“Your association has taken a significant role in fostering public awareness of nuclear disarmament and has led to its advancement.”
– Kazi Matsui
Mayor of Hiroshima
June 2, 2022
June 2013
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Cover Image: 


An April 2013 “On the Calendar” item misidentified the location of the meeting of the five nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty nuclear-weapon states. The meeting was in Geneva.


The April 2013 news story “Amano Reports No Progress in Iran” said that according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), about 250 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium, when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough to make one nuclear weapon. That figure has appeared in published articles and was confirmed as accurate by an IAEA staff member, but the IAEA has not made such an estimate in an official document or statement.

JFK’s American University Speech Echoes Through Time

For a free sample of a feature article as our print and electronic subscribers receive it, check out this month's Looking Back: JFK's American University Speech Echoes Through Time by Daryl G. Kimball.

Daryl G. Kimball

In the modern age, U.S. presidents have delivered dozens of addresses on international peace and security, but few have been as profound or consequential as John F. Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” address delivered 50 years ago on June 10 on the campus of American University in Washington.

Coming just months after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis drove home the risks of an unbridled nuclear arms race and the dangers of a direct superpower conflict, the speech was intended to send an unambiguous signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the United States sought to “avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating defeat or nuclear war,” as Kennedy phrased it in the speech.

During and after the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev exchanged letters expressing the need to “step back from the danger,” as Kennedy put it, by making progress on arms control. In a letter to Kennedy on October 28, 1962, as the crisis came to a close, Khrushchev wrote, “We should like to continue the exchange of views on the prohibition of atomic and thermonuclear weapons, on general disarmament and other problems relating to the relaxation of international tension.”[1]

Kennedy, writing back the same day, said that “perhaps now…we can make some real progress in this vital field. I think we should give priority to questions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons…and to the great effort for a nuclear test ban.”[2]

Kennedy’s June 10 address was courageous because it was conciliatory at a time of high tension and grave risks. It was prepared with his assistant Ted Sorenson, without the usual interagency review process. Using simple, eloquent phrases, Kennedy praised the Soviet people for their achievements and explained the urgent necessity of pursuing a strategy for peace to avoid the horrific dangers of nuclear war, including renewed steps on nuclear arms control and a hotline for urgent communications between Moscow and Washington. The speech offered a vision of hope and cautioned against defeatism.

At its core, the speech offered a revised formula for achieving progress on restricting nuclear weapons testing, a goal that had eluded President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev for more than six years. Kennedy viewed the nuclear test ban treaty—ideally a comprehensive ban—as an essential first step toward U.S.-Soviet disarmament and a barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons. In a March 21, 1963, interview, Kennedy said, “[P]ersonally I am haunted by the feeling that by 1970, unless we are successful, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of 4, and by 1975, 15 or 20.”[3]

Despite renewed efforts to negotiate a test ban in early 1963 and conciliatory offers from each side, U.S. and Soviet negotiators remained divided over the issue of on-site inspections and verification. On June 10, Kennedy sought to break the impasse with a strategy for unilateral but reciprocated initiatives. He announced that the United States “does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so,” and he suggested that this declaration could be codified through a binding treaty.

The historical and documentary record suggests that Kennedy’s June 10 address had a profound effect on Khrushchev’s thinking on the test ban issue and about Kennedy. Kennedy’s address was published in full by the Soviet newspapers Izvestia and Pravda and welcomed by Khrushchev himself. In a statement in July 1963, the Soviet leader, who had previously insisted on a comprehensive ban, accepted for the first time a ban on atmospheric testing, which did not require on-site inspections or monitoring stations.

Two weeks later, the U.S. negotiating team, led by veteran diplomat Averell Harriman, went to Moscow for talks on the limited test ban and, if possible, the long-sought comprehensive test ban. With growing resistance to the test ban concept from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and from key senators, as well as the insistence of the Soviets on a less frequent inspection system for a comprehensive ban, the negotiators focused on achieving the limited test ban treaty.

Late on July 25, after just 12 days of talks, the negotiators concluded work on the Limited Test Ban Treaty. With a strong, public push from Kennedy, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent for ratification on September 24 by a vote of 80-19.

Kennedy’s June 10 speech not only catalyzed action on this treaty, but also led to the formalization of an agreement on establishing a hotline. It ushered in a limited easing of tensions between the superpowers involving reciprocal troop reductions in Europe, U.S. grain sales to the Soviets, mutual British-Soviet-U.S. pledges to reduce production of fissile material for weapons, energetic U.S.- and Soviet-led diplomacy in Geneva from 1964 to 1968 toward conclusion of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and an agreement in 1968 to hold discussions “on the limitation and the reduction of both offensive strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and systems of defense against ballistic missiles.”[4]

Since June 1963, every U.S. president—Democrat or Republican—has echoed some of the key themes of Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” address in his own policies and statements. Kennedy’s successors have continued to pursue many of the disarmament goals outlined during his administration. As the excerpts below indicate, these presidents have recognized to varying degrees the futility of nuclear war, the need to curb proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states and subnational groups, and the importance of pursuing arms control measures to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons and increase global security. President Barack Obama’s 2009 address in Prague outlining the steps toward the “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” addresses all of these key themes.

The real test for Obama and U.S. leaders yet to come is whether they can match the conviction and the urgency with which Kennedy sought to resolve the nuclear standoff in his 1963 address and in his bold leadership in the final months of his presidency as he sought global nuclear restraint.

Excerpts from Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” Address and Subsequent Presidential Remarks on Dealing With the Threat of Nuclear Weapons

The dangers of nuclear war and the arms race

“Today, should total war ever break out again—no matter how—our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours…. [W]e are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race designed to ensure continuing equivalent strength among potential adversaries. We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s own domestic safety. And we will move this year a step toward [the] ultimate goal—the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this Earth. We urge all other people to join us, for success can mean life instead of death.”
—Jimmy Carter, inaugural address, January 20, 1977

“Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black markets trade in nuclear secrets and materials. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point when the center cannot hold.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

Common interests in peace and security and avoiding nuclear war

“[B]oth the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours—and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“We are committed to a pursuit of a more peaceful, stable, and cooperative world. While we are determined never to be bested in a test of strength, we will devote our strength to what is best. And in the nuclear era, there is no rational alternative to accords of mutual restraint between the United States and the Soviet Union, two nations, which have the power to destroy mankind.

A very stark reality has tempered America’s actions for decades and must now temper the actions of all nations. Prevention of full-scale warfare in the nuclear age has become everybody’s responsibility. Today’s regional conflict must not become tomorrow’s world disaster.”
—Gerald Ford, address to the UN General Assembly, September 18, 1974

“People of the Soviet Union, there is only one sane policy, for your country and mine, to preserve our civilization in this modern age: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
—Ronald Reagan, State of the Union address, January 25, 1984

Averting conflict and engaging in talks with adversaries

“Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy—or of a collective death-wish for the world.

[I]ncreased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given the inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it is worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.

But make no mistake: we know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy and cowardly thing. That is how wars begin. That is where human progress ends.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

The need for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament

“We have also been talking in Geneva about the other first-step measures of arms control designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long-range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament—designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace, which would take the place of arms.…

The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security—it would decrease the prospects of war.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“After nearly a quarter century of danger and fear—reason and sanity have prevailed to reduce the danger and to greatly lessen the fear. Thus, all mankind is reassured.

As the moment is reassuring, so it is, even more, hopeful and heartening. For this treaty is evidence that amid the tensions, the strife, the struggle, and the sorrow of these years, men of many nations have not lost the way—or have not lost the will—toward peace. The conclusion of this treaty encourages the hope that other steps may be taken toward a peaceful world.

It is for these reasons—and in this perspective—that I have described this treaty as the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age.
It enhances the security of all nations by significantly reducing the danger of nuclear war among nations.”
—Lyndon Johnson, remarks on the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, July 1, 1968

“The Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union…have agreed to concentrate this year on working out an agreement for the limitation of the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems…[and] on certain measures with respect to the limitation of offensive strategic weapons.

