"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
December 2015
Edition Date: 
Thursday, December 3, 2015
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UN Creates New Disarmament Group

December 2015

By Kingston Reif

Alexander Kmentt of Austria, shown above in a May 14 photo, said a newly created UN working group on disarmament has a broad mandate and that single countries or small groups should not be able to “block the discussion from taking place on procedural grounds.” (Photo credit: Jackie Barrientes/Arms Control Association)UN member states voted last month to create a working group to advance nuclear disarmament amid opposition from the nuclear-weapon states, uncertainty about how widespread participation in the group will be, and disagreement about how the group should operate and what it should seek to accomplish.

The contentious debate in the UN General Assembly First Committee, which deals with nuclear disarmament, on that vote and others also illustrated the continuing, broader divisions among key countries on disarmament and even exacerbated those divisions, according to experts and diplomats.

On Nov. 5, by a vote of 135-12 with 33 abstentions, the First Committee approved a resolution by Mexico that would create an open-ended working group, a forum in which all UN members can participate, to “substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” necessary to “attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”

The working group also would “substantively address recommendations on other measures that could contribute to taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.” Specifically, the resolution cited transparency and threat reduction measures related to the risks associated with existing arsenals and additional measures to increase awareness about the humanitarian and societal consequences of nuclear weapons use. The latter issue has been the focus of an effort known as the humanitarian initiative.

The resolution says the group should convene in Geneva in 2016 for up to 15 days and present a report on its work to the General Assembly at its session next year.

The creation of a working group on disarmament was a recommendation contained in the draft final document from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that took place earlier this year. (See ACT, June 2015.) The participants in the review conference did not agree to adopt the document.

But in contrast to the NPT recommendation, the Mexican proposal, which was co-sponsored by a group of countries associated with the humanitarian initiative, the working group would operate according to the General Assembly’s normal rules of conducting business, which do not require consensus. (See ACT, November 2015.)

Proponents of this approach argue that it represents a way to move forward on disarmament issues in light of the deadlock that continues to block progress on those issues in other UN forums, such as the Conference on Disarmament, which includes only 65 countries and operates on the basis of consensus. (See ACT, September 2015.)

Strong Opposition

Although the resolution garnered the support of a majority of states, the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the NPT (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) strongly opposed the resolution. Most of the 25 non-nuclear-weapon-state members of NATO—of which France, the UK, and the United States are members—and close U.S. allies Australia, Japan, and South Korea either voted against the resolution or abstained.

In a Nov. 2 statement on behalf of the five nuclear-weapon states, Alice Guitton, the French permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, called the resolution “divisive” and said it lacked “vital components that would guarantee both a meaningful collaboration and a productive outcome.”

She added that the five states “remain open” to “an appropriately mandated” open-ended working group that operates “through a consensus-based approach” and is “fully anchored in the security context.”

The First Committee appeared poised to vote on a second proposal for an open-ended working group, but Iran, the resolution’s sponsor, suddenly withdrew the resolution before a planned vote on Nov. 5. The Iranian proposal closely resembled the language contained in the draft review conference document. It called for a discussion on advancing nuclear disarmament and would have operated on the basis of consensus.

In a statement explaining the decision to withdraw the resolution, Iran said the nuclear-weapon states were unwilling “to commit themselves to a consensus-based and inclusive” working group approach.

In an e-mail exchange last month, Blake Narendra, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said that although there were “some aspects” of the resolution “with which the United States could not associate,” Washington “would not have opposed this resolution, had it come to a vote.”

A source knowledgeable about the proceedings at the First Committee said last month that Iran withdrew the resolution because it was unable to gather enough support for its draft from other countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, of which Iran is a member.

The General Assembly last established an open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in 2012. (See ACT, December 2012.) In that group, which met in Geneva in August 2013, about 80 states discussed ways to advance multilateral disarmament negotiations, but the nuclear-weapon states declined to participate. The group produced a final report that summarized the content of the discussion.

Key Uncertainties

In the aftermath of the First Committee’s vote to establish an open-ended working group, co-sponsors of the Mexican resolution were encouraging all states to participate in the group. But the states that opposed the resolution or abstained from voting on it expressed different views on whether they would participate in the group and what exactly the group should discuss.

Narendra said that “[t]he U.S. decision to participate will depend upon how the Open Ended Working Group...is structured and will operate.”

He added that the United States would welcome the opportunity to participate in a working group that provides for “consensus recommendations on effective measures to advance nuclear disarmament.”

The Latvian government, which opposed the Mexican resolution, said in a Nov. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today that it had not decided whether to participate in the new working group. In the e-mail, a Latvian Foreign Ministry representative said the working group “should be set up in a manner that would be supported by the broadest number of states, including the nuclear-weapon states.”

In a separate Nov. 20 e-mail, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said the Netherlands believes “the mandate of the working group should be as broad as possible and foster a productive dialogue to identify measures and instruments to achieve progress on nuclear disarmament.” The Netherlands, which abstained on the Mexican resolution, will participate in the working group, the e-mail said.

In a Nov. 16 e-mail, Alexander Kmentt, director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, said the working group “will clearly not negotiate a legally binding instrument” on nuclear disarmament or bind participants to a particular outcome. Austria was a co-sponsor of the Mexican resolution that created the working group.

In Austria’s view, Kmentt said, the working group has a broad mandate that focuses on two tracks. The first track allows for a thorough discussion on the “pros and cons” and “feasibility” of different proposals on “effective legal measures, legal provisions, and norms.” The second track would focus on other aspects that are important for advancing multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, such as risk reduction and transparency, he said.

Kmentt added that no single country or small group of countries should be able to “block the discussion from taking place on procedural grounds” and that the working group should “produce a substantive report that reflects truly what was presented and discussed and possible recommendations.”

He said it would be a bad sign if the nuclear-weapon states did not participate out of concern that they could not “control the discourse” and because they insist on the rule of consensus. That rule is partly responsible for the dysfunction of established disarmament forums, he said.

Disarmament Divide Widens

In an indication of the potential larger impact of the First Committee debate, Benno Laggner, the head of the division for security policy in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, told the attendees at the 2015 European Union Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference on Nov. 12 that the resolutions that were debated in the First Committee made support for the humanitarian initiative “even more fragmented.”

Many of the states associated with the initiative co-sponsored three resolutions at the First Committee this year stressing the catastrophic impacts that would ensue from the use of nuclear weapons and the urgent need for states to take effective measures, including legally binding measures, to eliminate and prohibit nuclear weapons (see box).

Although each resolution garnered the support of the vast majority of states, the nuclear-weapon states opposed all three resolutions, as did most members of NATO and U.S. allies in East Asia.

The fate this year of the resolution offered annually by Japan reaffirming the “unequivocal undertaking” of the nuclear-weapon states to meet their NPT Article VI commitment and eliminate their nuclear arsenals also illustrated the growing divide.

In 2014, the resolution was approved by a vote of 163-1 with 14 abstentions. But this year’s version of the resolution, which included more references to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use, was approved by a vote of 156-3 with 17 abstentions. The United States, which in previous years has co-sponsored the resolution, abstained on the resolution this year, as did France and the UK. China and Russia, which had abstained in the past, voted against it.

In the e-mail exchange, Narendra declined to comment on the specific factors that caused the United States to change its position on the resolution, saying only that “[t]his year we did not feel we could support the resolution.”

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies said at the EU conference on Nov. 12 that the vote on the Japan resolution highlights the disappearing “middle ground” on nuclear disarmament.

Additional UN Nuclear Disarmament Resolutions

In its 2015 session, the UN General Assembly First Committee adopted several resolutions on nuclear disarmament beyond those dealing with the creation of an open-ended working group. Below are some of those resolutions. 

Reducing Nuclear Dangers (A/C.1/70/L.20)
Declares that maintaining nuclear forces at hair-trigger alert levels carries unacceptable risks and threatens all mankind with unintentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons. Calls on nuclear-weapon states to review their nuclear doctrines and take measures toward de-alerting and detargeting nuclear weapons. Adopted by a vote of 119-48 with 11 abstentions. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States opposed the resolution. China and Russia abstained.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (A/C.1/70/L.46)
Urges states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty “without delay” and to maintain the current nuclear testing moratoriums until the entry into force of the treaty. Adopted by a vote of 174-1 with three abstentions. North Korea opposed the resolution.

Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (A/C.1/70/L.25)
Urges the immediate commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in the Conference on Disarmament. Adopted by a vote of 175-1 with five abstentions. Pakistan opposed the resolution.

Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons (A/C.1/70/L.37)
Stresses the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons use and emphasizes that the only way to prevent their use is total elimination. Calls on states to prevent the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and to exert all efforts to achieve total nuclear disarmament. Adopted by a vote of 136-18 with 21 abstentions.

