shown beating Howard if he goes for a fifth term as Prime Minister.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe can relate: he’s been in the dog house for a long while, but recent polls show Abe and his party bottoming out.

From the SignOnSanDiego.com:

Public support for Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) dropped a mere 0.2 of a percentage point to 31.4 percent from the month before, the NHK poll showed. The approval rating for the main opposition Democratic Party rose 0.6 of a percentage point to 13.9 percent, it said.

Abe, 52, comes from the most conservative wing of the LDP, which wants to revise how wartime history is taught to restore pride in Japan’s past and rewrite the pacifist constitution so Tokyo can play a bolder role in global security.

Many conservatives felt betrayed when Abe appeared to soften his stance on history after taking office in September, a step seen as intended to thaw a chill in ties with Beijing.

Analysts say Abe’s original remarks on the ‘comfort women’ were intended to woo back his base ahead of July upper house elections.

Posted in Australia, China, Japan, John Howard, Qin Gang, Security Pact, Shinzo Abe, Treaty | 1 Comment »

Greenpeace Activists Scale Paraliament Building

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2007

Image from IntheNews

ITN News Image

Sky News Image

Americans won’t be seeing this at the U.S. Capitol Building

Posted in Britain, Greenpeace, Paraliament Protest, Trident | Leave a Comment »

British Parliament to Vote on Revamping Nuclear Deterrent: Passage Certain, Legacy Unsure

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2007

 

(Read earlier coverage from Proliferation Press, and read this excellent Q&A on the Trident issue from the Guardian)

 

Britain's Trident SystemIs Britain adding fuel to a looming nuclear weapons race? A race that not only includes nuclear aspirants, but already established nuclear powers?

That is what many British statesmen believe. And Prime Minister Tony Blair may witness his worst Labour rebellion coming over his controversial stand on Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

The British periodicals are abuzz with news of the growing Labour revolt against Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plan to revamp Britain nuclear deterrent–sea-based nuclear warheads on Trident submarines.

From The Independent:

Government whips have mobilised to stop more Labour MPs joining the revolt against the replacement of the £65bn Trident missile system – after the Deputy Leader of the Commons announced yesterday he was quitting in protest.

Nigel Griffiths, a long-term ally of Gordon Brown, said he was resigning ” with a heavy heart but a clear conscience”. Meanwhile, whips were urgently calling in Labour MPs and warning them not to allow Tony Blair to be humiliated by having to depend on the Tories to win a vote tomorrow.

Prime Minister Tony Blair

While Blair’s proposal will undoubtedly pass—with solid conservative support—the battle over whether to revamp Britain’s nuclear deterrent presents illustrates well the various positions on nuclear weapons.

Liberal Democrats and rebel Labour backbenchers find the nuclear revamping a dangerous signal to send to the world. While Britain works to convince Iran and North Korea that it is in their interest to give up their nuclear programs, Britain (along with America) is updating their own.

This is particularly embarrassing since the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commits the recognized nuclear states (America, Russia, Great Britain, France, and China) to work towards eventual disarmament.

The Scottsman sheds light on this legal issue:

The anti-nuclear lobby has questioned the legality of any decision to replace Trident, arguing that the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – to which Britain is a signatory – forbids the construction of new weapons.

Lord GoldsmithBut the government rejects those arguments, insisting in a white paper last year that “retention of a nuclear deterrent is fully consistent with our international legal obligations,” including Article 6 of the NPT.

That clause commits signatories to take “effective measures” to end the nuclear arms race and bring about nuclear disarmament, and ministers argue that that does not prohibit replacing existing weapons.

Officials have privately confirmed to The Scotsman that ministers took legal advice from Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, when drawing up the white paper. But the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Attorney General’s office all refused to say what Lord Goldsmith had advised about the legality of replacing Trident.

British Prime Minister Blair issued a December 20006 statement in favor of the Trident system. It reads in part:

There are perfectly respectable arguments against the judgment we have made. I both understand them and appreciate their force. It is just that, in the final analysis, the risk of giving up something that has been one of the mainstays of our security since the War, and moreover doing so when the one certain thing about our world today is its uncertainty, is not a risk I feel we can responsibly take.

Our independent nuclear deterrent is the ultimate insurance. It may be, indeed hopefully is the case that the eventuality against which we are insuring ourselves, will never come to pass.

But in this era of unpredictable but rapid change, when every decade has a magnitude of difference with the last, and when the consequences of a misjudgement on this issue would be potentially catastrophic, would we want to drop this insurance and not as part of a global move to do so, but on our own? I think not.

Maintaining our nuclear deterrent capability is also fully consistent with all our international obligations.

We have the smallest stockpile of nuclear warheads amongst the recognised nuclear weapons states, and are the only one to have reduced to a single deterrent system. Furthermore, we have decided, on expert advice, that we can reduce our stockpile of operationally available warheads to no more than 160, which represents a further 20% reduction.

