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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Issue Briefs

The "Cold Peace:" Arms Control After Crimea

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As President Vladimir Putin exploits the results of Crimea's illegitimate referendum and as Russian troops gather on Ukraine's eastern border, alarms have been raised in the West that U.S.-Russian relations are on the verge of plummeting to Cold War levels.

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Volume 5, Issue 5, March 20, 2014

As President Vladimir Putin exploits the results of Crimea's illegitimate referendum and as Russian troops gather on Ukraine's eastern border, alarms have been raised in the West that U.S.-Russian relations are on the verge of plummeting to Cold War levels.

American politicians and pundits have presented an array of policy response options, including intensified NATO military activities in Russia's "near abroad" and retreat from cooperative endeavors in U.S.-Russian arms control. At such times, there is a critical need for prudence, rationality, and historical perspective, and for avoiding actions that are counterproductive to the interests of the United States and our European allies.

Russia's actions certainly require a strong response, including international condemnation and measured sanctions against key Russian figures. The fragile new government in Kiev also needs assistance to put the country's economy on a more stable footing and to help counter any Russian efforts to intimidate Ukraine or seize additional territory.

However, U.S. policymakers should recognize that despite the severe differences with President Putin over Ukraine, it is clearly in the national interests of the United States to

  • scrupulously implement existing arms control treaty verification measures, which provide vital information and help to ensure compliance with treaty limits regarding Russian and U.S. military capabilities;
  • reduce expenditures on nuclear weapons that have no marginal utility and continue to seek further reductions in the still oversized nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States;
  • refrain from using strategic weapons to make political gestures;
  • redouble efforts to maintain dialogue between U.S. and Russian nongovernmental experts and organizations.

A Cold Peace, Not a New Cold War
It is also important to avoid facile comparisons with the four-decade-long, post-World War II confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. As Cold War veteran Jack Matlock, the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow during the Gorbachev era, recently observed, "The tensions between Russia and the West are [now] based more on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and posturing for domestic audiences than on any real clash of ideologies or national interests."

By the end of the second term of President George W. Bush, Russia's relationship with the United States and Western Europe was already troubled; Russia's war with Georgia in 2008 had cast a particular chill over a range of diplomatic undertakings. Although the Obama administration's "reset" in 2009 facilitated negotiation and ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a new "Cold Peace" had settled over bilateral relations.

Today, Russia's behavior often appears to be driven by President Putin's interest in maintaining a strong grip on power inside Russia and to prevent more of the states of the former Soviet Union from integrating into the European economic and political sphere.

In contrast, the Cold War was a global struggle involving the near constant threat of a direct military confrontation and frequent proxy wars. Throughout much of the Cold War, more than 250,000 Soviet troops were positioned along the border of West Germany to seize isolated West Berlin and drive toward the English Channel. That border divided not only a nation, but two powerful military alliances, each possessing vast nuclear arsenals maintained on high alert and targeted against each other. At the time, many American politicians depicted a growing Soviet superiority--not only in conventional forces in Europe, but in continent-spanning strategic missiles and ballistic missile defense systems, which allegedly enabled Moscow to pose the threat of a disarming, first-strike attack on the United States.

The Cold War also demonstrated dramatically the extent of nuclear dangers in the ideologically driven confrontation between Moscow and Washington. Indeed, the world came far closer to a nuclear exchange in 1962 (during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and in 1983 (following the Soviet shootdown of the Korea Airlines passenger plane and during NATO's "Able Archer" military exercises) than was publicly known at the time.

The striking dissimilarity between the present and that earlier era is captured by comparing the Cold War Soviet Threat Assessments of the U.S. intelligence community with its 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment, whose 27-page public summary did not even mention Russia's nuclear arsenal.

At the same time, there are two elements of conspicuous continuity between the past and present.

First, Washington and Moscow still possess huge nuclear arsenals, far larger than those of all other nuclear weapons states combined. These arsenals contain thousands of warheads--each one of which dwarfs the destructive power of those that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki--far more than are needed for any rational requirement of nuclear deterrence and beyond any possible utility for political leverage in the current crisis over Ukraine.

Second, as was the case during the Cold War, reducing nuclear dangers rightly trumps other issues. During the lowest points of the U.S.-Soviet relationship, arms control agreements helped prevent a complete collapse of bilateral communication. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty survived the Vietnam War and crises in the Middle East; the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty survived the 1981 declaration of martial law in Poland and the 1979 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.

The conflicting interests of the United States and Russia in Ukraine or Syria today do not erase their joint interests in reducing the risks of nuclear weapons accidents or unauthorized nuclear weapons use, curbing the spread of nuclear weapons, securing vulnerable nuclear weapons usable material to avoid terrorist acquisition, and reducing their own costly nuclear arsenals, which still vastly exceed common-sense deterrence requirements. These and other common concerns make it imperative that Washington and Moscow continue pursuing efforts to achieve reductions in and limitations on nuclear weapons - independent of the health of the bilateral relationship at a particular point in time.  

Russia's provocative actions in Crimea and the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations certainly make the pursuit of a cooperative agenda even more challenging and there is more than a theoretical danger of backsliding. Yet, even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union shared a common interest in reducing nuclear risks and found ways to overcome ideological differences to pursue joint initiatives and agreements designed to reduce those risks and strengthen strategic stability.

The rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine makes it difficult to offer a detailed formula for preserving and promoting advantageous U.S.-Russian arms control and nuclear security outcomes, but some general principles can be outlined:

Continue to scrupulously implement existing treaty verification measures. No matter what their differences on the Ukraine crisis, it is not in the interest of either the United States or Russia to suspend inspections required by New START or to otherwise walk away from a treaty, which establishes clear, verifiable limits on each side's strategic nuclear arsenal--a measure of stability in an otherwise strained bilateral relationship. Weakening the implementation of verification measures would simply reduce the confidence levels of national threat assessments, leading to higher "worst case" projections and increased strategic spending.

Furthermore, according to Part Five, Section IX of the Protocol of the New START Treaty, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections are "circumstances brought about by force majeure," which do not apply to political differences over events in Ukraine.

Continue to reduce expenditures on nuclear weapons that have no marginal utility. Even at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions, Washington can and should reduce spending for those nuclear weapons that have no utility as instruments of power in dealing with political crises like Ukraine. The new Quadrennial Defense Review says that the United States can cut strategic warheads by one-third below New START and still provide more than sufficient nuclear firepower to deter nuclear attack. Now is the time to avoid squandering tens of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons projects that the United States does not need and cannot afford.

Refrain from using strategic weapons to make aggressive political gestures. U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are not militarily useful for the defense of NATO allies. Some have recently suggested that such weapons should be deployed further east into the newer NATO members bordering on Russia. However, such action would be politically divisive inside the NATO Alliance and would likely provoke dangerous responses by Moscow.

Some have suggested accelerating the ongoing deployment of U.S. missile defenses to Europe under the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), reviving the "third-site" deployment of strategic missile interceptors to Poland, or deploying missile defense cruisers to the Baltic and Black Seas. Such moves would be extremely counterproductive, since they would seem to validate Russian suspicions that U.S. missile defenses in Europe have either been oriented against them all along, or at least would provide the infrastructure for rapidly adding a capability to threaten Russia's strategic deterrent.

Moreover, as the U.S. Government has continually insisted, none of the specific U.S. missile defense systems considered for deployment in Europe would be capable of defending Europe (or the United States) from Russian strategic forces.  NATO should therefore maintain its steady course in implementing the first three phases of the EPAA, which do not include defenses against ICBMs, in response to evolving missile threats from the Middle East. Moreover, NATO should articulate more clearly its readiness to adapt downward its EPAA deployments if no Iranian IRBM/ICBM threat materializes.

Redouble efforts to maintain "Track 2" dialogue between American and Russian interlocutors. At a time of strained relations between the U.S. and Russian governments, it is even more important to use unofficial channels of communication to better understand the differing national perspectives and to search for policy options that would constitute acceptable compromises by both sides. One such ongoing effort is the German/Russian/U.S. Commission on "Challenges to Deep Cuts in Nuclear Arms," www.deepcuts.org, which is scheduled to release an interim report in late April.

Above all, the United States and Russia need to maintain a realistic perspective about the limits of hostility imposed by the existence of each other's nuclear weapons and an active appreciation of the mutual benefits they are now enjoying from cooperative endeavors - such as the generation of electricity in the United States from Russian-supplied fissile material and the security provided by a northern route of supply (through Russia) for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When the current tensions subside, there will be other cooperative opportunities to exploit in the bilateral relationship and none will be more important for the world than finding the elusive path to mutual reductions in Cold War-sized U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.--GREG THIELMANN

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

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Posted: March 20, 2014

Final Phase P5+1/Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Realistic Options on the Key Issues

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Last week, negotiators from the United States, its "P5+1" partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework and timetable to guide the talks on a "comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

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Volume 5, Issue 4, February 26, 2014

Last week, negotiators from the United States, its "P5+1" partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework and timetable to guide the talks on a "comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

The road ahead will be difficult. Many differences must be bridged, and hardliners in Washington, Tehran, and Israel will throw up obstacles along the way. However, an effective, multi-year deal can be achieved if the parties are ready to compromise and pursue realistic solutions that meet the core requirements of both sides.

A successful agreement will verifiably roll-back Iran's overall enrichment capacity, block the plutonium path to the bomb, put in place even tougher international inspections, and resolve outstanding questions about the purpose of Iran's program. It must also lead to the removal nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council, United States, and the European Union.

To reach this agreement, negotiators must resolve several tough issues in the coming months. Expert-level talks will take place in Vienna in early March and the political directors will meet again for the next round of negotiations on March 17.

Uranium Enrichment Capacity: The extent to which Iran is willing to reduce the capacity and the scope of its uranium enrichment program is key. The agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 states that the program should be "consistent with practical needs."

In other words, Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile of material should not exceed the fuel supply needs of its nuclear power and research reactor programs, which for now are close to zero but could grow in the coming years.

Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with preliminary information on the selection of sites for up to 16 new nuclear power reactors and a light water research reactor. These reactors would, if built, require a reliable supply of enriched uranium fuel from abroad or through indigenous production. However, these reactors are many years away from reality.

