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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
January/February 2014
Edition Date: 
Friday, January 10, 2014
Cover Image: 

New Iran Sanctions Bill Introduced

Kelsey Davenport

A bipartisan group of 27 senators on Dec. 19 introduced legislation that would impose further sanctions on Iran, despite warnings by the Obama administration that additional sanctions will harm ongoing negotiations with Tehran over its controversial nuclear program and derail an interim agreement reached on Nov 24.

In a statement announcing the introduction of the bill, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the co-authors of the legislation, said that the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 proposes “prospective sanctions” if Iran violates the terms of the Nov. 24 initial deal or if the negotiators “fail to reach a final agreement.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a Dec. 19 press briefing that the administration has made it “very clear” to Congress that “it is not the time” to pass any additional sanctions and that such a move could “proactively undermine American diplomacy.” He said enacting the legislation is unnecessary because if Iran does not comply with the first-phase agreement, the administration could work with Congress “to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions.”

Iran and six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have been negotiating over Tehran’s nuclear program for more than a decade. Iran maintains that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned that Iran may choose to pursue nuclear weapons.

On Nov. 24, Iran and the six countries, or P5+1, reached an interim deal, which will limit Iran’s nuclear activities over six months in exchange for relief from some sanctions and a commitment that no new sanctions will be imposed. (See ACT, December 2013.) This deal will go into effect when the negotiators work out the details of the joint committee that will monitor implementation of the agreement (see). The six-month time period can be extended if the two sides agree to an extension.

Iranian Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Dec. 7 interview with Time magazine that the “deal is dead” if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the six-month time frame of the first-phase agreement.

A summary of the bill released on Dec. 19 by the sponsors says that the legislation “does not violate” the agreement because the sanctions detailed in the legislation “would only be imposed if Iran violates the interim agreement” or the negotiators fail to reach a comprehensive deal.

But Carney said that the administration is concerned about how Iran and the international community would react to new sanctions “no matter how they’re structured.”

The bill would allow the president to suspend the sanctions imposed by the legislation for six months if he certifies to Congress every 30 days that Iran is complying with the Nov. 24 interim agreement. In addition, the president must certify that Iran has not supported or financed any acts of terrorism against the United States or tested a ballistic missile with a range greater than 500 kilometers.

These measures are not included in the steps that Iran must take as part of the agreement.

A Senate staffer familiar with the legislation told Arms Control Today in a Dec. 19 interview that although some of the provisions in the legislation may be dropped in the course of negotiations on a final bill, the legislation “may have the support” to override a presidential veto. That requires a two-thirds majority of each chamber of Congress.

Proposed Sanctions

If passed into law, the legislation would require countries importing oil from Iran to reduce their imports by 30 percent within the first year and to near zero within two years. In a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a European official said the legislation “is a concern because it threatens international support for the sanctions.” He said that it “may not be feasible” for all countries to meet the oil import limitations required under the legislation, which could “erode support” for U.S. sanctions.

Under current law, the president can waive the sanctions on countries that continue to import Iranian oil after he has certified that they have “significantly reduced” their purchases from Iran. Waivers are granted for six-month periods, but can be renewed. (See ACT, January/February 2012.) On Nov. 29, the State Department renewed waivers for several countries that continue to import oil from Iran, including China, India, South Korea, and Turkey.

The European official said that the European Union has “done its part” to demonstrate its commitment to the deal and that the draft legislation sends a signal that the United States cannot “fulfill its part of the agreement.”

In a Dec. 16 statement following a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the council “made a commitment to refrain from additional sanctions for the [six-month] implementation period.” Ashton, who leads the P5+1 negotiating team, said that parties should “refrain from actions that could delay” implementation of the Nov. 24 agreement.

If adopted, the legislation would expand business and financial sanctions on Iran’s mining and construction sectors. It also would block access to foreign assets by individuals who enable Iran to evade sanctions. This would also apply to companies that work in Iran or with its government to bypass sanctions. The bill also would increase the number of senior officials, including those working in the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the Ministry of Defense, and the Office of the Supreme Leader, who would be denied access to assets outside of Iran.

Senate Opposition

Prior to the introduction of the bill, which had 48 co-sponsors as of Jan. 6, a group of 10 senators sent a letter to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urging that no new sanctions be imposed on Iran. The Dec. 18 letter said that, during negotiations, “new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.” All 10 senators that signed the letter are committee chairmen, including Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who heads the banking committee.