Humanitarian Pledge for the Prohibition and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (A/C.1/70/L.38)
Urges all states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to fill the “legal gap” with regard to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and requests all states possessing nuclear weapons to cease deployment of those weapons and diminish their role in military doctrines. Calls on all relevant stakeholders to cooperate in efforts to “stigmatize” nuclear weapons “in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and the associated risks.” Adopted by a vote of 128-29 with 18 abstentions.

Ethical Imperatives for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World (A/C.1/70/L.40)
Declares that “all states share an ethical responsibility” to “take the effective measures, including legally binding measures, necessary to eliminate and prohibit all nuclear weapons, given their catastrophic humanitarian consequences and associated risks.” Adopted by a vote of 124-35 with 15 abstentions. —ELIZABETH PHILIPP AND KINGSTON REIF

    Iran Dismantling Centrifuges, IAEA Says

    December 2015

    By Kelsey Davenport

    Reza Najafi (right), Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, attends the IAEA Board of Governors meeting at agency headquarters in Vienna on June 2, 2014. At left is Surood Najib, Iraq’s ambassador to the IAEA. (Photo credit: Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)Iran began dismantling centrifuges to comply with the restrictions on its nuclear program laid out in the July 14 agreement with six countries, the organization charged with overseeing worldwide peaceful nuclear activities reported last month.

    In its quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that, between Oct. 18 and the report’s completion on Nov. 18, Iran had dismantled 4,530 centrifuges.

    Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, told reporters on Nov. 19 that the report demonstrates that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful and the country is fulfilling its commitments under the nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

    The centrifuge dismantlement began after the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) was formally adopted on Oct. 18.

    The majority (4,112) of the dismantled machines were first-generation centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant, according to the IAEA report.

    The IAEA also reported that Iran dismantled 160 second-generation IR-2M centrifuges from Natanz and 258 first-generation machines at the Fordow enrichment plant. None of the centrifuges removed from Natanz or Fordow had been enriching uranium, according to the agency.

    Under the terms of the nuclear deal, Tehran will reduce its total number of installed centrifuges from more than 19,000 to 6,104 first-generation centrifuges, of which 5,060 will enrich uranium to reactor-grade levels at Natanz. The remaining 1,044 machines will be at Fordow, which will be converted to an isotope research center.

    All of the dismantled machines will be stored at Natanz under IAEA surveillance.

    The IAEA report noted that the agency also began preparatory activities for additional monitoring and verification of Iran’s commitments under the nuclear deal. These measures include continuous monitoring of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing areas and uranium mines and mills. (See ACT, September 2015.)

    Additional Work Remains

    Dismantling excess centrifuges is just one of several steps that Iran must complete before the nuclear deal is fully implemented and Tehran receives sanctions relief.

    Under the terms of the deal, Iran also must remove and disable the core of the partially completed heavy-water reactor at Arak, which would produce up to two weapons’ worth of plutonium per year, and reduce the country’s stockpile of uranium enriched to reactor grade (3.67 percent uranium-235) to 300 kilograms.

    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Oct. 21 that Iran would not take steps to remove the core of the Arak reactor or ship out the stockpile of enriched uranium until “the possible military dimensions file is closed.”

    Under the nuclear deal, Iran will not receive sanctions relief until the IAEA certifies that Tehran has fulfilled its obligations.

    Najafi said on Nov. 17 that the P5+1 knows that “the condition for implementation” of the nuclear deal in Iran is the “closing of the [possible military dimensions] issue.”

    IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano is expected to issue a report assessing Iran’s past work allegedly related to nuclear weapons development, known as possible military dimensions, ahead of a Dec. 15 meeting of the agency’s Board of Governors.

    The IAEA laid out its concerns about this work in an annex to its November 2011 quarterly report. (See ACT, December 2011.) Iran maintains its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

    Amano said on Oct. 15 that Iran and the IAEA had completed all activities necessary for the agency to finish its investigation and issue an assessment.

    Ariane Tabatabai, a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University who has closely followed the negotiations on the deal, said in a Nov. 19 e-mail that, in spite of Khamenei’s comments, she doubts the IAEA report on the alleged weapons work will have an impact on Iran fulfilling its commitments. She said Iranian leaders “ultimately see it as in their interest to take steps to receive sanctions relief sooner than later.” She characterized Khamenei’s remarks as “posturing” in an attempt “to appear strong and unwilling to make compromises.”

    Tabatabai said two main factors are driving his call for a delay until Dec. 15 in work on modifying the Arak reactor and shipping out the enriched uranium. The nuclear deal was a “tough sell to the more conservative factions” in the Iranian political system, and Khamenei wants to “make sure they remain on board,” she said. Also, she said, with the internal escalation of tension between factions ahead of parliamentary elections in early 2016, Khamenei is trying to “make sure he keeps everything under control.”

    The IAEA’s most recent quarterly report did not indicate any activity at the Arak reactor. The report said Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium grew by 490 kilograms since the agency’s August report on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran now has 8,305 kilograms of reactor-grade material in gas form and 2,330 kilograms in powder form, the report said.

    Weaponization Report

    In a Nov. 11 speech at an EU conference in Brussels, Amano said the agency’s job as a “technical organization” is to “establish the facts.”

    The IAEA report on the alleged weapons work will be “factual, objective, and impartial.” He said it would be up to the IAEA member states to “determine the appropriate response.”

    Speaking at the same conference on Nov. 12, Laura Rockwood, former section head for nonproliferation and policymaking at the IAEA Office of Legal Affairs, said she remains “doubtful that the agency will be provided with sufficient substantive information” by Iran to fully resolve the outstanding issues.

    Rockwood, now the executive director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, said she thought the most likely formulation in the upcoming report will be that the “information provided by Iran is consistent or not inconsistent with the agency’s findings or other information available to it.”

    Although some issues might be resolved, the report will likely not signal “an immediate return to routine safeguards” in Iran, but rather that the IAEA board will have a “continuing interest in oversight” of the agency’s work in Iran, she said.

    Redesign Complete

    Although Iran has not yet removed the core of the Arak reactor, progress is being made on the redesign plan for the modified reactor, according to Iranian and U.S. officials.

    Under the July 14 agreement, Iran is required to use a new reactor core that will produce significantly less plutonium than if the reactor were completed as originally designed.

    Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Nov. 16 that the plan for the redesign was complete and that Iran and the European Union, which headed the P5+1 negotiating team, had endorsed the document. Iran, China, and the United States worked together on the initial plan for modifying the reactor.

    Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in early November that four of the P5+1 countries would cooperate to supply Iran with advanced equipment for the reactor and other nuclear facilities and activities under the deal. He did not specify which four countries are involved.

    China is to work with Iran on the ground to complete the reactor conversion. 

    Iran began dismantling centrifuges to comply with its obligations under the July 14 nuclear deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

    UN Acts on Mideast Zone Amid Doubts

    December 2015

    By Kelsey Davenport

    Tarek Mahfouz of Egypt addresses the UN General Assembly First Committee on October 29. Egypt introduced a resolution calling for full implementation of a 1995 plan for creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction. (Photo credit: UN Webcast)The UN committee that deals with disarmament issues passed a resolution last month calling for the General Assembly to take immediate steps toward the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, even as an official from the region said he thinks that progress on such a zone right now is a “lost cause.”

    The resolution, introduced by Egypt on Oct. 14 on behalf of the 21 members of the Arab Group, called for full implementation of the plan for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East adopted at the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference. That plan called for “the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.”

    The resolution was sent to the General Assembly after it passed the UN First Committee 151-5, with 19 abstentions. Israel called on member states to vote against the resolution and was joined by Canada, Micronesia, Palau, and the United States.

    The resolution reaffirmed the need for Israel to ratify the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under safeguards. Israel does not publicly acknowledge that it possesses nuclear weapons.

    In a statement explaining her country’s vote on the resolution Nov. 2, Tamar Rahamimoff-Honig, director of the Arms Control Department for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the resolution “one-sided and biased,” saying it did not reflect the “harsh and distressing everyday realities” of the region. She said that “any draft resolution attempting to outline the real proliferation threats” in the Middle East should express concern that some countries in the region view compliance with their international obligations as “no more than a recommendation” rather than as a binding commitment.

    She noted that Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria had been found to be violating their NPT obligations.

    Tarek Mahfouz, speaking on behalf of Egypt and the Arab Group, said in an Oct. 29 statement to the committee that the NPT will lose credibility if there is no progress toward the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. He called Israel’s refusal to join the treaty a “blatant threat” to peace and security in the region.

    Despite the overwhelming support for the resolution, an official from a Persian Gulf state said that given the current geopolitical concerns in the region, pursuing a zone based on the 1995 resolution is a “lost cause” at this time.

    He said that the 2015 NPT Review Conference “killed the small seed of cooperation” and progress on a WMD-free zone conference agenda that Finnish facilitator Jaakko Laajava managed to foster during consultations in 2013 and 2014. During that time, Israel and the Arab League states participated in five rounds of talks in the Swiss city of Glion.

