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‘Axis of Evil’ being an axis for once

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that the United Arab Emirates seized a shipment of munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades, headed from North Korea to Iran. The shipment was in direct violation of UN sanctions on Iran.

...the ship, owned by an Australian subsidiary of a French company and sailing under a Bahamian flag, was carrying 10 containers of arms disguised as oil equipment.

The council committee that monitors enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea wrote letters to Iran and the government in Pyongyang asking for explanations of the violation, and one to the UAE expressing appreciation for the cooperation, the envoys said. No response has been received and the UAE has unloaded the cargo, they said.

This, as you might expect, also contributes to my ongoing nervousness over Burma and what it may have received from North Korea.

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Potentially hopeful news on Iran nuclear program

The Guardian reports that Iran is granting IAEA nuclear inspectors "significant concessions" days before the UN nuclear watchdog agency is scheduled to release a major report on the Iranian nuclear program.   The New York Times adds that this is the second of two recent signs that Iran may be willing to negotiate more fulsomely over its nuclear program.  The decision to "retain the foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and not to move a more conservative ally into that position" may also show a newfound willingness in Tehran to strike a deal, says the Times

These positive signals come amidst increasing international pressure on Iran. German PM Angela Merkel, for the first time, threw her support behind "energy sanctions" should Iran not deal cooperatively with the international community on the nuclear issue.  Obama has also warned Tehran that the window for constructive negotiations is closing. 

Looking forward, there are two upcoming meetings in which Iran's nuclear program is due to come under international review.  The first is at a United Nations Security Council meeting chaired by President Obama on September 24. Then, later that day the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh will open.  Iran's nuclear status is on the agenda.  Bottom line is that this next month will be a key test of the international community's efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions. 

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Getting closer to the CTBT…

For what it's worth, way to go, Liberia:

The total number of countries that have ratified the United Nations-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has inched closer to 150 after Liberia ratified the agreement this week.

Liberia’s ratification on Monday brings the total number of countries having ratified the CTBT to 149, according to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Of course, the real problem to implementing the CTBT is that nine of the 44 so-called "Annex 2" states -- those that had nuclear weapons technology in 1996, when the treaty was written -- still haven't ratified.  Only when they do (ahem, United States!) will the treaty go into effect.