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

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
December 2011
Edition Date: 
Friday, December 2, 2011
Cover Image: 

Pentagon Considers New Nuclear Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

The Pentagon is looking at bringing the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the levels set in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as well as scaling back new weapon systems, administration officials said last month.

Two separate policy reviews to be completed this year are leading the Department of Defense to consider new reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

One review is looking for ways to reduce Pentagon budget growth by at least $450 billion over the next decade. This target is likely to double to more than $900 billion now that the congressional “super committee” has failed to produce a deficit reduction plan. The committee’s failure to reach agreement, announced Nov. 21, triggers automatic cuts in defense and other spending. The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, would not take effect until 2013.

To save money, the Defense Department is re-evaluating its plans for fielding nuclear forces at levels set by New START—1,550 deployed strategic warheads based on 700 missiles and bombers, administration officials said in recent testimony.

A second review, increasingly related to the first given its significant budget implications, is examining fundamental questions of U.S. nuclear policy, such as how many nuclear weapons the country needs for the future and why. (See ACT, June 2011.) Conceived as a follow-on to the report produced by last year’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), this so-called NPR implementation study will set U.S. nuclear force requirements and play a key role in determining U.S. negotiating positions in future arms reduction talks with Russia. President Barack Obama has said he intends to pursue another agreement with Moscow to reduce strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, whether deployed or in storage.

Late last summer, Obama issued a document spelling out the study’s “terms of reference.” That document is known as Presidential Policy Directive-11 (PPD-11), Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said at the Nov. 2 hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which he chairs.

At the hearing, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said that the 90-day study is expected to be finished by the end of the calendar year. Based on the options presented in the study, Obama would issue new nuclear weapons guidance. The secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would then use this new guidance to issue more-detailed directions to the military, and U.S. Strategic Command would revise its military plans, Miller said. It is not clear how long the entire process will take.

Both studies appear to be looking at how U.S. forces under New START should be deployed. Miller testified that “[d]ecisions have not yet been made as to whether [the Defense Department] will take the full seven years” to make the reductions required by the treaty and “whether delivery systems will be reduced to or below those central limits” before the pact’s implementation deadline.

The Pentagon has previously said that its New START force structure, which must be in place by 2018, would include 240 submarine-launched missiles, up to 420 land-based missiles, and up to 60 long-range bombers, for a total of 720 deployed delivery systems. The Defense Department plans to reduce this force by 20 to meet treaty limits. “In the context of the budget situation [in] which we find ourselves,” Miller testified, “we are looking hard at those numbers again and in fact want to be informed by…this NPR implementation study that is underway.” The implementation study could, for example, recommend that the Navy scale back its nuclear-armed submarine program, which is currently planning to field 12 Ohio-class submarines, each with 20 missiles, to comply with New START.

To achieve major budget savings, however, the Pentagon also will have to look at scaling back its multibillion-dollar plans for modernizing the triad of sea- and land-based missiles and land-based bombers over the next 50 years. The Navy is requesting 12 new submarines to replace the current Ohio-class fleet, and the Air Force is seeking up to 100 new long-range bombers and a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The Pentagon estimates that these modernization programs would cost more than $125 billion over 10 years, although a public breakdown of this total has not been made available. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is also planning to spend about $88 billion over the next decade on refurbishing the nuclear stockpile and modernizing the weapons production complex.

Submarine Budget Warfare

In the face of increasing budget pressures, tensions between the military and the White House over budget priorities are starting to bubble to the surface.

For example, despite previous Pentagon support for the Navy’s new submarine plans, Miller testified that “no decisions have been made with respect to future force sizing or the modernization plans for nuclear delivery systems; such decisions will be informed by the administration’s ongoing review of deterrence requirements.”

Similarly, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of Strategic Command, testified at the hearing that although the country needs to replace the current Ohio-class submarine, “affordability has to be an issue here. What we don’t have to make a decision on today is what the ultimate number of submarines is that we might have to deploy depending on the world situation that we find as we go to the out-years.”

Reflecting this high-level shift away from a commitment to 12 new submarines, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is recommending that the number of new submarines be reduced to 10, according to defense.aol.com. The Navy reportedly is pushing back by claiming that 10 submarines are not enough to support five submarines “on station” at all times. Submarines that are on station are deployed far off the U.S. coasts and ready to launch their missiles on a moment’s notice.

According to congressional staffers, for the Navy to operate four to five submarines on station, it would need 12 submarines in total: five in the Atlantic, with two of these on station and the rest in port or in transit, and seven in the Pacific with two to three on station and the rest in transit.

The requirement for on-station submarines, according to the staffers, is mainly driven by the military requirement to deploy submarine-based nuclear weapons within range of their targets so they can be launched promptly, within an hour or so. Such requirements are under review as part of the NPR implementation study.

Sequestration Politics

Although the Pentagon has accepted the need to reduce its future growth by $450 billion over 10 years, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is making his case against sequestration reductions, which would require additional cuts of $500-600 billion, according to a Nov. 14 letter from Panetta to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

According to a Pentagon summary document that was sent with the letter, such additional reductions would be “devastating.” Cuts of that magnitude, the document said, would lead to steps such as a delay in the development of the new Air Force bomber until the mid-2020s, for a savings of $18 billion; a delay in the deployment of the Navy’s new submarine and a downsizing of the fleet to 10, saving $7 billion; and elimination of the entire ICBM leg of the triad, saving $8 billion.

After Panetta sent his letter, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a statement saying that sequestration “is a threat to the national security interests of the United States, and it should not be allowed to occur.” In a Nov. 21 statement responding to the super committee’s announcement, Obama said that he “will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off[-]ramps on this one.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear forces already have dropped to or below New START ceilings, according to the Department of State. Former senior Russian officials have said that Moscow will retain fewer than 570 delivery systems by 2018 and will have difficulty fielding the 1,550 warheads allowed by the treaty.

Commenting on defense budget pressures, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in a Nov. 11 Bloomberg interview that “[t]he amount of money we’re spending on maintaining nuclear weapons, modernizing nuclear weapons, is not in keeping with the modern world. It’s much more a Cold War remnant.”

At a Nov. 8 briefing, Pentagon press secretary George Little said, “Our top priority is maintaining a nuclear deterrent, but the arsenal may not need to be as large as it is.”

The Pentagon is looking at bringing the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the levels set in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as well as scaling back new weapon systems, administration officials said last month.

OPCW Prepares for More Libya Inspections

Daniel Horner

Updated on December 5, 2011

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is preparing to send inspectors to two previously undeclared sites in Libya, the organization said in a Nov. 4 press release.

The announcement came in the days after statements by Ian Martin, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s special representative in Libya, and a subsequent press conference by officials of the new Libyan government announcing the existence of the sites, whose locations were not disclosed.

