"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
March 2006
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
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Books of Note

Striving for Military Stability in Europe: Negotiation, Implementation, and Adaptation of the CFE Treaty
By Jane M. O. Sharp, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, January
2006, 292 pp.

Jane Sharp offers a critical assessment of the role of arms control in promoting security and stability in post-Cold War Europe through the lens of the negotiation, implementation, and adaptation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization states initiated the treaty in 1990. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and the subsequent rush of former Soviet republics to join NATO, however, member-states struggled to modify the treaty to reflect the changing environment. These efforts were complicated by Russia’s Cold War-era military leaders, who balked at adapting to the new Europe seeking instead strategic parity with the ever-expanding NATO. Sharp cautions that the diplomatic process cannot run ahead of political relations. She concludes, however, that the lasting legacy of the CFE Treaty will not be the numerical limits imposed on five categories of heavy military equipment, significant as they are, but the high degree of transparency afforded by the annual information exchanges and schedule of inspections.

The Bomb in the Basement : How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World
By Michael Karpin, Simon & Schuster, January 2006, 416 pp.

This history of Israel’s nuclear program, written by a veteran Israeli journalist, appears at an opportune moment as Iran perhaps moves toward a similar option. Peppered with a colorful portrait of the individuals involved, it shows how Israel was able to evade the less than wholehearted attempts of some foreign powers, particularly the United States, to restrict its illicit nuclear activities. Additionally, it lays out in detail how and why Israel found a willing nuclear supplier in France. Karpin details the conscious decision by Israeli officials to brush aside potential U.S. security guarantees from President John F. Kennedy and to retain their nuclear option; how Israel’s blossoming nuclear capability indirectly affected the 1967 Six-Day War; and how Israel depended on politically influential American Jewish donors to raise money for its nuclear program.

Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence
From Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea
By Jeffrey T. Richelson, W.W. Norton & Company, March 2006, 702 pp.

Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive, draws on interviews and declassified documents to trace the nuclear activities of 15 countries and the efforts of the intelligence community to uncover and understand them. Richelson reveals the powerful role technology plays in assessing nuclear arsenals, especially in the era of Cold War atmospheric testing. He says, however, that the lack of sound human intelligence sources has contributed to some inaccurate assessments. For example, U.S. human intelligence failed to reveal the extent of Iraq’s nuclear and biological weapons programs before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and helped lead the Bush administration to overestimate Iraq’s unconventional weapons efforts before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of that country. His final chapter examines the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, the latest tests for the U.S. intelligence community.

Are you interested in purchasing these books? You can help support the Arms Control Association by visiting one of our partners.




Striving for Military Stability in Europe: Negotiation, Implementation, and Adaptation of the CFE Treaty. By Jane M. O. Sharp, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, January 2006, 292 pp.

The Bomb in the Basement : How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World. By Michael Karpin, Simon & Schuster, January 2006, 416 pp.

Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence: From Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. By Jeffrey T. Richelson, W.W. Norton & Company, March 2006, 702 pp.

U.S. Space Aid to India: On a "Glide Path" to ICBM Trouble?

Richard Speier

CHRONOLOGY: U.S. Missile Nonproliferation Policy and India’s Path to an ICBM Capability

In the weeks leading up to this month’s presidential visit to India, the U.S. nonproliferation community has been preoccupied with one facet of President George W. Bush’s push to bolster ties with New Delhi: his proposal for enhanced U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. Another element, however, also deserves close scrutiny: proposals, largely unexamined, for greater space ties. Given India’s reported ICBM development, these plans could destabilize international relations and potentially even threaten the United States. The Bush administration risks repeating in India the same errors that previously allowed damaging U.S. space technology transfers to China.

The Glide Path

U.S. officials have described both the nu clear and space cooperation agreements as part of a “glide path” that it has charted to improve relations with India. A glide path is the gentle course that an airplane follows as it descends to a safe landing. If the plane encounters an unexpected development, it can divert, regain altitude, and change its course. Because India has been developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, U.S.-Indian technology relations have for many years remained up in the air, not heading for a safe landing.

As then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told The Washington Post in October 2003, the “glide path” was seen as “a way of bring ing closure” to a debate over three issues that had plagued U.S.-Indian relations.

“There was a basket of issues that they were always asking us about called, well, we called it—we nicknamed it, ‘The Trinity,’” Powell said. “How can we expand our trade in high tech areas, in areas having to do with space launch activities, and with our nuclear industry?”

Powell also said that U.S. officials wanted to “protect certain ‘red lines’ that we have with respect to proliferation, because it’s sometimes hard to separate within space launch activi ties and industries and nuclear programs, that which could go to weapons, and that which could be solely for peaceful purposes.”[1]

Nearly two years later, in July 2005, Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached an agreement on space that was said to have accomplished these goals. New Delhi got what it wanted when the two leaders resolved to “build closer ties in space exploration, satellite navigation and launch, and in the commercial space arena .”[2] Washington won India’s agreement to adhere to Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines.

Yet, the agreement falls short on several grounds. First, it does nothing about India’s long-range missile development. As the 2005 deal was being negotiated, reports per sisted that India was preparing to produce an ICBM based on its massive Polar Space Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Second, depending on its precise form, the MTCR agreement could provide a shield against sanctions for some Indian exports to countries such as Iran —as U.S. law largely exempts certain types of MTCR adherents from U.S. missile proliferation sanctions. Third, India has expressed an interest in exporting missile technology (said to be below the MTCR threshold) to many countries.

The White House and Congress urgently need to reconsider this deal.

The Surya

President John F. Kennedy was once asked the difference between the Atlas space launch vehicle that put John Glenn into orbit and an Atlas missile aimed at the Soviet Union. He answered with a one-word pun: “Attitude.” The established path to a space launch capability for China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States was to adapt a ballistic missile as a space launch vehicle.

India turned the process around, adapt ing a space launch vehicle as a ballistic missile. In the 1980s, India adapted a space launch vehicle, the SLV-3, to become the Agni medium-range ballistic missile. In keeping with India’s practice of describing nuclear and missile programs as civilian until their military character cannot be denied, India originally claimed that the Agni was a “technology demonstrator.” The Agni program now consists of three missiles with ranges, respectively, of approximately 700, 2,000, and 3,000 kilometers.

For nearly two decades, reports have indicated that India sought to use a simi lar tactic to develop an ICBM.[3] It appears, though, that India may have officially begun the ICBM project (commonly known as the Surya, although sometimes also known as Agni IV) in 1994.[4] Reports cite various dates, perhaps because the project has had several decision points.

Reports generally agree that the Surya program will result in several different missiles with ranges from 5,000 to 20,000 kilo meters.[5] It is widely claimed that the Surya will have the option of a nuclear payload, and sometimes the claim is made that the payload will consist of multiple nuclear warheads.

Reports also generally agree that the Surya will be a three-stage missile with the first two stages derived from the PSLV’s solid-fuel rockets. India obtained the solid-fuel tech nology for the SLV-3 and the PSLV from the United States in the 1960s.[6] India is said to be planning for the third Surya stage to use liquid fuel and to be derived either from the Viking rocket technology supplied by France in the 1980s (called Vikas when India manu factured PSLV stages with the technology) or from a more powerful, Russian-supplied cryogenic upper stage for the Geosynchro nous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which is an adaptation of the PSLV.

If the Surya uses PSLV rocket motors, as is most frequently reported, it will be an enor mous rocket with solid-fuel stages 2.8 me ters (about nine feet) in diameter and a total weight of up to 275 metric tons. This would make it by far the largest ICBM in the world, with a launch weight about three times that of the largest U.S. or Russian ICBMs.

There appears to be no literature on Indian plans to harden or conceal the Surya launch site, which would be difficult to do because of the missile’s size and weight. If a cryogenic third stage is used, the launch process will be lengthy. This means that the Surya is likely to be vulnerable to at tack before launch, making it a first-strike weapon that could not survive in a conflict. Indeed, the Surya’s threatening nature and its pre-launch vulnerability would make it a classic candidate for pre-emptive attack in a crisis. In strategic theory, this leads to “crisis instability,” the increased incentive for a crisis to lead to strategic attacks because of each side’s premium on striking first.

The one report of a mobile ICBM based on a combination of PSLV and Agni technology makes more military sense.[7] Yet, as described below, it entails other serious concerns.

Why would India want the Surya? Its reported ranges suggest the answer.

  • A 5,000-kilometer Surya-1 might overlap the range of a reported 5,000-kilometer upgrade of the Agni missile.[8] Surya-1 would have only one advantage over such an upgraded Agni: a far larger payload with the ability to carry a large, perhaps thermonuclear warhead or multiple nuclear warheads. India has no reason to need a missile of this range for use against Pakistan. The missile’s range is arguably appropriate for military operations against distant targets in China: the range from New Delhi to Beijing is 3,900 kilometers; the range from New Delhi to Shanghai is 4,400 kilometers; and the range from Mumbai to Shanghai is 5,100 kilometers.


  • An 8,000-to-12,000-kilometer Surya-2 would be excessive for use against China, although the distance from New Delhi to London is 6,800 kilometers; to Madrid, 7,400 kilometers; to Seattle, 11,500 kilometers; and to Washington, D.C., 12,000 kilometers. In 1997, an article based on information from officials in India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) or higher levels of India’s defense establishment stated flatly, “Surya’s targets will be Europe and the U.S.”[9]


  • A 20,000-kilometer-range Surya-3 could strike any point on the surface of the Earth.

Indian commentators generally cite two reasons for acquiring an ICBM: to estab lish India as a global power and to enable India to deal with “high-tech aggression” of the type demonstrated in the wars with Iraq.[10] Because there is no obvious reason for India to want a military capability against Europe, there is one target that stands out as a bull’s-eye for an Indian ICBM: the United States. The reported 12,000-kilometer Surya-2 range is tailor- made to target the United States.

India ’s Export History and the MTCR

The United States now might have dimin ished leverage if India decided to export missile technology to countries such as Iran , given that certain types of MTCR agreements tend to provide a shield from U.S. sanctions.[11]

India historically has had a close relation ship with Tehran.[12] Indian entities have supplied sensitive military technology and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-re lated items to Iran. In diplomatic talks, the United States and Israel have urged India to cool this relationship, specifically in areas of military and energy cooperation and with respect to deliberations on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency.[13] Additionally, the United States has imposed sanctions on several Indian firms and individuals for providing the militarily sensitive and WMD-related items.[14]

Nonetheless the Indian-Iranian relationship is strong. In January 2003, then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami joined Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to watch Agni missiles roll by in the Indian Republic Day parade; and the two presidents signed a strategic accord providing India with access to Iranian bases in an emergency in return for Indian transfers of defense products, training, maintenance, and military mod ernization support.[15] This relationship is strongly supported by India’s left wing, and India cannot seem to extricate itself.[16] Even if the current ruling party could disentangle itself from Iran, the underlying political support for Iranian ties might lead a future Indian government to resume the relationship.

Aside from Iran, Indian entities have engaged in WMD-related transfers to Libya and Iraq,[17] India appears to be seeking new customers. India’s DRDO has aspirations to export missiles—said to be below the MTCR threshold at present—to “many African, Gulf and South-East Asian coun tries,” subject to government approval.[18]


The possibility of an Indian ICBM illustrates short-sightedness on the part of India and the United States. In seeking to become a global power by acquiring a first-strike weapon of mass destruction, the Indian government may be succumbing to its most immature and irresponsible instincts. The U.S. government, by offering India the “Trinity” of cooperation, is flirting with counterproductive activities that could lead to more proliferation.

If India completes the development of an ICBM, several consequences can be antici pated. Other countries will acquire an incentive to launch pre-emptive attacks against India in times of crisis, especially if the ICBM is of PSLV dimensions and, consequently, is easily targeted. India’s military funds will be diverted away from applica tions that would more readily complement “strategic partnership” with the United States. Tensions and dangers in Asia will rise.

Indian and U.S. foreign relations are also likely to suffer. An Indian ICBM would breed confusion and anger on the part of India ’s friends in Europe and the United States . That would likely spark a backlash against India that will hinder further co operation in a number of areas. India’s acts will serve as a goad to other potential missile proliferators and their potential suppliers to become more unrestrained.

To be sure, arguments can be—and have been—made in favor of such cooperation. Robert Blackwill,[19] Bush’s first ambassador to India, has contended that the value of a strategic alliance with India exceeds what some have dubbed “theological” concerns about proliferation. One can point out that India has already developed nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles, so continued resistance to such proliferation is futile. Some claim that India has not necessarily made the final decision to develop and ICBM. And Blackwill and others will say that in any case, India is our friend so we need not worry about its strategic programs. India has already developed nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles, but supplier restraint can slow down India’s missile progress and make such missiles more expensive and unreliable, perhaps delaying programs until a new government takes a fresh look at them and considers de-emphasizing them. Apart from the technical assistance that the United States is considering supplying, the relaxation of U.S. objections to foreign use of Indian launch services will augment the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) budget for rocket development.[20] Moreover, India has a long way to go to improve the performance of its missiles, and it has a history of using nuclear and space launch assistance to do just that. Some areas in which India can still improve its missiles are:

1) Accuracy. For a ballistic missile, accuracy deteriorates with range. India’s ICBM could make use of better guidance technology, and it might obtain such technology through high-technology cooperation with the United States .

2) Weight. Unnecessary weight in a missile reduces payload and range or forces the development of massive missiles, such as India’s PSLV-derived ICBM. India is striving to obtain better materials and master their use to reduce unnecessary missile weight. [21]

3) Reliability. India ’s space launch vehicles and medium-range missiles have suffered their share of flight failures. Engineering assistance in space launches could unintentionally improve India’s missile reliability, as was dem onstrated with the incident of unapproved technology transfers to China through launches of U.S. satellites.[22]

4) Multiple warheads. India ’s reported interest in missile payloads with multiple nuclear warheads means that certain elements of satellite technology could be diverted to military use. Deliberate or inadvertent transfers of technology associated with dispensing and orienting satellites could, as in the Chinese case, make it easier to develop multiple re-entry vehicles.