If we succeed, this…may well be remembered as the beginning of a new era in which all nations will devote more of their energies and their resources not to the weapons of war, but to the works of peace.”
—Richard Nixon, announcement of an agreement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, May 20, 1971

“There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we’re trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We’re not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons; we seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction—if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?”
—Ronald Reagan, second inaugural address, January 21, 1985

“In the area of security and arms control, we’ve stepped up patrol against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The new [C]hemical [W]eapons [C]onvention will ban chemical weapons from the arsenals of all participating states. And once implemented, the agreements we’ve negotiated will ban new nuclear states on the territory of the former Soviet Union. And above all, we’ve sought to erase nuclear nightmares from the sleep of future generations.”
—George H.W. Bush, Texas A&M University, December 15, 1992

“I ask Congress to join me in pursuing an ambitious agenda to reduce the serious threat of weapons of mass destruction. This year, four decades after it was first proposed by President Eisenhower, a comprehensive nuclear test ban is within reach. By ending nuclear testing, we can help to prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons and make it more difficult for non-nuclear states to build them.”
—Bill Clinton, State of the Union address, January 27, 1998

“There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated. Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action. Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. These materials and technologies, and the people who traffic in them, cross many borders. To stop this trade, the nations of the world must be strong and determined. We must work together, we must act effectively.”
—George W. Bush, announcement of new measures to counter proliferation, February 11, 2004

“[A]s a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it….

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.

…[T]he United States will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.…

To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty….
And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons….

[T]ogether, we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.…

[W]e must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009


Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the Arms Control Association.


1. Glenn Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1981), p. 176.

2. Ibid.

3. Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, “107 - The President’s News Conference,” The American Presidency Project, n.d., http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9124 (transcript of President John Kennedy’s press conference on March 21, 1963).

4. Miller Center, “Remarks on Signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” n.d., http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/4037 (remarks by President Lyndon Johnson on July 1, 1968).

The impact of President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 “Strategy of Peace” speech at American University can be seen in the events of the years that followed and in the language that Kennedy’s successors used in speaking about nuclear weapons policy.

Presidential Elections and Nuclear Policy In Iran

Ariane Tabatabai

The Iranian presidential election will take place on June 14. It will mark the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, which was notable for controversies surrounding his second-term election and the tightening of the international community’s backbreaking and unprecedented sanctions against the country, leading to the devaluation of Iran’s currency.

As the election approaches, many observers inside and outside Iran have begun speculating on the impact of its outcome on the country’s nuclear program and on Tehran’s negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the six countries collectively known as the P5+1—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. No major event is likely to occur in the nuclear negotiations until the end of the election process and possibly the next president’s inauguration.[1] Yet, this election cycle has a more intimate connection with the nuclear issue, not only by virtue of its impact on domestic politics and the country’s economy, but also because former nuclear negotiators and decision-makers are running for office.[2]

After Ahmadinejad was first elected president in June 2005, he immediately gained a great deal of attention for his contentious statements on foreign policy and other issues. Notable among these statements was his denial of the Holocaust, which drew considerable criticism at home and abroad. This belligerent approach to foreign policy starkly contrasted with that of his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, who undertook to promote “dialogue among civilizations.” Ahmadinejad’s presidency also coincided with the end of Iran’s uranium-enrichment suspension. The suspension had gone into effect in 2003 during Khatami’s presidency, and enrichment was officially resumed in 2006 with Ahmadinejad in office. Although many see Khatami’s presidency as marked by détente with the West and Ahmadinejad’s as marked by the nuclear crisis, the idea of resuming enrichment was already looming under Khatami.[3] Regardless, since then, Iran has embarked on a journey to master the nuclear fuel cycle, which Ahmadinejad has supported and promoted.

Ahmadinejad was re-elected in June 2009 after a vigorous presidential campaign that mobilized people from different ends of the political, social, and economic spectrum. The opposition contested the results of the elections, leading to nationwide protests that later became known as the Green Movement. In spite of the dispute, which led many to believe that Ahmadinejad would not be able to sustain his presidency for a four year-term, the sixth president of Iran is now in his last months in office.

What Has Changed Since 2009

In the spring of 2009, an Iranian public eager for change became more invested in domestic politics than it had been since the first election of Khatami in 1997. Many of the millions of Iranians who closely followed the campaigns of the four candidates for the presidency—Ahmadinejad, Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mohsen Rezai—were dismayed by the declared outcome of the elections. The subsequent protests and the resulting government crackdown led to the greatest crisis of legitimacy for the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.

The 2009 pre-election period was dominated by an openness the generation growing up under the Islamic Republic had never truly experienced in the country. Some of the slogans chanted by campaigners questioning the regime’s Islamic nature, including “freedom, independence, republic,” which was the secular version of the 1979 Islamic Revolution’s slogan of “freedom, independence, Islamic Republic,” had been unthinkable just weeks earlier.

This open environment allowed a generally alienated Iranian constituency to take part in the pre-election public debate, which included discussion of issues such as the country’s controversial nuclear program. Officials’ open criticism of the direction the country had taken was perceived as a green light for everyone else to express opinions different from those endorsed by the government without fear of persecution. That election cycle also marked the emergence of the country’s nuclear program into the public realm. This was mainly due to Ahmadinejad presenting himself as the champion of the country’s “obvious right” to pursue nuclear energy. He ran on this very slogan, while opposition candidate Karroubi questioned Tehran’s nuclear policy in light of the country’s increasing isolation. In widely watched presidential debates, Karroubi argued that Ahmadinejad’s policies and reckless rhetoric regarding the nuclear program, the Holocaust, and the West were making Iran increasingly isolated.

Since those elections, the landscape of Iranian domestic politics has changed, and so has the place of Iran’s nuclear program in the public debate. Indeed, the nuclear program is increasingly associated with the regime’s very existence, and support for it seems to have decreased.[4] The regime itself has become increasingly delegitimized at home and isolated internationally. Many Iranians, including some who supported the nuclear program in 2009, now believe the price they are paying for it is too high.[5] This is the case even within the regime, where a growing faction views the nuclear program as too costly for the country. Last year, members of the opposition expressed the need for a reformist stance on the nuclear program, and former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri suggested the current crisis had to be overcome by holding a referendum on the nuclear program.[6] The discussion ended after the issuance of a statement by one of the branches of the Green Movement in October 2012 calling for a referendum, as it was clear that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would not approve such a referendum.[7]

The only voice currently heard in Iran on the nuclear program is the official one of the regime, that of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, who continue to have the same outlook on the nuclear issue despite their diverging views on many other issues.[8] The new president will have to pay deference to these views even if he does not necessarily agree with them. This is reflected by the candidates’ stances on the matter, which, although different from one another, all recognize Iran’s “obvious right” to the pursuit of nuclear energy. Even those who have criticized some aspects of Iran’s strategy for the nuclear program in the past are unlikely to change it substantially if elected.[9]

The bitter aftertaste of the 2009 presidential elections and the crackdown on the Green Movement suggest the current election cycle will be very different from the previous one.[10] Another indication is that regime officials have said that reformists’ candidacies would be rejected by the Council of Guardians, which is composed of 12 jurists who approve or reject presidential candidates before they can be elected through universal suffrage.

Many Iranians have decided to boycott the elections because they now oppose the regime, not just the current government. For months, the reformist camp shared this view and had stated it would boycott the elections, but Khatami and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani decided to become involved, the latter by announcing his candidacy and the former by supporting it.[11] Others do not see a light at the end of the tunnel and are too disillusioned with the system to take action. In contrast to 2009, the general view seems to be that the elections will not change the status quo. Many people are preoccupied with the looming threat of a war with Israel and the United States. Meanwhile, four years after the 2009 elections, the leaders of the Green Movement, Mousavi and Karroubi, remain under house arrest, and news of arrests and deaths due to the postelection protests continues to surface.[12] Furthermore, although the Green Movement is no longer as vocal as in the year following the 2009 elections, it continues to play a role in this election cycle. Indeed, Rafsanjani has been a controversial figure within the regime for his endorsement of the Green Movement. Although some see this involvement as an indication that he can use his status to play a positive role in solving the current crisis, others have criticized him for it.[13]

Moreover, the sanctions are having increasingly severe effects across the country. Some recent developments, such as shortages of medicine, are reminiscent of the years following the Iran-Iraq war. Therefore, the presidential election in Iran is unlikely to generate extensive popular support for the next president.

Social issues played a prominent role in the 2009 elections, but in this year’s election, the economy will play a greater role at the expense of issues such as human rights. Indeed, in 2009, Rezai, whose campaign was mainly based on economic reform, was widely criticized for ignoring social issues and civil rights.

Despite the authoritarian nature of the regime, the Iranian public has been very dynamic in the past 34 years, in many instances constraining the regime from implementing Islamic law to the extent its leaders would have wished. After the 2009 presidential election and the crackdown on the Green Movement, however, this dynamism started to die out. The change is due in part to the economic difficulties resulting from international sanctions and the Iranian regime’s mismanagement of the economy and resources, as people are preoccupied with meeting their daily needs instead of trying to influence policy and fight for human rights. Other factors are the closed climate in the country and the threat perception resulting from the narrative of conflict coming from Israel and the United States. Hence, many in Iran are no longer striving to influence policy as they were in 2009. This is especially the case because Iranians increasingly are coming to the conclusion that the regime gives its interests precedence over those of the country and that presidential elections are a masquerade aimed at legitimizing the regime rather than a national debate over national interests.