According to the Nov. 4 release, Libyan authorities on Nov. 1 “advised the OPCW that further stocks of what are believed to be chemical weapons had been found.” In his Nov. 28 opening statement to the week-long annual conference in The Hague of parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said his organization had received the “formal declaration by the Libyan authorities” updating the cataloguing of its chemical stockpiles that Libya had submitted when it joined the CWC in 2004.

The OPCW’s acknowledgment of the new Libyan sites came in a press release that dealt mainly with the return of the organization’s inspectors to the Ruwagha depot in the southeastern Libyan desert. That depot is the site of Libya’s remaining declared stockpile of sulfur mustard, a chemical warfare agent that is stored in liquid form.

Libya had begun destroying its sulfur mustard stocks in October 2010 and was moving ahead with that work until a heating component of the neutralization unit malfunctioned in February. The unrest in Libya that began around the same time prevented resumption of the work, in part because a UN embargo imposed on the country blocked delivery of the needed replacement part. (See ACT, October 2011.) The OPCW inspectors had been recalled from the idled facility.

In the press release, the OPCW said its recent inspection had “confirmed that the full stockpile of undestroyed sulfur mustard and precursors remains in place.” In addition, the release said, the inspectors “took further measures to ensure the integrity of the stockpiles until destruction operations can resume under OPCW verification.”

The months since the beginning of the uprising against the regime of Moammar Gaddafi have seen numerous and sometimes conflicting reports on new discoveries of chemical weapons or their components.

According to a Nov. 20 report in The Washington Post, U.S. officials suspect that Iran provided the Gaddafi government with artillery shells used for chemical weapons. An Iranian official called the allegation “fabricated,” the Post said.

Separately, the OPCW Executive Council, meeting in a special session Nov. 23-24, “reached a decision on the matter of the 2012 final deadline for completing destruction of all existing chemical weapons,” the OPCW said Nov. 25. The CWC sets a final deadline of April 29, 2012, for possessors of chemical weapons to destroy their stockpiles. Russia and the United States, which account for the vast majority of the world’s stockpiles, have acknowledged that they will not meet the deadline.

For the past two years, CWC parties have been discussing how to handle that situation. Diplomats have said that all parties except Iran have agreed to language drafted by Peter Goosen, the council’s South African chairman. (See ACT, October 2011.) In Nov. 24 remarks to the council meeting, Robert Mikulak, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, appeared to confirm that characterization, saying the council’s draft decision document is one “that every delegation except Iran indicated that it could support.”

According to the OPCW statement, the council decision “was taken by vote,” while the parties “highlighted their desire to continue upholding the OPCW’s tradition of reaching decisions by consensus.”

The council decision now goes to the conference of CWC members. In a Nov. 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a source familiar with the council’s discussions said, “[T]his draft decision was taken by vote by the Council but it is up to the Conference to decide to adopt it and how.”

In his Nov. 28 statement to the conference, Üzümcü called the council decision “constructive and forward-looking.” In a statement the same day, Iranian OPCW ambassador Kazem Gharib Abadi called the U.S. failure to meet the 2012 deadline “a clear-cut case of non-compliance.”

Üzümcü also announced in his statement that Libya had told the OPCW it would not be able to meet the deadline.

UPDATE: CWC States Reach Decision on 2012 Deadline

Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 1 to approve a document reaffirming the importance of the treaty’s April 2012 deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles without declaring countries that failed to meet the deadline to be violating the terms of the pact.

Under the CWC, possessors of chemical weapons must eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012, which marks the 15th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. However, Russia and the United States, whose chemical stockpiles are by far the world’s largest, have acknowledged they will not be able to meet the deadline. Libya recently said it also will not meet the deadline.

The document notes statements by the three countries of their “unequivocal commitment” to their treaty obligations and “tak[es] note that the inability to fully meet the final extended deadline” is “due to reasons that are unrelated to the commitment of these States Parties to the[ir] General Obligations” under the CWC.

In comments last May on the Russian and U.S. stockpiles, Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), cited the “massive” size of those stocks and said that “[t]he efforts and resources required for their elimination in conditions of safety and environmental sensitivity were no less daunting, and perhaps underestimated at the time when the convention was drafted.” The OPCW is the international body that implements the CWC.

The Dec. 1 decision document says that if the possessor states do in fact fail to meet the deadline, they should complete the destruction “in the shortest time possible.” According to the document, each state should “submit a detailed plan” that “specif[ies] the planned completion date by which the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons is to be completed.” The document also spells out reporting and monitoring requirements for the ongoing destruction work.

The vote, which came during the week-long annual meeting of CWC parties in The Hague, was 101-1. Iran was the “no” vote. For months, there has been near unanimity on the approach represented by the document, with only Iran opposing it. (See ACT, October 2011.) In the days before the vote, Iran and the United States engaged in a sharp rhetorical exchange over the 2012 deadline.

Decisions on the CWC generally have been made by consensus, but there have been a few previous exceptions.—DANIEL HORNER

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is preparing to send inspectors to two previously undeclared sites in Libya, the organization said in a Nov. 4 press release.

IAEA Lays Out Iran Weapons Suspicions

Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month provided the most extensive details to date regarding suspicions that Iran has engaged in activities to develop a nuclear warhead. The details in the Nov. 8 report suggest that Iran pursued a range of activities relevant to nuclear weapons development as part of a structured program prior to the fall of 2003 and has resumed  some weapons-related activities since then.

In response to the report, the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution Nov. 18 expressing “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program.” The resolution also said that it was essential that Iran provide the IAEA with “access to all relevant information, documentation, sites, material, and personnel” to resolve all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear work.

In his Nov. 17 opening remarks at the board meeting, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said he has proposed to Iran that the agency send a high-level mission to clarify the weapons-related activities identified in the report. Also that day, an Obama administration official told Arms Control Today that “it will not be the United States or any other national government that judges if Iran has done what it needs to do” to resolve concerns about its past activities. The IAEA “can give Iran a clean bill of health so long as Iran commits to genuine cooperation,” the official said.

The board resolution avoided the direct censure contained in some prior resolutions and did not declare Iran in noncompliance with its nonproliferation obligations, as the governors did in 2005 following a finding that Tehran had failed to declare certain nuclear activities to the agency.

Diplomats said that Western governments had sought a strongly worded resolution but China and Russia had objected in negotiations over the draft. The resolution the board adopted was submitted by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany, which have been engaged in off-and-on negotiations with Iran over the nuclear issue.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 32-2, with Cuba and Ecuador opposing it and Indonesia abstaining. Brazil, Egypt, and South Africa voted in favor of the resolution after abstaining during the last IAEA resolution rebuking Iran in 2009, following revelations of a secret uranium-enrichment facility, named Fordow, that Iran was constructing near the city of Qom. (See ACT, December 2009.)

Responding to the November resolution, Iranian IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters it would only result in “strengthening the determination” of Iran to pursue its “peaceful” nuclear program. “We will not suspend our enrichment activities and our work for even a second,” he said, referring to Security Council demands that Iran temporarily halt all uranium-enrichment activities as a confidence-building measure.