5) Countermeasures against missile defenses. Assistance to India in certain types of satellite technology, such as the automated deployment of structures in space, could aid the development of penetration aids for India’s long-range missiles. Given that the United States is an obvious target for an Indian ICBM, such countermeasures could help counter U.S. missile defenses.

Even if India’s missile programs were not materially aided by U.S. space launch cooperation, other countries might fill the gap. France and Russia, India’s traditional and less-restrained rocket technology suppliers, are certain to want a piece of any space action.

It is true that India has not necessarily made the final commitment to develop an ICBM, but many steps have been taken to this end. Even if India has no current intention to develop the Surya, intentions (and ruling parties) can change. Unwise U.S. space cooperation would facilitate India’s final steps toward an ICBM.

It is true that India is our friend and “strategic partner,” at least at the present time. History raises questions whether such friendship would continue through an adverse change in India’s ruling party or through a conflict with Pakistan. India’s interest in an ICBM, which in many ways only makes sense as a weapon against the United States, raises questions about whether the friendship is mutual. More over, nonproliferation policy is often directed against programs in friendly nations. Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Pakistan, South Africa , South Korea, Taiwan, and Ukraine are all friendly states for which the United States has attempted to hinder WMD and missile programs without un dermining broader relations. An exception for India is certain to be followed by more strident demands for exceptions elsewhere. Is the space launch component of “friendship” worth a world filled with states with nuclear-armed missiles?

India ’s missile program has evolved over more than four decades. The history of proliferation demonstrates the difficulty of holding to a strong nonproliferation policy over years, let alone decades. There will always be temptations to trade non proliferation for some bilateral or strategic advantage of the moment. In the current situation, India may have outnegotiated the United States . After India’s 1998 nuclear-weapon tests, the United States imposed sanctions and then gradually lifted them. In nuclear and rocket matters, this was not enough for India. Once the United States began easing up on India, the United States kept easing up.

The United States professes to be hold ing to its “red lines”—Powell’s words—in whatever kind of cooperation it is considering. Yet, the world needs to know where these lines are when it comes to space launch cooperation. It is one thing for the United States to provide launch services for Indian satellites. It is another for the United States to use or help improve India’s ICBM-capable rockets. Are the red lines firm or flexible? Is the glide path a slippery slope? These questions lead to a number of recommendations.


Under the July 2005 joint statement, the United States and India committed themselves to closer space ties. This does not require, nor should it encourage, U.S. cooperation on India’s ICBM pro gram directly or indirectly. In fact, the United States has already taken a step in the right direction by offering to launch Indian astronauts in upcoming space shuttle missions and to involve them to the fullest extent in the International Space Station.

The United States should do more to encourage India to launch its satellites and science packages on U.S. and foreign launchers by making these launches more affordable. The United States also should be forthcoming in offering India access, as appropriate, to the benefits of U.S. satellite programs, including communications, earth resource observation, and exploration of the cosmos.

India , in fact, has some of the world’s best astrophysicists and cosmologists. It is in our interest, as well as the world’s, that we welcome these Indian experts into the search for basic answers about the universe. We should make the data from the Hubble telescope and similar systems available to Indian scientists and encourage them to become full partners in its analysis.

On the other hand, there are some critical cautions to be observed.

1) Do not be naive about the nature of India’s program.

After more than two decades of reports about India’s interest in an ICBM, includ ing reports from Russia, statements on India ’s ICBM capability by the U.S. intelligence community, and the firing of an Indian official after he publicly described the Surya program, there should be no illusions. The reports consistently state that India’s ICBM will be derived from its space-launch vehicle technology.

The United States should not believe that it is possible to separate India’s “civil ian” space-launch program—the incubator of its ballistic missiles—from India’s military program.

The United States would be the primary target of an Indian ICBM, which would be used to protect India from the theoretical possibility of “high-tech aggression.”

The U.S. intelligence community should resume its semi-annual unclassified report ing to Congress on India’s nuclear and missile programs, which was discontinued after April 2003.

2) Do not assist India’s space launch programs.

The United States should not cooperate either with India’s space launches or with satellites that India will launch. India hopes that satellite launches will earn revenues that will accelerate its space program, including rocket development. U.S. payloads for Indian launches, such as the envisioned cooperative lunar project, risk technology transfer and invite other states to be less restrained in their use of Indian launches.

The United States should resume dis couraging other states from using Indian launches, while encouraging India to re sume the practice of launching satellites on other states’ space launch vehicles.

Given the frequent reports of Russian cryogenic rockets being used in the Surya, the United States should work with Russia to ensure that Russian space cooperation with India does not undercut U.S. restraint.

Because there is no meaningful distinc tion between India’s civilian and military rocket programs, the United States should explicitly or de facto place ISRO back on the “entities” list of destinations that require export licenses.[23]

In addition, Congress should insist that the administration explain its red lines regarding space cooperation with India. If these lines are not drawn tightly enough, Congress should intervene.

3) Review carefully any cooperation with India’s satellite programs.

India is reportedly developing multiple nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles. If India develops an ICBM, the next step will be to develop countermeasures to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. Certain satellite technologies can help India with both of these developments.

The United States should review its satellite cooperation to ensure that it does not aid India inappropriately in the technologies of dispensing or orienting spacecraft, of automated deployment of structures in space, or of other operations that would materially contribute to mul tiple warheads or countermeasures against missile defenses.

4) Stop using cooperation in dangerous technologies as diplomatic baubles.

India is the current example of a broader, dysfunctional tendency in bilateral relations to display trust and friendship by opening up the most dangerous forms of cooperation. The United States should not fall further into this trap with India or with any other state.

India needs many other forms of eco nomic and military cooperation more than it needs nuclear and space technology. If India insists on focusing technology co operation in these areas, the United States should interpret that it as a red flag.

The U.S. removal of technology sanctions imposed after India’s 1998 nuclear tests was an adequate and perhaps exces sive display of friendship. Further tech nology cooperation should be limited to areas that do not contribute to nuclear weapons or their means of delivery.


A primary target of an Indian ICBM would be the United States. The technology of an Indian ICBM would be that of a space launch vehicle, either directly via the PSLV or indirectly via the Agni, which is based on India’s SLV-3. The United States should not facilitate the acquisition or improve ment of that technology directly or indirectly. In this matter, U.S. clarity and restraint are what the world and India need.

The United States needs to divert from the present glide path and reorient itself and India onto a more produc tive course of cooperation. It would be a cruel irony if, in the hope of becoming strategic partners, we became each other’s strategic targets.


U.S. Missile Nonproliferation Policy and India’s Path to an ICBM Capability

Richard Speier

The path to India’s ICBM capability has spanned more than four decades and is largely based on space-launch vehicle technology obtained from foreign sources. The United States has taken measures over the last several decades to restrict missile proliferation, but the policies took effect only after India’s missile program had begun. Moreover, U.S. nonproliferation policy has also not been consistently applied, particularly in India’s case. Indeed, the relationship between space launch vehicles and missile proliferation seems to have been obscured.


NASA trains Indian scientists at Wallops Island, Virginia, in sounding rockets and provides Nike-Apache sounding rockets to India.[1] France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union also supply sounding rockets.[2]


A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, an Indian engineer, works at Wallops Island, where the Scout space-launch vehicle (an adaptation of Minuteman ICBM solid-fuel rocket technology) is flown.[3]


Following Kalam’s return to India, the Indian Atomic Energy Commission requests U.S. assistance with the Scout, and NASA provides unclassified reports.[4]


U.S. firms supply equipment for the Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant at Sriharikota.[5]


Kalam becomes head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in charge of developing space launch vehicles. During the same time period, the United States begins to consider a broad policy against missile proliferation.

May 1974

India conducts a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”


The United States and its six economic sum mit partners secretly negotiate the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). After one and a half years of difficult negotiations on the question of space launch vehicles, all partners agree that they must be treated as restrictively as ballistic missiles because their hardware, technology, and production facilities are interchangeable. The MTCR is informally implemented in 1985 and is publicly announced in 1987.

July 1980

India launches its first satellite with the SLV-3 rocket, a close copy of the NASA Scout.[6]

February 1982

Kalam becomes head of the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in charge of adapting space-launch vehicle technology to ballistic missiles.

May 1989

India launches its first Agni “technology dem onstrator” surface-to-surface missile. The Agni’s first stage is essentially the first stage of the SLV-3. Later, the Agni becomes a family of three short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.[7]



The United States enacts a sanctions law against missile proliferation. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union agrees to supply India with cryogenic upper-stage rockets and technology, and the two parties become the first countries sanctioned under the new U.S. law.[8]


The United States lifts sanctions on Russia after Moscow agrees to limit the transfer to a small number of rocket engines and not production technology.[9]


India launches the Polar Space Launch Ve hicle (PSLV). Stages 1 and 3 are 2.8-meter-diameter solid-fuel rockets. Stages 2 and 4 are liquid-fuel Vikas engines derived from 1980s French technology transfers.

The earliest reported date for when the Surya ICBM program, using PSLV technology, is said to have been officially authorized. However, India’s space and missile en gineers, if not the “official” Indian government, had opened the option much earlier.

May 1998

India tests nuclear weapons after decades of protesting that its nuclear program was exclu sively peaceful. The United States imposes broad sanctions on nuclear- and missile/space-related transfers.

April 1999

India launches the Agni II, an extended range missile that tests re-entry vehicle “technology [that] can be integrated with the PSLV programme to create an ICBM” according to a defense ministry official.[10]

Kalam quoted in Jane’s Defence Weekly that he wants to “neutralise” the “stranglehold” some nations have through the MTCR, which had tried but failed to “throttle” India’s missile program. “I would like to devalue missiles by selling the technology to many nations and break their stranglehold.”[11]

May 1999

Defense News cites DRDO officials as stating that the Surya is under development.[12]

November 1999

India ’s minister of state for defense (and former head of DRDO), Bachi Singh Rawat, says India is developing an ICBM known as Surya that would “have a range of up to” 5,000 kilometers. A little more than two weeks later, Rawat is reportedly stripped of his portfolio because of his disclosure.[13]


April 2001

Khrunichev State Space Science and Pro duction Center announces that it will supply five more cryogenic upper stages to India within the next three years.[14]

September 2001

The United States lifts many of the technology sanctions it imposed in 1998. Subsequently, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visits the United States amid agreement to broaden the technology dialogue.

December 2001

A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate states, “ India could convert its polar space launch vehicle into an ICBM within a year or two of a decision to do so.”[15]

July 2002

Kalam becomes president of India.

September 2002

The United States tells India it will not object to India launching foreign satellites as long as they do not contain U.S.-origin components.[16]

April 2003

The last mention of India as a proliferator or a supplier to proliferators is made in the director of central intelligence’s unclassified semi-annual report to Congress on the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.[17]

January 2004

President George W. Bush agrees to expand cooperation with India in “civilian space programs” but not explicitly to cooperate with space launches. This measure is part of a bilateral initiative dubbed “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership.”[18]

October 2004

A Russian Academy of Sciences deputy direc tor reportedly states that India is planning to increase the range of the Agni missile to 5,000 kilometers and to design the Surya ICBM with a range of 8,000-12,000 kilometers.[19]

July 2005

Bush agrees to cooperate with India on “satellite navigation and launch,” and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agrees to “adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime...guidelines.”[20]

August 2005

According to Indian Ministry of Defense sources, there are plans to use the nonc ryogenic Vikas stage for the Surya and to have the missile deliver a 2.5-3.5-metric-ton payload with two or three warheads with explosive yields of 15-20 kilotons.[21]



1. Sundara Vadlamudi, “Indo-U.S. Space Cooperation: Poised for Take-Off?” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2005, p. 203.

2. Gary Milhollin, “ India’s Missiles: With a Little Help From Our Friends,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1989.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Vadlamudi, “Indo-U.S. Space Cooperation.”

6. Alexander Pikayev et al., “ Russia, the U.S., and the Missile Technology Control Regime,” Adelphi Paper No. 317, International Institute for Strategic Studies, March 1998.

7. Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen, “ India’s Nuclear Forces, 2005,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Sep tember/October 2005.

8. Pikayev et al., “ Russia, the U.S., and the Missile Technology Control Regime.”

9. Ibid.

10. V. G. Jaideep, “ India Building ICBM With 8,000-Plus Km Range,” Asian Age, February 8, 1999, pp. 1-2; Barbara Opall-Rome, “Agni Test Undercuts U.S., Angers China,” Defense News, April 26, 1999, p. 17.

11. Agni IRBM Built to Carry Nuclear Warhead,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 28, 1999.

12. Vivek Raghuvanshi, “ India to Develop Extensive Nuclear Missile Arsenal,” Defense News, May 24, 1999, p. 14.

13. Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “Ballistic Missile Proliferation,” Report No. 2000/09, March 23, 2001; Iftikhar Gilani, “Premature Disclosure of ICBM Project, Rawat Stripped of Defence Portfolio,” Daily Times, November 23, 1999.

14. “Khrunichev Space Center to Supply Rocket Boosters to India,” Interfax, April 16, 2001.

15. “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015,” December 2001.

16. . Raja Mohan, “ U.S. Gives Space to ISRO,” Hindu , September 30, 2002, p. 11.

17. Director of Central Intelligence, “Unclassified Re port to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relat ing to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January Through 30 June 2002,” April 2003.

18. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership With India,” Janu ary 12, 2004.

19. Moscow Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, November 1, 2004 (internet news service in English).

20. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Joint Statement Between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” July 18, 2005.

21. N. Madhuprasad, “Boost to Indian Armed Forces’ Deterrence Arsenal; India to Develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missile,” Bangalore Deccan Herald, August 25, 2005.


Richard Speier is a private consultant on nonproliferation and counterproliferation issues. Speier spent more than 25 years in government at the Office of Management and Budget, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. While in government, he helped negotiate the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). This article is based on a paper published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.


1. Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin, “ Washington Post Reporters Interview Powell,” The Washington Post, October 3, 2003.

2. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Joint Statement Between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” July 18, 2005.

