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The Iraq Action Team: a model for monitoring and verification of WMD non-proliferation

US President Barack Obama and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Image by United Nations Photo/flickr.

The United Nations Special Commission and the Iraq Action Team

The UN Security Council first took the initiative to create its own verification disarmament unit under the provisions of Resolution 687, adopted after the Kuwait war in 1991. At that time, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) became the first subsidiary organ of the Security Council, and was tasked with supervising the removal and destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—including its chemical, biological and missile capabilities—and relevant delivery systems, and with measures to prevent their reconstitution.

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (DGIAEA)—as opposed to the IAEA secretariat itself, with its institutional structures and decision-making bodies—had been given responsibility for the nuclear-related tasks. In order to fulfil his obligations, the Director General set up the Iraq Action Team, which was also independent of the IAEA’s formal structures, including the Department of Safeguards.

The Iraq Action Team had a two-fold mandate in Iraq: to remove and destroy nuclear-related material and equipment; and to manage an ongoing monitoring and verification programme. It reported the results of its technical analyses to the DGIAEA, who in turn reported the findings to the UN Security Council. » More

Outsourcing Responsibilities: Australia’s Punitive Asylum Regime

Australia: “Refugee” Island. Image by trulyhectic/flickr.

At the height of British imperialism, the problem of overpopulation was solved through the transportation of society’s outcasts – those the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has described as ‘wasted lives’ – to less populated parts of the empire. What was then a global solution to a local problem has now been reversed; in its search for solutions to the global production of refugees, Australia, which was once a destination for these ‘wasted lives’, has sought to delegate its responsibilities for their welfare to local and regional partners. Despite having rowed back on many of the most troubling aspects of its asylum policy in recent years, the panel of experts appointed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to tackle the issue in June this year has recommended a series of measures which look increasingly regressive.

As Matt Gibney has described, until John Howard’s Liberal government came to power in 1996, Australia had often exceeded its international obligations to refugees and considered tackling the problem of forced migration as a key way to demonstrate that it was taking its international responsibilities seriously. Over the last twenty or so years, however, Australia’s has become one of the most punitive asylum systems in the developed world. Governmental efforts to evade its obligations to the international refugee regime reached crisis point in 2001 when a Norwegian freighter MV Tampa,which had picked up 438 ship-wrecked Afghan refugees attempting to reach Australia by boat, was denied entry to Australian waters. The country’s wide-ranging practices of detention have also come under international scrutiny. Woomera detention centre in South Australia, which closed in 2003, provoked an outcry among the Australian public after the extent of its mistreatment of detainees was revealed. » More

Let Iran Have its Nuclear Technology

Nuclear Energy. Image by Sakucae/flickr.

As the United States prepares to head for the finish line in an election year the period between now and the time when the next administration assumes the helm of the nation can be the most critical in terms of foreign policy. Call it the political equivalent of the sailing on the dark side of the moon.

This period in nether-politics can be a dangerous one as parties involved in a conflict can take advantage of this lack of focus from US policy to push ahead with programs they otherwise would find great opposition from American policymakers. Israel’s desire to rid itself of the threat posed by Iran regarding the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear technology comes to mind in such a situation as new rumblings of an Israeli strike on Iran are getting louder.

As we draw closer to election day in November the administration will find itself more and more caught up in getting the president re-elected and the president himself more and more caught up in darting form state to state to win back last minute indecisive voters, so much so, that foreign policy does not just take a back seat to domestic policy, it is relegated to the back of the bus, where it is likely to remain until after inauguration day in January. » More

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