During a Dec. 12 hearing on Iran by that committee, Johnson said that the panel, which often has jurisdiction over sanctions bills, would not move forward on new sanctions legislation against Iran because it would be “counterproductive” and could “shatter Western unity” on the nuclear issue. Johnson said that he and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the banking committee, had crafted legislation to be introduced if Iran does not comply with the interim agreement or if negotiations to reach a comprehensive agreement fail.

The letter also called for vigorous implementation of existing sanctions and periodic updates from the administration on the implementation of the Nov. 24 plan. If negotiations fail or Iran is not complying with its obligations under that agreement, new sanctions should be passed, the letter said.

Final Agreement

The new sanctions bill sets conditions for the comprehensive deal that the P5+1 is to negotiate with Iran. The Nov. 24 agreement sets out the basic parameters for that deal, including a “mutually defined” Iranian uranium-enrichment program and the lifting of all U.S. and UN nuclear-related sanctions.

Yet, the bill will allow the president to suspend the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran for only one year once a comprehensive deal is reached. The president can continue suspending the sanctions for one-year periods if Iran continues complying with the comprehensive deal. Under the bill, the deal must include dismantlement of Iran’s uranium-enrichment capabilities and its heavy-water reactor. Additional verification measures, including continuous on-site inspections, would also be required.

The European official said this is a “non-starter” for negotiating the comprehensive agreement” because it “violates the parameters laid down on Nov. 24.”

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would impose further sanctions on Iran, an approach opposed by the Obama administration.

U.S. Policy on Nuclear Pacts Detailed

Daniel Horner

Marking the apparent end of a three-year internal review, the Obama administration in December outlined its policy on negotiating agreements for nuclear cooperation, with a senior administration official describing it as a “principled approach, but also pragmatic and practical.”

The official, speaking at a Dec. 12 event, was referring in particular to the U.S. strategy for preventing the spread of technologies for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Those technologies are considered sensitive because they can be used to produce nuclear explosive material. The central question in the review was how hard the United States should press its potential nuclear trade partners to forgo enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Some lawmakers disagree with the administration’s approach and are introducing legislation that would give countries a strong push to forgo these activities.

In recent interviews, current and former administration officials generally stressed the consistency of the current policy with earlier versions. In a Dec. 10 interview, a State Department official said the administration was “restating long-standing policy” with some additional “nuance.”

The administration did not release a written explanation of the policy in conjunction with the Dec. 12 event. The most detailed written description of the policy that is publicly available appears to be a letter sent a month earlier by Julia Frifield, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. In a Nov. 12 letter to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Frifield said the United States “employs a range of measures—both multilateral and bilateral—to help minimize the spread of [enrichment and reprocessing] facilities around the world.” She was responding to an Oct. 28 letter from Corker to Secretary of State John Kerry in which the senator criticized the administration policy as “inconsistent and confusing, potentially compromising” U.S. nonproliferation policies and goals.

In her response, Frifield said the administration’s approach “allows for flexibility in structuring legal and political commitments, while meeting the requirements of U.S. law and maintaining our principled stance” on enrichment and reprocessing activities.

The distinction between legal and political commitments has been a key part of the debate. In sending to Congress the 2009 nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), President Barack Obama highlighted the “legally binding obligation” contained in Article 7 of the pact, which says that the UAE “shall not possess sensitive nuclear facilities within its territory or otherwise engage in activities within its territory for, or relating to, the enrichment or reprocessing of material.” (See ACT, June 2009.)

Some nonproliferation advocates in Congress and elsewhere have said other new U.S. cooperation agreements should follow that model. But in the Dec. 10 interview, the State Department official described the UAE agreement as “something of an aberration” and said it would be “unrealistic” to think that the United States could reach such an agreement with “all other countries.” The UAE made the commitment not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing activities in part as a result of a “political calculation” stemming from its desire to conclude an agreement with the United States and make sure that Congress did not reject the pact, he said. The UAE lies across the Persian Gulf from Iran, which has been pursuing a controversial nuclear program that includes uranium enrichment.

Drawing Distinctions

Vietnam, by contrast, did not have to accept a legally binding obligation when the Obama administration initialed a nuclear cooperation agreement in October. (See ACT, November 2013.) The text of the agreement has not been made public, but administration officials have described the pact as containing a Vietnamese political commitment to refrain from pursuing sensitive nuclear activities. In the letter to Corker and elsewhere, the administration has said this commitment is sufficient to satisfy its nonproliferation policy because of the combination of a number of factors, including Vietnam’s nonproliferation record, its pledge to rely on the international nuclear fuel market to meet its fuel needs, and its lack of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.