3. For early reports, see Maurice Eisenstein, “Third World Missiles and Nuclear Proliferation,” The Washington Quarterly, Summer 1982; “Liquid Fuel Engine Tested for PSLV,” Hindustan Times, December 13, 1985, p. 1; “Growing Local Opposition to India’s Proposed National Test Range at Baliapal, Orissa,” English Language Press, October 1986; “India Faces Rising Pressure for Arms Race With Pakistan,” Christian Science Monitor, March 9, 1987, p. 1. The latest detailed report, appearing less than six-weeks after the presidents’ joint statement is N. Madhuprasad, “Boost to Indian Armed Forces’ Deterrence Arsenal; India to Develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missile,” Bangalore Deccan Herald, August 25, 2005.

4. Vivek Raghuvanshi, “Indian Scientists Poised to Test-Launch Country’s First ICBM,” Defense News, April 30, 2001, p. 26.

5. International missile nomenclature defines an ICBM as a ballistic missile with a range of 5,500 or greater. However, Indian officials have sometimes exaggerated missiles’ capabilities by bumping missiles into the next range-class.

6. Gary Milhollin, “ India’s Missiles—With a Little Help From Our Friends,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1989; Sundara Vadlamudi, “Indo-U.S. Space Cooperation: Poised for Take-Off?” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2005, p. 203.

7. See Arun Vishwakarma, “Agni-Strategic Ballistic Missile,” April 15, 2005. The report states that India is taking a different ICBM approach: developing a 1.8-meter-diameter, solid-fuel rocket that will extend the Agni to intercontinental range and that could be the basis for a longer-range ICBM. The 1.8-meter-diameter rocket represents a combination of PSLV and Agni technology. Such a lighter ICBM makes far more military sense than a PSLV-sized missile. The lighter ICBM might be mobile and able to survive a first strike. However, Vishwakarma consistently reports far higher ranges for the existing Agni missiles than have been reported elsewhere. Given this reporting bias, Vishwakarma may be describing the wish lists of Indian engineers or programs that have not yet been funded. The PSLV exists, and the existence of a 1.8-meter-diameter missile has not yet been reported except by Vishwakarma. The impending test of the Agni-3 may reveal whether a 1.8-meter-diameter rocket stage, which could make possible a mobile ICBM, has been developed. See “Missile Plan,” Bangalore Deccan Herald, November 26, 2005; Rajiv Nayan, “Agni Three Missile: Sino-Centric?” Bangalore Deccan Herald, December 12, 2005; Sayan Majumdar, “Defense Developments for 2006,” New Delhi India Defence Consultants, January 13, 2006.

8. Moscow Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, November 1, 2004 (internet news service); Vishwarkarma, “Agni-Strategic Ballistic Missile.” It is possible that either or both of these references have conflated the Surya-1 with the Agni program.

9. John Wilson, “ India’s Missile Might,” The Pioneer, July 13, 1997, p. 1.

10. Brahma Chellaney, “Value of Power,” The Hindustan Times, May 19, 1999.

11. See Richard Speier et al., Nonproliferation Sanctions (Rand Corporation, 2001).

12. For an official Indian history of relations as of 2002, see http://www.indianembassy-tehran.com/india-iran.html.

13. Barbara Opall-Rome and Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India’s Balancing Act,” Defense News, September 15, 2003, p. 1; Sultan Shahin, “India Sticks With Iran, for Now,” Asia Times, September 20, 2003; Patricia Nunan, “U.S. Signals Concern About India-Iran Pipeline Project,” VOA News.com, March 17, 2005; Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India, U.S. to Boost Tech Flow,” Defense News, December 12, 2005.

14. Those sanctioned, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, include Bharat Electronics Ltd., Dr. C. Surendar, Dr. Y.S.R. Prasad, NEC Engineers, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Projects and Development India Ltd., Rallis India, and Transpek Industry Ltd.

15. “ Iran’s Ballistic Missiles: Upgrades Underway,” IISS Strategic Comments, November 2003; Opall-Rome and Raghuvanshi, “ India’s Balancing Act.”

16. John Larkin, “India Bets on Nuclear Future: Backing Probe of Iran Draws Closer Look at New Delhi’s Ambitions,” The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2005; Somini Sengupta, “Nuclear Deal and Iran Complicate Efforts by U.S. and India to Improve Ties,” The New York Times, January 23, 2006; Jo Johnson and Caroline Daniel, “New Delhi Faces a Diplomatic Balancing Act Ahead of Bush’s State Visit,” Financial Times, January 26, 2006; “India’s Left Parties Demand Recall of U.S. Envoy,” Agence France Press, January 30, 2006.

17. Nicholas Kralev, “Firm Helping Arms Program Sanctioned,” Washington Times, February 20, 2003; “Indian Police Arrest Man for Alleged Export of Chemicals to Iraq,” Agence France Presse, October 18, 2003.

18. “DRDO Plan to Export Missiles,” The Hindu, November 21, 2005.

19. Robert D. Blackwill, “The India Imperative,” The National Interest, Summer 2005, pp. 9-15.

20. Israel has already stepped into the breach to contract for an October 2006 Indian launch of an Israeli radar imaging satellite. See Barbara Opall-Rome and K. S. Jayaraman, “India to Launch Israeli Spy Sat,” Defense News, November 14, 2005, p. 1; “India to Launch Israeli Military Imaging Radar Satellite,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 21, 2005, p. 17.

21. Mir Ayoob Ali Khan, “Agni-III to Get Light Motor for Bigger Bombs,” The Asian Age, Oc tober 14, 2005.

22. “Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China,” 105th Cong., 1st sess., 1999, H. Rep. 851.

23. Bureau of Export Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, “Control Policy: End-User and End-Use Based,” Regulation Part 744. ISRO was removed from the “entities” list under a U.S.-Indian agreement signed on September 17, 2004.

Bush Promotes New Nuclear Plan

Wade Boese

The Bush administration hopes emerging nuclear fuel-cycle technologies will help meet U.S. and global energy needs and reduce dangers that civilian nuclear programs might be corrupted for nuclear weapons. But even administration officials indicate that the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), an initiative to promote such technologies, is by no means assured of success.

In his Jan. 31 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush argued the United States had to break its “addiction” to oil by investing in alternative energy sources. GNEP is the nuclear component of a multi-pronged approach that also includes boosting solar and wind power. The administration is seeking $250 million in seed money for GNEP in its fiscal year 2007 budget request.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman unveiled GNEP Feb. 6. The initiative’s aims, Bodman explained, were to “extract more energy from nuclear fuel, reduce the amount of waste that requires permanent disposal, and greatly reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.” Speaking at the same event, Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell framed the initiative as part of “a nuclear renaissance, which we greatly need.”

GNEP rests on devising new ways of treating spent nuclear fuel so it can be used again and again, a process referred to as recycling, before being discarded as waste. Currently, the United States only runs nuclear fuel through a reactor once before disposing of it.

The United States abandoned commercial fuel recycling in the 1970s because of high costs and concerns about the dangers associ ated with chemical reprocessing, the current method for separating uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse. Because plutonium can be used to build nuclear bombs, Washingtondeclined to embrace an approach that created large quantities of bomb-ready material susceptible to misuse or theft. Despite U.S.apprehensions, France adopted a civilian spent-fuel reprocessing program, and Japan is on the verge of implementing one.

Administration officials envision GNEP as mooting past U.S. concerns by employing new reprocessing approaches, called UREX+ and pyroprocessing, that they say will not yield pure separated plutonium but a mixture, including plutonium, that is less applicable to making bombs. GNEP further calls for construction of new ad vanced burner reactors to make use of the reprocessed fuel.

But the new reprocessing technologies have yet to be proven on an industrial scale, and the new reactors must still be designed. En ergy Department officials seemed to acknowledge the many chal lenges facing GNEP by repeatedly couching it in qualified terms.

Bodman noted, “If we can make GNEP a reality…,” while Sell said, “Ultimately, we hope to be in a position to make a judg ment about the commercial viability of this approach in the coming years.” Sell also added that “the scale of what we are proposing is substantial and the level of [research and develop ment] and demonstration funding that would be required of this country is significant.”

Still, a Feb. 6 Energy Department press release quoted Bodman as declaring, “GNEP brings the promise of virtually limitless energy to emerging economies around the globe in an environmentally friendly manner while reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation.”

The International Aspect

The United States is aiming to get other advanced nuclear powers, such as France, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom, involved in GNEP. Participating countries would seek to develop new small-scale reactors that would operate their entire lifetime on one load of nuclear fuel, minimizing the risk that the fuel could be used for bomb purposes. GNEP countries would also work to devise new safeguard mechanisms to make it more difficult for nuclear materials and technologies in the civil sector to be di verted to building arms.

If the novel reprocessing approach pans out, Washington sees it as enabling GNEP participants to offer other countries a reliable supply of nuclear fuel and fuel services at an attractive price while limiting proliferation dangers. “We hope to develop an interna tional regime…so that fuel can be leased to a country interested in building a reactor and taking fuel, but then the fuel can be taken back to the fuel cycle country,” Sell explained.

Eligibility for this offer would depend on potential recipients forswearing acquisition of their own reprocessing or uranium-en richment capabilities. Uranium enrichment can be used to produce low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel or highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

In February 2004, Bush called for a halt to the spread of reprocessing and enrichment capabilities. (See ACT, March 2004.) Washington , Moscow, and several European capitals are trying to persuade Tehran to give up its fledgling enrichment program. The United States says Iran’s stubborn refusal is evidence of its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Russia and International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei have advanced concepts similar to GNEP intended to stymie the diffusion of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Currently, 15 countries, including Iran, have such capabilities.

At a July 2005 Moscow conference, Kremlin officials floated the possibility of organizing a network of global nuclear-fuel supply centers based in Russia and other advanced nuclear powers, and Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated the proposal in January. ElBaradei has advocated establishing a guaranteed nuclear-fuel supply regime that would eventually evolve into multilateral management of all nuclear fuel facilities.

ElBaradei and Putin have said their proposals would be open to any government. Putin said Russia would provide “access without discrimination for all who desire it,” while ElBaradei has recommended a supply regime based on apolitical, objective criteria. The United States has not made similar statements, raising questions as to whether GNEP services would be available to governments not in Washington’s favor.

Sell indicated that reactions to GNEP by other capitals have been mixed. Although saying it had been “enthusiastically received” by some, he also admitted, “[T]here are different perspectives and different angles, and there are many details to be worked out.”

The reaction of U.S. lawmakers has fallen along party lines. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Feb. 9 that the “recycling technologies that are discussed under GNEP are exciting.” Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the initiative Feb. 16 “visionary.” Alternatively, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said the same day that GNEP “has serious problems.” She cited potential costs of up to hundreds of billions of dollars, proliferation dangers, and doubts that recy cling would reduce nuclear waste.

The handling of nuclear waste is politically divisive in the United States, and the GNEP proposal to bring back spent nuclear fuel from foreign countries could prompt more objections to the initiative. Indeed, public opposition has stalled the U.S. government’s plan to open a long-term spent nuclear-fuel and waste repository at Yucca Mountain.



Nuclear Deal Center Stage for U.S., India

Wade Boese

U.S. and Indian government officials often evoke the similarities between their two countries and the breadth of their blossoming “strategic” relationship. But in the prelude to President George W. Bush’s March trip to India, one issue commanded attention: nuclear trade. It also featured prominently in French President Jacques Chirac’s February visit to India.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed July 18 to expand their countries’ ties. Perhaps the most ambitious and arguably most controversial commitment was Bush’s promise to work toward altering U.S. law and international rules in order to permit full-scale civilian nuclear trade with India. India has been largely ex cluded from this arena for three decades since its 1974 explosion of a nuclear device and subsequent development of a nuclear weapons program. In response to Bush’s promise, Singh pledged that a greater share of the civilian portions of India’s nuclear complex would be subjected to international oversight despite nationalist opposition.

Heady expectations that the two governments would swiftly real ize the agreement accompanied its announcement. The lead U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, predicted July 19 that the administration would provide Congress an implementation plan within the “next month or two.”

But this plan has since been postponed by prolonged negotiations between the United States and India on a mutually acceptable list of Indian civilian nuclear facilities to be subjected to international monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The agency is entrusted with guarding against the misuse of peaceful nuclear materials and technologies for arms purposes.

India possesses an estimated 50 to 100 nuclear weapons and re serves the option to produce more. However, the United States, as well as China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, committed in the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “not in any way to assist” a non-nuclear-weapon state’s acquisition of nuclear arms. Although New Delhi has not signed the NPT, India under the trea ty’s terms is a non-nuclear-weapon state because it did not explode a nuclear device before Jan. 1, 1967. Hence, New Delhi must clearly separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities so major nuclear suppliers do not violate their NPT obligations.

The U.S. position in the negotiations has been to get India to declare as many sites as possible as civilian, not only to provide as surances that nuclear transfers stay in the civilian sector and do not contribute to an Indian nuclear arms buildup but also to reduce risks of outside tampering or theft. The Department of State responded Jan. 17 to questions posed about the July 18 deal by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) by stating that “it is in India’s own interests to declare the maximum number of programs and facilities as civilian.”

However, the United States is not seeking to put under interna tional supervision existing spent nuclear fuel, which contains plutonium, a key ingredient for making nuclear arms. The State Depart ment in response to written questions by Senate Foreign Relations Com mittee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said that “as most such agreements are not retroactive, we would not expect the agreement to specify that previously produced material must be returned to the plant in order to be placed under safeguards.”

Washington has reportedly pressed for safeguards on India’s fast-breeder reactor program, which the State Department described to Lugar as posing “proliferation risks.” Fast-breeder reactors produce large quantities of plutonium. India is short on uranium, the com mon base for nuclear fuel, and has expansive plans centered on plutonium as a civil fuel source.

The U.S. approach upsets the Indian nuclear establishment. Anil Kakodkar, chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission and secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, told the Indian Express in an interview published Feb. 8 that inclusion of the nascent breeder reactor program was unacceptable. “This would amount to getting shackled,” he stated, explaining that the “fuel cycle is for the same infrastructure which also feeds the strategic program.”

