Login/Logout

*
*  

"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
Julia Masterson

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack


U.S. officials have confirmed the United States believes that Syria once again has used chlorine-based weapons, this time in a May 2019 strike in Syria’s Latakia Province. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. intelligence assessment indicates that the May 19 attack was conducted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and killed at least four people.

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a makeshift hospital following a reported gas attack in Douma on the outskirts of the capital Damascus in 2018.  (Photo: Hasan Mohamed/AFP/Getty Images)The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which Syria acceded in 2013, prohibits the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. A joint investigative mechanism led by the treaty’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations has verified the sporadic but regular use of chemical weapons and of other toxic chemicals, including chlorine, in Syria since 2014.

Although the OPCW defines chemical weapons as “any chemical intended for chemical weapons purposes” and includes chlorine on a list of chemical choking agents, chlorine gas is a dual-use chemical and not a scheduled agent explicitly banned by the CWC. Consequently, the Syrian government’s supplies of chlorine were not part of the OPCW-led removal and destruction of Syria’s sarin and mustard arsenal and precursor chemicals, executed shortly after Syria’s accession to the CWC. (See ACT, December 2014.)—JULIA MASTERSON

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack

North Korea Rejects U.S. Proposal

North Korea Rejects U.S. Proposal U.S. and North Korean negotiators met for the first time in seven months Oct. 4-5 to continue talks on denuclearization and peacebuilding on the Korean peninsula, but the prospects for further negotiations remain unclear as Pyongyang continues to reiterate that the Trump administration must change its position for the process to continue. The State Department characterized the talks in Stockholm as “good” and said the U.S. negotiating team brought new proposals to the table to address all of the goals laid out in the June 2018 Singapore summit declaration ...

Iran Announces Third Nuclear Breach


October 2019
By Julia Masterson

Iran will no longer adhere to limits on its nuclear research and development activities, as it once agreed in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Sept. 4. Just three days later, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said that technicians had begun introducing uranium hexafluoride to cascades of 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges, exceeding the number of machines permitted in a cascade by the R&D terms of the nuclear agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron, shown in September, proposed establishing a $15 billion line of credit to incentivize Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. (Photo: Philippe Wojazer/AFP/Getty Images)If confirmed, the move would constitute Iran’s third breach of the six-party nuclear deal in retaliation to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement in May 2018 and Washington’s reimposition of U.S. sanctions that had been lifted. Iran’s latest step away from the nuclear accord follows its May and July 2019 decisions to enrich and accumulate uranium beyond the thresholds designated by the JCPOA. According to the agreement, Iran can store no more than 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 3.67 percent uranium-235, and it may not enrich uranium to levels higher than that for 15 years after the implementation day.

The nuclear accord limits Iran to operating 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges and permits R&D work on a very limited number of IR-4, -5, -6, and -8 centrifuges, as long as the work does not result in an accumulation of enriched uranium.

Tehran’s September decision to breach the agreement’s centrifuge R&D limits poses risks that Iran could increase the output of its centrifuges, should it begin to operate and withdraw enriched uranium from the more advanced designs.

The latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report confirmed that Iran has installed or is in the process of installing 22 IR-4 centrifuges, one IR-5 centrifuge, and 33 IR-6 modeled centrifuges. Although prepared for testing, the IAEA indicated that as of Sept. 8, no uranium hexafluoride had been introduced into these centrifuges.

Until now, Iran had been complying with the R&D restrictions. A May 2019 IAEA report said that “no enriched uranium has been accumulated through enrichment R&D activities, and Iran’s enrichment R&D with and without uranium has been conducted using centrifuges specified in the JCPOA.” Should Iran begin to enrich and accumulate uranium using advanced centrifuge models or test the centrifuges installed at the Natanz pilot fuel-enrichment plant, then Iran’s actions would signify a further breach of the nuclear accord.

The September IAEA report also verified that Iran has taken steps toward configuring cascades, or chains of centrifuges used to optimize enriched uranium output, at the Natanz plant. The report cited a Sept. 8 letter from Tehran to the agency expressing a plan to install two cascades: one of 164 IR-4 centrifuges and one of 164 IR-2m centrifuges. Both cascades were under development prior to the JCPOA’s implementation, but Iran was obligated to remove them from the Natanz plant under the terms of the 2015 agreement.

