"...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
July/August 2012
Edition Date: 
Friday, July 13, 2012
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Sanctions Seen Slowing N. Korea Progress

Kelsey Davenport

Although North Korea continues “actively to defy” UN Security Council resolutions, international sanctions “appeared to have slowed” the country’s activities in areas such as development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to a report to the UN Security Council on the implementation of the sanctions imposed by the resolutions.

The report was authored by a panel of experts authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 1874 in 2009. The mandate for the panel includes assessing the effect of the sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and providing recommendations to better implement restrictive measures on Pyongyang from Resolution 1874 and its 2006 predecessor, Resolution 1718. The resolutions impose embargoes prohibiting arms sales and transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology, a ban on luxury items, and sanctions on designated persons and entities that violate embargo provisions, among other measures.

The panel reports annually to the Security Council. In 2011 its report was not made public. This year’s report was submitted to the Security Council on May 11 and publicly released June 29. The panel relies on reporting from UN member states, information in the public domain, and first-hand accounts and observations collected by panel members to make its assessments.

According to the panel, since May 2011, member states did not report any violations involving transfers relating to nuclear weapons, other unconventional weapons, or ballistic missiles. States did report violations in other areas, including “illicit sales of arms and related materials.” North Korea’s ability to evade sanctions and acquire these goods indicates “elaborate techniques to evade” restrictions, the report said. The panel concluded, however, that the sanctions imposed by the Security Council made “illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive.”

The panel also assessed progress made by North Korea on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It concluded that the rocket North Korea attempted to launch on April 13 was “extremely similar” to the one Pyongyang test-fired in 2009. (See ACT, May 2012.)

The panel expressed concern over the new eight-axle transporter erector launcher observed in the April 15 parade celebrating the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. The report concludes that such a road-mobile missile launcher requires “advanced features” and that North Korea had not previously “demonstrated its capacity to build such a vehicle.” The panel said it would continue to examine this issue.

In relation to the ballistic missiles observed in the parade, the report noted the KN-08 “new road mobile missile” and the assessment of some nongovernmental analysts that the missiles displayed in the parade were mock-ups, but the panel did not express a view on the missiles’ operational status.

Uranium Enrichment

The panel of experts reported that it is focusing on “tracking” Pyongyang’s past procurement activities and attempting to “identify choke point items” necessary to sustain North Korea’s uranium-enrichment program. The panel reported that a number of “uncertainties” surrounding the progress made by North Korea in uranium enrichment still exist, including those relating to the number and operational status of centrifuges and existence of a stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU). The panel said it was not able to determine if North Korea could domestically produce the specialty items required to expand its centrifuge program, has developed “undetected” networks for importing such items, or was using stockpiles of materials imported before the sanctions began.

The panel noted separate analyses saying that North Korea would likely be able to produce a warhead for a medium-range ballistic missile based on access to designs provided by the Abdul Qadeer Khan network in a “relatively short time after it produced sufficient HEU.”

The panel’s report included 12 recommendations to improve the implementation of the sanctions imposed by the Security Council resolutions. It called on the Security Council committee established by Resolution 1718 to “explore possible solutions” to technical challenges that prevent countries from properly conducting inspections on goods in transport. The panel called on the committee to provide “clear guidelines” for the disposal of seized items. Countries should report inspections and violations to the committee more promptly, preferably within three months, the report recommended.

Six-Party Talks

Meanwhile, South Korea’s lead nuclear negotiator said multilateral diplomatic negotiations with North Korea over the dismantlement of its nuclear program and the subsequent repeal of the international sanctions are unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Speaking at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Seoul on June 24, Lim Sung-nam said he would be “hesitant” to say that current prospects for resuming the talks “look bright.”

In addition to South Korea, the six-party talks include China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, and the United States. China has chaired the meetings since the talks began in 2003. The most recent meeting took place in December 2008 in Beijing. (See ACT, January/February 2009.) In April 2009, after the UN Security Council issued a statement calling North Korea’s test firing of a rocket on April 5 a violation of Security Council resolutions banning such tests, North Korea announced that it would not participate in the talks. (See ACT, May 2009.)

Despite the three-year lull in the talks, Cheng Jingye, the Chinese ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that experience showed that the six-party format was an “effective mechanism in achieving denuclearization.” In a June 5 statement to the IAEA Board of Governors, he called for the six parties to “revitalize” the Feb. 29 agreement between the United States and North Korea that broke down after Pyongyang went ahead with the April 13 test firing of a rocket.

The United States said the launch violated the terms of the agreement, under which North Korea agreed not to conduct any nuclear or long-range missile tests and to suspend uranium enrichment in return for food aid from the United States. Although the deal was a bilateral agreement between Washington and Pyongyang, Cheng characterized it as a “hard-won and positive outcome” from the “framework of the six-party talks.”

Cheng also called on “all parties” to avoid actions that “may escalate the tension in the region.” Government and nongovernmental experts believe that North Korea may conduct a nuclear test explosion. It has carried out nuclear tests twice, in 2006 and 2009.

In the United States, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korean Affairs Jim Zumwalt said in June 6 testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific that the U.S. government will “engage constructively” with North Korea if Pyongyang understands that there will be “no rewards for provocations.”

Although North Korea continues “actively to defy” UN Security Council resolutions, international sanctions “appeared to have slowed” the country’s activities in areas such as development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to a report to the UN Security Council on the implementation of the sanctions imposed by the resolutions.