The United States and its P5+1 partners will point out that Iran currently has very limited or nonexistent needs for enriched uranium fuel for energy production. Today, Iran has one research reactor (the Tehran Research Reactor) that produces medical isotopes and Iran has enough material to fuel that reactor for years to come; Iran also has a light-water power reactor (Bushehr), which uses fuel supplied by Russia under a ten year arrangement that could be renewed.

In the near term, the P5+1 powers will and should push for a significant reduction in Iran's overall enrichment capacity from 10,000 operating, first generation (IR-1) centrifuges at two sites to approximately half that number or less. Even with 4,000 or fewer first generation centrifuges at one site, Iran would have more than sufficient capacity for its foreseeable "practical" nuclear power reactor fuel needs.

By rolling back Iran's enrichment capacity to such levels, limiting enrichment to reactor grade levels (up to five percent) and placing caps on Iran's enriched uranium stockpile, the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb would be extended to six months or more. Such an effort could be readily detected within days with the increased monitoring and verification measures that are likely to be imposed as part of the comprehensive deal.

If Iran tried to "break out," it would take still longer for Iran to amass enough bomb-grade material for additional weapons, assemble a nuclear device, possibly conduct a nuclear explosive test of the warhead design, and develop a reliable means of delivering the weapons. This would give the international community ample warning and time to respond to Iran's actions.

Iran is also developing new and more efficient centrifuges and will likely resist any P5+1 effort to limit its ability to develop and deploy such centrifuges. Once operational, these more advanced centrifuges, such as IR2-Ms, could enrich uranium much more efficiently.

Consequently, the two sides will likely set limits on the overall capacity of Iran's enrichment program (as measured in "separative work units (SWU)") rather than the total number of centrifuges. This would allow Iran to continue its research and development activities under strict IAEA monitoring, which it views as a necessary part of the comprehensive deal.

Some P5+1 states would also like to see Iran mothball the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which is less vulnerable to an airstrike, while Iran will resist such an outcome. The two sides might compromise by agreeing that Iran will effectively halt any significant enrichment at Fordow and convert it to a "research-only" facility for uses including testing and developing advanced centrifuges.

The Arak Reactor and the Plutonium Path to the Bomb: The P5+1 states have argued that Iran should abandon the unfinished Arak 40MW heavy water reactor, but Iran has resisted such an outcome.

Heavy water-moderated reactors are well suited to the production of plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons. Arak is some time away from completion and Iran does not have (and says it has no intention to build) a reprocessing facility that would be necessary to extract plutonium from the spent fuel. Nevertheless, the Arak reactor clearly represents a significant, long-term proliferation threat that must be addressed in the comprehensive deal.

One compromise that would effectively neutralize Arak's plutonium potential would be to convert Arak to a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor, but this option would require Iran to abandon its original heavy-water technology choice and would be strongly resisted by Iran, given its indigenous development of the reactor.

However, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iran's official English-language Press TV in an interview Feb. 5 that Iran may agree to other modifications of the Arak heavy-water reactor near Arak.

"We can do some design change--in other words, make some change in the design in order to produce less plutonium in this reactor and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns," Salehi said.

Some of those options could be to reduce the reactor from 40MW to perhaps 10MW. Another option is to use uranium fuel enriched to 3.5 percent or 20 percent (instead of natural uranium fuel) in order to reduce the reactor's output of plutonium that is suitable for weapons. While fueling the reactor with enriched uranium would increase Iran's "practical needs" for enriched uranium, the plutonium produced in the spent fuel from the Arak reactor would pose less of a concern for weapons.

An additional option would be to require that all spent fuel from the Arak reactor to be verifiably removed for disposition in a third country--possibly Russia--to prevent it from becoming a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Russia is already responsible for removing the spent fuel produced by the Bushehr reactor.

Tougher International Inspections: If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, it would most likely try to do so by means of a secret program carried out at undisclosed facilities.

Consequently, the P5+1 will also seek to persuade Iran to allow even more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program under the terms of the Additional Protocol to its existing comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. These inspections allow the IAEA to access non-declared sites without prior notification, which is a strong deterrent against any clandestine nuclear weapons work. Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the duration of the Additional Protocol would be unlimited.

The P5+1 will also seek "Additional Protocol- plus" inspection measures for an extended period of time to provide still more confidence to the international community that Iran's nuclear program is being used for entirely peaceful purposes.

Resolving Concerns About "Possible Military Dimensions:" To resolve longstanding questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted in secret in past years, Iran will also need to fully cooperate with the IAEA investigation on these experiments.

The IAEA laid out its concerns about the experiments and other concerns about the completeness of Iran's nuclear declaration in an annex to its November 2011 report to the agency's Board of Governors. Shortly after the November 2011 report, the IAEA and Iran began negotiating an approach to resolve these concerns. However, no progress was made until Iran and the IAEA agreed on a path forward to guide the agency's investigations. This breakthrough came on Nov. 11, 2013, when the IAEA and Iran agreed to a new Framework for Cooperation that committed both sides to cooperate to resolve the agency's outstanding concerns. The agreement also specified the first six steps that Iran would take over the course of the following three months.

While these steps provided the IAEA with necessary information and access to nuclear sites to verify Iran's nuclear activities, they did not include any of the contentious experiments with possible military dimensions.

The successful completion of these actions, however, is building trust and cooperation. When Iran and the IAEA agreed on the next set of steps for Tehran to take during talks on Feb. 8-9, Iran and the agency finally began to address the concerns about activities with possible military dimensions. One of the seven new steps that Iran agreed to take will require it to provide information on exploding bridge wire detonators to the IAEA. Exploding bridge wire detonators can be used to trigger nuclear weapons, but they also can be used for conventional explosives and civilian applications.

While other experiments with possible military dimensions must be addressed and soon, progress on the bridge wire detonators issue would be an important first step toward resolving these issues.

In the coming months, the IAEA and the P5+1 will insist that Iran provide all the information and cooperation that will be necessary to enable the IAEA to determine with confidence that whether such activities occurred or not and whether they were intended for a weapons program or not, and that no such weapons-related work continues.

While implementation of the Iran/IAEA framework has gone smoothly thus far, it is very likely that the investigation will continue for some time beyond the six-months to a year timeframe for the negotiation of the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement.

In addition, it is possible that the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement will specify that Iran will not henceforth conduct certain research and development activities with nuclear-weaponization applications, such as those identified in the annex of the IAEA's November 2011 report.

Sanctions Relief: To secure a "final phase" agreement, the P5+1 will need to phase-out the tough multilateral nuclear sanctions regime now in place, including the international oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy. Iran will likely insist that with each of the successive steps that it undertakes as part of a comprehensive agreement, there will be commensurate actions to suspend and then lift sanctions.

This step-for-step approach will require a new UN Security Council Resolution on Iran's nuclear program and positive, follow-up actions by the European Union states and approval by Congress of revised legislation that unwinds U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that impact other nations' dealing with Iran.

Negotiating an agreement along these lines will be difficult and implementing it will be very challenging, but a sustainable arrangement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran is achievable.

Myths and Misperceptions

Some policy makers and observers will likely continue to push for outcomes that are not realistic or necessary to stop Iran short of building nuclear weapons. For instance, some critics of the current diplomatic negotiations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argue that the only "acceptable" outcome is one that requires Iran agree to the permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and the dismantlement of the Natanz, Fordow, and Arak facilities.

According to the U.S. intelligence community Iran has had, at least since 2007, the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so. That capacity can be reduced but not entirely eliminated, even it Iran were required to dismantle its uranium enrichment machines and facilities.

A "zero-enrichment" outcome would be ideal from a nonproliferation perspective and may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges.

But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran, and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.

Others argue that allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium is counter to the U.S. policy position that does not recognize the right to enrich as part of the NPT, especially if states have engaged in illicit nuclear-weapons related research. However, Iran believes it has a right to pursue as a member of the NPT, which refers to the "inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy...."

The two sides did not agree on the nature of Iran's nuclear energy "rights" in their Nov. 24 first phase agreement, but the P5+1 recognized that Iran already has a nuclear enrichment program and would insist on retaining some enrichment capacity. As such, as part of the broad parameters of the final deal, the parties agreed to negotiate practical limits on the scope of the enrichment program and additional safeguards on ongoing Iranian enrichment activities at its Natanz and Fordow facilities, in order to reduce Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities.

Another misperception is that the UN Security Council's earlier demands for Iran to "suspend" uranium enrichment require that a final phase agreement must end all Iranian enrichment activity.

In reality, the purpose of the demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions is to prevent Iran from accumulating more LEU until it restores confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program--not to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. (See: "What the UN Security Council Resolutions Say (and Don't Say) About Iran's Nuclear Program," Dec. 4, 2013.)

The Nov. 24 agreement effectively accomplishes that goal by capping the total amount of 3.5 percent material and it goes further by requiring Iran to neutralize its 20 percent stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20 percent levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

Bottom Line: A "Win-Win" Deal to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran

To guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and avoid a future confrontation over its nuclear program, the P5+1 and Iran should promptly implement the first-phase agreement and expeditiously negotiate a long-term final-phase agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals that meets their core requirements and respects the bottom-line needs of the other side.

A "win" for the P5+1 countries is a comprehensive agreement that: 1) establishes verifiable limits on Iran's program that, taken together, substantially increase the time it would take for Iran to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and build nuclear weapons; 2) increases the ability to promptly detect and effectively respond to a breakout; and 3) decrease Iran's incentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.

A "win" for Iran's President Hassan Rouhani would be to: 1) preserve key elements of its nuclear program (including some uranium enrichment and R & D); 2) protect Iran's "right" under the NPT to a peaceful nuclear program; and 3) remove international, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

If either side pushes unrealistic requirements on the other side, the chances for a negotiated resolution will decrease and the chances of a conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran will increase.

Any resort to military force against Iran's nuclear sites would, at best, only delay Iran's nuclear program and at worst, would lead to a wider conflict and very likely prompt Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons.

A final phase agreement will require hard compromises on the part of both sides, but it is the far more preferable and effective way to resolve the long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.--Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport

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

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Posted: February 26, 2014

Trimming the Bloated Nuclear Weapons Budget

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The United States plans to spend at least $355 billion to maintain and rebuild its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Over the next 30 years, the bill could add up to $1 trillion, according to another independent estimate.