    The purpose of the consultations was to develop an agenda for a conference on establishing the WMD-free zone. The 2010 NPT Review Conference called for a conference by 2012, but the process was delayed over disagreements between Israel and the Arab League on the agenda. (See ACT, December 2012.)

    At this year’s NPT review conference, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States opposed the Arab League’s push to set a deadline for holding the conference and appointing a new special representative. (See ACT, June 2015.) Their opposition derailed the Arab League’s plan, as decisions at NPT review conferences require consensus.

    In her Nov. 2 statement, Rahamimoff-Honig said that Israel “indicated its willingness to proceed” with the Glion meetings, which were “an important start to a necessary dialogue” to close the “conceptual gap” on the zone.

    Unless another Arab League state “decides to challenge Egypt” for leadership on this initiative, there will not be progress, the Gulf state official said. He said he doubted that any country in the Arab League was interested in investing the necessary political will to move the zone process forward at this time.

    He suggested that a subregional approach, in which a smaller group of countries in the region would pursue a WMD-free zone, or a “thematic” approach, such as a chemical-weapon-free zone, might be more successful.

    In a Nov. 2 statement explaining the U.S. vote on the UN resolution, Robert Wood, permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, said that “singling out one state for criticism—while ignoring the substantial security concerns and compliance challenges”—will not advance prospects for the zone. Reiterating a long-standing U.S. position on the issue, he said the United States would support discussions on creating a zone but that the “impetus must come from the region itself.”

    In a separate Nov. 2 action, the First Committee passed a resolution on a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone without a vote. This resolution focused only on nuclear weapons and did not specifically call on Israel to joint the NPT. It did call on all countries in the region to put their nuclear activities under safeguards, but did not single out Israel.

    Hossein Dehqani, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said in a Nov. 2 statement that Israel continues to be the “only impediment” to realizing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and called on the international community to “exert all efforts to compel the Israeli regime to verifiably eliminate” its nuclear weapons.

    In her statement on the nuclear-weapon-free-zone resolution, Rahamimoff-Honig said that, despite “substantive reservations,” Israel joined the consensus supporting the resolution because the Israeli government supports a regional process aimed at establishing a more secure Middle East free from nonconventional weapons.

    That resolution recognizes “the importance of a credible regional security process” to achieve a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, Rahamimoff-Honig said. The WMD-free-zone resolution did not call for a regional security process. 

    The UN committee dealing with disarmament issues passed a resolution calling for a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction, but an official from the region said he thinks progress on such a zone is not possible now. 

    OPCW Team Says Mustard Was Used

    December 2015

    By Daniel Horner

    A Syrian rebel tries on a gas mask seized from a Syrian army factory in the northwestern province of Idlib on July 18, 2013. A recent report said it was “likely” that chemical weapons, probably containing chlorine, were used in Idlib between March and May of this year. (Photo credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)An international investigative team has determined with “the utmost confidence” that sulfur mustard was used in northern Syria, according to a Nov. 6 press release by the organization that established the team.

    In the release, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the report by its fact-finding mission, as the OPCW calls it, described an Aug. 21 incident “in which a non-state actor had allegedly used a chemical weapon in the town of Marea,” which is close to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

    Through sample collection and interviews, the team “was able to confirm with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulfur mustard and were in the process of recovering from the exposure,” the press release said. The team also concluded that it is “very likely that the effects of sulfur mustard resulted in the death of a baby,” the release said.

    There have been several accounts tying the Islamic State group to use of sulfur mustard against opposing forces in Syria and Iraq, but the conclusions of the OPCW appear to be the strongest to date.

    As Arms Control Today went to press, the report had not been publicly released, but two Western officials confirmed in interviews the summary description and provided additional detail on the contents of the report.

    In a Nov. 13 interview, a U.S. official said the compelling evidence of sulfur mustard in Marea came from biomedical samples from people who had been in the area during an Islamic State attack. As the human body breaks down sulfur mustard that it has absorbed, it produces secondary compounds that provide “unmistakable signs” that can be detected “weeks after” exposure to the chemical agent, he said.

    It is not clear how the Islamic State might have obtained the sulfur mustard.

    In August, a Defense Department spokesman indirectly indicated and a former Pentagon official explicitly said to Arms Control Today that the likeliest scenario was that the group had produced the sulfur mustard itself rather than getting it from undeclared Syrian stockpiles or sealed chemical weapons bunkers in Iraq from the Saddam Hussein era. (See ACT, September 2015.)

    When Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 2013, it declared more than 1,300 metric tons of chemical agents. That material was subsequently destroyed, mostly in facilities outside Syria. Only a small amount, about 20 metric tons, was sulfur mustard agent.

    There have been continuing concerns that Syria’s declaration was not complete, and the OPCW is pursuing that issue.

    With regard to sulfur mustard, the U.S. official said Syria claimed to have destroyed most of that agent in 2012 and early 2013, before it joined the CWC, but has not provided any documentation to support the claim.

    He said there is not a “firm view” within the U.S. government on the relative likelihood of the possible sources of sulfur mustard for the Islamic State.

    In a Nov. 16 interview and follow-up e-mail, a UK diplomat also expressed uncertainty about the possible sources while drawing some distinctions among them. “There is no credible evidence that [the Islamic State has] gained possession of sulfur mustard agents from either the Syrian regime or Saddam-era Iraqi legacy stockpiles,” he said in the e-mail. The group’s “persistent occupation of cities such as Mosul, in Northern Iraq, which previously had active academic, scientific and industrial institutions[,] means that we cannot rule out the possibility” that the Islamic State has “access to the expertise, materials and facilities necessary to produce their own, indigenous sulfur mustard capability,” he said.

    In addition to the report on the Marea attack, the OPCW fact-finding mission produced reports from two other investigations. One of the teams pursued allegations that toxic chemicals were responsible for the deaths of six people in Syria’s Idlib province between March and May. According to the OPCW press release, the team “concluded that the alleged incidents likely involved the use of one or more toxic chemicals—probably containing the element chlorine—as a weapon.”

    The U.S. official said the evidence for this report came from interviews, open-source videos, and munitions fragments rather than biomedical samples.

    In the Marea and Idlib cases, the victims of the alleged chemical attacks were in areas controlled by Syrian opposition forces, who are at war with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and with the Islamic State, which also is fighting Assad.

    In a statement to a Nov. 23 session of the OPCW Executive Council, U.S. representative Rafael Foley linked the Idlib report to previous findings by the fact-finding mission that chlorine had been used in Syria, commenting that “once again, those interviewed associated the attacks with the presence of helicopters.” The Assad regime is the only party in the Syrian conflict known to have helicopters.

    At the same meeting, Russia, a Syrian ally, decried the “unfounded accusations aimed at the Syrian government, which, allegedly, stands behind the chlorine attacks despite the fact that no one has ever established any connection between the infamous helicopters and the appearance of certain objects on the ground.”

    The fact-finding mission also produced an interim report based on allegations by the Syrian government that its forces had been attacked with toxic chemicals. The team investigating those allegations “could not confidently determine that a chemical was used as a weapon,” the OPCW press release said.

    The U.S. and UK officials said the Marea and Idlib reports would be referred to a new body created by the UN Security Council to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. (See ACT, October 2015.) Assigning responsibility is not part of the mandate for the OPCW investigative teams.

    In the Nov. 16 interview, the UK diplomat said the job of the newly created body, known as the “joint investigative mechanism,” is “to point the finger at whoever is responsible” for the attacks. Those parties, “whether state or nonstate,” should be “held to account,” he said.

    At a Nov. 13 press briefing, Farhan Haq, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the body was “fully operational” as of that date.

    An investigative team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has determined with “the utmost confidence” that sulfur mustard was used in northern Syria.

    South Korea Plans New Missile for 2017

    December 2015

    By Kelsey Davenport

    A South Korean ballistic missile is displayed during a rehearsal for Armed Forces Day at Seongnam military airport on the outskirts of Seoul on September 29, 2003. South Korea is planning to deploy ballistic missiles with a range of 800 kilometers, giving them the ability to reach any site in North Korea from anywhere in the South. (Photo credit: Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images)South Korea aims to deploy ballistic missiles with longer ranges by 2017, but some experts question whether Seoul can meet that timeline.

    On Oct. 1, several South Korean newspapers quoted military sources as saying that Seoul planned to deploy ballistic missiles with a range of 800 kilometers by 2017 in accordance with a plan developed by the country’s Agency for Defense Development. Missiles of that range would be able to reach any site in North Korea from anywhere in the South.

    In a Nov. 19 interview, a former South Korean official said the 2017 deployment deadline “may be overly ambitious” but is consistent with Seoul’s 2012 five-year plan to extend its missile ranges. South Korea is capable of testing a missile with that range by 2017, but the missile “may not be ready for reliable deployment” after such a short period, the former official said.

    In an Oct. 16 piece, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) called the move to deploy the new missile in 2017 “a reckless action to escalate tension on the Korean peninsula.”