Soltanieh said Iran would “study” Amano’s proposed high-level mission, but rejected the possibility of such a visit in the near term because “everything is messed up by the director-general’s decision” to publish the report.

Information Seen as Credible

The information on Iran’s suspected warhead development program, contained in a rare 12-page annex to the agency’s quarterly report, was largely based on more than 1,000 pages of documentation. Over the past several years, the IAEA has referred to these documents as the “alleged studies.” A Western intelligence agency is believed to have acquired them from the wife of an Iranian involved in Iran’s nuclear program.

The report said that additional information came from “more than ten” countries and the IAEA’s own investigation, which included satellite imagery analysis, information provided by Iran, and discussions with members of the nuclear trafficking network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. Khan’s network provided Iran with key components and expertise for its nuclear program.

The agency concluded that the information describing Iran’s suspected warhead development work is “credible,” as it comes from “a wide variety of independent sources” and “is overall consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames.” Amano said in his opening remarks to the board that the information the IAEA received “passed rigorous agency scrutiny.”

In the Nov. 17 interview, the administration official said the IAEA wanted to wait “until it had assured itself that it had undertaken a thorough investigation and explored every angle regarding the serious charges against Iran” before making the information public.

Describing Iran’s response to questions about the suspected weapons-related activities, the report said that Iran’s answers “have been imprecise and/or incomplete, and the information slow in coming and sometimes contradictory.” According to the IAEA, Iran has not cooperated with its investigation into the weapons allegations since 2008.

Although Iran has previously admitted to carrying out some of the work detailed in the report, it says the work was not for nuclear weapons and that many other allegations are fabricated.

Wide Range of Weapons Activities

According to the report, the weapons-related activities Iran allegedly pursued relate to “three technical areas” encompassing many of the steps in a nuclear weapons development process. The administration official said, “[I]t is impossible to read this report and the chilling details it provides on Iranian research into almost every facet of a nuclear weapons program and not come away with the conclusion that Iran is, at the very minimum, leaving open the option to pursue a weapon down the road.”

The first technical area the IAEA describes was a covert uranium-conversion effort called “Project Green Salt,” aimed at producing uranium hexafluoride, an early precursor in producing nuclear fuel or fissile material for nuclear weapons. The report said that documentation received from member states suggests that this project was part of an effort to produce uranium metal for use in a nuclear warhead.

Tehran has admitted to receiving a document from the Khan network that describes how to turn uranium compounds into uranium metal, but claims that it did not request it. The IAEA report said this document was known to be part of a larger package that included a “nuclear explosive design,” based on its investigation into the Khan network’s dealings with Libya. A member of the Khan network told the agency in 2007 that Iran had received nuclear explosive design information, and the agency said in the November report that based on that discussion, it “is concerned that Iran may have obtained more advanced design information” than what Libya received.

The most extensive detail in the report related to the second area of study: high-explosives work suitable for a nuclear warhead. This work included the development of fast-acting detonators and the means to position and fire high explosives simultaneously. The agency said that it was informed by nuclear-weapon states that the specific multipoint-initiation system used in Iran’s high-explosives work “is used in some nuclear explosive devices.”

When the agency confronted Iran in 2008 with some of the information it had on Iran’s suspected high-explosives work, Iran said that it did not understand the information and had not carried out any of the activities, the recent report said.

According to the report, the IAEA “has strong indications” that Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons-relevant high-explosives initiation system was assisted by a “foreign expert.” It indicated that a member state informed the agency that the expert “worked for much of his career” in the Soviet nuclear weapons program.

The Washington Post identified the expert Nov. 10 as Vyacheslav Danilenko, who is currently an expert in using advanced explosives technologies to create industrial-use nanodiamonds. The IAEA confirmed through discussions with Danilenko that he was in Iran between 1996 and 2002 assisting with nanodiamond production using high-explosive techniques, the report said.

The third technical area described in the report covered the development of a nuclear warhead capable of fitting on Iran’s medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile. Known as “Project 111,” this work allegedly included computer modeling studies of various payloads for Iran’s Shahab-3 missile consistent with a nuclear warhead and the manufacture of prototype re-entry-vehicle components at workshops known to exist in Iran.

The agency carried out a technical assessment of the study with the assistance of experts from countries that did not provide the IAEA with information related to Project 111. That assessment ruled out any payload option other than a nuclear weapon. Asked to comment on the results of the assessment in 2008, Iran told the agency that it agreed such a program would constitute nuclear weapons development, the report said. However, Tehran has dismissed the computer modeling documentation as “an animation game” and said that the electronic format of the documentation could have easily been fabricated.

Program Halted in 2003

According to the report, Iran consolidated the activities related to these technical areas under an umbrella called “the AMAD Plan,” headed by an individual named Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and most AMAD Plan activities were carried out between 2002 and 2003. The agency further notes that “senior Iranian figures featured” in the command structure of the AMAD Plan “at least for some significant period of time.” The report does not identify the senior Iranian figures or their role in the Iranian leadership.

An annex to a May 2008 report by the agency outlined Iran’s suspected covert conversion, high explosives, and re-entry vehicle activities, but not in the same detail. The agency has said that it continued to receive new information from states after 2008 on Iran’s suspected weapons-related activities.

Based on information the agency received from members states, the report says that “work on the AMAD Plan was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a ‘halt order’” by senior Iranian officials in late 2003. However, it adds that some of the work carried out under the AMAD Plan was resumed later, with Fakhrizadeh maintaining “the principal organizational role” for those activities under different military and academic institutions.

The finding appears to be consistent with that of the unclassified summary of a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) by the U.S. intelligence community. That assessment judged “with high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 and concluded “with moderate confidence” that the halt lasted through mid-2007. The NIE defined Iran’s nuclear program as covert uranium conversion- and enrichment-related activities and “weaponization work.” The intelligence community completed a classified update of the 2007 NIE earlier this year. (See ACT, March 2011.)

The IAEA report and the NIE, however, pointed to different rationales behind the halt. According to the NIE, the U.S. intelligence community believed the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared work.”

Iran’s key nuclear facilities capable of producing material for nuclear weapons were first publicly revealed in the fall of 2002 and came under IAEA safeguards shortly thereafter.

The recent IAEA report, however, said that the halt to the AMAD Plan was the result of “growing concerns about the international security situation in Iraq and neighbouring countries at that time.”

The agency identifies three areas in which Iran is believed to have continued weapons-related work. The report said that information provided by one country indicated that Iran initiated a four-year program in 2006 to continue work on a neutron initiator. Such a device is used in the center of a nuclear weapon to generate a burst of neutrons and initiate a nuclear explosion. According to the IAEA, the neutron initiator Iran allegedly worked on matches the warhead design information the Khan network shared with Iran.

