Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

One of the easiest and most useful methods for an open source analyst is to extract metadata from imagery.

Metadata is data that is often included with an image, such as the time it was taken, the type of camera that was used, and yes, if you are lucky — GPS coordinates. This data is useful for photographers, those who like to stalk cats, and people like us: geolocators and myth-busters. Read Full Story →

 
 

I was in New Delhi when I first felt the lump in my chest. At that moment, in 2007, the slow, progressive decline in my health could no longer be wished away – not when I had a tumor the size of an orange growing through my sternum. I learned subsequently that my cancer was at Stage 4 and that there were other tumors. (Oncologists are notoriously chary with information that isn’t helpful to recovery.) This past weekend I learned that my wife’s friend has the same adversary – Large B-Cell Lymphoma — in the same place.

During chemotherapy, I was editing Better Safe than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb. The subtitle was in place before the chemo but took on greater meaning during my illness and recovery. As a young congressional staffer, I helped my boss to delete funding for binary nerve gas munitions that the Army’s Chemical Corps then wanted to produce. Thirty years later, I joined the legions of those whose lives have been extended by chemical warfare.

Read Full Story →

 
 

But what are nuclear scientists in Turkey actually doing?

Not for the first time, when Barack Obama declared April 2 that the greater Middle East has no real alternative to a nuclear accommodation with Iran, advocates of the “cascade of proliferation” theory warned us that Turkey’s future would be nuclear-armed.

In fact, kibitzers on both sides of the Iran divide routinely include Turkey in their quiver of arrows on the basis of a common assumption. Neocons claim that Turkey would “not be far behind” Saudi Arabia in a Middle East nuclear arms race if there’s an Iran deal. Some who instead favor diplomacy likewise fret that, without a deal, Saudi Arabia will get nuclear weapons first, and then will come Egypt and Turkey.  Not only in Israel, where the proliferation domino theory is mainstream, has the view become commonplace that Turkey is heading toward nuclear latency.

Away from the op-ed pages, during the 2015 Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference last month I had conversations in which serious people with government intelligence backgrounds asserted that Turkey’s military is all about keeping open or even exercising an option to make nuclear weapons. During a track-1.5 meeting in Moscow three months before, someone who has been in and out of the United States government also put Turkey on the short list of usual suspects.

Read Full Story →

 
 

Back by popular demand: a geo quiz! This is a teaser for a how-to I will write next week.

Q1: Where is the photographer standing?

Q2: What is the address of the nearest building shown in the picture?

 

Put your answers in the comments below, and NO PEEKING!

 
 

“Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism.” — Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, April 9, 2015

“If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.” – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a Joint Session of Congress, March 2, 2015

Critics are trying to have it both ways: The Obama administration’s framework agreement is bad because it fanaticizes improved Iranian behavior. Or the agreement is bad because it won’t change Iranian behavior. Both critiques are wide of the mark. This agreement has a narrow but essential purpose: it seeks verifiable limits on Iran’s capabilities to make nuclear weapons. U.S. observers will probably be the last to recognize improved Iranian behavior, should it occur. Few U.S. analysts predicted that Iran’s leaders would accept limits this constraining three years ago, and Americans know far too little about Iran to make confident predictions about its behavior over the next decade and longer. Whether Iran’s external policies remain bad or change for the better, a verifiable deal to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities makes good sense.

Read Full Story →

 
 

The United Kingdom is having an election in May. Inexplicably, the issue of whether London can afford to replace its fleet of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines is shaping up to be a major issue, especially if there is a hung parliament. Actually, the debate is getting downright nasty. The Tory defense secretary has already warned the Labour’s Ed Milliband would “barter away our nuclear deterrent in a backroom deal with the SNP,” adding that Milliband “stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister.”

Jeffrey and Aaron are joined by Toby Fenwick (@Tobbes73), a Middlebury College alum who has written a monograph entitled Retiring Trident: An Alternative Proposal for UK Nuclear Deterrence. We were also joined, briefly, by Toby’s neighbor. That was weird. But very polite.

Toby Fenwick, Retiring Trident: An Alternative Proposal for UK Nuclear
Deterrence
, CentreForum, 2015. (PDF)

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

 
 

Chemical Weapons Dumped at Sea Google Map

Many people ask where they can get satellite imagery. Working at a nonprofit, my preferences tend towards the free, but there are some great resources on the cheap too. Why check more than one map? Because: Volkel.

Here’s a list of my favorites: Read Full Story →

 
 

Since I’ve already inflicted my thoughts on the Iran deal over at Foreign Policy.com, I am happy that my friend Jofi Joseph has agreed to share his here at the blog.

Pleasant Surprises and Grudging Disappointments

Jofi Joseph

Jeffrey has kindly offered his blog as a venue for my thoughts on some of the specific technical elements of the P5+1 political framework with Iran announced last week.  For someone who worked on this issue in the U.S. government between 2011 and 2013, it is gratifying to see the efforts of many, many individuals in multiple governments finally bear fruit.

What follows is a checklist of pleasant surprises and grudging disappointments when it comes to this agreement’s nonproliferation bona fides.  Like many others, I was quite pleased at the depth and specificity of Iranian commitments when it came to real world constraints on their fuel cycle capabilities, but recognize the hardest negotiations are likely to take place over the next twelve weeks as broad text is translated into detailed annexes.

Read Full Story →

 
 

We have a deal! Or, at least, a “framework” agreement between Iran and the E3/EU+3. Whether the negotiators can hammer out the details by June 30, especially on the timing of sanctions relief, remains to be seen but the terms of the deal look pretty strong.

Aaron and Jeffrey run through what we know, what we think and what we wonder about the Iran nuclear deal. Then Max Fisher from Vox joins to talk about what its like to cover the Iran issue.

Links:

Follow the hosts & guest on Twitter:

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

 
 

I just wanted to write down a brief explanation about the documents that exist describing the Iran “deal”.  There seems to be some confusion about what they are and what they are not.  They are a deal in the sense that they tell us what the final agreement will look like.  But they are not a deal in the sense that many important details remain to be worked out.

The only official document is the Joint Statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, which was read out in English by Ms. Mogherini and in Farsi by Dr. Zarif. This is a “framework” agreement that serves as a kind of proof that the negotiators are close enough to begin negotiating what will be called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.  The framework agreement tells us broadly what the comprehensive agreement will look like, but turning the solutions and compromises outlined in the framework into the language of an proper agreement will be a challenge.

Read Full Story →