New Draft of Space Code Released

Timothy Farnsworth

The European Union circulated a new draft of its proposed international code of conduct for outer space activities at its first international meeting of governmental experts June 5 in Vienna.

The code, which would not be legally binding, would establish guidelines for behavior in space that would limit the creation of space debris and increase transparency and other elements of international cooperation in order to reduce the risk of collisions in space, creating a “peaceful, safe, and secure outer space environment.” (See ACT, January/February 2009.)

More than 110 participants from more than 40 countries, including Brazil, China, India, Russia, and the United States, took part in the plenary meeting to outline key elements of the new draft text, according to a June 6 press release from the EU’s European External Action Service and other sources. Earlier this year, the United States announced it would join the negotiations but not sign on to the previous draft of the code. (See ACT, March 2012.)

EU and U.S. officials said the June meeting was not a negotiating session but a “kickoff” to present a new draft of the code to a larger number of countries than in previous discussions. The meeting in Vienna outlined key elements of the new draft and will be the basis for future discussions, a senior official from the U.S. Department of State said in a June 11 interview. Concerns about space debris have increased in the wake of China’s 2007 use of a ballistic missile to destroy one of its satellites.

In a June 14 interview, an EU official familiar with the meeting said the new draft of the code tried to answer some of the questions asked in a number of consultations between the EU and other major spacefaring countries while keeping the philosophy of the original 2008 draft on avoiding collisions and conflicts in space.

Although the document retains much of the language from an October 2010 draft, one major addition to the text is an explicit statement that the code is not legally binding, a key point emphasized by U.S. officials supportive of the code in the face of criticism. (See ACT, March 2012.)

At a March 21 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) voiced his concern that the code has “treaty-type implications” and would “bind us and maybe make it impossible for us to effectively maintain our space and missile defense capability that we need because we need to be able to dominate space.”

At the hearing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon responded to Sessions by saying that “one of the fundamental tenets of this discussion of the code of conduct would be the inherent right of self-defense.” Earlier in her testimony, Creedon said that “[u]ltimately, [the code] serves our interests much better than legally binding agreements, and it will not ban space weapons or any of the other capabilities that we have proposed.”

The next EU international experts meeting to discuss the code is expected to take place in October in New York and will be open to all UN member states “with the view to adopt the Code in 2013,” according to the EU press release. The EU official said that the October meeting originally was supposed to last three to four days, with representatives discussing the code paragraph by paragraph. Yet, the Vienna meeting was the first time many of the representatives had seen the new draft, according to the official. The most important outcome of the upcoming meeting would be “that we all agree that this [draft code] is the basis for future negotiations and discussions,” he said.

Looking past the planned October meeting, the EU official said that the process could continue past the 2013 timeline. “In terms of substance, we are not far from agreement on a good number of items and could have a final text by the beginning of 2013,” the official said. “However, the difficult part might be on process. By mid-2013, how many countries will be ready to go with the initiative?” the official continued. “We need a large amount of spacefaring nations onboard.”

The code process appears to be gaining a higher international profile. At a June 5 meeting of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Russia stated its support of the EU initiative, the first time Moscow had done so in that forum. “In general, we appreciate positively the draft Code of Conduct in Space proposed by the EU and are ready to participate in its finalization on a multilateral basis,” the Russian representative said.

In a first for the Group of Eight industrialized countries, the group’s foreign ministers addressed the issues of “space security and sustainability” in a statement issued at their April 11-12 meeting. The statement “acknowledge[d]” the EU initiative to develop the code.

Russia and China previously have focused their efforts on the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects, a space arms control treaty, which they submitted to the CD in February 2008.

Laura Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to the CD, said June 5 that the United States “is willing to consider space arms control proposals and concepts that are equitable [and] effectively verifiable and enhance the national security of the United States, partners, and allies. However, we have not yet seen a proposal that meets these criteria.”

In the June 11 interview, the U.S. official said the United States is taking a “comprehensive” approach to space security and stability. In addition to being involved in the talks on the proposed EU code, Washington is participating in the discussions by a UN group of governmental experts on transparency and confidence-building measures, which are set to begin July 23. The aim of the space experts group is to develop a catalogue of voluntary unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures for space, the official said.

The official also cited U.S. participation in discussions at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. That committee, which met June 6-15, was established by the UN General Assembly in 1959 to review international cooperation on peaceful uses of space, conceive of programs to be undertaken by the United Nations, encourage research and spread information on space matters, and study legal problems that may arise from the exploration of space.

The European Union circulated a new draft of its proposed international code of conduct for outer space activities at its first international meeting of governmental experts June 5 in Vienna.

NSG Still Mulling Indian Membership

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

In a statement released June 22, the last day of the meeting, the 46-member group said only that it “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.” That wording was identical to what the group said on the subject in last year’s statement.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

In September 2008, the group eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by its members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that, like India, are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

In November 2010, during a visit to India, President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian entry into the NSG and three other multilateral export control groups. At the NSG’s 2011 plenary meeting, the United States submitted a “Food for Thought” paper on options for bringing India into the group.

A key criterion for NSG membership is that a country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. India would be the first country that did not meet that criterion.

In a June 27 interview, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, the new NSG chairman, said members had expressed “a variety of the views” on the issue of Indian membership. As Poneman noted, the NSG makes decisions by consensus. He characterized the discussion as one of “food-for-thought ideas.”

Asked about India’s lack of NPT membership, which some countries have indicated would be a stumbling block, Poneman said that there are “numerous ways [the Indians] can attest their commitment to nonproliferation norms” and that “the full panoply of [Indian] commitments is being looked at.” Among India’s commitments is its declaration that it is adhering to the NSG export guidelines.