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Volume 5, Issue 3, January 14, 2014

The United States plans to spend at least $355 billion to maintain and rebuild its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Over the next 30 years, the bill could add up to $1 trillion, according to another independent estimate.

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These eye-popping projections come at a time that the defense budget is declining along with the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy. The Pentagon announced last June that it could reduce strategic nuclear forces by one-third below levels set by the 2010 New START Treaty, continuing a historical trend. The U.S. nuclear stockpile has dropped by 80 percent since its peak in 1967, but is still a formidable force of about 4,600 warheads.

These high costs, combined with shrinking budgets and stockpiles, should compel the Pentagon to rethink its plans to rebuild U.S. nuclear forces in the years ahead.

Now is the Time to Trim
The Departments of Defense and Energy are in the process of making long-term, multi-billion dollar decisions about how many new missiles, submarines, bombers and nuclear warheads the nation will build and deploy over the next 50 years. Now is the time to reevaluate these plans, before major budget decisions are locked in.

The good news is that it's not too late to chart a different course. Major acquisition programs are just getting off the ground and can be scaled back.

CBO estimates that, under current plans, U.S. taxpayers will spend at least $89 billion to buy new nuclear replacement systems over the next decade. But since these are long-term commitments that are just starting, CBO points out that costs are likely to balloon after 2023 as production begins. From 2024 to 2030, CBO estimates, the cost of modernization would be more than four times higher than in 2014.

The largest share of funding for nuclear delivery systems would go to strategic submarines. The Navy wants to buy 12 new ballistic missile submarines with a total production cost of about $100 billion. The Air Force is seeking up to 100 new, nuclear-armed strategic bombers that would cost at least $55 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles. The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is pursuing a $60 billion plan to upgrade five nuclear warhead types, including the B61 gravity bomb.

Arms Reductions Create Opportunity
Fortunately, ongoing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal reductions under New START open the door to major budget savings at this pivotal time. There is no need to wait for another U.S.-Russian arms reduction agreement to save money.

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The United States maintains a deployed arsenal of about 2,100 strategic and tactical warheads and associated delivery systems--missiles, submarines, and bombers--and another 2,500 in reserve, for a total active stockpile of approximately 4,600 warheads.

New START will take the United States down to 1,550 treaty-accountable, deployed strategic warheads by 2018; Russia, now at 1,400 warheads, is already well below that level. Other than Russia, the only potential U.S. adversary with a long-range nuclear capability is China, which has no more than 75 single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the Pentagon.

In June 2013, President Obama announced he would pursue a new agreement with Russia to further reduce strategic weapons, as well as to reduce tactical weapons.  The U.S. military leadership has determined it can reduce deployed strategic warheads to 1,000-1,100, or about one-third below New START levels.

This analysis describes realistic, common sense options for reducing U.S. military spending on nuclear weapons that would save U.S. taxpayers about $70 billion from FY 2014-2023 (see chart below). The baseline for this analysis is the CBO estimate of current plans to maintain U.S. nuclear forces, build a new "triad" of delivery systems (submarines, bombers, and missiles), and extend the service life of nuclear warheads.

These options are not dependent on implementing additional U.S. arms reductions beyond New START. Instead, they are designed to meet New START warhead requirements in a more cost-effective way and to delay major procurement decisions until we really need to make them. If the United States does implement additional arsenal reductions in the future (either by treaty or reciprocal reductions), further budget savings would be possible.  

STRATEGIC SUBMARINES: 10-year savings, $16 billion
The Ohio-class replacement submarine program is the most expensive piece of the nuclear modernization plan ($100 billion for development and production only; $350 billion total over its lifetime) and, according to the Navy, would force the service to forgo 32 conventional ships it is planning to build, including attack submarines and destroyers. Rather than undermine the Navy's shipbuilding plans, the number of strategic subs can be scaled back.

The current fleet of 14 Ohio class submarines and the planned purchase of 12 new replacement subs (SSBNX) can both be reduced to eight. This would save $15.7 billion over 10 years and would still allow the Pentagon to deploy more than 1,000 warheads on submarines as planned under New START, according to a Nov. 2013 report by CBO. Procurement of the first SSBNX can be delayed until 2024, and its deployment delayed until 2033. Savings include personnel costs, procurement costs from pushing back the SSBNX purchase dates, and operations and management costs from reducing the current Ohio class fleet. During the 2030s, this plan would save an additional $30 billion by avoiding the purchase of four more SSBNX subs, according to CBO.

LONG RANGE BOMBERS: 10 year-savings, $32 billion
Under New START, the Pentagon plans to reduce the nuclear-capable, long-range bomber force from about 96 today to 60 (18 B2s and 42 B52s) by 2018. The B2 and B52 bombers are expected to operate into the 2050s and 2040s, respectively. Production of a new bomber is estimated to cost about $55 billion for 80-100 planes, not including development costs which have been estimated to be at least $20 billion.

The new bomber program can be delayed until the mid 2020s, saving $32.1 billion over 10 years, according to CBO. Even with a 10-year delay, a new bomber would still be ready by about the time current bombers are reaching the end of their service life, according to CBO, and the delay would allow the new bomber to incorporate technological advances made during that time.

AIR-LAUNCHED CRUISE MISSILE (ALCM): 10-year savings, $6 billion
The new Air Force bomber (above) is planned to eventually carry two types of nuclear weapons: a rebuilt gravity bomb (the B61, see below) and a cruise missile, known as the long-range standoff (LSRO) weapon or Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). The current ALCM, carried by B-52 bombers, was first deployed in the 1980s and is scheduled for retirement in 2030. A new ALCM has not been officially approved and has no official price tag, but is expected to cost at least $1 billion to develop over the next five years and $10-20 billion to produce. In addition, a rebuilt nuclear warhead to go with it would cost another $12 billion, according to NNSA, with about $5 billion to be spent in the next decade.

The need for a bomber with stand off nuclear missiles that are shot from afar is not clear. The new bomber is intended to penetrate enemy air defenses; it needs bombs that can be dropped from above. The current B-2 stealth bomber is a penetrator, too. If the Pentagon is concerned that an adversary's air defenses will improve in the future, the United States has other standoff weapons, such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

B61 LIFE EXTENSION PROGRAM (LEP): 10-year savings, $5 billion
A 2012 Pentagon review estimated that the program to refurbish 400 B61 gravity bombs, both strategic and tactical, would cost $10.4 billion or roughly $25 million per bomb. This is an increase of $6 billion over NNSA's original estimate. In 2013 the Senate Appropriations Committee reduced the FY14 NNSA budget for the program by $168 million, or one third, but it was later restored to $537 million in the Omnibus appropriation.

To make the program affordable, NNSA needs to rescope the current plan for the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP) and choose a more cost effective option, such as one that does not replace nuclear components or consolidate four versions of the bomb into one. At the same time, given President Obama's intentions to reduce tactical bombs in NATO, B61 bombs may no longer be deployed in Europe by the time the program is completed a decade from now. A scaled back B61 life extension plan could save an estimated $5 billion.

INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES (ICBMS) 10-year savings, $10 billion
Under New START, the Air Force plans to reduce the current Minuteman III ICBM fleet from 450 to 400-420, and can go lower. The ICBM force recently underwent several modernization programs to extend its life expectancy, and the Air Force plans to sustain it through 2030 and possibly through 2075.

Development of a new ICBM and warhead life extension can be delayed until the mid 2020s without affecting operations of the current ICBM fleet. The new ICBM is in an early design phase and there is no official cost estimate. Independent estimates range from $20-$70 billion depending on how many new missiles are built and whether they would be silo-based or mobile. According to CBO, if the Air Force decides to build a replacement ICBM, development costs for the missile and warhead would add up to $10 billion by 2023. Production costs would fall outside the ten-year window.

Needed: Fresh Thinking
It's time for a more sensible approach to U.S. nuclear weapons spending. The savings proposed here can be achieved without reducing the number of deployed U.S. warheads below New START levels, so there is no need to wait for Moscow to reduce its nuclear forces any further. Reductions beyond New START would lead to additional budget savings in the years ahead.

The United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs. Shielding nuclear programs from budget reductions will force deeper cuts into other, higher priority conventional systems. Reducing nuclear weapons spending now is a smart way to trim the budget. --Tom Z. Collina

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Tom Z. Collina is ACA's research director.

Posted: January 14, 2014

New Sanctions Now Would Torpedo Iran Nuclear Negotiations

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In nuclear negotiations, as in medicine, the first principle is: "Do no harm." Yet a bill authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by 58 of his colleagues, threatens to pull the plug on the patient just as the Iran nuclear negotiations are entering their most delicate phase.

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Volume 5, Issue 2, January 13, 2014

In nuclear negotiations, as in medicine, the first principle is: "Do no harm." Yet a bill authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by 58 of his colleagues, threatens to pull the plug on the patient just as the Iran nuclear negotiations are entering their most delicate phase.

On Jan. 20, Iran and its six negotiating partners (the P5+1) will begin implementing the "Joint Plan of Action" agreed to in Geneva on Nov. 24. This six-month-long, first-phase deal includes a number of specific measures that will verifiably halt and, in some areas, roll back advances in Iran's capabilities of greatest proliferation concern and reduce its potential to produce material for nuclear weapons. The agreement will also significantly enhance the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Iranian nuclear activities. Although the P5+1 agreed, in turn, to suspend peripheral sanctions, the core sanctions (on Iranian oil sales and financial transactions) would be retained.

The first-phase deal is intended to set the stage for negotiating specific terms of a final deal. The Joint Plan also outlines a framework for the ultimate agreement, but the details have yet to be negotiated. Although Iran will remain a nuclear weapons-capable state, the P5+1 will be seeking a deal that provides high confidence that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and denies Tehran the option of quickly breaking out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to build a nuclear weapon.

Scrupulous adherence to the terms of the first phase will be essential for building confidence that the terms of a comprehensive accord can be negotiated and implemented. Yet the bill advanced by Menendez and his colleagues anticipates the failure of the negotiating phase that is about to begin. It dictates changes in the terms of the agreement already concluded and establishes nonnegotiable preconditions for reaching an ultimate accord.

For these reasons, introducing the bill at this time is opposed not only by President Obama's team of negotiators, but also by 10 committee chairs in the U.S. Senate and even by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Both the U.S. intelligence community and leading former U.S. diplomats assess that passage of the bill would hinder, if not thoroughly sabotage, the prospects for a successful outcome.