In his letter, Corker cited the Vietnam agreement as not requiring Hanoi to “forswear” such capabilities. In contrast, Corker said, “My staff was recently assured by a State Department official that any potential nuclear cooperation agreement with Jordan would require a legally-binding commitment by the Jordanians not to pursue” enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Frifield did not address the Jordan agreement in her letter, and other administration officials have declined to comment on Corker’s description, saying the department does not comment on ongoing negotiations. In the Dec. 10 interview, the State Department official did not comment on the status of the Jordan talks, but said that an indigenous enrichment or reprocessing effort “makes absolutely no sense” for Jordan.

In his May 2009 message to Congress on the UAE agreement, Obama said the pact “has the potential to serve as a model for other countries in the region that wish to pursue responsible nuclear energy development.” It has not been clear if the administration intended to apply the model specifically to the Middle East or to other regions as well.

The State Department official said the U.S. determination of what is required in a cooperation pact with another country takes into account the “totality of [the country’s] nonproliferation credentials” and includes a “full intelligence assessment.” A country’s “regional context” could “weigh heavily” in the analysis, as there could be a “contagion” effect from pursuing sensitive nuclear activities, particularly in a “volatile” region, he said.

Legislation Introduced

Meanwhile, on Dec. 12, two senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), introduced legislation that would “provide greater Congressional oversight of nuclear agreements with foreign countries and protect against the threat of nuclear proliferation,” according to their Dec. 13 press release.

The bill would modify the congressional review process for nuclear cooperation agreements, in part by making a country’s willingness to renounce enrichment and reprocessing activities a key factor in that process. Under current U.S. law, most nuclear cooperation agreements can enter into force without a congressional vote approving them if they lie before Congress for 90 days of so-called continuous session without Congress blocking them.

To qualify for that approach, an agreement must include nine specific nonproliferation conditions, including comprehensive international safeguards, adequate physical security, and the U.S. right of “prior approval” of enrichment or reprocessing of U.S.-origin nuclear material by the recipient country. Agreements that do not meet all those conditions require a vote of approval in both chambers of Congress.

Under the bill introduced by Ros-Lehtinen and Sherman, cooperation pacts would have to go through the more difficult vote-of-approval process unless the potential U.S. nuclear trade partner makes a “legally binding” commitment that it will not pursue enrichment or reprocessing activities and meets a number of other new nonproliferation criteria.

At a Dec. 11 event organized by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said he would introduce a Senate version of the bill.

The bill, H.R. 3766, is a slightly modified version of legislation introduced in 2011, H.R. 1280. (See ACT, May 2011.) That bill was approved by the House foreign affairs panel, but stalled after that.

In a Dec. 18 interview, NPEC Executive Director Henry Sokolski said the bill introduced by Ros-Lehtinen and Sherman would establish a process of “due diligence.” By giving Congress a stronger hand in reviewing nuclear cooperation agreements, lawmakers would be reclaiming authority that Congress had previously “delegated” to the executive branch, said Sokolski, a former U.S. nonproliferation official.

But in a Dec. 17 interview, Stephen Rademaker, also a former U.S. nonproliferation official, emphasized that the bill would make it more difficult for cooperation agreements that do not meet the new nonproliferation criteria to pass muster with Congress. By “rigid insistence” on renunciation of enrichment and reprocessing activities, the approach that the bill takes would drive countries with nascent nuclear power programs to seek nuclear supplies from countries that have less-rigorous nonproliferation standards than the United States does, said Rademaker, now a principal with the Podesta Group, a lobbying and public relations firm, and a consultant to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear industry.

Although a global norm against sensitive nuclear activities is “a worthy objective,” U.S. policymakers also have to think about the nonproliferation implications of not signing nuclear cooperation agreements with a country where renunciation of enrichment and reprocessing activities proves “unachievable,” Rademaker said. That is especially true if the country in question seems determined to proceed with its nuclear program, he said.

Rademaker also argued that even if a country’s commitment to refrain from enrichment and reprocessing activities is legally binding, it is not a “really effective bar.” A violation of such a commitment would allow the United States to cut off nuclear cooperation, but it would not have a legal effect on the country’s cooperation with other suppliers, and “it’s not like we can take them to the World Court,” Rademaker said.