Information the agency received from two member states suggested Iran carried out modeling studies on nuclear warhead design in 2008 and 2009, including determining the nuclear explosive yield, the report said. Because the application of such studies appears unique to nuclear weapons, the IAEA said that “it is therefore essential that Iran engage with the agency and provide explanation.”

According to the report, two countries told the IAEA that Iran conducted “experimental research” on scaling down and optimizing a nuclear weapons-relevant high-explosives package after 2003.

The report says, however, that the IAEA’s understanding of Iran’s post-2003 nuclear weapons-relevant activities is not as substantial as its assessment of the AMAD Plan “due to the more limited information available to the agency.”

New Enrichment Plant

The report continued to detail Iran’s safeguarded nuclear activities, citing developments relating to Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. Iran prepared to begin operations at the Fordow enrichment plant last month after moving some of the low-enriched uranium (LEU) there from its commercial plant at Natanz.

The LEU produced at Natanz is enriched to about 4 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235, a level generally used in nuclear power reactor fuel. Iran declared earlier this year that it would use the Fordow plant to triple its production of 20 percent-enriched uranium in order to fuel a research reactor in Tehran and additional reactors it intends to build. Western governments and independent experts have raised concerns that the accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium provides Iran with material that can easily be further processed to weapons-grade levels, which is about 90 percent enriched.

According to the IAEA report, Iran has begun testing a prototype fuel rod at the Tehran Research Reactor. U.S. and former IAEA officials have said, however, that Iran cannot safely manufacture fuel for the reactor.

The administration official said that “an Iranian initiative to cease the production of near 20 percent-enriched uranium and halt its ongoing construction at the underground Qom facility would be the most significant steps Tehran could take to signal that it is searching for a way out of this increasingly dangerous path.”

Iran began producing 20 percent-enriched uranium in February 2010 after rejecting a U.S.-proposed arrangement under which Iran would ship out its LEU in return for fuel for the Tehran reactor. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in September that Iran would halt 20 percent-enrichment activities if it received fuel for the reactor. (See ACT, October 2011.)

Iran began producing 20 percent-enriched uranium in February 2010 at a pilot facility also located at the Natanz site. Producing 20 percent-enriched uranium accomplishes about 90 percent of the work required to enrich uranium from natural levels to weapons grade.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month provided the most extensive details to date regarding suspicions that Iran has engaged in activities to develop a nuclear warhead. The details in the Nov. 8 report suggest that Iran pursued a range of activities relevant to nuclear weapons development as part of a structured program prior to the fall of 2003 and has resumed  some weapons-related activities since then.

Cyber Norms Mulled at London Meeting

Timothy Farnsworth

More than 700 participants from 60 countries met in London last month to discuss international norms governing behavior in cyberspace and begin building a framework for future discussions on international cooperation in that realm.

In his closing statement to the Nov. 1-2 conference, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who chaired the event, stressed the need “to accelerate the international debate on cyberspace and move it onto a permanent and continuous footing.” He also warned governments not to “treat cyberspace as if it belongs to you” and that “state-sponsored attacks are not in the interests of any country long term and that those governments that perpetrate them need to bring them under control.”

Hague said the conference was successful because it had begun a “dialogue on principles and set out an agenda for further work to build a secure, resilient, and trusted global digital environment.”

However, some cyber experts said the conference did not produce any tangible results in moving toward those norms.

In a speech last February to the Munich Security Conference, Hague laid out a set of principles to govern behavior in cyberspace and called on governments to come together and begin exploring mechanisms for establishing such behavior. (See ACT, March 2011.) The seven principles laid out by Hague included “the need for governments to act proportionately in cyberspace in accordance with domestic and international law,” to ensure openness in cyberspace for innovation and the free flow of information, and to respect individual rights and privacy within cyberspace.

Discussions at the London conference focused on five topics: economic growth and development, social benefits of cyberspace, safe and reliable access, international security, and cybercrime. According to Hague, there was overall agreement on many issues. As one example, he cited the delegates’ recognition that “stronger co-operation and collaboration was needed to build confidence and to avoid misunderstandings” among countries.

He said that “all delegates agreed with the principle that governments must act proportionally in cyberspace and that states should continue to comply with existing rules of international laws and the traditional norms of behavior that govern interstate relations,” including the laws of armed conflict.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking via videoconference, said an “absolutely fundamental” part of the U.S. position is that “international law principles are not suspended in cyberspace.”

The delegates also supported the efforts of the 2010 UN group of governmental experts and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on developing confidence-building measures applicable to cyberspace.

U.S. officials have said they believe discussions of such measures are a good place to start. “[W]hile cyberspace is a new realm, we have many, many years of hard-won understandings to guide us in this new space,” Biden said in his video remarks. In an Oct. 27 speech at Stanford University, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said the United States is “taking into consideration how our expertise in arms control [confidence-building measures] can be applied to international cooperation on cybersecurity.”

Limited Progress Seen

The conference was successful in putting some issues on the table and establishing a dialogue for the future, but Western countries did not push very hard because of fears of a breakdown in discussions with Russia and China, James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a Nov. 15 interview.

On Sept. 12, China and Russia submitted a letter to the UN General Assembly outlining a proposed cyber code of conduct that would establish rights and responsibilities of states in protecting information networks and cyberspace networks. (See ACT, November 2011.) According to Lewis, it was “a brilliant defensive move” and was successful in reshaping the public debate and diluting criticism.

In a separate interview Nov. 15, Jason Healey, director of cyberinfrastructure protection at the White House under President George W. Bush, said civil society also played a role in diluting discussions at the conference. Healey, who now is director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said the London conference began as an attempt to bring together governments to lay down norms governing behavior in cyberspace. About three months ago, nongovernmental organizations created a side conversation that “turned the London conference into a town hall-type event,” he said.

“We have been trying to have this conversation for the past 15 years and are not getting anywhere,” he said. Many issues could be solved more easily if the conversation about them took place only between governments, he said.

For example, regarding the question of what constitutes an act of war in cyberspace, Healey said, “[L]ook at the UN Charter. It has to be an armed attack. Get a few countries to say yes to that, and then take it off the table and move on.”

There is widespread agreement that a treaty governing behavior in cyberspace will not be negotiated in the near future. “There was no appetite [at the conference] to expend effort on new legally binding international instruments,” Hague said, referring to the proposed code by China and Russia. In a Nov. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokeswoman for the British embassy in Washington said, “There was no explicit decision at the Conference that [a treaty] was a bad idea but this was not a decision-making event. There was plenty discussion of whether legally binding instruments are a good idea or not and the UK and US view is that generally they are not.”

A senior Department of State official detailed the U.S. position during an Oct. 31 briefing on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prepared remarks. “[A] treaty is not the way to go in trying to either govern the Internet or deal with the Internet,” in part because cyberspace changes so quickly that a treaty would be obsolete before it even is created, he said. Clinton was scheduled to speak at the conference, but canceled at the last minute due to the death of her mother.