Kakodkar summed up the negotiations as a “difficult exercise.” The fundamental problem, he stressed, is that the Indian nuclear fuel cycles for nuclear weapons and energy are “intimately intertwined.” India has rejected U.S. entreaties to end its production of fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for weapons.

Ronen Sen, India’s ambassador to the United States, contended Feb. 21 in Washington that the separation matter has received “undue focus.” He added, “[T]he debate, I think, has been hijacked over here by nonproliferation theologians and in India by those rallying under the banner of self-reliance, even though it might not be con ducive to our overall self-interests.”

Currently, the 45 members of the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group restrict nuclear exports to India because it lacks full-scope safeguards, which entails IAEA supervision of all nuclear facilities and materials. Washington as part of the July 18 deal has said it will seek consensus to exempt India from this rule.

France is eager to expand nuclear trade with India and, according to a Feb. 20 Indian government press release, a French company is involved in “pre-feasibility studies” for a new Indian nuclear power reactor. A joint declaration by the two governments the same day further notes that they are working toward a “bilateral cooperation agreement” on nuclear energy and “look forward to adjustment of [the] international civil nuclear cooperation framework…so that the agreement can be implemented fully.”

One implementation step would involve the IAEA safeguarding India’s designated civilian facilities. In its response to Markey, the State Department observed, “We look forward to working with the IAEA and the Government of India to estimate those costs and to identify how best to meet them without undercutting inspections/ verification efforts in other countries.” These costs will be “signifi cant,” the State Department reported.


Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle

Daryl G. Kimball

Three years after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had secretly built uranium-enrichment facilities, diplomatic opportunities to resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions are narrowing fast.

To improve the chances for success, U.S. and European leaders must pursue a more comprehensive diplomatic strategy. They must further reduce Iran’s incentives to enrich uranium and motives to acquire the bomb. They also need to strengthen the IAEA’s authority while maintaining broad international support for greater Iranian restraint and compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.

In August 2005, Iran rejected inducements by the European Union to suspend its enrichment program and restarted enrichment-related work. That gave IAEA member states little choice but to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreements in September and to report Iran’s file to the UN Security Council last month.

Despite the 27-3 IAEA Board of Governors vote, Iran’s leaders seem more determined than ever to proceed with uranium enrichment, which they say is solely for nuclear reactor fuel production but which can also create bomb-grade fissile material. In recent days, Tehran ended its voluntary cooperation with enhanced IAEA inspections and restarted small-scale enrichment experiments in defiance of IAEA member-state requests not to do so.

In response, the United States and the EU, along with Russia and possibly China, are expected to pursue a strategy in the Security Council of targeted political and economic sanctions. By itself, this will not likely induce Iran to suddenly reverse course, let alone stick with a decision to suspend uranium enrichment.

It offers little gain and high costs, but the pursuit of nuclear technology has become a popular rallying cry for Iran’s controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s leaders are betting they can avoid meaningful penalties or, as India and Pakistan did, wait for international support for nonproliferation-related sanctions to erode.

Although there is no direct evidence of an illegal nuclear weapons program today, neither has the IAEA been able to determine that Iran’s nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. Iran requires several more years to master the operation of centrifuge cascades and construct a large-scale plant that can produce highly enriched uranium for bombs. It would also take time to develop a bomb capable of delivery on a missile. But if Iran can master enrichment on research scale, Iran could pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons program, especially in the absence of intrusive inspections.

To avoid such an outcome, several steps must now be pursued and others avoided. The EU and Russia should redouble their efforts to provide Iran with a face-saving option to continue uranium-enrichment research and get a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel through the managed use of Russian facilities. This approach would not require Iran to disavow its “right” as a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to “peaceful” nuclear pursuits.

At the same time, the international community must demonstrate it will respond to Iran’s defiance by strengthening the IAEA’s authority in Iran and elsewhere. The Security Council could adopt a resolution stipulating that if a state is in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement, the agency’s verification authority will automatically expand until questions about possible nuclear weapons activity are resolved. The council could also require a noncompliant state to accept permanent, facility-specific IAEA safeguards. This would legally preclude the state from using equipment, facilities, and nuclear material for weapons purposes if it decides to withdraw from the NPT.

Such measures would not only strengthen the NPT but would ensure that IAEA inspections and reports, rather than potentially politically biased national intelligence assessments, serve as the basis for compliance actions. They would also provide noncompliant states a way to demonstrate they have taken corrective steps and help deter states from frivolously withdrawing from the NPT in the future.

Other tactics, such as punitive economic sanctions against a major oil exporter such as Iran, could divide and immobilize the Security Council or else provoke Iranian countermoves and even lead Iran to withdraw from the NPT. Washington-funded “regime change” initiatives will only harden Iranian resistance. The effect of a pre-emptive strike by Israel or the United States on Iran’s nuclear complex would be temporary, provide a rationale for Iran openly to pursue nuclear weapons, and could trigger a regional war involving exchanges of ballistic missiles.

Rather than rushing toward confrontation with an uncertain outcome, the Bush administration must overcome its historic antipathy toward meaningful engagement with Iran. The people of Iran need to see that nuclear restraint and compliance will put Iran on a path toward peace and prosperity. Too much is at stake not to offer a better U.S.-Iranian political relationship, including a mutual nonaggression pledge, which is essential to changing Iranian perceptions that it should retain a nuclear weapons option.

There is no quick fix. Renewed and more creative diplomacy remains the only practical way to resolve the Iranian nuclear puzzle.


U.S., NK Meeting Could Aid Six-Party Talks

Paul Kerr

For several months, progress in talks aimed at a negotiated solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis has been held up by Pyongyang’s complaints about U.S. pressure on North Korean financial transactions. But the two sides recently agreed to meet in early March to discuss the U.S. clampdown on North Korea’s illicit activities that has angered Pyongyang , potentially providing an avenue toward restarting broader talks.

North Korea has resisted moving forward with the talks, insisting that Washington first lift what it terms “financial sanctions,” a reference to the Department of the Trea sury’s September 2005 designation of the Macau bank Banco Delta Asia as a “money laundering concern.”

The six parties, which also include China, Japan , Russia, and South Korea, began their most recent round of talks in November hoping to build on a September statement of principles for a negotiated solution to the crisis. But the North Korean delegation focused almost exclusively on the bank designation during that meeting, U.S. officials have said. (See ACT, December 2005.) Since then, no further talks have been scheduled.

Washington maintains that North Korea should return immediately to the talks, contending publicly that the U.S. actions against Banco Delta Asia are law enforce ment actions unrelated to the talks. The United States asserts that the bank provided financial services to North Korean government agencies and front companies engaged in such activities as drug traffick ing and counterfeit U.S. currency distribution. (See ACT, January/February 2006.) North Korea argues that U.S. actions such as the Banco Delta Asia designation are part of a “hostile policy” designed to collapse Kim Jong Il’s regime. This policy, Pyongyang says, is inconsistent with Washington’s pledge in the September joint statement to respect Pyongyang’s sovereignty and must be reversed in order for the talks to succeed.

Despite the Bush administration’s public claims to the contrary, knowledgeable current and former Department of State officials have told Arms Control Today that targeting North Korea’s illicit activities also is thought by some administration officials to be a useful mechanism for persuading Pyongyang to be more conciliatory in the six-party talks. Other officials have come to see such pressure as a tool to change the North Korean regime.

Since the U.S. designation, Banco Delta Asia has frozen North Korea’s accounts. Other financial institutions have also reportedly curtailed their dealings both with the bank and North Korea. A high-ranking North Korean diplomat told a former State Department official that such actions have cut into Pyongyang’s hard currency earnings, the official told Arms Control Today Feb. 17.

State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli told reporters Feb. 23 that North Korean Deputy Director-General for North America Li Gun will meet March 7 with Treasury Department officials to receive a briefing about U.S. “actions taken in response” to Pyongyang ’s “illicit financial activities.”

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill offered to arrange such a briefing during the November meeting, but Pyongyang had refused.

A flurry of diplomatic activity preceded the Feb. 23 announcement. For example, Hill met in Beijing with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan Jan. 18 in an effort to restart the talks.

Sounding cautiously optimistic, North Korea ’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pak Gil Yon, said in New York that Pyongyang would return to the talks if Washington “shows sincerity,” South Korea ’s Yonhap news agency reported Feb. 23.

North Korea has recently shown other signs that it may be willing to compro mise. For example, the high-ranking North Korean diplomat said that Pyong yang is willing to prosecute individual citizens if Washington presents evidence of criminal activity. Similarly, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson asserted Feb. 9 that although “there is no evidence” that Pyongyang is guilty of counterfeiting or money laundering, the individuals guilty of such acts “are liable to severe punishment.” North Korea will “actively join the international actions against money laundering,” he added.

The spokesperson also suggested that North Korea accept U.S. “efforts to protect their own state interests and currency.”

The scope of the investigation could prove contentious. According to the former State Department official, the North Korean diplomat said that Pyongyang does not want an open-ended investigation into its financial activities.

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow suggested Feb. 9 that Washington will not be satisfied with Pyongyang’s conciliatory gestures. De scribing North Korea’s offer as “interesting,” he added that Washington believes that the North Korean government is involved in illicit activities and must take “concrete actions” to prove that the activities have stopped.

For its part, Pyongyang believes that Washington is not committed to the negotiations. The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that North Korea “attaches so much importance to the lift of the financial sanctions because it is a touchstone showing whether Washington is willing to make a switchover in its policy.”

A State Department official told Arms Control Today Feb. 17 that the Bush administration is committed to the talks, but added that its “tolerance” for anoth er 13-month wait, like that from June 2004 to July 2005 between the third and fourth round of talks, is “pretty low.”



Making the Right Call: How the World Can Limit Iran's Nuclear Program

Charles D. Ferguson and Ray Takeyh

After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Feb. 4 voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council because of concerns over its nuclear program, the rituals of diplomacy persist. The international community sees the Security Council move as ratcheting up pressure in order to deter Iran from moving closer to potential weapons capability. Yet, the Islamic Republic of Iran is seemingly determined to acquire a sophisticated nuclear infrastructure that will avail it a weapons option at some point in the near future. Whether Iran will actually cross the threshold and assemble nuclear bombs remains debatable, but the notion that Tehran will be deterred from its contemplated course through invocations of threats and perfunctory sanctions seems far-fetched, and military action would likely only prove counterproductive.

Before Tehran achieves mastery of enriching uranium, which would give Iran the potential to make nuclear weapons, Washington and its allies should swallow hard and offer Iran a multilateral dialogue involving the United States that would seriously address Iranian security concerns and provide substantial economic incentives. In exchange, Tehran would have to agree to verifiable restraints on its nuclear program, including a cessation of its uranium-enrichment program. If Iran rejects this generous offer, the United States would then be in a stronger position to form a coalition to enforce tough, multilateral economic sanctions.

Understanding the Nature of the Iranian Regime

From the outset, it must be emphasized that the bewildering array of political fac tions that constitute the Islamic Republic’s governing elite have united on building up the peaceful nuclear program while maintaining the option of crossing the weapons threshold. Contrary to the usual patterns of a polarized Iran, the nuclear issue has transcended the divisions and rivalries within the state and is driven by a national consensus. However, the Islamic Republic is not an irrational rogue seeking the poten tial for such weaponry as an instrument of an aggressive, revolutionary foreign policy designed to project its power abroad. This would not be an “Islamic bomb” to be handed over to terrorist organizations or exploded in the streets of New York City or Washington . For the theocratic oligarchs, this would be a weapon of deterrence, as they seek a means of ensuring regime security and Iran’s territorial integrity.

It is tempting to attribute Iran’s defiant stance to the rise of a new reactionary regime, but the hardening of Iran’s per spective on the nuclear issue predated the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office in August 2005 and has since infuriated the international community with his incendiary denials of the Holocaust. The previous reformist government decided to restart operations at the Isfahan uranium-conversion plant last August and loudly complained that negotiations with France , Germany, and the United Kingdom were proving inadequate. In the end, both reformers and hard-liners arrived at the conclusion that the European diplomacy was ill serving Iran’s interests. After nearly two and a half years of suspension of its program, Iran neither obtained the type of security and economic concessions that North Korea may garner, nor did it generate sustained European opposition to U.S.attempts to coerce and isolate Iran.

Nonetheless, Iran’s nuclear calculations have been somewhat altered by the rise of Ahmadinejad to political power. For the new president and his allies, it is not so much the original revolution that launched the Islamic Republic but the prolonged war with Iraq in the 1980s that has defined their strategic assumptions. Even a cursory examination of Ahmadinejad’s speeches reveals that for him the war is far from a faded memory. In his defiant speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2005, he pointedly admonished the assembled dignitaries for their failings:

For eight years, [Saddam Hussein’s] regime imposed a massive war of aggression against my people. It employed the most heinous weapons of mass destruction [WMD]

including chemical weapons against Iranians and Iraqis alike. Who, in fact, armed Saddam with those weapons? What was the reaction of those who claim to fight against WMDs regarding the use of chemical weapons then?[1]

The international indifference to Hussein’s war crimes and Tehran’s lack of an effective response have led Iran’s war veteran turned president to perceive that the security of his country cannot be predicated on global opinion and international treaties. Moreover, after nearly three decades of acrimony and tension, the younger generation of Iranian hard-liners perceives that conflict with the United States is inevitable and that the only manner of deterring an aggressive United States is through possession of the “strategic weapon.”