Pressing China on Reactor Deal

On another ongoing issue for the NSG, Poneman said the United States and other countries were continuing to seek information from China about its plans to sell two reactors to Pakistan, which is not an NPT party.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. By most accounts, China told the NSG members that its agreement with Pakistan covered those two units but that it would not supply Pakistan with any reactors beyond those. China reportedly now is arguing that the proposed additional reactors also are grandfathered.

When word of the planned sale of the so-called Chashma-3 and -4 reactors emerged two years ago, a U.S. official said, “Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In the interview, Poneman said the United States is “not the only government that has this set of concerns.” The U.S. government “has been very clear” about its concerns and has “repeatedly asked” China for more details, he said. The Chinese have replied, but the United States would like more detail, he said. “We’ve been pressing for answers, and we’re still pressing,” Poneman said.

Lists Being Updated

In its statement at the Seattle meeting, the NSG “emphasized the importance of keeping its lists up to date with technological developments and took stock of the ongoing fundamental review process” through which it keeps its export control lists current. Poneman said the highest U.S. priority for the upcoming year was to complete the review. Some changes to the list were approved at the meeting, and more are coming, he said.

According to the statement, NSG members also “discussed brokering and transit and agreed to consider these matters further.” In the case of some exports, the main proliferation concern may come not from the supplier or the ultimate recipient but from an intermediary, Poneman said. The group wants to be sure “not to turn a blind eye if that’s a vulnerability” and will take up that issue “in a way not done until now,” he said.

In an interview last September, Poneman’s predecessor, Piet de Klerk of the Netherlands, discussed the possibility of creating “stronger relationships with different [NSG] stakeholders, be it media, be it civil society.” Poneman said that, at the Seattle meeting, de Klerk provided a briefing on those ideas, which got an “overall positive response.” The group will “continue consultations” on transparency issues, he said. It makes sense “to open the aperture,” and the group will look for opportunities to do that, he said.

The NSG chairmanship rotates annually among the member countries. A country kicks off its chairmanship year by hosting the plenary meeting.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

Arms Trade Treaty Talks Set to Begin

Farrah Zughni

Delegates gathering at the United Nations this month to negotiate a treaty regulating the international arms trade will have to resolve a number of issues concerning the pact’s objectives and scope that remain unsettled since the UN General Assembly decided in 2009 to convene the conference, representatives from a broad range of countries said in June interviews and earlier statements.

The negotiations, which are scheduled to run July 2-27, are supposed to produce a global arms trade treaty (ATT) to set common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and requirements for all states-parties to set up national control systems to regulate such transfers.

The countries will aim to reach consensus on a final treaty text largely on the basis of a working paper produced by Ambassador Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, the chair of the preparatory committee, after three years and four preparatory committee sessions involving states that supply and buy conventional arms. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Although García Moritán’s text from July 2011 “has no formal status,” it “does represent a range of issues” that have been raised since 2010, said Jo Adamson, British permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, in a June 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today. Therefore, “we aren’t starting from scratch,” said Adamson, who is the United Kingdom’s lead ATT negotiator. “We look forward to receiving a revised paper in due course to help to guide us through this next critical stage of the negotiations,” she said.

To succeed, the negotiators will need to balance a number of competing forces and political demands. Many weapons suppliers envision an ATT that will affirm trade in conventional weapons as “a legitimate commercial activity,” albeit “one that states have the obligation to regulate,” as Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman put it in describing U.S. policy on the treaty in an April interview with Arms Control Today.

Many countries want to ensure the treaty augments their security and does not infringe on their ability to procure weapons for their defense. “The ATT should be an instrument which enhances the collective security of states, rather than detracting from it. In this respect, a mainstay of the ATT must be to uphold the right of states to acquire arms in order to defend themselves,” said an Israeli delegate Feb. 13 during the final preparatory committee.

Many other states, however, argue that an ATT must provide meaningful protections against illicit arms transfers that undermine human security (the security of individuals and communities) as well as human rights.

“It is often argued that national security interests need to be duly taken into account in the negotiation of the Treaty. However, from the Austrian perspective, human security is of equal importance and must appropriately resonate in the Treaty,” Alexander Kmentt, director for disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, said in a June 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

An ATT, argued Kmentt, should prevent the illicit trade of arms, diversion of legal arms to the illicit market, and transfers “that contribute to serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, human suffering, armed conflict, transnational organized crime and terrorist acts.”

According to a report published in May by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

Treaty Scope

To date, states have not reached agreement on a list of arms and activities that should be covered by an ATT. Most states agree that all of the weapons covered by the categories used in the UN Register of Conventional Arms should fall under the scope of the treaty. These include tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and helicopters, warships, and missile systems. Most states, including the United States, are also in agreement that small arms and light weapons should be included in the treaty. The United States does not currently support the inclusion of ammunition within the scope, although many states do.

Some proponents of a more comprehensive treaty have pushed for clear definitions for the categories of weapons that most member states agree should be covered by the pact. Some also have suggested that specific weapons be listed in an ATT. Others point out that a detailed list of weapons would require that an ATT be regularly updated and refined to remain abreast of technological developments and that the time it would take to agree on specific definitions for that process could encumber the four-week-long negotiating conference.

“This is an arms trade regulation document, not a disarmament document, so there is no need for an extensive framework or extensive definitions to make it work,” Countryman said in an address at the Henry L. Stimson Center on April 16. “The outcome of the conference ought to be a good, short document that spells out principles of what states must do in implementing an effective [system of] arms export control.”

