• Research Briefing

    Progress towards nuclear disarmament?

    In April 2009 President Obama set out his vision for a world without nuclear weapons, and in doing so laid the groundwork for renewed international efforts to strengthen and advance the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Over the past year that momentum has translated into the agreement of a successor to the US-Russia START treaty, global commitments to secure highly vulnerable nuclear materials within four years and the establishment, at the May 2010 Review Conference, of an action plan in support of the three main pillars of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This paper examines the prospects for achieving that vision of 'global zero'.

  • Research Briefing

    Prospects for the 2010 NPT Review Conference

    The eighth Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is due to take place between 3 and 28 May 2010. This note examines the main principles of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and the key issues regarding its continued effectiveness and credibility that are expected to be discussed at the conference. It also sets out the position of the British Government on these issues.

  • Research Briefing

    Bribery allegations and BAE Systems

    BAE Systems was accused of corruption, specifically making bribes, in regard to the Al Yamamah arms agreement with the Saudi Arabian Government. This was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) following the leaking of a letter from the then Director of the SFO to the former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence. The SFO discontinued its inquiry in December 2006, citing the need to safeguard national and international security, a move which was supported by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. A legal challenge that the SFO's decision was unlawful was not successful. In addition to the allegations surrounding Al Yamamah, parallel SFO investigations were also conducted into a number of other BAE defence contracts in South Africa, Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, Tanzania and Qatar. In February 2010, BAE Systems reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to plead guilty of conspiring to make false statements to the US Government in connection with certain regulatory filings and undertakings, including the Al Yamamah agreement as well as contracts with the Hungarian and Czech governments. In March 2010, BAE Systems pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by impairing and impeding its lawful functions, to make false statements about its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance program, and to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations. It was given a $400 million fine and agreed to take measures in order to stay within US and foreign laws concerning corruption and the exports of arms. The company also agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for three years to assess its compliance program and to make a series of reports to the company and the DoJ. This Standard Note is referred to in the Research Paper, The Bribery Bill (RP 10/19).

  • Research Briefing

    Strategic Defence Review Green Paper: Preliminary Observations

    The Government published its defence Green Paper on 3 February 2010. The observations and recommendations in that paper will now inform the work of a Strategic Defence Review which the Government has committed to undertaking shortly after the General Election. The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats have also stated that they will hold a defence review should they take office. This note sets out some of the background to the Green Paper, its main conclusions and some initial reactions within Parliament, the media and the wider defence community. This briefing will eventually form part of a larger Library Research Paper on the forthcoming Strategic Defence Review.

  • Research Briefing

    The Islamic Republic of Iran: An introduction

    This paper provides an introduction to the Islamic Republic of Iran; its politics, economy, foreign and defence policies, and nuclear programme. It examines the governmental structure of the theocratic state, analyses the key personalities and forums of decision-making and assesses Iran’s policies at home and abroad.

  • Research Briefing

    Iran: Conventional Military Capabilities

    This note examines the conventional military capabilities that Iran possesses, on the basis of publicly available information. It focuses specifically on Iran's ballistic missile programme which has received increasing attention in light of Iran's perceived nuclear ambitions and the recent changes to the US' missile defence proposals in Europe. It is not intended as a comprehensive assessment but a brief introduction to Iran's military capabilities. It also does not examine Iran's nuclear programme which is outlined in Library Standard Note SN/IA/4262, Iran's Nuclear Programme: An Overview.

  • Research Briefing

    War and peace in Sri Lanka

    This paper provides a brief historical and social survey of Sri Lanka, including the origins of the conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE. It then gives an account of developments since 2002, when a ceasefire was agreed and hopes were raised – rapidly to be dashed – that there might be a peaceful negotiated resolution of the conflict. The paper also surveys the stance taken by the international community on the conflict, the military capabilities of the Sri Lankan military, and aid and development issues. It concludes by considering Sri Lanka’s future prospects, including assessing how real the Government’s military victory is and whether genuine political and constitutional reforms are likely to be introduced.

  • Research Briefing

    Heroes Return 2 Scheme

    The Heroes Return 2 Scheme was launched by the Big Lottery Fund on 1 April 2009. Under this scheme funding will be provided for veterans, spouses, widows and carers wishing to return to those places where they fought during the Second World War and mark any relevant anniversaries in 2009 and 2010. This note sets out the principles of the scheme, eligibility and how to apply for funding.

  • Research Briefing

    Russia’s Military Posture

    This paper examines Russia’s current military posture. It does not attempt to be a comprehensive examination of every aspect of Russian military policy but is intended as an introduction to some of the more pertinent aspects, including Russia’s military capabilities, its ability to defend its increasingly diverse strategic interests and the credibility of Russia’s modernisation and rearmament programme which was announced toward the end of 2008.