Such perceptions were ironically rein forced by the 2003 U.S.-led Iraqi invasion, as the Bush administration’s belief that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons did not deter it from military intervention. The arch-conservative Kayhan newspaper, which acts as the mouthpiece of Ahma dinejad’s government, stressed this point, noting, “All we have to do is look at Iraq to see what happens to a country that cannot defend itself.”[2] Although today the United States may seem entangled in an Iraqi quag mire that tempers its ambitions, for Iran’s rulers, America is still an aggressive state whose power cannot be discounted and whose intentions must not be trusted. Despite their bitterness and cynicism, the theocratic hard-liners are eternal optimists when it comes to how the international community might respond to an Iranian nuclear breakout. Many influential conser vative voices insist that Iran would follow the model of India and Pakistan, namely, that the initial international outcry would soon be followed by acceptance of Iran’s new status. Thus, Tehran would regain its commercial contracts and keep its nuclear weapons. Former Iranian Foreign Minister Akbar Velayati noted this theme when stressing that, “[w]henever we stand firm and defend our righteous stands resolutely, they are forced to retreat and have no alternatives.”[3] The notion of Iran’s mischievous past and its tense relations with the United States militating against the acceptance of its nuclear status by the international community is rejected by the right.

The Bush administration’s discursive nuclear diplomacy has only validated such perceptions. In the aftermath of the Sep tember 11 terrorist attacks, Washington was all too eager to absolve Pakistan of its nuclear sins for sake of its tentative and limited cooperation in the war against ter rorism. This past July, the administration also proposed rewarding and essentially welcoming India to the “nuclear club” with a full civil nuclear cooperation agreement despite New Delhi’s snubbing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Given these steps, it is difficult to make the case that Washington ’s policy is seriously motivated by preventing proliferation and that the Bush administration is concerned about halting the spread of nuclear technologies.

However, should they be proved wrong and Iran become subject to sanctions, the hard-liners are willing to pay that price for an important national prerogative. Ahmadinejad has pointedly noted that even if sanctions were to be imposed, “the Iranian nation would still have its rights.”[4] In a similar vein, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, secretary of the Guardian Council, has noted, “We do not welcome sanctions, but if we are threatened by sanctions, we will not give in.”[5]

The notion of the need to sacrifice and struggle on behalf of the revolution and resist imperious inter national demands is an essential tenet of the hard-liners’ ideological perspective.

Still, in Iran’s complex political system the president does not make all the security deci sions, as the ultimate authority rests in the hands of the enigmatic supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As a hard-liner himself, Khamenei’s instincts would be to support the reactionary elements in their call for defiance and pursuit of the nuclear option. How ever, in his role as the guardian of the state, he must consider the nuclear program in the context of Iran’s international relations. Thus far, regardless of his ideological compunc tions, Khamenei has opted for restraint. In fact, Iran suspended its nuclear program for more than two years and still continues its commitment to the core components of the NPT. Ahmadinejad’s acceptance of the negotiations despite his campaign rhetoric reflects his willingness to accede to the direction set out by Khamenei.

In such a dynamic and uncertain politi cal environment, the levers of threats or security reassurances that the United States and its allies decide to pull will have a profound effect. Determining what that effect will be, however, can be difficult. Impor tantly, Iranian leaders tend to make their most dramatic changes in policy when their rhetoric is most uncompromising. Ironically, the recent escalation of rhetoric might signal a policy shift soon to come.

Heading to the Brink?

Nevertheless, after everything that has taken place, the one thing that can be assumed with certainty is that Iran is determined to advance its nuclear program and systemati cally reverse its commitments to the Euro pean Union to halt progress in its nuclear program in return for potential economic and security benefits. However, this is not to suggest that Iran will brashly dispense with its NPT obligations and launch a crash pro gram designed to construct nuclear weapons.

The demands of the United States and the European powers exceed the mandates of the NPT. The NPT does offer member states the right to enrich uranium so long as they ad here to the safeguard provisions and openly declare their facilities. Iran’s rejection of its voluntary commitments to the EU, however serious, is not the same as dispensing with the NPT. Iran may be ruled by hard-liners, but it is still a cautious power that will cali brate its moves on the level of international pressure and the conduct of external powers. It is possible that Tehran is testing the limits of what it can do with its nuclear program before the United States and its allies decide to enact meaningful sanctions, or seeking to increase its leverage for future talks.

Nonetheless, the Jan. 10 removal of IAEA seals from Iran’s uranium-enrichment facilities, the February IAEA vote, the sub sequent decision by Tehran to suspend its voluntary adherence to the agency’s Model Additional Protocol[6]

and to restart uranium enrichment, as well as tough statements by some Iranian and Western leaders, move all players in this high stakes nuclear game closer to the brink. Stay ing on the current course, there will soon come a point where a real crisis will erupt. Barring a decision by Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities again, the next probable step on the escalation ladder would involve a Security Council resolu tion in March to reinforce the February IAEA resolution that Iran “extend full and prompt cooperation” to the IAEA and “clarify possible activities which could have a military nuclear dimension.”

The United States has staked its reputa tion on sending Iran to the Security Council. The Bush administration favors a strategy that isolates and chastises Iran. This plan hinges on Iran’s desire not to become a pariah. Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear ne gotiator, has recently indicated that Iran is open for talks with the United States,[7] but Washington opposes direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic. At a Feb. 6 news briefing, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph said that the United States has “a number of fundamental problems with this Iranian regime, including terrorism and human rights, and I don’t think it’s now time that we sat down with them.”[8]

The United States refuses to grant diplomatic recognition to Iran and fears that direct talks about the nuclear program would bestow legitimacy on Tehran without addressing Washington’s other concerns.

If the strategy of making Iran into a pariah does not work, what are the next possible steps in the present trajectory? Having painstakingly assembled a coali tion of China, the EU, and Russia, the United States would likely be wary of shattering this fragile consensus. Although the Unit ed States has had sanctions against Iran for decades, the other members of the coali tion have significant economic ties with Iran . In particular, China, as a fast-growing developing nation with a thirst for oil, has cut major oil deals with Tehran. Although Russia ’s construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant has earned the Rus sian nuclear industry close to $1 billion in revenue, Moscow has more widespread economic and political interests at stake in Iran by cultivating it as a potential economic partner as well as a strategic partner, particularly in relation to problems in the Caucasus, such as Chechnya.

Still, faced with a continuing impasse on Iran’s nuclear activities, Washington could try to enlist support for economic sanctions by making the case that bearing this bur den is necessary to stop proliferation. Effective sanctions would have to be multilateral and enforceable and could target exports to Iran and foreign investments.[9]

The most powerful sanction would pull the oil embargo lever. For the time being, in a tight oil-supply market, this sanction appears unlikely to be used because the United States and the EU would not want to risk a substantial increase in the price of gasoline. If employed, however, such a sanction would cut both ways. Iran relies heavily on money from oil exports. The Iranian economy appears ill prepared to handle a blow dealt to this sector. A more targeted and smarter type of oil sanction would focus on Iranian gasoline imports. Because Iran is lacking in gasoline refining capacity, it imports more than 40 percent of its gasoline. The Iranian government also heavily subsidizes the price of gasoline so that consumers pay much less at the pump than they would without the subsidies.

Conventional thinking is that Russia and China, as veto-wielding members of the Security Council, have little or no appetite for sanctions. The United States would likely have to bargain with these countries to win their support.

Russia might be swayed by an incentives package that gave it a long-desired agreement for cooperation concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Such an agreement could pave the way for Russia to receive U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel from various countries for storage. Russia hopes to earn billions of dollars from offering this service. Moreover, this agreement could help President Vladimir Putin achieve his plans to transform the Russian nuclear in dustry into one of the world’s leaders in fuel and reactor services. Furthermore, an embargo of Iranian oil leading to higher prices could provide a windfall for Russia, a major oil exporter. Still, Moscow would likely resist imposing tough sanctions because it would want to preserve close commercial contacts with Iran even if Tehran crosses the nuclear weapons threshold.

Having China agree to sanctions seems a much tougher task than reaching agreement with Russia. China would most likely abstain when faced with a Security Council vote on sanctions, but it would have to be prepared to accept a council decision to impose them. China’s support, acquiescence, or opposition would depend strongly on whether the sanctions would significantly harm its economy.

If the credible threat or actual imposition of sanctions does not convince Iran to sus pend its sensitive nuclear activities again, the next step on the escalation ladder could be the use of military force against Iran’s nucle ar facilities, but this option is fraught with considerable risk. Having learned an impor tant lesson from Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq ’s Osiraq reactor, Tehran has dispersed its many nuclear facilities. It has also hardened and partially buried some of the most critical facilities, such as the commercial-scale ura nium-enrichment plant under development at Natanz. Another complicating factor is finding out where all the facilities are located. Moreover, assembling a coalition of the willing currently appears extremely difficult to do, especially when the United Kingdom, the closest U.S. ally, has all but ruled out the military option for the near term.

A military strike could try to destroy or degrade Iran’s nuclear program. Short of an all-out invasion, destroying the program appears extremely far-fetched. By contrast, degrading the program would be relatively straightforward but might not accomplish the ultimate aim of preventing a nuclear- armed Iran. Some bombs detonated, for example, on the enrichment facilities at Natanz would hamper Iran’s program. Likewise, some analysts have contemplated using sabotage and assassination as tools to slow Iran’s nuclear endeavors.[10]

Delaying the onset of a potential weap ons program by years might be possible if enough damage is inflicted on Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, there is an equal and perhaps greater likelihood that this attack could motivate Iran to accelerate its nuclear program. Also, if Tehran had not already decided to build nuclear weapons, an attack would probably compel it to do so. Further more, Iran would almost certainly not feel restrained to stay within the NPT and would kick out IAEA inspectors. The United States and its allies would then confront a black box similar to what they experienced after UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in late 1998. In the Iraqi situation, the absence of inspec tors over a four-year period of time fostered worst-case thinking and fears that Hussein had resurrected his nuclear program. Those fears were partially behind the U.S.-led inva sion in March 2003. Three years later, the United States remains bogged down in Iraq with no clear endpoint in sight.

Time for a New Approach

Even if sanctions were employed or a military strike launched, the underlying motivations for an Iranian nuclear program would not have been addressed. Iranian thinking on the nuclear issue is shaped by external security concerns and internal politics. In the first set of factors, Teh ran perceives threats from neighboring countries. Some observers have quipped that only Canada, Mexico, and Iran share extensive borders with the United States. Iranians see U.S. forces to the east in Afghanistan and to the west in Iraq. Iran also is located in a nuclear-armed neighborhood, with Israel, Pakistan, and Russia as well as China and India nearby.

In the second set of factors, pride and prestige influence Iranians in wanting fully to exercise their right to a nuclear program. Creating an indigenous nuclear industry could be perceived as a crowning achieve ment in a long history of Persian scientific accomplishments. The Iranian government has also made the nuclear program a major nationalist issue. It is inconceivable that an Iranian politician could run for office on a platform to negotiate away completely Iran ’s ability to exercise its right to have an indigenous nuclear program.

Consequently, the need for a new ap proach to resolve the current impasse is urgent, taking into account Iranian perceptions of its security as well as pride about its nuclear program. This approach should address Iran’s security concerns. Successfully doing so would tend to undercut much but not all of the rationale for a nuclear weapons program.

To alleviate Iran’s fears of regime change imposed by the United States, President George W. Bush could pledge not to attack Iran as long as it did not acquire nuclear weapons or the capability to make those weapons. The administration, of course, would also want to keep open the option of militarily responding to an Iranian attack or a terrorist incident initiated by Tehran. As a further security assurance, Washington could offer to engage in talks about security concerns contingent on Iran meeting the conditions spelled out in the February IAEA resolution, such as ratifying and implement ing an additional protocol, indefinitely suspending its uranium-enrichment activities, and reconsidering its work on a heavy-water research reactor that could make plutonium.

Although the United States currently opposes direct negotiations with Iran, the odious nature of a “rogue” regime did not stop Washington from negotiating an agreement with Tripoli to disarm its nu clear and chemical. The Libyan model of disarmament can be described as “tyranny without weapons of mass destruction,” with Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gaddafi remaining in power. Similarly, the United States has embraced the six-party talks with North Korea to work toward a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. In the September 2005 round of talks, “the United States affirmed that it…has no intention to attack or invade [ North Korea] with nuclear or conventional weapons.”[11] A comprehensive security-assurances approach should address the concern in the Middle East about Israel’s nuclear weap ons. The time may be right to convince Israel to move toward greater transparency of its nuclear infrastructure. Israel could seize the opportunity presented by the plutonium production reactor at Dimona nearing its end of life. As a first step toward openness, Israel could announce that it will suspend operations at Dimona and place it under IAEA monitoring. A further step could involve Israel announcing that it is prepared to place some or all of its plutonium under watch by a nuclear-weapon state such as the United States. However, Israel would only carry out this activity once it is assured that other regional states, such as Egypt and Iran, would suspend work at their nuclear facilities, which can produce enough fissile material for one or more bombs every one to three years.[12]

These steps could build confidence to move toward a comprehensive nuclear- weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Nota bly, the February IAEA resolution recognizes “that a solution to the Iranian issue would contribute to global nonproliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery.”

From the perspective of the United States , it would be ideal to convince Iran to stop or at least suspend development of its nuclear program before it masters the key technologies to make nuclear-weapon materials. Such mastery could occur sooner than some recent assessments indicate. Last year, a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Iran may be up to 10 years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon.[13]

As Israeli officials have stressed, however, there are intermediate barriers that if crossed would likely constitute a technical point of no return, allowing Iran to enrich enough uranium to make its own weapon. Until now, Iran reportedly has been struggling to solve problems with both its uranium-conversion and -enrichment plants. The conversion plant has been producing uranium hexafluoride gas with too high a concentration of chemi cal contaminants, especially molybdenum. Uranium hexafluoride is the gas that is fed into the enrichment plant either to make low- enriched uranium for reactor fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons. U.S. technical experts assess that Iran would prob ably need months of independent work to produce clean uranium hexafluoride.[14]

Yet, if Iran received outside assistance, it could solve the impurity problem much faster. Moscow , for instance, has offered to enrich Iran ’s uranium in order to provide Tehran with reactor fuel. Although the details of the potential deal remain uncertain, one variant of the deal would allow Iran to convert ura nium into uranium hexafluoride. To ensure quality fuel is produced, Russia would have an incentive to aid Iran’s uranium-conversion program. Such assistance would unintentionally remove one of the main barriers to Iran’s mastery of uranium enrichment. Another worrisome aspect of a potential Russian deal could involve allowing Iran to continue research on enrichment. Regardless of any agreement with Moscow, however, Iranian officials have made clear that they are deter mined to pursue uranium enrichment.