Next Meetings Planned

At the meeting, Hague announced Hungary and South Korea would hold follow-up conferences in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

According to Lewis, the United States must recognize that it needs two different approaches in negotiating with other countries about cyberspace norms. The United States already does well in reaching out to like-minded countries, but is losing to China and Russia in efforts aimed at the developing world, he said. However, some emerging powers, such as Brazil and India, “share our political beliefs,” Lewis said, and the United States therefore can reach out to them.

Before the 2012 conference, Lewis said, the United States and its allies need to come up with a more convincing narrative about the Internet to appeal to such countries. “The old narrative about the Internet is that a free and open ‘Net automatically produces wealth. This isn’t persuasive,” he said. The United States needs to develop “a new story that explains why a secure Internet based on democratic values best serves all countries’ interests,” Lewis said, citing a case made by Ron Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

More than 700 participants from 60 countries met in London last month to discuss international norms governing behavior in cyberspace and begin building a framework for future discussions on international cooperation in that realm.

China Cited by Foes of Nuclear Budget Cuts

Kathleen E. Masterson

Congress should reconsider proposed cuts to U.S. nuclear weapons spending in light of uncertainties about China’s nuclear weapons program, some lawmakers and security analysts are arguing.

Other analysts, however, have said there is little evidence to support some of the more threatening scenarios.

The modernization of China’s and Russia’s nuclear arsenals and delivery systems was the subject of a House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing on Oct. 14. The hearing took place in the context of a recent debate over proposed budget reductions to U.S. nuclear weapons modernization efforts, which the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), denounced in his opening remarks as tantamount to “unilateral disarmament.”

The purpose of the hearing was to highlight what Turner and others have characterized as the potentially ominous long-term implications of simply maintaining the United States’ existing nuclear forces while China and Russia continue to modernize. With the U.S. government slated to cut defense spending by more than $450 billion over the next decade, proposed reductions for funding nuclear modernization have gained traction in Congress. However, opponents of these cuts increasingly have pointed to the opacity of China’s nuclear weapons program and the growing threat the program could represent.

In his testimony at the hearing, Mark Schneider, senior analyst for the National Institute for Public Policy, shared Turner’s misgivings. “The Russians and the Chinese are modernizing every element of their strategic triad,” he told the subcommittee, referring to the three methods for delivering nuclear warheads: ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and bombers.

However, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ East Asia Nonproliferation Program, said that every nuclear-weapon state, including the United States, continues to upgrade its nuclear warhead delivery platforms. Lewis also told the committee that although China and Russia have focused on modernizing their means of delivering nuclear weapons, neither country has attempted to create new nuclear devices.

“Now is not the time to be reducing American nuclear and conventional deterrent capabilities, especially in Asia,” Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center told the subcommittee. Citing China’s policy during the Vietnam and Korean wars, Fisher concluded that any “perceived weakness in the United States” will “embolden [China] to take risks.”

Recent concerns have arisen in the wake of the Pentagon’s latest report on Chinese military capabilities, which described a 5,000 kilometer-long series of underground tunnels used by China’s Second Artillery Corps to house China’s nuclear weapons. The Chinese military has used tunneling as a defensive technique for decades, however, so the existence of such an underground network is “hardly surpris[ing],” Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in a Nov. 14 interview, although he expressed skepticism about the facility’s estimated size.

During the hearing, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said the tunnels might be a “very destabilizing factor” in the nuclear world order, citing concerns that China might use the underground network to increase the size of its nuclear stockpile without being detected. His questions appeared to reflect a position held by some U.S. security analysts that Beijing is secretly planning to race to nuclear parity with Russia and the United States as Moscow and Washington decrease the number of operationally deployed strategic warheads in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Although it is impossible to make definitive claims about Beijing’s nuclear ambitions, such a scenario is “not very probable,” said Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “I don’t think the Chinese believe they need a numerical parity with the U.S. or Russia,” Hathaway said. “Once you reach a certain level,…everything else is simply redundant,” he said. China now is at that level in number of warheads and “very shortly” will have the capability to deliver those warheads, he said. Pollack agreed, saying that nuclear parity with the United States is “not in [China’s] aspirational set.”

Policymakers such as Turner also have expressed concerns that Beijing is modernizing its nuclear delivery systems, most notably its ballistic missile submarines. According to the Pentagon report, however, the Chinese navy has built and deployed up to five operational ballistic missile nuclear submarines, but the submarine-launched ballistic missiles to be loaded in them are not yet operational.

In contrast, the United States “relies hugely” on sea-based nuclear warheads to secure its second-strike capability, Pollack said. Beijing’s decision to pursue a similar deterrent is not necessarily threatening, but would “represent a qualitative change” in China’s nuclear capabilities, he said.

Congress should reconsider proposed cuts to U.S. nuclear weapons spending in light of uncertainties about China’s nuclear weapons program, some lawmakers and security analysts are arguing.

Cluster Munitions Protocol Fails

Farrah Zughni

Unable to bridge their differences over a cluster munitions protocol, states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) did not adopt the controversial provision and ended their Nov. 14-25 review conference badly divided over it.

At the Geneva conference, states that produce cluster bombs were willing to agree to some new restrictions on use of the weapons but argued that the bombs still serve important military purposes, while nonproducers cited humanitarian concerns in pushing for broader restrictions.

The opportunity to pass the proposal, which would affect the world’s largest producers of the weapons, is unlikely to re-emerge for years to come, according to sources involved in the debate. More than 50 of the CCW’s 114 parties voiced opposition to the proposal on the last day of the conference. The 1980 treaty, which limits the use of conventional weapons “deemed to be excessively injurious or have indiscriminate effects,” requires consensus on any additions to the treaty; a new protocol is binding only on countries that ratify it.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, or artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. Some of these submunitions fail to explode on impact and pose a risk to civilians decades after they are deployed.

A draft protocol, submitted by the chair of the review conference’s preparatory sessions, Jesus S. Domingo of the Philippines, served as the basis for negotiations. (See ACT, October 2011.) Several revised versions of the text were issued by Eric Danon of France, who led one of the conference’s main committees. The final text would have prohibited the use, development, production, acquisition, and retention of cluster bombs produced prior to Jan. 1, 1980, and set restrictions on cluster munitions manufactured on or after that date.

The draft received at least tacit support from most major cluster munitions producers, including China, India, Israel, Russia, and South Korea. The United States, a leading producer, strongly backed the measure and said it was “deeply disappointed” by the review conference’s outcome.

The cluster munitions protocol offered “the only chance of bringing the world’s major cluster munitions users and producers…into a legally binding set of prohibitions and regulations,” said Phillip Spector, the head of the U.S. delegation to the CCW, in a Nov 14. opening statement.

Spector said the protocol’s ban on cluster munitions made prior to 1980 alone would prohibit the use of more than 2 million such weapons in the U.S. stockpile. Russia and Ukraine also announced that the 1980 rule would prohibit the use of large amounts of their stocks.

