Monthly Archives: August 2013

UK Intel Report on Syria CW Use

Today’s report from the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, titled SYRIA: REPORTED CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE, may be found here. The report seems to provide a window into US intelligence assessments, stating that the UK agrees with the conclusions of the US intel community.

The report states that the “[t]here is some intelligence to suggest regime culpability in this attack. These factors make it highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible.”

The report then appears to describe what the JIC means by that:

There is no obvious political or military trigger for regime use of CW on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence in Syria of the UN investigation team. Permission to authorise CW has probably been delegated by President Asad to senior regime commanders, such as [*], but any deliberate change in the scale and nature of use would require his authorisation.

Lastly, the report tells us that non-state actors are seeking a CW capability:

There is no credible evidence that any opposition group has used CW. A number continue to seek a CW capability, but none currently has the capability to conduct a CW attack on this scale.

Read the whole thing. It’s short.

CW UN Inspectors and Chain of Custody

Given the current UN inspections in Syria and their apparently-forthcoming report, some nerds may want information about the inspectors’ chain of custody procedures. Those may be found in Appendix VII of the UNSG’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons. The actual Chain of Custody Form is here.

I mentioned the Mechanism before, but thought this would be a useful addition.

Israel Had Chemical Weapons in the 1980s, Said the CIA

This FP piece linked to some useful intel documents about Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during its war with Iran. It didn’t look to me as if the documents contain much that we didn’t know before, but perhaps I missed something.

Anyway, this January 1985 CIA assessment, titled The Iraqi Chemical Weapons Program in Perspective, is useful because it sums up what the CIA knew about Iraq’s chemical weapons program at the time. However, it is also significant because it contains something one doesn’t see all that often: official confirmation that Israel had chemical weapons.

According to page 14 of the assessment, the CIA assessed that Iraq would be “restrained…in using chemical weapons outside its borders, particularly against states such as Israel or Syria, which have chemical weapons stockpiles.”

Read the whole thing.

Iran Foreign Minister Interview….August 2013

Iranian Diplomacy published an interview on August 17 with Javad Zarif, Iran’s new Foreign Minister. The whole thing is enlightening, but here are the parts related to the nuclear program, including a bit about the fatwa:

Following his inauguration and in his first press conference, the President stated that one of his major priorities is to restart nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. Do you have any new proposals for this task?

We have had numerous discussions inside the government with the President with regard to how we should pursue the nuclear rights of the country and remove the oppressive sanctions imposed upon the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our basis for work is insisting on Iran’s rights and removing the logical concerns of the international community. As the Supreme Leader and the President himself have reiterated, this is easy provided that the objective is the resolution of the nuclear issue. We believe that the resolution of the nuclear issue requires political determination, and the election of Dr. Rohani in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with his record in this dossier, indicates that the people of Iran demand the resolution of the nuclear issue at the appropriate time. We hope that this political determination for the resolution of the nuclear issue also exists on the other side. In that case, we do not have any concerns about reassuring the world of the peacefulness of our nuclear program for, based on the “fatwa” of the Supreme Leader and Iran’s strategic needs, nuclear weapons have no place in our national security and can even disrupt it.

There are rumors that the nuclear dossier might be transferred to the Foreign Ministry from the High Council of National Security. Do you confirm such speculations and is there a specific plan to transfer this dossier?

I have not heard anything about this issue. This is a decision that is within the domain of the President’s authority. Nevertheless, considering my experiences in this case, I will make efforts to help in the advancement of this issue no matter what responsibility I might have. But decisions with regard to how we should pursue the nuclear dossier and the form and framework of negotiations are made at the higher levels of our political system.

Here’s what he had to say about bilateral talks with the United States:

If bilateral talks with the US are proposed on the sidelines of meetings such as the UN General Assembly or P5+1 negotiations, would you accept such a proposal?

The Supreme Leader has stated his opinion with regard to these negotiations several times. There is no issue with negotiation itself, but the question is what issues will be discussed in these talks and how much of a political determination does exist on the other side to resolve the problems. The issue is whether this political determination will take shape and whether the US administration is ready to stand against the pressure groups and prevent the radicals groups from gaining leadership of this movement. In fact, this issue is a test for the US administration to show its readiness to play a serious role in finding a solution.

I’ve actually been wondering if Iran plans to deal with the non-U.S. part of the P5+1 separately. Zarif kind of addressed that issue as well:

Do you not consider bilateral talks between Tehran and Washington as the secret prerequisite for the improvement of relations between Iran and Europe?