Hard-liners in the Iranian parliament have already promised retaliation for the Menendez bill by undoing the concessions made Nov. 24 and intensifying Iran's uranium-enrichment activities. Passage of the bill would thus constitute a gift to those on both sides who oppose a negotiated outcome.

If the parties in the negotiations do not overreach, diplomatic engagement carries the potential to produce a fundamental transformation in the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. But getting to the finish line will be a major challenge; many obstacles will have to be surmounted.

The best way to maximize chances for success is to carry out the letter and the spirit of measures agreed to thus far. For Iran, this means honoring all of the "halts" required by the accord and, most important, moving steadily to eliminate Iran's stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium gas, which poses the most serious and urgent "breakout" threat.

For the United States, this means not only moving expeditiously to suspend the peripheral sanctions specified, but also to respect the P5+1's consensus formula for framing a future accord.

Demanding that Iran permanently halt all uranium enrichment - even for peaceful purposes - is unrealistic. Such a deal would be unsustainable politically inside Iran. It would spell the end of outreach efforts by President Hassan Rouhani, dooming prospects for a negotiated agreement and greatly increasing the chance of both war and an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

Instead of seeking Iran's capitulation at the negotiating table, the six powers need to insist on the elements of an agreement necessary to ensure that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful. As former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have said, this means limiting Iran's nuclear capacity "to plausible civilian uses and to achieve safeguards to ensure that this level is not exceeded."

Senators should stop trying to reopen deals that have already been struck and demanding the impossible for deals yet to be made.--GREG THIELMANN

This essay is based on an op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 12, 2014.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Greg Thielmann is ACA's senior fellow.

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Posted: January 13, 2014

Congress Should Not Sabotage Iran Nuclear Deal with Additional Sanctions

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The "Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act" (S. 1881), introduced in the Senate on December 19 by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirk (R-Ill.), threatens to derail the breakthrough agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in Geneva on November 24 that will pause Iran's most worrisome nuclear activities in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief.

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Volume 5, Issue 1, January 8, 2014

The "Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act" (S. 1881), introduced in the Senate on December 19 by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirk (R-Ill.), threatens to derail the breakthrough agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in Geneva on November 24 that will pause Iran's most worrisome nuclear activities in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief.

Contrary to the claim of the bill's authors, the proposed legislation would violate the terms of the first-phase deal that the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners committed to in the November 24 Joint Plan of Action. In addition, the bill would place new and unrealistic restrictions on the comprehensive solution that the parties will soon begin negotiating. Efforts by the U.S. Congress to move the goalposts for the final phase negotiations beyond the parameters already established by the P5+1 would undermine prospects for a final phase agreement that limits Iran's uranium enrichment capacity and other sensitive nuclear fuel cycle projects.

The November 24, first-phase agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is an important opportunity to limit and roll back key areas of Iran's nuclear program. It provides more stringent monitoring and verification mechanisms that will help guard against the pursuit of a secret bomb program. Rather than sabotaging this deal before it is implemented and undermining the prospects for a more far-reaching final phase deal, U.S. policymakers must give Tehran a chance to demonstrate its willingness to curb its nuclear activities and follow through on the actions it is required to take.

S. 1881 Contradicts the Geneva Agreement
In the November 24 agreement, the United States committed to "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions."

S. 1881, if approved, would directly violate this commitment. This bill would impose further sanctions on Iran in several areas - including greater restrictions on oil imports and expanding business and financial sanctions on Iran's mining and construction sectors.

Nevertheless, the authors of the bill, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Kirk (R-Ill.), argue that their proposal for additional sanctions is not a violation of the agreement because the bill gives the U.S. president authority to temporarily waive the sanctions if Tehran meets the terms of the November 24 agreement.

This reasoning is illogical and incorrect for two reasons. First, this bill would impose new sanctions and, while the measures may not be enforced, they will become law. Iran made clear that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a December 7 interview with Time magazine that the "deal is dead" if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the six month time frame of the first-phase agreement.

Additionally, the conditions that must be met for the president to waive the sanctions exceed the terms of the Joint Plan of Action - specifically the bill requires Iran to adhere to limits on ballistic missile testing and the prohibition of financing for terrorist groups acting against the United States. Neither of these areas were addressed in the November 24 agreement. Requiring Iran to adhere to further stipulations in order to avoid further sanctions is a violation of this agreement.

Sen. Menendez argues that the additional sanctions should be approved now because "If we wait until we determine whether or not a negotiation succeeds, and if it fails, and then try to move" there may not be enough time before Iran can produce enough fissile material for nuclear weapons.  

If Iran violates the November 24 agreement or talks fail to produce a comprehensive agreement, Congress can quickly pass new sanctions--within days--and the administration says it would fully support further sanctions measures under such circumstances.

However, no member of Congress, including Sen. Menendez, should be under the illusion that further sanctions can or will stop Iran from advancing its sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities if the current round of talks fail. Only a serious, verifiable diplomatic agreement that significantly limits its enrichment capacity and increases international inspection authority to verify compliance and deter possible cheating will be effective in the long-run.

S. 1881 Threatens International Unity
The sanctions imposed on Iran played a role in motivating Tehran's leadership to reach the first-phase deal agreed to in Geneva on November 24. This success, however, was due to solid international support for unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Moving forward on this bill threatens to erode support for existing sanctions amongst Washington's five other negotiating partners that could fracture sanctions enforcement.

Enforcement of the core sanctions regime that remains in place, including U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil and banking industries will be integral in motivating Iran to reach a comprehensive agreement. If international support for enforcing these sanctions falters because the U.S. is viewed as not holding up its end of the November 24 agreement, one of the key factors pushing Iran to agree to a deal that seriously limits its nuclear potential will have been removed.

S. 1881, by imposing additional sanctions would risk alienating states, such as China, that have cooperated with the existing sanctions regime. Why? If passed into law, S. 1881 would require countries still importing oil from Iran, such as China, to reduce their imports by 30 percent within the first year and to near zero within two years. This places an unrealistic burden on the countries that still import oil on Iran and places the United States in the position of having to sanction banks from these countries in the future, if the oil import cuts are not met.

This legislation also sends the signal to Iran and the international community that the United States cannot deliver its end of the agreement. It stands in stark contrast with the December 16 meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, during which they agreed to support the November 24 agreement and refrain from passing further sanctions during the course of its implementation.

Following the meeting of the foreign ministers, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, leader of the P5+1 negotiating team, also encouraged all parties to "refrain from actions that could delay" implementation of the November 24 agreement. Moving forward on S. 1881 will certainly delay the agreement.

S. 1881 Would Set Unrealistic Demands on A Final Agreement
The Menendez-Kirk bill also sets out unrealistic demands for the comprehensive deal that Iran will not accept and contradict the broad parameters of the agreement laid out in the November 24 deal.

According to the November 24 Joint Plan of Action, the comprehensive, final phase agreement will include a "mutually defined enrichment program" for Iran. However, S. 1881 seeks to impose a different outcome by allowing the suspension of sanctions only if Iran agrees to zero-enrichment and complete dismantlement of its "illicit nuclear infrastructure," which presumably would include Iran's uranium enrichment facilities and the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak.

Such an outcome may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges. But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran-and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran if appropriate limits and monitoring mechanisms are put in place.

S. 1881 also stipulates that the President may only waive sanctions if Iran complies with all earlier and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Some of the bill's cosponsors have erroneously interpreted the UNSC resolutions to mean that Iran must permanently "suspend" all uranium enrichment activities.

In reality, the UNSC demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran is meant to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program during the course of negotiations on a permanent solution. It is not a demand to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. The November 24 first phase agreement effectively accomplishes the suspension goal of the UNSC by capping the total amount of 3.5% material and it goes further by requiring Iran to convert its 20% stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20% levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

An additional goal established by the P5+1 and Iran in the November 24 Joint Plan of Action for the final phase agreement is the lifting of all U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. S. 1881 would seek to keep the nuclear-related sanctions in place and only allow the U.S. President to waive implementation on a yearly basis if the president certifies that Iran is complying with the comprehensive agreement. This could be interpreted as a violation of the agreement, which calls for a "comprehensive lift" of the sanctions, not merely a series of temporary waivers.

S. 1881 would also try to impose a fixed time frame for the final phase negotiations. According to the legislation, the P5+1 would only have one year to reach a final deal before the sanctions laid out in the bill would be imposed. The bill limits the presidential waiver period to 180 days, plus four 30-day extensions.  Given the complexity of these negotiations, there is a good chance that the first-phase deal could be extended for and a second, or third, 6-month time period while negotiations on a comprehensive agreement continue.

S. 1881 Gives Iranian Hardliners Ammunition
From a negotiating perspective, moving forward on this bill will also give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that President Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal.

Already in the Iranian Parliament, a law was drafted in December that will require Iran to increase its uranium enrichment to 60 percent. As of January 4, over 200 members of parliament signed on in support of the legislation. One member said that this is in retaliation to "America's hostile act" of moving forward on further sanctions.   

Iran currently has no need for uranium enriched to this level, which is still below the 90 percent enrichment required for nuclear weapons. However, several members of parliament said that increased enrichment levels could be used to power Iranian ships in the future, which is permitted under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Uranium enriched to 60 percent would also allow Iran to move more quickly to weapons-grade enrichment levels, if Tehran chose to do so.

Bottom Line
Moving forward on further, U.S. imposed Iran sanctions at this time will sabotage the important progress made in Geneva to limit Iran's nuclear activities and improve IAEA scrutiny of its program. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a December19 press briefing that moving forward on additional sanctions at this time would "proactively undermine American diplomacy."

As European High Representative Catherine Ashton, the lead P5+1 negotiator, said on Dec. 16, "It is a very sensitive diplomatic process." She added, "it is important that we refrain from actions that could delay the process. And as you already know, the E3 +3 have made a commitment to refrain from additional sanctions for the implementation period."

Though the cosponsors of S. 1881 may have good intentions, their bill threatens the diplomatic opportunity to rein-in Iran's nuclear capabilities, it would contradict the commitments made by the United States--to both Iran and our P5+1 negotiating partners--to refrain from approving further sanctions legislation, and, most significantly, could push Iran to pull out of the deal and allow it to continue advancing its nuclear program without restrictions.

