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November 2012
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Books of Note

Nuclear Politics and the Non-Aligned Movement

William Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Arundel House, 2012, 154 pp.

Marcus Taylor

William Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova’s new study examines the history of the interaction between the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the West on nuclear issues. The authors contend that Western governments, academics, and nongovernmental organizations are largely unfamiliar with the group’s “politics or perspectives.” They note that NAM’s membership has nearly quintupled since 1961. During that time, some key members underwent dramatic economic growth; some became nuclear-weapon powers. According to Potter and Mukhatzhanova, this process has transformed NAM into a far more heterogeneous group that lacks a single cohesive stance on nuclear issues and often fractures on the basis of national priorities. The book argues that Western states must understand the “core values and priorities” of the movement on the importance of disarmament and what it sees as the inherently discriminatory nature of a nonproliferation regime that punishes potential proliferators while allowing nuclear-weapon states to retain their arsenals. Potter and Mukhatzhanova also point to the importance of personalities and domestic politics in determining how individual states reconcile their commitment to NAM with national priorities. The book emphasizes that NAM is not monolithic and further encourage Western countries to work with NAM members who are open to compromise in international forums, while avoiding interactions with the anti-Western blocs of NAM that seek to stymie progress. Successful cooperation between the West and NAM must be based on an understanding of each other’s priorities and values, as well as a genuine commitment by nuclear-weapon states to pursue nuclear disarmament, the book argues.

The China-India Nuclear Crossroads

Lora Saalman, ed. and trl., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2012, 229 pp.

Daria Medvedeva

This book explores Chinese-Indian nuclear dynamics through “the convergence and divergence in the perceptions of their own and each other’s nuclear posture and practices,” as editor and translator Lora Saalman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace describes it in her introduction. Each chapter is a pair of essays, with one written by one or more Chinese experts and the other by Indian counterparts. One chapter covers minimum deterrence and no-first-use policies; another focuses on the connection between strategic stability and ballistic missile defense; still others cover nuclear energy programs and key arms control and nonproliferation treaties. The dual perspective on deterrence theory and practice provided by Li Deshun and Kalyan Kemburi highlights the “interdependence” between the states that would lay “a good foundation for China and India to build a relationship based on strategic stability,” as Li puts it. In her conclusion, Saalman observes that China and India appear to have similar postures and practices with regard to their nuclear arsenals although China is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and India is not. This theme of the interplay between similarities and differences recurs throughout the book. Each chapter concludes with recommendations for initiatives to enhance communication and cooperation in those arenas in which overlap between the states is greatest.

South Asia’s Distinctive Arms Race

Reviewed by Michael Krepon

Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb
By Feroz H. Khan
Stanford University Press, 2012, 552 pp.

Managing India’s Nuclear Forces
By Verghese Koithara
Brookings Institution Press, 2012, 314 pp.

The nuclear competition between India and Pakistan breaks new ground in several ways. Extremist groups that are key actors on the subcontinent are wholly absent from the Western literature of deterrence theory. During the Cold War, spying was a critical source of nuclear know-how, but in the Asian nuclear competition, spying has taken a back seat to covert transactions and entrepreneurial demand- and supply-side networks.

The Cold War nuclear competition was never triangular, but in Asia, a third-party, China, figures prominently in the nuclear narratives of India and Pakistan. India, Pakistan, and China have fought wars against one another, wars that convinced the loser to seek nuclear weapons.

Clarifying hierarchy in this competition is difficult because Pakistan, the country with the weakest economy, takes those weapons far more seriously than India, which lags behind Pakistan in operationalizing its nuclear deterrent. China has helped Pakistan to compete with India by providing materiel and know-how for nuclear weapons and missiles, and Pakistanis have helped others in turn to acquire nuclear capabilities, most especially Abdul Qadeer Khan, the self-promoting “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

Clearly, the classic texts of nuclear deterrence, proliferation, and arms control from decades past are only partially applicable to southern Asia. Readers therefore will be greatly beholden to Feroz Khan and Verghese Koithara for writing two exceptional books about a nuclear competition with distinctly Asian characteristics. Khan’s Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb and Koithara’s Managing India’s Nuclear Forces deserve to become essential reading for specialists and worried onlookers. (Disclosure: The author of this review has had a book published by the publisher of Eating Grass and has worked closely with Khan for many years.)

Both authors have military backgrounds. Khan retired from the Pakistani army as a brigadier (the Pakistani equivalent of a brigadier general) heading up the arms control and disarmament directorate within the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) at Joint Staff Headquarters. He was present at the creation of the SPD and its efforts to operationalize Pakistan’s deterrent, improve security practices, and establish command and control arrangements. Koithara is a retired vice admiral of the Indian navy, a keen intellect and observer, and an accomplished author of two previous books. Both authors are comfortable with delving into detail as well as providing wide-angle views of the triangular strategic competition in southern Asia.

In writing his book, Khan was granted extensive access to retired Pakistani military officers and scientists, who are quoted at length. His book offers all of the strengths and some of the weaknesses of being a semiofficial account. The author pulls some punches and occasionally lapses into familiar Pakistani criticisms of India. At the same time, he provides a treasure trove of insider accounts of Pakistan’s quest for a viable deterrent. Until now, the most voluble scientist to recount these efforts, A.Q. Khan, has been the least reliable source. A.Q. Khan was not interviewed for this book, because the author either did not seek or was not granted access to him.

New revelations are likely to provide more brushstrokes to Feroz Khan’s account, but the picture the author paints is likely to be the most informative that readers will find. He includes first-person accounts from key figures involved in the early stages of Pakistan’s programs for uranium enrichment, plutonium production and separation, missile and warhead development, and foreign procurement for these efforts. Among those interviewed are key members of Pakistan’s defense science establishment—S. N. Burney, Ishfaq Ahmad, Pervez Butt, Ishfaq Khan, Javed Arshad Mirza, Samar Mubarakmand, and Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood (one of the Pakistani scientists who visited with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan in the month prior to the September 11 attacks). Among the former senior military officers Khan interviewed are Vice Chief of Army Staff K.M. Arif; Chief of Army Staff Mirza Aslam Beg; Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf, who was president from 2001 to 2008; and the long-standing head of the SPD, Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai.

Some of these men have large egos and are not always reliable witnesses. Perhaps in deference to the sensitive nature of his undertaking, Khan politely avoids taking sides over competing claims on a number of important issues while only hinting at or sidestepping reasonable conclusions. In many instances, however, the author provides sufficient material to allow readers to reach informed judgments. Consequently, Khan has produced the long-awaited companion to George Perkovich’s detailed account of India’s quest for nuclear weapons.[1]

Khan’s sympathetic treatment acknowledges some but not nearly all of the costs and mistakes associated with Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. His perspective will be off-putting to some readers. The story he tells is that of a heroic effort to safeguard Pakistan’s survival from a predatory India, in which “any means were justified in pursuit of a nuclear deterrent.”

That pursuit required overcoming not only externally imposed obstacles, including sanctions and export controls, but also internal constraints. The former have been well chronicled; the latter have not, until now. Internal constraints included abrupt changes in governments, sectarian purges directed at loyal Bengali and Ahmadi Muslims working on nuclear weapons-related programs, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s paranoid and constraining style of oversight, and bitter internal rivalries, especially between A.Q. Khan, whose laboratory pursued uranium enrichment and liquid-fuel missiles, and Munir Ahmad Khan, the head of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), who focused on producing plutonium and solid-fuel missiles. Munir Khan comes across as a low-profile, competent, estimable figure. A.Q. Khan appears in these pages as vain, a loose cannon, who shamed the nation when he shifted roles from being the military’s foreign procurement agent to a profit-seeking proliferator.

Jousting Over Testing

Eating Grass adds extraordinary detail to the rivalry between the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and the PAEC. No window into this rivalry was more revealing than the choice of which lab would play the lead role in carrying out Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests. On May 13, two days after India tested three nuclear devices, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif convened a Defence Coordinating Committee meeting at which A.Q. Khan and the PAEC’s Mubarakmand made their respective cases on the question of which lab would be in charge. Mubarakmand assured Sharif that his group would need only 10 days to prepare for the tests—a time line that A.Q. Khan would have been very hard-pressed to meet. Then, in Feroz Khan’s account,

[a]s arrangements were being made for the impending test, Fakhar Hashmi of KRL visited the PAEC on May 14 and requested that Samar Mubarakmand give two bombs to KRL for testing. He spoke with such authority as to give the impression that the government had chosen KRL to conduct the test…. This created much anxiety within the PAEC and its members, as many felt that the chance to prove their credentials was being stolen. To add insult to injury, A.Q. Khan purportedly wrote a letter to the prime minister in which he ridiculed the PAEC team, calling them “carpenters and blacksmiths” and requesting a “joint team” of PAEC and KRL personnel be formed with A.Q. Khan at its head.

Army Chief of Staff Jehangir Karamat chose the more competent PAEC team to carry out the tests, but after vigorous protests by A.Q. Khan, he allowed him and a few members of his team to participate.

Mubarakmand told the author that A.Q. Khan wanted to push the button for the test, which created a last-minute disagreement. Major General Zulfikar Ali Khan [then head of the Pakistan military’s cell overseeing nuclear work] was told that this was not acceptable to the PAEC team that had done the hard work, so it was decided that the honor of pushing the button should be given to a junior person who had made the largest contribution in designing the trigger mechanism [Muhammad Arshad]…. At exactly 3:16, Pakistan Standard Time, Arshad prayed “All Praise be to Allah” as he pushed the button.