    South Korea agreed to 800 kilometers as the maximum range for its ballistic missiles in a 2012 agreement with the United States. (See ACT, November 2012.) Prior to 2012, Seoul was limited to developing ballistic missiles with ranges of no more than 300 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload under a 2001 agreement with the United States.

    The United States said it agreed to the extension to allow South Korea to counter the growing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

    Since the 2012 agreement, South Korea has tested ballistic missiles with increased ranges. The most recent tests took place in June, when Seoul tested two Hyunmoo-2B missiles, which can carry a 1,000-kilogram payload over a distance of 500 kilometers. The missiles are believed to be road mobile.

    North Korea has repeatedly lashed out over Seoul’s decision to extend its ballistic missile range. A day after the June 4 test of the Hyunmoo-2B, the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army published a statement on the KCNA’s website saying that the test-firing proves that Pyongyang is “wise and just” in pursuing its own deterrent.

    North Korea has deployed short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. It is developing longer-range systems, including an intercontinental ballistic missile. (See ACT, June 2015.)

    South Korea plans to deploy ballistic missiles with increased ranges by 2017, but some experts question whether Seoul can meet that timeline. 

    New Russian Nuclear Design Shown

    December 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    A broadcast on Russian state television of a Nov. 10 meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military officers revealed a document showing the design of a purported new underwater nuclear-armed drone that could rain radioactive fallout on enemy coastal areas.

    In a Nov. 10 post on his blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, Pavel Podvig, a researcher with the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, said the Russian name of the system shown in the document translates to English as “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6.’”

    According to Podvig, a short summary included in the document described the mission of the proposed weapon as “[d]amaging the important components of the adversary’s economy in a coastal area and inflicting unacceptable damage to a country’s territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time.”

    At the meeting where the underwater drone design was revealed, Putin, reiterating a long-standing Russian complaint, criticized U.S. missile defense plans, claiming they are intended to “neutralize” Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

    Putin said Russia would respond by developing “strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses.”

    The United States says its missile defenses are not aimed at Russia but instead at smaller adversaries such as Iran and North Korea.

    Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, in a Nov. 12 statement to the Russia news agency Interfax, said that “some secret data fell into the field of view of these cameras.”

    “We hope such a thing will never be repeated,” he added.

    According to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and current director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, the airing of the document was no accident.

    “The picture was aired because the Kremlin wanted it aired and wanted the world to believe that Russia has plans for a large nuclear torpedo,” Pifer said in a Nov. 18 blog post.

    “That fits with Moscow’s pattern of nuclear saber-rattling over the past two years,” he added. 

    A broadcast on Russian state television of a Nov. 10 meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military officers revealed...

    Missile Defense Blimp Crashes

    December 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    A flight crew launches a blimp that is part of the U.S. Army’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System at the Utah Test and Training Range February 3, 2014. (Photo credit: Tiffany DeNault/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images)

    Part of a U.S. Army blimp-borne radar system designed to detect and track objects such as cruise missiles and other airborne threats crashed in northeastern Pennsylvania on Oct. 28, increasing doubts about its ability to contribute to the defense of the U.S. homeland.

    One of the two tethered blimps that make up the current test deployment of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) detached from its mooring station near Baltimore, dragging 6,700 feet of cable for three hours before finally coming to rest. In a Nov. 5 press statement, North American Aerospace Defense Command said an investigation to determine the cause of the incident was under way.

    The helium-filled JLENS blimps float 10,000 feet in the air and carry radars capable of providing 360-degree coverage of objects from 340 miles away. The blimps can remain aloft for 30 days at a time and transmit the information they gather to a range of defensive systems.

    The U.S. government initially planned to buy 16 pairs of JLENS blimps, but the purchase ultimately was curtailed to two pairs of test blimps. The blimps are used in pairs because one conducts surveillance and the other analyzes the information that the first one gathers.

    The U.S. government spent $2.8 billion on the system through 2013, according to a March 2014 Government Accountability Office report.

    The JLENS has faced questions about whether it can work as intended. A 2014 report by the Pentagon’s director for operational test and evaluation stated that poor weather could reduce performance of the system and that the JLENS has not yet demonstrated “the ability to survive in its intended operational environment.”

    Late last year, a pair of JLENS blimps began a planned three-year exercise over the area around Washington designed to demonstrate the system’s capabilities for homeland defense and determine its future. The exercise has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation of the Oct. 28 crash. The Army requested $40.6 million for the exercise in fiscal year 2016.

    In a May 19 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the exercise as a key part of the Defense Department’s efforts to ensure that the U.S. homeland is adequately defended against a cruise missile attack.

    Responding to news of the crash, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee oversight and investigations subcommittee, said in a Nov. 4 statement that the United States “cannot afford to waste taxpayers’ money on ‘zombie programs’ whose best function is fodder” for late-night comedians. She called for “canceling the program outright and using the money where it will do more good.”

    But the Defense Department has not ruled out resuming the planned three-year exercise.

    Adm. William Gortney, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said in a Nov. 5 statement that if the results of the ongoing investigation warrant resuming the exercises, “we will work with the Army and the [Defense] Department to review the way forward for the JLENS exercise in support of cruise missile defense capabilities” of the Washington area. 

    Part of a U.S. Army blimp-borne radar system designed to detect and track objects such as cruise missiles and other airborne threats crashed...

    U.S. Prepares to Arm Italian Drones

    December 2015

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    An MQ-9 Reaper drone taxis during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada on November 17. (Photo credit: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)The U.S. Defense Department announced last month that it had notified Congress on Nov. 3 of the approval of a possible $130 million sale to Italy of armaments for its U.S.-supplied MQ-9 Reaper drones, the first such approval since the adoption of a new, formal U.S. policy regarding transfers of unmanned aerial vehicles and associated weapons systems earlier this year. Congress has 30 days from the date of the notification to review and possibly block or modify the proposed transfer.

    Previously, the United States had approved sales of armed drones only to the United Kingdom in 2007 and France in 2011. It has rejected requests for armed drones from other states, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

    According to a Nov. 4 press release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Italy asked to buy 156 Hellfire II missiles, 30 laser-guided bombs, 30 joint direct-attack munitions, and 30 enhanced laser-guided bombs, as well as associated equipment and personnel training and logistics support. In its request, Italy said that arming its MQ-9 Reapers, which are produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, will increase its “operational flexibility” and “the survivability of Italian deployed forces.”

    As the U.S. government has expanded its use of armed drones against suspected Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, other states have sought to acquire the same capabilities from the United States and elsewhere. U.S.-based drone manufacturers have lobbied the U.S. government to adopt a less restrictive approach to transfers of armed and unarmed drone systems.

    In February, the State Department announced a revised policy for considering requests to export U.S.-origin drones, including the largest and deadliest types. (See ACT, April 2015.)

    According to a Feb. 17 State Department summary of the policy, purchasers must agree the weapons will be used “in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law” to help avoid civilian casualties and pledge that the weapons will be deployed “only when there is a lawful basis for use of force under international law, such as national self-defense.” 

    The U.S. Defense Department announced last month that it had notified Congress on Nov. 3 of the approval of a possible $130 million sale to Italy...

    Chinese Thinking On Nuclear Weapons

    December 2015

    By Li Bin

    Chinese DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles are displayed during a military parade through Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3 marking the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan in World War II. (Photo credit: Rolex Dela Pena/AFP/Getty Images)Chinese nuclear experts began to join international nuclear dialogues in the late 1970s when China launched its policy of reform and openness. Their communications with U.S. nuclear experts are sometimes difficult and inefficient, in part because of differences in the ways that Americans and Chinese think about nuclear weapons.

    One aspect of this divergence is terminology. Some international efforts have been undertaken to develop a common language among nuclear experts from different countries by compiling multilanguage nuclear glossaries.1 These glossaries are a useful first step to smoothen international communication on nuclear issues, but they are not enough to eliminate misunderstandings caused by divergent beliefs and analytical paradigms.

    This article summarizes the findings of a project by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Chinese nuclear thinking.2 The project aims to promote an effective and efficient dialogue between Chinese and U.S. nuclear experts by developing each side’s understandings of the other side’s thinking on nuclear weapons.


    Several important security concepts have very different meanings in China and the United States. The differences are rooted in philosophical, historical, and cultural contexts and cannot be clarified simply by translating one side’s words into the language of other.

    The word “security” itself is difficult to translate in Chinese. In English, security generally is about avoiding damage caused by intended human attacks while “safety” is about avoiding damage caused by accidents or natural disasters. In Chinese, the word “anquan” refers to the avoidance of damage from any cause and thus encompasses the meanings of “security” and “safety” in English.

    The assumption in the English-speaking world is that security and safety issues are distinguishable. In China the assumption is that security and safety issues are sometimes tangled with each other and should be addressed in an integrated way. This Chinese thinking is based on a holistic philosophy and is now called the “comprehensive security concept” or “comprehensive security theory.”3

    At its first meeting, in April 2014, the Chinese Council of State Security, which is analogous to the U.S. National Security Council, announced 11 important security issues that it would address, most of which are nonmilitary issues.4 According to China’s comprehensive security theory, military and nonmilitary security issues are at the same level of importance and should be managed synergistically.