The supreme leader’s absolute power manifests itself especially in the context of nuclear decision-making. According to Mousavi Lari, Khatami’s interior minister, the nuclear dossier has been under the direct supervision of the supreme leader since the beginning, as has been the country’s broader foreign policy.[14] Indeed, although factions within the country would not be opposed to negotiating with the West on the nuclear program, Khamenei does not seem to be willing to compromise. In fact, Khamenei’s official website recently compiled a list of 10 reasons for the “Iranian nation’s historical combat against the United States” as a response to increasing calls among officials suggesting negotiating directly with Washington.[15] In his annual Nowruz (Persian New Year) message, Khamenei invited Iranians to stand strong against the “enemy,” both “politically” and “economically.”[16] This means that he does not plan to alter his stance on the current crisis in the upcoming year, implying that the presidential candidates as well as the public must follow his lead. The presidential elections are unlikely to have a great impact on the nuclear crisis unless Khamenei comes to the conclusion that, in order for the regime to continue existing, it needs to change the course of its nuclear policy.

Candidates’ Nuclear Stances

Although the general consensus remains that the ultimate decision-maker in matters relating to foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear program is the supreme leader, the positions held by various presidential candidates are of interest. This is the case because the principal domestic advocate for nuclear energy in the country has been Ahmadinejad. He championed this position, which is likely to continue with his successor. The general consensus in the country’s ruling class and presidential candidates lies in the Iranian nuclear program’s tagline “nuclear energy is our obvious right.” Most candidates further insist that the West’s worries are unfounded.

Two factions can be found in the list of candidates. The first supports the idea that Tehran should not change its stance on the nuclear issue regardless of international pressures, while the second hints at an approach that is more open to compromise.[17]

The first group includes Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, Saeed Jalili, and Ali Akbar Velayati.

Adel,[18] a former chairman of the Iranian parliament, has stated that the country’s stance on the nuclear issue should not be changed because it is not “illogical.”[19]

Jalili, known in the West as Iran’s chief negotiator on nuclear issues, is the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, which plays a key role in the country’s nuclear policy. His views are in line with those of Khamenei. Thus, if elected, Jalili would reinforce the regime’s current position on the nuclear program and ongoing negotiations. Jalili has stated that the nuclear issue is a nonpartisan matter, “a national consensus,” directly linked to Iran’s national interests and that uranium enrichment, “whether to 5 percent or 20 percent, is part of our nation’s right” under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.[20]

Velayati, a former foreign minister, has reiterated this stance, stating that Iran’s “obvious right” to nuclear energy will inevitably have to be recognized. He has further claimed that Iran’s nuclear program is in accordance with its international obligations and thoroughly verified by the IAEA. Furthermore, Velayati said that even when Iran decided to suspend enrichment, the West “found a new excuse” because it fundamentally rejects Tehran’s “natural right” to nuclear energy. In fact, “enrichment is our obvious right, and under international law, it does not matter whether it is 20 percent or 50 percent, and they [the West] wanted to determine the level of enrichment for us, but they had to surrender, and the 20 percent enrichment is for the Islamic Republic of Iran to decide.”[21] Velayati has noted that the overall regime stance on the matter has been consistent with Khamenei’s. Velayati’s position is likely to be in line with the supreme leader’s.

The second faction, which supports more flexibility on Iran’s part includes Rezai, Manouchehr Mottaki, Hassan Rouhani, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and Rafsanjani.

Rezai, the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during the Iran-Iraq war, allegedly was involved in the planning of the 1994 suicide bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. As noted above, Rezai’s 2009 campaign was based primarily on economic reform. He did not have a large base of supporters in 2009. Rezai’s current stated position on the nuclear issue is that, in addition to the ongoing negotiations, there needs to be a dialogue opening the door for what essentially would be a win-win solution, such that “we do not lose and [other countries] do not think there is a threat to the world from us.”[22]

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mottaki has said that Iran has a winning hand in the ongoing crisis and should “bring up scenarios in which, on the one hand, the Iranian nation’s right [to enrichment] is confirmed and, on the other hand, the other party can feel like it has achieved something. Right now, in the nuclear discussions, we are not seeking to destroy world imperialism.”[23]

Hassan Rouhani, the head of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team from 2003 to 2005 who resigned following the election of Ahmadinejad as president, is well known in policy circles in the West, but is essentially an unknown figure to the general public. In his memoir, National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy, Rouhani described the negotiating team’s efforts under his supervision, as well as what he characterizes as the shortcomings in Iran’s nuclear diplomacy. He says that “some countries have oppressed the Iranian nation by sending Iran’s case to the [UN] Security Council and pressuring the country via sanctions.”[24] Yet, he also criticized Ahmadinejad’s diplomatic tactics, blaming him for the economic sanctions and international isolation.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and head of the secretariat of the Non-Aligned Movement, is a controversial figure in Iranian politics. The regime’s conservative political establishment has criticized his nationalist stance, which it views as contrary to the Islamic Republic’s values, placing Islam above everything else and frowning on nationalism. He does not seem to have Khamenei’s approval. Mashaei has gone so far as to state that Iran is a friend to the nations of Israel, which is not recognized officially as a country by the Islamic Republic but rather is referred to as the “Zionist regime” in official discourse, and the United States, a statement that was indirectly criticized by Khamenei.[25]

On the nuclear issue, Mashaei has highlighted the role of confidence-building measures, stating that the country would “invest in the nuclear field” with other states, but that Tehran has never received clear answers on what constitutes such measures from the P5+1. Hence, he maintains that confidence building is an excuse to stop Iran from mastering the nuclear fuel cycle and that even when Tehran voluntarily suspended enrichment activities, the country was not provided with any assistance. He has further asserted that the “use of peaceful nuclear energy and the continuation of negotiations nationally and internationally are important to the Iranian nation.”[26]

Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council (see sidebar, p. 18) and president of Iran from 1989 to 1997, is a highly controversial figure in the country. He is seen as extremely corrupt, having accumulated a great deal of wealth since the revolution. Nevertheless, he maintains some popularity among the opposition, as he is seen as one of the most powerful figures to have openly criticized the outcome of the 2009 presidential elections. He has supported Iran’s right to the “peaceful use of nuclear energy in the context of the IAEA’s legal framework.” He also has claimed that Khamenei’s fatwa on nuclear weapons is superior to any “political promise” and maintains the regime’s position that the West and Israel are “plotting” against Iran.

Nevertheless, he has argued that the building of trust requires efforts from both sides in a negotiation. He has blamed Israel for promoting a situation that is “in neither party’s interest,” as both the P5+1 and Iran would benefit from mutual trust, the removal of the sanctions regime, and expansion of their relations.[27]


The Iranian presidential election and its aftermath are likely to be different from the previous election cycle, which led to a broad civil society movement. Furthermore, the presidential elections are unlikely to have a great impact on the country’s approach to nuclear policy, as the ultimate decision-maker is the supreme leader, whose responsibility is to guarantee the survival of the Islamic regime rather than ensure national interests. Nevertheless, the next president’s approach to the country’s foreign and nuclear policies is important, as he can be a stabilizing or destabilizing factor for the regime, depending on his views.

In other words, the president can either promote the regime’s official policy without questioning it or challenge it. Indeed, if the next president’s views are those of Khamenei, the regime’s unified position will be reinforced, while a president and government that are willing to compromise could add another element of disagreement to an already divided ruling class. Furthermore, a more established president, such as Rafsanjani, is likely to have more independence and therefore allow for a more flexible Iranian position during negotiations than a weak president with less popular support.

Editor’s note: On May 22, the Council of Guardians barred Rafsanjani, Mashaei, and Mottaki from running for the presidency. As Arms Control Today went to press, none of the three candidates had taken action to reverse that decision.

Political Power in Iran

There are several centers of political power in Iran. Some of the most important are summarized below.

The supreme leader is the highest political authority in Iran and the ultimate decision-maker on all domestic and foreign policy matters, including the country’s nuclear program. The supreme leader is supported, advised, and protected by the beyt-e rahbari (house of the guide), which comprises the leader’s inner circle and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Revolutionary Guard was established as a paramilitary organization following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Its mission was to counter the traditional military, which the revolutionaries distrusted because of its close ties to the monarchy. Today, it operates under the supervision of the supreme leader and conducts overt and covert operations at home and abroad. The guard is composed of several branches, including two entities well known abroad for their counterintelligence and covert operations in the region and beyond, Ansar al-Mahdi and the Quds Force. The Revolutionary Guard’s power relationships with the supreme leader and the rest of the political establishment, as well as its internal dynamics, are relatively opaque.