According to a July 2008 Department of Defense press release following the most recent update of U.S. policy on the issue, the United States views cluster munitions as “legitimate weapons with clear military utility in combat…[that] provide distinct advantages against a range of targets…[and] reduce unintended harm to civilians during combat, by producing less collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure” than weapons that do not contain submunitions.

Consensus over the protocol, even among producers, remained uncertain throughout the negotiation process. In a Nov. 15 statement, Pakistan, a producer of cluster bombs, objected to the 1980 cutoff, calling it an “arbitrary” deadline that was “discriminatory in nature.” India also expressed some reservations with the text.

The most significant opposition to the chair’s text came from a number of nonproducing countries that are signatories to the most comprehensive international treaty on cluster bombs―the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and many international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also criticized the chair’s text at the review conference. The CCM prohibits a much wider array of cluster munitions than the CCW. Major producers of cluster munitions have not signed the CCM, but are party to the CCW.

Fundamental Differences

Negotiations over the protocol “failed ultimately because two fundamentally different concepts on how the [cluster munitions] issue should be addressed could not be reconciled,” Alexander Kmentt, director of arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation at the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, said in a Nov. 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today. “One is the CCM focus on victims and the effects of [cluster munitions], and the other is a security policy and arms control focus that was the foundation of the draft by the chair.”

Although parties opposed to the chair’s text welcomed the provision requiring destruction of producers’ older stockpiles, they objected to language permitting newer models of cluster bombs, currently in use, which are prohibited by the CCM.

“This is a matter of lives, limbs, and principles,” Steffen Kongstad, the head of the Norwegian delegation, said Nov. 14. “We cannot support a new protocol on cluster munitions in the CCW that in fact perpetuate[s], rather than prevent[s], the civilian suffering caused by cluster munitions.”

“Humanitarian values basically overcame a process that was designed to achieve just the opposite,” Juan José Gómez Camacho, Mexico’s ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, said of the outcome during a phone interview shortly after the conference ended.

During a Nov. 16 press briefing, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law and Detainee Policy William Lietzau argued that the CCM does not, in fact, ban all cluster munitions, citing as examples the German SMArt 155 and the French/Swedish BONUS. In a Nov. 21 interview, Stephen Greene, vice president of communications at Textron Systems, made a similar point. U.S.-based Textron produces the CBU-97 cluster bomb.

A few CCM states, including Australia and Germany, expressed willingness to work with the chair’s text even though its requirements fell short of the CCM.

Opponents of the chair’s text said they never consented to the draft as a basis for negotiation, let alone a final protocol, and maintained that their objections were ignored for years during the negotiating process.

The chair’s text appears to be “a non-negotiated and static text that through several meetings…has not been changed according to the many concerns and suggestions that have been presented,” said Kongstad. “This is not an acceptable way of negotiating.’”

After repeated attempts in preliminary sessions to have their concerns incorporated in the text, Austria, Mexico, and Norway submitted an alternative draft protocol on July 20. The alternative proposal lacks many of the legally binding aspects of the chair’s text and does not contain a definition of cluster munitions. Its proponents claim such ambiguity is necessary to accommodate otherwise irreconcilable views.

Some countries referred to this draft during the review conference, but the alternative protocol itself was not actively debated in the forum. Still, despite several revisions submitted by Danon and a last-minute amendment proposed by the U.S. delegation, opponents maintained that their objections continued to be ignored.

“Only a limited number of High Contracting Parties and observer States have had their views and concerns reflected in this text,” said the Costa Rican delegation in a Nov. 23 statement. “It can thus come as no surprise that the text does not enjoy agreement of all High Contracting Parties and does not command the consensus of this room.”

Pre-1980 Munitions

Many CCM parties found the text’s 1980 deadline objectionable on the grounds that it reflected no improvement in terms of the weapons’ indiscriminate effects.

During his speech to the forum, Kongstad said that findings from UN field organizations and international NGOs showed that 90 percent of cluster munitions victims were civilians, “regardless of the production year of the weapon.”

Responding to Spector’s assertion that the 1980 deadline would remove millions of munitions and that this action alone would have a humanitarian impact, a diplomatic source from a CCM state said in a Nov. 16 interview that “[t]he humanitarian argument only works if you have an actual intention of using these weapons,” which the source said was a doubtful prospect given their age.

In exchange for the offer, the draft protocol asked CCM states-parties for a “seal of approval for continued use” of cluster munitions, Kmentt said in the Nov. 25 e-mail.

Several meeting participants and observers noted that U.S. policy already is in compliance with or, in some cases, exceeds requirements in the chair’s text. The 2008 Defense Department policy prohibits the use of cluster munitions with a failure rate higher than 1 percent after 2018. Prior to the deadline, use of cluster bombs with a higher failure rate must be approved by a combat commander; a similar stipulation is made in the chair’s text.

Under an appropriations act signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 15, 2009, the United States no longer provides military assistance, sales, or technology transfers involving cluster munitions unless the weapons have a failure rate of less than 1 percent and the recipient agrees not to deploy the weapons “where civilians are known to be present.”

In a Nov. 1 letter, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to resist pressure to accept the alternative protocol. The senators said the CCM employed “arbitrary” and “unscientific” metrics in distinguishing permitted weapons from prohibited ones. Kyl and Lugar also defended the 1 percent-failure-rate standard, calling it “the most accurate measurement of humanitarian impact.”

Opponents of the chair’s text also took issue with its deferral clause, which allows countries to extend their use of post-1980 cluster munitions that do not meet safety requirements for an additional 12 years after ratification.

Cluster munitions producers, however, say that destruction of large quantities of munitions requires a great deal of money and time. The cost to producers of complying with the chair’s text would be “billions, not millions, of U.S. dollars,” Vladimir Yermakov, deputy head of the Russian delegation, said Nov. 14.

At the Nov. 16 press briefing, Lietzau defended the deferral clause as necessary to comply with the “very high standards” of the protocol. “[G]etting our munitions…and our operations to comply is something that you can’t just do with a switch,” he said.

In a Nov. 25 statement, the U.S. delegation said the country would “continue to implement its own voluntary policy” and encouraged other countries to take similar steps.

Unable to bridge their differences over a cluster munitions protocol, states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) did not adopt the controversial provision and ended their Nov. 14-25 review conference badly divided over it.

Arms Trader Viktor Bout Convicted

Xiaodon Liang

In the high-profile criminal case against a man who has become a symbol of the illicit arms trade, a federal jury in New York City on Nov. 3 found arms dealer Viktor Bout guilty on all four charges brought against him.

Following a three-week trial and less than two days of deliberation, the jury found Bout guilty of conspiring to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, kill U.S. nationals, kill U.S. officials, and provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who presided over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 8.

Bout, a Russian national, was arrested in March 2008 in Bangkok by Thai authorities working with U.S. law enforcement officials, following a series of meetings with undercover agents he believed to be arms buyers for FARC. (See ACT, April 2008.)