Iran’s latest potential breach of the JCPOA comes one month after its Aug. 5 plea to European leaders to do more to compensate the Iranian government for assets lost through the imposition of U.S. sanctions. (See ACT, September 2019.) In May the Trump administration announced it would not renew the sanctions waivers previously granted to countries importing Iranian oil in a strengthened effort to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear and missile provocations and to disengage from regional conflicts.

At the Group of Seven summit in France in August, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal to extend Iran a $15 billion line of credit guaranteed by future Iranian oil sales in return for Iran’s return to compliance with the JCPOA and commitment to negotiations on regional security and the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

On Sept. 3, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said that talks on the credit arrangement were underway but U.S. approval would be crucial. “All this (pre)supposes that President [Donald] Trump issues waivers,” he told reporters.

Earlier this year, the Europeans established INSTEX, a state-owned trade intermediary to facilitate trade in nonsanctioned goods with Iran. When the U.S. oil sanctions waivers were eliminated in May 2019, oil imports were halted. Only China and Syria continue to buy Iranian oil, albeit at a lessened rate, in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

Without the reissuance of U.S. sanctions waivers, France and other countries are unlikely to move forward due to the cost of the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions on the institutions and businesses involved in the French plan.

Iran has begun to test advanced centrifuges as it furthers its noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. 

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile


The BrahMos cruise missile, produced by an Indian-Russian venture, is displayed in St. Petersburg in 2017.  (Photo: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)India has increased the range of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to 500 kilometers after successful summer testing, an industry official told The Economic Times. The technological development followed earlier reports that New Delhi may soon begin exporting the missile to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The conventionally armed BrahMos missile is reported to be world’s fastest cruise missile, capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound. It is manufactured in India by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint Indian-Russian enterprise.

The new capability was made possible by India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), said Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the firm’s chief executive officer. Before joining in 2016, India was prevented from receiving technology from MTCR members, such as Russia, for missiles capable of flying more than 300 kilometers or carrying payloads heavier than 500 kilograms.

MTCR limitations will need to be considered as India decides which versions of the BrahMos to export.

Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have expressed interest in the BrahMos, according to Sputnik News, and other customers friendly to India and Russia may also be interested.—JULIA MASTERSON

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile

India Considers No-First-Use Changes

 

India may be considering repudiating its long-standing no-first-use nuclear doctrine, according to an Aug. 16 tweet by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. “India has strictly adhered to this doctrine,” Singh wrote, but “what happens in the future depends on the circumstances.”

Like China, India currently vows to use nuclear weapons only in retaliation for a first-strike attack. If there is a change, it would not be the first time that India has modified its nuclear posture. India adopted a no-first-use policy in 1998 but stipulated that the promise extended only to states that did not have nuclear weapons and were not aligned with a nuclear-armed state (See ACT, July/August 1999). In 2003, India formally published its nuclear command structure and reaffirmed its no-first-use policy, but added that a chemical or biological attack could warrant a retaliatory nuclear response, further conditioning the scope of its 1998 pledge. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised in 2014 to amend India’s nuclear doctrine, and specifically to revisit the no-first-use issue. (See ACT, May 2015.) The same promise was notably absent from the BJP 2019 manifesto, but the recent comments come from the highest-ranking official to have hinted at additional adjustments to New Delhi’s nuclear use policy.—JULIA MASTERSON

India Considers No-First-Use Changes

Pakistan Maintains Missile Tests


Pakistan tested a 290-kilometer-range ballistic missile in late August, soon after a set of clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces in the disputed Kashmir region. The Ghaznavi missile, based on a Chinese design, is reportedly capable of delivering multiple types of warheads, according to an Aug. 29 release from Pakistan’s military, which said it notified Indian counterparts of the test according to the terms of confidence-building measures agreed in the 1999 Lahore Declaration. (See ACT, January/February 1999.

Pakistan deploys seven nuclear-capable missiles, all of which are also capable of carrying conventional payloads, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. Prior to the Ghaznavi test, Pakistan had most recently tested a ballistic missile in May, as India counted its national election ballots, CNN reported.

The Pakistani release said the missile test was part of a field training exercise “aimed at practicing quick response procedures.”—JULIA MASTERSON

Pakistan Maintains Missile Tests

French Proposal on Hold as Tensions Mount | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

French Proposal on Hold as Tensions Mount The latest attempt by European powers to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal hit a roadblock this month when the Trump Administration hesitated to engage in a French-sponsored initiative. In August, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal before world leaders at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France for a $15 billion line of credit to Tehran in exchange for its full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to the plan, the $15 billion credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil and would help compensate...

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Julia Masterson