By Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security, IISS-Middle East
Israel’s recent air strikes on Syria were intended as a warning to both Syria and Iran, and to stop weapons falling into Hizbullah’s hands – but they have increased the likelihood of a regional conflict.
Last week, the Israeli air force struck two targets inside Syrian territory. The first seems to have been a shipment of surface-to-surface missiles destined for the Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah (the Fateh-110 is more accurate than anything Hizbullah is known to currently possess, and with a 300-kilometre range has much of Israel within its reach). The second was a major research centre and important storage facility near Damascus, which is administered by units of the elite Republican Guard. Israel had already struck this installation – the Centre of Scientific Studies and Research in Jamraya – in January, allegedly destroying shipments of anti-aircraft missiles destined for Hizbullah.
These strikes add to an already complex political and military landscape in Syria. The Assad regime has deployed its full arsenal of conventional capabilities against the Syrian rebels – and may have even used chemical weapons on a small scale. The rebels are consolidating their hold over much of Syria, but remain too ill-equipped and poorly organised to win the struggle on the battlefield.
The rise of Islamist and jihadi factions has further complicated the picture: better organised and funded, they often spearhead rebel attacks on key regime facilities across the country. They may eventually seize some of the regime’s advanced weaponry.
By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace
It has been a rough week for the Missile Technology Control Regime. On the MTCR’s twenty-fifth birthday, on 16 April, North Korea paraded a previously unseen long-range ballistic missile through the streets of Pyongyang and showed off some kind of unmanned system. Days later, South Korea was saying it had deployed an extended-range variant of its ground-launched cruise missile, and India had successfully test-fired an Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile. Perhaps the MTCR’s only lucky day recently has been Friday the thirteenth, when North Korea’s Unha-3 satellite launch vehicle failed shortly after launch.
The MTCR keeps a low profile and so far hasn’t publicly marked its twenty-fifth. It was set up in 1987 by the United States and six other countries to try to curtail the proliferation of rocket, missile, unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAVs or ‘drones’) and technology capable of delivering a 500 kilogram payload at a range greater than 300 kilometres. If events on the Asian continent were inauspicious markers of the MTCR’s quarter-century, they were a reminder of the rationale for establishing the non-proliferation regime.
Guest post by James Acton, Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Coming just a couple of weeks after the Obama administration announced its intention to work with the European Union on developing a space code of conduct, the special session of the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference on space and missile proliferation was highly topical.
To ensure freedom of access to space – not least in the face of the increasing problem of space debris - the need for enhanced space governance is widely recognised. However, there is a debate about whether the EU’s draft of a non-binding code of conduct or a formal treaty-based approach would be preferable. Sergio Marchisio, chair of the European Centre for Space Law, discussed legal aspects of the draft code and argued that the EU should be willing to discuss the Russian and Chinese proposal for a treaty in spite of its significant definitional problems. Götz Neuneck, Deputy Director of the University of Hamburg’s Institute for Peace Research and Security, welcomed the draft code as an important step forward but argued that it lacked key arms-control characteristics. He urged the EU to engage emerging space powers, to include ballistic missile defence in discussions about space security, and to study joint monitoring and surveillance. An EU official, however, cautioned against overloading the draft code.
IISS’s Michael Elleman has just been interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman at CFR.org, who writes that: ‘Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington in the strategic Strait of Hormuz following increased sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran test-fired missiles and has threatened to close the strait. This is to signal to the United States and its neighbors in the region that Iran has a deterrent capacity, says Michael Elleman, a leading expert on Iran’s missile development. The threats are also aimed at bolstering leadership domestically, he adds. Elleman says while there has been no evidence since 2003 of Iran developing a nuclear weapons program: ‘Iran certainly is making tremendous headway in developing a range of ballistic missiles that could threaten the cities throughout the Gulf and in Israel.”
Read the full interview at the Council on Foreign Relations