New, additional sanctions are clearly unnecessary. The existing, core sanctions regime provides more than sufficient leverage on Iran to take further concrete measures to restrain its nuclear potential and improve transparency measure necessary to guard against a secret nuclear weapons effort in the future.

The Senate need not and should not move forward with new sanctions legislation, such as S. 1881, at this time and should support--not blow up--the promising P5+1 diplomatic process to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.--KELSEY DAVENPORT and DARYL G. KIMBALL

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

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Posted: January 8, 2014

Assessing the First-Phase Deal to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran

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After years of on-and-off negotiations, the latest round of P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) talks with Iran has finally yielded an important breakthrough: a "first-phase" deal to constrain Iran's nuclear potential and to "reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure that Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

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Volume 4, Issue 15, December 2, 2013

After years of on-and-off negotiations, the latest round of P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) talks with Iran has finally yielded an important breakthrough: a "first-phase" deal to constrain Iran's nuclear potential and to "reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure that Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

The deal will verifiably halt and, in some areas, roll-back advances in Iran's capabilities of greatest proliferation concern and reduce its potential to produce material for nuclear weapons. The agreement, spelled out in a Nov. 24 "Joint Plan of Action," also significantly bolsters the International Atomic Energy Agency's  (IAEA) monitoring capabilities, including daily IAEA inspections at the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities, that will effectively detect and deter any such effort.

In exchange, the P5+1 states will extend limited, reversible relief from certain sanctions now in place, including the repatriation of several billion dollars in frozen Iranian oil revenue, and a pledge not to impose new nuclear-related sanctions for the duration of the agreement if Iran abides by its commitments. Meanwhile, the core of the existing international financial and oil sanctions regime against Iran will remain in place.

Implementation of the first phase agreement will begin by the beginning of 2014 and the agreement will last six months but could be extended by mutual consent of the parties.

The first-phase agreement will provide the time to negotiate a more permanent "final-phase" agreement that could significantly reduce Iran's overall enrichment capacity according to a "mutually defined enrichment programme" with "agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment, activities, capacity ... and stocks of enriched uranium." The final phase deal would likely lead to even more intrusive IAEA inspections to guard against any possible secret nuclear weapons-related activities.

Constraints on Iran's Nuclear Program

Under the terms of the first phase of the agreement, Iran has agreed to several important constraints on its uranium enrichment program, as well as its Arak heavy water reactor project, which could potentially be used to produce plutonium for weapons:

  • halt uranium enrichment to 20% levels, which is above normal power reactor fuel grade (3.5%) and closer to weapons grade (above 90%);
  • neutralize the existing 20% enriched uranium stockpile by oxidizing or diluting the stockpile to lower enrichment levels. Currently Iran has 196 kg of 20% enriched uranium. It takes 250 kg, if further enriched, to produce enough highly enriched weapons-grade uranium for one bomb. Iran must disconnect equipment that could be used to reverse the oxidization process;
  • cap the stockpile of 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium (now at 7,153 kg) by oxidizing a portion equivalent to whatever additional amount it produces;
  • freeze Iran's current enrichment capacity by halting the installation and operation of additional centrifuges at the Natanz and Fordow enrichment plants, including more advanced IR-2m centrifuges. Iran has approximately 19,000 IR-1 machines installed of which about 10,000 are operating;
  • freeze any further advances in nuclear-related activities at the uncompleted Arak heavy water reactor, including a halt to the production, testing, or transfer of fuel or heavy water for the reactor or the installation of any reactor components. The reactor, which is still a year or more away from completion, would have to operate for another year to produce spent fuel laden with plutonium. Iran also agreed not to construct a facility capable of separating plutonium from the spent fuel.

In addition, Iran has committed to new transparency measures. Iran will for the first time provide:

  • daily, rather than weekly, IAEA access for inspectors at Natanz and Fordow;
  • IAEA access to centrifuge assembly and production facilities, which will guard against any effort to build a secret enrichment facility;
  • earlier notification and information regarding any new nuclear facilities;
  • updated design information on the Arak reactor and more frequent on-site inspections at Arak; and
  • IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.

With these restrictions in place, Iran would find it extremely difficult to try to make a dash to build nuclear weapons using the major facilities before the international community would detect such activities and could act to block such an outcome.

In exchange for these concrete steps, the P5+1 will, among other measures:

  • release approximately $4.2 of the estimated $50 billion in Iranian assets that are tied up in other countries from oil sales;
  • waive certain sanctions on trade with Iran's auto sector, petro-chemicals, and trade in gold and other precious metals just put into effect last July. This will provide Iran with approximately $1.5 billion in revenue, according the Obama administration.

Over the six month span of the agreement, Iran would remain under severe international sanctions and additional Iranian financial assets--perhaps as much as $15-$20 billion worth--would go into restricted overseas accounts as result of ongoing oil and financial sanctions. This provides the P5+1 with substantial leverage to persuade Iran to agree to further constraints on its nuclear program.

A Net Plus for Nonproliferation

According to the U.S. intelligence community Iran has had, at least since 2007, the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so. But it would take Tehran "over a year" to build one.

The goal of U.S. and international policy must be to increase the time and the barriers required for Iran to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and build nuclear weapons, to increase the ability to promptly detect and effectively respond to a breakout, and to decrease Iran's incentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.

The first phase agreement accomplishes all of these things. It effectively caps the progress of Iran's nuclear program in all key areas and rolls-back Iran's theoretical nuclear weapons breakout capability.

By halting enrichment to 20 percent, neutralizing the existing 20% enriched uranium stockpile, and freezing the number of centrifuges available for enrichment, the first phase agreement will add at least a month to the time that it would theoretically take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon. Without the first phase agreement in place, Iran could reduce this time to as little as 2 weeks by early 2014, which could potentially allow it to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb before inspectors could detect such an effort.

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[1] Estimated times are based on calculations described in "Iranian Breakout Estimates, Updated September 2013," by Patrick Migliorini, David Albright, Houston Wood and Christina Walrond, published by the Institute for Science and International Security, October 24, 2013. Centrifuge and stockpile numbers are based on the most recent IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program from Nov. 14. It is important to note that these are theoretical estimates that do not take into account the fact that IAEA inspectors and national intelligence agencies would very likely detect any effort to start enriching uranium above 20% well under a month with current IAEA monitoring tools and within a week or less with additional first-phase transparency measures in place.

Toward A "Final Phase" Agreement

This first phase deal opens the way for negotiations on a comprehensive, final phase agreement that rolls back Iran's overall enrichment capacity even further, blocks the plutonium path to the bomb, resolves outstanding questions about the purpose of Iran's program, and comprehensively removes nuclear-related sanctions.

The extent to which Iran is willing to reduce the capacity and the scope of its uranium enrichment program is key. The agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 states that the program should be "consistent with practical needs." In other words, Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile of material should not exceed the fuel supply needs of its nuclear power reactor program, which for now are close to zero but could grow in the coming years.

Iran will insist on retaining some uranium enrichment capacity, which it believes it has a right to pursue as a member of the NPT, which refers to the "inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy...."

The United States and the other P5+1 states do not believe that states have a "right" to uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium, especially if they may have engaged in nuclear weapons-related research. But they recognize the fact that Iran already has a uranium enrichment program.

Thus, the two sides did not agree on the nature of Iran's nuclear energy rights, but they did agree to negotiate practical limits and additional safeguards on ongoing Iranian enrichment activities, in order to reduce Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities.

Given Iran's limited need for enriched uranium fuel for energy production, a reduction in Iran's overall enrichment capacity--from 10,000 operating centrifuges at two sites to 3,000 or fewer at one site--would be more than sufficient for Iran's potential needs and, with limits on Iran's enriched uranium stockpile, would increase the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb to 6 months or more.

The P5+1 states would also like Iran to abandon the unfinished Arak reactor, which represents a long-term proliferation threat, but Iran will likely resist such an outcome. One compromise that would effectively neutralize Arak as a long-term threat would be agree to convert Arak to a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor or to verifiably remove the spent fuel for disposition by a third country--possibly Russia--to prevent it from becoming a source of plutonium for Iran.

The P5+1 also will seek to persuade Iran to allow even more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program under the terms of the Additional Protocol to its existing safeguards agreement. These inspections allow the IAEA to access non-declared sites without prior notification, which is a strong deterrent against any clandestine nuclear weapons work.

To resolve longstanding questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted in secret in past years, Iran will also need to fully cooperate with the IAEA. On Nov. 11, the IAEA and Iran agreed to a new approach to the long-stalled investigation about these experiments, including possible high-explosive testing for warhead designs, and whether they have been terminated.

To secure a "final phase" agreement, the P5+1 will need to further scale-back the oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy, which will require action by the European Union states and Congressional approval of revised sanctions legislation.

Negotiating an agreement along these lines will be difficult. Implementing these steps will be even harder.

Would More Sanctions Secure a Better Deal?

Some Members of Congress claim that further U.S.-mandated sanctions would improve the United States negotiating position in the next round of talks and are arguing for new sanctions legislation now that could be implemented in six months if a final phase agreement is not reached.

Such a strategy is illogical and counterproductive. The existing, core sanctions regime provides more than sufficient leverage on Iran to take further concrete measures to restrain its nuclear potential and improve transparency measure necessary to guard against a secret nuclear weapons effort in the future. If Iran violates the terms of the first phase deal or if a final phase agreement is not concluded in six months, the president can reverse the limited sanctions relief of the first phase agreement and Congress could consider additional sanctions, if necessary.

But additional sanctions, if pursued now, would be seen by Iran, as well as the United States' international partners, as an act of bad faith and an outright violation of the first-phase agreement, which specifically calls for no new U.S., EU, or UN-imposed nuclear-related sanctions against Iran while the deal is in effect.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told NBC News on Nov. 23 that "If there are new sanctions, then there is no deal. It's very clear. End of the deal."

This would of course also wreck the opportunity for a final phase deal that rolls back Iran's nuclear program and would give Iran the pretext to resume work to advance its nuclear program.

Nevertheless some critics of the P5+1/Iran agreement, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, may continue to argue that additional sanctions are necessary to force Iran to capitulate and agree to the permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and the dismantlement of the Natanz, Fordow, and Arak facilities.

