20 April 2018   Leave a comment

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has announced that North Korea will suspend all nuclear testing and that it will also shut down the testing site at which its previous atomic bombs had been tested.  The statement comes after his meeting with Chinese President Xi and prior to his proposed meeting with US President Trump.  He is also scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon next Friday for the first visit by a North Korean leader to South Korea.  It is difficult to interpret this statement.  The simple fact that it was announced was an important symbol of intent and, as a symbol, it should be warmly embraced.  But it was highly unlikely that North Korea would conduct any tests prior to the meeting with President Trump since Trump would likely have refused to meet under such circumstances.  The US Administration will likely interpret the statement as proof of the correctness of its hard-line strategy.  That may ultimately be the case, but it is too soon to make that conclusion.

 

We still do not have hard evidence that chemical weapons were used against Syrian citizens in Douma two weeks ago.  Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW) were invited into Syria to collect evidence, but so far the inspectors have not been permitted to investigate the site of the alleged attack.   Every day that passes reduces the chances that evidence can be collected since the chemical agents were volatile liquids.

 

The deaths of Iranian militiamen in Syria in an Israeli air attack two weeks ago have raised fears that the Iranians will feel obliged to retaliate.  Fortunately, that retaliation has yet to occur, but Iran has a number of options to pursue: they can retaliate from Iran or through their proxies in Syria or Lebanon.   Dror Michman and Yael Mizrahi-Arnaud have written an essay on those options and how to evaluate their costs and benefits.  The decision to retaliate is highly consequential since Israel will undoubtedly counterattack with a vengeance.

Posted April 20, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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