The president, who is elected every four years by universal suffrage, cannot serve more than two terms, and his power is limited by that of the supreme leader. The president appoints a cabinet, which is subject to parliamentary confirmation and the supreme leader’s approval.

The Islamic Consultative Assembly is the legislative branch, comprising 290 members representing geographic constituencies or religious minorities (Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian). Each member of parliament is elected by popular vote for four years. Legislation introduced and passed by the parliament is subject to the approval of the Council of Guardians of the Constitution.

Six Shiite clerics appointed by the supreme leader and six lawyers nominated by the judiciary branch and approved by the parliament constitute the Council of Guardians. The council serves as a supervisory body, interpreting the Iranian constitution. In addition to approving candidates for membership in the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the council approves presidential candidates.

The Assembly of Experts is an elected body of 86 clerics, which is in charge of appointing the supreme leader. Once appointed, the assembly supposedly can replace the supreme leader if his performance is not deemed satisfactory.

The Expediency Discernment Council comprises the heads of all branches of the government (executive, legislative, and judiciary), members appointed by the supreme leader, and the six clerics of the Council of Guardians. It serves as an advisory body to the supreme leader.

Ariane Tabatabai is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Her research examines the strategic implications of the legality of nuclear weapons under Islamic law.


1. The election is due to take place on June 14, 2013. If a single candidate does not receive a majority of the votes, a runoff will be held between the two top candidates.

2. “Rouhani: Hashemi and Khatami Will Surely Not Announce Candidacy,” Tabnak, April 12, 2013, http://goo.gl/q37nY (in Persian). All translations in this article are by the author.

3. Karl Vick, “Iran Threatens to Resume Nuclear Activity,” The Washington Post, June 17, 2004.

4. A poll conducted by the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network asked users of its website where they stood on the Iranian nuclear program. The poll and its results were taken down, and the network issued a statement denouncing the United Kingdom’s role in “hacking” the website and manipulating the poll’s results. Sixty-three percent of the participants had voted for the suspension of uranium-enrichment activities, which was perhaps a surprising outcome to those holding the poll, leading them to taking it down. See “63 Percent of Participants Requested Enrichment Suspension in Iranian TV Opinion Poll,” BBC Persian, July 3, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2012/07/120703_l39_nuclear_survey_iran.shtml (in Persian).

5. The decreased popularity of Iran’s nuclear program among Iranians is visible across social media and Iran’s extensive blogosphere.

6. Arash Mo’tamed, “AbdollahNouri’s Suggestion in Meeting With Students: Organizing Referendum on Nuclear Dossier,” RoozOnline, July 11, 2012, http://www.roozonline.com/persian/news/newsitem/article/-137f6459ea.html (in Persian).

7. “The Coordinating Council of the Green Path of Hope: Put the Nuclear Program Up for Referendum,” Akhbar-e Rooz, October 25, 2012, http://www.akhbar-rooz.com/news.jsp?essayId=48638 (in Persian).

8. “Statement in Meeting With Nuclear Scientists,” Khamenei.ir, February 22, 2012, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=19124 (in Persian).

9. Chen Kane, “Nuclear Decision-Making in Iran: A Rare Glimpse,” Middle East Brief, No. 5 (May 2006), http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB5.pdf.

10. “Mesbah: Reformist Leaders’ Competence Will Surely Be Rejected,” Mardomak, April 10, 2013, http://www.mardomak.org/story/77097?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews (in Persian).

11. Mohammad Hossein Ziya, “Iranian Presidential Election: Why Turnout Will Be Key,” The Guardian, March 13, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/mar/13/iranian-presidential-election-turnout-key.

12. “Hassan Mirzakhan, Spinal Cord Injury After the Breakdowns of 2009, Martyred,” Kaleme, April 10, 2013, http://www.kaleme.com/1392/01/21/klm-139610/ (in Persian).

13. Rafsanjani had initially declared that he would not announce his candidacy because he believed that Khamenei did not “trust” him and that his candidacy therefore would not be “in the interest” of the regime. He later changed his position, stating he would not rule out the possibility of a candidacy. “Hashemi Rafsanjani: The Leader Does Not Trust Me, My Candidacy Is Not in Our Interest,” BBC Persian, April 16, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2013/04/130416_ir92_hashemi_khamenei_election.shtml; “Hashemi Rafsanjani: I Had Warned the Country Would Face Obstacles” BBC Persian, April 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2013/04/130428_ir92_hashemi_rafsanjani.shtml (in Persian).

14. “Mousavi Lari in an Interview With Fars: There Is No Possibility of Cheating in Iran’s Electoral System,” Fars News Agency, July 30, 2012, http://goo.gl/JHkYI (in Persian).

15. “The Leader of the Revolution’s Response to 10 Questions Regarding the Historical Conflict of the Iranian Nation With the United States,” Khamenei.ir, December 6, 2012, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=21721 (in Persian).

16. “Norouz Message on the Occasion of the Beginning of the Year 1392,” Khamenei.ir, March 20, 2013, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/video-content?id=22214 (in Persian).

17. The selective list is current as of mid-May.

18. Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei, is Haddad Adel’s son-in-law, which leads many to believe that he is part of Khamenei’s inner circle.

19. “‘The Iranian Nuclear Issue’ From the Viewpoint of the Potential Presidential Candidates,” Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), April 22, 2013, http://goo.gl/b0shl (in Persian).

20. “Jalili’s Response Regarding the Relationship Between Nuclear Negotiations and the Eleventh Presidential Elections,” KhabarOnline, April 6, 2013, http://khabaronline.ir/detail/285357/ (in Persian).

21. “‘The Iranian Nuclear Issue’ From the Viewpoint of the Potential Presidential Candidates.”

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Jon Leyne, “Iranian Row on Zionism Breaks Out,” BBC, September 22, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7628316.stm.

26. “Mashaei’s Nuclear Statements,” Fararu, February 25, 2013, http://goo.gl/nHwOA (in Persian).

27. “Hashemi Rafsanjani: Iran Does Not Want Anything More Than Its Rights in the Nuclear Issue,” ISNA, April 23, 2013, http://goo.gl/5f6Ld (in Persian).

Although the Iranian president is not the main decision-maker on the country’s nuclear policies, the winner of Iran’s upcoming presidential election can be a stabilizing or destabilizing influence on the regime, depending on his views.

Next Steps for the Arms Trade Treaty: Securing Early Entry Into Force

Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley

On April 2, the UN General Assembly adopted the text of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by a vote of 156-3, with 22 abstentions.[1] After the treaty is opened for signature early this month, countries will sign it and prepare for its ratification according to their national procedures for considering treaties. The ATT requires ratification by 50 states before it can enter into force.

This article outlines several short-term steps that states can take to ensure that the ATT enters into force as soon as possible. It also describes long-term measures to increase the chances that significant arms-trading states that abstained from the vote in the General Assembly will become states-parties.

Ratification Checklist

The ATT outlines a number of obligations for states-parties to fulfill so that the treaty can be effective in regulating international arms transfers and preventing and combating illicit trade. The treaty text does not provide details on how states should fulfill these obligations, as the approach may vary by country. Experience from other areas shows that states can use different mechanisms to achieve the same goal. For example, an obligation to regulate arms brokering activities, such as introducing a buyer and seller of arms to each other, can be achieved by creating a licensing system for brokering activities or by banning such activities altogether.

Nonetheless, the text provides some guidance for prospective states-parties on reviewing their national laws and regulations to ensure they can fulfill relevant treaty obligations (see box). For many states, this review will result in the identification of gaps that need to be addressed before ratification can take place. Notably, under this approach, states would make their own assessment of whether they are in a position to ratify the ATT. Once the ATT enters into force, however, states-parties may seek clarification on whether others are fulfilling their obligations and hold each other to account.

In addition to these requirements, states-parties are obliged to prepare a report for the ATT Secretariat shortly after ratification, providing information on how the country is implementing the ATT. The ATT does not provide a format for this report, but experience shows that the provision of standardized reporting forms assists states in reporting under UN instruments. This issue will likely be addressed at the first conference of states-parties, but this will not help the states that are required to ratify the ATT before it enters into force and before the first conference of states-parties takes place. Translating the 15 items listed on page 10 into an “ATT ratification checklist” would help states to assess whether they are in a position to ratify the ATT. The staff of the provisional secretariat or experts from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) could draft the ratification checklist. The secretariat and the NGOs also could provide assistance to states in undertaking their ratification assessment. In addition, the checklist could be presented to the first ATT conference of states-parties as a possible basis for a standardized form for state-party reports on implementation.

