In case you haven’t noticed, my colleague Zach likes to use puns in his blog-posts. But I wonder if I use bomb imagery too much when I think about current events. A story blows up, it explodes. Someone rockets into the news or launches a new campaign. A new development is a bombshell or else it lights a fuse for something else. I worry that such language might obscure the true cost of these weapons, so let’s just say that nuclear weapons have gained a prominent presence in the news lately.
Most 16 year olds are worried about tests. Most 16 year olds are worried about being accepted by their friends. Most 16 year olds spend long days agonizing about the promise of a drivers license. However, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which turns 16 today, is not like most 16 year olds. The tests that it is worried about involve massive explosions with dire health and environmental consequences. The group of friends it’s trying to get in with are the 39 countries that still need to ratify it. And on the CTBT’s 16th birthday, we see no signs of movement in the United States or abroad.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was drafted through the United Nations by numerous countries including the United States. It would ban all future nuclear explosions – in tests and in warfare – and would create an international regulatory regime to monitor the testing of nuclear weapons. Sixteen years ago today, the day the treaty was opened for signatures, 66 countries signed it including the United States and the other four nuclear powers of the day (China, France, the UK and Russia). As of last spring when Indonesia submitted its ratification, a total of 183 states had signed onto the treaty and 157 had ratified it.
Addressing a packed crowd of policy enthusiasts at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday, Lt. General Daniel Holoutz, Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, spoke about Israeli security and threats posed by a potentially nuclear Iran. Click here to watch the full press conference.
Low-level diplomatic talks between world powers and Iran have failed, according to Israeli officials. Sunday on Israel Radio, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon suggested that, if all world powers involved in the talks would collectively declare failure, “it will be clear that all options are on the table.” This comment, referring directly to the threat of a preemptive attack on the Iranian nuclear program, has amplified the rumors that Prime Minister Netanyahu has all but made the final decision to attack Iran unilaterally in the coming months.
Although the American press has taken a break from counting down the hours until a potential nuclear Iran, such a threat remains a top priority for both the Netanyahu and Obama administrations. The trigger points for an attack by either of these two parties may differ, but leaders of both countries have insisted that “no options are off the table” and that a policy of containment is neither viable nor acceptable.
Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s Minister of Defense, spoke last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the differences in Netanyahu’s and Obama’s policies toward a nuclear Iran (he was interviewed by Tom Friedman of the New York Times, whose recent op-ed on what the Egyptian elections mean for Israel is worth a read). In his interview with Friedman, Barak noted similarities such as, “We all say that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable,” and he insisted that both parties believe that negotiations and sanctions should be dramatically accelerated and should be prioritized over any military action. However, he was quick to point out that the consequences of a successful Iranian nuclear weapons program would rest squarely on the shoulders of Israelis. Therefore, he concluded, “We cannot afford delegating this decision even in the hands of our most trusted and trustworthy allies, which is you,” meaning the U.S.
North Korea’s much-anticipated rocket launch, publicized as a means to collect data about North Korea’s agricultural resources in order to inform the nation’s response to natural disasters but likely a guise to test the country’s long-range rockets, failed and fell apart before reaching orbit on Friday. The failure apparently surprised North Korean leaders, who had been so certain of its success that international press was invited into the country. BBC correspondent Damian Grammaticas reflected the experience of the journalists in a tweet: “Now in bizarre situation our NKorea minders asking ME to tell THEM if rocket has launched. Went up 4 hours ago but they have no information.”
North Korea is planning a rocket launch this week and, according to a new intelligence report from South Korea, may be planning its third nuclear test further down the road. The move would violate U.N. resolutions and North Korea’s promise to refrain from engaging in nuclear and missile activity.
North Korean leaders say this week’s rocket launch, which was scheduled to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of North Korea’s founder, is intended to collect data about North Korea’s agricultural resources in order to inform the nation’s response to natural disasters. However, U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials fear the launch is a guise to test long-range missiles, and new South Korea intelligence suggests that a third nuclear test will follow the rocket launch.
Today, we take a moment around the world to commemorate those who have been killed by landmines. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates that landmine explosions caused injury or death to 4,000 to 5,000 people just in 2011 and that millions more suffer from the agricultural, economic, and psychological impacts of the weapon. UNICEF notes that 30 to 40% of landmine victims are younger than 15.
Landmines are used during times of war, and can lie dormant for decades near the surface of the earth until they are triggered by a person or animal. There are between 70 and 80 million landmines in the ground in one-third of the world’s nations and, while landmines cost only $3 each to create, they can cost up to $1000 to remove. Because of this, people can still become casualties of war long after a truce has been secured. Additionally, landmines restrict population movement and land cultivation and keep infrastructure from being repaired. These problems are amplified in post-conflict and impoverished areas, where landmines are most often found.