The Way Forward

Can the Iranian nuclear Gordian knot be cut? We see three options to break through the current impasse.

1) Accept an Iranian nuclear program involving research-level uranium enrichment but try to offer Iran incentives not to develop an industrial-scale enrichment plant.

2) Keep ratcheting up the pressure on Iran and attempt to form a coalition that will enforce multilateral economic sanctions.

3) Create a security dialogue with Iran to lessen the perceived need for nuclear weapons.

The first option could keep Iran in a stra tegically ambiguous position and would worrisomely allow Iran to master weapons- usable nuclear technologies. This is presently unacceptable to the United States. If either increased incentives or increased disincen tives do not work, however, the international community would be stuck with Iran for the coming years moving ahead with its enrichment program. Then, perhaps the best way to contain the program would be to keep Iran inside the NPT with additional pro tocol inspections and to provide rigorous fuel as surances from trusted outside vendors to undercut the perceived need for an in dus trial scale plant, which could, in principle, make enough HEU for about two dozen bombs annually.

At this point, though, the third option is preferred because it holds the most prom ise for producing a long-term solution. The security dialogue would involve seven parties: China, France, Germany, Iran, Rus sia , the United Kingdom, and the United States . The seven-party format would provide the Bush administration with enough political cover so that it could state publicly that it has not bestowed formal diplomatic recognition on the Islamic Republic. This would be similar to the stance Washington has taken vis-à-vis Pyongyang in the six-party talks.

Along with security assurances and confidence-building measures, these talks could offer Iran nuclear fuel guarantees that could place the fuel with a trusted third party. Fuel assurances alone, how ever, would not be enough incentive to convince Tehran to suspend its uranium- enrichment program. In addition, the talks should provide Iran with tangible economic incentives designed to help its ailing economy. Furthermore, Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technologies should be recognized. However, in return, Tehran would have to agree to cease its enrichment activities as well as other work that could lead to production of weapons-us able fissile material. In addition, Iran would need to ratify and implement an additional protocol to help provide verifiable evidence that these activities have been suspended.

If Iran rejects this concerted diplo matic effort, then the United States would have an easier time reaching a consensus through the United Nations to enact tough multilateral sanctions. Examining the past history of countries that have renounced nuclear weapons or potential weapons programs, the predominant theme is that these renunciations took place only after those countries experienced a substantial lessening of external threats.


Tehran’s Point Man: An Interview With Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh

On Jan. 23, Oliver Meier, the Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent, talked to Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh about the escalating confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program. Soltanieh became Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in January. A physicist by training, he had previously served in the same position from 1980 to 1997. The interview took place soon after Iran restarted research and development into enriching uranium, a move that prompted the IAEA Board of Governors Feb. 4 to report Iran’s nuclear file to the UN Security Council.

ACT: Can I start off by asking you why Iran has chosen to resume work on centrifuges and the operation of the pilot uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz[1] now?

Soltanieh : You should not ask me why now, you should ask me why so late? We [waited] because we wanted to prove our good intentions to the international community and to [our] European friends. When we were negotiating in Paris,[2] we were optimists. They promised us that if we would extend our cooperative suspension [of enrichment-related activities] to cover also research and the UCF [uranium-conversion facility] at Isfahan,[3] the issue will be removed from the agenda of the [IAEA] Board of Governors and routine inspection would be continued in Iran and everything would be settled down. And we were counting on that promise and their word. But, unfortunately, they didn’t keep their promise. This whole thing continued, therefore, after long frustration. And seeing the Iran issue kept on the agenda of the Board of Governors, we couldn’t continue [with the suspension, and] therefore, we restarted this research.

ACT: So you would acknowledge that research was covered under the Paris agreement and operation of centrifuges was clearly part of the Paris agreement and, therefore, this was a breach of the Paris agreement?

Soltanieh : No, that is not what I am trying to say. In the Paris agreement we agreed to expand the scope of the suspen sion to also cover the UCF and also to cover the research and testing of course. One thing we have to bear in mind is that in both the October 2003 Tehran agreement[4] and the [November 2004] Paris agreement, what was agreed was a suspension of enrichment ac tivities and not their cessation. And this was very well elaborated and we insisted on this and it is in both documents. And on that basis, when [our] European friends unfor tunately rejected our proposal for objective guarantees that our activities would remain exclusively for peaceful purposes, we expected them to bring their own proposal so that it [would] be within the framework of the Paris agreement. [Instead], they brought a proposal that explicitly rejected and deleted and excluded nuclear fuel-cycle activities in Iran, including enrichment.[5] And this was in full contravention to the Paris agreement.

In the Paris agreement there is one paragraph that says that the suspension has to be sustained as long as negotiations for a long-term agreement continue. When this proposal was given contrary to the Paris agreement, the negotiations were stopped, and therefore the suspension could be stopped because they were linked in the Paris agreement. Therefore, we started and we had the right to start the UCF. And now after again some time we decided that we cannot continue depriving our scientists of the ability to conduct research, and there fore we started research.

ACT: I would like to come back to the Rus sian proposal later on, but just to ask on the is sue of Security Council referral, given that there is so much at stake and Iran is so interested in not having the case referred to the Security Council, why have you not answered the few questions that you said remain? For example, on the P-2 centrifuge program[6] and in that context, are there additional steps that Iran would be willing to take to resolve the IAEA and IAEA Director- General Mohamed ElBaradei’s concerns about its nuclear program?

Soltanieh : First of all, regarding the P-2, I refer you to the reports and, if you go one by one since this issue was raised, there was tremendous progress and information given to the IAEA. The only outstanding question is that the IAEA is wondering why between 1995 to 2002 or so, there has been a gap [when] we did not work on the P-2. I have to clearly reiterate what even [IAEA] scientists and inspectors have told us, that this was a wise decision by Iran, technically sound and justified, that while we have not been achieving any progress on P-1, it was not wise to go to next-generation P-2. Therefore, during that period we should not have worked on the P-2. This is what European industry URENCO also did.[7]

ACT: Are there other steps that Iran would be willing to take to resolve the agency’s concerns, and specifically, could you foresee that Iranmight again suspend activities at that time to support a new set of negotiations?

Soltanieh : For research, no. It is irreversible. The decision has been made as I said after a long time of suspension and frustration, particularly as the [limits on] research have already disappointed our sci entists. In fact, this has given this message to Iranian scientists that they have no right even to think and do their research. But at the same time I want to call your attention to the fact that all the research we are doing we have informed the IAEA about and given them prior notice. Everything is under the supervision of IAEA and inspectors since we have started.

ACT: Finally, about the Russian proposal to conduct Iran’s enrichment activities in the framework of a joint venture on Russian soil, the press has reported both positive as well as negative reactions from Iran. Could you explain to us the Iranian position on the Russian proposal? In principle, would Iran be willing and able to conduct all of its enrichment activities on another country’s soil?

Soltanieh : If there are suggestions for having enrichment jointly, we have to talk about it to see what are the impacts on our work. In principle, we do not want to be deprived from enrichment in Iran and we want to have this possibility. But since we do have the plan for 20,000 megawatts in our program, we need the required fuel for those 20 power plants in the future. Therefore, it is a matter of how and where we can supply and get the fuel for it. Partly, we are going to supply our own because unfortunately in the past we have had lack of assurance of supply and, as you noticed, there is no legally binding instrument—rec ognized document—for a source of supply. Therefore, we want to have some sort of safety factor that, in case the supply would be interrupted, we will be able to have the supply.

ACT: The way I understood your answer is that this can complement activities in Iran but not all of the activities would be moved to Russia.

Soltanieh : At this stage, we are not in a position to go [into] details because we don’t know. The Russians are going to ex plain to us in more detail in the next round of negotiation. But in principle, I said we don’t want you to conclude that Iran will accept that enrichment will not be made in Iran and Iran will be deprived from this right. For the supply of fuel for its future power plants, Iran might look for different avenues, of course.

This transcript has been edited for space and clarity. Please click here for a full version of the transcript is avail able on the Arms Control Association’s web site.



1. Iran is building a pilot gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility, as well as a much larger commercial centrifuge facility, near the Iranian city of Natanz.

2. France , Germany, and the United Kingdom concluded an agreement with Iran in November 2004 to negotiate “a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements,” which includes “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Iran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities for the duration of the negotiations.

3. Uranium-conversion facilities such as Isfahan produce uranium hexafluoride gas from lightly processed uranium ore. Gas centrifuges such as those at Natanz can enrich uranium by spinning this gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. Uranium enrichment can produce both low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, or highly enriched uranium, which can be used as fissile material for nuclear weapons.

4. In October 2003, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran in a joint statement agreed on “measures aimed at the settlement of all outstanding IAEA issues with regards to the Iranian nuclear programme and at enhancing confidence for peaceful cooperation in the nuclear field.” Iran agreed to take three steps that, if followed, will meet the IAEA’s demands: cooperate with the IAEA “to address and resolve…all requirements and outstanding [IAEA] issues,” sign and ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, and voluntarily “suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities as defined by the IAEA.”

5. During at least two meetings with their European interlocutors, Iranian diplomats proposed in the spring of 2005 several measures to provide confidence that its nuclear program would not be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. These included allowing the continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors, a pledge to produce only LEU, and immediate conversion of LEU to nuclear reactor fuel. See Paul Kerr, “IAEA: More Questions on Iran Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005.

6. The Europeans presented a proposal to Iran in August 2005 describing a package of economic, technical, and security incentives that Iran would receive if it agreed to forswear indigenous uranium enrichment.

7. Iran has conducted work on two types of gas centrifuges: the P-1 and P-2. The P-2 is the more advanced of the two. The centrifuge designs are reportedly based on the L-1 and L-2 centrifuges produced by URENCO (URENCO is an international uranium-enrichment consortium jointly owned by Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom). The IAEA has found that Iran failed to disclose several aspects of its centrifuge program. The agency is still investigating certain outstanding issues about the program.



Charles D. Ferguson is a fellow for science and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council.


1. Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), September 17, 2005.

2. Kayhan , December 12, 2004.

3. IRNA, September 22, 2004.

4. Sharq , October 25, 2005.

5. Aftab-e Yazd , October 16, 2005.

6. An additional protocol gives the International Atomic Energy Agency greater authority and access to determine whether a state has any undeclared nuclear activities.

7. Barbara Slavin, “ Iran Wants Nuclear Independence,” USA Today, February 6, 2006.

8. Robert Joseph, “Results of the IAEA Emergency Meeting on Iran: The U.S. View,” Foreign Press Center briefing, Washington, DC, February 6, 2006.

9. George Perkovich and Silvia Manzanero, “Plan B: Using Sanctions to End Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, May 2004; George Perkovich, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, February 1, 2006.

10. Terence Henry, “The Covert Option,” The Atlantic Monthly, December 2005, pp. 54-55.

11. Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks, September 19, 2005.

12. Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson, eds., Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran ( Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, October 2005), pp. 16-17.

13. Dafna Linzer, “ Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2005, p. A1.

14. Richard Stone, “ Iran’s Trouble With Molybdenum May Give Diplomacy a Second Chance,” Science, January 13, 2006, p. 158.


Warhead Initiative Looms Large in NNSA Plans

Wade Boese

The Bush administration is asking lawmakers for more than $6 billion to support U.S. nuclear weapons activities in its fiscal year 2007 budget request. But administration officials are portraying the future of the U.S. nuclear stockpile as hinging on a relatively modest $28 million program to renovate existing warheads, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).

The weapons request unveiled Feb. 6 con cerns funds for the Department of Energy’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA maintains the current U.S. arsenal of approximately 10,000 warheads, which is set to be cut in about half by 2012. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Absent from the budget request are several weapons initiatives, including a modified nuclear warhead to destroy underground targets, previously opposed by Congress. However, the RRW program could prove contentious because of its ambiguous nature.

The average age of a U.S. nuclear warhead is about 20 years old, and NNSA is charged with making sure that these weapons remain in good working order without nuclear testing, which the United States ceased in 1992. Officials at NNSA and the Los Alamos , Lawrence Livermore, and San dia national nuclear laboratories contend that some existing warhead types are im perfect and difficult to maintain, perhaps leading to a decline in the performance of the arsenal over time.

Under the RRW program, NNSA hopes to design new replacement components for existing warheads without resorting to nuclear explosive testing. If successful, advocates argue, the initiative would lead to warheads that are easier to maintain and more certain of working.

Since testing ended, NNSA has relied on the Stockpile Stewardship Program to conduct subcritical testing, computer simulations and modeling, surveillance, and the refurbishment of non-nuclear components to ensure warheads will work as intended. In his Feb. 16 prepared testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman stated that the program “is working; the stockpile remains safe and reliable.”

But RRW, according to Bodman, could pave the way for deeper reductions of U.S. reserve forces beyond 2012. He explained that, with the combination of RRW and a revamped, or “responsive,” nuclear infra structure, the United States would not need to retain as many warheads because new ones could be churned out fast enough to respond to new threats or to replace war heads with technical problems. “Success in realizing this vision for transformation will enable us to achieve over the long term a smaller stockpile, one that is safer and more secure,” Bodman testified.

But some lawmakers and scientists are wary of RRW. They worry that too many changes might result in radically different warheads requiring nuclear testing to prove that they work. Another concern is that RRW could serve as a pathway to new types of nuclear arms for new missions.

To guard against such possibilities, Congress last November placed restrictions on the fiscal year 2006 funding of $25 million so that “any weapon design work done under the RRW program must stay within the military requirements of the existing deployed stockpile and…the design parameters validated by past nuclear tests.” (See ACT, December 2005.)

Nevertheless, Bodman suggested that RRW might contribute someday to the de velopment of new nuclear warheads. In detailing the Energy Department’s vision for the nuclear weapons complex in 2030, he testified, “The weapons design community that was revitalized by the RRW program will be able to adapt an existing weapon within 18 months and design, develop, and begin production of a new design within 3-4 years of a decision.” In its budget overview, NNSA also noted, “It may be prudent to field replacement warheads that address different needs, are easier and less costly to manufac ture, and are less expensive to maintain than the current designs.”