U.S. officials say they will continue to use civilian nuclear cooperation agreements as a tool to restrict the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies through an approach that combines principle with pragmatism.

Russia Links Missile Defense, Iran Deal

Tom Z. Collina

The recent deal between six world powers and Iran to temporarily freeze Tehran’s nuclear program would eventually remove the main rationale for NATO’s missile defense plans, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in December.

“Implementation of the Geneva agreement on Iran will remove the cause for construction of a missile shield in Europe,” Lavrov told a Dec. 19 news conference in Poland, where U.S. missile interceptors are planned to be installed by 2018. Lavrov was referring to an interim agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 by Iran and six global powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that are seeking to ensure Tehran does not develop nuclear weapons. The agreement adds a new twist to long-standing Russian arguments against U.S. and NATO plans to field missile defenses in central Europe.

In his comments, Lavrov was highlighting the U.S. contention that a Europe-based missile defense system was needed to counter the potential threat to Europe of a missile attack from Iran. U.S. President Barack Obama said in Prague in 2009, “If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”

But current and former U.S. officials say that it would be premature to assume the Iran deal will succeed and that even if it does, that alone would not remove the threat from Iran. According to a Dec. 16 press statement by Defense Department spokesman Carl Woog, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, during a video teleconference earlier that day that the Iran deal does not obviate the need for the United States and its NATO allies to continue their current approach to missile defense in Europe. Hagel told Shoygu said that U.S. and NATO missile defense efforts do not threaten Russia, and he urged Moscow to continue consultations with Washington on missile defense cooperation, Woog said in the statement.

Ivo Daalder, U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, said in a Dec. 18 interview that the interim agreement starts a promising process but that “the outcome is not inevitable.” Even if the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon were removed, there would still be the threat from Tehran’s missiles, he said, which can reach southern Europe. But if both threats were eliminated, “I would not be surprised to see a new debate on this in NATO,” Daalder said.

In a separate Dec. 18 interview, a senior Republican Senate staffer said that, in the context of U.S. missile defense, Iran will maintain a capability to break out from any future nuclear agreement “faster than we can deploy missile defenses.” He said that existing U.S. plans to field up to 44 interceptors in Alaska and California are “enough for the current Iran situation,” but that if Tehran flight-tests a long-range missile, which it has not done, “that would be an indicator” to start new projects, such as a missile interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 19 that Moscow was considering the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads, in Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea within striking distance of where U.S. missile defenses would be deployed in Poland.

“One of the possible responses [to Western missile defense plans] is to deploy Iskander complexes in Kaliningrad...but I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have not yet made this decision,” Putin said at a press conference, according to RT News.

Putin was contradicting press reports that the Iskanders already were in Kaliningrad, based on a Dec. 16 Russian Defense Ministry statement that “Iskander rocket complexes are indeed standing armed with the rocket and artillery divisions in the Western Military District,” which includes Kaliningrad.

Russia warned two years ago that it would put Iskanders in Kaliningrad if NATO were unable to convince Moscow that its missile defense plans were not a threat to Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, then president and now prime minister, said in November 2011 that the missiles could be placed in the region to “secure the destruction of the European component of the U.S. missile defense system.” (See ACT, January/February 2012.) It is not clear whether the missiles are armed with nuclear or conventional warheads.

Russia has been seeking a legal guarantee that NATO missile interceptors would not be used against Moscow’s nuclear-armed, long-range ballistic missiles. NATO has refused, offering political assurances instead.

The Iskander-M, the version of the missile that may be deployed to Kaliningrad, has a range of up to 400 kilometers and is not banned by any U.S.-Russian treaty. It could potentially target ground-based radars and interceptors deployed at Redzikowo, Poland, a site 250 kilometers from Kaliningrad at which NATO plans to deploy interceptor systems by 2018.

Interceptors are also planned for Romania by 2015. Ship-based interceptors were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea in 2011, along with a radar in Turkey. Last March, the Pentagon canceled U.S. plans to field more-capable interceptors in Poland by 2020.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Nov. 5 in Warsaw that the plan to field the system in Poland by 2018 is “absolutely on target” and noted that officials had recently broken ground on the site in Romania.

