The interim report is here.


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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will provide inspections to verify the interim agreement with Iran, the Joint Plan of Action. The Joint Plan contains broad objectives, a working group has developed specifics of how those objectives are to be met, and the IAEA negotiates exactly when and where its inspectors will be allowed to take which data.

For the past several days, the IAEA and Iran have been negotiating next steps. Continue reading

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I had a Twitter conversation with Laura Rozen (@lrozen) and Jim White (@JimWhite) earlier this week about the delay in moving the Syrian chemical agents out of Syria. Reuters relied, as it too often does, on anonymous “diplomats from a Western country” for dour words about Assad dragging his feet and that the deadlines might not be met. Jim has replied with a post blaming the US for not having the MV Cape Ray ready in time.

I think the situation is other than that. Continue reading

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Mark Hibbs and I figured this out in a Twitter conversation.

I read an al-Arabiya article that said “White House spokesman Jay Carney…said the IAEA wants to keep certain aspects of the deal confidential” and tweeted that. Mark retweeted it. Continue reading

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Sy Hersh just published an article in the London Review of Books questioning whether it was, indeed, Syrian government forces that carried out the August 21 attack that almost led to an American attack on Syria and to the disarming of Syria’s chemical arsenal. I won’t go into the details of the evidence Hersh presents; I’ll leave that for the very capable Brown Moses, who is tweeting his analysis as I write (@Brown_Moses). I’ll focus on the logic of Hersh’s argument and his sources. Continue reading

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This is a very good deal indeed. It is an interim deal, intended to slow and even reverse some of Iran’s nuclear program while offering some financial relief to Iran. It covers the next six months, during which there will be more negotiations on how to assure the world that Iran’s nuclear program has only a peaceful intent and lifting the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran.

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Back in the spring, Congress formed a Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance Structure of the National Nuclear Security Administration. The Panel was to report in 120 days, which would have put the deadline at around October 1. We’re six months along, and the Nuclear Diner post on the panel seems to be the best information on the Web.

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A Scientific American blogger, Danielle Lee, was asked by another organization,, to write something for them. The editor, the pseudonymous “Ofek,” called her a whore when she turned him down politely. She then wrote up the interaction, posted it on her Scientific American blog, went away for a while and came back to find it had been deleted with no notice to her.

Ofek’s actions clearly have a sexist side: of course a woman who turns down (presumably) a man is a whore. Thus has it always been for some men. And it’s easier to call people names when your own is obscured. Happens every day on the internet. And that’s terrible. More women in science? No thanks, according to these guys. Or maybe they’re okay if they’re compliant enough.

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Last week was very busy. Suddenly, people who know something about how to destroy chemical weapons were in demand. And there were a lot of instant experts, some of whom were pretty confused.

Back in the late 1980s, I managed a project on supercritical water oxidation, which destroys hazardous compounds very completely. At that time, the chemical weapons programs were looking for ways to destroy their stocks. They found out about our project, and I spent about a year working with Tooele Army Depot. It turned out that there are cheaper ways to destroy chemical weapons that are just as good, so supercritical water oxidation was never a mainstay of their program. It is being planned to clean up the products of chemical neutralization at the Bluegrass, Kentucky, army depot.

But I got a tour of the Tooele facility, which required a gas mask fitting and training in how to use atropine self-injectors. And I had some time to think about the chemistry and politics of destroying chemical weapons. I’ve continued to follow progress in destroying chemical weapons.

Early last week, the Globe and Mail asked me to update an earlier article on destroying chemical weapons. Here’s the result:

The six steps to ridding Syria of chemical weapons.

Which led to participation in a New York Times Room for Debate, “Can Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Be Destroyed?

I also was interviewed by Foreign Policy, National Geographic, and Canada’s Sun News (video).

Update (September 19, 2013): Interview with Swiss Public Radio.

Update (October 11, 2013): With the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the OPCW, I was interviewed by the Globe and Mail for this article.

And by National Geographic for this article.

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Suddenly, both John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov are pressuring Assad to give up his chemical weapons to international control.

So perhaps there has been some diplomacy behind the scenes. I am assuming that there has been. But that will be another post.

Aaron Stein and I wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail back in May about what it would take to deal with Syria’s chemical weapons. It’s worth taking another look at that in light of today’s developments. What would it take to secure and destroy the weapons?

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