    In the trade-off between the military power and the safety of nuclear weapons, the comprehensive security theory allows China to optimize its nuclear weapon systems in a more comprehensive framework. This can explain why China chooses to keep its nuclear weapons at a low level of alert. A higher level might strengthen the deterrent power of Chinese nuclear forces, but it also increases the risk of accidental launch and other safety problems. A “purely military viewpoint” that optimizes a weapons system only with regard to its military effects has long been criticized as unwise by the leaders of the People’s Liberation Army.

    China also has a very different understanding of the concept of nuclear deterrence.5 For a long time, Chinese and U.S. nuclear experts have had communication problems in their exchanges about the concept. The Americans generally believe that nuclear deterrence is a defensive posture while the Chinese criticize the offensive nature of nuclear deterrence.

    According to the U.S. understanding, both deterrence and compellence are considered coercion. Nuclear deterrence is to force an adversary to give up an action by threatening to use nuclear weapons while nuclear compellence is to force the adversary to take an action.6 The belief of the U.S. strategic community is that nuclear deterrence and compellence are distinguishable. If a coercive action is intended to change the status quo, it is compellence; otherwise, it is deterrence. The definition works well when it describes a coercive behavior in an isolated, large international conflict. For example, in this school of thought, if a country relies on the existence of its nuclear weapons to prevent a nuclear attack from its rival, it is an example of nuclear deterrence. On the other hand, if a country uses the influence of its nuclear weapons to occupy a large piece of its rival’s territory, that is nuclear coercion.

    Many international conflicts, however, are small, and many large conflicts begin as small ones. In many small conflicts, it is very difficult to determine which country changed the status quo first. If a country wants to exploit its nuclear weapons in a small conflict or in an escalation of a small conflict into a larger one, it would be very difficult to distinguish compellence from deterrence. A country could launch a conventional attack against its adversary and use its possession of nuclear weapons to dissuade a conventional counterattack. In this case, nuclear weapons seem to play a deterrent role if one looks at only the second step in conflict. Yet, one could argue that nuclear weapons play a compellent role in the context of the whole process. The Chinese believe that nuclear deterrence and compellence are not distinguishable if the influence of nuclear weapons is applied to small conflicts or the escalation of such conflicts.

    The Chinese translation of “deterrence” is “weishe,” but “weishe” actually means “coercion” in Chinese. This is not a translation error. It comes from the Chinese philosophy of holism. The Chinese worry about the compellent effects that are naturally associated with some policies that are labeled as “nuclear deterrence.” A nuclear policy reserving the possibility of using nuclear weapons in response to conventional conflicts could encourage and support conventional aggression aiming to change the status quo. Such a policy actually represents nuclear compellence rather than deterrence. If nuclear weapons were used only in retaliation for nuclear attacks, the compellent roles of these weapons would be significantly reduced. This is why the Chinese government criticizes “nuclear deterrence based on first use of nuclear weapons.”7

    An arms race could be driven by concerns about a weakening of national security or influence in one side or in both sides of a pair of adversaries. If each of two rivals wants more nuclear weapons to better protect itself against attacks from the other side, this is an arms race due to the security dilemma. If each side wants more nuclear weapons to support its bid for leadership in the world, this is an arms race for hegemony. When Americans talk about an arms race, it is usually about the security dilemma; when the Chinese talk about an arms race, it is always about global hegemony. In Chinese eyes, the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War was driven mainly by the two countries’ ambitions for global hegemony.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and U.S. President Barack Obama participate in an arrival ceremony for Xi at the White House on September 25. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)When China explains its self-constraint with regard to the growth of its nuclear weapons stockpile, it always pledges that it will not engage in an arms race with other countries. By that, China means that it will not seek to amass a large nuclear arsenal for the purpose of global hegemony.

    Yet, if China sees the development of new strategic capabilities in other countries undermining its nuclear retaliatory capability, it certainly will consider the option of deploying more nuclear weapons. For example, one option for China to respond to growing U.S. missile defense capabilities is to develop more offensive missiles. If such a quantitative missile competition took place between China and the United States, it would be an arms race due to a security dilemma. The Chinese commitment rules out a strategy of nuclear growth for global hegemony, but it does not exclude a strategy of nuclear growth to respond to a security dilemma.

    The two types of arms races mentioned above are different in their natures. An arms race for global hegemony always includes quantitative competitions. A country that has the goal of global hegemony cannot accept a larger strategic nuclear arsenal in any other country. In contrast, an arms race due to the security dilemma does not have to include quantitative competition. A small and survivable nuclear force is enough for the purpose of security.

    This is why China feels comfortable with the small size of its nuclear arsenal. Its responses to new strategic capabilities in other countries do not have to involve an increase in the size of the arsenal if available countermeasures are smart and cheap. Chinese nuclear experts worry about new strategic capabilities in the United States, including missile defense and the ability to deliver precision conventional strikes, but the choices of countermeasures are still open. One option for China is a moderate increase in the number of its offensive missiles to compensate for the loss of its nuclear retaliatory capability, but Beijing has pledged not to pursue quantitative nuclear parity with United States for the purpose of hegemony.


    In the United States, security analysis follows a basic paradigm, which is to identify and assess the threat to U.S. national security. A national security threat is usually an outside enemy that could hurt the United States; the threat is measured by the capability and intention of the enemy. If an enemy has a strong capability and an intention to hurt United States, it is regarded as a significant threat. Advocates of a change in security policy usually need to establish that an outside enemy has the capability and intention to hurt the United States.

    The security paradigm measuring the capability and intention of an enemy is straightforward and transparent, so it is popular in the United States and is widely accepted by scholars in other countries, including some Chinese scholars and students. The paradigm is believed to be the only basis for security analysis. Very few people notice that there is a different indigenous Chinese security paradigm.8

    The indigenous Chinese security paradigm emphasizes national security challenges instead of national security threats. A national security challenge is a dangerous situation in which China is vulnerable. Because of the influences of the U.S. security paradigm, Chinese security documents always use the phrase “national security challenges and threats.” In national defense “white papers” issued by the Chinese government in recent years, almost all cases of “national security challenges and threats” are situations rather than enemies. For example, one security challenge identified by a 2008 paper is the situation of technical lagging, in which “China is faced with the superiority of the developed countries” in economic, science and technology, and military affairs.9

    In the U.S. security paradigm, national security threats are usually outside the United States. In the Chinese security paradigm, the origins and effects of national security challenges could be inside China. For example, the situation of technical lagging may be caused by quick development of a particular technology in foreign countries and slow progress in China. In the U.S. security paradigm, security threats are mostly military threats while in the Chinese security paradigm, security challenges include military and nonmilitary factors.

    Although some Chinese scholars and students have begun to use the U.S. security paradigm in academic research, the Chinese paradigm still dominates security policy research. Some Chinese nuclear policies and views cannot be explained by the U.S. security paradigm. For example, Chinese security experts expressed their concerns over the U.S. project on an earth-penetrating nuclear warhead during the George W. Bush administration.10 The small project would have brought very little new capability to the United States, and its declared purpose was to attack deeply buried targets in proliferator countries. Under the U.S. security paradigm, the Chinese should not have been worried about the project.

    The Chinese security paradigm can well explain Beijing’s concern. A robust nuclear taboo against nuclear weapons use is favorable to China’s no-first-use policy and China’s security. Any development of this kind of tactical nuclear weapon would weaken the nuclear taboo and therefore increase the risk of nuclear weapons use.

    As mentioned above, technical lagging is a dangerous situation and is regarded by the Chinese as a national security challenge. Many Chinese strategic and nuclear projects aim merely to master new defense technologies but not necessarily deploy them. A typical example is the Chinese effort on the neutron bomb. The purpose of the effort was to understand the technology. China decided not to deploy the neutron bomb because it is contrary to China’s no-first-use policy.

    Another example is China’s response to U.S. national missile defense activities. The Chinese have two concerns in this area. The first concern is that the U.S. missile defenses may weaken China’s nuclear retaliatory capability. Because the concern can be well explained by the Chinese and U.S. security paradigms, it is easy for Chinese and U.S. security experts to have bilateral discussions on it. The second Chinese concern is that U.S. missile defense development may lead to great scientific and technical breakthroughs in the United States and that it would enlarge the technical gap between the United States and China. According to the Chinese security paradigm, possible technical lagging in China would be a security challenge and should be avoided. The 863 Program, launched in China in 1986, was to address the concern.11 Unfortunately, the second concern cannot be explained by the U.S. security paradigm and has been ignored by all U.S.-Chinese nuclear dialogues.