Here is a sampling of what else is in store for readers of Eating Grass:

  • Feroz Khan does not take issue with Pakistan’s stated yields of the May 1998 tests, while acknowledging Western doubts.[2] As for their number, he writes that a total of six different designs were tested on May 28 and 30 but that the PAEC “could not have afforded to explode six bombs from its inventory, and so only two bombs were selected for tests, one for each site,” Chagai and Kharan. The four other designs would be tested at Chagai, “with triggers and natural uranium packed around the weapon.”
  • Khan provides much material on the mutual benefits of strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China. He writes, “Every piece of technology that Pakistan managed to acquire would be [made] available to the Chinese for reverse engineering.” Pakistani laboratories were favored in return. Cruise missile programs that China and Pakistan now are pursuing bear a striking resemblance to U.S. cruise missiles that landed on Pakistani soil in a failed attempt to kill bin Laden at a camp in Afghanistan where he was thought to be present on August 21, 1998. In an interview with Khan, Brigadier Muhammad Anwar, director of Special Development Works, remarked, “Technologies can fall from the skies. God was being kind to Pakistan.”
  • Transfers of Chinese equipment were quite substantial. Eating Grass confirms transfers of uranium hexafluoride and highly enriched uranium, as well as 40 tons of heavy water, 5,000 ring magnets, solid-fuel missiles of varying designs, turnkey production facilities, and the so-called CHIC-4 weapon design tested in 1966. On the question of how much help China provided on bomb designs, Eating Grass quotes Mubarakmand—not always a reliable witness—as saying, “They only provided subtle help—limited technical help—and only when we asked for it.” A.Q. Khan has asserted that, in return for Chinese assistance, Pakistan helped Chinese scientists with centrifuge technology, a claim that Feroz Khan seems to support.
  • Earthquakes have set back the enrichment program at Kahuta, the hub of A.Q. Khan’s production complex. In September 1981, a quake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale resulted in the crash of 4,000 centrifuges, after which KRL scientists and army engineers redesigned the centrifuge beds. “Hundreds of centrifuges” were destroyed in a subsequent quake in 1983.
  • Estimates of Libya’s financial assistance to help jump-start Pakistan’s nuclear program vary from $100 million to $500 million. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who as early as 1965 famously declared Pakistan’s readiness to “eat grass” if necessary to acquire nuclear weapons—six years before taking over from disgraced General Yahya Khan as president—renamed Lahore’s cricket pitch Gaddafi Stadium as a token of his appreciation. The book skirts around reports of Saudi Arabia’s support.
  • In “the cat and mouse game” among European suppliers, U.S. export controllers, and Pakistan’s purchasing agents, Shafique Ahmad Butt, the PAEC’s chief European procurement officer, posted in the Pakistani embassy in Brussels, was at least as important as A.Q. Khan. Feroz Khan writes, “Although daunting, the global powers’ slow bureaucracies and lack of cooperation made victories possible.”

As for the A.Q. Khan network, the author readily acknowledges the existence of a state-sanctioned procurement operation. He concludes that the subsequent creation of a parallel, profit-making network to sell nuclear wares occurred without official sanction and that Pakistani authorities were “shocked to discover the extent and reach” of the network’s sales to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.[3] According to Feroz Khan, “The network had taken on a life of its own,” wholly due to A.Q. Khan’s greed and hubris. Was every single one of A.Q. Khan’s entrepreneurial transactions without any official sanction whatsoever? The author of this review is not entirely convinced, particularly with respect to transfers to Iran under the tenure of Chief of Army Staff Beg.

Eating Grass is likely to figure prominently in a settling of nuclear accounts within Pakistan that is already under way. A.Q. Khan was awarded his nation’s highest civilian honor, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, not once, but twice, in 1996 and 1999, prior to his 2004 public “confession” of misdeeds extracted by Musharraf. Khan subsequently retracted that confession.

Munir Khan, characterized repeatedly by his chief rival as an impediment to progress, went publicly unrecognized until he received the Nishan-e-Imtiaz posthumously in 2012, 13 long years after his death. Now these tables have turned. As A.Q. Khan futilely throws his hat into the ring of Pakistani politics, his standing as the father of Pakistan’s bomb is plummeting. According to the account in Eating Grass, A.Q. Khan caused an “irreparable loss” to Pakistan’s international standing, while Munir Khan laid the foundations of Pakistan’s future deterrent—plutonium production and solid-fuel missiles.

Feroz Khan’s narrative is “fueled by a strategic culture filled with historic grievances, military defeats, and paranoia.” The extent of Pakistan’s pursuit of an operational deterrent is reflected in four plutonium-production reactors now in operation or under construction, a doubling of the capacity of the New Labs reprocessing facilities, and the completion of a large, commercial-scale reprocessing facility at Chashma (a facility that France was planning to build before its cancellation due to U.S. pressure) as well as the enrichment activities at Kahuta.

Indian Dysfunction

Koithara’s book tells a far different story, that of a “seriously inadequate” nuclear posture reflective of India’s deeply dysfunctional system of civil-military relations and defense procurement. In Koithara’s account, nuclear weapons and their means of delivery are not viable if they remain too long in the proprietary embrace of India’s defense scientists. He offers a scathing indictment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), strategic enclaves that make “dubious technical claims and projections” and keep military operators at arm’s length.

New Delhi’s command and control system comes across as a twisted wiring diagram of political leaders, bureaucrats, defense scientists, and military commanders. It took five years after India’s 1998 tests, one limited war, and another severe crisis with Pakistan before New Delhi announced the creation, but not the details, of its National Command Authority (NCA) system—three years after Pakistan did so. In Koithara’s persuasive analysis, India’s “multi-channel control approach can become very cumbersome,” degrading “both effectiveness and accountability,” while serving to maintain the pre-eminence of the DAE and the DRDO. He maintains that India “does not have a unified command post in the capital, from which the Service Chiefs can jointly monitor and conduct conventional operations. Nor is there a national command centre from where the [Prime Minister]/NCA can control both nuclear and conventional operations conducted by the three services.” (emphasis in the original)

Relations between political leaders and the armed forces will remain “barren” as long as distracted political leaders hand far too much authority to senior civil servants. Koithara indicts the Indian leadership for having a severe case of “presbyopia,” by which he means that it “can see distant strategic issues well, but perceives operational matters at close hand only hazily.” The result is “a comfortable coexistence of strategic ambition and operational neglect.” Simply put, Koithara’s argument is that India has not been serious about its nuclear deterrent: “The country’s nuclear capability [is] seen primarily as a prop for its great power status, and only secondarily as something that enhances national security.”

Even the most astute Indian observers can have blind spots about Pakistan. Koithara argues that “deterring Pakistan was, and is, relatively easy because of India’s overwhelming conventional superiority, and Pakistan’s extreme geographic vulnerability to nuclear strikes.” Feroz Khan’s account of Pakistan’s nuclear program and the extent and trajectory of its operationalized nuclear deterrent suggest otherwise. In effect, Pakistani military planners take concepts of “proactive defense” more seriously than their Indian counterparts do. The Indian military makes plans; the Pakistani military makes plans and executes them. Koithara argues that “[d]eterring a nuclear attack by India was never the primary purpose of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. The core objective was to find a counter to India’s conventional military power.” Khan’s book offers a fuller picture: The Pakistani military’s nuclear posture does not just take away Indian options; it also adds Pakistani options below and above the conventional level.

Koithara makes a persuasive case for operationalizing India’s nuclear deterrent “by enhancing the range, reliability, robustness and survivability of its strategic missiles, as well as the operating prowess of its personnel and organizations, [rather] than by seeking to improve warhead explosive power through thermonuclear capability.” He proposes that the prime minister engage far more with military leaders, that authority be shifted from civil servants and defense scientists to the military, and that the military’s “exclusion from nuclear force management” end. In conclusion, he argues that “[t]he present approach of doing as little as possible and as late as possible will not suffice.”

Taken individually, these prescriptions appear unassailable, but their sum total could have mixed results and unintended consequences. Koithara optimistically argues that “[a]dequate operationalisation,” including the creation of a more functional command and control system, would “lead to an arsenal smaller than what many Indian strategists consider necessary today.”

Koithara proposes that New Delhi continue to play its deterrent “softly.” How soft would this deterrent become once the apparatus surrounding it is hardened? Pakistan’s nuclear enclave, which has taken poorly implemented Indian declarations of intent so seriously, is likely to react even more poorly to steps to operationalize India’s deterrent effectively.

Here lies the basic dilemma undergirding Koithara’s fine book: Most of his recommendations are long overdue, but they could well reinforce an already extensive nuclear competition in southern Asia. More weapons for India will not advance the cause of deterrence stability if New Delhi’s approach to command and control issues and its civil-military relations remain dysfunctional. Conversely, a more serious approach toward command and control and operationalization matters is likely to result in a larger force structure. Koithara assumes otherwise. He asserts that greater coherence will reduce pressure for excessive requirements. Much rests on this questionable assumption.