In the interview, Daalder said that the possible Russian action is less about missile defense and “all about Poland” because “Russia does not want NATO military capability” in the former Warsaw Pact country. Moscow is sending the message that “the threat to Poland will go up” if interceptors are fielded as planned, he said.

Moscow appears to be much more concerned about U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe than actual interceptor deployments in the United States, which have a greater capability against Russian long-range missiles, Daalder said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program would remove the justification for NATO missile defenses.

Hill to Fix, Not Expand, Missile Defense

Tom Z. Collina

Congress voted in December to drop a controversial proposal to build a new missile defense interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast, agreeing instead to spend more to fix problems with the existing system, which has failed in its last three intercept tests.

The new policy is included in the final $625 billion National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 26. The legislation authorizes raising federal spending on missile defense by $358 million to $9.5 billion for the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30.

The final bill dropped a measure approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which called for spending $140 million on a new missile interceptor site on the East Coast. Instead, the final legislation authorizes $190 million to upgrade the existing Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to counter long-range ballistic missiles. The GMD system is currently operational at one site each in Alaska and California. That system, first deployed in 2004, had its last successful intercept test in 2008, failing twice in 2010 and again last July.

In interviews Dec. 16-17, senior congressional staffers from both parties described the new approach as a bipartisan agreement to upgrade the current system rather than build a new site. Given the problems with the GMD system, Congress has decided to “fix what we’ve got,” said one senior Republican staffer. He said that the administration’s initial budget request to Congress did not include enough money to fix the system’s inadequacies.

The House approved its version of the defense bill June 14 with a requirement that the Defense Department establish an East Coast missile interceptor site by 2018. The Senate version, passed by the Armed Services Committee on June 13, contained no such provision. The bill did not receive a vote by the full Senate.

Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), wrote to the Senate on June 10 that there was no military requirement for an East Coast site. Syring said he would rather invest funds in new sensors that could help the existing system distinguish real targets from fake ones. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

The system’s ability to tell the difference between real and fake targets is critical because an attacker’s warheads would likely come surrounded by debris and decoys. In congressional testimony last May, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, said, “If we can’t discriminate what the real threatening objects are, it doesn’t matter how many ground-based interceptors we have; we won’t be able to hit what needs to be hit.”

Noting that Senate Republicans did not have the votes to mandate an East Coast site, the Republican staffer said that a new site should not be established until the system’s performance can be improved through upgrades to sensors and kill vehicles, the devices that sit on top of interceptor missiles and are supposed to collide with an enemy warhead in space. It is not clear that such upgrades would be achievable by 2018, according to the staffers.

To address Syring’s call for better sensors, the defense act authorizes $30 million as a down payment on the deployment of an additional “long-range discriminating radar” to track missiles launched from North Korea. The new radar would likely be located in Alaska, according to the congressional staffers. The act also says that the secretary of defense should be prepared to field additional sensors near the East Coast by 2019 if a future long-range missile threat emerges from Iran. Unlike North Korea, Tehran has not tested a long-range missile that could reach the United States, although it reportedly sent a monkey into space Dec. 14.

New Radar, Kill Vehicle

In addition to $30 million for the radar, the defense act authorizes $80 million to fix problems that caused the most recent GMD test failure last July, $50 million for better capabilities to distinguish real warheads from fake ones, and $30 million to develop a better kill vehicle. The act allocates $20 million for studying a possible new interceptor site on the East Coast.

Reflecting the MDA’s desire for a more reliable and capable kill vehicle, the act requires the agency to prepare a plan this May to “develop, test, and deploy” an upgraded kill vehicle to be fielded in 2018 or later that can pick out “lethal objects.” This effort is expected to eventually cost up to $150 million per year, according to the Republican staffer.

The Pentagon announced last March that it intends to increase the number of U.S. interceptors from 30 to 44 by 2017, with the additional 14 to be placed at Fort Greely in Alaska. Before that can happen, the interceptor must be successfully tested, according to the Defense Department. The next intercept test is planned for this spring. (See ACT, September 2013.) These additional 14 interceptors have already been purchased, so they would not include the proposed upgrades, the staffers said.

House Provisions Diluted

Like the requirement for an East Coast missile defense site, other aspects of the original House bill were watered down in the final version of the legislation. For example, the House bill would have blocked reductions required by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until the Pentagon submitted an implementation plan, and it said that reductions below the levels specified in New START could be carried out only under a formal treaty approved by Congress. Obama called for such reductions in a speech last June.

