30 January 2017   Leave a comment

In his press conference today, Sean Spicer argued that the shooting in Quebec of people in a mosque was “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.”  The comment was made in defense of the new policy banning Syrian refugees and halting the immigration of Muslims from 6 other countries for 120 days.  The shooter in Quebec, however, was a white nationalist opposed to Canadian immigration policies and all the victims were Muslim.  Perhaps Mr. Spicer wants to ban Muslims from coming into the US in order to protect them from being murdered by similar white nationalists in America.

Russia is building up its military presence in the Arctic.  Much of its territory lies within the Arctic Circle but most that territory was militarily inaccessible for a good part of the year.   Climate change has changed that situation and the Russian expansion is clearly designed to make sure that, if a permanent naval route through the Arctic becomes possible because of ice melt, Russia will be able to control the rules of transit.  The US Geological Service also estimates that 22% of undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves lie within the Arctic Circle and Russia wants to assure its control over those resources.  Only a small part of US territory lies within the Arctic Circle (Alaska), but Canada has significant territorial claims as well.  The country that stands to lose the most is China as maritime traffic through the Arctic Ocean would save China a tremendous amount of money on transportation costs to the European market.

Iran has reportedly tested a medium-range ballistic missile.  If true, the test may have violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, adopted on 9 June 2010, which reads, in part: “Iran is prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons”.  The test will become an issue for many states, but, if a controversy does emerge, it will be necessary to understand two important conditions.

  • First, the simple test of a missile does not necessarily signal that it is capable of “carrying nuclear weapons”.  Missiles can carry conventional weapons or can be used for space exploration.  The key concern is whether Iran has succeeded in miniaturizing a nuclear bomb so that it can fit onto the missile, and that is the issue that needs to be verified.
  • Second, the UN Resolution is not the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program (commonly known as the Iranian nuclear deal) which was signed in 2015.  The written plan does not include any language concerning missile technology.  The US did publish a fact sheet after the agreement was signed that claimed that missile development was covered by the agreement, but Iran rejected that interpretation.  The US does have sanctions against missile development by Iran but those sanctions are based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1929 and not by the Joint Comprehensive Plan.

The reason why these distinctions are important is that the Iranian missile test may violate the Security Council Resolution which means that the Security Council must reconvene and decide what measures to take in retaliation; the missile test does not violate the Iranian nuclear deal which could be dealt with unilaterally by any of the six signatories to the agreement (the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany).  So listen carefully to how the missile test is characterized.

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Posted January 30, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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