According to a tabulation by researchers with the nongovernmental organizations Control Arms Alliance and Reaching Critical Will, all but a handful of the more than 140 countries that have made statements on the issue support expanding the treaty’s scope beyond the UN register’s seven categories to include small arms and light weapons, such as revolvers, machine guns, portable anti-tank guns, portable anti-tank missile launchers and rocket systems, and mortars of calibers less than 75 millimeters.

“Many African countries have suffered from conflicts perpetuated by illicit trade and proliferation on small arms and light weapons,” Patrick Mugoya of Uganda said at the second preparatory committee session on March 1, 2011. “These conflicts result in loss of lives, cause untold suffering to the people, and negatively impact economic and social development.”

According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, most present-day conflicts are fought predominantly with this category of weapons.

Only a few countries, including China, Egypt, and Iran, have voiced reservations over the so-called 7+1 proposal because they say that it would be difficult to monitor trade in small arms and light weapons. A number of other states, however, have said the absence of this category of arms from the final agreement is a deal breaker.

“Small arms and light weapons will have to be in the treaty. If not, there won’t be a treaty,” said a delegate from a Latin American country in a June 13 interview.

A 7+1+1 formula, which would include ammunition in the treaty’s scope, is also on the table for the negotiating conference. More than 100 countries strongly support the measure, according to the nongovernmental groups’ tabulation.

“It is the bullet and not the weapon that kills. Marking of ammunition is technically feasible and should not serve as an excuse for exempting ammunition on allegedly practical grounds,” argued Kmentt. “Given the robustness and longevity of certain types of these weapons, a continuation of unregulated trade in ammunition would further their use as the real ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in contradiction of the objectives of an Arms Trade Treaty.”

Nevertheless, major suppliers Russia and the United States have expressed doubt that ammunition can be adequately tracked following their sale. U.S. officials have said that they are open to suggestions on how to address this concern.

The United Kingdom, which for years has been a strong supporter of an ATT, has worked to forge a middle ground on this issue. “On ammunition, the UK favours its inclusion in the ATT as the weapons are useless without it,” said Adamson in the June 20 e-mail. “But we recognise that this is going to be a subject of negotiations. Monitoring ammunition is a difficult issue. Making ammunition subject to controls would be an important first step, without prejudice to whether it is covered in detail in Reporting under an ATT.”

In addition to the criteria that should be addressed in considering a transfer, the types of transfers to be regulated are also in question. UN General Assembly Resolution 64/48, which was adopted in December 2009 and mandated the ATT negotiation this month, calls for “a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.” A key point of controversy in the run-up to the July meeting is what the term “transfer” encompasses.

Most delegations have argued that an ATT should cover arms brokering. The United Kingdom, for instance, says transit and transshipment, loans, and gifts as well as temporary imports and exports for demonstration and exhibition should be included under the treaty’s scope. Of the world’s 192 governments, only 52 have laws regulating arms brokers, and less than half of these have criminal or monetary penalties associated with illegal brokering, according to an October 2011 Oxfam briefing paper.

“These are the main types of activity where diversion into the illicit market can occur. Controlling these forms of entry into the illicit market ensures that the treaty regulates the entire arms trade process without leaving any gaps which can be exploited,” Adamson said.

In the run-up to the negotiating conference, China and Iran have expressed objections to this proposal.

Criteria for Transfers

A key question in the negotiations will be whether the treaty will require states to withhold a transfer if their export control review determines there is a substantial risk that it could lead to human rights violations or whether an ATT will simply require states to “take into account” such potential risks but still allow a transfer authorization to proceed if the supplier state determines that, on balance, larger economic or security concerns merit the transfer.

Some countries favor strong language that would require states not to authorize transfers that would lead to human rights or humanitarian law violations or could circumvent internationally recognized arms embargoes.

“The ATT should establish clear, objective and non-discriminatory norms to prevent the transfer of arms when there is a clear and reasonable ground to believe that such weapons will be used in violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law,” said delegations from nine countries, including Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, in a joint statement on July 21, 2010. Some countries also want potential sales to be considered in light of their impact on a recipient country’s socioeconomic development and corruption.

Critics of this position argue that implementing such criteria is neither an objective nor straightforward process. “There are ranges of what people think are human rights,” Ann Ganzer, director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction, said at the April 16 Stimson Center event. “I attended a meeting a day after someone was executed in Texas and had several Europeans accuse me of representing a country that was a human rights violator,” she recalled.

Delegates gathering at the United Nations this month to negotiate a treaty regulating the international arms trade will have to resolve a number of issues concerning the pact’s objectives and scope that remain unsettled since the UN General Assembly decided in 2009 to convene the conference, representatives from a broad range of countries said in June interviews and earlier statements.

Israel Has Nuclear-Armed Sub, Report Says

Tom Z. Collina

Deepening long-held suspicions about a sensitive aspect of German-Israeli military cooperation, Der Spiegel magazine reported in its June 4 issue that Israel has deployed nuclear-armed cruise missiles aboard submarines built and subsidized by Germany.

Israel, which does not officially admit it has any nuclear weapons, is widely believed to have produced up to 200 warheads and bombs. Israel has operated a nuclear reactor and an underground plutonium-separation plant in Dimona since the 1960s. In 1991, as the Persian Gulf War was getting under way, Germany approved the subsidized sale of two Dolphin-class diesel-powered submarines to Israel; a total of six has been ordered so far, three of which have been delivered.