In contrast, the compromise bill allows the Pentagon to prepare for New START reductions, which do not have to be completed until 2018. In addition, the bill expresses only the nonbinding “sense of Congress” that further arms reductions “should” be “pursued through a mutually negotiated agreement” with Russia under the president’s “treaty-making power.”

The defense bill language authorizes about $30 billion more than Congress will be allowed to appropriate under the terms of a bipartisan budget agreement approved in December. Appropriators must decide which programs to cut back by Jan. 15, when the current budget agreement expires.

The final version of the defense authorization bill dropped House language calling for an East Coast missile defense site and boosted funding to improve interception technology.

New Draft of Space Code Seen As Stronger

Timothy Farnsworth

A new draft of the European Union’s proposed international code of conduct for space “is a stronger, more useful document than its [June 2012] predecessor,” according to a recent analysis by the Stimson Center.

The new draft, which was released Sept. 16, is the fourth since the EU first proposed a code in December 2008. It places “increased emphasis on international cooperation in space” and expands the section related to information sharing, the Nov. 5 analysis says. The September draft also “places increased emphasis on consultative measures,” calling for annual rather than biennial meetings of states.

Officials from 60 countries met Nov. 20-22 in Bangkok to discuss recent changes to the code at the second round of consultations on the document among government officials.

Analysts contacted by Arms Control Today in December said a fifth draft of the code is likely, taking into consideration discussions from the Bangkok meetings, details of which have not been made public. It appears there will be at least one more round of consultations to discuss another draft, the analysts said.

The goal of the code is to “create a voluntary set of norms of behavior with the aim to reduce the potential for accidents, incidents and conflict” in space, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement at the beginning of the Bangkok meeting.

In a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Victoria Samson, a space expert at the Secure World Foundation in Washington, said she thinks most countries, including some that have argued for a binding treaty, have concluded that they can benefit from a nonbinding document.

Samson said she believes a version of the code could be opened for signature by the end of this year but that the “security aspects of what determines responsible behavior, such as the right to self[-]defense, are still up in the air.” She said the next draft of the code is likely to include more details on some of those contentious security issues and take into consideration discussions from the Bangkok meetings, but that these changes are likely be small.

According to Samson, “the chances are pretty good” that the United States will sign on to the code once the process is complete. In a January 2012 statement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States supported the EU’s effort to draft a code of conduct for space, but said it would not sign on to the 2010 draft. The United States was critical of the EU process for drafting the code at the time, saying more input was needed from emerging spacefaring countries such as Brazil and India. (See ACT, March 2012.)

The EU has been using the consultations to garner broader support from the international community, especially from emerging spacefaring countries. In a Nov. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, cited Ukraine’s announcement of support for the code after the first round of consultations in May 2013 in Kiev as an example of success in that effort.

In his welcoming remarks to the Bangkok meeting, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul emphasized the need for a code of conduct in space. He said the code would “allow interested parties to address issues such as space debris [and] space traffic and share information in a transparent and a timely manner to minimize the risk of space collisions and damage to artificial space objects.” It is “essential” that the process for drafting the code “be firmly based on mutual benefits of all concerned” and on “transparency and voluntary cooperation,” he said. He also highlighted the importance of “patience and close consultations.”

According to Krepon, although some Latin American countries continue to want a binding legal instrument, the biggest questions revolve around whether China, India, and Russia will support or oppose the proposed code. Russia stated its support of the EU initiative during a June 5 meeting of the Conference on Disarmament. China and Russia have proposed their own draft treaty, but it has been the U.S. position not to support this effort. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

After a November meeting in Bangkok, countries are continuing their discussions to iron out the remaining differences over the EU-drafted code of conduct for space activities.

Iran, P5+1 Prepare to Implement Deal

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and a group of six world powers could begin implementing an initial six-month agreement on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program on Jan. 20 if the two sides reach agreement on the remaining issues, Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator told Iranian media Jan. 6.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran and the six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are “making preparations” to begin implementing the agreement on Jan. 20 if there is a “mutual agreement.”

During a separate Jan. 6 briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the parties “just have to finalize some of the details.” The “last step in the process” is for negotiators to go back to their capitals for consultations, she said. The parties are scheduled to meet again Jan. 9-10.

Implementation of the interim agreement would allow the parties to move forward on negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal.

