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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Reconsidering the Test Ban Treaty

November 2015

By Daryl G. Kimball

Two decades ago, on August 11, 1995, President Bill Clinton announced the United States would seek the negotiation of a true, zero-yield global nuclear test ban treaty, thereby ending the practice of using nuclear weapons detonations to proof-test new designs. 

Clinton also directed the Energy Department and the nuclear weapons laboratories to embark on an ambitious and, at the time, unproven science-based stockpile stewardship strategy using surveillance, experimental modeling, and refurbishment to maintain the existing arsenal. 

The decisions opened the way for the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996. The treaty has effectively halted nuclear explosive testing worldwide (only North Korea has conducted nuclear tests since 1998) and slowed the global arms race. The International Monitoring System (IMS) established by the treaty to verify compliance is operational. With 183 state signatories, the treaty is now a centerpiece of the international nuclear nonproliferation system.

But the door to the resumption of nuclear testing remains open, largely because of the U.S. Senate’s highly partisan and rushed vote to reject ratification of the treaty in 1999 and the United States’ failure to reconsider the treaty in the 16 years since. U.S. inaction has, in turn, given the leaders of the seven other states that must ratify the CTBT for its entry into force an excuse for delay.

At an event last month commemorating Clinton’s 1995 actions, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the Senate should re-examine the CTBT in light of the proven success of the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the advances in the IMS to verify compliance with the treaty.

“The factors that led some senators to oppose the treaty in 1999 have changed, and so, choices should change as well,” Kerry said.

At the event, the directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons labs each provided their strongest public affirmation to date that the stewardship effort has been “a success” in “sustaining high confidence in the stockpile.” As Moniz put it, “[E]very science-based stockpile tool that had been planned [is] delivering results and, in many cases, well beyond the original expectations.”

Kerry noted that the IMS, which was still under construction in 1999 and is now 90 percent complete, is providing real-time data around the clock to detect and deter clandestine nuclear tests. In 2012 a National Academy of Sciences panel found that the IMS, national technical means of intelligence, and civilian seismic networks are now so powerful that no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

Kerry said he was “determined that, in the months to come, we’re going to reopen and re-energize the conversation about the treaty on Capitol Hill and throughout our nation.”

Such an effort is welcome and long overdue, but it cannot be done hastily. Bringing the CTBT back to the Senate for another vote requires a lengthy, intensive educational and outreach campaign to present the new information, answer detailed questions, and dispel old myths and misconceptions. To date, President Barack Obama has not devoted the effort necessary to ultimately achieve CTBT ratification, and in his short time left in office, he cannot win enough support for the treaty in this Republican-led Senate.

Yet, the renewed focus on the CTBT at this time is crucial because the treaty still matters for U.S. and international security in the 21st century. 

As Siegfried Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has written, the main reason is that “it is critical to erect as many barriers as possible to the resumption of testing. Ratification of the CTBT and its entry into force is the most important such barrier.”

With the CTBT in place, the United States can reduce the likelihood of successful, clandestine nuclear explosive testing and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons by other countries. 

The test ban would make it far more difficult for nuclear-armed states, including China, India, and Pakistan, to perfect the more compact warhead designs that would allow them to field missiles armed with multiple warheads. It also would add another impediment for states such as Iran that might consider the nuclear weapons option in the future.

U.S. action on the CTBT would prompt other holdouts, such as China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, to consider ratifying the treaty. Even with possible U.S. reconsideration and ratification of the CTBT in 2017 or 2018, entry into force is still years away.

In the meantime, it is essential that U.S. leaders seek and support ways, including actions by the UN Security Council, to reinforce the de facto global nuclear testing moratorium and make it clear that further nuclear testing would be a threat to international peace and security.

Two decades after the decision to permanently forgo nuclear explosive testing, the United States is still not reaping the security benefits that would come with CTBT ratification. The Obama administration is right to invite senators to reconsider the CTBT. Before rushing to judgment, senators should carefully consider the new information and analysis of the issues surrounding this longest-sought, hardest-fought nonproliferation goal. 

