Over the last two years, Ian Stewart, director of Project Alpha, has been developing a ‘big data’ platform for non-proliferation purposes. This platform is used to inform Project Alpha’s work and acts as a test bed for big data and machine learning approaches in the non-proliferation sphere. Today, Project Alpha is publishing a paper on Alpha-POST’s design and capabilities to provide background on the platform.
The abstract of this paper, which can be downloaded HERE, reads as follows.
This paper outlines the Alpha-Proliferation Open Source Platform (Alpha-POST), developed by Project Alpha to leverage big data analysis for non-proliferation purposes. The article demonstrates how a variety of open source software tools can be fused together into a ‘software stack’ capable of ingesting, processing and leveraging vast quantities of data to aid human analysts. While Alpha-POST leverages tools such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), link chart analysis and machine learning in the non-proliferation domain, Project Alpha argues that the approaches outlined in this paper could be applied to any discipline or sphere .
A forthcoming article in the Journal of Nuclear Material Management will examine how the big data approaches developed in this platform can be used more generally in the non-proliferation domain. Additionally, the platform will be demonstrated at the 2018 IAEA safeguards symposium.
Image courtesy of AFP/KCNA
On 12 February 2017 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) carried out a successful ballistic missile test of a medium range ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. The missile reached a height of 550 kilometers before impacting in the East Sea. This is the first such provocation by the DPRK since Donald Trump became President of the US and will be a first test of the administration. The test itself according to a number of analysts is concerning. The Pukguksong-2 shares significant similarities with the KN-11 (Pukguksong-1), a submarine based solid fuel ballistic missile. This represents a new capacity for the DPRK and one that is potentially more robust and manoeuvrable. The use of a cold-launch canister system being carried on a tracked transporter-erector launcher vehicle provides substantially greater cross-country mobility than many other North Korean ballistic missiles. Being solid fuel also means this ballistic missile would not require tanker trucks giving it a smaller foot print and making it quicker to launch. The test clearly shows the DPRK is looking to increase its ballistic missile capabilities and has the ability to do so.
On 15th December, the US Department of Commerce issued an update to its Entity List, adding seven entities in Pakistan which appear to be linked to Pakistan’s missile programme.
The move by the BIS End User Review Committee follows close scrutiny of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes prompted, in part, by a report published by Project Alpha in November. That report had identified most of the entities that were added to the US list on the 15th December as well as up to a dozen more front companies procuring illicit goods on behalf of Pakistan, including front companies thought to act on behalf of the newly designated entities.
The timing of the move is noteworthy. With little over a month to go until the inauguration of President Trump, it is possible that the Obama administration acted to list these entities foreseeing a window in which the move would not necessarily hamper US diplomatic ties with Pakistan. While there are signs that Pakistan is discontent with the US action, the Pakistani government will wish to start fresh with the Trump administration regardless.
It is also notable that the US appears to have focused these additions around entities involved in Pakistan’s missile programme. Given that Pakistan earlier this year applied to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, any move by the US to designate entities connected to Pakistan’s nuclear programme would likely be taken as an overtly political act by the outgoing Obama administration.
The entities sanctioned the US are noted below.
- Ahad International
- Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
- National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM)
- Air Weapons Complex (AWC)
- Maritime Technology Complex (MTC)
- New Auto Engineering (NAE)
- Universal Tooling Services
The US announcement can be found here:
The public version of the Alpha in-depth Report on Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs can be accessed here: http://projectalpha.eu/research-opens-a-window-into-pakistans-nuclear-weapons-programme/
by Ian Stewart, with contributions from Dominic Williams and Nick Gillard
Project Alpha is today releasing a report on Intangible Technology Controls (ITT), examining the utility of ITT in managing the spread of proliferation-relevant technologies. Continue reading New Alpha Report: Examining intangible technology controls
Extensive research carried out by Project Alpha, based at King’s College London, reveals critical new information about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile programme, at a time when the country is aspiring to be a leading player in non-proliferation. Continue reading Research opens a window into Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
What is Resolution 2231?
On 20 July 2015, the fifteen members of the UN Security Council unanimously passed Security Council Resolution 2231 (S/RES/2231). This resolution endorses a long-term plan agreed by the international community to provide enhanced international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program and modifications to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions.
The full text of Resolution 2231 can be accessed here.
The UN also maintains a website dedicated to UNSCR2231. It can be accessed here.
What is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the long-term plan agreed between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union (known as the P5+1 or E3+3). It contains a detailed set of obligations to be undertaken by Iran and the E3+3 over the next 25 years in order to manage Iran’s nuclear programme, reduce sanctions on Iran, and improve international cooperation between Iran and the E3+3. The JCPOA will also permit Iran to legally purchase equipment for its nuclear programme under what is known as the procurement channel.
The text of the JCPOA can be accessed here.
Who will implement Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA?
Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA place requirements on all parties involved in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme, and indeed on all other nations. Implementation will be monitored by the United Nations Security Council. The European External Action Service will also play a key role in coordinating the implementation of Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will continue to monitor Iran’s obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
A series of allegations made in June has re-awakened the issue of Pakistani nuclear cooperation with North Korea. These allegations, published by an Indian news agency, state that Pakistani authorities have continued to supply nuclear-related material to North Korea, in violation of sanctions.
Project Alpha sought to substantiate or otherwise the allegations utilising open source information. The purpose of this case study is to set out what steps were taken and what information was validated such that follow-on study might be undertaken, should further information become available that could allow a conclusion to be drawn about the validity of the allegations.
The report can be downloaded from the link below:
The Proliferation Security Initiative’s Operational Experts Group met last week in London, bringing together government representatives from 21 countries together with civil society experts in counter-proliferation for discussions on a broad range of topics relating to counter proliferation, including proliferation finance, intangible technology, and 3D printing.
Continue reading Project Alpha’s Ian Stewart addresses Proliferation Security Initiative meeting in London
On 16 January, Iran’s advanced IR-8 centrifuge was publicly shown for the first time in a short Fars News documentary. Continue reading Project Alpha’s Iran centrifuge field guide – updated
Project Alpha Head Ian J. Stewart discusses the contribution of export controls on intangible technology transfers in controlling the spread of strategic dual-use technologies in the first issue of The Strategic Trade Review, a peer reviewed journal dedicated to strategic trade control. Continue reading Project Alpha in Vol. 1, Issue 1 of The Strategic Trade Review