That meeting was the third since Iran and the six countries, known as the P5+1, agreed Nov. 24 on a framework that includes an interim six-month deal to halt Iran’s most sensitive nuclear activities and increase international monitoring of its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.

In the three meetings, Iran and the P5+1 discussed technical details of the November agreement, including the creation of a joint commission to monitor implementation.

The November agreement also lays out the parameters of a comprehensive deal on Tehran’s nuclear program that Iran and the P5+1 will continue negotiating during the implementation of the interim agreement. (See ACT, December 2013.)

In Dec. 12 testimony to the Senate banking committee, Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the discussions on implementing the interim agreement were “to make sure the sequence happens in the order in which we all believe it should.” Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation for the talks, said implementation would begin “in the next few weeks.”

The joint commission also will coordinate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will play a role in the monitoring and verification measures set out in the interim agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran met with the IAEA on Dec. 11 to discuss ongoing implementation of an agreement the two parties reached Nov. 11. They also talked about further steps that Tehran could take to help the agency’s investigations into Iran’s alleged attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Both parties described the meeting as productive.

The Nov. 11 agreement included six initial actions for Iran to take by mid-February that will provide the IAEA with access to two nuclear sites and with information on Iran’s planned nuclear power plants and research reactors.

On Dec. 8, the IAEA was able to visit one of the complexes mentioned in the Nov. 11 agreement, the heavy-water production plant at the Arak complex. The plant, which began operating in 2010, produces heavy water that will be used to operate a reactor Iran is constructing at the site. The plant is not under IAEA safeguards, although Iran did allow the agency to inspect the facility in August 2011.

Under the terms of Iran’s interim agreement with the P5+1, however, Tehran agreed to halt construction of the Arak reactor.

Before beginning the talks Dec. 11, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said that the parties would discuss the date for the IAEA’s inspection of the second facility named in the agreement, the Gchine uranium mine. But there was no announcement on that point.

The Nov. 11 agreement stated that the parties would “strengthen their cooperation and dialogue” to “resolve all present and past issues.” This is understood to include the nuclear activities with possible military dimensions that Iran is alleged to have undertaken.

Although no new commitments were made at the Dec. 11 meeting to address the remaining issues, Tero Varjoranta, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the Department of Safeguards, said that the parties “began to discuss the next practical steps.” Varjoranta, who leads the IAEA negotiating team, said that the agency and Iran “aim to reach an agreement” on these steps at the next meeting.

The two sides are to meet again Jan. 21 in Tehran.

Iran and a group of six world powers could begin implementing an initial six-month agreement on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program as soon as January 20.

IAEA: N. Korean Reactor Likely Restarted

Kelsey Davenport

North Korea probably has restarted a reactor that produces plutonium suitable for weapons, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Independent analysts reached a similar conclusion in September.

In a Nov. 28 statement at the quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Director-General Yukiya Amano said that activities at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site captured on satellite imagery are “consistent with an effort to restart” the reactor. But lack of access makes it impossible to “conclusively determine” that the reactor was restarted, Amano said. North Korea currently does not permit the IAEA to inspect its facilities.

Last April, Pyongyang said it intended to rebuild and restart the reactor at the Yongbyon site. (See ACT, May 2013.) The reactor, built in the 1980s, provided North Korea with the plutonium that it separated for use in its nuclear arsenal, an amount estimated to be sufficient for six to 12 warheads.

North Korea disabled the reactor in 2007 and destroyed the reactor’s cooling tower in 2008 as part of an agreement reached in 2005 with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States in the so-called six-party talks. It was unclear if North Korea would be able to operate the reactor after these actions. Satellite images taken in August, however, indicated to independent analysts that Pyongyang was able to restart the reactor. (See ACT, October 2013.)

The activities at Yongbyon “indicate a continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons,” said Joseph Macmanus, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, in a Nov. 28 statement to the board. He said if North Korea does not comply with its international obligations to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Pyongyang will “continue to face the consequences of this defiance.” The United States will work to “maintain and enhance, as necessary, the pressure to compel North Korea” to abandon these activities, which damage the global nonproliferation regime, Macmanus said.

A week after the IAEA meeting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that North Korea “needs to understand that it cannot return to the old pattern of seeking rewards for bad behavior.” Speaking in Seoul on Dec. 6, Biden reiterated U.S. policy, saying that Washington will return to the six-party talks only after Pyongyang “demonstrates its full commitment to complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.”