I consider political determination as the prerequisite for the improvement of relations. The methods can be evaluated but what is necessary is the formation of this political determination and its practical manifestation. Different methods can then be used to advance our goals. When it is not clear whether this political determination exists or not, the extent of the efficiency of new methods is not clear either. In Iran, the election of Mr. Rohani shows that the people have decided to have constructive interaction with the world and, through his speeches and choices, Mr. Rohani has also displayed his political determination to do so. Now, what is important is for the same determination to be formed on the other side.

UN CW Inspectors in Syria

You’ve probably seen the news from the other day that Syria has accepted the terms for a UN team to visit the country to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use. According to the announcement, the inspectors’ departure “is now imminent,” though the UN said the same day that a “date for the mission has not yet been announced.”

The announcement also described some of the missions’ terms:

As agreed with the Government of Syria, the team will remain in the country to conduct its activities, including on-site visits, for a period of up to 14 days, extendable upon mutual consent.

Take a look at the UNSG’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, the appendices to which were updated in 2007.

Atomic Reporters

Just a quick note about a new-ish blog called Atomic Reporters.

In their words, Atomic Reporters “acts as an information broker improving journalistic understanding and coverage of nuclear issues.”

I heard about this initiative last fall. I mention it partly because it seems like a good idea and partly because they mentioned this blog:

Over at the Middle East Policy Council, Gareth Porter has written a baroque analysis about why theIAEA’s so-called “Alleged Studies” documents may be bunk. His list of eight red herrings that should trigger the agency’s smell-test alarm may be only accessible to Total Wonkerrs.

I’m biased, but I like the sense of humor.

B05 and Brahmos Tests, 2013 Edition

Since I mentioned the January 2013 B05 test in this post, I thought I might as well post the press release.

I found that announcement while I was looking for something else. I also came across this press release about the March 2013 test of the underwater version of India’s Brahmos cruise missile – another event which occurred during my blogging hiatus.

A few stats:

The submarine-launched version of BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired at 1410 hrs on Wednesday (20th March 2013) from a submerged platform in Bay of Bengal off the coast of Visakhapatnam. Creating history, the missile took off vertically from the submerged platform for its full range of 290 kms. Following a pre-defined trajectory, the missile emerged from underwater, took a turn towards the designated target meeting all mission objectives.

This likely warrants another post, but here’s Indian PM Singh’s congratulatory message regarding the first time that the reactor on board India’s nuclear-powered submarine achieved criticality.

DRDO History

A little while ago, The Hindu had a good interview with Vijay Kumar Saraswat, then-head of India’s DRDO, which contains some informative material on DRDO’s origin and evolution, as well as an explanation of why certain DRDO programs have lagged in the past.

I found this section on the past effects of the MTCR to be telling:

We were to develop Prithvi missile’s one version in seven years but we developed three versions in 15 years – first of 150 km range, second of 250 km and the third naval version of 350 km range when fired from the ship, yes we took 15 years but we developed the complete system. Same thing happened in Agni One, Two Three programme. But still time and cost overruns were there because when IGMDP was planned we had planned to import some material. We had to import some materials for Prithvi which was first fired in 1988 and Agni in 1989 and then MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) which was brewing all this time clamped all restrictions on us. All the contracts which we had signed with all companies were not honoured and these companies took back everything. Everything was denied to us, this denial caused us a lot of delay and whatever we needed had to be designed, developed and produced by us.

From 1989 to 1997 was a harrowing period. There were restrictions imposed on India and for things like getting Magnesium supply and Servo valves for launch vehicles, we had to struggle and later produce our very own. At that time, Tamil Nadu government’s TIDCO helped in making Magnesium slab from ore.

Saraswat went on to say that India solved some problems caused by these restrictions, but others remain:

Though technical problems had been solved by first launches of Prithvi and Agni missiles. Now these problems are not there, Today, India produces its own servo valves not only for missiles but also for launch vehicles and many other industrial purposes. What was a critical technology in 1988 is no more critical, new technologies have come. A lot of liberalisation has taken place but the fact still remains that critical technologies which are required are not available to us. For example, we still do not have access to high end computer processors and we have to make do with Intel core system. I cannot get a high end computer and I have to start building it for my missile right from the chip.

Here’s a video of an Indian SLBM test featuring Dr. Saraswat: