New Interview of Bob Kelley on Recent Events Including Operation Merlin Developments

Once again, Bob explains recent developments, and puts things in context, better than anyone. See the interview here.

Peter Jenkins wrote a great piece on Lobelog making several of these points this past week. See it here.

And Jonathan Tirone wrote a piece on Bloomberg about the implications of the Operation Merlin revelations for IAEA intelligence assessment, with a quote from me here.

You can Google information about Operation Merlin. It’s been known about for a long time, since James Risen’s 2006 book State of War. It has all come to the fore again recently with the espionage conviction last week of Jeffrey Sterling, for having been the source of leaks on the program from the CIA.

As I said in the Reuters piece, this incident does significantly undermine the idea that the IAEA should be relying for its assessments on intelligence information provided to it by third-party states, some of whom have proven that they have no compunction about falsifying documents, ambush-killing civilian nuclear scientists, using cyber attacks against civilian facilities, and generally doing anything within their power, including all manner of subterfuge, to frustrate Iran’s nuclear program.  And as Bob says in his interview, the IAEA is not itself an intelligence agency. It does not have the capability to independently assess the credibility of intelligence provided to it by third party states.  I’ll be writing more about this in my forthcoming book.


Chlorine: A weapon of last resort for ISIL? (Part 2)

[Cross-posted from The Trench.]

From September 2014 on several reports have alleged chlorine use by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq. The claims began shortly after the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had released its first report on its investigation into the chlorine attacks in Syria earlier in the year. In a politically highly charged atmosphere in which supporters and opponents of the regime of President Bashir al-Assad use any incident to blame insurgent forces of atrocities or call for regime change, one must necessarily view accusations of chemical warfare with a healthy dose of scepticism. This is particularly the case if allegations disappear as quickly as they surface.

However, during the autumn of last year there was some consistency in the albeit irregular reports. Furthermore, on 10 February, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü confirmed that the Iraqi authorities had notified the OPCW of chlorine gas attacks against Iraqi soldiers. At present it is not known which steps, if any, the OPCW will undertake with regard to these allegations.

Last October I described how al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a precursor organisation to ISIL, applied chlorine in a campaign of car bombings between October 2006 and June 2007. While many people in the vicinity of the detonation required medical treatment for exposure to the agent, nobody was actually killed by the gas. This posting looks into the various allegations of insurgent chlorine attacks in Syria and Iraq since 2013.

Read the rest of this entry »


Catching Up and Michal Onderco’s Work

I know the blog has been a bit quiet of late. I don’t have much of an excuse – I’m not teaching this semester. But I am trying to devote all the time I can to writing my new book on Iran’s nuclear program and international law. I hope to have it done in August.

I’m also working, with Marco Roscini and others, on a special issue of the Cambridge Journal of International & Comparative Law on the topic of the rights of states in international law. This is a topic that Marco and I have been thinking about for a long time and that, for me, derives from my thinking over the years about what to make of the “inalienable right” language in NPT Article IV.

I just got back on Saturday from an excellent conference in Rome, organized by Professor Natalino Ronizitti and the Instituto Affari Internazionale, on coercive economic sanctions and international law. A great group of speakers.

On Monday, then, I met with Michal Onderco here in Tuscaloosa.  Michal is currently a Max Weber Fellow at the EUI in Florence (bio here).  He works at the intersection of international relations theory and international law. We talked about his current work on nonproliferation topics, and I wanted to pass along to readers one of his previous articles published in International Studies Quarterly, entitled “Accommodation or Confrontation? Explaining Differences in Policies Toward Iran.”  I found the paper’s focus on different states’ “cultures of dealing with deviance” to be particularly parsimonious and powerful. Here’s a link to the paper:  Onderco Accomodation or Confrontation

In general, I’m trying to keep up like everyone else is with the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.  Seems a bit like a soap opera sometimes. Some days Joanie seems to love Chachi, and everything seems set for them to get married. Other days Joanie’s relatives start screaming that the pair shouldn’t get married, and Joanie has to keep them from spoiling things.  The next day its Chachi’s family screaming.  I suppose we won’t really know anything until the wedding date comes.

With Russia/US relations in the tank over Ukraine, a number of important developments concerning arms control law have recently occurred in that bilateral relationship. Russian termination of the longstanding and successful cooperative threat reduction program is perhaps the most noteworthy of these.

And of course the 2015 NPT Review Conference kicks off at UN Headquarters in New York on April 27th. Hard to predict what’s going to happen there. Alot of bad feelings in the Arab world about the failure to hold a Middle East WMD Free Zone conference, as was promised in the 2010 NPT RevCon Final Document. Difficult to predict what impact that will have on whether a final document will be agreed, and if so what will be in it. More on that issue to come.


Events on International Sanctions in London

I wanted to draw the attention of readers of this blog to two events on international sanctions which will be held by the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP) in London in March 2015.

The first is a two-day training workshop on International Sanctions in Practice: Legal and Business Implications (17-18 March 2015), which will address the whole range of legal and business issues raised by the implementation of international sanctions regimes, from coercive measures enacted by the UN Security Council and regional organisations, to ‘unilateral sanctions’ implemented by individual States, as well as comprehensive and sector-specific embargoes and ‘targeted’ measures against listed entities and individuals.

Drawing on case studies of various sanctions regimes currently in force, it will also focus on the multiple dimensions of growing legal challenges to sanctions brought before domestic and international courts and tribunals, or under other mechanisms.

The second event is a one-day conference on International Sanctions: Legal, Policy and Business Challenges (19 March 2015), co-sponsored by the International Law Association Study Group on UN Sanctions and International Law and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University. It will bring together some of the most prominent experts on International Sanctions to argue on issues raised by sanctions in terms of international responsibility, human rights, available remedies, and impact on cross-border trade and investment, amongst others.

The discussion and findings of this conference will also be used to further shape the agenda of the International Law Association Study Group on UN Sanctions and International Law and to inform its work.

We look forward to meeting you in London in March!