Two decades ago, on August 11, 1995, President Bill Clinton announced the United States would seek the negotiation of a true, zero-yield global nuclear test ban treaty...

Civil Society Statement Delivered by Daryl G. Kimball to the 9th CTBT Article XIV Conference

Sections:

Body: 

Redouble Efforts for the CTBT

CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT TO THE 9TH CTBT ARTICLE XIV CONFERENCE
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015 

As Prepared for Delivery by Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Nearly all of the world’s nations recognize that nuclear explosive testing is no longer acceptable, yet the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will not have entered into force by Sept. 24, 2016—20 years after the opening for signature of the Treaty—due to inaction of eight Annex II states.

The CTBT is an effective, verifiable, non-discriminatory, additional barrier to restrain the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons, and it contributes to the establishment of the legal basis for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Bringing the CTBT into full legal force will require more energetic, more creative, more pragmatic and more focused efforts on the part of “Friends of the CTBT” states, eminent persons, responsible lawmakers, the scientific and technical community, and other members of civil society supportive of the CTBT.

We welcome the statements of support for the CTBT from two important hold-out states, China and the United States, but it is very disappointing that neither state has taken sufficient action to ratify the treaty.

The time available for President Barack Obama to pursue the “immediate and aggressive” action to win Senate advice and consent for ratification that he promised in 2009 is shrinking rapidly. More energetic White House leadership, however, would still improve the chances of success after his term expires. We urge bipartisan support for the U.S. ratification of the CTBT, which is clearly and demonstrably in the U.S. national security interest.

China’s leaders maintain that their ratification does not depend on the actions of other states and that they have no intention of resuming testing. We call on President Xi Jinping to show international leadership and pursue China’s ratification without further delay.

We welcome the support of the CTBT from the Russian Federation, which has already ratified the Treaty, and call upon President Vladimir Putin to actively encourage key Annex II states to move forward on the treaty and engage with his U.S. and Chinese counterparts on promoting the early entry-into-force of the CTBT.

Other states must do their part too. Ratification by Egypt, Iran, and Israel—three other key CTBT holdouts—would also reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the Middle East and help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction—or at the very least, a nuclear weapons test free zone.

We welcome the support for the CTBT expressed by senior Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has signed but has not yet ratified the CTBT. Israel’s ratification would bring that country closer to the nuclear non-proliferation mainstream and encourage other states in the region to follow suit.

We welcome the support for the CTBT expressed by senior Iranian leaders, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. At the first Article XIV conference in 1999, Mr. Zarif, then Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, spoke in support of the treaty and endorsed the final conference report. The conference report urged its members to sustain the momentum for entry into force of the CTBT at the highest level and to hold informal consultations and promote cooperation aimed at bringing the Treaty into effect.

Neither India nor Pakistan say they want to resume testing, yet their governments have failed to take a serious look at joining the CTBT, which is a non-discriminatory measure that would help reduce global and regional nuclear tensions. In 1998, the leadership of both states said that they would not stand in the way of CTBT entry into force—nearly two decades later, now is the time for Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif to reconsider that position, reinforce their support for their non-testing policies, and become leaders, not followers on the test ban.

North Korea continues its nuclear pursuits in violation of its earlier denuclearization pledges and the NPT and may conduct yet another nuclear weapon test explosion, which would allow it to proof-test more advanced nuclear weapons capabilities. We call on North Korea to cease further nuclear testing and for the resumption of the Six Party Talks that should include support for the CTBT.

Given these realities, states at this conference have a responsibility to take practical steps to support the CTBT, to reinforce the global nuclear testing moratorium and prohibition, and to encourage nuclear-armed states to refrain from nuclear weapons modernization activities that lead to new types of warheads and new military capabilities.

In the interest of global security and out of respect for the victims and survivors of nuclear testing, we call on all states in the coming year to redouble diplomatic efforts to bring the CTBT into force. 