The ATT ratification checklist is far less daunting than it initially appears. Many of the obligations contained in the ATT already appear in existing international and regional instruments relating to transfers of conventional arms, particularly small arms and light weapons. These instruments include the UN program of action on small arms and light weapons; the UN Firearms Protocol; the Economic Community of West African States’ Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials; and the European Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment. Furthermore, much of the necessary information already is publicly available. As a result, it should be possible for nongovernmental experts to assist states with the completion of their ATT ratification checklists.

The checklist would draw on the methodology used to construct the matrix adopted in early 2005 as a tool for organizing information on measures undertaken by states to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540. That resolution requires states to put in place “appropriate” and “effective” laws that prohibit any nonstate actor, primarily terrorists, from manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, developing, transporting, transferring, or using nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery.[2] It also requires states to exercise control over legal transfers of dual-use goods and technologies.

In addition, the resolution established a committee and a group of experts to carry out its directives. The 1540 Committee’s group of experts developed a matrix of measures for implementation based on the resolution’s provisions and information provided by states. The innovation of this approach is that the group of experts constructed and completed a matrix for every UN member state regardless of whether the country had provided information to the 1540 Committee on implementation, using information provided directly to the committee and from other publicly available, official government information. The committee then made the matrices publicly available, and states were invited to amend or update their national matrix. This approach has enabled the 1540 Committee to generate reports that are far more detailed and accurate than those that rely entirely on submissions by states-parties.

The matrices have become an important tool for identifying areas in which states could benefit from assistance to strengthen elements of their national transfer control system. The matrices also have helped to relieve the burden on states that are required to complete multiple and often overlapping reports under different instruments. Before the ATT enters into force, the ATT ratification checklist could play the same role of identifying gaps that should be filled before ratification can take place. It can be used after entry into force by NGOs or the ATT Secretariat as part of efforts to assess states’ progress in fulfilling their commitments under the ATT and to provide assistance to states in implementing the ATT.

International Assistance

The ATT contains provisions on assisting states with treaty implementation after the treaty enters into force, but it does not elaborate on how states will be helped in preparing for treaty ratification before that point. Yet, a number of existing efforts already aimed at strengthening export controls are of relevance in this regard.[3] In addition, regional organizations and NGOs are preparing new forms of assistance that make greater use of online tools and that could help states before the ATT enters into force.

Since the early 1990s Australia, Japan, the United States, and some European states have been involved in strengthening the transfer controls of other countries, primarily in Asia and central and eastern Europe.[4] More recently, various UN agencies and regional organizations such as the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Organization of American States have become involved in this field. The key pillars of these assistance programs include

  • reviewing, revising, or drafting transfer control laws, regulations, and control lists;
  • building capacity for government ministries and agencies involved in transfer controls—for example, export licensing officials and border, customs, and law enforcement services—and raising awareness in relevant administrative structures;
  • sharing experience to develop good interagency cooperation and coordination within a country;
  • donating equipment to assist with licensing, record keeping, and enforcement;
  • providing guidelines and standards for risk assessments; and
  • strengthening government relations and raising awareness of export control responsibilities for relevant sections of industry.

The programs involve legal reviews, training seminars, and workshops for a wide range of ministries and government agencies. Material assistance also is provided to improve interagency cooperation for licensing and enforcement and to broaden efforts to enhance capabilities for border surveillance and detection.

Because the primary motive for international assistance to strengthen transfer controls has been to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the focus for these programs has been on improving controls on transfers of dual-use goods and technologies. More recently, Australia, the EU, Japan, the United States, and some European states have provided assistance to help countries in their neighborhood and in sub-Saharan Africa to counter trafficking in small arms and light weapons. In many states, the laws, administrative procedures, agencies, and staff responsible for transfer controls for dual-use goods and technologies overlap with those for conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons. As a result, assistance provided for controlling dual-use goods often has benefits for conventional arms transfer controls and potentially for ATT-related assistance efforts.

In particular, existing efforts provide guidelines, model legislation, and other templates for helping states to identify gaps that ATT-related assistance efforts can help fill. In other cases, they represent ongoing efforts to which ATT-related elements can be added. In this sense, they provide vehicles for engaging in ATT-related outreach efforts aimed at states that have not signed or ratified the treaty.

Including the Abstainers

Among the 22 states that abstained from the UN General Assembly vote on adopting the draft ATT were two of the world’s largest arms exporters—China and Russia—and India, the world’s largest arms importer. Convincing these states to sign and ratify the ATT will require patient and nuanced lobbying efforts aimed at addressing those countries’ national concerns without diluting the content of the treaty itself. It is important for all stakeholders interested in making the international arms trade more transparent and responsible to engage in consultations with these states and understand their concerns. These interactions also could demonstrate to the skeptical countries the advantages of joining the ATT.

Of these states, China has shown itself to be the most open to exploring the possibility of signing and ratifying the ATT. China abstained from early General Assembly resolutions on the ATT between 2006 and 2011 and initially opposed the inclusion of ammunition and small arms and light weapons in its scope. Beijing also opposed an obligation for states to deny authorizations for arms exports that could be used to violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law.[5] As the negotiations progressed, however, China’s position gradually shifted, and Beijing appeared to accept the draft texts that were circulated at the close of the July 2012 and March 2013 negotiating conferences.

Unlike other abstaining states, China did not raise substantive objections to the content of the final draft of the treaty. China said it was abstaining because it opposed the adoption of a multilateral arms control treaty through a majority vote at the General Assembly. Beijing’s vote could reflect its concerns about the precedent that the ATT process might set for other arms control negotiations. In particular, China’s vote may be an attempt to block states that might seek to promote the “ATT model” as a means of overcoming the gridlock in the Conference on Disarmament, where the consensus rule has prevented agreement on a program of work since 1996.

Assessing what China has to gain or lose by signing and ratifying the ATT is made more complicated by the differing interests within China. According to a recent analysis, China was the fifth-largest arms exporter for the period 2008-2012.[6] In some respects, China has garnered a reputation of being a supplier of last resort for states that either cannot afford arms produced elsewhere or are deemed too much of a risk with regard to potential misuse or diversion. If China views the implementation of the ATT as a potential threat to these transfers, it might choose not to sign and ratify the treaty.

Chinese arms companies are seeking to produce and potentially export more-sophisticated systems. These companies also have interests in civilian areas that would benefit from collaboration with entities based in Europe and North America. In both areas, building a reputation as a more responsible arms exporter could be beneficial. In addition, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to be increasingly interested in countering the negative impressions created by certain Chinese arms exports. This was true in 2008 when China sought to deliver arms and ammunition to Zimbabwe at a time of electoral violence and in 2011 when it was revealed that Chinese company representatives attempted to sell arms to Libya when it was subject to a UN arms embargo. In the latter case, Chinese officials emphasized that the Chinese government was not aware of the discussions and that steps would be taken to tighten controls.[7] Such considerations may argue in favor of a decision to sign and ratify the ATT.

In contrast to China, Russia came to realize only at a very late stage in the process that the ATT was likely to become reality. As a result, Moscow did not engage constructively in the negotiations until it was too late to have a significant impact on the text.

In explaining its abstention, Russia, like China, noted that the treaty text was put to a vote in the General Assembly and stressed the need for a consensus outcome. In contrast to China, however, Russia raised a number of substantive objections to the final text. In particular, Russian officials highlighted the lack of a ban on arms supplies to unauthorized nonstate entities, despite the support for this proposal by many states.[8] Although Russia said it would study the draft treaty, the underlying tone of its statements suggests that it is unlikely to sign the ATT in the near future.

Russian analysts argue that there is no domestic arms lobby that opposes the treaty, but point to a broader feeling that the ATT does not give anything to Russia and could be manipulated to exert diplomatic pressure on Russia regarding its arms exports.[9] This sense of unease was strengthened by the conference participants’ frequent references to Russian arms supplies to Syria as a concrete example of where an ATT would force a state to cut off arms supplies.

Russia already has the technical requirements in place to fulfill many of the obligations contained in the ATT. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Russia to be a responsible arms exporter, signing and ratifying the ATT would demonstrate that this is the case.[10] It would also show that Russia is willing to adhere to evolving global norms on the humanitarian impact of the international arms trade. More substantially, signing and ratifying the ATT would allow Russia to attend the conferences of states-parties and influence the treaty’s development.

The ATT does address the prevention of arms transfers to nonstate actors, with explicit references to terrorists in particular. If Russia would like to be involved in the development of understandings on these issues within the ATT framework, then it needs to sign and ratify the treaty. Attending the meeting of states-parties also would allow Moscow to raise its own concerns with other states’ arms exports. Russia sought to draw attention to arms supplies to Georgia before the August 2008 conflict and frequently complains that its concerns were ignored. The ATT conference of states-parties would provide a key venue to raise these types of concerns in the future.

India gave a strongly worded explanation of its abstention, implying that it had come very close to voting no. This was despite the inclusion in the final text of a clause stipulating that defense cooperation agreements would not be affected by the treaty, which was India’s key demand throughout the negotiations. Like Russia, India raised the issue of the lack of a ban on transfers to unauthorized nonstate actors in explaining its position. India provided little else of substance to explain the intensity of its opposition.

India is not only the world’s largest arms importer, but also aspires to develop its own arms industry and join all four export control regimes—the Nuclear Suppliers Group; the Missile Technology Control Regime; the Australia Group, which “seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons”; and the Wassenaar Arrangement, which promotes transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies as a means of preventing destabilizing accumulations of arms.

For example, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has declared that India aspires to join the Wassenaar Arrangement and presents India as a “like-minded country” with regard to export controls on conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.[11] To become a member of these regimes, however, a state must gain the support of all existing members. It will be very interesting to monitor the reaction of the Wassenaar Arrangement’s participating states, most of whom have been key supporters of the ATT, to Indian hopes to join the regime while remaining outside the ATT. For this reason, India might yet be persuaded to sign and ratify the ATT if it has serious ambitions to join existing export control regimes and demonstrate that it is a like-minded state with regard to export controls.

After Entry Into Force

Once 50 states have signed and ratified the ATT and the treaty has entered into force, a new set of challenges will emerge. First, it will be necessary to reconcile ATT reporting requirements with existing reporting requirements under other instruments in the field of arms transfers and arms transfer controls. For example, the ATT says that the required annual reports on arms imports and exports may contain the same information as states’ required submissions under the UN Register of Conventional Arms. There have been calls for merging the ATT reporting mechanism with the UN Register or even replacing the UN Register with an ATT reporting mechanism.

Neither of these options is realistic. Only states that have signed and ratified the ATT will be obliged to submit reports to the ATT Secretariat, while all UN member states are called to provide information for the UN Register. Further, the scope of the two instruments does not match. States are currently invited to submit information for the UN Register on military holdings, defense white papers, and procurement from national production, none of which are covered by the ATT. At the same time, although small arms and light weapons are included in the scope of the ATT, they are not included in the current scope of the UN Register proper. There are high hopes that the group of governmental experts currently reviewing the operation and development of the UN Register will expand the register’s scope to include small arms and light weapons as an eighth category, but this is not guaranteed.

A second issue that will need to be confronted once the ATT enters into force is the need to provide states with the assistance they require to implement their treaty obligations effectively. The ATT will play an important role in fostering the political will necessary to establish, modernize, and strengthen national transfer control systems and efforts to combat illicit arms trafficking. The treaty envisages that the secretariat will perform a clearinghouse role in international assistance efforts by matching needs and resources. Experience from existing instruments shows that it will need to play an active role in identifying states’ needs and connecting them with providers of assistance.

The 1540 Committee has a clear mandate to act as a clearinghouse to match needs and resources. It provides states with a template for making assistance requests, and the committee of experts actively undertakes informal matchmaking. The committee’s approach appears to have been effective. In September 2011, 37 of the 39 requests for assistance distributed to states, regional and international organizations, and NGOs in November 2010 had been met via bilateral or multilateral programs.[12]

Finally, there will need to be mechanisms to ensure that states-parties live up to their commitments under the ATT. Such commitments include applying the prohibitions and criteria on arms exports and fulfilling reporting obligations. States-parties will play a key role in holding their peers to account, but NGOs, which were crucial in promoting the ATT initiative, clearly will also be central to the process. NGO activities could include monitoring the international arms trade, uncovering illicit arms transfers, highlighting irresponsible arms transfers, and evaluating states’ transfer control systems.

A number of NGOs are already active in each of the areas; their efforts should receive a boost if the ATT enters into force. Whether there will be a need for an ATT Monitor, comparable to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor that has proven so effective at overseeing implementation of the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, remains to be seen.

In contrast to these two conventions, which prohibit the transfer of landmines and cluster munitions, the ATT outlines a limited range of circumstances under which transfers shall not be authorized. The ATT’s lack of provisions for monitoring actual transfers or mechanisms for assessing whether particular transfers are carried out in accordance with the letter and spirit of the treaty means that this is an area in which NGOs can make a considerable contribution. The need to monitor implementation of the ATT, notably including the results of states-parties’ national export assessments, argues in favor of different NGOs or groups of NGOs monitoring different aspects of ATT implementation.

The adoption of the ATT text in April 2013 was a historic moment for international efforts to regulate the global arms trade. Yet, this was just the start of a new chapter that will require further negotiation among states and further advocacy aimed at convincing states to sign and ratify the treaty.

There are high hopes for the ATT’s impact on peace, conflict prevention, and respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as on increasing transparency in the global arms trade. States will need to undertake considerable technical work to strengthen transfer control systems, in particular with regard to enforcement.

For some states, the ATT will not require significant changes to their legal and administrative arrangements for controlling arms transfers. Therefore, optimists predict that an ATT can enter into force three years from now. It remains to be seen if all of the major arms exporters will be on board when the ATT enters into force. What impact will the ATT have if major exporters and importers do not sign or ratify the ATT? Will it be business as usual for these states, which could include China and Russia?

An ATT with a large number of states-parties will send a powerful signal to those that do not join, but to really prevent conventional arms from reaching states and other entities that are seeking to use them for nefarious ends, all major exporters and importers need to be encouraged to sign the ATT, ratify it, and fulfill their obligations under it.

A Ratification Checklist for the ATT

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) contains a number of obligations for a state-party. The main obligations could form the basis of a checklist, which states could use before ratification to assess their compliance with the treaty or to identify areas in which they require international assistance to fulfill their obligations. These main obligations are

  • establishing and maintaining an effective national control system for the export, import, transit, and transshipment of and brokering activities related to (all defined as “transfers” in the ATT) the eight categories of conventional arms covered by the ATT, as well as exports of related ammunition and of parts and components that are used for assembling conventional arms covered by the treaty (Articles 3, 4, and 5.2);

  • establishing and maintaining a national control list (Article 5.3) and making it available to other states-parties (Article 5.4);

  • designating competent national authorities responsible for maintaining this system (Article 5.5);

  • designating at least one national contact point responsible for exchanging information related to the implementation of the ATT (Article 5.6);

  • prohibiting transfers of conventional arms, ammunition, or parts and components for the eight categories of conventional arms covered by the ATT that would violate obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter or international agreements relating to the transfer or illicit trafficking of conventional arms or where there is knowledge that the items will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, or other war crimes (Article 6);

  • reviewing applications for exports of the eight categories of conventional arms covered by the treaty and conducting a national export assessment on the risk that the exported arms could have “negative consequences” for peace, security, and human rights, denying an arms export if the assessment determines that there is an overriding risk that the exported arms will be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law or offenses under international conventions or protocols relating to terrorism or international organized crime and taking into account the risk of the exported arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children (Article 7);

  • taking measures to regulate conventional arms imports (Article 8);

  • when importing conventional arms, providing information to assist the exporting state-party in conducting its national export assessment, including by providing documentation on the end use or end user (Article 8);

  • taking measures, where necessary and feasible, to regulate the transit and transshipment of conventional arms (Article 9);

  • taking measures to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction (Article 10);

  • taking measures, including risk assessments, mitigation measures, cooperation, and information sharing, to prevent the diversion of conventional arms to the illicit market or for unauthorized end use and end users (Article 11);

  • maintaining national records for each export authorization or delivery of conventional arms for at least 10 years (Article 12);

  • providing annual reports to the secretariat on export and import authorizations or deliveries of conventional arms to be distributed to states-parties (Article 13);

  • taking appropriate measures to enforce national laws and regulations to implement the treaty (Article 14); and
  • cooperating with other states-parties in order to implement the ATT effectively (Article 15).

Paul Holtom is director of the arms transfers program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Mark Bromley is a senior researcher in the same program.


1. The original vote in the UN General Assembly on April 2 recorded 154 states in favor, three states opposed, and 23 abstaining. Angola wanted to change from abstention to a vote in favor of the treaty, and Cape Verde wished to vote for the resolution rather than being marked as not present. Jeff Abramson, “Special Report: UN General Assembly Adopts Arms Trade Treaty in Overwhelming Vote,” Arms Control Today, May 2013.

2. UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004.

3. Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley, “Implementing an Arms Trade Treaty: Mapping Assistance to Strengthen Arms Transfer Controls,” SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security, No. 2012/2 (July 2012), http://books.sipri.org/files/insight/SIPRIInsight1202.pdf.

4. Sibylle Bauer, “Arms Trade Control Capacity Building: Lessons Learned From Dual-Use Trade Controls,” SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security, No. 2013/2 (March 2012), http://books.sipri.org/files/insight/SIPRIInsight1302.pdf.

5. Statement by China at the Second Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, February 28, 2011, http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/ATTPrepCom/Documents/Statements-MS/PrepCom2/20110228/20110228China-C.pdf (in Chinese).

6. Paul Holtom et al., “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2012,” SIPRI Fact Sheet, March 2013, http://books.sipri.org/files/FS/SIPRIFS1303.pdf.

7. Chris Stephen and Caroline Alexander, “Libya Leaders Say China Relationship Will Suffer If Arms Sold to Qaddafi,” Bloomberg, September 6, 2011.

8. “Russia Warns That It May Not Sign Landmark UN Arms Treaty,” The Moscow Times, April 4, 2013.

9. “Russia’s Special Opinion on the Arms Trade Treaty,” Valdai Club, April 17, 2013, http://valdaiclub.com/defense/57540.html.

10. Official Site of the President of Russia, “Meeting of the Commission for Military Technology Cooperation With Foreign States,” October 17, 2012, http://eng.state.kremlin.ru/news/4531/print.

11. Indian Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, “Keynote Address by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai at the Ministry of External Affairs, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) National Export Control Seminar,” April 18, 2012, http://idsa.in/keyspeeches/AddressbyForeignSecretaryShriRanjanMathai.

12. UN Security Council, “Letter Dated 12 September 2011 From the Chair of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004) Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/2011/579, September 14, 2011 (1540 Committee Report).

To maximize the reach and impact of the Arms Trade Treaty, states should take steps to make sure it enters into force as soon as possible and to bring in states that currently are skeptical.

NRC Nixes Bid for Proliferation Reviews

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last month rejected a petition from the American Physical Society (APS) that would have required a “nuclear proliferation assessment” from applicants seeking a license to use new technologies for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

In documents supporting the decision, which the agency released May 31, the NRC commissioners largely endorsed an analysis by the NRC staff rebutting the claim the APS made in a November 2010 petition that the current NRC licensing process does not adequately take proliferation concerns into account. The staff analysis also argued that “[a]n assessment based solely on information available to a commercial entity would be of little value to the NRC in assessing the proliferation risks associated with licensing a particular facility.”

But, drawing primarily from comments by Chairman Allison Macfarlane and Commissioner William Magwood, the five-member commission said the staff “should periodically review our regulations and guidance to ensure that our requirements are robust enough to meet new proliferation challenges involved in building and operating enrichment or reprocessing facilities that use technologies the NRC has not previously licensed.”

In her comments explaining her vote, Macfarlane said that the current system is not “broken or deficient,” but rather “robust and strong” because of the “tapestry of protection” provided by NRC regulations on physical security, information security, material control and accounting, and export control. Also, she said, although the NRC has “an important role in preventing proliferation,” other federal agencies “are on the frontlines.”

Yet, she called for “a more comprehensive strategy for assessing the proliferation risks posed by technologies that we are asked to license” and regular reassessments of “the continually changing nature of the [proliferation] threat.”

In a May 31 press release, the APS called the NRC decision “unfortunate,” but urged companies to conduct independent assessments of technologies that could exacerbate proliferation risks because a covert proliferator could use such technologies to build facilities that are small and difficult to detect.

In its petition, the APS specifically mentioned laser isotope separation, a method of uranium enrichment. The group filed its petition after GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy applied for a license to build and operate an enrichment plant in North Carolina using that technology. The NRC granted the license last September.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last month rejected a petition from the American Physical Society (APS) that would have required a “nuclear proliferation assessment” from applicants seeking a license to use new technologies for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

U.S., Canada Boycott Disarmament Forum

Kelsey Davenport

Citing Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to end certain nuclear activities, U.S. and Canadian officials announced last month that the heads of their delegations at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) would be boycotting the body while Iran presides over it from May 26 to June 23.

Presidency of the CD rotates alphabetically among the 65 member states. The position is largely ceremonial because the CD has failed to reach consensus on a program of work for the past 15 years. (See ACT, December 2012.)

In a May 13 press release, Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said that Iran’s presidency of the disarmament forum is “highly inappropriate” and the United States would not be represented at the ambassadorial level during Iran’s term. She said the United States believes that any country under UN sanctions for weapons proliferation should be “barred from any formal or ceremonial positions in UN bodies.”

The following day, Rick Roth, spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, said Canada would join the U.S. boycott. In his statement, Roth said Iran is “working directly against disarmament goals” and the principles of the CD.

A spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations defended Iran’s presidency of the forum in a May 14 statement. Alireza Miryousefi said that it is Iran’s right under the “established practice and rules of procedure” to chair the CD.

Canada boycotted the CD in 2011 for the four weeks that North Korea presided over the forum, saying that Pyongyang’s noncompliance with its disarmament obligations undermined the work of the body. The United States did not join the Canadian boycott.

Citing Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to end certain nuclear activities, U.S. and Canadian officials announced last month that the heads of their delegations at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) would be boycotting the body while Iran presides over it from May 26 to June 23.

Missileers Decertified After Inspection

Marcus Taylor

The U.S. Air Force acknowledged last month that 17 officers responsible for operating U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were decertified and relieved of their duties in April for poor performance during an inspection.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing May 9, Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, acknowledged the poor performance of the unit, but defended the Air Force’s response to the inspection and reaffirmed his confidence in the unit.

Kehler’s testimony came a day after the Associated Press reported on the disciplinary actions.

In a May 8 statement, the Air Force Global Strike Command said the action marked the largest decertification of missile launch officers in Air Force history.

The officers, from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, were responsible for operating 150 Minuteman III ICBMs, constituting one-third of the U.S. ground-based nuclear force.

After the command’s inspector general evaluated the missile wing in mid-March, the Air Force called the inspection a “success” in a March 18 press release. Overall, the unit performed well in most categories in which it was assessed, but received a grade of “marginal” on its core mission, the launch procedures associated with the Minuteman III missiles, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said at a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing May 9.

During the hearing before the armed services panel, Kehler said it is “unusual” for a missile wing to be graded “marginal” in that area. He added that “marginal” is a passing grade, indicating that the job performance “meets the minimum standards for getting the job done, but it is not the level [wing leadership] would expect.”

The AP story cited an e-mail from Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, sent to the launch officers informing them of their poor performance. According to the AP, the e-mail “describes a culture of indifference, with at least one intentional violation of missile safety rules.” The missile control officers were placed in a retraining program in April, the AP said.

At the hearing, Kehler said that the unit’s less-than-satisfactory grade and Folds’ response to the inspection are “a product of the increased scrutiny and the increased diligence that is going into these inspections, and the responses to them.” He also said that, despite the unit’s performance in the inspection, “I remain confident in that unit’s ability to perform its mission.”

The 17 officers are expected to return to duty in a few months after completing the retraining program, according to the Global Strike Command.

The U.S. Air Force acknowledged last month that 17 officers responsible for operating U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were decertified and relieved of their duties in April for poor performance during an inspection.

In Memoriam: George Bunn (1925-2013)

Roland Timerbaev

With the passing on April 21 of George Bunn, a U.S. arms control negotiator and legal scholar, the world has lost an indefatigable activist in the struggle to save the world from nuclear disaster.

Bunn joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, going to sea at the very end of the war. He was convinced that the atomic bomb saved his life, yet he devoted most of the rest of his life to the effort to bring the terrifying power of nuclear weapons under international control.

Bunn was pursuing a graduate degree in physics at the University of Wisconsin when his father, a lawyer at the Department of State, showed him a copy of the 1946 Acheson-Lilienthal report on the control of nuclear arms. This led him to pursue a law degree at Columbia University to be able to work on arms control negotiations.

As Bunn told the Stanford Report in June 2004, “The whole point was not to practice law but to control nuclear weapons. I got involved in nuclear arms control because I perceived that my life was saved by the bomb.” After law school, he worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and the law firm now known as Arnold and Porter.

Bunn became one of the most prominent and influential figures in the early days of nuclear arms control. During the Kennedy administration, he drafted the legislation that created the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and became the agency’s first general counsel.

At ACDA from 1964 to 1968, he was a key advocate for and negotiator of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which has become the foundation for global efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and pave the way for building a world free of nuclear weapons.

I first met him in the mid-1960s, when our respective governments chose us to be the day-to-day negotiators of the NPT. Fortunately, we did not turn into “opposite numbers” representing two rival “superpowers” of the Cold War era, which was typical for that time. Very soon, we realized we were like-minded people. We deeply believed in the vital need to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we did our utmost to achieve that goal. This was the inherent basis of our close personal friendship that lasted for more than 50 years.

This common understanding and deep mutual trust between the two main negotiating parties—the United States and the Soviet Union—helped to overcome the innumerable problems that we encountered during NPT negotiations. Bunn and his ACDA colleagues were essential to securing agreement on language clearly banning the transfer of nuclear weapons, which was for a time in question because of the interest of some parties in a NATO multilateral nuclear force. One of the other major stumbling blocks was reaching agreement on the scope of international inspections to ensure the reliable execution of the treaty. The key issue was whether the inspections would be implemented on a universal basis by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or by regional bodies such as Euratom. The Europeans, backed by the United States, wanted to stick with only Euratom inspections, while the Soviet Union was opposed to having Germany and other NATO allies inspecting one another.

After many unsuccessful attempts to solve this issue, in the summer of 1967, we decided to make yet another try during a hike in the mountains above Lake Geneva. As Bunn wrote in his engaging 1992 book, Arms Control by Committee: Managing Negotiations With the Russians, the Soviet participants, Vladimir Shustov and I, suggested a compromise: autonomous bodies may negotiate safeguards agreements with the IAEA on the condition that the overall responsibility for verification would remain with the agency.

Although originally instructed not to compromise on the verification provisions, Bunn and his colleague, Culver Gleysteen, felt that the risk was worth the reward: a mutually acceptable compromise with their Soviet counterparts. The creative process of finding the middle-ground formula began on a hike in the mountains, continued as we wrote down our agreed ideas on the text while riding the cable car back down, and eventually brought about results endorsed by both sides.

The compromise opened the way for the IAEA to inspect nuclear facilities on the basis of universality. That spirit of compromise helped to finalize the entire treaty in a relatively short period of time and secure its support by a vast majority of states.

In 1968, Bunn was named U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, the year the NPT was opened for signature. As Bunn wrote 35 years later in the December 2003 issue of Arms Control Today, “The NPT nonproliferation norm…and the international inspections the NPT produced deserve significant credit for the fact that the world does not now have 30 or more countries with nuclear weapons.”

After his government service, Bunn moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he taught law and became dean of the law school at the University of Wisconsin. He greatly expanded the law school, established its first clinical program, and helped found the first interdisciplinary program in energy and the environment at the university. That energy and environment program now has a fellowship established in his honor.

In the 1980s, Bunn returned to arms control work, teaching first at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and later at Stanford University, where he spent the final part of his career at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and mentored the next generation of arms control students, scholars, and practitioners.

Through his published essays, articles, and books, as well as his frequent travels, Bunn continued to play a major role in debates over nuclear arms reductions, a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing, a treaty to ban further production of nuclear materials for weapons, and the security of nuclear materials and facilities, among other topics.

Bunn was in high demand as an expert on arms control. He traveled extensively to speak before large audiences and help establish nongovernmental organizations devoted to arms control. In the early 1990s, he and I were invited to The Hague to provide advice for the newly established Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

His creative thinking and persistence helped advance the goals and objectives of the NPT. In the lead-up to the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, Bunn argued in Arms Control Today and elsewhere that “the indefinite and unconditional extension of the NPT is clearly the most effective way of validating and preserving an international norm of non-proliferation.” He and I collaborated on an analysis of the legal options available to the parties at the 1995 conference, and on a number of other papers interpreting aspects of the NPT.

Following the 1998 nuclear test explosions by India and Pakistan, Bunn made the case that the NPT and UN Security Council resolutions make it clear that “not only does the non-proliferation/no-testing norm apply to India and Pakistan, but that the no-testing norm should apply to the five nuclear-weapon states even though the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] has not yet formally entered into force.” After the U.S. Senate rejected the CTBT in 1999, Bunn continued to provide ideas and insights on how supporters of the CTBT can accelerate its entry into force and overcome the 1999 setback to the nonproliferation and disarmament regime.

Well before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Bunn was focusing attention on the importance of strengthening the physical protection and security of nuclear materials and nuclear facilities against theft and terrorist attack. As far back as 1986, he published a paper that called for a new effort to strengthen the global regime for nuclear security, a topic to which he returned again and again in the years after the September 11 attacks. Next month, IAEA member states will meet in Vienna to address that topic.

To mark Bunn’s retirement in 2004, Stanford University held a forum to recognize his career accomplishments. His friend and frequent co-author, John Rhinelander, who was one of the negotiators of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement (SALT I), said that Bunn “is the single-greatest resource we have in terms of American lawyers in arms control.”

In 2009, Bunn received a lifetime achievement award from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies for his work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote global understanding of and support for nuclear arms control and disarmament.

Until his last days, George Bunn deeply felt the overpowering necessity of a global effort to bring about far-reaching nuclear arms control leading to the world free of nuclear weapons. He was a believer in the idea that negotiated agreements, common norms, and cooperative approaches are essential to the security of all. He will be affectionately remembered and missed by his friends, colleagues, students, and negotiating partners the world over.

Roland Timerbaev spent more than 40 years as a Soviet and Russian diplomat. He participated in the drafting of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and documents establishing the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards system. He currently is a member of the advisory board of the Russian Center for Policy Studies in Moscow.

Letter to the Editor: Export Control Reform Tightens U.S. Arms Embargoes

Rose E. Gottemoeller and Eric L. Hirschhorn

We would like to address a number of concerns raised by Brittany Benowitz and Barry Kellman (“Rethink Plans to Loosen U.S. Controls on Arms Exports,” April 2013).

First, the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s Export Control Reform Initiative is rebuilding the nation’s control lists so that the administration can prioritize its controls. This prioritization does not mean that the administration is lowering its standards for ensuring that export controls prevent human rights abuses or that it is weakening U.S. arms embargoes. A careful reading of how the initiative is prioritizing controls will show that the new system will help the U.S. government do a better job of safeguarding vital technologies and will tighten U.S. arms embargoes.

Second, export control reform is a national security initiative and is unrelated to the National Export Initiative that promotes exports. At its heart, the national security review for the export control initiative was conducted by experts across the U.S. government to fundamentally reform the current system. Export control reform is intended to enhance U.S. national security and foreign policy by focusing resources on the threats that matter most, increasing interoperability with allies and partners by ensuring more timely access to U.S. defense articles during conflicts, and strengthening the U.S. defense industrial base by reducing incentives for foreign manufacturers to avoid or even eliminate their use of U.S. parts and components.

Third, the administration has not put forward any proposal to ease restrictions on the export of small arms. It is considering some consolidation of duplicative requirements that exist today, but this consolidation would not remove the requirement for an export license, regardless of which agency has licensing jurisdiction. Possible consolidation into one set of requirements is a commonsense approach that would make more efficient use of government resources and would ensure greater consistency and visibility for all agencies involved in the licensing and enforcement process. Consolidation also would make it easier for exporters to comply with the rules. As has been the case for all changes to the existing system proposed to date, any proposed changes to current export rules governing small arms will be published for public comment. The administration will continue to make all planned and actual changes available from a single webpage at www.export.gov/ecr/.

Brittany Benowitz and Barry Kellman respond:

The Obama administration’s efforts to enhance coordination of export controls and to focus on the most sensitive equipment deserve commendation. Our point of divergence is whether munitions transferred from State Department to Commerce Department control will be subject to the human rights and counterterrorism restrictions of the Foreign Assistance Act, including so-called Leahy vetting that prohibits the provision of munitions to foreign security forces that engage in human rights abuses. If not, there will continue to be serious cause for concern that shifting licensing authority to the Commerce Department will inadvertently lead to an increase in exports of atrocity-enabling military equipment to irresponsible actors.

    Fourth, unlike the State Department, the Commerce Department has a law enforcement branch with more than 100 special agents dedicated exclusively to criminal and administrative enforcement of export control violations, with all the requisite statutory law enforcement authorities. This special Commerce Department unit is in addition to the continued criminal enforcement of State and Commerce department regulations by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This means that any items moved to Commerce Department jurisdiction actually will be subject to more law enforcement oversight.

    Finally, the State Department’s ability to review proposed defense exports for potential human rights concerns under export control systems that it and the Commerce Department administer will not be diminished as a result of export control reform. The administration will continue to use its long-established criteria for assessing the potential risks to international stability and human rights arising from proposed exports of munitions and dual-use items.

    Export control reform will bolster, not diminish, the U.S. government’s ability to administer an effective export control system to address national security and foreign policy challenges, including human rights, in the 21st century.

    Rose E. Gottemoeller is acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Eric L. Hirschhorn is undersecretary of commerce for industry and security.


    Rose E. Gottemoeller and Eric L. Hirschhorn say that the Obama administration’s planned export control reforms will help the U.S. government do a better job of safeguarding vital technologies and will not diminish its ability to prevent human rights abuses.


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