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Cooperative Threat Reduction in the Middle East & North Africa: Law-Related Tools for Success

Orde Kittrie
1st August 2016 - NPS Report

Download the full report here. 

Since World War II, more WMD attacks have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region1 than in any other region of the world.2 Egypt used chemical weapons against Yemen from 1963 to 1967,3 Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War,4 Iran reportedly used chemical weapons against Iraq during that same war,5 and Libya used chemical weapons against Chad in 1987.6 In addition to these uses of chemical weapons against neighbors, Iraq used chemical weapons on Kurds within its territory in 1988,7 al Qaeda in Iraq has used chlorine gas,8 and chemical weapons have been repeatedly used during the Syrian civil
war.9 

The most recent notable new user of chemical weapons in the Middle East is the Islamic State, which is reportedly also pursuing biological and nuclear weapons. The director of NATO’s WMD Non-Proliferation Center recently published an article in which he warned that “there is a very real - but not yet fully identified risk - of foreign fighters in ISIL’s ranks using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials as ‘weapons of terror’ against the West.”

11 In addition, at least four MENA region member states of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) have violated their NPT-related obligations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Each has reportedly done so in pursuit of the capacity to build nuclear weapons. 

Over its first fifteen years, the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction program (DOD/CTR) focused its work to combat weapons of mass destruction (WMD) almost entirely on the Former Soviet Union (FSU). Since 2010, however, DOD/CTR has begun to expand into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, undertaking peaceful cooperative projects to combat WMD proliferation in that region.

 Law-related issues had a pivotal impact on cooperative threat reduction work in the FSU. These included especially the difficulty of reaching and maintaining agreement on how to protect U.S. assistance and providers from host country domestic law risks (such as lawsuits for accidental damage). 

Both this and other law-related issues have already begun to have a significant impact on CTR work in the MENA region. This report is designed to analyze these issues and provide recommendations for more effectively addressing law-related challenges and opportunities that could play a pivotal role in the success of CTR work in the MENA region. 

In researching this report, it became evident that the long term effectiveness and sustainability of expanded cooperative threat reduction with the MENA region depends in considerable part on successful management of three major areas of law-related challenges and opportunities: the need to manage the domestic law risks posed to assistance providers by MENA host country governments, the importance of improving MENA governments’ poor record of implementing the nonproliferation obligations imposed on them by international law, and the challenges posed to WMD disposition by several provisions of international law. Each is the subject of one chapter of this report.

The second chapter draws in part from the more detailed paper at Annex I, by Victor Comras, titled “How to More Effectively Encourage and Assist MENA Governments to Implement their International Legal Obligations Relating to Nonproliferation.” The third chapter draws in part from the more detailed paper at Annex II, by Guy Roberts, titled “International Law Challenges to WMD Disposition Options: Legal Options to WMD Disposition in a Conflicting Law and Policy Environment.” Both papers were commissioned as part of this study

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middle-east, north-africa