Such an outcome may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges. But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran-and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.

Some other critics claim the first-phase agreement does not fulfill the UN Security Council's earlier demands for Iran to "suspend" uranium enrichment. In reality, the purpose of the demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions is to prevent Iran from accumulating more LEU until it restores confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program--not to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. The Nov. 24 agreement effectively accomplishes that goal by capping the total amount of 3.5% material and it goes further by requiring Iran to neutralize its 20% stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20% levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

To guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and avoid a confrontation over its nuclear program, the two sides should promptly implement the first-phase agreement and expeditiously negotiate a long term final-phase agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals.--DARYL G. KIMBALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 

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Posted: December 2, 2013

On Nukes, Senate Should Not Tie President's Hands

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The National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1197) is on the Senate floor, and there may be debate on how much latitude the President should have when seeking to reduce excess U.S. nuclear forces. Some will argue that any future nuclear reductions can only occur via a formal treaty; others will counter that informal approaches should also be an option. There is an obvious, bipartisan answer: Current and future presidents should have as much flexibility as previous presidents, both Republicans and Democrats.

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Volume 4, Issue 14, November 20, 2013

The National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1197) is on the Senate floor, and there may be debate on how much latitude the President should have when seeking to reduce excess U.S. nuclear forces. Some will argue that any future nuclear reductions can only occur via a formal treaty; others will counter that informal approaches should also be an option. There is an obvious, bipartisan answer: Current and future presidents should have as much flexibility as previous presidents, both Republicans and Democrats.   

Unfortunately, some Republicans are seeking to take this flexibility away from President Obama. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) have offered a "sense of congress" amendment (2136) that additional reductions "should only be pursued through mutual negotiated agreement with the Russian Federation." Similarly, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has expressed concern that the administration has not definitively pledged that "militarily significant reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal would only be carried out through a treaty subject to the advice and consent of the Senate."

It is understandable that senators want to protect their right under the constitution to approve or disapprove treaties. But that is not the issue here. According to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), ranking member on the Foreign Relations committee, the State Department has "affirmed the Senate's role in any future negotiations with Russia." But Sens. Lee, Fischer and Rubio appear to want to go beyond that and stop any U.S. reductions outside of a treaty. They are reaching too far.

Presidents from both parties have sought to protect their flexibility to pursue arms reductions without a treaty when the circumstances and U.S. national security warrant doing so. If the Senate adds language to the defense bill to restrict White House flexibility on this matter, the President would likely veto the bill. The two previous Republican administrations would not likely have allowed such constraints, either.

Bush Administrations Had Flexibility, Too

Treaties may be the preferable way to effect mutual nuclear arms reductions, but they are not the only way. In addition to formal bilateral treaties (such as the 2010 New START treaty), the United States has used informal measures. The primary examples of the latter are President George H.W. Bush's bold Presidential Nuclear Initiatives in 1991 to remove thousands of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from forward deployment as the Soviet Union began to break apart. Days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated, reducing the risk that these weapons would fall into the wrong hands. No formal treaty was ever negotiated or signed, nor did the administration seek the approval of Congress. In this case, the need for expediency outweighed the benefits of a legally binding agreement.

Even in the case of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, or the "Moscow Treaty"), President George W. Bush initially set out to reduce U.S. forces without a formal agreement. As he said in 2001: "We don't need an arms control agreement to convince us to reduce our nuclear weapons down substantially, and I'm going to do it."

However, Russian President Putin wanted a formal treaty, as did the U.S. Senate, and President Bush changed his mind. Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2002 that, "We would have made these cuts regardless of what Russia did with its arsenal." "We're making [the reductions] not because we signed the treaty," he explained, "but because the transformation in our relationship with Russia means that we do not need as many deployed weapons as we once needed."

Ultimately, both Bush presidencies reduced U.S. nuclear forces by roughly 50 percent each, using formal and informal means.

By comparison, President Obama's planned and proposed reductions are modest. By 2018, New START will reduce the deployed U.S. strategic arsenal by about 400 warheads, a 10 percent reduction from the overall stockpile (strategic and tactical, deployed and in storage) of about 5,000 warheads. President Obama's June proposal to reduce strategic warheads by an additional 500 or so would increase his reductions to 20 percent, still a far lower percentage than previous administrations.

In response to President Obama's June proposal, 24 Senate Republicans wrote a letter to the White House stating: "It is our view that any further reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal should only be conducted through a treaty subject to the advice and consent of the Senate."

This position is at odds with the view that 71 Senators expressed just three years ago. The Senate's resolution of ratification for New START states that "further arms reduction agreements obligating the United States to reduce or limit the Armed Forces or armaments of the United States in any military significant manner may be made only pursuant to the treaty-making power of the President..." (emphasis added)

This December 2010 formulation does not rule out the option of nuclear reductions in the absence of a formal agreement.

First, an informal U.S.-Russian understanding that each side would reduce its nuclear forces would not be a legally binding agreement and is therefore not an obligation subject to congressional approval. Second, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have already determined that one-third of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads now deployed are in excess of military requirements. Thus, such a reduction would not have a militarily significant impact.

Moreover, in an attempt to cast doubt on further negotiated nuclear reductions with Russia, some congressional Republicans also claim that Moscow is not complying with some of its treaty obligations, such as the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. However, recent Pentagon and State Department reports reveal no evidence of Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty. At the same time, Russia is said to be in full compliance with New START.

Giving Russia a Veto

Congress should not restrict the President's options to reduce excess nuclear arsenals in a stable and verifiable way. If the Obama administration were limited to reducing U.S. nuclear forces in a treaty with Russia, this would effectively give Moscow veto power over what must be a U.S. prerogative. While it may be better to reduce in tandem with Russia, there are good reasons to lead by example, as President Bush did in 1991.

For its part, Russia will be hard pressed to maintain New START levels unless it accelerates its own expensive modernization of aging nuclear delivery systems. According to the latest report required by New START, Russia now deploys 1,400 deployed strategic warheads--150 below the New START ceiling and 280 below the U.S. deployed strategic warhead level. Rather than induce Russia to build up, it is in the security and financial interests of both countries to eliminate excess strategic nuclear forces.

The U.S. leadership has already determined that the United States has more nuclear weapons than its needs to deter nuclear attack against the United States and our allies. Given the budget crisis, the administration could redirect funds to higher priority defense needs by reducing excess nuclear forces. Enhancing U.S. security in this way should not have to wait for Russian approval.

Significant budget savings can be achieved even if the United States stays at New START levels. By matching delivery systems more closely with a smaller stockpile of nuclear warheads, the United States could save $59 billion over the next decade, primarily by buying fewer strategic submarines and delaying new long-range bombers.

Further U.S. reductions would also improve the international consensus to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and enhance cooperation to address the threats from North Korea and Iran, and put pressure on other states--including China--to join in the reduction process.

New START already provides a solid framework for verification and monitoring through intrusive inspection and data exchanges. Deeper, mutual reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons can be achieved through reciprocal actions made on the basis of the best national interests of each country.

As George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn wrote in March: "A global effort is needed to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, prevent their spread, and ultimately end them as a threat to the world. It will take leadership, creative approaches and thoughtful understanding of the perils of inaction."

The White House needs flexibility to lead and be creative--a one-size-fits-all approach will not cut it. We must not let process and politics get in the way of the substance: reducing nuclear dangers and increasing U.S. security.--TOM Z. COLLINA

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

Posted: November 20, 2013

A Realistic, Meaningful First Phase Nuclear Deal With Iran

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After three days of intense, talks in Geneva Nov. 7-9, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) and Iran came close to a breakthrough, "first phase" deal that would verifiably halt the progress of Iran's nuclear program, and at the same time increase International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring capabilities on its nuclear projects in exchange for limited, reversible sanction relief.

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Volume 4, Issue 13, November 19, 2013

After three days of intense, talks in Geneva Nov. 7-9, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) and Iran came close to a breakthrough, "first phase" deal that would verifiably halt the progress of Iran's nuclear program, and at the same time increase International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring capabilities on its nuclear projects in exchange for limited, reversible sanction relief.

The negotiations will resume Nov. 20 in Geneva and could last through Nov. 22.

The key elements of the "first phase" agreement would clearly address the most immediate issues of proliferation concern, significantly increase the time it would take Iran to produce fissile material for weapons, and provide time to negotiate a more permanent agreement that might lead to a significant reduction of Iran's overall enrichment capacity and even more intrusive IAEA inspections to guard against any possible secret nuclear weapons-related activities.

Key elements likely include:

  • halting Iranian uranium enrichment to 20% levels, which is above normal power reactor fuel grade and closer to weapons grade (90%);
  • converting existing 20% material to oxide and/or downblending the stockpile to lower enrichment levels;
  • freezing the introduction or operation of additional centrifuges (approx. 10,000 IR-1 machines are operating; 19,000 are installed), including a freeze on the installation of more advanced IR2-M machines;
  • reducing the proliferation potential of the Arak heavy water reactor, possibly including a freeze on the manufacture of fuel assemblies, or an agreement on the disposition of its spent fuel outside of Iran, or converting the reactor to a more proliferation resistant light-water reactor;
  • unspecified additional transparency measures, possibly implementation (but not ratification) of the additional protocol and/or an agreement to allow the IAEA to maintain a near-constant presence at key nuclear facilities.

Taken together, these measures would put into effect even tougher limits on Iran's nuclear activities than the P5+1 proposal for Iranian actions put forward at the February and April 2013 talks in Almaty.

In exchange for these concrete steps, the P5+1 may be considering:

  • releasing approximately several billion of the estimated $50 billion in Iranian assets tied up in other countries from oil sales;
  • waiving certain sanctions on trade with Iran in petro-chemicals, trade in gold and other precious metals just put into effect last July;
  • waiving the designation of Iran's auto industry and access to aircraft parts as areas of "proliferation concern;" and
  • providing medical isotopes or fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which uses 20% enriched uranium fuel to produce medical isotopes.

This "phase one" agreement would last approximately six-months, during which time, Iran would remain under severe international sanctions and additional Iranian financial assets--perhaps as much as $15-$20 billion worth--would become frozen. The phase one agreement could be extended by mutual consent of the parties.