There has been speculation that Israel would put nuclear-armed missiles onto the German submarines but little firm evidence.

The magazine article, drawing on sources in Germany, Israel, and the United States, says the new evidence “no longer leaves any room for doubt” that Israel has a sea-based nuclear deterrent. “From the beginning, the boats were primarily used for the purposes of nuclear capability,” one German ministry official told the magazine. In addition to revealing that the submarines are nuclear armed, the article also states that senior German leaders knew that the boats, built at a shipyard in Kiel, would be used for this purpose.

Sources told Der Spiegel that the Israeli defense technology company Rafael built the sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) for the submarines, based on the Popeye cruise missile, which is estimated to have a range of around 1,500 kilometers with a warhead weighing up to 200 kilograms. The only public evidence of the nuclear version of the missile was a single test conducted off the coast of Sri Lanka, the article says. This missile test was first reported by London’s Sunday Times in June 2000.

According to the article, the newest Dolphin submarines are equipped with fuel cell propulsion, which allows for quieter operation and longer periods between refuelings. Earlier Dolphin submarines had to surface every few days to run the diesel engine to recharge its batteries. The new boats will be able to travel underwater at least 18 days at a time. The Persian Gulf coast of Iran is no longer out of the operating range of the Israeli fleet, the article says.

Israel is known to have nuclear-capable aircraft and land-based missiles. The addition of nuclear-armed submarines would mean that Israel now has a full triad of land-, air-, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems and that, for the first time, some of its nuclear forces would be invulnerable to a nuclear first strike by an adversary. No other state in the Middle East is known to have nuclear weapons, although Iran in particular is suspected of seeking them.

Iranian Sub Plans

Meanwhile, Iran said June 12 that it is planning to build a nuclear-powered submarine, which could theoretically give Tehran a non-weapons rationale to produce weapons-grade uranium. Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Rear Adm. Abbas Zamini, the deputy commander of the Iranian navy for technical affairs, as saying, “Right now, we are in the initial phases of manufacturing atomic submarines.”

Iran, which says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, states that it is enriching uranium to a level of about 5 percent to produce nuclear power and to 20 percent to run a research reactor in Tehran to make medical isotopes. Uranium enriched to a level below 20 percent is known as low-enriched uranium (LEU). Nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to about 90 percent, known as weapons-grade. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty bars enriching uranium for use in weapons, but it does not forbid enrichment for use in naval reactors.

According to Princeton University professor Frank von Hippel, U.S. and British naval reactors are currently fueled with 93 to 97 percent-enriched uranium, Russian naval reactors are fueled with 40 to 90 percent-enriched uranium, and French naval reactors are fueled with LEU. India’s prototype naval reactor is reportedly fueled with uranium enriched to the 40-percent range, Brazil’s prototype is to be fueled with LEU, and China’s naval reactor is reportedly fueled with LEU, von Hippel said.

Zamini did not indicate what level of enrichment Iran would use for its naval reactors.

Deepening long-held suspicions about a sensitive aspect of German-Israeli military cooperation, Der Spiegel magazine reported in its June 4 issue that Israel has deployed nuclear-armed cruise missiles aboard submarines built and subsidized by Germany.

Plans for Syrian Chemical Stocks Drafted

Farrah Zughni

Amid ongoing concerns about the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, officials in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East are making plans to secure it once the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.

The U.S. military has “finalized its assessment” and completed “initial planning” for operations in Syria, including securing the country’s chemical weapons, in the event of a regime collapse, according to a June 14 CNN article. The network also reported that the United States contacted a number of states for possible collaboration in this effort.

Earlier this year, a number of U.S. legislators called on the Obama administration to prepare to address “potential proliferation” if the country’s internal security dissolves. Popular uprisings in Syria, which began early last year, have been met with violent government retaliations. (See ACT, April 2012.)

Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the size of its chemical weapons arsenal is not publicly known. In March testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described the situation in Syria as “100 times worse” than the challenge of securing weapons in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime last year.

As part of its Syria planning, the U.S. military decided on the number of troops, types of units, and funding required to perform specified tasks, the CNN report said. Officials told CNN that France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been “discussing contingency scenarios, potential training and sharing of intelligence about what is happening in Syria with neighboring countries including Jordan, Turkey and Israel.”

On June 17, the European Union imposed sanctions on exports of luxury and dual-use goods to Syria. The list includes a number of chemicals that may be used as “precursors for toxic chemical agents” and “chemical manufacturing facilities, such as reaction vessels and storage tanks,” that could be used to create chemical weapons.

“In the current situation, the EU must keep up the pressure on the Syrian regime. EU sanctions target those responsible for the appalling repression and violence against the civilian population,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in announcing the sanctions June 15.

Last month, a number of Israeli defense officials spoke out about Syria’s chemical stocks. Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh called Syria’s chemical stocks “the world’s largest” and warned that the Assad government would “treat us the same way they treat their own people,” according to a June 11 article in The Times of Israel. Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said Israel needed to continue to gather intelligence on Syria’s weapons stocks but also consider options for possible proliferation scenarios, including whether it would be “wise” or “nonsense” to attack “convoys carrying sophisticated and advanced Syrian weaponry if they are detected ahead of time,” according to a June 4 article in The Jerusalem Post.

Although Syrian resistance forces recognize the need to secure the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles once the Assad government falls, planning for that effort is only in the early stages, Brig. Gen. Akil Hashem, who retired from the Syrian army in 1989 after 27 years, said in a June 12 interview.