In the early 21st century, the world may have changed beyond recognition, since the decision taken by the Attlee Government over half a century ago. But it is precisely because we could not have recognised then, the world we live in now, that it would not be wise to predict the unpredictable in the times to come.

That is the judgment we have come to. We have done so according to what we think is in the long-term strategic interests of our nation and its security and I commend it to the House.

 

Instead it is the debates around two broad after-effects of this plan.

 

  1. Will the Labour rebellion hurt or help the party in the next election? (And what will happen to the Trident program if Gordon Brown is safely installed in 10 Downing Street)
  2. Will this action jeopardize attempts to put global arms control back on the global agenda, let alone containing worrisome nuclear projects?

 

While tomorrow will reveal the Parliament vote, it will take years to answer those questions above.

Posted in Great Britain, Labour Party, Lord Goldsmith, Nuclear, Nuclear Deterrence, Paraliament, Tony Blair, Trident | 4 Comments »

Iran Not As Threatening as Thought? And America Ushers New Era of ‘Nuclear Equity’ by Granting Libya a Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on March 12, 2007

Iran's Nuclear Currency from Little Green FootballsToday Iran issued a nuclear bank note. Leave it to a blog to actually show the currency.

Unfortunately, Iran can’t seem to keep their nuclear finances straight:

Iran‘s Bushehr nuclear power station will not be launched in September and nuclear fuel will not be delivered to the station this month as earlier planned, the Russian contractor said Monday, blaming the hold-up on unpaid bills.

“The lack of financing from the Iranian side means that Atomstroiexport did not receive payments for two months,” Irina Yesipova, a spokeswoman for Russian state-owned contractor said by telephone.

“This means the timeframe has been moved and so the launch cannot happen in September – we simply cannot do it. If we can’t launch the station in September then we cannot deliver the fuel according to the old timetable either.”

But it’s doubtful such an embarrassing episode will cool the nuclear tensions between America and the United States.

But maybe former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will?

From BBC News:

In an interview with an Iranian newspaper, former Mr Khatami conceded that the outside world does have legitimate worries about Iran’s nuclear programme that need reassuring.

Mohammad KhatamiHe said Iran did not want a nuclear bomb but it should use patience and tolerance to remove the concerns of those who worry about the risks of proliferation.

Mr Khatami stressed Iran should insist on its right to nuclear technology, but he said courage should be shown to avoid a crisis, or at least minimise the damage.

“I believe we should pay a certain price, and pay it bravely, for talks and not head towards crisis as well as guaranteeing our rights in future,” he said.

“We must try to prevent the adoption of another resolution.”

His remarks came as Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni urged the international community to extend sanctions “without delay”.

Speaking to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she said sanctions imposed in December after Iran failed to stop uranium enrichment were already having an impact.

But don’t worry. perhaps Iran and America will soon see eye-to-eye on the nuclear issue.

The Bush administration’s recent (and undoubtedly reluctant) decision to sign a nuclear deal with Libya is just the diplomatic move to forge consensus with Iran. How can Iran not see the subjective wisdom of America’s approach to nuclear technology proliferation?

From Swissinfo:

The United States will help Libya generate nuclear electricity, the North African country said on Monday, in an announcement appearing to herald a further improvement in ties with the West.

There was no immediate comment from Washington, which has been repairing ties with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi since he began a series of moves in 2003 aimed at ending decades of international isolation for his oil and gas exporting country.

Libya‘s official Jana news agency said an agreement between the two countries would be signed shortly.

Posted in Bush administration, Iran, Iran Nuclear Currency, Libya, Mohammad Khatami, US Libya Nuclear Deal | Leave a Comment »

Andy Rooney’s “Shock and Awe” Campaign for the Draft

Posted by K.E. White on March 12, 2007

Andy RooneyLast night Andy Rooney, a prime example of America’s greatest generation, said some shocking things.

And for one brief moment 60 Minutes again became the flagship institution it once was.

And whether one disagrees or agrees with him, we all should listen.

60 Minutes, a show that once defined what was news in America and was critically probed in the film The Insider, made my mouth drop last night.

From Andy Rooney’s Bring Back the Draft?:

Recruiters are granting thousands of what they call “moral waivers”. A “moral waiver” it turns out means they’ll take someone who has committed a crime or even someone who has been in prison. Last year, a total of 8,129 “moral waivers” were given to men who volunteered for the Army.
Are these the people we want representing us? As American soldiers, they’re going to give the people they meet around the world the impression that they are what all Americans are like and if they have been taken from the bottom of the barrel, they are not what we’re all like.

In 1942 we were at war with Germany and it wasn’t long before drafted college students and high school graduates dominated our military. It changed the United States Army for the better and in two years made it the best fighting force there has ever been. The Army and Navy were no longer made up of losers.

Now comes the part of this I never thought I’d hear myself say: Whenever we, as a nation, decide to fight a war – in Iraq or anywhere else – it should be fought by average Americans who are drafted.

Posted in 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney, Draft, Iraq | Leave a Comment »