Current Trends

One of the myths of the Cold War nuclear competition was that as assured second-strike capabilities grew, anxieties would diminish. Pakistan is again disproving this notion: its worries have grown alongside its nuclear arsenal because nuclear weapons cannot fix its severe economic and domestic weaknesses. India has adopted a more relaxed view toward nuclear weapons, but its arsenal is also growing, albeit at a slower pace, at least for now. China, like India, places economic growth above all other national security objectives, but Beijing also is modernizing its nuclear forces.

This triangular competition is adding new dimensions. India, Pakistan, and China are moving new nuclear capabilities to sea. Cruise missiles of U.S. and Russian lineage are entering the arsenals of all three countries. Pakistan has embraced the logic of possessing short-range nuclear delivery systems to counter Indian conventional military advantages, with India likely to follow in due course, a subject that is barely discussed in the two books under review.

Fissile material production capabilities are growing significantly. Official lines of strategic dialogue between the competitors have been lacking in substance and unworthy of current and prospective regional nuclear developments. Stabilization by means of treaties, as was the case during the Cold War, is not in the cards for southern Asia. Consequently, deterrence stability is likely to become shakier with more-diversified and larger nuclear arsenals unless economic connectivity grows and new nuclear risk-reduction measures are negotiated.

In short, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan is likely to be a worrisome part of the international landscape for quite a while. Readers who want expert assessments of the history, current state, and future prospects of this competition can do no better than to read these two excellent books.



Michael Krepon is co-founder of the Stimson Center. His most recent books are Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living With the Bomb (2009) and Rummaging in Shoeboxes for Stories About the Bomb, the Nuclear Age and Arms Control (2011).




1. George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001).

2. Pakistan announced a combined yield of 40 kilotons associated with the May 28 tests; Western estimates are in the range of six to 12 kilotons. Khan credits the May 30 test with a yield of 18 to 20 kilotons; Western estimates generally have been in the range of one to six kilotons.

3. There is no mention in the book of possible sales to India, which Joshua Pollock has said was the Khan network’s fourth customer. See Joshua Pollack, “The Secret Treachery of A.Q. Khan,” Playboy, January/February 2012.

South Asia’s Distinctive Arms Race

Two new books on the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons programs, by Verghese Koithara and Feroz Khan, respectively, give insightful and complementary perspectives on the South Asian arms race, reviewer Michael Krepon says.

The NSG Decision on Sensitive Nuclear Transfers: ABACC and the Additional Protocol

David S. Jonas, John Carlson, and Richard S. Goorevich

On a windy day in June 2011, near the shores of the Dutch village of Noordwijk, representatives of the 46 countries that make up the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed on a much-discussed revision of the section of the group’s guidelines covering exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

The agreement was a vivid example of NSG efforts to promote nonproliferation without unduly restricting nuclear commerce. Coming after seven years of intensive internal debate, the accord illustrated the difficulty of gaining the support of all members of the group, which operates by consensus.

Because of ongoing discussion in the media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and to avoid any possible misunderstandings in the discussions leading up to 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, it is timely to review the background and basis for the NSG decision.

The NSG guidelines were designed to apply a higher standard to controls on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing equipment, material, and technology than to other nuclear exports. Paragraph 6 of the guidelines stated simply that suppliers should “exercise restraint” on enrichment- and reprocessing-related exports, which are particularly sensitive because of their potential use in producing material that can be used in nuclear weapons. The revised guidelines spell out more specifically what the elements of that restraint should be. A key challenge for the NSG had been to find appropriate language to capture what had been the practice of suppliers in a way that non-NSG governments and the general public could understand.

Since the Noordwijk decision, most of the discussion of the NSG’s action has centered on a specific reference to the requirement for safeguards in Paragraph 6(c):

suppliers should authorise transfers, pursuant to this paragraph, only when the recipient has brought into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, and an Additional Protocol based on the Model Additional Protocol or, pending this, is implementing appropriate safeguards agreements in cooperation with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], including a regional accounting and control arrangement for nuclear materials, as approved by the IAEA Board of Governors.

This language expresses the NSG’s agreement that the increased proliferation risk associated with these technologies warranted greater mitigation efforts. The group also looked to the IAEA effort to increase the standard of safeguards through the introduction of the Model Additional Protocol and concluded that it would be appropriate to consider implementation of a protocol as a condition of supply. Since the 1990s, it has been generally recognized that the IAEA’s comprehensive safeguards agreement—the agreement that applies to non-nuclear-weapon states under the NPT—does not adequately cover the detection of undeclared nuclear activities. The Model Additional Protocol addresses this by extending the access available for inspectors and the information to be provided to the IAEA.

Under the Noordwijk language, the safeguards standard for enrichment- and reprocessing-related transfers goes above and beyond the requirements previously enumerated in the guidelines and allows for flexibility in its application. Although the NSG text makes explicit reference to a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol, it also allows for the concern for higher risk mitigation to be addressed by a regional accounting and control arrangement that has been approved by the IAEA, pending the ultimate implementation of an additional protocol.

The new language sparked a debate, particularly in the press and among NGOs, over whether a regional arrangement such as the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) is equivalent to a comprehensive safeguards agreement with an additional protocol. As this article will demonstrate, the new language does not say that and was not intended to do so. By considering the legal and safeguards aspects of the ABACC arrangements and an additional protocol, the article will demonstrate that the two measures are meant for different purposes but that they both provide a higher level of confidence than a comprehensive safeguards agreement alone that exported enrichment and reprocessing technologies will be used only for peaceful purposes. The article therefore concludes that both meet the nonproliferation requirements of the revised NSG guidelines.

Legal Considerations

Treaties ordinarily may neither impose obligations on nor create legal entitlements for third states. The starting point for analysis is that treaty rights and obligations are legally confined to the contracting parties.[1]

Neither Brazil nor Argentina has signed an additional protocol with the IAEA. The two countries, however, work together under a strict model of safeguards inspections and other measures organized by ABACC. On December 13, 1991, Argentina, Brazil, ABACC, and the IAEA signed an agreement known as the Quadripartite Agreement, which consolidates the system for the application of the safeguards that are in force in both countries, providing for joint inspections by the IAEA and ABACC, involving personnel from both countries. Brazil has argued that this mutual inspection aspect of ABACC provides for a higher level of assurance than a comprehensive safeguards agreement and is a reason not to sign an additional protocol.

Specifically, Brazil claims that an additional protocol discriminates against NPT non-nuclear-weapon states by creating more-intrusive requirements for their nuclear programs while nuclear-weapon states are not properly fulfilling their disarmament pledges under Article VI of the treaty. Brazil also maintains that an additional protocol would create unnecessary financial burdens and stifle commercial nuclear development by creating new regulations.[2] Others argue that a regional arrangement such as the Quadripartite Agreement does not meet the objectives of an additional protocol and consequently cannot be considered as a substitute for it.

Neither Brazil nor Argentina suggests that the Quadripartite Agreement is a replacement for an additional protocol. Rather, they claim that the higher level of assurance provided under that agreement, particularly through mutual inspections, should be sufficient to meet any international concern as to whether nuclear activities in either state are for peaceful purposes.

Both ABACC and the Model Additional Protocol are intended, in a very general sense, to build confidence that nuclear activities are peaceful, but the two are not the same. The protocol is a legal document setting out rights to additional information and access by IAEA inspectors as a complement to safeguards under the relevant safeguards agreement, while ABACC is an institutional arrangement[3] created with the objective of administering and implementing the Common System of Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (SCCC).[4] The purpose of the SCCC is to verify that nuclear material held by the parties is not diverted to nuclear weapons or explosives.

The Quadripartite Agreement is a “full scope safeguards agreement, similar to INFCIRC/153 model agreements,”[5] which are the standard NPT safeguards agreement for non-nuclear-weapon states, now referred to as a comprehensive safeguards agreement. To put it another way, ABACC is a regional organization broadly similar to Euratom. ABACC implements safeguards jointly with the IAEA, with the latter responsible for ensuring that international safeguards requirements are met.[6]

Safeguards Considerations

Under the NPT, non-nuclear-weapon states commit to accepting IAEA safeguards to verify that they are not diverting nuclear material to use in weapons. They agree to accept IAEA safeguards on all nuclear material. An important aspect of this is that these states should not possess undeclared nuclear material. The Model Additional Protocol was developed to address weaknesses in safeguards implemented under comprehensive safeguards agreements. The protocol strengthens the IAEA’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities by establishing additional requirements for reporting information and extending IAEA rights of access to various locations in a state. By agreeing to an additional protocol, a state provides the IAEA with specific rights to a wealth of information that is outside the purview of comprehensive safeguards agreements, particularly the right to access locations where no nuclear material is declared to be located.[7]

The Model Additional Protocol permits “complementary access,” a new category of inspector access somewhere between special inspections and routine inspections, for which the IAEA may request access to undeclared locations to conduct verification activities such as environmental sampling.[8] The Quadripartite Agreement, in contrast, is similar to standard comprehensive safeguards agreements and does not provide the IAEA with rights to inspect undeclared locations, other than in the particular circumstances of a special inspection. Thus, an additional protocol goes beyond the Quadripartite Agreement by providing the IAEA with additional measures for ensuring the absence of undeclared activities.[9]

The IAEA emphasizes that, in a state without an additional protocol in force, the agency is unable to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. This is reflected in the IAEA’s annual safeguards conclusions. For states with a comprehensive safeguards agreement but no additional protocol, the IAEA is able to conclude only that declared nuclear material has remained in peaceful activities, but not that all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities. This is the safeguards conclusion the IAEA reaches for both Argentina and Brazil. In effect, the IAEA is unable to conclude that states without an additional protocol are fully meeting their NPT peaceful-use commitments.