Rebel forces have begun to look into the issue, but have not fully developed a plan, said Hashem, who spent four months, ending March 1, as a military adviser for the Syrian National Council, a coalition of opposition groups. “Putting together a plan to secure chemical weapons is not simple. It needs a lot of discussion and work,” he said. “According to my understanding, the Syrian National Council didn’t address this so far.”

His account is at odds with a May 28 article in Haaretz that cited an anonymous former Syrian officer as saying the opposition leadership has plans “to take control of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons depots and secure them in the first hours after the regime collapses.”

Asked to respond to Hashem’s comments, Lt. Col. Wesley Miller, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesman, said in a June 14 e-mail to Arms Control Today that the United States was “closely monitoring Syria’s proliferation-sensitive materials and facilities.” The Defense Department believes Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles remain secure, and it has seen “no credible reporting” that the Assad regime has used or transferred chemical weapons, he said.

Amid ongoing concerns about the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, officials in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East are making plans to secure it once the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.

Sanctions Tighten on Iran

Kelsey Davenport

Additional U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s banking and oil sectors went into effect June 28, further restricting Iran’s ability to export oil and isolating the country from the international financial system.

The U.S. sanctions, which are intended to pressure Iran to address international concerns about its nuclear program, are part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law Dec. 31. (See ACT, January/February 2012.) The provisions of the law that went into effect June 28 prevent foreign banks from accessing existing accounts or opening new accounts in the United States if they process oil-related transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The president can waive the sanctions on countries that continue to import Iranian oil after he has certified that they have “significantly reduced” their purchases from Iran. Waivers are granted for six-month periods, but can be renewed.

The day the sanctions went into effect, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced China and Singapore had met the significant-reduction standard and were eligible to continue importing oil from Iran without penalty.

The last-minute exemption for China did not come as a surprise. Clinton hinted on June 20 that a waiver could be in the works, saying that Beijing was “slowly but surely” taking actions to reduce its oil purchases from Tehran.

In response to the granting of the waiver, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of the authors of the sanctions legislation, said in a June 28 statement that Clinton had assured him that China “met the significant reduction standard.” However, he said that China must also be “mindful” that under the terms of the law such a reduction is required every 180 days for renewal of the waiver and that this would be expected from all countries to “qualify for future exemptions.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), in a June 28 press release, described the Chinese waiver as “a free pass to Iran’s biggest enabler” and called on Congress to “strengthen sanctions” against Tehran.

With China and Singapore, the Obama administration certified that 20 countries would be exempt from the sanctions. Earlier in the month, Clinton announced that seven countries—India, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Turkey—had received waivers and can continue to import Iranian oil without penalty. The June 11 announcement was the second such determination. In March, Japan and 10 EU countries were granted waivers. The EU countries, however, will not be able to continue importing Iranian oil under the waiver after July 1, when an EU embargo on Iranian oil goes into effect. In a June 25 press release, the Council of the European Union reaffirmed that oil import contracts with Iran must be “terminated by July 1.”

In the June 28 statement, Clinton cited figures from the International Energy Agency, which found that Iran’s average daily oil exports dropped from 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011 to a current average of approximately 1.5 million barrels per day. This represents nearly $8 billion in lost revenues every quarter, and is a “clear demonstration” to Tehran of the “enormous economic cost” of continuing to violate “international nuclear obligations,” she said. She urged Iran to take “concrete steps” to resolve the nuclear issue or face “continuing pressure and isolation.”

Insurance Ban

In addition to banning imports of Iranian oil, the EU decision that will take effect July 1 prohibits companies in EU member countries from insuring tankers transporting Iranian crude oil to any country. Tankers are unable to transport crude oil without protection and indemnity insurance coverage. As a result, even if countries receive a waiver from the United States allowing them to purchase Iranian oil without financial sanctions, some may be prevented from continuing imports if they cannot obtain other insurance guarantees to cover the tankers.

Some countries are arranging alternative means to cover the loss of insurance after July 1. In June, Japan passed a law that allows the government to provide the necessary insurance guarantees for the oil tankers. India is allowing state-run oil refineries to import oil on Iranian tankers insured by state guarantees from Tehran, and China was reportedly looking into similar measures. The South Korean government, despite receiving a waiver from the United States to continue importing Iranian oil, said it will stop the imports on July 1 and is not pursuing sovereign guarantees. These four countries are among the top purchasers of Iranian oil.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius indicated that the European Union could adopt further sanctions. In a statement following negotiations in Moscow between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program (see page 27), he said that sanctions will “continue to be toughened” if Iran “refuses to negotiate seriously.”

New U.S. Sanctions Urged

With no agreement coming out of the Moscow talks, members of Congress have indicated that further sanctions designed to isolate Iran could be passed.

In a bipartisan effort, 44 senators called on the administration to take additional steps against Tehran if it failed to address certain concerns about its nuclear program. In the June 15 letter to President Barack Obama, the senators called for “significantly increasing the pressure” on Iran through sanctions if no “substantive agreement” was reached during the June 18-19 talks in Moscow.

The letter also stated that unless Iran complied with International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and UN Security Council resolutions, it should not be relieved of any current sanctions or those that went into effect June 28.

In a June 19 statement, Ros-Lehtinen called on the United States and other countries to take further measures, saying the countries need to impose “game-changing sanctions” that would “compel” Iran to “abandon its nuclear program now.”

