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former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Nonproliferation

Statement on Iran Nuclear Talks Extension

Body: 
Effective Iran Nuclear Deal In Sight:
Calls for More Sanctions A Recipe for Escalation, Conflict   

For Immediate Release:
November 24, 2014

 

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director in Washington, DC, 202-463-8270 x107; Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy in Vienna 1-317-460-8806

(Washington/Vienna) On the final day before their self-imposed deadline to conclude a comprehensive nuclear agreement, negotiators from United States, other great powers, and Iran have decided to extend the negotiations until June 30, 2015 with the goal of completing negotiations by the end of March. In the meantime, their Nov. 2013 interim deal that has frozen Iran's nuclear program will remain in place.

"An historic agreement to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is within sight. Diplomatic sources on both sides of the negotiating table tell us that if the remaining gaps on two or three of the critical issues can be resolved, agreement on other items may fall into place, allowing the two sides to reach a comprehensive, verifiable, long-term agreement," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"Technical solutions on all the main issues have been presented and discussed, but a 'win-win' agreement that blocks Iran's potential pathway to nuclear weapons in exchange for very significant sanctions relief still requires political will by both sides," he added.

"Decisions need to be made sooner rather than later. Having more time does not make those decisions any easier. Now is the time for the top leaders in Tehran and Washington and other capitals to show the flexibility and courage necessary to seize this historic opportunity," Kimball said.

"Based on consultations with knowledgeable officials on both sides, negotiators have made substantial progress on several tough issues," said Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, who is in Vienna monitoring the talks.

"Over the past several months, the P5+1 and Iran have reached a common understanding on the necessary steps in many key areas including: strengthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at all of Iran's nuclear sites and related facilities; re-purposing the underground Fordow enrichment facility into a small-scale research facility; and modifying Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output," according to Davenport.

"But clearly," she said, "there are still gaps, which include setting limits on Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity and removing international, nuclear-related sanctions over the course of the multi-year agreement."

"Negotiators have been discussing a combination of measures that would substantially increase the time Iran would require to produce enough nuclear material for one nuclear weapon--to twelve months or more--but would still provide for Iran's practical needs regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy," she said.

"Until now, Iran has opposed reduction of its current enrichment capacity and wants to increase its domestic enrichment over time to provide fuel for additional nuclear power reactors that might be built a decade or more from now. The P5+1, however, want to reduce Iran's current capacity and base enrichment on Tehran's current practical needs, which for the next decade are very limited," she said.
 
 "The technical teams have discussed in detail various combinations of measures including curtailing the number of centrifuges for a period of several years, limiting research on more sophisticated centrifuges, reducing Iran's stockpile and form of enriched uranium, and providing Iran with fuel supplies in advance for its one operating light-water power reactor at Bushehr, that can meet the core concerns of both sides on this issue," Davenport reported.

"To achieve an effective, long-lasting agreement that leads to the removal of sanctions, Tehran needs to adjust its politically-driven resistance by reducing its current uranium-enrichment capacity, which is a key obstacle standing in the way of a comprehensive agreement, and to provide information necessary to accelerate progress on the International Atomic Energy Agency's long-running investigation of its alleged activities with 'possible military dimensions.'" Kimball said.

"We urge lawmakers in Washington to play a supportive role in the administration's ongoing efforts at reaching a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear puzzle," Davenport said.

"New sanctions legislation against Iran, which has been proposed by more than several members of Congress, would undermine the chance for diplomacy designed to block Iran's potential nuclear weapons pathways and to provide the additional transparency to guard against a clandestine program," she warned.

"Rather than rushing recklessly into a partisan push to impose tougher sanctions, the lame-duck Congress should carefully review the progress achieved so far, help maintain the current freeze of Iran's program through the interim agreement, and support President Obama's ongoing effort with our close allies to secure an effective, long-term deal as soon as possible," Kimball said.

"Those who argue that there should be no more time for diplomacy and want to impose still tougher sanctions are pursuing a naïve and dangerous path. The imposition of new sanctions measures will most certainly provoke Iran to take escalatory measures that shorten the time it would take to amass material for nuclear weapons, worsen the chances for an effective diplomatic resolution, and lead to yet another Middle East crisis," Kimball warned.

"An historic agreement to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is within sight. We urge both sides to exercise the flexibility and creativity necessary reach an effective agreement and soon," Kimball urged.

 

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Country Resources:

P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, November 20


Four Days and Counting...

With four days left before the Nov. 24 deadline, negotiators are still pushing for a deal and not discussing extension. Talks are ongoing in Vienna today, including a bilateral meeting between Russia and Iran and various technical meetings.

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, Nov. 18

Crunch Time

High-level negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 resume in Vienna today, a week out from the Nov. 24 deadline.

P5+1 lead negotiator Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the political directors from the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are already at the Coburg Palace, where the talks are being held. Zarif and Ashton were scheduled to kick things off with a working lunch.

One Year Later: IAEA Reports on Iranian Implementation of Interim Agreement

Iran is making progress on the additional measures it agreed to take in July to roll back parts of its nuclear program, according to the most recent quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While some of these actions are not yet completed, it may be possible for Iran to meet these requirements by the Nov. 24 deadline.

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, Nov. 6

Focused on Reaching an Agreement

The schedule is now set for the last few weeks of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) on a comprehensive nuclear agreement before their Nov. 24 target date.

NNSA Reviewing Nonproliferation Work

The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is reviewing its approach to its nonproliferation programs and expects to issue the results of that review early next year, the head of the semiautonomous agency said Oct. 29.

November 2014

By Daniel Horner

The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is reviewing its approach to its nonproliferation programs and expects to issue the results of that review early next year, the head of the semiautonomous agency said Oct. 29.

Speaking at a briefing for reporters, retired Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said that, for more than a year, the NNSA has been “going through an assessment of how we view the world situation, how we view technology development, and where we can best have an impact in achieving the overall goals of nonproliferation and implementing safeguards across the globe.”

A major part of the impetus for that review, he indicated, was the end of the four-year period that President Barack Obama established for securing “vulnerable nuclear material around the world.” Obama announced the four-year effort in his speech in Prague in April 2009.

As Klotz noted, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has established a task force under the auspices of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board to take a broad look at the way the department addresses nuclear nonproliferation issues. Klotz said the department is planning to publish a document reflecting the review when the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 is released.

The task force, which is expected to issue its report around the end of the year, produced an interim report in August. According to the report, “The U.S. government does not yet have a compelling vision for the future of its nonproliferation efforts or how [the Energy Department’s] programs fit in that larger picture, though [the department] has launched an effort to develop one.” An important task for the department, the report says, is to “[l]ay out a vision and set priorities.”

The report notes that the Energy Department’s nonproliferation budget has declined by hundreds of millions of dollars in the past several years. Although that is partly the result of “projects being completed or efforts being put on hold while [the department] reviews its approach to them,” in some cases “it appears that important nonproliferation work is being slowed or canceled because of lack of funds,” the report says.

Other observers of the nonproliferation work have reached similar conclusions. In August, 26 senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget seeking increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs for fiscal year 2016. (See ACT, September 2014.)

One particular focus of the interim report is U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation, which, for a number of reasons, “will not be easy, is likely to encounter delays, and will require creative approaches and sustained attention,” the report says. But the United States should pursue this cooperation in spite of the obstacles because it “remains critical to U.S. national security interests,” the report says.

Iran, P5+1 Press for Deal in November

Negotiators for Iran and six world powers are focused on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal by Nov. 24 and are not discussing extending the talks, officials said

November 2014

By Kelsey Davenport

Negotiators for Iran and six world powers are focused on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal by Nov. 24 and are not discussing extending the talks, officials representing the two sides said last month after three days of meetings in Vienna.

After little progress was made during talks in September to narrow the remaining gaps between the positions of Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1, some officials and analysts said a deal may not be possible by the Nov. 24 deadline. (See ACT, October 2014.)

But that sentiment seemed to shift after talks in October. In an Oct. 15 press briefing, a senior U.S. official said that negotiators “have not discussed an extension” and remain focused on a “full agreement” by Nov. 24.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Oct. 16 that there are “tough decisions” that must be made before the deadline but that there is “no need to even think about” an extension. In August, Zarif had said a deal by the deadline was unlikely.

In July, Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) agreed to extend negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal through Nov. 24. An interim deal reached by Iran and the P5+1 in November 2013 originally set a target date of July 20 for reaching a final agreement.

In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Oct. 23, Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said that “this is the time to finish the job.”

Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator, said that Iran “will have no better time” than between now and Nov. 24 if Iran “truly wants to resolve its differences with the international community” and bring about a lifting of sanctions.

Since July, members of the Iranian and P5+1 delegations have met in a variety of formats, including bilateral talks between the United States and Iran in August. The P5+1 and Iran also met for more than a week in New York in September.

Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on October 15. Ashton and Zarif are the lead negotiators in the talks between six world powers and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program. (U.S. Department of State)Most recently, on Oct. 15, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1. A meeting of representatives from all seven countries took place the following day.
 
Shift in Iran

According to an Iranian analyst following the talks, there is a “change in tone” and an “increased optimism” in Iran that a deal will be reached by the November deadline.

In Iranian media coverage and political commentary, there are positive signs regarding the prospects for reaching an agreement that were not present after the September round of talks, the Iran-based analyst said in an Oct. 20 interview. Now, he said, it appears that political leaders in Iran are laying the groundwork to prepare the public for an announcement of an agreement.

But he cautioned that an agreement would be reached only if it “respects the rights of Iran and its nuclear vision.” The analyst was referring to Iran’s plans to build additional nuclear power plants.

Throughout the talks, the size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program has been the most significant issue.

Iran says it needs to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors it plans to build. Under a contract that runs through 2021, Russia is supplying the fuel for Iran’s only currently operating power reactor, at Bushehr.

The P5+1 wants to reduce Iran’s enrichment capacity and put limits on other elements of its nuclear program, including the stockpiles of enriched material that Iran maintains and the types of new centrifuges that Tehran is developing. These limits would increase the amount of time it would take for Iran to enrich uranium to provide enough weapons-grade material for one bomb. In such material, more than 90 percent of the material is uranium-235. Iran currently is enriching uranium to less than 5 percent U-235, an enrichment level that would make the material usable in power reactors.

In his Oct. 16 comments, Zarif said progress is being made on “all the issues.”

Sherman said in her Oct. 23 remarks that the United States is ready to reach an agreement and that the P5+1 has put forward a “number of ideas that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with Tehran’s expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program and that take into account that country’s scientific know-how and economic needs.”

Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs and the head of the U.S. delegation to the talks on Iran’s nuclear program, speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on October 23 in this video image. (U.S. Department of State)She said that the United States hopes that “leaders in Tehran will agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that this program will be exclusively peaceful” and thus end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation. If an agreement is not reached, “the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran,” she said.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Uranium Proposals

Citing diplomatic sources, the Associated Press reported on Oct. 17 on a U.S. proposal that would allow Iran to retain a larger number of operating centrifuges than the P5+1 originally proposed if Tehran shipped out a significant portion of its stockpile of reactor-grade uranium for storage in Russia.

Iran currently has about 10,200 operating first-generation centrifuges and an additional 9,000 installed machines that are not enriching uranium. The country has a stockpile of about 7,500 kilograms of uranium gas enriched to reactor grade.

A spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Oct. 22 that options for defining the dimensions of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program are being discussed, including the numbers of centrifuges and the transfer of the stockpile out of Iran.

An official based in Vienna said on Oct. 17 that a number of options are being “considered and tweaked” to find a solution. He said there is no “single proposal” on the table for uranium enrichment. An agreement that “everyone can sell” domestically on this issue is possible, the official said. He declined to elaborate on the description of the U.S. proposal in the press.

In an Oct. 23 interview with Bloomberg, Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, said that Iran’s last proposal on uranium enrichment was to “keep what they have right now” and have an option to scale up when its nuclear power program expands.

That position is not acceptable to the international community, Araud said. Araud, who served as the French negotiator for nuclear talks with Iran between 2006 and 2009, said that if Iran does not change its position on the centrifuges, it is difficult to see how a deal can be reached by Nov. 24.

In that case, Araud said that the “preferred scenario” would be prolonging the interim agreement reached last November. (See ACT, December 2013.)

The Iranian analyst, however, said that gathering support for extending the talks will be difficult in Iran. Some political factions do not want Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to succeed in reaching a deal because it could increase his popularity, he said.

In addition, Iran is concerned that the upcoming U.S. elections could result in Republican control of both chambers of Congress, he said. The Republicans currently control the House of Representatives and are seen as having a good chance of gaining a majority in the Senate. This will make some in Iran “less sure that the United States will follow through” on sanctions relief in a deal, he said.

U.S. Mulls Attending Nuclear Meeting

The United States is deciding whether to attend a December conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use.

November 2014

By Kingston Reif

The United States has not decided whether to attend a December conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use, according to a senior U.S. official.

In an Oct. 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, did not provide a specific timetable for a U.S. decision on attending the conference, which is scheduled for Dec. 8-9.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide delivers opening remarks in Oslo on March 4, 2013, at the first conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use. (Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs)The Vienna gathering will be the third conference in the past two years focused on the medical and societal impact of nuclear weapons use. The first meeting took place in March 2013 in Oslo and brought together representatives from 127 governments. Delegations from 146 governments attended the second conference held in Nayarit, Mexico.

India and Pakistan attended the Oslo and Nayarit conferences, but the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) did not.

Gottemoeller said the United States does not “have a straightforward or a clear view” of “what the conferences are about.” She expressed concern that some conference organizers believe the meetings are intended to lead toward talks on a convention on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In remarks delivered Oct. 20 at the UN General Assembly First Committee, which deals with disarmament and other issues, Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said that “any call to move nuclear disarmament into international humanitarian law circles can only distract from the practical agenda set forth” at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

The Austrian government has said it does not intend the Vienna conference to be the start of a diplomatic process for a ban on possession of nuclear weapons. In an Aug. 30 interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Alexander Kmentt, director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, said the Vienna conference “will focus on the consequences and on the risks” of nuclear weapons, including the consequences of nuclear weapons tests and the range of human and technical factors that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

The draft conference agenda posted on the Austrian ministry’s website lists possible scenarios of nuclear weapons use, plans for response to such use, and the implications of nuclear weapons use under different areas of international law as topics to be addressed at the meeting.

Gottemoeller said in the Oct. 9 interview that the United States is “very supportive of the notion that…we need to be enhancing people’s understanding of the human impacts of nuclear weapons use.”

In the Asahi interview, Kmentt said, “[T]here is a broad range of views” among countries on the need for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. What unites the states that participate in the conferences, he said, is “the belief that we need to do something different” to work toward nuclear disarmament “compared to how we have done it in the past.”

The Vienna conference and the two conferences that preceded it reflect the growing impatience of many states with what they characterize as the slow pace of progress on the 22-point action plan on disarmament laid out in the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Emphasizing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use “has the potential to refocus the international community on the urgency of nuclear disarmament,” said Kmentt.

Kmentt said Austria hopes to pull together the key findings of the Vienna, Nayarit, and Oslo meetings and take them to next year’s NPT review conference to push for concrete progress toward nuclear disarmament.

He expressed hope that more countries will attend the Vienna conference than attended the Mexico gathering, including some of the nuclear-weapon states. He said the discussion with the United States about participating in the conference “has been very positive” and that he believes the Obama administration “is exploring ways to participate.”

The issue of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use also was raised at the United Nations. On Oct. 20, New Zealand delivered a statement on behalf of 155 countries at the First Committee, declaring, “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.”

A Good Deal in the Making

After extending talks on Iran’s nuclear program beyond the original July 20 target date, Iran and six world powers are closing in on a long-term, verifiable, comprehensive deal.

November 2014

By Daryl G. Kimball

After extending talks on Iran’s nuclear program beyond the original July 20 target date, Iran and six world powers are closing in on a long-term, verifiable, comprehensive deal. Such an agreement would block Iran’s potential uranium and plutonium paths to nuclear weapons, removing a major threat to international security for many years to come.

Iran and the six-country group—known as the P5+1 because it comprises the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—have worked out solutions on several key issues, including some that appeared to be intractable just a year ago. They agree in principle that the design of Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor project can and should be modified to drastically cut its output of weapons-grade plutonium and that Iran shall not build a reprocessing facility to separate that material from spent reactor fuel.

Iran is amenable to implementing and ratifying measures that would strengthen International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection authority. With the option of short-notice inspections of undeclared sites under the terms of an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement and with regular inspections of Iranian centrifuge workshops, the international community would have the capabilities necessary to promptly detect and disrupt an effort to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, even through a potential clandestine program.

Both sides understand that the ongoing IAEA investigation of past Iranian activities with possible military dimensions will continue after a comprehensive nuclear agreement is reached. At the same time, it is clear that key sanctions, including UN Security Council measures tied to the issue, will not be removed until and unless the investigation is resolved.

The members of the P5+1 agree that the goal is not to extract an admission from Iranian officials that their country engaged in nuclear weapons-related work in the past, but to ensure that the IAEA has sufficient information to determine that no such efforts are taking place now or in the future.

On uranium enrichment, the two sides agree that Iran should limit its enrichment of uranium to normal reactor-grade levels: 5 percent or less of fissionable uranium-235. They agree that Iran’s underground Fordow enrichment plant need not be closed, as the P5+1 originally demanded, but shall be limited to a research-only role.

But as the negotiators have stressed, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” With less than a month before their current Nov. 24 deadline, the two sides still need to hammer out technical understandings and make important decisions on at least two major issues in order to get to “yes.”

Until recently, Iran has sought to maintain its current number of operating centrifuges—approximately 10,200—with the option to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity over time to provide fuel for potential new power reactors. The United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners want Iran to cut the current number of operating centrifuges for several years and to disable machines that are installed but not yet operating.
Given Iran’s past actions, suspicion over its nuclear intentions is justified, particularly when its uranium-enrichment capacity exceeds its needs on the ground. Iran should be willing to accept a reduction in its enrichment capacity for a period of several years. This capacity could be allowed to expand in the future if Iran’s needs for enriched uranium increase.

Reducing Iran’s current enrichment capacity by half, combined with a significant reduction in the size of the country’s enriched-uranium stocks or removal of those stocks to a third country, would increase the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade enriched-uranium gas for one nuclear weapon to nine to 12 months or more. That is more than enough time to detect and disrupt any effort to develop nuclear weapons.

In exchange for a significant reduction in Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity, the P5+1 will likely need to agree to allow limited research and development on more-advanced centrifuges. It is unrealistic to expect Iran to agree to a deal that limits it to using only first-generation centrifuges, which are inefficient and unreliable. The agreement can and should put in place verifiable restrictions that block Iran from manufacturing advanced centrifuges for production-scale enrichment for the duration of the comprehensive agreement.

Iran’s current practical needs for enrichment are limited, but to assure Tehran that its needs can be met for the duration of an agreement, the P5+1 may also offer nuclear fuel-supply guarantees, including the shipment of several years’ worth of fuel for Iran’s one operating light-water power reactor, at Bushehr.
To enhance Iran’s incentive to meet its nonproliferation obligations under the agreement, the two sides agree that the P5+1 will phase out and later lift nuclear-related sanctions as Iran meets its nonproliferation obligations and the IAEA investigation of Iran’s nuclear program is concluded.

Policymakers in Washington and Tehran need to recognize a good deal when they see one. An effective, verifiable, comprehensive P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran is within reach. Such a deal is critical to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and an escalation of tensions in the Middle East, and it is the only way Iran can obtain relief from further international isolation and sanctions.

The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas: ‘Cold Start’ and Battlefield Nuclear Weapons in South Asia

Pakistan does not need to pursue development of the Nasr, a battlefield nuclear missile conceived in response to India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine.

November 2014

By Jaganath Sankaran

In April 2011, Pakistan declared that it had tested a short-range battlefield nuclear missile, the Nasr.1 Since then, prominent purveyors of Pakistani nuclear doctrine, including Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai and former diplomat Maleeha Lodhi, have portrayed the Nasr missile as a counter to India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine.2

That doctrine supposedly aims at rapid but limited retaliatory incursions into Pakistan by the Indian army to seize and hold narrow slices of territory in response to a terrorism event in India involving Pakistanis. The rationale is that the seized territory would be returned in exchange for Pakistani extradition of extremists inflicting terrorism onto India. The doctrine is based on the assumption that Pakistan would not resort to the use of nuclear weapons in response to a limited Indian incursion, thereby offering space for conventional conflict even in a nuclearized environment.

Pointing to this Indian war doctrine, Pakistani decision-makers now argue that the deterrent value of their current arsenal operates only at the strategic level. According to this line of reasoning, the gap at the tactical level gives India the freedom to successfully engage in limited Cold Start-style military operations without fear of nuclear escalation. Development of the low-yield, tactical battlefield nuclear weapon, the Nasr missile, is seen as the solution providing “flexible deterrence options”3 for an appropriate response to Cold Start, rather than massive nuclear retaliation against India. Nasr proponents argue that by maintaining “a credible linkage between limited conventional war and nuclear escalation,” the missile will deter India from carrying out its plan.4

This approach might appear to be sensible, but it suffers from two important flaws. First, the Cold Start doctrine has not been actively implemented and therefore does not seem to represent a genuine threat to Pakistan. Second, battlefield nuclear weapons are a key part of the proposed solution, but it may be extremely difficult to establish a command and control system that would effectively preclude the possibility of an accidental or unauthorized launch.

Is Cold Start Real?

The genesis of the Cold Start doctrine goes back to a conference of Indian army commanders held in April 2004. The media claimed at the time that a new Indian war doctrine was presented at that conference. These sources added that although the full details of the doctrine remained classified and many issues were still being fine-tuned, a briefing by a senior officer had mentioned the concept of eight integrated battle groups being employed in place of the existing three large strike formations. Yet, there is no evidence of an unveiling at the conference of the Cold Start doctrine as it stands now with its various operational details. In fact, the Indian army doctrine document released in October 2004 following the conference makes no mention of the Cold Start doctrine.5

How did the purported Cold Start doctrine gain so much currency? One of the two prime sources to which all writings on the Cold Start doctrine refer is an op-ed piece by Firdaus Ahmed, a writer on security affairs.6 Writing in May 2004, without citing any evidence, he claims that the doctrine comprises two important elements. The integrated battle groups, being smaller than the current strike corps, could be deployed more quickly, and these groups would be able to undercut Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine of first use by striking at narrow pieces of territory along the Indian-Pakistani border that do not necessarily compel Pakistan to cross its nuclear threshold. Ahmed points out that there was no indication that the idea had originated in the Integrated Defence Staff—the joint body serving as India’s unified armed services headquarters—suggesting that the idea did not have the endorsement of the three services. The other prime source to which all later discussions of the Cold Start doctrine refer is an article by Subhash Kapila, a strategic affairs analyst.7 In his piece, Kapila suggests that, in the absence of more details, some aspects of the strategic conceptual underpinnings of India’s new war doctrine can be assumed. One key assumption that he makes is that three of the army’s existing strike corps may be reconstituted and reinforced into eight or so integrated battle groups to launch multiple strikes into Pakistan. Another assumption is that India’s strike corps elements will have to be moved well forward from existing garrisons usually situated deeper inside India. Here again, the author makes assumptions about what he believes to be the elements of an as-yet-undeclared doctrine.

In trying to outline what Cold Start could be, these two sources were at best providing opinion rather than facts. Yet, these pieces have endured and have ended up propagating an idea that apparently does not have support from the armed forces or the political class in India. Recently, the Indian government and military have been striving to deny that Cold Start is an approved doctrine.8 Timothy Roemer, U.S. ambassador to India from 2009 to 2011, noted in a leaked assessment that “several very high level officials [including the former Indian national security adviser M.K. Narayanan] have firmly stated, when asked directly about their support for Cold Start, that they have never endorsed, supported or advocated for this doctrine.”9 The Obama administration apparently raised the issue of Cold Start in November 2009 when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington. In a subsequent comment, Indian Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar said, “We don’t know what Cold Start is. Our prime minister has said that Pakistan has nothing to fear.”10 Similarly, General V.K. Singh, who retired in May 2012 as Indian’s chief of army staff, said in 2010, “There is nothing called ‘Cold Start.’ As part of our overall strategy we have a number of contingencies and options, depending on what the aggressor does. In the recent years, we have been improving our systems with respect to mobilization, but our basic military posture is defensive.” He has further said, “I think that ‘Cold Start’ is just a term bandied about by think tanks and media. It is neither a doctrine nor a military term in our glossary.”11

The origins of the Cold Start doctrine therefore are highly suspect. More importantly, there have not been any subsequent observable Indian efforts to operationalize the doctrine. In fact, elements of the Indian army and the Indian air force substantially disagree on how to do this and on whether the doctrine needs to be operationalized at all. The presumed Cold Start doctrine, by design, ties down Indian air force units to missions of close air support in a spatially limited theater of operations in which the army operates rather than allowing the air force to exploit the quantitative and qualitative advantages it possesses against its Pakistani counterpart and launch a wider campaign of strategic attrition and air supremacy.12

The doctrine also underplays strategic bombing, which is a preferred mission for the air force. The Indian air force has balked at this idea, suggesting that its role in the supposed Cold Start is an artificial and gross underutilization of air power. Making this point, Kapil Kak, a retired air vice-marshal who is deputy director of the air force’s Center for Air Power Studies, has said that “there is no question of the air force fitting into a doctrine propounded by the army. That is a concept dead at inception.”13 Furthermore, Kak has argued that there is little necessity for the air force to divert its frontline fighter aircraft to augment the army’s firepower. That task, he says, can be achieved by the army’s own attack helicopters and multiple rocket launchers that now have a 100-kilometer range. Yet, the army’s airborne assets are inferior to those of the air force. In particular, if the Pakistani air force brings its top assets into action in response to a Cold Start-style incursion, the Indian army’s airborne assets will not be able to provide cover for the invading army. Will Cold Start then be implementable?

In addition, Indian military forces have not undertaken any of the changes needed to execute an operation along the lines of Cold Start. The Indian army still maintains its three large offensive corps stationed in the middle of the country, whereas the Cold Start doctrine advocates breaking them into smaller integrated battle groups deployed at the Indian-Pakistani border.

Furthermore, the Indian army has not equipped its forces in a manner that would enable them to mount rapid and aggressive campaigns against Pakistan. For example, main battle tanks—a good indicator of progress—increased in number only slightly between 2003 and 2014 from an estimated 3,898 to approximately 4,000 tanks in working condition. Similarly, in 2003, the army had 320 armored personnel carriers. In 2014, there are approximately 336 active armored personnel carriers. The number of armored infantry fighting vehicles was estimated at 1,600 in 2003 and 1,445 in 2014.14 Although equipment numbers do not always represent military intent, the constancy in equipment inventory again points to a lack of concerted effort to actualize Cold Start.

This lack of effort to re-engineer the Indian military along the lines envisioned in the Cold Start doctrine reflects to some measure the limits of coercive military power. For example, after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, Prime Minister Singh had apparently decided against military action. It is believed that Singh had worried that if India were to launch selective strikes, they would likely only deepen Pakistan’s internal turmoil and probably escalate into a war that could include nuclear deployments, which may be precisely what the terrorists hope to provoke. That is a significant problem to which the Cold Start doctrine has no remedy.

Additionally, India possibly recognizes, given the recent spate of terrorist attacks within Pakistan, that Pakistan is now able to exert much less control over the jihadi elements operating inside its territory. Speaking on the limits of military action after the Mumbai attack, Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador in Washington, said that “there is no military option here. India had to ‘isolate the terrorist elements’ in Pakistan not rally the nation around them.”15

The absence of official approval, the divergent interests of the various branches of the armed services, and the lack of observable military progress toward implementation of the Cold Start doctrine in India should give Pakistani leaders pause with regard to further developing and deploying the Nasr missile. These issues, however, are only part of the reason that battlefield nuclear weapons are a poor choice for Pakistan. The difficulties in managing battlefield nuclear weapons are an equally important aspect.

Pakistani Command and Control

The possession of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons poses one major challenge to Pakistan: effective command and control. The Nasr, which has a short range of about 60 kilometers, is a quick-dispersal system that can be forward deployed near the Indian-Pakistani border, thereby providing ready access to the field commander when he needs it. Although a forward-deployed system could give field commanders quick access and obviate the risk of a communication failure with the political leadership in the midst of combat, ensuring such operational readiness might also require the devolution of command and control to the local field commander and possibly even a prior authorization to use nuclear weapons. That poses the risk of unauthorized or unnecessary use.

A field commander has no way to forecast the outcome of a battle; there is a constant risk of being overrun. He has no way to be absolutely sure that all conventional options have been exhausted and that he is using nuclear weapons only as a last resort. Lacking the overall picture, a regiment or a battalion commander could always be tempted to utilize all his available weapons. While at Harvard University, Henry Kissinger argued that when a commander is hard pressed and facing the prospect of eventual defeat, he would need “superhuman discipline to refrain from using a weapon that he believes may tilt the outcome of the battle in his favor.”16

President Barack Obama (left) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh participate in an arrival ceremony at the White House on November 24, 2009. During Singh’s visit, the U.S. side reportedly raised the issue of India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Even when a local commander has correctly evaluated that he is about to lose, his defeat would not necessarily imply that Pakistan would lose the war. Winning all the battles is not a requirement for winning the war. For example, in the last major Indian-Pakistan war, in 1965, Pakistan suffered a major defeat in Kasur near Lahore. Yet, the next day it won an important battle in Sialkot, thereby bringing the war to a standstill. If the same situation were to unfold in the future, would a Pakistani commander decide to use battlefield nuclear weapons? If so, would India escalate with nuclear retaliation? How would that affect the outcome of the war? Pakistani military decision-makers should explore these questions and determine how they affect the command and control arrangements of the Nasr.

Pakistan’s political and military leaders also should worry about the validity and integrity of any distress signal they would receive in an emerging military crisis or during a war. To illustrate, two days after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack began, someone pretending to be India’s foreign minister telephoned Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and threatened war unless Pakistan acted immediately against the perpetrators of the attack. Zardari immediately contacted the country’s military leadership, and the country’s army and air force went to their highest alert status.

In subsequent comments to the Dawn newspaper, a senior Pakistani official defended the high-alert status during the incident, saying that “war may not have been imminent, but it was not possible to take any chances.” Zardari also initiated a diplomatic campaign with the United States to put pressure on India to withdraw the apparent threat. Pakistani leaders warned the United States that if the Pakistani government felt threatened, it would move troops engaged in anti-terrorism operations in the Afghanistan border region to its eastern border with India. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to intervene. Rice called Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the middle of the night to ask him about the call and inquire about the threatening message. Mukherjee reassured Rice that he had not spoken to Zardari.17

A year later, a report in Dawn revealed that an investigation in Pakistan concluded that the call to Zardari was made by Omar Saeed Sheikh, the terrorist held for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl at the Hyderabad prison in Pakistan. Sheikh also seems to have reached General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of army staff.

Apparently, Sheikh was using a cellphone with a SIM registered in the United Kingdom.18 It is still unknown if powerful elements within Pakistan were involved in planning the hoax call. How did the call get through without due diplomatic checks?19 Was it just an oversight, or was there internal involvement? Suggestions were made in India that Zardari was “suckered” into taking the call, hinting at the involvement of “elements” in Pakistan that wanted the situation to escalate.20 Tempting as it may be to characterize this incident as an isolated occurrence, it is not. A number of similar incidents have occurred.21 Given these miscommunications, how can a Pakistani decision-maker be sure that a request to approve use of battlefield nuclear weapons is valid and necessary? Pakistan’s discordant military-civilian relationship also poses challenges to the sensible and safe command and control of forward-deployed battlefield nuclear weapons.22

An Alternative for Pakistan
Two factors should compel Pakistan to reassess its plans for further development and deployment of the Nasr. First, the validity and viability of Cold Start—the primary reason for Pakistan’s development of the Nasr—has been highly overrated. There is no evidence to suggest that it is an official doctrine drawing broad political support or generating interservice enthusiasm. Second, operating a battlefield nuclear weapon such as the Nasr in the absence of a real and current Cold Start threat imposes unnecessary additional stresses on the management of Pakistan’s nuclear command and control.

Click image to enlarge.If Pakistan nevertheless intends to possess a limited battlefield nuclear weapons capability, its current nuclear arsenal can perform that function. There is no particular need to develop new missiles or warheads. Pakistan’s current missile inventory and nuclear arsenal in combination can perform all the intended functions of a battlefield nuclear weapon. Its current long-range missiles can be launched on a lofted trajectory23 to reach locations near the Indian-Pakistani border where the Nasr is meant to be employed. For example, the Abdali missile, which has an optimal range of 180 kilometers, can travel 60 kilometers, the range of the Nasr missile, when launched at a lofted angle of approximately 80 degrees (fig. 1). Similarly, the Ghaznavi missile, which has an optimal range of 290 kilometers, can be launched at a lofted angle of 84 degrees to travel the same distance as the Nasr.24 Another option would be to launch the Babar cruise missile and shut off its booster earlier in the flight to achieve a 60-kilometer range.

Similarly, Pakistan’s current nuclear warheads could be used to produce explosive effects that are similar to those of low-yield nuclear weapons. A typical five-kiloton low-yield weapon, for example, produces an air blast with an overpressure of 20 pounds per square inch (psi)25 felt to a distance of approximately 480 meters when detonated at an altitude of 310 meters. Weapons with higher yields can be made to produce the same overpressure effect by increasing the altitude at which they are detonated.

For example, a 15-kiloton nuclear device can be made to produce the same 20 psi overpressure felt to a distance of approximately 480 meters by exploding it at an altitude of 523 meters. Usually, the maximum distance on the ground to which 20 psi overpressure is felt for a 15-kiloton nuclear device is 690 meters when exploded at an altitude of 450 meters. Therefore, by increasing the explosion altitude, a 15-kiloton weapon is made to function like a five-kiloton weapon. Similarly, a 30-kiloton or even a 50-kiloton weapon could be detonated at a particular altitude—725 meters and 1,200 meters, respectively—to replicate the air blast radius of a five-kiloton device.

Conclusion
The options described above show that Pakistan’s current arsenal already intrinsically possesses the capability to perform the functions of battlefield nuclear weapons. If Pakistani military and government officials decide that the country should have such a capability to offset a sudden invasion by India, they therefore have no need to pursue the development of the Nasr missile.

The larger point of the above analysis, however, is that there is no evidence of a requirement for such a capability. The main impetus for the development of the Nasr was India’s Cold Start doctrine, but it does not appear that this doctrine was fully formed. Perhaps more importantly, India has not taken the key steps for its force posture that would be necessary to implement the doctrine. Pakistan therefore should desist from further pursuit of the Nasr program. Such an action would not only save Pakistan money, but also would help avoid spurring a new nuclear arms race in tactical nuclear weapons in South Asia.


Jaganath Sankaran is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the National Security Education Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He previously was a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. All research and writing for this article was done during the author’s fellowship at the Belfer Center. The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s own and do not represent those of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Energy, or any other U.S. government agency.


Endnotes

1. Inter Services Public Relations, No. PR94/2011-ISPR, April 19, 2011 (press release). Since then, the Nasr missile has been tested three times.

2. Ibid.; Maleeha Lodhi, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Compulsions,” The News, November 6, 2012; Adil Sultan, “Pakistan’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Impact of Drivers and Technology on Nuclear Doctrine,” Institute for Strategic Studies Islamabad, http://www.issi.org.pk/publication-files/1340000409_86108059.pdf; Zahir Kazmi, “Nothing Tactical About Nuclear Weapons,” The Express Tribune, May 17, 2014.

3. “Flexible deterrence options” is a reference to a NATO term. For more on the comparison between the stances of NATO and Pakistan on battlefield nuclear weapons, see Jaganath Sankaran, “Pakistan’s Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and the Limits of the NATO Analogy,” International Relations and Security Network, August 15, 2014, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?lng=en&id=182664.

4. Feroz H. Khan and Nick M. Masellis, “U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Partnership: A Track II Dialogue,” PASCC Report, No. 2012 002, January 2012, p. 26.

5. “Indian Army Doctrine,” Headquarters Army Training Command, Shimla, India, October 2004, ids.nic.in/Indian%20Army%20Doctrine/indianarmydoctrine_1.doc.

6. Firdaus Ahmed, “The Calculus of ‘Cold Start,’” India Together, May 1, 2004, http://indiatogether.org/coldstart-op-ed.

7. Subhash Kapila, “India’s New ‘Cold Start’ War Doctrine Strategically Reviewed,” South Asia Analysis Group Paper, No. 991 (May 4, 2004).

8. The one exception that this author could find is a statement by General Deepak Kapoor, the Indian army chief of staff who served from September 2007 to August 2009. During an army war exercise, he is reported to have said, “A major leap in our approach to conduct of operations has been the successful firming-up of the Cold Start strategy.” For details, see Rajat Pandit, “Army Reworks War Doctrine for Pakistan, China,” The Times of India, December 30, 2009.

9. “Cold Start—A Mixture of Myth and Reality,” February 16, 2010, http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10NEWDELHI295_a.html.

10. Lydia Polgreen and Mark Landler, “Obama Is Not Likely to Push India Hard on Pakistan,” The New York Times, November 5, 2010.

11. “India Has No ‘Cold Start’ Doctrine: Army Chief,” NDTV, December 2, 2010, http://www.ndtv.com/article/wikileaks-revelations/india-has-no-cold-start-doctrine-army-chief-70159.

12. Y.I. Patel, “Dig Vijay to Divya Astra: A Paradigm Shift in the Indian Army’s Doctrine,” Bharat Rakshak, n.d., http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/History/Millenium/324-A-Paradigm-Shift.html.

13. Pinaki Bhattacharya, “Army and IAF Face Off Over New War Plan,” India Today, December 14, 2009.

14. All data were obtained from the Military Balance database published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

15. Sheikh Mushtaq, “India-Pakistan ‘Secret Pact’ – Was Kashmir Accord Just a Signature Away?” Reuters, April 28, 2010.

16. Henry A. Kissinger, “Limited War: Conventional or Nuclear? A Reappraisal,” Daedalus, Vol. 89, No. 4 (Fall 1960): 812.

17. Nirupama Subramaniam, “Hoax Call Fuels Anxiety About Nuclear War,” The Hindu, December 7, 2008.

18. “Jailed Militant’s Hoax Calls Drove India, Pakistan to Brink of War,” Dawn, November 26, 2009.

19. According to a Dawn report, the staff of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had bypassed standard diplomatic verification protocols in allowing the call because of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai attack. For details, see “A Hoax Call That Could Have Triggered War,” Dawn, December 6, 2008. Immediately after the incident, however, the Pakistani government claimed that Zardari had received the call only after it had been appropriately vetted. Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said in a statement that “it is not possible for any call to come through to the President without multiple caller identity verifications. In fact the identity of this particular call, as evident from the CLI (caller’s line identification) device, showed that the call was placed from a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.” See Simon Cameron-Moore, “Hoax Call to Zardari ‘Put Pakistan on War Alert,’” December 6, 2008.

20. Interestingly enough, a mistake had also occurred on the Indian side. When U.S. diplomats initiated calls with their counterparts in India, before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spoken directly with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, they were alarmed when Indian Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar mistakenly confirmed that Mukherjee had indeed made that call. Later, however, M.K. Narayan, India’s national security adviser, insisted that no such call had been placed. In a later cable, U.S. Ambassador to India Donald Mulford said he “suspects that [Kumar] incorrectly inferred that a Mukherjee-Zardari call took place from the fact that Mukherjee’s office had, as a precaution, prepared points for him to use if Zardari were to phone [Indian] Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh when he was unavailable, leaving Mukherjee to receive the call.” This incident shows how, in a tense situation, one mistake could provoke another. For details, see Dean Nelson, “WikiLeaks: Hoax Phone Call Brought India and Pakistan to Brink of War,” The Telegraph, March 23, 2011.

21. For a sampling of such incidents, see Zafar Iqbal Cheema, “How to Respond?” The News, May 21, 1998, p. 6; Bruce Riedel, “American Diplomacy and the 1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House,” Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, 2002; Steve Coll, “The Back Channel: India and Pakistan’s Secret Talks,” The New Yorker, March 2, 2009; Raj Chengappa and Saurabh Shukla, “Reining in the Rogue,” India Today, December 4, 2008; “COAS Was Unaware of Hoax Call From Mukherjee,” Dawn, May 19, 2011; Owen Bennett Jones, Pakistan: Eye of the Storm (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 209-210; Timothy D. Hoyt, “Pakistani Nuclear Doctrine and the Dangers of Strategic Myopia,” Asian Survey, Vol. 41, No. 6 (November-December 2001): 961; Carlotta Gall, “What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden,” The New York Times, March 23, 2014.

22. In the case of the 1999 Indian-Pakistani Kargil war, for example, there is ample evidence to suggest that the Pakistani military leadership acted without political approval. Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister during the Kargil war, claimed that he had no advance knowledge of what the army was planning to do in Kargil. He argued that the “ill-planned and ill-conceived operation was kept so secret that the Prime Minister, some corps commanders and the Chief of Navy and the Air Force were kept in the dark.” In 2010 the chief of Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during the Kargil war, retired General Ziauddin Butt, accused General Pervez Musharraf, the chief of army staff, of bluffing Sharif into starting the Kargil war. Similarly, as recently as 2013, Lieutenant General Shahid Aziz, who served as director-general of the analysis wing of ISI during the Kargil war, said that the entire operation was a four-man show, with details known initially only to Musharraf, Chief of General Staff Muhammed Aziz, Force Command Northern Areas commander Lieutenant General Javed Hassan, and 10-Corps commander Mahmud Ahmad. For details, see Jones, Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, p. 101; Sartaj Aziz, Between Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 249-276; “Musharraf Responsible for Kargil Conflict: Ex-ISI Chief,” The Siasat Daily, October 31, 2010; Khaleeq Kiani, “Kargil Adventure Was Four-Man Show: General,” Dawn, January 28, 2013.

23. For a given missile, the maximum ground range is achieved when it is launched at a 45-degree angle. When the launch occurs at a higher, or “lofted,” angle, the missile flies higher into the atmosphere and therefore has a reduced ground range, compared to a 45-degree launch angle.

24. Launching missiles at lofted angles forces them to travel to higher altitudes and re-enter the atmosphere at a steeper angle and a faster rate. This, in turn, might impose additional stresses on the missile warhead. In the case of a lofted Ghaznavi missile, which reaches an altitude of approximately 150 kilometers, handling any additional stresses should be within the technological capability of Pakistan’s missile designers. Pakistan’s Ghauri and Shaheen missiles, when launched on their optimal trajectories, already reach altitudes greater than 150 kilometers.

25. Overpressure, measured in pounds per square inch (psi), is one of the standard metrics used to define the destructive potential of nuclear weapons. At 20 psi, most heavily built concrete buildings are severely damaged or demolished. That overpressure also can cause significant damage to military vehicles.

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