Because Argentina and Brazil did not accede to the NPT until 1995 and 1998, respectively, the 1991 Quadripartite Agreement and the ABACC arrangements have historical importance in building confidence between the two countries that neither was pursuing a nuclear weapons program, which in itself is a worthwhile achievement

The ABACC arrangements, however, do not provide the standard of assurance expected by the international community. Only the IAEA can provide this standard of assurance and only if the agency is able to implement its full suite of verification activities. As parties to the NPT, Argentina and Brazil are obligated to accept IAEA safeguards procedures necessary to establish that they have placed all nuclear material under safeguards. Under their comprehensive safeguards agreements, they have accepted that the IAEA has the right and the obligation to verify the fulfillment of this obligation.

One must assume that the 46 governments of the NSG that came to agreement in Noordwijk understood and recognized the differences between ABACC and the Model Additional Protocol. Therefore, one must assume that the NSG did not intend to refer to both instruments in the NSG guidelines as a means of comparing them. Rather, the purpose must have been to note that, in defining “restraint” in the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies, there needed to be the highest level of confidence that there would be no misuse of the facilities involved. As discussed above, the Model Additional Protocol is concerned with the possibility of unknown—that is, undeclared— facilities. In its Noordwijk decision, the NSG indicated that if enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology were supplied to Argentina and Brazil under current circumstances, NSG members would have confidence that the items would not be misused.

The NSG is not claiming that any comprehensive safeguards agreement is sufficient for NSG purposes. Rather, the distinctive element of the Quadripartite Agreement that swayed the NSG is the joint (mutual) arrangements under ABACC and the SCCC for implementing the agreement. The NSG has accepted ABACC’s claim that these mutual arrangements provide a higher level of assurance than IAEA comprehensive safeguards by themselves. Yet, the NSG has not accepted the idea that these arrangements are as strong as an additional protocol.

The Quadripartite Agreement and the arrangements for implementing the agreement do not directly address the issue of possible undeclared activities; they address the issue only indirectly through the increased level of confidence the parties have from the agreement. In other words, in the particular case of Argentina and Brazil, the NSG was comfortable that ABACC and the Quadripartite Agreement provided assurances that enrichment and reprocessing facilities were not being misused for nuclear weapons purposes, given that Argentina and Brazil already possessed enrichment and reprocessing technology and there had been no problems or issues raised throughout the history of the agreement. Yet, the NSG text also signals that there is not necessarily the same level of confidence about any similar arrangements that might arise in the future. In this regard, there has not been any call for such arrangements, as some had envisioned when the NSG agreed to this language.

Whether NSG members would make the same judgment with another type of regional agreement that did not reach the Model Additional Protocol standard and did not have this robust history remains to be seen. This is especially important in the case of states that have established capabilities in enrichment and reprocessing. The use of the phrase “pending this” in the NSG decision links the concepts of the Model Additional Protocol and ABACC as an expression of hope that comfort with the ABACC arrangement will be bolstered in due course by the conclusion of additional protocols by both countries or at least the adoption of the key elements of the protocol that provide the highest level of confidence. Ultimately, the NSG did what it intended to do seven years prior to Noordwijk, which is to define “restraint.” It defined a safeguards standard that provided this highest level of confidence, which is the Model Additional Protocol, but also took into account the confidence that has been generated by years of safeguards implementation by ABACC.



David S. Jonas is general counsel of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and a former general counsel of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). John Carlson is a counselor for the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and former director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office. Richard S. Goorevich is a senior policy adviser for nuclear fuel cycle and regulatory issues in the NNSA and chairman of the Nuclear Suppliers Group Consultative Group. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government or the NTI.




1. “Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” May 23, 1969, Treaty Series: Treaties and International Agreements Registered or Filed and Recorded With the Secretariat of the United Nations, Vol. 1155, art. 34. See Anthony Aust, Handbook of International Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 97; Luke T. Lee, “Law of the Sea Convention and Third States,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 77 (1983): 541, 544

2. Andrea Viski, “The Revised Nuclear Suppliers Group Guidelines: A European Union Perspective,” EU Non-Proliferation Consortium Non-Proliferation Papers, No. 15 (May 2012), p. 8, www.sipri.org/research/disarmament/eu-consortium/publications/nonproliferation-paper-15.

3. Ibid.

4. The Quadripartite Agreement refers to ABACC as “the legal person created by the SCCC Agreement.”

5. Marco Marzo et al., Regional Safeguards Arrangements: The Argentina-Brazil Experience, IAEA-SM-346/113, 1997, p. 2, www.abacc.org.br/artigos_antigos/iaea-sm-346-113.pdf.

6. Marco Marzo, “ABACC: Designing and Implementing Bilateral Inspections in Argentina and Brazil” (presentation at conference entitled “Argentina and Brazil: The Latin American Nuclear Rapprochement,” Nahel Soreq, Israel, May 16, 1996), http://isis-online.org/596pm1.

7. On access to undeclared locations, see International Atomic Energy Agency, “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (Corrected), September 1997, arts. 4a(ii), 5b, 5c. On access to known sites where no nuclear material has been declared to be located, see ibid., arts. 4a(iii), 5a(iii).

8. UN Institute for Disarmament Research and Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, “Coming to Terms With Security: A Handbook on Verification and Compliance,” UNIDIR/2003/10, 2003, pp. 64-65.

9. U.S. Department of State, “United States Information Pertaining to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” 2010, www.state.gov/documents/organization/141928.pdf.

In its 2011 decision on sensitive exports, the Nuclear Suppliers Group indicated that regional nonproliferation arrangements such as the one that Argentina and Brazil have are an acceptable temporary substitute for an IAEA additional protocol.

Dealing With Syria’s Dangerous Arsenals

Leonard S. Spector and Egle Murauskaite

The current situation in Syria poses severe and perhaps unprecedented risks: a country with large stockpiles of nonconventional weapons is undergoing a violent revolution that could topple its government and dissolve the security measures for those weapons.

An analysis of the situation must start by taking into account a number of factors associated with different types of weapons, as well as territorial and political changes that will be taking place as events unfold. Of particular concern is that President Bashar al-Assad’s troops could abandon their posts and leave Syrian chemical weapons facilities unattended, a scenario that already has prompted considerable preparation by the United States and other governments.

At the same time, however, the transition period after the fall of Assad—an event that many analysts inside and outside the U.S. government regard as a near certainty—may present a unique opportunity to persuade Syria’s new authorities to remove chemical weapons and other proliferation-sensitive arms from Syria’s active arsenal as part of an agreement to obtain formal international recognition and economic assistance.

Dangerous Military Assets

The focus of international concern has been Syrian chemical weapons,[1] which will also receive the greatest emphasis here. Yet, at least four other classes of Syrian military assets deserve international attention, each of which presents its own risks and will require a different approach. These four categories are

  • small arms and light weapons (for example, automatic rifles, light machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades,)
  • heavy weapons (for example, tanks, artillery, and aircraft),
  • weapons of particular danger if acquired by terrorists (for example, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, high explosives, landmines, and unguided rockets), and
  • ballistic missiles.

The objectives for the United States and its partners with regard to the Assad regime’s control of its stockpiles of various weapons are complex. Assad’s fall would likely be accelerated if the Free Syrian Army captured stocks of his small arms and light weapons; indeed, the United States is currently facilitating the provision of such weapons to these fighters.[2] There is, however, a need for caution: a recent report has indicated that large portions of foreign weapons assistance, particularly the arms shipments from Qatar, are going to hard-line Islamist factions.[3]

Defections by large, heavily armed units of the Syrian military to the side of the insurgents, as well as defections of units responsible for Syria’s arsenal of hundreds of Scud and other guided missiles, would also not be unwelcome developments. Such defections would erode Assad’s claim to leadership and, in the case of heavy weapons, deprive him of at least some of the capabilities he has turned so viciously and indiscriminately against civilians.

In contrast, where easily portable weapons of particular interest to terrorists are concerned, continued control by government forces is probably safest because, as noted, terrorist groups are known to be operating in the country in parallel with the Free Syrian Army.[4] Although the latter probably can maintain control over pieces of large, high-value equipment it acquires, such as howitzers, aircraft, and guided missiles, the Syrian rebels have greater difficulty maintaining effective custody of hundreds of easily pilfered and concealed items, such as landmines and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).[5]

During the current turmoil, Syrian chemical weapons can best be managed if they remain under the secure control of their present guardians, loyal to the Assad regime. At the same time, the most urgent need is to ensure, for humanitarian reasons, that these weapons are not used in the ongoing conflict. As the Obama administration reiterated on August 20, Assad has been warned not to take this step, which would certainly lead to calls for military intervention against him that even Moscow would find difficult to oppose.[6] French President François Hollande issued a similar warning.[7]

The subsequent imperative is to ensure that control over these weapons is maintained and that chemical agents and munitions are not transferred to others. Readily transportable, chemically armed artillery shells would be the easiest to divert and could be used by Hezbollah or another group possessing standard artillery pieces of the type found in Syria’s armory. Even limited numbers of chemical munitions transferred to Hezbollah could notably worsen the threat to Israel and reinforce the group’s ability to deter future Israeli retaliation for conventional rocket and missile attacks.