Weapons designers at Lawrence Liver more and Los Alamos are currently competing to come up with RRW options. They are expected to submit preliminary designs in March 2006, and a final design will be selected in September by NNSA.

NNSA Heeds Congress

In other areas, NNSA has moved to address congressional objections. NNSA dropped from this year’s budget request its previously contentious proposal to modify an existing nuclear weapon to destroy targets buried deeply underground. For the past two years, Congress had denied funding for Energy Department work on this project, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. (See ACT, December 2005.)

The nuclear agency also shelved for now an initiative to build a new production factory, known as a Modern Pit Facility, for the plutonium cores of nuclear warheads. Weapons officials contend that the United States eventually will have to revive full-scale plutonium pit production to replace aging pits. But Congress zeroed out a request last year for the facility, saying it was not clear how large a plant is needed given the shrinking size of the U.S. arsenal and indications that plutonium might last longer than previously presumed.

In the interim, Bodman testified that, over five years, NNSA would seek to ramp up annual production at Los Alamos from about 10 pits to as many as 40. “This production rate, however, will be insufficient to meet our assessed long-term pit production needs,” the secretary stated. Last year, he said that at least 125 pits per year eventually would need to be manufactured.

NNSA also abandoned another effort in the face of continued congressional opposi tion: a move to lessen the time required to conduct a nuclear test to 18 months. Instead, NNSA appears to have accepted 24 months as the shortest time that it will have for such preparations. The Bush ad ministration says it has no plans to conduct a nuclear test but that the United States should be fully prepared in case one is nec essary.



Questions Surround Iran's Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

IAEA Resolution on Iran

Since its investigation of Iran’s nuclear programs began during the latter half of 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has discovered a series of clandestine nuclear activities, some of which violated Iran’s safeguards agreement with the agency.

Others did not, but have nevertheless raised suspicions regarding Iran’s claim that its nuclear programs are exclusively for peaceful purposes. During the course of the investigation, Iran has failed both to disclose some of its nuclear activities to the agency and misled inspectors about others.

Iran, as a member state of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has an IAEA safeguards agreement allowing the agency to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activities and facilities to ensure that they are not used for military purposes.

Based on interviews with knowledgeable officials, IAEA Deputy Director-Gen eral Olli Heinonen’s Jan. 31 report to the agency’s Board of Governors, and previous IAEA reports, this article describes some of the unresolved questions concerning Iran’s nuclear activities as of Feb. 24.

Iran ’s Nuclear Programs

Tehran is developing a gas-centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program and con structing a heavy-water moderated nuclear reactor. Both programs could potentially produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentra tion of the uranium-235 isotope. They can produce both low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used in nuclear power reac tors, and highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used in certain types of nuclear reactors and as fissile material.

Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility, which so far contains a cascade of 164 centrifuges, and is constructing a much larger commercial facility. Tehran has told the IAEA that the pilot facility will eventually contain approximately 1,000 centrifuges and the commercial facility will ultimately house more than 50,000 centrifuges.

Iran also has a uranium-conversion facil ity, which converts uranium oxide (lightly processed uranium ore) into several com pounds, including uranium tetrafluoride and uranium hexafluoride. Heinonen reported that the country’s current “conversion campaign,” which began in November 2005, is expected to end this month.

Tehran claims that it wants to produce LEU for its light-water moderated nuclear power plant currently under construction near the city of Bushehr, as well as additional power plants it intends to construct.

Iran says that its heavy-water reactor, which is being constructed in Arak, is intended for the production of medical iso topes. But the IAEA is concerned that Iran may use the reactor to produce plutonium, and the board has asked Iran to “reconsider” the project. Tehran has told the IAEA that the reactor is to begin operating in 2014.

The spent nuclear fuel from both light- water and heavy-water reactors contains plutonium—the other type of fissile mate rial in use. But clandestinely obtaining weapons-grade plutonium from light-water reactors is considerably more difficult.

Uranium-Enrichment Program

Tehran has been conducting research on two types of centrifuges: the P-1 and the more advanced P-2. Iran acquired its cen trifuge materials and equipment from a clandestine supply network run by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. Iran has not been fully forthcoming to the IAEA about either of these programs. The agency is concerned that Tehran may have conducted undisclosed work on both types of centrifuges and may also have an ongoing clandestine centrifuge program.

Iran ’s capability to produce enough centrifuges for its programs is unclear. A diplomatic source in Vienna close to the IAEA told Arms Control Today recently that Iran currently lacks the expertise to pro duce P-2 centrifuges. Tehran can build large numbers of P-1 centrifuges but not enough to meet the commercial centrifuge facility’s planned capacity, the source said.

Procurement Efforts

The IAEA’s investigation of these efforts has been hampered by Iran’s lack of full cooperation. Tehran has both lagged in fulfilling IAEA requests for documentation and provided the agency with false information regarding its centrifuge procurement efforts.

Iran has acknowledged receiving centrifuge components and related materials dur ing the late 1980s and 1990s. Tehran has provided the agency with some informa tion regarding these acquisitions as well as related offers from foreign suppliers.

According to a November 2005 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei, Iran has recently provided the agen cy with substantial amounts of additional documentation regarding its P-1 procure ment activities. This information appears to have resolved some of the discrepancies in Iran’s previous accounts, but the IAEA has requested additional documentation. For example, Heinonen reported that “ Iran has been unable to supply any documentation or other information about the meetings that led to the acquisition of 500 sets of P-1 cen trifuge components in the mid-1990s.”

Heinonen’s report also says that Iranian officials’ accounts of “events leading up to” the mid-1990s centrifuge deal offer “are still at variance” with accounts provided by “key members of the [secret procurement] net work.” The report provides no details about these discrepancies but does note Iran’s claims that “there were no contacts with the network between 1987 and mid-1993.”

Iran claims that it conducted no work on its P-2 centrifuge program between 1995 and 2002, but the IAEA is skeptical of this claim.

Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, told Arms Control Today Jan. 23 (see page 9) that Iran suspended work on the program dur ing those years because Iran had not yet “achieved mastery” of the P-1 centrifuge.

However, this response does not appear to address the basis for the agency’s con cern. According to ElBaradei’s September 2005 report, the agency suspects that Iran may have conducted undeclared centrifuge work because an Iranian contractor was able to make modifications for certain centrifuge components “within a short period” after first seeing the relevant drawings.

Additionally, ElBaradei reported in No vember that the agency is assessing documentation provided by Tehran indicating that an Iranian contractor who had worked on the program obtained related materials that the government had apparently not disclosed to the IAEA.

Heinonen’s report states that the IAEA, after sharing with Tehran information “indicating the possible deliveries” of P-2 centrifuge components, asked Iran in No vember “to check again” whether it had received additional components after 1995. Both the Vienna source and a former De partment of State official familiar with the issue confirmed that the IAEA’s information originated with Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, a businessman who has been detained by Malaysia for his role in the Khan network.

Both sources also noted that Tahir only recently revealed this information, although he has been in custody since the spring of 2004. Tahir had no documentation for his claim, the former U.S. official added.

Enriched Uranium Particles

According to Heinonen’s report, the IAEA is still investigating the origin of some LEU and HEU particles found in Iran by agency inspectors in 2003. Iran has admitted to enriching uranium to 1.2 percent uranium-235, but the presence of LEU particles enriched to higher levels has suggested that Iran may have conducted other centrifuge experiments that it concealed from the IAEA. Tehran claims that the particles in question came from imported centrifuge components.

IAEA inspectors took environmental samples from a location in the United Arab Emirates where centrifuge components from the Khan network were stored before being shipped to Iran. The samples showed no “traces of nuclear material,” according to ElBaradei’s November report.

A Western diplomat told Arms Control Today in November that the sample results indicate that the LEU particles did not come from these components—a finding that could contradict Iran’s account. But according to interviews with a State Department official, Washington is almost certain that all the LEU particles found in Iran originated in Pakistan and believes that any further discoveries of undeclared Iranian-produced LEU would likely reveal previously concealed P-1 experiments, but no similar P-2 experiments.

ElBaradei reported in September 2005 that “most” HEU particles found in Iran by agency inspectors came from imported centrifuge components. Both the source in Vienna and a State Department source says that, for all practical purposes, the HEU issue has been resolved.

Uranium Mining

The IAEA is investigating questions about the ownership and operation of Iran’s Gchine uranium mine. U.S. and European officials have told Arms Control Today that Iran’s military or an affiliated organization might have been working at the mine in an effort to obtain an independent uranium source.


ElBaradei first reported in November 2003 that Iran had conducted plutonium-separation experiments. Iran first said that it completed this work in 1993 but later admitted continuing experiments until 1998. The agency is still investigating the matter.

ElBaradei stated in September that the IAEA has not received requested informa tion regarding Iran’s efforts to obtain equipment for hot cells, which are facilities that can be used to produce medical isotopes as well as separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel. ElBaradei reported that Iran has attempted to procure hot cells with specifications more consistent with plutonium separation than medical isotope production.

Iran says it is no longer attempting to build hot cells.

Possible Nuclear Weapons Research

The IAEA is also investigating several activi ties and documents suggesting that Iran may be attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

Uranium-Casting Document

According to Heinonen’s report, Iran has shown agency inspectors a 15-page document detailing the procedures for re ducing uranium hexafluoride to “metal in small quantities” and “casting…enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispheres.” But the document did not “include dimensions or other specifications for machined pieces for such components,” the report says, reiterating information ElBaradei first reported in November.

This revelation has generated additional concern about Iran’s nuclear program be cause shaping uranium into hemispheres is used in developing explosive cores for nuclear weapons. The report acknowledges that the procedure is “related to the manufacture of nuclear weapon components.”

Whether the document is evidence of a previously unknown Iranian capability is unclear. Iran has previously acknowledged that it was offered equipment for casting uranium but maintains that it has never received any such equipment. Tehran claims that the document had been “provided on the initiative of the procurement network,” rather than at Iran’s request.

During a January 2006 visit, Iran allowed agency inspectors to “examine the docu ment again and to place it under IAEA seal,” Heinonen’s report says. Tehran, however, declined the IAEA’s request to provide a copy of the document, according to the report.

Parchin Military Complex

According to ElBaradei’s November report, Iran granted IAEA inspectors ac cess to Iran’s Parchin military complex Nov. 1, the inspectors’ first visit since January 2005. The inspectors “did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited,” but the IAEA is awaiting the results of environmental samples taken during the visit before assessing whether Iran conducted any nuclear activities there.

The United States and the IAEA have both expressed concern that Iran has been testing conventional high explosives at Parchin for use in an implosion-type nuclear weapon.

The report also says that the IAEA seeks additional visits to the site but does not say why. However, a State Department official told Arms Control Today in November that the agency may still have “suspicions” about Iranian activities at the site. The official also confirmed a November Agence France-Presse report that the inspectors saw a high-speed camera during their visit. Such cameras can be used to monitor experiments with high explosives, such as those used in an implo sion-type nuclear weapon.

Other Possible Military Projects

The former State Department official confirmed press reports Feb. 22 that the United States acquired a laptop computer, believed to be of Iranian origin, contain ing information documenting what appear to be several related projects that may constitute evidence of a nuclear weapons program. The United States has provided this intelligence to the IAEA, the Vienna source said.

According to Heinonen’s report, the agency received information describing the “Green Salt Project.” “Green salt” is another name for uranium tetrafluoride, the precursor for uranium hexafluoride. The former State Department official also confirmed that the computer contained designs for a “small-scale” facility to produce green salt. The most recent documents related to the project are dated 2003, but it is not known whether the project ended at that time, the official added.

The intelligence also indicates that Tehran has conducted “tests related to high-explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle,” Heinonen said. A State Department official told Arms Control Today in August 2005 that the United States has what it believes to be documentary evidence suggesting that Iran is attempting to develop a nuclear-weapon payload for its medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile. (See ACT, September 2005.)

But whether and to what extent such a re-entry vehicle design would improve Iran’s ability to deliver a nuclear weapon is unclear. The former State Department official said that a nuclear warhead built according to a design that Libya obtained from the Khan network would be too large to fit in the re-entry vehicle that Iran may have designed. (See ACT, March 2004.) That acquisition has sparked concern that Tehran also may have obtained similar designs, but no evidence has emerged that Iran has actually done so.

Nevertheless, the official cautioned that “[n]ot enough is known about the Iranian bomb-making capabilities” to determine whether Iran is capable of building a warhead suitable for the re-entry vehicle described in the laptop documents.

Tehran responded to a December IAEA request for a meeting by dismissing the agency’s recently acquired intelligence as “related to baseless allegations.” But Iranian officials later agreed to meet with Heinonen Jan. 27.

During that meeting, IAEA inspectors pro vided Iranian officials both with a diagram “related to bench-scale conversion” as well as communications related to the Green Salt Project. The Iranians promised to “provide further clarifications [about the project] later” but “declined to address the other topics during that meeting,” Heinonen’s report says.

Apparently calling into question Iran’s claims that its nuclear program has no military dimension, the report says that the uranium project, high-explosives tests, and re-entry vehicle design all have a possible “military nuclear dimension and appear to have administrative connections.” This claim is based partly on the fact that the relevant documentation was all found on the laptop.

Lavizan-Shian Physics Research Center

According to Heinonen’s report, Iran has increased its cooperation with the IAEA’s investigation of a physics research center that operated between 1989 and 1998 at a site called Lavizan-Shian that had been connected to the Iranian Ministry of Defense.

Iran razed the site in late 2003 and early 2004, a move that raised suspicions that Tehran might be trying to cover up evidence of undeclared nuclear activities. However, ElBaradei reported in September that Iran provided information consistent with the government’s explanation for this action.

ElBaradei reported in November that the IAEA wished to take samples from a trailer that had been located at the site and contained dual-use nuclear equipment. The agency also sought to interview Iranian officials who had been involved in the center’s efforts to obtain equipment related to uranium enrichment, he said.