Ros-Lehtinen has authored legislation that would strengthen existing sanctions against Iran’s energy and financial sectors. The legislation passed in the House in December, and a slightly different version passed the Senate in May.

Additional U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s banking and oil sectors went into effect June 28, further restricting Iran’s ability to export oil and isolating the country from the international financial system.

Iran, P5+1 Move to Technical Talks

Kelsey Davenport

Senior-level talks between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program are on hold, as the lead representatives from the two sides decided in Moscow on June 18-19 to wait to schedule a fourth round of negotiations until after a lower-level technical meeting is held on July 3.

The purpose of the July experts meeting in Istanbul is to “provide further clarification” on the proposal made by the six countries—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—according to Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and the lead negotiator for the six powers. Speaking at a press conference at the end of the Moscow talks, she also said the technical talks will allow the six powers to “study the issues” Iran raised during the June meeting.

Iran and the six countries, known as the P5+1, have held three rounds of senior-level talks this year on international concerns relating to Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiations between the parties resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus. (See ACT, May 2012.)

A fourth round of negotiations is still possible, Ashton said at the press conference. After the technical-level meeting and “contact” between deputy negotiators, she and the lead Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, would discuss “prospects for a future meeting at the political level,” she said.

Although Ashton said that “significant gaps” remained between the two parties, she stated that “critical issues” had been discussed and that Iran addressed “the substance” of the issues for the first time.

Jalili expressed optimism that the technical-level talks could narrow the differences between the two sides. In his remarks at the press conference, he said an experts-level meeting could bring the parties “closer together” and that it was an “important result” of the Moscow talks.

Views outside of Moscow, however, were mixed. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on June 20 that the United States did not want “talks for talks’ sake” and that the technical-level meeting is an opportunity to “close some of the gaps in comprehension.” British Prime Minister David Cameron characterized the Moscow talks as a “missed opportunity,” saying there had been a “lack of progress.” He called on Iran to return to talks “willing to negotiate seriously.”

Moscow Proposals

Two proposals were discussed during the talks, one put forward by the P5+1 and the other by Iran. Ashton characterized the exchanges over the positions as “detailed, tough, and frank.”

The P5+1 proposal was the same one that the six powers put forward during the second round of talks in Baghdad in May, according to Nuland. It focuses on suspending the enrichment of uranium to the 20 percent level, shipping Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium out of the country, halting enrichment activities at the Fordow enrichment facility, and cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, Iran would receive fuel plates for its Tehran Research Reactor, assistance with nuclear safety, and spare parts for civilian aircraft.

Iran maintains that it needs to enrich uranium to 20 percent in order to fabricate fuel for the Tehran reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Uranium enriched to 20 percent, however, can be converted into weapons-grade material more quickly than uranium enriched to the levels required for power reactors, which Iran also produces. By suspending 20 percent enrichment, shipping the current stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium out of the country, and providing Iran with fuel fabricated elsewhere for the Tehran reactor, the P5+1 proposal would extend the time required if Iran decided to pursue nuclear weapons while still allowing Tehran to produce medical isotopes. Suspending the 20 percent enrichment at Fordow is of particular concern to the United States and other countries because the location of the nuclear facility, deep inside a mountain, would make a military strike against it difficult.

In her June 19 press briefing, Nuland described the P5+1 as “completely united” behind the proposal.

Further details on the Iranian five-point plan first presented in Baghdad emerged during the Moscow talks. A June 18 article in The Guardian outlined the five points of the Iranian plan as acknowledgment of Iran’s right to enrich uranium in tandem with the “operationalisation” of a fatwa issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that condemned the pursuit of nuclear weapons as forbidden in Islam; sanctions relief in return for cooperating with the IAEA; cooperation on nuclear energy and safety; confidence-building measures, including a possible limit on production of 20 percent-enriched uranium; and cooperation on regional and non-nuclear issues.

In his remarks at the Moscow press conference, Jalili’s description of the proposal was consistent with but more general than the Guardian account. He said Iran mentioned four nuclear-related points during the negotiations: “confidence building, cooperation in clarification, opposition to weapons of mass destruction, and normal nuclear cooperation.” Any future agreements would have to recognize Iran’s rights in these areas, “particularly 20 percent enrichment,” Jalili said.

Senators Call for End to Talks

Prior to the Moscow talks, a bipartisan group of 44 U.S. senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to abandon the P5+1 talks with Iran if an agreement was not reached in Moscow. Specifically, the letter said that the “absolute minimum steps” for Iran to take include shutting down the Fordow enrichment facility, halting enrichment above 5 percent, and sending the stockpile of uranium enriched above 5 percent out of the country. If Tehran were to “verifiably implement” these actions, it would demonstrate Iran’s commitment to the negotiations and justify further talks, the letter said. The senators also called for further sanctions against Iran if a “substantive agreement” was not reached in Moscow (see next story).

In a statement made after the talks, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of the organizers of the letter, said that negotiations were the “preferred forum” for an agreement, but in “their absence,” Congress will “pursue other mechanisms,” including further sanctions, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

In a June 20 House Armed Services Committee hearing on Iran’s nuclear program, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, said the “intensive diplomatic and economic steps” taken to convince Iran to abandon “military nuclear ambitions” do not appear to have succeeded.

