• How to verify a comprehensive Iran nuclear deal

    With the negotiation between the P5+1(the United States, European Union, Britain, France, Russia, and China) and Iran resuming yesterday (Wednesday) about a set of parameters for an eventual Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the shape of a final deal about Iran’s nuclear program has emerged. Many important provisions of a final deal, however, remain to be negotiated in the coming months. David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, says that a critical set of these provisions involves the adequacy of verification arrangements which would be in place to monitor Iran’s compliance with a deal. Tehran’s long history of violations, subterfuge, and non-cooperation requires extraordinary arrangements to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed peaceful.

  • Assad regime continues to employ chemical weapons

    Syrian government troops had used chemical weapons against civilians and rebels on many occasions, culminating in an August 2013 deadly chemical attack against civilians in Ghouta, a Damascus suburb. That attack killed more than 1,200 people. Syria joined the OPCW in 2013 in the face of a threat of a U.S. military attack, admitting to owning about 1,300 tons of chemical weapons and ingredients for making toxic gas and nerve agents, and agreeing to give up this stockpile and destroy, under supervision, its chemical weapons production infrastructure. Western intelligence services have always suspected that Assad has not come clean, and that the regime still keeps secret chemical stockpiles. The continued use of chemical weapons in Syria means that the Assad regime agreed to refrain from developing new chemical weapons, but not from using existing inventory.

  • Yemen chaos makes the country a haven for an al-Qaeda affiliate

    Over the past year, while ISIS gained control of vast territories in Syria and Iraq, U.S. drone strikes and military raids in Yemen drove al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) into hiding. The current chaos in Yemen’s multi-sided war, however, has allowed AQAP militants to recreate a haven which counterterrorism experts say could help it launch terrorist attacks. U.S. officials acknowledge the changes on the ground, but say U.S. strategy has not changed. “Our efforts have to change their character but remain steady in their intensity,” said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

  • Growing worries about proliferation of “killer robots”

    Fully autonomous weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving toward increasing autonomy. Such weapons would select and engage targets without further intervention by a human. Governments are increasingly recognizing the potential dangers posed by these fully autonomous weapons, and during a meeting last week, numerous governments expressed support for the need to ensure meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions in warfare.

  • Strong evidence that Syrian government used chemicals in attacks on three cities

    Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs filled with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April 2014, Human Rights Watch said earlier this week. These attacks used an industrial chemical as a weapon, an act banned by the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons that Syria joined in October 2013. The Syrian government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters and other aircraft.

  • Underground impact of a missile or meteor hit

    When a missile or meteor strikes the earth, the havoc above ground is obvious, but the details of what happens below ground are harder to see. Physicists have developed techniques that enable them to simulate high-speed impacts in artificial soil and sand in the lab, and then watch what happens underground close-up, in super slow motion. The research, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the research may ultimately lead to better control of earth-penetrating missiles designed to destroy deeply buried targets such as enemy bunkers or stockpiles of underground weapons.

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  • Chlorine attacks continue in Syria with no prospect of Assad being brought to account

    For more than a year, there have been numerous reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. This includes reported incidents which occurred in late March, as thousands of Syrians fled the city of Idlib in the face of a government-rebel stand-off. According to witnesses, chemical weapons were used. UN resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons, however, do not imply immediate action to stop such use. The use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria thus goes on — and there is so far little evidence that the world’s major powers have the wherewithal to bring those responsible to justice. Continued geopolitical wrangling over Syria leaves those documenting the continuation of war crimes there almost completely powerless to stop what is happening. For now, the best we can hope for is that relevant organizations are allowed to continue to gather evidence for future trials —– and that pressure is put on all states to prosecute suspected perpetrators. This is to ensure that those who are committing such atrocities know that they will eventually be held to account.

  • China increasing significantly funding for cyber warfare capabilities

    U.S. intelligence officials have warned that China is increasing significantly its investment in cyber warfare programs in an attempt to compete with the U.S. military. The new spending initiative is part of a long-term, large-scale resource reallocation strategy aiming to make China one of the most capable cyber warfare nations. The increases are an effort by the Chinese to improve their cyber capabilities following the realization that they are lagging behind U.S. programs in significant ways.