Al Qaeda cadres operating in Syria are a further concern. Terrorist detonation of even a handful of chemical munitions in a Western city could wreak havoc. An added challenge is that the loss of control over the vast Syrian chemical arsenal could make it impossible to establish at a later time that none of it had passed into new hands.

Although fears of broad use of chemical weapons to quell the Syrian population seem to have subsided, a “defensive use” scenario is a growing concern. In particular, as it gradually loses control of the country, the Assad regime could attempt to establish a defensible perimeter around Damascus or along a part of the Syrian coastline, leading to territorial partition of the country. In this setting, Assad and his allies might threaten to use chemical weapons to preserve their stronghold, regardless of the July 2012 statement by the Syrian Foreign Ministry that chemical weapons would be used only to defend the country against external intervention.[8]

Shifting Battle Geography

If current trends continue, increasing portions of Syria will come under the control of insurgent forces. Already some reports are suggesting that Assad has focused on maintaining control over the country’s major cities, while the Free Syrian Army forces are increasingly taking over the countryside.[9] Syrian chemical weapons production and storage facilities were built outside major population centers, probably deliberately, to enhance secrecy and safety, but as the current phase of the conflict unfolds, they may fall within insurgent-controlled territory.

Under a number of scenarios, the expansion of insurgent-controlled territory could lead the elite troops guarding Syria’s chemical arsenal to lose control over portions of it.

  • Custodians of the chemical stockpile could be pulled away from their posts and reassigned to the front lines of the unfolding civil war, much as Assad pulled troops from the Golan Heights area in July to protect Damascus.[10]
  • Custodians could desert their posts to return to and protect their families as domestic turmoil continues.
  • Depending on the ebb and flow of battle, Assad could abandon chemical weapons sites and their custodians if it were not possible to maintain lines of supply and communication with them.
  • Custodians could defect to the rebel cause, transferring control over chemical weapons stocks to the Free Syrian Army, whose plans to manage such materials may be rudimentary at best, given the rebels’ confused lines of authority.
  • Custodians, weakened by isolation, could be overrun by insurgent troops if Free Syrian Army leaders sought to demonstrate, through capture of a site symbolizing Assad’s military strength, that the Syrian leader was losing his grip on power.
  • Bribery, bargaining for passage out of the country, or ideological commitment could lead the guardians to offer assets under their control to Hezbollah, al Qaeda, or other nonstate actors.
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In this environment, the United States should work with the Free Syrian Army to have the latter make clear that chemical weapons custodians who find themselves behind insurgent lines should peacefully relinquish formal control over these stockpiles and then stay in place to protect them. The site guardians should be incentivized to take such actions with pledges of protection against retaliation, adequate supplies to sustain them, and possibly even rewards from the post-Assad government.

The Assad regime’s decision to move some of its chemical weapons in July was thought to be for the purpose of securing these stockpiles from falling into the rebel hands, suggesting it was pursuing a course of restraint. Yet, according to one account in the German press, Syria conducted missile tests in August using unfilled chemical weapons warheads, reportedly with the help of Iranian and North Korean experts.[11] This would suggest that the regime continues to consider using chemical weapons, at least as a deterrent against military intervention. Concerns about the nature of and reasons behind the relocation of Syrian chemical weapons grew more serious as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed a second round of “multiple, ‘limited’ movements” of these assets at the end of September.[12]

Some chemical assets, such as large stocks of bulk agent, may be difficult to transport and may remain in place, potentially falling behind insurgent lines along with other, fixed military assets, such as airfields and missile storage and production sites. The Free Syrian Army has claimed to be aware of the locations of chemical weapons storage sites, with one spokesman declaring that the Syrian rebels would welcome assistance from the West in securing these facilities.[13] In another press report, the rebels claimed to have taken a missile base in Damascus, which they asserted contained missiles armed with nonconventional warheads. Citing the discovery as evidence that Assad planned to use chemical weapons against civilians, the rebels’ Supreme Military Council called for the international community to intervene “before the regime moves to a new level of crimes.”[14] Together with al Qaeda-linked fighters, Syrian rebels also have captured a missile base near Aleppo, claiming that the Assad regime was aiming these missiles at the Syrian people; the base was destroyed by the government’s air power shortly afterward.[15]

Although concerns about the Assad regime resorting to new levels of violence remain very real, the political reasons behind recent rebel rhetoric on chemical weapons must be acknowledged. Knowing that the international community regards the issue of chemical weapons use as particularly sensitive and has identified it as a potential trigger for intervention, the rebels may be inclined to place particular emphasis on that issue in their rhetoric in the hopes of keeping international attention focused on their plight.

Reshaping Assad’s Legacy

Governments coming to power through revolution, civil war, or secession have the crucial, immediate goals of gaining international recognition and legitimacy, integrating into the world economy, and, depending on the circumstances, obtaining significant outside economic assistance. Renouncing nonconventional weapons by terminating suspect activities, eliminating stockpiles of weapons and weapons material, and subscribing to key nonproliferation treaties has repeatedly been made a requirement for such benefits.

In the 1980s and 1990s, new regimes in Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa (seeking to end years of isolation) and in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine (seeking to distance themselves from their Soviet past) have pressed for international acceptance and in this context chosen to renounce nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs. South Africa also dismantled its small-scale biological weapons program, and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan dismantled Soviet-era biological weapons facilities.

Following its 2003 decision to seek accommodation with the international community after decades of rogue behavior, Libya abandoned its nuclear weapons program and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, agreeing to destroy its sizable chemical weapons arsenal after placing it under the monitoring system of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). By the time the Libyan civil war erupted in February 2011, it had destroyed more than half of its stocks of chemical warfare agents.[16] The new government in Tripoli has pledged to continue this process, declaring previously undisclosed stockpiles of loaded chemical munitions to the OPCW and inviting international inspections to ensure subsequent assistance in the destruction of the arsenal.[17]

Libya also agreed to eliminate its missiles capable of carrying 500-kilogram payloads 300 kilometers or more (so-called Category 1 missiles, under the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime), although this action appears to have been delayed. As part of their renunciation of nuclear weapons, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine scrapped their intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ukraine and a number of other former Soviet-bloc states also eliminated nonstrategic missiles with capabilities greater than the Category 1 classification after the fall of the Soviet Union.[18]

Developments in Syria create an opportunity for the international community to move that country in a similar direction and put in place important constraints on Syria’s chemical weapons and armory of 300- and 500-kilometer-range Scud missiles and shorter-range but more accurate SS-21s. The process can be started during the current phase of active conflict; evolve further during the future transition phase, as Assad is pushed aside; and become more formalized when new leaders begin to govern the country.

Yet, the process is likely to be more challenging than in the cases discussed above. Unlike Libya and the other renouncing states, which faced no external antagonists when they abandoned their nonconventional weapons or missiles or both, any government that takes power in Damascus can be expected to consider itself the heir to Syria’s decades-long confrontation with Israel. In these circumstances, Syria’s chemical and missile arsenals may be seen as both an essential deterrent to counter Israel’s nuclear capability and a valuable bargaining chip, to be relinquished only in return for a significant concession from Israel, such as return of the Golan Heights.

The U.S. government should take action to avoid such a relapse to the status quo. As the Free Syrian Army seizes territory where chemical or missile assets are situated, Washington should be ready to offer assistance in securing such sites, including arrangements for an international team of experts to help with monitoring the locations. The group might include experts from nearby Turkey or Jordan, as well as from states outside the region having the requisite familiarity with managing chemical arms and missiles. Given the threat of continued violence, the teams might be composed of specially trained military personnel and might be accompanied by a security contingent. The working premise would be that they had been invited to provide assistance by those controlling the sites and would not engage in combat to gain access to the sites or, once in place, protect them from attack.[19]

During the transition phase, as control by successor forces expanded, international assistance could be offered to them in disabling and dismantling portions of the chemical and missile arsenals to make them less readily usable. For chemical weapons, this could mean removing chemical agents from munitions; with regard to missiles, warheads might be removed from these systems or transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) partially disabled or moved to locations far from their associated missiles. Where production facilities came under the control of successor forces, the United States and others working with Washington could press for a halt in new production. International experts might be invited to undertake an initial analysis of how portions of the chemical arsenal that are deteriorating and pose safety hazards might be destroyed.

Ideally, by the time the new government took power, a trajectory would have been established that would be pointing toward the elimination of these capabilities, reinforced by an international presence at key sites. Diplomatic recognition of the new government and infusions of foreign assistance to rebuild the country could be made conditional on commitments toward significant further progress on this path.

