American Commandos Use Niger for Training and More

US AFRICA COMMAND Flintlock 2014 in Niger.

This article was originally published by on 24 August 2015. Republished with permission.

The Pentagon is looking to open up a new gas station for its planes in southern Niger. As terrorists and militant groups have cropped up across North and West Africa, Washington has turned to Niger as an important hub for military activates in the region (see also “US Expands African Drone Aprons“,, April 6, 2015; Joseph Trevithick, “Niger is the New Hub for American Ops in North, West Africa“,, May 20, 2014). » More

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Russia’s Dual Assault: How Brussels, Washington, and Beijing Helped Moscow to Undermine the Non-Proliferation Regime

Cartoon of man holding atomic bomb

Jared Rodriguez/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 20 August, 2015.

The “Ukraine crisis” concerns more than lofty European values, Ukrainian humanitarian issues, or abstract international law. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is also an assault on the world’s nuclear nonproliferation regime. It subverts the logic of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Given its purpose of curtailing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, namely nuclear missiles and atomic bombs, the NPT is one of the most important international accords in human history. » More

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How Gulf States Have Undermined Israel’s Case on Iran

President Obama meeting leaders of the Gulf nations at Camp David. Image: Pete Souza/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 August, 2015.

In its relentless opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers that was signed on 14th July, Israel has argued that the deal would pose a grave danger to the entire region. Israel’s case against the nuclear deal with Iran has shifted away from attacks on the substantive terms to focus on its regional implications. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly outlined that Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States are at least as concerned as it is regarding the dangers of the nuclear deal, and the possibility that Tehran will use the lifting of sanctions to cause mayhem throughout the Middle East. Now, Israel’s case has been dealt a serious blow with the public backing, albeit cautious, of the Arab Gulf States for the Iran nuclear deal. » More

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The Trouble with Japan’s New Security Bills

Flag Emblem on a Japanese Military Uniform. Image: Koalorka/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 3 August, 2015.

The debate over Japan’s new security bills, which seek to overhaul post-war defence policies, has shifted to the upper house and the streets, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presses on to secure their passage into legislation. On 16 July the lower house passed the package of bills in a vote that was boycotted by opposition parties as tens of thousands protested outside the Diet.

Abe has extended the parliamentary sitting by three months to secure the outcome before he faces re-election to the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and therefore the prime ministership. He rammed the bills through the lower house in the knowledge that, even should the House of Councillors reject them, ultimate passage of the bills would be secured after a 60 day reconsideration and re-passage with a two-thirds majority through the House of Representatives. So, with enactment of the unpopular proposals almost guaranteed even if all of the opposition parties band together to block them in the upper house, why is the Abe government in trouble over the issue? » More

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History is the Key to Making Sense of Nuclear Weapons

“Distant Early Warning Line” for a Soviet attack. Image: wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 21 July, 2015.

In the early days of his first term, US president Barack Obama gave a speech in Prague in which he called for a world without nuclear weapons. His argument was based on a risk assessment:

In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets abound. The technology to build the bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one.

Even leaving aside the recent historic deal with Iran, this is a problematic interpretation. It ignores the important historical context. As far as the risk of nuclear weapons is concerned, there is no fundamental difference between the Cold War and today’s world. Research has found that terrorist groups are not too keen to acquire nuclear devices. Most of the countries that Western societies would regard as especially risky today (such as Iran and North Korea, Pakistan and India) already began their nuclear programmes during the Cold War. Moreover, history has shown that what matters in terms of risk is not whether or not a country has nuclear weapons: it’s what it intends to do with them. And that we often don’t exactly know. » More

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