  • Bioweapons do not offer the same deterrence value nukes offer: Experts

    Biological and nuclear weapons are both considered weapons of mass destruction, but only nuclear weapons currently serve as a deterrence. Some security experts have proposed the idea of nations adopting non-contagious biological weapons as a new form of deterrence. Critics note that the consequences of starting a global biological arms race are troubling enough, but the concept of replacing nuclear weapons with biological weapons as a form of deterrence is flawed for three main reasons: uncertainty of effects, availability of defenses, and the need for secrecy and surprise.

  • Growing unease about local police agencies employing military gear

    A two-decade-old Pentagon program — the 1033 Program — makes available to state and local police military equipment that the military no longer wants. Without state or local oversight, state and local law enforcement, and even natural resources departments, can make requests through a designated state coordinator, who, with Pentagon officials, has final say on granting equipment requests. About $5.4 billion worth of equipment has been distributed since the program began in 1997. State lawmakers in many states want their states to have more of a say in what military gear law enforcement agencies in the state should get. Law enforcement in Florida requested, and received, forty-seven mine-resistant vehicles and thirty-six grenade launchers, while police in Texas received seventy-three mine-resistant vehicles and a $24.3 million aircraft.

  • Airship maker suing the U.S. Navy for loss of an advanced blimp in roof collapse

    Aeroscraft Aeronautical Systems has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy following the destruction of their Aeros airship. It was destroyed when a roof a 300,000 square foot Second World War-era hanger at Tustin Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California, collapsed. Aeroscraft is seeking to reclaim all losses as well as an unspecified amount meant to compensate the company for the $3 billion capital financing plan which was halted after the airship was destroyed. The base closed in 1999, but the property is still owned by the Navy, which leased buildings and hangars on the base to private companies.

  • Destruction of 780,000 chemical munitions stockpiled in Colorado begins

    This week Sandia National Laboratories’ Explosive Destruction System (EDS) began safely destroying stockpile chemical munitions for the U.S. Army. The project to destroy 560 chemical munitions at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado with EDS is a prelude to a much larger operation to destroy the stockpile of 780,000 munitions containing 2,600 tons of mustard agent, stored at the Pueblo depot since the 1950s.

  • Metal-organic framework quickly destroys toxic nerve agents

    First used 100 years ago during the First World War, deadly chemical weapons continue to be a challenge to combat. Scientists have developed a robust new material, inspired by biological catalysts, which is extraordinarily effective at destroying toxic nerve agents that are a threat around the globe. The material, a zirconium-based metal-organic framework (MOF), degrades in minutes one of the most toxic chemical agents known to mankind: Soman (GD), a more toxic relative of sarin. Computer simulations show the MOF should be effective against other easy-to-make agents, such as VX.

  • ISIS employed crude chemical weapons against Kurdish peshmerga

    Kurdish sources in Iraq have said they have evidence that Islamic State (ISIS) used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against Kurdish peshmerga fighters. The Kurdistan Region Security Council said the chlorine gas was spread by a suicide truck bomb attack on 23 January in northern Iraq. Iraqi officials and Kurds fighting in Syria have made several similar allegations since last fall about ISIS using chlorine chemical weapons against them. In the previous Islamist insurgency in Iraq – in Anbar province, in 2006-2007 – there was evidence of chemical use by the insurgents. The insurgents in 2006-2007 were members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later transformed itself into ISIS.

  • Latest version of laser weapon system stops truck in field test

    Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system successfully disabled the engine of a small truck during a recent field test, demonstrating the rapidly evolving precision capability to protect military forces and critical infrastructure. The company says that the ground-based prototype system, — called ATHENA, for Advanced Test High Energy Asset — burned through the engine manifold in a matter of seconds from more than a mile away. The demonstration represents highest power ever documented by a laser weapon of its type