Even if political realities within Syria made it impossible as a practical matter for the new government to fully and formally renounce its chemical weapons and missile capabilities, numerous partial measures could greatly reduce the threat they posed. These might include the mothballing of production sites; the sealing and periodic inspection of chemical weapons storage facilities; the requesting of expert assistance from the OPCW in managing the country’s chemical sites and, possibly, in sealing or inspecting chemical weapons storage sites (a special directive from the UN Security Council would probably be required for the last-named activities); and the placing of TELs, missile fueling vehicles, or essential components in sealed bunkers that might be monitored by a team of donor-country personnel.[20]

Shifts in territorial control and the flux of the transition period could be used to resolve outstanding questions regarding Syria’s apparent nuclear weapons program, whose centerpiece, a nearly operational North Korean-built reactor near al Kibar, was destroyed by Israel in September 2007. Although Syria is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is obligated to place all of its nuclear facilities under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Assad government has refused to permit international inspectors to visit three sites suspected of being part of the Syrian nuclear program.[21]

If the sites come under insurgent control, the Free Syrian Army should be pressed to authorize such inspections, perhaps starting with an informal visit by a team of international experts to these locations, akin to visits of this kind to Libyan sites housing that country’s nuclear program and chemical weapons program in 2003, to begin resolving the issues concerning the nature and purpose of these facilities. The IAEA would not itself be able to undertake activities in Syria until invited by the government recognized by the Security Council as the legitimate government of that country.

Although decisively resolving the issue of nonconventional weapons will have the greatest political significance, in terms of both the diplomatic effort required and the potential gains, addressing the issue of conventional weapons will prove critical for geographic containment of the unrest. Small arms and light weapons, for which there is a ready and lucrative international market, will likely be extensively pilfered during the chaos of the transition period. Given the scale of Syria’s arsenal and the likely dispersion of its armories, this may be all but impossible to prevent.

Meanwhile, heavy weapons, including aircraft; missiles; MANPADS; bulk explosives; and landmines may be stored in fewer locations, more rigorously inventoried, and thus more easily controlled. International support will be needed to assist this control mission, with due consideration to including Russian participation if needed to avoid the appearance of Western intervention.

It is not clear that a window of opportunity has yet opened that will permit outsiders to shape the future disposition of Syrian military assets, but if present trends continue, that window will soon appear. The United States is preparing plans to deal with a number of contingencies relating to the fate of Syria’s many arsenals. It is important that plans to constrain the next government’s inheritance of Assad’s chemical and missile armory be placed high on this list and that Washington be prepared to implement such plans swiftly, as soon as the opportunity to act comes to hand.

Leonard S. Spector is executive director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ Washington, D.C., office. From 1997 to 2001, he served as assistant deputy administrator for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration. Egle Murauskaite is a research associate at the James Martin Center. Some of the points discussed in this article were first raised in Spector’s July 19 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.


1. Biological weapons may also be at issue, but little is known about Syria’s possible program. Nuclear weapons and fissile material are not known to be present in Syria. Following the revelations about the al Kibar nuclear reactor, however, three sites to which International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have subsequently been denied access are suspected of having equipment or facilities that could be relevant to nuclear weapons production.

2. The United States has supported its regional allies in providing small arms to the Free Syrian Army, but continues to insist that the allies refrain from supplying heavy weaponry to the rebels. Robert F. Worth, “Citing U.S. Fears, Arab Allies Limit Syrian Rebel Aid,” The New York Times, October 6, 2012. Despite these calls, the Free Syrian Army apparently received a number of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from foreign supporters at the end of July, with their first known use reported in mid-October. “Syrian Rebels Acquire Surface-to-Air Missiles: Report,” Reuters, July 31, 2012; Rick Gladstone, “UN Envoy Seeks Pause in Syria for Holiday,” The New York Times, October 15, 2012.

3. David E. Sanger, “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria,” The New York Times, October 14, 2012.

4. According to a news report, there is “a steady flow of Arab men” from Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, as well as Muslims from the United Kingdom and the United States, coming to join the ranks of the Free Syrian Army and then being trained by jihadists with Afghanistan war experience. Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Arab Islamist Fighters Eager to Join Syria Rebels,” Reuters, July 31, 2012. The conflict is increasingly attracting Sunni radicals, and the jihadist message is used as a recognizable brand to attract foreign funding for the cause, strengthening the hand of these groups in Syria. Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad, “As Syrian War Drags On, Jihadists Take Bigger Role,” The New York Times, July 29, 2012. In addition, there is a growing presence of professional fighters from Iraqi al Qaeda groups in Syria. “State Dept.: Al Qaeda in Iraq Fighting in Syria,” CBS/Associated Press, July 31, 2012; Ghaith Abdudl-Ahad, “Al-Qaida Turns Tide for Rebels in Battle for Eastern Syria,” Guardian, July 30, 2012.

5. If Syrian conventional weapons are transferred out of the country, there is a risk that they could be used in local conflicts, as was the case in Mali following the recent turmoil in Libya. A large number of Malian Tuareg people were serving in the Libyan army, and following the collapse of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s regime, stocks of sophisticated weaponry were left unattended and fell into Tuareg hands. The Tuareg returned to Mali, forming a militia group and sparking the 2012 Tuareg rebellion, which soon evolved to include the forces of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

6. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by the President to the White House Press Corps,” August 20, 2012.

7. Steven Erlanger, “France Urges Creation of Interim Syrian Government, Pledging Recognition,” The New York Times, August 27, 2012.

8. See, for example, “Syrian Regime Makes Chemical Warfare Threat,” Associated Press, July 23, 2012; “Syria Asserts Chemical Arms Only to Be Used Against Foreign Aggressors,” Global Security Newswire, July 23, 2012, www.nti.org/gsn/article/syria-asserts-chemical-arms-only-be-used-against-foreign-aggressors/.

9. See, for example, Joseph Holliday, “Syria’s Maturing Insurgency,” Middle East Security Report, No. 5 (June 2012).

10. “Syria Moving Troops From Golan to Damascus: Israel,” Agence France-Presse, July 17, 2012.

11. “Syria Tested Chemical Weapons Systems, Witnesses Say,” Der Spiegel, September 17, 2012.

12. Lolita C. Baldor, “Panetta Says Syria Moved Some Chemical Weapons,” Associated Press, September 28, 2012.

13. Yousuf Basil and Tim Lister, “Syrian Rebels Claim Knowledge of Chemical Weapons Sites,” CNN, September 29, 2012; “Syria Tested Chemical Weapons Systems, Witnesses Say.”

14. Elad Benari, “Syrian Rebels Claim to Take Over Chemical Weapons,” Arutz Sheva, August 29, 2012.

15. “Syrian Rebels Capture Government Missile Base, Activists Say,” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2012; Jim Hoft, “Jihadists Linked to Al-Qaeda Capture Missile Base in Syria,” Gateway Pundit, October 12, 2012, www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/10/jihadists-capture-missile-base-outside-of-aleppo-syria/.

16. Daniel Horner, “Libya Sets Date to Destroy Chemical Arms,” Arms Control Today, June 2012.

17. See, for example, “Libyan Chemical Weapons Stockpiles Intact, Say Inspectors,” Reuters, November 4, 2011.

18. “Ukraine Finishes Scrapping Scud Missiles,” Global Security Newswire, April 14, 2011, www.nti.org/gsn/article/ukraine-finishes-scrapping-scud-missiles/; “Bulgaria, Slovakia Still Hold SS-23s,” Arms Control Today, September 1997; Youliana Ivanova, “Bulgaria: Goodbye Missiles, Hello NATO,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 2002.

19. As suggested earlier, where Assad forces guarding chemical weapons sites are cut off behind Free Syrian Army lines, the rebel Syrians would negotiate access with site managers promising that no harm will come to the arsenals’ guardians when Assad falls.

20. The new government might justify the restraint in the chemical weapons area by claiming that although the Assad regime was prepared to use chemical weapons, disregarding Syria’s adherence to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 that prohibits the use of such weapons, the new government hopes never to use these arms and has undertaken a series of transparency and restraint measures to demonstrate this commitment.

21. According to press reports, the sites are located near Masyaf, the village of Marj as-Sultan near Damascus, and Iskandariyah. See David Albright and Paul Brannan, “Satellite Image Shows Syrian Site Functionally Related to Al Kibar Reactor,” Institute for Science and International Security, December 1, 2010, http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Syria_Masyaf_Report_1Dec2010_1.pdf.

The current situation in Syria poses severe risks, but it may be creating an opportunity for the international community to put in place important constraints on Syria’s chemical weapons and armory of missiles.

CTBTO Picks Lassina Zerbo as Next Head

Marcus Taylor and Daniel Horner

The member states of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) last month chose Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso to succeed Tibor Tóth as executive secretary when Tóth’s term expires next year.

After the vote at its headquarters in Vienna, the CTBTO, which is building the monitoring system that would verify compliance with the 1996 treaty banning all nuclear tests, announced the selection in an Oct. 23 press release. Zerbo is currently the director of the CTBTO’s International Data Centre Division, a position he has held since November 2004.

Zerbo is the first non-European to head the CTBTO. Tóth is Hungarian, and his predecessor, Wolfgang Hoffmann, is German.

Of the five candidates (see box), Zerbo was one of two without significant experience as a diplomat, a rare circumstance for someone assuming leadership of a major international organization. Before holding his position with the CTBTO data center, Zerbo worked as a senior geophysicist at a number of mineral companies. He holds degrees in fundamental and applied geology and in geophysics from several universities in France, including a Ph.D. in geophysics from the Université de Paris-Sud.

The executive secretary’s term is four years. Hoffmann and Tóth were elected to two terms. Tóth’s term ends on July 31, 2013.

