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Category: Peace & Conflict Prevention

North Korea's Nuclear Test

Kim Jong-un (Photo: Bonhomme Richard,

North Korea claims to have completed a successful test of a hydrogen bomb on Wednesday, January 6th. This test (North Korea’s first in three years) carries the potential for nuclear war. Whether successful or not, the test has allowed North Korea to move yet another step closer to the possibility of propelling a nuclear missile toward the United States or any other country in the World.

Not only has North Korea’s test caused tension between itself and the rest of the world, it has also caused tension between the United States and China. Since the test, the US and China have been entrenched in arguments regarding China’s continuing support for North Korea. Fortunately however, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed to work closely together to address their shared concerns about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The US has put pressure on China to tighten its control over North Korea.

China has some important choices to make in the immediate future if it wants North Korea to remain stable. One option is to cut aid to North Korea, but doing this would mean an even worse quality of life for the innocent citizens there who are already living in severe poverty. By running a nuclear test, North Korea has essentially shouted to the world that they are aggressive, active, and ready to go to war. The UN Security Council was quick to condemn this test as a “clear threat to international peace and security.”

10 Horrifying Facts about Nuclear Weapons

This article was originally published for BogglingFacts. It has been cross-posted with the permission of author Reagan M.

On August 6, 1945, the world changed forever. After an American bomber unleashed the world’s first glimpse of an atomic bomb, countries scrambled to get their hands on the technology to ensure their safety. The power of nuclear weapons is almost unfathomable, and if nuclear war was to ever break out, it would likely spell the end of the world. Luckily, it’s this fact, among others, that has kept war from breaking out thus far. Read on for 10 more horrifying facts about nuclear weapons.

September 26 : International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

The struggle against the nuclear weapon cult and threats it poses to the international peace, security and development, like all struggles against belief systems which have outlived their times, is going to be long and arduous." --K. Subrahmanyam

The United Nations General Assembly has designated September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It is being celebrated this year for the second time to “enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination in order to mobilize international efforts toward achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon free world."

Achieving global nuclear disarmament--or at least forms of nuclear arms control--is one of the oldest goals of the UN. Nuclear weapon control was the subject of the first resolution of the UN General Assembly and it is the heart of Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT): "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."  

A Miracle?

There are those who think the U.S. suffers from prejudice against Obama, competition between political parties, bullies who have the ability to exert power, and vast financial inequality with only limited democracy left. 

In my humble opinion, the human family hasn’t acted rationally since the beginning of World War I.  Thus it comes as no surprise that an agreement with Iran approved by so many experts and groups looks like it will fail.

The Iran agreement makes war or some form of coercion less likely. The agreement will improve our relations with Iran, Israel, and other nations. 

Voting against the agreement makes us look foolish and irrational. Without the deal, nuclear militarization and international strife will be more likely. The human family will have more needless conflict and differences.

I hope this take on evil and prejudice is incorrect. I hope reason and humanity prevail over deep-seated emotion and unacknowledged evil.

Iran: The Deal is More than the Deal

The P5+1 Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is vital for reducing the risk of nuclear militarization and for allowing Iran to operate much more freely in international commerce—to pump more oil and gas, buy more freely abroad, entertain more direct foreign investment, etc. From the world’s perspective, the deal opens up much more international commerce with Iran.

But there is a broader perspective as well. In the modern history of Iran, this deal can be a landmark affecting both the internal dynamics and the external behavior of the country.

Iran, the current embodiment of the Persian culture and  heir to one of the oldest major civilizations, has had a turbulent passage through the 20th and 21st centuries. It may be fair to say that Iran has faced two major governance challenges.

One challenge has been choosing among or somehow melding the open, secular, and democratic institutions which have grown out of Europe or “the West”; the dynastic traditions of much of Iran’s past; and the cultural and sometimes theocratic traditions of Islam, imposed on Persia  by Arab conquerors in the 7th-10th centuries.

Yemen and World Law: Building from Current Experience

The indiscriminate bombing of cities in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition highlights the need for renewal of the way that humanitarian law is observed in times of armed conflict, especially in three areas:

  1. the protection of women
  2. the prohibition of starving civilian populations as a method of warfare , and
  3. the protection of cultural heritage.

Protection for women is enshrined in international humanitarian law, which, as world law, should be binding on both States and armed opposition groups. This body of world law includes the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 written in light of the consequences of the Second World War and their two Additional Protocols of 1977 written due to the experiences of the war in Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia.