To do so, states parties should consider and undertake one or more of the following initiatives:

  1. Use this Article XIV Conference as a launching point for a powerful, high-level, ongoing multilateral diplomatic campaign, led by states such as Japan and Kazakhstan—two states that have experienced first hand the devastating effects of nuclear weapon explosions—to increase diplomatic efforts to create the conditions for ratification by one or more key Annex II states in the next year.
  2. Utilize the time leading up to the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the CTBT in September 2016 to launch a public campaign to raise governmental and public awareness about the dangers of nuclear testing, the possible resumption of nuclear testing, and the value of the CTBT as a critical element in a comprehensive global strategy to halt the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons, halt the further spread of nuclear weapons, and contribute to the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.
  3. CTBT States parties, the seven states observing nuclear testing moratoria, and the UN Security Council should explore new approaches to reinforce the global taboo against nuclear testing and clarify that nuclear test explosions by any nation are a threat to international peace and security.

For example, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States could jointly issue a formal joint statement committing not to be the first of the seven to conduct a nuclear test explosion. 

In addition, pending the permanent closure of nuclear test sites, voluntary transparency measures would further strengthen confidence in the CTBT monitoring and verification regime.

None of these options is easy or simple, but without fresh thinking and renewed action, the door to further nuclear testing remains open and the full potential of the CTBT, including the option for on-site inspections to investigate possible noncompliance, will remain unrealized.

Endorsed by:

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, Harvard Kennedy School, and former adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Sandra Ionno Butcher, Executive Director, Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs (International)*

David Culp, Legislative Representative, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington, DC

Dr. Sidney Drell, Stanford University 

Joe Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund

Robert J. Einhorn, former U.S. Department of State Special Advisor for Nonproliferation

Charles D. Ferguson, President of the Federation of American Scientists* 

Nancy Gallagher, Interim Director, Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland 

Richard L. Garwin, 
IBM Fellow Emeritus, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center

Amb. James Goodby, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution,* Stanford University, and former advisor to President Clinton on the CTBT

Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute 

Dr. Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, and Dr. David Wright, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

John Hallam, People for Nuclear Disarmament, Sydney, Australia

Morton H. Halperin, Director of Policy Planning, Department of State 1998-2001

Paul Ingram, Executive Director, British American Security Information Council

Dr. Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University 

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshares

Dr. Rebecca E. Johnson FRSA, Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Togzhan Kassenova, Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Ayman Khalil, Director, Arab Institute for Security Studies (Amman) 

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association 

The Honorable Mike Kopetski, former Member of the U.S. Congress (D-Oregon) and co-author of the Nuclear Test Moratorium Act of 1991-92

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, The Stimson Center 

Fred McGoldrick, former Director of Nonproliferation and Export Policy, U.S. Department of State

Paul Meyer, Adjunct Professor of International Studies and Fellow in International Security, Simon Fraser University, and Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation 

Matt Pacenza, Executive Director, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah 

Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution* 

Dr. William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey* 

Amb. Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan

Jon Rainwater, Executive Director, Peace Action West

Amb. Jaap Ramaker of the Netherlands, Chairman of the CTBT negotiations in 1996, and former Special Representative to Promote CTBT Ratification

Tariq Rauf, Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)* 

Susan Shaer, Executive Director, Women’s Action for New Directions

Susi Snyder, Nuclear Disarmament Programme Leader, PAX, the Netherlands 

Sharon Squassoni, Senior Fellow and Director, Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies* 

Tatsujiro Suzuki, Director, Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University (RECNA), and former Vice Chairman, Japan Atomic Energy Commission 

Honorable Ellen O. Tauscher, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State

Catherine Thomasson, M.D., Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Aaron Tovish, International Director, 2020 Vision Campaign, Mayors for Peace

Amb. Carlo Trezza, former Special Envoy for Disarmament and Non-proliferation for Italy, and outgoing Chairman of the Missile Technology Control Regime

Paul F. Walker, Director of Director of Green Cross International’s Environmental Security and Sustainability Program

Honorable Andy Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, U.S. Department of Defense 

Amb. Norman A. Wulf, U.S. Department of State (ret.), and Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (1999-2002) 

Dr. Andrei Zagorski, Head of Department of Arms Control and Conflict Resolution, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences* 

*Institution listed for identification purposes only.

Click here for a PDF version of these remarks.

Description: 

Nearly all of the world’s nations recognize that nuclear explosive testing is no longer acceptable...