    In a broader area of national policymaking, the Chinese and U.S. ways of calculating national interests also are different. In the United States, it is very unusual to suggest that security interests should be sacrificed for economic interests. In China, economic and security interests are at the same level in the calculation of national interests, although some analyses may value one or the other highly. In Chinese debates on issues related to security and the economy, it is normal that security arguments yield to economic arguments. The economy-centered calculation on one hand encourages Chinese decision-makers to constrain China’s nuclear weapons development and, on the other hand, makes China cautious about nonproliferation sanctions, as illustrated by its attitude toward export controls in the 1980s and in the first half of the 1990s.


    General Fang Fenghui (left), chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, introduces General Martin Dempsey (center), chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Chinese military officials in Beijing on April 20, 2013. (Photo credit: D. Myles Cullen/Defense Department)The Chinese have some approaches in nuclear policy that are different from those of the United States. The most noticeable approach is to keep the roles of nuclear and conventional weapons separate. The Chinese do not believe that nuclear weapons are usable and can help China in conventional wars. China always wants to avoid the influence of nuclear weapons on conventional weapons issues. It has a bilateral no-first-use agreement with Russia and never tries to use the influence of its nuclear weapons in its relations with India. The Chinese feel it is unreasonable to claim that Beijing would become more aggressive at the conventional level if its nuclear retaliatory capability became more credible. The approach of keeping the roles of nuclear and conventional weapons separate also allows China to maintain a small nuclear arsenal because it does not need a large nuclear arsenal for damage limitation in a first nuclear strike or reassuring allies as the United States does.

    Many Chinese use the term “strategic stability” in a general way. They understand the term to refer to political trust and respect between countries. This is why the terms “strategic stability” and “strategic reassurance” are always associated with each other in U.S.-Chinese nuclear dialogues. In recent years, some Chinese experts, especially technical experts, have begun to use the Western definition of the term. Now the discussions between Chinese and U.S. security experts on the issue of strategic stability are sometimes on two different tracks. One track emphasizes the big picture of overall U.S.-Chinese relations while the other track pays attention to strategic force structures and related details. Some efforts are needed to make sure that the two tracks are not separated too widely.

    The Chinese have an indigenous idea of strategic stability although they might not use that term. In China, there is a widespread belief that technical lagging would invite attacks. The belief accurately expresses the Chinese calculation in this area: deployed and nondeployed technologies are important in maintaining strategic stability. In the U.S. calculation of strategic stability, only technologies that a country is deploying or planning to deploy are considered. The logic is that only deployed systems ready to be launched contribute to the cost-benefit calculations for launching an attack in a crisis. The Chinese idea is that other countries would consider it a window of opportunity to attack their country if it does not have some important military technologies.

    This is based on the painful experience that China first had when it was invaded by Western powers in 1839 during the First Opium War. If China has state-of-the-art military technologies available, it can move them into deployment when necessary. Chinese security experts always worry that U.S. military projects will lead to great scientific and technical breakthroughs in the United States, and U.S. security experts always worry that Chinese military projects will become deployed systems. These worries may cause overreactions by each country. Future U.S.-Chinese dialogues could consider including discussions on the Chinese indigenous approach to the calculation of strategic stability so that each country can better understand the intentions of the other.

    China has had its preferred approach in nuclear disarmament since it acquired nuclear weapons. The approach includes two elements: The ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament is the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons in the world, and the best way to reduce the role of nuclear weapons is by constraining the use of nuclear weapons.

    The nuclear-weapon states have had more in common with regard to the first element since President Barack Obama’s proposal for moving to a nuclear-weapon-free world, but they still differ on the route of nuclear disarmament. In recent years, China has been expending less of its diplomatic capital to press positions with which the other nuclear-weapon states do not agree and generally has become more realistic and cooperative on nuclear disarmament issues. For example, it took the lead in compiling the nuclear glossary and has joined discussions on the verification of deep nuclear reductions by the nuclear-weapon states.

    Some aspects of Chinese nuclear policy have undergone significant changes in recent years. The most obvious changes are in transparency and nonproliferation.

    In the area of nuclear transparency, the traditional Chinese views are that transparency with regard to intention is more important than transparency with regard to capability and that China’s small nuclear force needs to be protected by a higher level of secrecy. In recent years, China has begun to exhibit more nuclear transparency as Chinese society has become more and more open. Some nuclear information is presented in official documents or at public events, such as parades in which military systems are displayed. Some information is leaked to social media, a practice that the government now tolerates more than it has in the past. A system for regular publication of nuclear information has yet to be built in China.

    China’s views on and approaches to nuclear nonproliferation also have undergone major changes in recent years. Before the reform in China, the Chinese felt embarrassed to criticize nuclear weapon programs in proliferator countries such as India because they saw that it was discriminatory to criticize other countries when China had a nuclear weapons program. After China launched the policy of reform in 1978, the Chinese viewed national economic interests as a whole as more important than national security interests. That is a main reason why China was very reluctant to join international sanctions and export control efforts against proliferation. Over the past two decades, the Chinese have come to take a more balanced view on economic and security interests, and China has become more active in nuclear nonproliferation. China now considers nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism to be serious challenges to its national security and is willing to invest in the efforts against these challenges.

    The Chinese have their special understandings on some important nuclear terms and have a special paradigm in analyzing nuclear issues. In international dialogues on nuclear arms control, it is necessary to explain the logic and background of the Chinese nuclear thinking. Otherwise, communication among international nuclear experts would be difficult.

    International society should pay attention to the special Chinese understandings on nuclear weapons. Experts from other countries should make greater efforts to explore Chinese security paradigms, nuclear terminology, and approaches to nuclear policy. Future international nuclear dialogues involving Chinese experts could include special sessions to address the differences between Chinese and U.S. nuclear thinking. These efforts could help clear suspicions between Chinese and U.S. nuclear experts in the strategic nuclear arena and thus avoid overreactions by both countries.


    1.  For international efforts by governmental organizations on glossaries, see P5 Working Group on the Glossary of Key Nuclear Terms, “P5 Glossary of Key Nuclear Terms,” China Atomic Energy Press, 2015. For international efforts by nongovernmental organizations, see Committee on the U.S.-Chinese Glossary of Nuclear Security Terms, English-Chinese, Chinese-English, Nuclear Security Glossary (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2008).

    2.  The products of the project will be a book in Chinese and a book in English.  

    3.  Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” April 16, 2013, http://www.china.org.cn/government/whitepaper/node_7181425.htm.

    4.  Xinhua, “Xi Jinping: Adhere to the Comprehensive National Security Theory and Go Toward the Direction of National Security With Chinese Characteristics,” April 15, 2014, http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2014-04/15/c_1110253910.htm (in Chinese).

    5.  For more on this issue, see Li Bin, “The Difference in the Chinese and American Understandings About ‘Nuclear Deterrence,’” World Economics and Politics, No. 2 (2014), pp. 1-18 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    6.  Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 70-71.

    7.  Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “China: Arms Control and Disarmament,” November 1995, http://news.xinhuanet.com/zhengfu/2002-11/18/content_633187.htm.

    8.  For more details on Chinese security paradigms, see Li Bin, “China and Global Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament,” in The War That Must Never Be Fought: Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence, ed. George P. Shultz and James E. Goodby (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2015).

    9.  Information Office of the State Council of
China, “China’s National Defense in 2008,” January 2009, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/2008DefenseWhitePaper_Jan2009.pdf.

    10.  Hu Siyuan, “Nuclear Shadow Moving Around: U.S. Research on Nuclear Penetration Warhead,” March 25, 2004, http://www.china.com.cn/xxsb/txt/2004-04/15/content_5545602.htm (in Chinese).

    11.  Office of Project 863, “Introduction to Project 863,” n.d., http://www.863.gov.cn/1/1/index.htm (in Chinese).

    Li Bin is a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. 

    Communications between Chinese and U.S. nuclear experts are sometimes difficult and inefficient, in part because of the differences in the ways the two sides think about nuclear weapons. 

    Building on the Iran Deal: Steps Toward a Middle Eastern Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

    December 2015

    By Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, and Frank von Hippel

    The July 14 agreement between Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 established a set of important limitations and related transparency measures on Iran’s nuclear activities.

    Approved unanimously by the UN Security Council on July 20, the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aims “to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful” and thus to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. To this end, it imposes limits for a decade or more on Iran’s use of the key technologies required to make highly enriched uranium (HEU) and to separate plutonium, the fissile materials that are the critical ingredients in nuclear weapons.

    Other states in the Middle East, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are planning to establish their own nuclear power programs during the period that the Iran deal is expected to be in force. This has led to concerns about how Iran and other countries in the region will act when restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program end. To address such concerns, this article proposes that the P5+1 and the states of the Middle East use the next decade to agree on region-wide restraints based on the key obligations of the Iran deal as steps toward establishing a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone, preferably as part of a regional zone free of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD).1 These measures would ban the separation of plutonium, limit the level of uranium enrichment, place enrichment plants under multinational control, and cap and reduce Israel’s existing stocks of fissile materials available for use in nuclear weapons, in time eliminating its arsenal through a step-by-step process.