In addition, the human rights standards as developed within the United Nations prohibit torture, unlawful killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and slavery. Women should also be kept safe from the use of prohibited weapons such as chemical and cluster weapons.

Gamesmanship and the Iran Deal: An Open Letter to Those Objecting

Let’s look at the field positions of the parties in Iran, the United States, and Israel who seem to want to kill the agreement worked out between Iran and the P5+1 coalition.

First, let me address those in the Republican Party and in Israel who have expressed objections to this deal. I suggest that the basic fact is that you have won—a considerable field position—and if you kill the deal, you will lose.

You can assume that your publicly expressed concerns figured into this negotiation. You demanded a tough deal. You got one, and the international community won in these negotiations because the P5+1 had a strong field position and used it. Iran needed its sanctions lifted, so they needed this deal more than we did. And we made them pay for it.

Yes, you did win. Let’s stop the denial. Many Republican and Israeli objectors seem to have a hard time admitting it, but this agreement is thorough enough to make very difficult any Iranian move toward military use of nuclear technologies for 15-25 years. Beyond the controls on specific sites and techniques of uranium enrichment, the deal provides for comprehensive control of the nuclear supply chain and for IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear technology activities—using very sophisticated means now available—for the foreseeable future.

The Iran Nuclear Discussion

It’s time for us to act like adults.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have won an agreement, which has capped nuclear enrichment potentials in Iran and removed the current prospect of war, greater sanctions and hardships for Iranians, or both. The agreement has been praised by most arms control experts and welcomed by almost all (with the exception of Israel) political entities in the world that have spoken on it.

The teams fielded by the P5+1 and the Iranians have crafted a contract which any fair-minded person must concede blocks all visible and probable paths to a nuclear weapon for Iran for eight years and erects substantial, on the ground, deeply entrenched impediments to any Iranian attempt to create nuclear weapons well beyond that point (for example, detailed controls on uranium enrichment and stockpiles for 15 years and IAEA monitoring of all uranium ore concentrate activity for 25 years – see paragraphs 5,7.10.11,12 and 15 of the Joint Comprehensive plan of Action). Also Iran would be subject to the Additional Protocol allowing IAEA investigation of suspicious sites (paragraph 13). Check out this infographic for more detail.

Iranian citizens can now look toward greater engagement with the west in a host of ways and to significantly greater prosperity. Their eagerness to embrace this sort of future is evident. Other countries around the world, including but not limited to the United States, can enjoy greater access to the citizens, markets, resources, and creative capacities of a large nation in an important area.

The Slow Process of Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

It has been nearly half a year since Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was elected to office, and he and his administration have been seeking the path of reconciliation ever since. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a slow process that will take generations to achieve. The beginning is going to be frustrating for everyone involved, especially for those who suffered the most.

I reported in February that Sirisena promised to give back most of the land taken from the Tamils by the military, but thus far it seems that not much has been given back and the military continues to engage in commercial activities on these seized lands.

The Oakland Institute published a report this May about Sri Lanka’s military still engaging in commercial activity on land seized from the Tamil population during the civil war.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London countered by stating that this report exaggerated the extent of the military’s activity on the captured lands, that the government has already returned several to their original owners, and that it will continue to do so.

It should be noted that earlier this year, both President Maithripala Sirisena and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera have met with Tamil Diaspora groups in London, England as part of reconciliation efforts.

The Difficult but Necessary Road to Yemen Negotiations

The continued aggression of Saudi Arabia against civilians in Yemen and the use of cluster munitions in violation of the UN Convention highlight the relations among human rights, arms control, and conflict resolution through good-faith negotiations. After a very short humanitarian ceasefire and proposed negotiations in Geneva aborted, the geopolitical situation in and around Yemen is largely unchanged.

With the armed conflict underway, the assault on human rights is evident. There is direct targeting of civilians in violation of the fundamental right to life. As Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states,

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law.  No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

International human rights standards derive from the concept of human dignity and worth. The range and depth of these standards has been a foundation of the emerging world society. War transforms the person with dignity into a faceless target.

Humanitarian Law (historically called the laws of war) is an essential component for human rights and the rule of law. International human rights law is, in principle, applicable to everyone at all times, both in peacetime and in times of domestic and international conflict.