Toward A "Final Phase" Agreement

Most importantly, a "first phase" deal would open the way for negotiations on a more comprehensive, more permanent agreement that rolls back Iran's overall enrichment capacity-ideally to no more than 3,000-4,000 centrifuges-and provides more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program.

In principle, Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile of material should not exceed the fuel supply needs of its nuclear power reactor program, which for now are close to zero.

With these restrictions in place, Iran would find it extremely difficult to try to make a dash to build nuclear weapons before the international community would detect such activities and could act to block such an outcome.

To secure a "final phase" agreement, the P5+1 will need to further scale-back the oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy and will need to recognize Iran's right under the Article IV of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue peaceful nuclear activities under certain conditions.

As Obama said in his Sept. 24 address to the United Nations: "We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people [to access nuclear energy], while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable."

Article IV of the NPT guarantees the "the inalienable right ... to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II ...."  Many countries including Iran interpret this to include uranium enrichment to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors and research reactors that produce medical isotopes.

Article II requires each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty ... not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons ...." Article III of the NPT requires that each non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the NPT accepts safeguards agreements with the IAEA to ensure that all nuclear activities are for exclusively peaceful purposes.

To move forward on this issue, it has been reported by The New York Times and others that in the "first phase" agreement, each side might affirm that Iran would be entitled to all of the rights of states parties to the NPT.  The P5+1 and Iran would then agree to disagree on how to interpret those NPT rights.

To resolve concerns about the purpose of Iran's nuclear program, President Hassan Rouhani must continue to follow through on his pledge for "greater transparency" by implementing the additional protocol and fully cooperating with the IAEA to resolve questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted in years past.

On Nov. 11, IAEA Director-General Amano met with top Iranian officials in Tehran and signed a new framework for cooperation for initial actions to address some of these issues over the next 3 months.

Closing the Deal

With talks resuming on November 20 in Geneva, it is vital to maintain the momentum to work toward a "first phase" agreement that addresses the most urgent proliferation concerns.

Policymakers in Washington and leaders in Israel who genuinely want to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran should be careful not to insist on unrealistic demands, such as zero enrichment or the complete dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program.

Such a deal may have been possible in 2005 when Iran had fewer than 300 uranium centrifuges enriching uranium at one site; but it is not realistic now that Iran has 19,000 installed and 10,000 operating centrifuges at two sites.

Pushing for everything and getting nothing is foolhardy and dangerous.

Since 2007, the U.S. Intelligence Community has assessed that Iran has already gained a nuclear weapons capability--that is, "Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so."

Current U.S. intelligence continues to assess that leaders in Tehran have not made such a decision and they assess that Iran is still more than a year away from being able to produce enough weapons grade uranium and possibly build nuclear weapons.

Since President Rouhani's inauguration, Iran has halted key elements of its nuclear program, according to the latest quarterly report of the IAEA.

But in the absence of a meaningful, realistic deal to limit Iran's nuclear program, Iran will likely continue to increase its capacity to enrich uranium and expand its other sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle projects. That, in turn, will increase the risk of Israeli military strikes against Iran's nuclear sites. Such an attack would only delay, not stop, Iran's nuclear pursuits, would lead to a wider Middle East war, and likely push Iran's leaders to openly seek the bomb.

In the absence of a negotiated "first phase" agreement to pause Iran's nuclear program, some U.S. legislators may seek further sanctions against Iran, but such sanctions would take many months to have an effect, they could strain international support for implementing the existing sanction regime, and such efforts would not halt or eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons potential.

Now is the time to finally secure a meaningful first phase agreement and quickly move to negotiate a longer-term final phase agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals.--DARYL G. KIMBALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

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Posted: November 19, 2013

It's Time for Iran to Cooperate with the IAEA to Resolve Concerns About Its Nuclear Activities

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While much of the world's attention will remained focused on Iran's negotiations with six world powers over its nuclear program, Iran will meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on October 28, to continue talks over the agency's approach to investigating Tehran's alleged weapons-related nuclear activities.

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Volume 4, Issue 12, October 24, 2013

While much of the world's attention will remained focused on Iran's negotiations with six world powers over its nuclear program, Iran will meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on October 28 to continue talks over the agency's approach to investigating Tehran's alleged weapons-related nuclear activities.

These talks provide Iran with an important opportunity to address concerns about its past nuclear activities. Only with such cooperation can the IAEA assure the international community that Iran is no longer pursing actions related to nuclear-weapons development.

Iran-IAEA Negotiations

In an annex to its November 2011 report on Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA detailed concerns about several types of activities with potential military dimensions that the agency is requesting that Iran address. They include:

  • High-explosives experiments with nuclear weapons implications;
  • Neutron initiation and detonator development;
  • Suspected work to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile, along with arming, firing and fusing mechanisms; and
  • Iranian procurement activities related to its alleged warhead work.

Following up on these allegations, the IAEA submitted to Iran on February 20, 2012 a document identifying the kinds of actions that Iran needs to take to respond to the IAEA's concerns. This document is referred to as the "structured approach." Iran submitted a reply to the IAEA on February 26, 2012, which included an edited version of the structured approach document. The document presented Tehran's preference on how the agency should proceed with the investigations.

In total, Iran and the IAEA have met 11 times to negotiate the approach to the agency's investigations and resolvethe differences first laid out in February 2012. But the sides have failed to make progress on an agreement that will allow the agency to begin its work. In an address to the agency's Board of Governors on June 4, 2013, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said that after the first ten meetings, no progress had been made on the negotiations, and that the talks are "going around in circles."

Despite this lack of progress in the past, the October 28 meeting represents an important opportunity to make progress on the structured approach. This will be the second meeting between Iran and the IAEA since Hassan Rouhani took office as President in August. Rouhani, widely acknowledged to be more moderate than his predecessor, pledged to make Iran's nuclear program "more transparent."

Rouhani also appointed a new ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi. Najafi resumed negotiations on the structured approach with the IAEA on September 27, an introductory meeting that both he and IAEA Deputy Director Herman Naeckerts described as "constructive."

Still, significant differences remain, despite the change in leadership. In a September 26, 2013 document submitted to the IAEA following the agency's August 2013 report on Iran's nuclear program, Iran continued to insist that the IAEA provide it access to the evidence upon which it based it allegations about the possible military dimensions and raised objections to the agency's proposed approach to the investigation.  

Disputed Process

A comparison of the approaches favored by Iran and the IAEA indicate several areas of dispute that are preventing agreement on a modality for allowing the IAEA investigation to begin. As indicated by its February 2012 edits to the structured approach document, Iran objects to the IAEA's proposal on the sequence, scope, and allowance for follow-up activities as the investigation continues. While Tehran should have a say about how the IAEA proceeds, placing undue or arbitrary restrictions on the agency's investigations will continue to fuel international speculation that Iran has nuclear weapons ambitions.

Sequencing: In the February 2012 document, the IAEA laid out its intended sequence for investigating the topics of concern, but noted that some of the areas identified "may also be dealt with in parallel." Iran deleted the clause allowing for parallel investigations in its edits to the document and added the following language in a later paragraph "after implementation of action on each topic, it will be considered concluded and then the work on the next topic will start."

Iran's earlier rejection of parallel investigations would only prolong the process and hinder the IAEA's activities because many of the areas that the IAEA identified are interlinked. It is logical that, if in the course of its investigations in one area, it obtains information relating to another question, it be allowed to direct its attention to these multiple areas simultaneously.

Scope: In 2012, Iran wanted to limit the scope of the IAEA's investigations to only those issues identified in the annex to the November 2011 report.

It may be reasonable to begin with these issues, but the IAEA cannot agree ahead of time not to pursue new areas of concern that might emerge during the process and leave important questions unanswered.

Follow Up: In the 2012 structured approach document, the IAEA stated that it would identify follow-up actions throughout the process as necessary to facilitate its investigations. Iran's proposal on the approach removed that clause that would allow the IAEA to identify any further actions necessary throughout the investigations.

Restricting the agency's ability to follow up if new areas of concern emerge could prevent the IAEA from asserting that all of Iran's nuclear activities are entirely peaceful. In addition, evidence provided to the IAEA about Iran's activities comes in part from intelligence gathered by member states. It is unlikely that this information provides a complete picture of Iran's alleged nuclear activities with military dimensions.

If Iran wants to demonstrate the entirely peaceful nature of its nuclear program, then it should prioritize reaching an agreement with the IAEA that would allow the agency to proceed with its investigation as soon as possible.

The IAEA could encourage Iranian cooperation by assuring Tehran that the agency would not punish Iran in the future if it comes clean about its past activities and the agency is able to conclude that these activities are no longer being pursued.

Additional Transparency Measures

In the September 26 submission to the IAEA, Iran also explained its decision not to implement the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement or Modified Code 3.1 of its safeguards agreement. In both cases, Iran maintains that it has chosen not to observe the agreements because the IAEA's investigations into Iran's nuclear program are politicized and not based on technical or legal justifications.

Iran should reconsider its decision not to implement these agreements. While Iran is not legally required to implement the Additional Protocol, the transparency gained by such actions would go a long way to provide further evidence that Iran's nuclear program is for entirely peaceful purposes, as it claims.

If Iran implements Code 3.1, the IAEA will receive information about any plans Tehran has to expand its nuclear program earlier than it would under the existing safeguards agreement. Iran would also be obligated to share any design changes to existing nuclear facilities. This would give the agency a clearer picture of the trajectory of Iran's nuclear program and provide early assurances about the nature and purpose of new facilities.

The Additional Protocol would allow the IAEA to visit all of the facilities associated with Iran's nuclear activities, including sites that the agency does not currently have access to, such as the uranium mines, Iran's centrifuge production facilities, and its heavy water production plant. The Additional Protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine, undeclared, nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations.

With the Additional Protocol in effect, the IAEA would also be able to visit any site on very short notice. These monitoring and verification measures would give the agency a more complete picture of Iran's nuclear activities and allow for early detection of deviations from peaceful activities. Early notification would give the international community time to respond to any dash Iran might make toward building nuclear weapons.

Implementing the Additional Protocol is a step Iran could take quickly because it already negotiated the agreement with the IAEA. Iran signed the document and voluntarily implemented it between 2003-2006. However, because Tehran did not ratify the Additional Protocol, it is not legally bound to follow it.