    These are intermediate steps to a nuclear-weapon-free zone that would establish strong, new technical and political barriers to any future attempts by countries in the region to seek a nuclear weapons capability. Although different Middle Eastern states may favor different sequencing of these and other steps, all of the intermediate steps presented below have nonproliferation and disarmament value in their own right. Individually and in groups, states in the region should be encouraged to adopt these steps as way stations toward the larger goal of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East. They also should be pursued globally as steps toward global nuclear disarmament, especially by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), who all have nuclear weapons and with Germany make up the P5+1.

    As in the Iran deal, verification arrangements will be important. Covert proliferation has a long history in the Middle East, starting with Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s and continuing with the violations by Iraq, Libya, and Syria of their commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and most recently the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program. Given this history and the deep mutual suspicions of countries in the region, a robust regional safeguards, monitoring, and verification regime may add to the confidence provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safeguards system.

    Principles and Building Blocks

    A nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was first proposed in the UN General Assembly in 1974 by Iran and Egypt. In 1990, the proposal was broadened by Egypt to include a ban on chemical and biological weapons—that is, to create a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. A 1991 study commissioned by the UN secretary-general proposed that such a zone encompass “all States directly connected to current conflicts in the region, i.e., all States members of the League of Arab States…, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Israel.”2 As of late 2015, all of these countries but two—Israel and Syria—had sent letters to the UN secretary-general confirming their support for declaring the Middle East a region free from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.3

    Most of the states expected to join a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone have signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and all but Israel have joined the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states. Many also have signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Some are members of the African nuclear-weapon-free zone, created by the Treaty of Pelindaba, which entered into force in 2009 (table 1).

    Ban on the separation of plutonium. As part of the nuclear deal, Iran agreed that, for 15 years, it “will not, and does not intend to thereafter” carry out any separation of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, an operation known as reprocessing. Iran also pledged not to build a facility capable of reprocessing or to carry out any research and development activities in that area. In addition, Tehran affirmed its intent to ship out to another country, presumably Russia, all spent nuclear fuel from all present and future power and research reactors.

    Israel is the only country in the region that has separated plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Its nuclear arsenal is based on plutonium that was produced by irradiating natural uranium fuel in a reactor that uses heavy water as a neutron moderator. The reactor, which Israel built with French assistance in the 1950s, is located at the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona.4

    Israel’s plutonium has been separated from the irradiated uranium in an underground reprocessing plant adjoining the reactor. As its first step toward a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone, Israel could shut down the Dimona reactor and end reprocessing of the accumulated discharged fuel. These steps could be verified with fair confidence at first without access to the site and later under an arrangement that would give IAEA inspectors what is known as managed access, which would allow them to determine that the facilities were indeed shut down while allowing Israel to protect sensitive facility information.

    Even if Middle Eastern countries pursue ambitious civilian nuclear power programs, they need not develop reprocessing capabilities. No sound economic or environmental justification exists for separating and stockpiling plutonium.5 Of the 30 countries with operational commercial nuclear power reactors, only six have active civilian reprocessing programs, and five of those six states are nuclear-weapon states. Japan is the only non-nuclear-weapon state with a civilian reprocessing plant, but the plant is not operating and is the subject of extensive debate over its utility, risks, and cost.6

    Restrictions on uranium enrichment. Centrifuge enrichment plants pose significant proliferation concerns because they can be quickly reconfigured for HEU production.7 This is why a major part of the nuclear deal focuses on Iran’s gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment facilities and activities. Iran agreed that it will keep its operating enrichment capacity limited to one site and to a total of 5,060 first-generation centrifuges for 10 years and limit for 15 years the enrichment of its product to less than 3.67 percent uranium-235 and its stock of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride, the gaseous form that could be fed into the centrifuge cascades for further enrichment, to a very low level (less than 300 kilograms). These limitations would extend the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade HEU for a first nuclear weapon from about two months to about a year.

    Iranian students form a human chain outside the site of the Fordow uranium-enrichment facility near the northern Iranian city of Qom during a demonstration to defend their country’s nuclear program on November 19, 2013. (Photo credit: Chavosh Homavandi/AFP/Getty Images)After the limits expire, however, Iran plans to expand its enrichment capacity by a factor of more than 20 in order to produce at least the 27 metric tons per year of 3.7 percent-enriched uranium required to fuel the Russian-supplied Bushehr power reactor.

    Weapons-grade HEU is typically enriched to a U-235 level of 90 percent or greater. For safeguards purposes, however, the IAEA treats uranium enriched above 20 percent as a direct weapons-usable material. Even 20 percent is a much higher level of enrichment than the less-than-5-percent-enriched uranium that is used to fuel commercial nuclear power reactors worldwide today.

    The only operating uranium-enrichment plant in the United States is licensed to enrich up to 5 percent U-235.8 France’s Georges Besse II enrichment plant, which began operating in 2009 and supplies enriched uranium for France’s nuclear power plants, is licensed to produce up to 6 percent U-235.9 It also supplies France’s nuclear submarines. Enrichment in a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone therefore could be limited to less than 6 percent and still accommodate states wishing to develop nuclear naval propulsion. Some policymakers and officials in Iran have already expressed such ambitions.10

    The United States, the UK, Russia, and India use HEU for naval fuel, unlike France and, it is believed, China. They should be pressed to shift to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel as part of a strengthened global nonproliferation and disarmament regime.

    Only three countries in the potential Middle Eastern WMD-free zone—Iran, Israel, and Syria—have reactors that use HEU as fuel. These are research reactors, all of which are under IAEA safeguards. Israel’s U.S.-supplied Soreq reactor is scheduled to be shut down in 2018.11The HEU-fueled research reactors in Iran and Syria, supplied by China, contain only about 1 kilogram of HEU each, much less than the 25 kilograms of U-235 that is the figure the IAEA uses as a rough measure of the quantity required for a simple nuclear weapon. China has developed a new fuel for such reactors that could be used to convert them to LEU fuel.

    Several other research reactors in Middle Eastern states, including the U.S.-supplied Tehran Research Reactor, use fuel enriched to 19.75 percent. Russia and the United States have enough excess HEU to down-blend and use to supply the fuel needs of these reactors and similar reactors worldwide for many decades. Iran already has agreed to import such uranium as other countries do.

    Iran is the only country in the Middle East with plans for a significant commercial uranium-enrichment program. Israel may now have or might have had a small-scale, centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment capability.12 No other state in the region is believed to have this technology. Saudi Arabia, however, has been unwilling to rule out seeking an enrichment capability.

    To address the latent proliferation capability of enrichment plants, uranium enrichment in the Middle East and preferably globally should be placed under multinational control.13 One-third of global uranium-enrichment capacity, including the only commercial enrichment plants currently operating in two of the five NPT nuclear-weapon states (the UK and the United States), already is operated by Urenco, a company owned jointly by the Netherlands, the UK, and two German utilities, with senior management and an oversight body of government officials drawn from all three countries.14

    A multinationally managed and operated enrichment plant, bringing together Iran and regional partners, would undercut incentives for Middle Eastern states to follow Iran and build national enrichment facilities. Senior Iranian officials have indicated that Iran is ready to partner with other countries in the region so that they do not have to build their own enrichment plants and to help set up a system to guarantee the fuel supply of nuclear power plants in the Middle East. A strategy of including as partners one or more members of the P5+1, all of whom already hold centrifuge enrichment technology, could maintain extra transparency with regard to Iran’s enrichment operations, uranium acquisitions, and centrifuge manufacture after the extra transparency established under the nuclear deal expires. As a first step, Iran and the P5+1 could establish a working committee on multilateralization of Iran’s enrichment program. They could invite other partners of the region to join and set a five-year deadline to reach agreement.

    Declarations of fissile material stockpiles and step-by-step safeguards. Dealing with Israel’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile materials will be a key part of achieving a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone. Israel, the only non-NPT state in the region, keeps the existence of its stockpiles cloaked in secrecy.15

    A step toward enabling a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone and nuclear disarmament would be for Israel to declare the size of its stocks of unsafeguarded fissile materials. Israel initially need not disclose what portions reside in its nuclear weapons or any other information about its nuclear weapons program and arsenal. Israel would be called on to reduce and eventually eliminate the quantities of plutonium and HEU that it has available for use in weapons by placing increasing portions under international safeguards for verified disposal.

    Verification Arrangements

    Any Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone will need robust verification. The parties to a zone treaty almost certainly would want a regional monitoring regime to buttress IAEA inspections. Such an arrangement exists in Europe in the form of Euratom. In Latin America’s nuclear-weapon-free zone, Argentina and Brazil have a joint organization, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, through which they monitor each other’s nuclear activities.

    Measures could go beyond standard IAEA safeguards to include the new transparency obligations accepted by Iran under the July 2015 agreement, such as monitoring of uranium mining and purification, uranium imports, and production of nuclear materials and nuclear-related technology such as centrifuges. Some other elements of a possible verification regime are discussed below.