No Agreement With IAEA

Iran met with the IAEA on June 8 in Vienna, but the agency and Tehran failed to make progress on signing a framework agreement to resolve the IAEA’s outstanding concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

Going into the Vienna meeting between IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts and Iran’s envoy to the agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, expectations were raised that a deal could be reached. In May, after a short-notice trip to Tehran, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said the sides were “close” to agreement on a “structured approach” for addressing concerns over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, June 2012.) Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The structured approach would create a framework for agency inspections and an Iranian response to concerns the IAEA had expressed, in a report last November, about the potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. (See ACT, December 2011.) Some experts had speculated that a framework agreement with the IAEA may have given Iran leverage at the Moscow talks to press for some sanctions relief or a delay in the implementation of a July 1 EU oil embargo.

Nackaerts characterized the June meeting as “disappointing,” saying that there had been “no progress.” According to his statement, Iran was presented with a revised document in Vienna that addressed Tehran’s “earlier stated concerns.” Iran, however, “raised issues we have already discussed and added new ones.”

Soltanieh said the issues surrounding the discussions were “complicated” and that he hoped a venue for new discussions would be determined soon so that the parties could “conclude” the structured approach. The two sides did not set a date for their next meeting.

Just two days before meeting with Nackaerts, Soltanieh addressed the IAEA Board of Governors during its quarterly meeting, saying that Iran intended to “engage and work intensively” with the agency “with expectation of prompt closure” of the concerns over the possible military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Senior-level talks between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program are on hold, as the lead representatives from the two sides decided in Moscow on June 18-19 to wait to schedule a fourth round of negotiations until after a lower-level technical meeting is held on July 3.

Pursue the Diplomatic Track on Iran

Daryl G. Kimball

Nearly 10 years have elapsed since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had secretly built a uranium-enrichment facility. Nearly seven years have passed since talks between Iran and the European Union stalled and Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Since then, Iran and the P5+1—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have fumbled fleeting opportunities to reach a deal that reduces the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran in exchange for a rollback of proliferation-related sanctions.

There is still time for diplomacy, but both sides need to move with greater urgency toward a lasting solution. Iran apparently has not made a strategic decision to pursue nuclear weapons and does not yet have the necessary ingredients for an effective nuclear arsenal, but its enrichment capabilities are improving. By year’s end, Iran could install more-advanced centrifuges and significantly increase its enriched-uranium stockpile.

A deal that ties Iran’s enrichment activities and its stockpiles to the actual needs of Iran’s nuclear power plants, combined with more extensive IAEA safeguards, could sufficiently guard against a nuclear-armed Iran. Pursuing such a course is difficult, but it is the best option on the table.

Tighter international sanctions can help slow the advance of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and increase pressure on Tehran to negotiate seriously. Yet, sanctions alone will not halt Iran’s nuclear pursuits. The so-called military option would be counterproductive and costly for all sides. Potential Israeli or U.S. air strikes could set back Iran’s program for no more than a couple of years and would likely lead its leaders to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and openly pursue nuclear weapons. Further cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear installations may buy time, but also deepen mistrust and increase the determination of Iran’s leaders to expand their nuclear program.

Given the infrequency of serious, direct talks with Tehran on its disputed nuclear program, the failure to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the latest meeting in Moscow is disappointing but not surprising. There is a risk that both sides will harden their stances and effectively put the tenuous diplomatic process on hold until next year. That would be a serious mistake.

The three rounds of nuclear talks in 2012 have revealed the substantial differences between the two sides, but an initial confidence-building deal is still within reach if both sides provide greater flexibility and creativity.

Iran’s reported proposal for “operationalizing” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons, its call for sanctions relief in return for cooperation with the IAEA, and its reported offer to consider limits on enrichment above normal fuel grade are all worth exploring. The task now is to acquire sufficient detail on the proposals, sort out sequencing issues, and recalibrate positions to achieve a win-win deal at the next round of discussions.

The top priority for the P5+1 must continue to be a deal that halts Iran’s accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium, which is above normal fuel grade and closer to weapons grade, in exchange for fuel assemblies for its Tehran Research Reactor and medical isotopes. This would be consistent with the principle that Iran has the right under the NPT only to enrich in full compliance with safeguards and only for legitimate civilian purposes and could serve as a basis for a broader deal to limit the size and scope of its enrichment program.

To help get to “yes,” the P5+1 should offer to suspend the European oil embargo that formally goes into effect this month, offer to ease the restrictions that will bar European shipping insurers from covering ships that carry Iranian oil to buyers around the world, or both. The effect would be largely symbolic because most EU states have already stopped buying Iranian oil. If Iran does not follow through with tangible steps, these new sanctions could be formally reinstated.

Failure to find a way to halt Iran’s accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium would be irresponsible, as it would make it easier for Iran to acquire the capability for a faster nuclear weapons breakout.

For its part, Iran could make a deal and sanctions relief more likely if it would immediately cooperate with the IAEA on inspections of key sites and personnel to ensure that past weapons-related experiments have been discontinued. In addition, Iran must clarify when it will allow IAEA inspections under the terms of an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement.

Some cynics and critics of the diplomatic option wrongly suggest that further negotiations with Iran only allow Iran to “buy time” for nefarious nuclear pursuits. The reality is that international and national sanctions will remain in place until Iran takes the steps necessary to provide confidence it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran’s enrichment program goes no faster or slower as talks continue. Without a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear pursuits, however, Iran’s capabilities will only grow over time.

Nearly 10 years have elapsed since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had secretly built a uranium-enrichment facility. Nearly seven years have passed since talks between Iran and the European Union stalled and Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Since then, Iran and the P5+1—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have fumbled fleeting opportunities to reach a deal that reduces the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran in exchange for a rollback of proliferation-related sanctions.


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