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This week's editor

“Phoebe

Phoebe Braithwaite is openDemocracy’s submissions editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Weapons of mass destruction are arguably the most serious threat to international security. For four months between 27 November 2002 and 20 March 2003, UN inspectors were again in Iraq to track down and destroy any arsenal and/or development capacity for weapons of mass destruction. They didn’t succeed in their mission as US war overtook UN work. What does this mean for international efforts to limit proliferation? The Non-proliferation Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention - Is it now time to give up on them?

How to defuse the devices of the nuclear-armed states

The five-yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ended without any agreed commitments, unbalanced as ever between the nuclear-armed states and the rest. Time to change the agenda. 

Iran behind the conciliatory veil

Right-wing US and Israeli venom against the outline agreement is one thing; genuine concern about the Islamic regime’s Shia expansionism and human-rights record is however another.

A responsible nuclear-armed state?

It may sound like an oxymoron but we need a new global conversation which engages all nuclear-armed states en route to disarmament.

Nuclear disarmament ambitions in 2014

It's easy not to recognise the real, if slow, progress that has been made on nuclear disarmement. There will be big challenges in 2014 to maintain it.

To eliminate WMD we need to disarm patriarchy

Civil society must stop the use of chemical weapons being used as a pretext for US-led bombing in Syria. A gendered understanding demonstrates that the only sustainable strategy is to pursue disarmament and strengthen international humanitarian law.

Pro-nuclear propaganda in 1983: lessons for 2013

In the UK, Labour's nuclear disarmament policies of the 1980s were not to blame for electoral failure, argues Rebecca Johnson. A sensible, fact-based debate about Trident replacement requires Ed Miliband to overcome the Party’s ‘electoral defeat traumatic syndrome’.

Dangerous and provocative - is this Iran or the US?

Iran captured a CIA Sentinel drone - now the Republicans want Obama to "go get it"

Damping the powder-keg: Paul Ingram responds to 'Playing with fire in the Middle East'

In the context of worsening relations between Iran, Syria and the west, Saeed Rahnema gave a bleak assessment of the likelihood of impending conflict. Though serious, Paul Ingram argues there are reasons to remain optimistic.

Criminalise WMD

Now is the time to begin to repair the weakness of the weapons clauses in the International Criminal Court Statute and get the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction defined as a crime, urges Marlies Glasius.

Note to Moldova: beware the Kiev trap!

Although Moldova's elections were largely fair, the country's politics now risk going the way of Ukraine's, warns Louis O'Neill.

The chemical-weapons ban: test of practice

The international convention on chemical weapons is an example of what international cooperation in the global interest can achieve, says Ron G Manley.

The evisceration of a disarmament body

The chemical-weapons convention came into force on 29 April 1997. But the political manipulation of its lead organisation makes it hard for Bob Rigg, a former insider, to celebrate.

The Iraq weapons report: a review

The Iraq Survey Group has just published its interim report on the Saddam regime’s weapons programmes and capabilities. Ron Manley, a chemical weapons expert who oversaw the United Nations inspection operations in Iraq in the early 1990s, assesses it.

Iraq and chemical weapons: a view from the inside

In both the United States and Britain, there is passionate contest over the legitimacy and honesty of government attempts to justify war with Iraq – especially claims of the existence of active Iraqi chemical weapons programmes. In an interview of profound insight, the man responsible for chemical weapons destruction operations in Iraq from 1991-94 talks to Anthony Barnett and Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy about the true extent of Iraq’s capacity to produce, store and deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Another casualty of war: proliferation controls and verification protocols

International efforts to limit the proliferation of dangerous weapons have focused recently on questions of verification. But there may be a deeper problem in the way that the spread of destructive power across the world is fuelled by the subjection of science and technology to political ambition.

A nuclear-free world: in reply to Achilles Skordas

Achilles Skordas recently argued in openDemocracy that legalising nuclear weapons could help ensure they are never used. Now, a former Naval Commander makes the opposite case: not only must the use of nuclear weapons remain illegal, but the dangerous current crisis offers an opportunity to push for their complete abolition.

Don't panic: taking the terror out of terrorism

What is the best means of defence against attack by nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons? A former member of the US military offers a practical, purposeful guide for his fellow-citizens. The ingredients of survival: calmness, common sense - and canned food.

The Long History of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Recorded use of weapons of mass destruction goes back to the Middle Ages. Whenever the rules of war fell into disregard, the target moved from the enemy’s soldiers to his people. The weapon of choice against a civilian enemy became biological, then chemical and nuclear, as soon as scientific advancement and technological development made them available. This timeline aims to give a broad overview, in time as well as space, of the development of WMDs as a lengthy prelude to recent events in Iraq.

A right to use nuclear weapons?

The use of nuclear weapons, the ultimate nightmare of contemporary warfare, has never been properly judged as lawful or not in international law. This ‘gap’ is the starting point for a subtle, provocative and challenging argument: could a right to use nuclear weapons in law be the best defence against their use in practice?

Hard proof or soft evidence: the case of biological weapons

Of all weapons of mass destruction biological weapons are the hardest to detect. Only a miniscule amount of agent is required to have the same deadly large-scale effect as chemical or nuclear weapons. None the less, at this point in time UNMOVIC is looking for them in Iraq. The political and scientific framework of their mission is outlined here.

International law or US hegemony: from chemical weapons to Iraq

A former official at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons describes how an effective international system to reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction was sabotaged by the US government.

Hard facts and soft law: what's the evidence?

Before taking action in Iraq, the United States is writing a new chapter in the law of nations, by recognising the need for evidence. But the factual cornerstone for Bush’s policy remains contested.
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