The CTBTO press release did not provide details of the election, but a former CTBTO official said there was a series of votes, with the candidate receiving the lowest number of votes eliminated in each round. The first three rounds eliminated, in order, Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan of Mongolia, Hein Haak of the Netherlands, and Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, the former official said.

That left Zerbo and Alfredo Alessandro Labbé Villa of Chile. In the fourth round, Zerbo received a majority of the votes, but fell short of the required two-thirds majority, the former official said. At that point, however, Labbé Villa requested that the CTBTO declare Zerbo the winner, the former official said.

Tóth had been “grooming Zerbo, in a way,” by providing him with “a fair amount of visibility,” the former official said. On top of qualifications such as his technical background and his public speaking ability, Zerbo is “from a part of the world that does not serve frequently as head of international organizations,” an important consideration because the position of executive secretary is supposed to rotate among regional groups, the former official said.

In an Oct. 23 press release, the U.S. State Department said Zerbo has displayed the “management skills, technical skills, and diplomatic acumen needed for the position” of executive secretary. In a statement e-mailed to Arms Control Today on Oct. 24, Nils Daag, the permanent representative of Sweden to international organizations in Vienna, said, “We are confident that he will be able to carry on and build on” Tóth’s efforts.

A key part of Zerbo’s job will be to oversee completion of the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, which is designed to detect nuclear explosions. Of the system’s planned 337 monitoring stations, 272 are now in place, 15 are undergoing testing, 22 are under construction, and 28 are planned.

Another facet of the CTBTO’s mandate is to promote membership in the treaty, which cannot enter into force until a specified group of 44 states, listed in Annex 2 of the pact, ratify the treaty. Eight of those states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have not done so.

Candidates for CTBTO Executive Secretary

At a meeting last month at its headquarters in Vienna, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) elected Lassina Zerbo as executive secretary. There were five candidates for the position.

  • Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia): Enkhsaikhan has been Mongolia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Vienna since 2008. He is also the chairperson on administration for Working Group A of the CTBTO, which deals with the budget and other administrative issues of the organization.

  • Hein Haak (Netherlands): Haak has been the chairperson on verification for the CTBTO since 2006. He is also the head of the Division of Seismology at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and was a member of the group of scientific experts on the scientific basis for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). He represented the Netherlands during negotiations on the CTBT.

  • Libran Cabactulan (Philippines): Cabactulan is the ambassador of the Philippines to the United Nations. He was president of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference and served as assistant secretary for disarmament and nonproliferation in the Department of Foreign Affairs for the Philippines from 2009 to 2010.

  • Alfredo Alessandro Labbé Villa (Chile): Labbé Villa is the permanent representative of Chile to the United Nations in Vienna and the Chilean ambassador to Austria. Prior to his appointment to that post in 2010, he was the director for international and human security in the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  • Lassina Zerbo (Burkina Faso): Zerbo has served as the director of the International Data Centre Division of the CTBTO since 2004. Before that, he held senior positions as a geophysicist for the Anglo American mining company in Africa.—MARCUS TAYLOR


The CTBTO’s member states chose Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso as the organization’s next executive secretary. Zerbo is to succeed Tibor Tóth in August 2013.

Scots Seek Legal Ban on Nuclear Weapons

Marcus Taylor

The Scottish National Party (SNP) will seek a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons if a scheduled 2014 referendum on Scottish independence is successful, Scottish First Minister and leader of the SNP Alex Salmond said last month.

In an Oct. 6 statement directed at SNP members, Salmond said the Scottish Constitution that would be drafted if the country gains its independence “should include an explicit ban on nuclear weapons being based on Scottish territory.” He said that the legal ban on nuclear weapons in Scotland would be included in the 2013 Scottish government “white paper” detailing the SNP’s proposals for independence.

On Oct. 19, during its annual conference, the SNP voted 426-332 in favor of pursuing membership in NATO on the condition of “an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons.” The SNP also approved an amendment declaring that Scotland would remain in the alliance only if NATO “takes all possible steps to bring about nuclear disarmament.”

The vote was criticized from within the party, with John Finnie, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, stating, “Joining a first-strike nuclear alliance is not how we’re going to rid ourselves of the obscenity of hosting” the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal. Finnie has since resigned from the SNP, saying that he could no longer be a member of a party that seeks to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland while joining an alliance based on a nuclear deterrent.

According to a report by the British Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee, a Scottish ban on nuclear weapons that would take effect in 2016 would mean the United Kingdom “would lose the ability to operate its nuclear deterrent and inevitably create the prospect of unilateral nuclear disarmament being imposed” on the British navy and government. The British nuclear arsenal consists entirely of Trident ballistic missiles, which are borne by four submarines that are housed at the Clyde naval base in Scotland.

The report said it could take up to 20 years to relocate the submarines to a site outside Scotland. The United Kingdom also would need to find an alternative to the Coulport depot, the Scottish site where Trident missiles are assembled, housed, and loaded onto the submarines, but there currently are no viable options, the report said.

On Oct. 29, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, “We are confident that the Scottish people will choose to remain part of the United Kingdom.” He also announced a $560 million contract for initial design work for a replacement for the Trident submarine, which would cost an estimated $30 billion. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Hammond was “jumping the gun” on the issue. “The final decision on Trident replacement will not be taken until 2016, however much other people may not like it that way,” he said. An analysis of program alternatives is due next year.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) will seek a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons if a scheduled 2014 referendum on Scottish independence is successful, Scottish First Minister and leader of the SNP Alex Salmond said last month.

Space Code Meeting Postponed

Timothy Farnsworth

The second diplomatic meeting of space-faring countries on the European Union’s proposed international code of conduct for space, which was supposed to take place in October in New York, has been postponed until some time in 2013, an EU official familiar with the issue said last month.

In an October e-mail exchange with Arms Control Today, the official cited criticism by some countries over the proximity in timing to the UN General Assembly meeting that began in September. According to the official, those countries argued that an October meeting on the space code of conduct could create the impression that the effort to craft the code was part of a UN process. The EU, along with its “main partners,” reassessed the issue in September and made the decision that “the greatest risk was to get stuck in a procedural discussion,” the official said.

In a July 31 statement to the Conference on Disarmament on its plans for the meeting, the EU said it had decided to hold the gathering in October “to benefit from the presence of colleagues following the UN General Assembly First and Fourth Committees.” (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to the official, a new date and location have not been chosen, but the meeting could take place in a new space-faring country. The official said this “would increase our message that this initiative is for everyone, not only Western Countries.”

The most recent draft of the code was released in June at the first meeting of the countries seeking to create the code of conduct, which would not be legally binding. It would seek to reduce the risk of collisions in space, creating a “peaceful, safe and secure outer space environment,” according to the current draft text. (See ACT, January/February 2009.)

The second diplomatic meeting of space-faring countries on the European Union’s proposed international code of conduct for space, which was supposed to take place in October in New York, has been postponed until some time in 2013, an EU official familiar with the issue said last month.

Nuclear Security Bill Stalled in Senate

Wanda Archy

Legislation that aims to help prevent nuclear terrorism and improve nuclear security is stalled in the Senate after the introduction of an amendment proposed by Judiciary Committee ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Grassley’s amendment would allow the death penalty for an act of nuclear terrorism that resulted in death and would give wiretapping authority to federal officials in the case of nuclear incidents. Similar provisions appeared in earlier versions of the legislation drafted by the Obama administration, but were not contained in the bill passed by the House of Representatives in June. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) House Judiciary Committee members had negotiated with the administration to remove the measures prior to introducing their own draft of the bill.

The bill would bring the United States into compliance with the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The 2005 amendment extends protection requirements beyond the original agreement, which covers nuclear material while in international transport, by expanding the coverage to apply to nuclear facilities and to materials in peaceful domestic use and storage. It also would impose new legal penalties for misuse of radioactive material and sabotage of nuclear facilities. The anti-terrorism agreement provides a definition of nuclear terrorism and specifies how states should handle offenders and illicit materials when seized.

In an Oct. 17 statement e-mailed to Arms Control Today, Grassley said his amendment corrects a drafting error “and adds important provisions to aid national security.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the amendment reintroduced provisions “that had been discarded by the House as unnecessary and which will derail the bipartisan agreement that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith [R-Tex.] took months to negotiate.” In an Oct. 22 statement e-mailed to Arms Control Today, Leahy said he hoped that Senate Republicans would drop their “needless demands.”

In his e-mail, Grassley said that “[t]he bill and my amendment cleared the Republican side of the Senate before the Senate went into recess, and are now stalled on the Democratic side.” Both senators emphasized the need for Congress to pass the bill.

If the legislation is not approved before the end of the current Congress, it will need to be reintroduced. The bill also includes implementing legislation for two treaties dealing with maritime security.

Legislation that aims to help prevent nuclear terrorism and improve nuclear security is stalled in the Senate after the introduction of an amendment proposed by Judiciary Committee ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Iran Says Talks to Resume in November

Kelsey Davenport

High-level negotiations between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program will resume in November after the U.S. presidential election, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at an Oct. 21 press conference. An exact date and venue for the negotiations have not yet been determined, he said.

A spokesman for Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator for the six countries, said they hoped to “pick up discussions soon,” but he did not give a time frame.

In interviews, experts said that although little has changed in the official negotiation positions that Iran and the countries, known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), discussed during prior negotiating rounds (see ACT, June 2012), there are still diplomatic paths to resolving international concerns over the nuclear program, which Iran maintains is entirely peaceful.