Russian government officials sharply criticized the verdict. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich alleged in a Nov. 3 statement that the U.S. government had created a biased atmosphere around the trial, “preventing objective consideration of facts.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Oct. 21 in a radio interview reported on by RIA Novosti that Bout was “provoked” to make statements that were used as evidence of his crimes in a meeting with U.S. officials directly after his arrest. In an Aug. 25 pretrial ruling, Scheindlin decided that prosecutors would be barred from using those statements in the trial. Scheindlin found that because Bout was arrested at gunpoint, strip-searched, denied access to consular and legal assistance, and interviewed immediately by U.S. officials in spite of his request not to be, those statements were not “made voluntarily” as required by law.

However, Scheindlin ruled against Bout’s lawyers when they filed a motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that they were politically motivated or vindictive. Scheindlin said the lawyers had not shown that Bout had been pursued by law enforcement officials solely because of U.S. vindictiveness. Bout’s lawyers had alleged in their motion that the U.S. government was embarrassed by Bout’s ownership of cargo aircraft used to transport goods to the U.S. military in Iraq in 2003.

U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said during a Nov. 4 press briefing that the United States was “obviously gratified” by the verdict, but a press officer declined to elaborate when contacted for further comment. Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a Nov. 2 press release that Bout’s activities had been a “source of concern around the globe” for decades.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade, also welcomed the verdict in a Nov. 2 press release. Royce said Bout had done “irreparable damage across the world” and praised the Thai government and U.S. officials for their conduct leading to the conviction. However, in a Nov. 16 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Royce said that Bout was only “the tip of the iceberg.”

Undercover Agents Testify

To convince the jury of Bout’s guilt, U.S. prosecutors relied on the testimony of two undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, recordings of meetings and conversations between Bout and those agents, and the testimony of Andrew Smulian, a former accomplice of Bout.

At the March 6, 2008, meeting in Bangkok at which Bout was arrested, he discussed the sale of 20,000 to 30,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Bulgaria and “Yugoslavia” with the DEA agents, who were posing as arms purchasers for FARC.

Ivan Zverzhanovski of the South Eastern and Eastern European Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons told Arms Control Today in a Nov. 18 e-mail that transfers of weapons from former Yugoslav countries on the scale proposed by Bout would have to directly involve security ministry stockpiles. He said that this made it “much more unlikely” that Bout could have carried out the deals.

In the 2008 meeting, Bout also discussed his ability to provide Dragunov sniper rifles, C-4 explosives, fragmentation grenades, night vision equipment, and armed ultralight aircraft as well as the possibility of providing landmines to FARC.

According to a transcript of the meeting presented as testimony by the prosecution, Bout said his “friends” stopped producing landmines after the 1990s and that the mines are “not being sold right now.” Bout also said he would provide training for the use of some of the weapons and spare parts for their maintenance. He explained to the DEA agents that he could potentially use arms export licenses for unconcluded, legal deals to facilitate the purchase of weapons from eastern European sources.

Of particular importance to U.S. prosecutors was Bout’s tentative agreement to facilitate the sale of Igla SA-18 surface-to-air missiles to FARC. Ricardo Jardenero, a DEA informant who posed as a FARC commander, told Bout that the missiles were to be used against Apache and Black Hawk helicopters operated by U.S. personnel in Colombia.

According to media accounts of the trial, Jardenero and Carlos Sagastume, another DEA informant who participated in meetings with Bout and testified at the trial, were involved in the illegal drug trade before becoming paid informants for the U.S. government.

Bout’s Defense

Albert Dayan, one of Bout’s lawyers, asked Sagastume during the trial whether the payments had influenced his testimony, according to media reports. Sagastume denied that they had.

Bout’s defense centered more on the claim that the arms dealer’s main intent was to sell two cargo planes to FARC and that the arms components of the negotiations were secondary. (See ACT, November 2011.)

In a Nov. 3 interview with The New York Times after the conclusion of the trial, jury forewoman Heather Hobson said Bout’s defense was critically undermined by the recording of a phone conversation with Smulian, submitted as testimony. During the call, according to the interview, Bout appeared not to have developed detailed planning for the plane sale. Hobson said this contradicted Bout’s defense because it showed he had not given extensive thought to what he had claimed was the priority transaction at the meeting.

Bout’s lawyers asked Scheindlin in a Nov. 11 letter for an annulment of the verdict or an evidentiary hearing, based on the possibility that some jurors had been tainted by exposure to prejudicial information about Bout before the trial, according to Russian media reports. A court spokeswoman confirmed Scheindlin had received the letter.

Hobson said in the Times interview that she had seen “Lord of War,” a 2005 movie in part inspired by Bout’s activities, but she said that, until the trial, she was not aware of the connection between Bout and the film.

Larger Problem

Royce, the House subcommittee chairman, welcomed the conviction and said in the Nov. 16 e-mail that Bout’s “Merchant of Death” title was “well-earned.” However, many of his clients and successors remain to be brought to justice, the chairman added. The arms traffickers that will step into Bout’s shoes likely will maintain a more low-key public persona, potentially complicating efforts to track them down, Royce said.

In testimony to Royce’s subcommittee Oct. 12, Douglas Farah, the author of a 2007 book on Bout, identified Bout and his peers as a small group of “super fixers,” experts in providing critical illicit services to criminals, terrorists, and states. Farah said they derive their utility from their knowledge of how to exploit the “seams in the international legal and economic structure” and are “gatekeepers” for illegal goods, including small arms, weapons of mass destruction parts or materials, drugs, and trafficked humans.

In the e-mail Royce said that super fixers’ ability to make use of “criminal states” that “just plain need responsible governments” was the key to their success. Royce cited Bout’s registration of aircraft in Liberia and Equatorial Guinea and purchase of end-user certificates from Togo as examples of this ability. The legal protection that the Russian government gave Bout also was a main factor that allowed him to act with impunity, Royce said.

In the high-profile criminal case against a man who has become a symbol of the illicit arms trade, a federal jury in New York City on Nov. 3 found arms dealer Viktor Bout guilty on all four charges brought against him.

WMD Controls Improving, UN Panel Says

Peter Crail

Countries have made steady progress in adopting national controls to stop the spread of nonconventional weapons, according to a UN panel report released last month.

Efforts to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540, adopted in 2004, have “contributed to strengthened global nonproliferation and counterterrorism regimes and ha[ve] contributed to better preparing states to prevent proliferation” of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, the report says.

Resolution 1540 requires all states to adopt a wide variety of national instruments aimed at criminalizing the acquisition of nonconventional weapons by nonstate actors, accounting for and securing materials that could be used to build such weapons, and preventing them from being smuggled. A committee overseeing the implementation of the resolution completed the report Sept. 12, but it was not publicly released until Nov. 10.

The committee originally was supposed to issue the progress report in April, at the same time that the Security Council extended the panel’s mandate for 10 years with the adoption of Resolution 1977, but the report faced repeated delays. (See ACT, May 2011.)