Moving Forward

While the scope of Iran's future nuclear activities will be determined by the outcome of its negotiations with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), an agreement is unlikely to be reached if Tehran does not answer the IAEA's concerns and assure the international community that it is not actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

A deal that allows Iran to enrich uranium only to normal reactor-grade levels, limits its enrichment capacity and stockpile, and grants the IAEA more extensive access and monitoring, in exchange for a phased lifting of international sanctions related to its nuclear activities, is still within reach. For it to be realized, however, Iran must cooperate with the IAEA and allow the agency to resolve its outstanding concerns over Tehran's nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.--KELSEY DAVENPORT

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

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Posted: October 24, 2013

What Kind of Deal Is Necessary and Possible to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran?

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The United States and its P5+1 partners--China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany--will resume negotiations with Iran on October 15-16 in Geneva to seek a lasting resolution to the high-stakes standoff over Iran's increasingly capable nuclear program.

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Volume 4, Issue 11, October 10, 2013

The United States and its P5+1 partners--China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany--will resume negotiations with Iran on October 15-16 in Geneva to seek a lasting resolution to the high-stakes standoff over Iran's increasingly capable nuclear program.

The next round of talks--the first since the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran's president in June--represents the best chance in years to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.

Leaders in Washington and in Tehran say they want to see prompt action toward a "win-win" diplomatic solution. In August, a group of 76 senators wrote to President Barack Obama urging him "to fully explore the diplomatic process" with a "renewed sense of urgency." President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani have both said they believe there is a good basis for an agreement.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, Obama said:

"We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people [to access nuclear energy], while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable."

In remarks delivered the same day, Rouhani said it is our objective and "[o]ur national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program."

Iran, Rouhani said, also seeks "acceptance of and respect for the implementation of the right to enrichment inside Iran and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights, provides the only path towards achieving the first objective."

These and other comments from senior officials suggest that Iran may be prepared make a serious offer that could lead to verifiable limits on its uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel cycle projects, as well as more intrusive and more timely international nuclear inspections if the P5+1 group is willing begin the process of phasing-out the damaging oil and financial sanctions now in force against the Islamic Republic.

The task now is to negotiate the basic terms of such an agreement. This requires that each side come to the October 15-16 meeting in Geneva with new, pragmatic proposals that address the core concerns of the other. Each side must be prepared to follow up quickly with further talks, including direct, bilateral diplomacy between senior U.S. and Iranian officials and technical experts.

The U.S. Congress must do its part by refraining from actions that place unrealistic demands on the negotiators or establish new conditions for the easing of nonproliferation-related sanctions in response to concrete, verifiable actions by Iran that reduce proliferation risks.

Negotiated Limits Vs. Unconstrained Enrichment, Sanctions & War

Neither side can or will get everything they might have wanted in the past. If one or both sides miscalculate and demand more than the other side can or is willing to deliver, the negotiations will fail. For instance, it would be counterproductive for Iran to continue to insist, as it was doing last spring, on sanctions relief in return for little or no change in its nuclear program.

Likewise, it is unrealistic to insist that Iran halt all nuclear activities before there is any prospect of sanctions relief or even further talks. For example, the suggestion advanced in AIPAC's October 7 briefing paper that "Tehran must suspend all enrichment ... activities" in order "to provide the necessary time and space for discussions" is a non-starter.

There is clearly sufficient time to conclude and begin to implement an agreement before Iran could produce a nuclear weapon, which President Obama said in an October 4th interview would take Iran "more than a year" to accomplish, if it were to chose to do so.

Furthermore, it is counterproductive at this stage to demand that Iran suspend all nuclear activities as a precondition for further negotiations. "Zero enrichment" in Iran would be ideal from a nonproliferation standpoint--and it may have been attainable a decade ago when Iran's program was in its early stages--but insisting on such an outcome is not realistic today and is a recipe for failure.

And if the talks fail, both sides--and Israel--stand to lose. Big time.

In the absence of a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program and put in place tougher international inspections regime to guard against a potential undeclared nuclear activity, Iran will continue to increase its capacity to enrich uranium without constraints, the United States will put in place even tighter sanctions, and risk of Israeli military strikes against Iran's nuclear sites will grow.

Skeptics of a negotiated solution must recognize the reality that the alternative course--further sanctions and possible military strikes--cannot effectively stop Iran's dangerous nuclear pursuits.

Iran's economy is suffering under increasingly painful sanctions, but sanctions alone will not halt or eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons potential. Direct military strikes against Iran's nuclear sites would delay--not stop--Iran's nuclear pursuits and would give strength to hardliners in Tehran and push Iranian leaders to openly pursue nuclear weapons.

Reaching a sound, negotiated agreement will be difficult, but it is clearly the most effective course of action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

The Core Elements of An Effective Deal

At the previous round of talks in April of 2013, Iran and the P5+1 presented proposals that highlighted key concerns of each side. While there were a number of common elements, there were significant differences regarding the sequence of actions, the scope of issues to be addressed, and the timing of sanctions relief.

To reach an agreement that addresses the most urgent proliferation risks posed by Iran's nuclear program, as well as Iran's desire to continue some nuclear activities and begin to remove elements of the severe sanctions regime that has been put in place, each side will need to exhibit more flexibility and creativity.

President Obama and the United States' P5+1 partners must be prepared to expand their modest diplomatic proposal from last April in a way that sets new constraints on Iran's evolving nuclear program in exchange for more significant sanctions relief.

Iranian Actions: The first priority of the P5+1 must be to seek a halt to Iran's production of 20 percent-enriched uranium on a permanent basis, which is above the fuel grade used in civilian power reactors and closer to weapons grade, and verifiably remove its existing stockpile of such material, in exchange for an arrangement to supply fuel assemblies for the Tehran Research Reactor, medical isotopes, or both.

Iran must also agree to reasonable limits on the overall uranium enrichment capacity of its two declared and safeguarded facilities: Natanz and Fordow. This can be accomplished in various ways, including:

  • verifiable limits on the overall number of operating centrifuges; and/or
  • agreed limits on Iran's enrichment capacity to a level commensurate with Iran's nuclear power reactor fuel supply needs, which are, for now, minimal.

Any agreed constraints on Iranian enrichment capacity must take into account the possible deployment of new and more efficient centrifuges.

The P5+1 also should press Iran to halt work on its Arak heavy-water reactor, which is nearing completion, in exchange for other forms of civil nuclear cooperation or energy assistance that do not represent such a high proliferation risk. Although Iran does not currently have the capability to extract the plutonium from the spent fuel this reactor would produce a year or so after it becomes fully operational, the Arak reactor could eventually provide Iran with a second path to producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

To further guard against a secret weapons program at undisclosed sites and to provide additional warning time, Tehran should join the vast majority of other nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) member states in providing more-timely information to the IAEA about its nuclear projects under the standards of IAEA Code 3.1 and allow more-extensive inspections, shorter-notice through an Additional Protocol to its existing safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

With these restrictions in place, Iran would find it extremely difficult to try to make a dash to build nuclear weapons before the international community would detect such activities and could act to block such an outcome.

U.S. and P5+1 Actions: To get to "yes" on these important steps, the P5+1 must be prepared to phase-out hard-hitting sanctions against Iran's banking sector and oil exports, which are at the core of the wide-array of restrictions that have been imposed on Iran's trade and economic activity in recent years.

The purpose of the sanctions effort has been to alter Iran's cost-benefit calculations about agreeing to limit its nuclear program-and they have. Iran understands that the tough international and national sanctions will remain in place until it takes the steps necessary to provide confidence that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. But Iran will not likely agree to limits on its nuclear program if there is no prospect for sanctions relief.

In the coming weeks, key members of the Senate must refrain from pushing ahead with a new round sanctions before the results of the next round of talks become clear.

Contrary to the suggestions of some, including Banking Committee chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), the imposition of tougher sanctions now--before the negotiators have reasonable amount of time to conclude an agreement--would severely undermine the prospects of an negotiated solution that is in the United States' interests and increase the chances of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The P5+1 also must be prepared to recognize Iran's right under the Article IV of the NPT to pursue peaceful nuclear activities under certain conditions. As President Obama said in his September 24 address to the UN, such recognition requires that Iran adequately and satisfactorily respond to the international community's concern about the nature of its program.

To do so, President Rouhani must follow through on his pledge for "greater transparency" by agreeing to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol to its existing safeguards arrangement and by fully cooperating with the IAEA investigation of suspected weapons-related experiments. The next meeting between the IAEA and Iran to agree on a "structured approach" for the IAEA's investigation is scheduled for October 28 in Vienna.

If the two sides can agree to allow the IAEA sufficient access to Iranian sites, personnel and information about its ongoing and past nuclear work, the Agency should be able to determine whether experiments with "potential military dimensions" are still underway, or not. Only then can the Agency report to the IAEA Board of Governors and UN Security Council on the its findings.

Now Is the Time

Over the past decade, the United States, along with its European partners, as well as Iran, have squandered opportunities to reach a resolution that would have limited Iran's nuclear capabilities.

In the absence of an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear activities and improve safeguards against diversion, Tehran has significantly expanded its enrichment program and other sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities.

In 2005, when the United States and its EU-3 partners turned down Iran's offer to limit its enrichment capacity, Iran had less than three hundred uranium enrichment centrifuge machines; today Iran has nearly 10,000 operating centrifuges and has installed a total of nearly 19,000. A more advanced centrifuge design may soon become operational, increasing Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities even further.

Since 2007, the U.S. Intelligence Community has assessed that Iran has already gained a nuclear weapons capability--that is, "Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so."

Senior U.S. intelligence officials continue to assess that leaders in Tehran have not made such a decision and they assess that Iran still more than a year away from being able to produce enough weapons grade uranium and possibly build nuclear weapons.

But in the absence of a negotiated solution, Iran's capabilities to produce material for nuclear weapons will only improve, even if international sanctions are tightened still further.

Now is the time to finally secure a meaningful agreement with Iran to verifiably limit its uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. If the two sides proceed on the basis of realistic and achievable goals, we can secure the transparency necessary to increase confidence that Iran is not actively developing nuclear weapons and finally establish verifiable limitations on uranium enrichment program to ensure that Iran does not develop a more rapid break-out option.

Negotiating a deal to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran will not be easy, but it is the best option on the table.--DARYL G. KIMBALL

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

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Posted: October 10, 2013

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