The six-party talks began in 2003 and continued intermittently until April 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew without having completed the dismantling of its nuclear program.

Analysis of satellite photos of the Yongbyon site by independent experts indicates that North Korea is expanding the building that houses its centrifuges for uranium enrichment. A Dec. 5 report by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that North Korea is expanding a centrifuge plant believed to be producing enriched uranium. According to the report, there are signs of construction, including renovation of a roof, at the facility.

Pyongyang announced in June 2009 that it had uranium-enrichment capabilities. In November 2010, it unveiled an enrichment plant to several former U.S. officials and academics. One of the visitors, former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker, said that the plant had about 2,000 centrifuges, but he was unable to confirm if the centrifuges were operational. (See ACT, December 2010.)

The International Atomic Energy Agency says satellite imagery shows activities at Yongbyon that are “consistent with” restarting of a reactor shut down since 2007.

Nuclear Disarmament and Human Survival

Daryl G. Kimball

Since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons have motivated ordinary citizens to push their leaders to pursue arms control and disarmament measures to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use.

For decades, it has been well understood that the direct effects of a large-scale nuclear conflict could result in several hundred million human fatalities, while the indirect effects would be far greater, leading to the loss of billions of lives.

Since the end of the Cold War, the threat of a U.S.-Russian conflict has decreased, but the risk of a nuclear war in other regions has grown. Recent studies find that a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan involving 100 detonations of 15-kiloton bombs would kill 20 million in the first week and reduce global temperatures by 1.3 degrees Celsius, thereby putting another 1 to 2 billion people at risk for famine.

Clearly, the use of nuclear weapons would result in humanitarian emergencies far beyond the immediate target zones of the warring parties and would violate the basic principles of international humanitarian law, including avoidance of attacks that could affect civilians indiscriminately.

Nevertheless, the world’s nine nuclear-armed nations still threaten to use their massive nuclear arsenals in the name of deterrence, and many continue to build up their nuclear war-fighting capabilities.

Appropriately enough, the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference final document expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and the need for all States…to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”

The NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.” In keeping with the NPT document’s action plan, Norway hosted a conference last March in Oslo on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. Mexico will host a follow-up conference in February. In April, 80 countries declared that “[i]t is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” In October, 125 states endorsed a similar statement.

Unfortunately, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states boycotted the Oslo conference, and several have criticized the April statement as a “distraction.” The arrogant and hostile response, particularly from France and Russia, has only deepened the frustration of the non-nuclear-weapon states.

Rather than dismiss the Mexico conference, the nuclear-weapon states should participate in and support future statements warning of the consequences of nuclear weapons use. Leading non-nuclear-weapon states also must come together around proposals that more effectively challenge dangerous nuclear doctrines.

The call from some states to negotiate a convention banning the possession of nuclear weapons in the moribund Conference on Disarmament (CD) is a recipe for inaction. Even if non-nuclear-weapon states were to adopt such a convention outside the CD, it would have little value without the support and participation of the NPT nuclear-armed states, which oppose such an effort.

A more promising way to meet the NPT action plan goal of assuring non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be to develop a legally binding instrument banning the use of nuclear weapons. This is the approach taken with respect to chemical and biological weapons through the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

Discussions on a ban on the use of nuclear weapons could begin in a new, dedicated diplomatic forum. Even if the nuclear-weapon states do not initially join in the negotiation or sign the instrument, the process itself and the final product would further delegitimize nuclear weapons, strengthen the legal norm against their use, and put pressure on nuclear-armed states to revise their nuclear doctrines.

Another approach would be to press each of the nuclear-armed states to explain the effects of its nuclear war plans at the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Each should be required to explain how the use of such weapons would be consistent with the law of armed conflict and other aspects of international human rights and humanitarian law.

With action on key disarmament initiatives at a near standstill, initiatives designed to jump-start progress are in order. For example, the United States could accelerate implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and Washington and Moscow could agree to reduce their stockpiles well below treaty-mandated ceilings. At the same time, other nuclear-armed states could pledge not to increase the overall size of their nuclear stockpiles, so long as U.S. and Russian leaders continue to slash theirs.

As President Barack Obama said last September, “The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere.” That certainly holds true for nuclear weapons as well. It is vital that global leaders welcome and pursue new, creative approaches to disarmament in order to guard against nuclear catastrophe.

Since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons have motivated ordinary citizens to push their leaders to pursue arms control and disarmament measures to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use.

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