During a Nov. 14 briefing to the Security Council, 1540 Committee Chairman Baso Sangqu of South Africa said that since the committee’s last report in 2008, “more states have taken more measures to implement almost every obligation or recommendation” in Resolution 1540. The committee recognized in its report, however, that “much work remains to be done,” characterizing full implementation as “a long[-]term effort.”

Thomas Wuchte, the U.S. special coordinator for Resolution 1540, told Arms Control Today in April that implementation is “moving forward in stages that are appropriate for each region.” Echoing the recent report’s recognition of the long-term task for states to establish comprehensive controls on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), he said he sees the prospect for “steady progress, not stagnation.”

Since 2005, the committee has used a spreadsheet containing 382 fields, called the matrix, to evaluate the adoption of national WMD controls. The 382 fields comprise national laws or enforcement authorities that states are required to establish to control the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; related materials; and their means of delivery.

The committee report notes that, of the measures detailed in the matrix, states now have taken steps to implement an average of 128, compared with 93 in 2008.

To better evaluate progress in implementing the resolution, the committee said it would consider replacing or upgrading its assessment matrix no later than the end of next year. Such upgrades could, for example, take into account assistance and cooperation or lessons learned, the report said.

The committee primarily relies on national reports submitted by states to evaluate what steps countries have taken to establish WMD controls. States were required to submit reports in October 2004 and have been encouraged to provide additional information on their progress since that time.

Still, 24 countries, 19 of which are in Africa, have not submitted a report to the committee on steps they have taken to implement WMD controls.

The committee recently has sought to supplement the state-submitted reports with in-country visits in order to get a better sense of a country’s WMD controls. The United States hosted the first such visit in September, a step intended to spur additional countries to take similar actions. (See ACT, October 2011.) Sangqu told the council Nov. 14 that Albania, Croatia, and Madagascar have requested such visits.

In addition to assessing global progress in establishing WMD controls under Resolution 1540, the committee is tasked with facilitating technical assistance to countries in need of it. Resolution 1540 recognized that some countries may lack “the legal and regulatory infrastructure, implementation experience and/or resources” to implement many of the controls required in the resolution and called on countries capable of doing so to provide assistance in those areas.

Wuchte said that Resolution 1977 “brings us to a point where the committee is only just now approaching a stage where it can effectively match those requesting assistance with those offering it.”

He added that he saw Africa as a “particularly important focus” for the 1540 Committee’s efforts to facilitate assistance, saying that it is a region where “many countries need help with capacity building and where the pressing requirements of development have traditionally left” WMD nonproliferation as a “distant priority.”

Countries have made steady progress in adopting national controls to stop the spread of nonconventional weapons, according to a UN panel report released last month.

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran

Daryl G. Kimball

The Obama administration entered office in 2009 seeking both to maintain pressure on Iran to comply with its nonproliferation obligations and to engage Tehran in a renewed dialogue on confidence-building measures to allay concerns about the purpose of its nuclear program.

But Iran’s fraudulent 2009 election, its pursuit of a second enrichment site near Qom, and the ongoing power struggle between key factions in Tehran have undermined the engagement track. Last January’s meeting in Istanbul revealed that Iranian negotiators were not prepared to seriously discuss even modest, interim proposals.

Today, the Obama administration still speaks of its interest in serious talks, but its Iran policy emphasizes pressure more than engagement. Washington must rebalance its approach by renewing discussions on a step-by-step process that leads to more-intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and the confidence-building steps that are essential to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

International pressure on Iran is at an all-time high. UN Security Council sanctions approved in 2010 have slowed Iran’s nuclear and missile efforts and are steadily being implemented by more and more countries. Last month, 32 of the 35 members of the IAEA Board of Governors agreed to censure Iran’s weapons-related activities. This increasing international pressure was possible only because of the Obama administration’s willingness to engage Iran, and it will be put at risk if Washington minimizes the diplomatic track.

The latest IAEA report underscores that Iran was engaged in a comprehensive nuclear weapons-related research program, which was halted in late 2003 after being exposed. Since then, some weaponization-related activities have resumed.

Although the IAEA and U.S. intelligence findings show that Iran is slowly improving its uranium-enrichment capabilities and already has some of the expertise needed to build nuclear weapons, they also make it clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is neither imminent nor inevitable.

Sanctions have bought time and helped improve negotiating leverage, but the time available must be used constructively. Sanctions alone will not turn Tehran around.

Moreover, talk of military strikes against Iranian nuclear and military targets is counterproductive and naive. The “military option” would set back Iran’s program for no more than a couple of years, convince Iran’s leadership to pursue nuclear weapons openly, rally Iranian domestic support behind the regime, and lead to adverse economic and security consequences.

Ultimately, resolving the nuclear issue will require sufficient pressure and inducements to convince Iran’s current and future leaders they stand to gain more from forgoing nuclear weapons than from any decision to build them.

Rather than being permanently discouraged by Iran’s unhelpful behavior at Istanbul, the United States and its “P5+1” partners—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—should prepare for additional talks with Iran and continue to highlight constructive proposals they are prepared to discuss. This includes outlining the confidence-building steps required to ease the current sanctions regime and end Tehran’s diplomatic isolation.

A near-term goal should be to test Iran’s recent, publicly stated offer to stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent if it could have access to fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor. A stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium would allow Iran to shorten its time frame to produce weapons; Washington should not forgo any opportunities to reduce that risk.

Another critical objective is to secure more-intrusive access by the IAEA to all of Iran’s nuclear-related activities and convince Tehran to finally address the agency’s questions about weapons-related work. The IAEA needs this increased access to detect and deter any clandestine nuclear activities.

The UN Security Council has also called on Iran to “suspend” its enrichment work as a confidence-building measure. Unfortunately, Tehran has refused to do so, misrepresenting the UN resolution as a denial of Iran’s inherent nuclear rights under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Under the NPT, however, the right to the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy is conditioned on the responsibility to comply with safeguards against military use. Consistent with the 2006 offer by the P5+1, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has made it clear that, “under very strict conditions” and “having responded to the international community’s concerns,” Iran would have a “right” to enrich uranium under IAEA inspections.

A permanent uranium-enrichment halt would be beneficial and very welcome, but it is not necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, and it is not realistic given the strong support for enrichment across the political spectrum in Iran. Tying enrichment amounts and levels to the actual needs of Iran’s nuclear power plants might provide an acceptable compromise.

If Iran is unwilling to agree to commonsense confidence building steps, Tehran will remain isolated. But the United States cannot afford to wait for Iran to make the first move. Washington must keep testing Iran’s willingness to change course by taking the diplomatic offensive.

The Obama administration entered office in 2009 seeking both to maintain pressure on Iran to comply with its nonproliferation obligations and to engage Tehran in a renewed dialogue on confidence-building measures to allay concerns about the purpose of its nuclear program.

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