    Additional protocol and transparency measures. Under the July agreement, Tehran is to implement on a provisional basis an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and to seek ratification of the protocol when the IAEA reaches the conclusion that all of Iran’s nuclear material is in peaceful uses or after eight years, whichever comes first. An additional protocol requires parties to declare all of their nuclear-related activities, including centrifuge manufacture—not just those involving nuclear materials—and to give IAEA inspectors access to check those declarations.16

    Thirteen of the 23 countries that could be part of a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone (Egypt, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen) have not ratified an additional protocol.17 Like Iran, all of these states could bring an additional protocol into force pending ratification.

    The Dimona nuclear reactor in the Israeli Negev Desert is shown in this September 2002 photo. (Photo credit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)Israel’s safeguards agreement, which has been in force since 1975, covers only the Soreq research reactor. Once this reactor is shut down and the U.S.-origin fuel is returned, no IAEA safeguards of any kind will exist in Israel. As part of the confidence-building process, Israel and the IAEA could negotiate a safeguards agreement that would cover all of Israel’s peaceful nuclear-related activities and fissile material withdrawn from its nuclear weapons stockpile. Israel would not be the first nuclear-armed state to do so. The five NPT nuclear-weapon states and India have signed and ratified additional protocols with the IAEA that are much more limited in coverage than those signed by the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states.

    Although full transparency and on-site inspections will be indispensable elements of a successful regional and IAEA verification system, some of the initial steps outlined above for moving toward a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone could be verified initially with fair confidence without direct access to the sites in question. Among the conditions that could be verified with standoff detection methods could be the shutdown of the reactor and reprocessing plant at Dimona, as described below.

    Shutdown of the plutonium-production reactor. Satellite or airborne infrared sensors should be able to verify the operational status of Israel’s Dimona plutonium-production reactor by detecting the reduction of the temperatures of the outside of the reactor containment building or the reactor’s cooling towers (fig. 1) once the reactor shuts down. Likewise, the sensors could help detect heat produced by any undeclared reactors in the region.

    Shutdown of the reprocessing plant. The absence of reprocessing should be verifiable by off-site monitoring for the gaseous fission product krypton-85, which is released when irradiated nuclear fuel is cut open in the first stage of reprocessing. Because the gas is chemically nonreactive, reprocessing plants have not bothered to try to capture it. An analysis of measurements of krypton-85 at a distance of 60 kilometers from Japan’s Tokai pilot reprocessing plant demonstrated a high detection probability.18 Unless Dimona has installed a highly effective capture system, it should be possible to detect, with sensors placed around the Dimona site, any emissions of krypton-85 against the krypton background from reprocessing activities elsewhere in the world (fig. 2).

    Shutdown of enrichment. Uranium enrichment using centrifuges is much more difficult to detect from a distance than reprocessing. There is very little leakage from centrifuge plants, so detecting undeclared uranium hexafluoride production might be a more promising approach.19 The difficulty of detecting clandestine uranium enrichment highlights the potential role and importance of cradle-to-grave approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle.20

    One immediate opportunity for collaborative efforts to build verification capacity could be for Middle Eastern countries to set up a regional data-sharing, analysis, and technical training process focused on existing or planned CTBT monitoring stations. Of special interest could be the radionuclide monitoring stations that look for radioxenon and other isotopes and particles from nuclear explosive tests. There currently are stations in Kuwait City; Misrata, Libya; and Nouakchott, Mauritania. A station is planned for Tehran. Mobile platforms could look for krypton-85 from reprocessing as part of the verification network for a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

    One particularly important aspect of a verified nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East will be to obtain confidence in the completeness of Israel’s fissile material declaration. This total could be checked after Israel had placed all of its declared fissile material under international safeguards. Israel’s historical production of plutonium could be checked using techniques of “nuclear archaeology.” These would include measurements of isotopic changes of certain trace elements in the permanent metal structures supporting the core of the Dimona reactor.21 The measurements would reveal the cumulative flow, or fluence, of neutrons through the core over the lifetime of the reactor, which would provide the basis for an estimate of the total production of plutonium by the reactor. By committing publicly to this goal in advance, Israel could contribute to a regional confidence-building process and help set the basis for a verifiable Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.


    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action provides an unprecedented opportunity for an international effort to make progress toward a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone, possibly as part of WMD-free zone in that region. Building on the foundation created by that agreement, the measures proposed here constitute the essential technical steps toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

    Although it is unlikely that such a zone can be established anytime soon, it should be possible to make progress on a number of the building blocks for it. Region-wide commitments to refrain from separating plutonium for any purpose, to limit uranium enrichment to the levels required for power reactors, and to conduct any enrichment activities only as part of a multinational arrangement would be major achievements. International and regional verification of such commitments would provide enhanced confidence against possible proliferation risks.


    1.  For a longer discussion, see Frank N. von Hippel et al., “Fissile Material Controls in the Middle East: Steps Toward a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and All Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), 2013.

    2.  UN Department for Disarmament Affairs, “Effective and Verifiable Measures Which Would Facilitate the Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East,” A/45/435, 1991.

    3.  UN General Assembly, “Letters Received From Member States Confirming Support for Declaring the Middle East a Region Free From Weapons of Mass Destruction, Including Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons: Note by the Secretary-General,” A/68/781, March 6, 2014.

    4.  For a detailed discussion of various estimates of Israel’s plutonium production, see IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2010; Balancing the Books: Production and Stocks,” December 2010, ch. 8, http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr10.pdf.

    5.  “Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs: Status, Problems, and Prospects of Civilian Reprocessing Around the World,” IPFM, July 2015.

    6.  Masafumi Takubo and Frank von Hippel, “Ending Reprocessing in Japan: An Alternative Approach to Managing Japan’s Spent Nuclear Fuel and Separated Plutonium,” IPFM, November 2013.

    7.  Alexander Glaser, “Characteristics of the Gas Centrifuge for Uranium Enrichment and Their Relevance for Nuclear Weapon Proliferation,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 16, Nos. 1-2 (2008): 1-25.

    8.  U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), materials license SNM-2010 issued for the Louisiana Energy Services National Enrichment Facility near Eunice, New Mexico, June 23, 2006, http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0617/ML061780384.pdf.

    9.  Areva, “Expanding the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure by Building a New Uranium Enrichment Facility” (presentation at pre-application meeting with the NRC, May 21, 2007), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0716/ML071650116.pdf.

    10.  The deputy head of the Iranian navy said in 2012, “Since we possess peaceful nuclear technology, therefore we can also put on our agenda the construction of propulsion systems for nuclear submarines.” “Iran Plans to Build N-Fueled Submarines,” PressTV, June 12, 2012.

    11.  Shlomo Cesana, “Israel’s Soreq Nuclear Reactor to Shut Down in 2018,” Israel Hayom, March 21, 2012.

    12.  IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2010,” p. 115.

    13.  Mohamed ElBaradei, “Towards a Safer World,” Economist, October 16, 2003; Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, and Frank von Hippel, “After the Iran Deal: Multinational Enrichment,” Science, June 19, 2015.

    14.  The centrifuges used in Urenco plants, including the Urenco USA plant, and in Areva’s plant in France are made on a “black-box” basis by the Enrichment Technology Company, which is jointly owned by Urenco and Areva.

    15.  Israel is believed to have clandestinely obtained about 300 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium from a U.S. naval fuel fabrication facility during the 1960s. Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson, “Did Israel Steal Bomb-Grade Uranium From the United States?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 2014. See also Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson, “Revisiting the NUMEC Affair,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 66, No. 2 (March 2010).

    16 .  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (Corrected), December 1998.

    17.  IAEA, “Status of the Additional Protocol; Status as of 03 July 2015,” November 13, 2015, https://www.iaea.org/safeguards/safeguards-legal-framework/additional-protocol/status-of-additional-protocol.

    18.  R. Scott Kemp, “A Performance Estimate for the Detection of Undeclared Nuclear-Fuel Reprocessing by Atmospheric 85Kr,” Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Vol. 99, No. 8 (August 2008): 1341-1348.

    19.  R. Scott Kemp and Clemens Schlusser, “Initial Analysis of the Detectability of UO2F2 Aerosols Produced by UF6 Released From Uranium Conversion Plants,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2008): 115-125; R. Scott Kemp, “Source Terms for Routine UF6 Emissions,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2010): 119-125.

    20.  Such a cradle-to-grave approach was proposed by Austria in 2009. IAEA “Communication Dated 26 May 2009 Received From the Permanent Mission of Austria to the Agency Enclosing a Working Paper Regarding Multilateralisation of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle,” INFCIRC/755, June 2, 2009.

    21.  Alex Gasner and Alexander Glaser, “Nuclear Archaeology for Heavy-Water-Moderated Plutonium Production Reactors,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 19, No. 3 (2011): 223-233.

    Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, and Frank von Hippel are members of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University. Mian is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.

    The Iran nuclear deal provides an unprecedented opportunity for progress toward a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone over the next decade. 


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