According to Heinonen, Iran provided IAEA inspectors with some requested information Jan. 26 regarding Tehran’s efforts to acquire equipment with poten tial uranium-enrichment applications. The inspectors, however, were not allowed to interview a key official involved in the center’s procurement efforts.

Iran did provide the IAEA with informa tion regarding other dual-use acquisition efforts and allowed the inspectors to take environmental samples of some dual-use equipment, Heinonen said. The report says nothing about the trailer discussed in ElBaradei’s report.

According to the former State Department official, the United States has “good reason” to believe that Iran has moved the research center elsewhere but added that Washington has no “evidence” that Tehran actually did so.

Polonium-210 Experiments

The IAEA has also not been able to resolve residual uncertainties regarding Iran ’s experiments involving the separation of polonium-210, which is a radioisotope that can help trigger a nuclear chain reaction in certain types of nuclear weapons. ElBaradei reported in November 2004 that the IAEA is “somewhat uncertain regard ing the plausibility” of Iran’s claim that the experiments were not for nuclear weapons because the civilian applications of polonium-210 are “very limited.”

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.



IAEA Resolution on Iran

In its Feb. 4 resolution on Iran’s nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors said that “a solution to the Iranian issue would contribute to global nonproliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery.” Following are key excerpts from the resolution.

1. Underlines that outstanding questions can best be resolved and confidence built in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s programme by Iran responding positively to the calls for confidence building measures which the Board has made on Iran, and in this context deems it necessary for Iran to:

• Re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency;

• Reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water;

• Ratify promptly and implement in full the Additional Protocol; pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol, which Iran signed on 18 December 2003;

• Implement transparency measures, as requested by the Director General, including in GOV/2005/67, which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations;

2. Requests the Director General to report to the Security Council of the United Nations that these steps are required of Iran by the Board and to report to the Security Council all IAEA reports and resolutions, as adopted, relating to this issue;

3. Expresses serious concern that the Agency is not yet in a position to clarify some important issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme, including the fact that Iran has in its possession a document on the production of uranium metal hemispheres, since, as reported by the Secretariat, this process is related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components; and, noting that the decision to put this document under Agency seal is a positive step, requests Iran to maintain this document under Agency seal and to provide a full copy to the Agency;

4. Deeply regrets that, despite repeated calls from the Board for the maintaining of the suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities which the Board has declared essential to addressing outstanding issues, Iran resumed uranium conversion activities at its Isfahan facility on 8 August 2005 and took steps to resume enrichment activities on 10 January 2006;

5. Calls on Iran to understand that there is a lack of confidence in Iran’s intentions in seeking to develop a fissile material production capability against the background of Iran’s record on safeguards as recorded in previous Resolutions, and outstanding issues; and to reconsider its position in relation to confidence-building measures, which are voluntary, and non legally binding, and to adopt a constructive approach in relation to negotiations that can result in increased confidence;

6. Requests Iran to extend full and prompt cooperation to the Agency, which the Director General deems indispensable and overdue, and in particular to help the Agency clarify possible activities which could have a military nuclear dimension;

7. Underlines that the Agency’s work on verifying Iran’s declarations is ongoing and requests the Director General to continue with his efforts to implement the Agency’s Safeguards Agreement with Iran, to implement the Additional Protocol to that Agreement pending its entry into force, with a view to providing credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and to pursue additional transparency measures required for the Agency to be able to resolve outstanding issues and reconstruct the history and nature of all aspects of Iran’s past nuclear activities;

8. Requests the Director General to report on the implementation of this and previous resolutions to the next regular session of the Board, for its consideration, and immediately thereafter to convey, together with any Resolution from the March Board, that report to the Security Council; and

9. Decides to remain seized of the matter.





IAEA Reports Iran to UN Security Council

Paul Kerr

Suspension Unravels; IAEA Reacts

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors voted Feb. 4 to report its concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities, including Tehran’s failure to comply with its agency safeguards agreement, to the UN Security Council.

The decision raised the stakes in the IAEA’s ongoing dispute with Iran. Although Tehran has recently accelerated work on its uranium-enrichment program, Iranian and Russian officials claimed last month to have made progress on a compromise proposal designed to ease concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

The Feb. 4 resolution, adopted at a special board meeting, expressed “serious concern” about Iran’s nuclear program and noted that Tehran was not cooperating fully with the IAEA investigation. The resolution listed a series of measures deemed necessary for Iran to provide “confidence” in the “exclusively peaceful nature” of Iran’s nuclear program.

The resolution was adopted after IAEA Deputy Director Olli Hei nonen reported Jan. 31 that Iran has yet to resolve several outstanding questions about its nuclear program. The report also discussed specific evidence that Iran’s peaceful nuclear program may have a nuclear weapon dimension.

The resolution also requested that IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei report to the Security Council on all relevant IAEA reports and on Iran’s implementation of related IAEA resolutions. This would include any resolutions adopted at the board’s scheduled March 6 meeting. The board is expected to review a Feb. 27 report from ElBaradei on the investigation.

Tehran has increasingly defied the IAEA’s demands. Perhaps most significantly, over the last several months Iran has gradually terminated the suspension of its uranium-enrichment program and reduced considerably IAEA inspectors’ ability to investigate Iran ’s nuclear programs.

In September, the board formally found Iran in violation of its agency safeguards agreement more than two years after ElBaradei reported that Tehran conducted a variety of clandestine nuclear activities. But the board did not specify when or under what circumstances it would refer the matter to the Security Council. (See ACT, October 2005.)

Under the IAEA statute, the board is required to notify the Security Council if a member state is found in noncompliance with its agency safeguards agreement. Such agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure they are not diverted to military purposes. The Security Council may then take action against the offending state.

Iranian, Russian Cooperation

Meanwhile, Iran and Russia were set March 1 to continue their discussions over a plan designed to allay fears that Iran will use its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Moscow has proposed giving Tehran part-ownership of a gas centrifuge plant located in Russia that would enrich Iranian-produced uranium hexafluoride. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluo ride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. Uranium enrichment can produce both low- enriched uranium, which is used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, or highly enriched uranium, which can be used as fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Iran is constructing its own pilot centrifuge facility, as well as a much larger commercial facility. Tehran has also built a uranium conversion facility for producing uranium hexafluoride gas from lightly processed uranium ore.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Orga nization, said during a Feb. 26 press conference that Russiaand Iran had reached “an agreement in principle.” And Russian nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko asserted that “there are almost no problems…of an organizational, technical, or financial nature regarding” the planned joint venture.

But Kiriyenko also noted that “a whole series of serious measures and serious decisions” remain, pointing out that the joint venture proposal is only one element of a comprehensive approach to ensuring security. Russia also wants Iran to resume the moratorium on its enrichment activities until the IAEA resolves the open ques tions concerning Iran’s nuclear programs, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the next day.

In November 2004, Tehran had agreed to suspend “all enrich ment-related activities” for the duration of negotiations with France , Germany, and the United Kingdom. These included “manufacture and import of gas centrifuges and their components; the assembly, installation, testing or operation of gas centrifuges.”

The main sticking point in the Iranian-Russian discussions will likely be the question of whether Iran will be allowed to retain a centrifuge facility. Iranian officials have repeatedly declared that Iran will retain at least a pilot facility, but some have also indicated that Tehran may accept limits on its larger facility.

Aghazadeh would not answer when asked if Iran would be will ing to resume the suspension, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesper son Hamidreza Asefi stated the same day that Iran would not suspend its “research work.”

Lavrov also made it clear that Russia wants Iran to resume its negotiations with the Europeans. But Asefi said that such talks “are not on the agenda.”

IAEA Resolution

The 35-member board adopted the resolution by a vote of 27-3, with five abstentions. Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela cast the negative votes.

Significantly, Russia and China, two of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, voted for the resolu tion after abstaining in September. Persuading Moscow and Beijing to support a Security Council report was one of the major reasons that the United States and Europeans supported Russia’s diplomatic efforts during the past several months. (See ACT, December 2005.)

Russia and China agreed to support the resolution during a Jan. 30 meeting after reaching a compromise with the United States and Iran ’s European interlocutors. According to a statement that day from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the six countries agreed that the board should request that ElBaradei report Iran’s case to the Security Council. But they said that the council should wait until after the March IAEA meeting “before deciding to take action to reinforce the authority of the IAEA process.”

The resolution reiterates the necessity for Iran to implement confidence-building measures, which are also described in the September resolution. For example, it includes past board calls to resume the “full suspension of all enrichment-related activity” and “reconsider” its construction of a 40-megawatt heavy-water nuclear reactor.

Although Iran claims the reactor is for peaceful purposes, the board is concerned that Tehran intends to separate plutonium—another fissile material—from irradiated reactor fuel. The IAEA is still investigating past Iranian plutonium-separation experiments, but Iran has no known facilities for separating plutonium.

The resolution also exhorts Iran to ratify its additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. The additional protocol would provide for more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities Iran has not declared to the IAEA, to check for clandestine nuclear programs. The government should continue to “act in accordance” with the protocol’s provisions in the meantime, the resolution says. Tehran has signed the protocol, but the Iranian Majlis, or parliament, has never ratified it.

Iran 1, Suspension 0

Foreign ministers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in January called for the February board meeting after Iran took a series of steps to resume what it called “research and development” on its centrifuge program.

Iran ’s move marked the last step in terminating the suspension of its uranium-enrichment program.

Tehran first violated the suspension in August by resuming opera tions at its uranium conversion facility. (See ACT, September 2005.) Although Iran’s European interlocutors were willing to discuss resuming negotiations, they insisted that Iran first halt conversion.

The day after the board adopted the Feb. 4 resolution, Iran made good on its previous threats to stop adhering to its additional protocol in the event of a Security Council report. For example, at Tehran’s insistence, the IAEA has removed its containment devices, such as surveillance cameras, except for those required by Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Tehran also said that it will no longer permit the agency to un dertake measures—such as visiting certain Iranian facilities—that are not required by Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Next Steps

U.S. officials have said for months that they plan to pursue a strategy at the Security Council designed to reinforce the IAEA’s authority and steadily increase pressure on Iran to comply with the agency’s demands.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told reporters Feb. 5 that “the Iranians are going to face a fairly bright spotlight.” He added, “[W]e’re going to ratchet up the pressure, step by step and then focus on diplomacy as a way to isolate and hope fully change their behavior.”

A Department of State official told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that the first step would be to push for the adoption of a Security Council President’s Statement exhorting Iran to cooperate with the demands described in the IAEA board’s Feb. 4 resolution.

If Tehran refused, Washington would then pursue a Security Council resolution making the IAEA’s demands a legal obligation for Iran.

The next step, if necessary, would be for the council to imple ment sanctions, such as implementing travel bans and freezing bank accounts, targeted at the Iranian leadership. According to the official, this would occur around mid- to late summer.

If necessary, the council would later need to implement “tough er” economic and diplomatic measures, the official said, but did not specify further.

The official acknowledged that these plans could face increas ing resistance because Russia and China have repeatedly expressed their preference for handling the issue within the IAEA.

Asked about other diplomatic tracks, the official said that the United States would soon begin a “full-court press” to persuade certain countries to pressure Tehran to cooperate with the IAEA.


Suspension Unravels; IAEA Reacts

Iran has recently taken several steps to resume its uranium-enrichment activities, which Tehran had suspended since November 2004 as part of a broad series of negotiations with leading European countries. In response, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported Iran’s nuclear file to the UN Security Council even as the agency’s probe of Iran’s nuclear activities continues.

Jan. 3

Iran notifies the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it has decided to resume research and development activities on gas centri fuges used in its uranium-enrichment program. These activities had been suspended as part of a November 2004 agreement that Iran concluded with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides began negotiations shortly after.

Jan. 7

The IAEA receives a letter from Iran asking the agency to remove seals from facilities at Pars Trash, Faryand Technique, and Natanz. Iran removes the seals, used to verify the suspension, several days later in the presence of agency inspectors.

Jan. 12

Foreign ministers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, along with EU Council Sec retariat Javier Solana, issue a statement calling Iran’s decision to restart enrichment activity “a clear rejection of the [negotiating] process.” The statement says that “discussions with Iran have reached an impasse,” adding that the three governments will call for an “extraordinary” meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors.

Jan. 25-29

An IAEA team headed by Deputy Director-Gen eral Olli Heinonen meets with Iranian officials to discuss outstanding issues concerning Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. One meeting focused on the “Green Salt Project,” an alleged Iranian program for a small-scale uranium-con version facility, which Tehran had denied existed.

Jan. 31

Heinonen issues a report to the board describing the agency’s ongoing investigation of Iran’s nuclear programs.

Feb. 2

The board receives a letter from Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warning that Tehran will “suspend all…voluntary measures and extra cooperation” with the IAEA. These “measures” include cooperating with the IAEA as if the additional protocol to Iran’s safeguards agreement were in force, as well as other “transparency measures” not required by the safeguards agreement.

Feb. 4

The board adopts a resolution listing five steps that Iran must take in order to resolve “outstanding questions” regarding its nuclear program, as well as build “confidence” that Tehran ’s nuclear programs are used exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The resolution also requests IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the UN Security Council that “these steps are required” by the board.

Feb. 6

The IAEA receives a letter from E. Khalilpour, vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organi zation, stating that Iran has “suspended” its cooperation concerning its additional protocol and other transparency measures.

The letter also requests that the IAEA re move by mid-February those “containment and surveillance measures,” such as seals and surveillance cameras, that are not required by Iran’s safeguards agreement. The agency does so on Feb. 12.

Feb. 11

Iran begins “enrichment tests” by feeding a single P-1 centrifuge with uranium hexafluoride gas.

Feb. 15

Iran begins feeding a 10-centrifuge cascade with uranium hexafluoride. A week later, Iran tests a 20-centrifuge cascade, but without uranium hexafluoride.

Feb. 27

ElBaradei issues a report to the board updating the IAEA’s investigation.





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