Matt Woodford

Research Associate

Matt is a Research Associate for

Nuke Negotiation

The talks about Iran's nuclear program started up again today in Geneva. Britain and Russia seem optimistic that a deal that will work for all parties will be reached, but the United State and France remain skeptical about whether Iran truly wants nuclear energy or actually desires nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been insisting that Iran is not to be trusted, the negotiating table should be abandoned, and sanction should be increased.

Ayatollah Khamenei told hardliners in Tehran that Iran will not give up its right to peaceful applications of nuclear energy. He claimed that Iran wants peaceful relations with all countries but heavily criticized Netanyahu, France and the U.S. for being overly cautious and unwilling to believe the Iranian government. President Obama said it was not clear whether the negotiation will bear any results at this point in time. U.S. lawmakers have been urging the administration to take a tougher line with Iran, agreeing with Netanyahu that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and presents a threat to the region.

A UN report states that, since President Rouhani took office this year, Iran has stopped uranium enrichment and has not added any more components to the Arak reactor. This may indicate that Iran genuinely wants to come to an agreement to end sanctions, but keep a nuclear energy program in place.

This is a very delicate period of time for all involved in the negotiations and great care must be taken to avoid letting extremists and spoilers ruin chances to resolve the question of Iran's nuclear program peacefully. A peaceful, constructive agreement would be the best possible outcome for addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions. No one really wants war - an end to sanctions would boost Iran's economy and an increase in oil exports will aid the regional and global economy as well. An Iran that is more open to the world is preferable to one that is ostracized and isolated.

Turmoil in the Central African Republic

The current situation in the Central African Republic is beyond terrible. Following the rebel overthrow of President Francois Bozize in March of this year, thousands have been displaced and are facing starvation and malnutrition. Almost 70,000 refugees have fled the country, putting strain on unstable and poor neighboring countries like Chad. The countryside is almost completely lawless with armed gangs attacking civilians and villages. It is almost impossible for humanitarian aid to reach those suffering and two UN officials have been attacked.

Two groups are responsible for the majority of the violence and terrorism, the Seleka rebels and self defense militias known as anti-Balaka. People affiliated with the groups terrorize the civilian populace, conducting nighttime raids and attacks on houses and even entire villages. 18 women and children were massacred in late October by Seleka fighters. The clashes between the rebels and the militias have deepened cleavages along sectarian and ethnic lines in the population.

Last week the UN Security Council approved a 250-strong 'Protection Force' to provide security for humanitarian aid workers and UN officials in the country. This force could be increased to 560 soldiers if necessary. The UNSC has condemned what is going on in the CAR, but beyond the Protection Force, not much has been done.

The CAR needs a full scale peacekeeping force like the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Mali. The UN has also called for an increase in humanitarian aid, but if that aid cannot reach those suffering, it will not be very useful. The situation in CAR is not in the headlines either; many people do not know about the humanitarian crisis or the atrocities being committed.

Tragedy and Devastation in the Philippines

The Philippines are continuing recovery efforts following landfall of the deadliest typhoon to strike the country on Friday. Casualty figures are skyrocketing as contact is reestablished with outlying towns and villages. Over 10,000 people in the city of Tacloban alone are believed dead from Super-typhoon Haiyan. . Other villages were completely wiped off the map. In addition to the casualties, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.

Filipino officials had believed the storm's speed would limit the amount of rainfall and wind, resulting in few casualties. In the past, a majority of storm-related casualties and damage came from rain-swollen rivers and mudslides; this was not the case with Haiyan. The super-typhoon produced a 10-foot tall storm surge and produced winds of 190 mile per hour with some gusts reaching 235. Evacuations began the day before the storm reached landfall but poor infrastructure, inadequate planning, and a lack of time resulted in most people not being evacuated.

One of the core values for's members is the need for strong international cooperation. Over 21 countries have pledged aid, and assistance and aid workers are already on the ground. Eighty U.S. Marines have already arrived from Japan to help with relief efforts and more are on the way. The International Red Cross has dispatched aid convoys but many are held up due to washed out bridges, roads, and debris. Some convoys have been attacked by desperate survivors prompting the Filipino military to deploy military and police forces to protect and ensure aid delivery.