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 stalled after a June 18-19 meeting in Moscow, the third top-level round of negotiations in as many months. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) Although the lead negotiators for each side remained in contact and the two sides held a technical-level meeting in July, a fourth round of high-level talks was not scheduled due to a lack of progress in the first three rounds. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to The New York Times, there also is a possibility of bilateral talks. An Oct. 20 Times story cited senior administration officials as saying that Tehran and Washington had agreed “in principle” to hold bilateral negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election.

Although it was unclear whether administration officials were referring to a separate track of meetings between the two countries or a bilateral meeting in the context of P5+1 negotiations, both the United States and Iran denied the report.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an Oct. 20 statement that although no “one-on-one talks” have been agreed to, the United States is “prepared to meet bilaterally” with Iran and has held this position since P5+1 talks resumed. During his Oct. 22 debate with his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama said the reports of bilateral talks “are not true.”

Salehi said Oct. 21 that there is “no talk of negotiations” with the United States and that Iran will hold talks “within the framework” of the P5+1.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian told Arms Control Today on Oct. 16 said that rather than discussing the specific proposals from past negotiations, the two sides each should recognize a point that is important to the other. Specifically, he suggested that Iran recognize that the “concerns held by Western countries” over its nuclear program must be addressed and the P5+1 recognize Iran’s “legitimate rights” to uranium enrichment.

After this reciprocal recognition, the parties could move to practical steps, taking actions that would address P5+1 concerns on Iranian transparency and “breakout capabilities,” Mousavian said. This would include actions such as increased inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and resolution of questions about possible past activities related to developing nuclear weapons. In return, the P5+1 should be prepared to take proportionate steps in return for “each positive step” that Iran takes, namely in the form of sanctions relief, he said.

In the ideal “end state,” the P5+1 would be convinced that all “technical ambiguities are removed” and that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful, Mousavian said. In return, Iran’s enrichment rights would be recognized, and all sanctions removed.

Former U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan James Dobbins also identified the importance of considering some form of a suspension-for-suspension arrangement in future talks. He told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 18 e-mail that a proposal under which Iran would halt some enrichment activities in return for the suspension of some sanctions should be considered for future negotiations.

Dobbins identified two key questions that must be examined to move talks forward. First, he said it must be determined whether Iran is willing to make “further positive moves to meet international demands.” Second, Dobbins said that Obama’s ability to respond positively to an Iranian concession is key, such as by supporting international recognition of Iran’s enrichment rights in return for an Iranian pledge not enrich uranium to a level higher than 5 percent uranium-235.

Mousavian said that Tehran has been willing to voluntarily cap enrichment at 5 percent and that point is now being “accurately reported by Western media.” He said Iran “never wanted high-level enrichment.”

Future U.S. Sanctions

In the absence of progress in the negotiations, several U.S. senators are considering further U.S. unilateral sanctions, which could be introduced when Congress reconvenes in November.

In an Oct. 16 e-mail to Arms Control Today, an aide to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said the senator is working on legislation that would build on the previous round of Iran sanctions, which were co-authored by Kirk and signed into law last Dec. 31. The new sanctions legislation could be offered as an amendment to the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill.

The aide said that the legislation could include provisions that prohibit all international financial institutions from conducting transactions with Iranian financial institutions that are “in any way affiliated with the Central Bank of Iran” and all transactions with “any Iranian entity related to energy.” Exceptions would be made for humanitarian purposes and oil exports from Iran authorized under current laws.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the co-author of previous sanctions legislation, told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 17 e-mail that he also intends to pursue further sanctions, identifying a “robust multilateral sanctions regime” and a “credible military threat” as the main tools for dealing with Iranian nuclear program. He also said it is “simultaneously crucial” to pursue negotiations by passing additional U.S. and multilateral sanctions to “force Iran to enter real negotiations” over the “termination of its nuclear weapons program.”

Mousavian, however, warned that the imposition of further sanctions and new restrictions would have adverse effects on Iran’s ability to negotiate in any further talks by making it more difficult for Tehran to show “flexibility and cooperation” because the regime would be forced to take a tougher stance so as not to appear to be capitulating to Western demands.

He said that as further restrictive measures are implemented, it becomes more difficult for the United States and the European Union to offer sanctions relief as incentives for Iranian compliance and concessions, as the sanctions become more difficult to dismantle.

New EU Sanctions

During an Oct. 15 meeting, EU foreign ministers agreed to impose further sanctions on Iran for failing to implement resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors.

According to an Oct. 15 EU press release, the new restrictions will target the energy, financial, trade, and transport sectors, including “all transactions between European and Iranian banks” that are not authorized in advance for humanitarian purposes.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an Oct. 15 interview with Radio Free Europe that these new sanctions are “exclusively about the nuclear program” and not regime change.

In a press briefing the same day, White House spokesman Jay Carney described the EU sanctions package as “significant,” saying that the United States “welcomes” the adoption of these measures.

China, however, opposed the new measures. During an Oct. 16 press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the imposition of unilateral sanctions makes the situation “more complex” and “cannot fundamentally resolve the Iran nuclear issue.” He called on all of the parties to “push” for a new round of talks as soon as possible.

Iran’s foreign minister said negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear program would resume in late November, but a spokesman for the six-country group’s lead negotiator was less specific.

Strains Seen in Japan’s Plutonium Policy

Daniel Horner

Japan’s recently proposed energy strategy is not clear on how to address fundamental policy questions on the country’s approach to spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing, and plutonium use, a Japanese official and a U.S. nuclear expert said in interviews last month.

On Sept. 14, the Japanese government issued an energy strategy document that contemplates the phase-out of nuclear power by about 2040. A cabinet decision five days later made clear that the strategy document did not constitute a binding policy decision, and the strategy could be scrapped entirely if the current Japanese government falls from power in the upcoming elections, which are expected to take place by next summer.

The new energy strategy is part of Japan’s response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors on March 11, 2011.

For decades, a central part of Japan’s nuclear plans has been what energy and nonproliferation specialists call “closing the fuel cycle.” That involves reprocessing the spent fuel from power reactors to separate plutonium that is then used in making fresh fuel for reactors.

The strategy document says “it is necessary…to tackle squarely” the question of what to do with spent fuel, but does not make specific commitments in that regard. It commits Japan to “continu[ing] its present nuclear fuel cycle policy,” although it adds a few caveats.

“We have not decided anything important” with regard to the plutonium program, the Japanese official said in an Oct. 25 interview. In fact, he said, the policy contains some “contradictory” elements.

For example, the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, where Japan plans to reprocess spent fuel from its power plants, has been authorized to operate beyond the year 2050, but the strategy does not explain how reprocessing will continue if the nuclear power plants that would consume the plutonium separated at Rokkasho have been shut down, he said.

The Rokkasho plant has faced many problems and has not begun commercial operation; the current estimate for its startup is October 2013. Japan has shipped much of its spent fuel to France and the United Kingdom for reprocessing. Of the approximately 44 metric tons of separated plutonium that Japan owns, about nine metric tons are in Japan, with the remaining 35 metric tons roughly evenly split between the two European reprocessors, according to the most recent figures released by Japan.

International Sensitivities

In an Oct. 19 interview, Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists, said Japanese officials are “acutely aware” of the potential concerns in Asia and elsewhere raised by the plutonium surplus. There have been “numerous discussions” with the U.S. government on the issue, said Ferguson, who is co-chairman of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation’s U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group.

Japanese media have reported that, at a meeting in September, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman encouraged Japanese officials to minimize the amount of plutonium they stockpiled.

In an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Poneman aide declined to comment on “the specifics of diplomatic discussions.” With regard to the U.S. policy on reprocessing and plutonium use, she said it is up to the Japanese government to make the decision and “the United States is eager to help in any way Japan finds useful as it explores its future approach to nuclear power.” The United States has proposed that the two countries discuss “the non-proliferation and security aspects of the new nuclear energy policy,” she said.

Domestic Commitments

Ferguson and the Japanese official stressed that the domestic politics of Japan’s fuel cycle are complicated and likely to play a major role in whatever decision the country ultimately makes in that area.

As the two men described it, one of the inducements to the residents of Aomori to agree to host the Rokkasho plant was that it would not become a long-term repository for spent fuel and radioactive waste. Yet, the official said, nuclear operators in Japan also made a commitment to the localities hosting nuclear power plants that they would not have to store spent fuel on-site indefinitely and could transfer it eventually to a reprocessing plant such as the Rokkasho facility. That combination of commitments does not give policymakers much latitude on fuel cycle policy, regardless of what decisions they make with regard to nuclear power, he said.

In addition to plutonium, reprocessing produces so-called high-level waste, which also requires a repository. A key question for Japanese fuel-cycle policy is where the country will decide to locate this facility, Ferguson said.

In part because of the uncertainties about the size of the Japanese reactor fleet in the coming years, it is unclear how rapidly the separated plutonium could be consumed. Ferguson and the official said one option being discussed is to develop fast-neutron reactors, which are capable of “breeding” more plutonium than they consume but also can be used to “burn” plutonium more efficiently than light-water reactors can.

Japan’s recently proposed energy strategy is seen by some as unclear on how to address fundamental policy questions on the country’s approach to spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing, and plutonium use.


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