CTBT Group of Eminent Persons Meets in Hiroshima, Calls for Fortified Effort to Accelerate Entry Into Force

Although the vast majority of the world’s nations recognize that nuclear explosive testing is no longer acceptable, the failure to sign or ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on the part of a few Annex II states will have delayed entry into force for more than 20 years after the opening for signature of the Treaty in 1996. These states are: China, the United States, Israel, Iran, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea. With enormous challenges ahead to secure the necessary signatures and ratifications, progress depends on a more energetic, more...

Editorials Supporting an Iran Nuclear Deal, January - September 2015

A wide-range of newspaper editorials from across the country have noted the challenges facing the nuclear negotiations between the United States, its allies, and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. 

Updated: September 2015 

The P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) and Iran have agreed on a framework for a comprehensive nuclear agreement that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful.  

A wide-range of newspaper editorials from across the country have noted the challenges facing the negotiations, some of which have been dealt with and some of which remain—and the vast majority have expressed support for the emerging agreement. Below is a selection of recent editorials on the issue. 

America’s Role: U.S. Leadership is Maintained With the Iran Deal—“All in all, senators who worked to keep the Iran deal on track acted clearly in America’s interests.”—Pittsburg Post-Gazette [9/13/2015]

An Iran Agreement Worth Testing—“This agreement is a diplomatic advance worth testing. And if it fails as critics predict? A supportive United States will be in a much stronger position to lead the response.”—Akron Beacon Journal [9/11/2015]

Iran Deal is a Victory for Effective Global Diplomacy—"If the deal had been blocked in Congress, the sanctions regime likely would have unraveled, and Iran would have continued to be months, not years, from being able to develop a nuclear weapon."—Star Tribune [9/10/2015]

Iran Deal Warrants Approval—"Opponents claim they don't want war. Instead, they say, a rejection by Congress would force everyone back to the negotiating table for a "better deal." Let's get real. That simply won’t happen. America's negotiating partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have warned that they won't return to the talks. And why would they, when Congress could simply reject any new deal all over again?"—USA Today [9/09/2015]

Peace Has a Chance With Iran Nuclear Deal—"What opponents have failed to do is consider what would happen if they did succeed in blocking the deal. If the deal fell apart now, the international sanctions regime — painstakingly put in place over years — would collapse as it became clear that the United States was not a serious negotiator."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch [9/09/2015]

A Senseless Delay on the Iran Deal—"The debate has been vitriolic and raw, with opponents waging a multimillion-dollar campaign that relied heavily on distortions and made supporters of the strong and worthy deal out to be anti-Israel or worse."—The New York Times [9/09/2015]

A Cautious ‘Yes’ on the Iran Deal—“It’s not a perfect deal by any means, but it’s better than any alternative that opponents have been able to cite. Congress should support it.“—Montgomery News [9/08/2015]

Sen. Heitkamp Makes Right Call on Iran Accord—“Opponents of the deal have offered no credible alternative (war?). Heitkamp said her decision ‘is about seeking diplomacy rather than conflict.’ She’s got it right.”—The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead [9/06/2015]

Good News on Iran Deal—"Even if President Obama hasn’t tended well to congressional egos, he’s certainly due credit for engineering a political victory on the Iran treaty that’s good for the country. He has ensured the affirmation of a multi-nation nuclear deal with Iran that will prevent that nation from developing a nuclear weapon for years to come."—The News & Observer [9/04/2015]

Deal Assured: The Iran Accord is the Best Option for the Future—"Although squashing for the time being Iran’s nascent nuclear weapons ambitions was the immediate objective of the accord, it and Iran’s resulting contact with other countries should also open up opportunities for that nation to rejoin a world that it left to a great degree in 1979 when the revolution took place. One result could be Iran’s playing a more positive role in the Middle East. All in all, this was the right outcome."—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [9/04/2015]

Let's Get on With the Iran Nuclear Deal—"But something else has become clear in the weeks of debate about whether Congress should approve this deal. There is not an alternative that would better protect U.S. interests. Rejection of the deal by Congress would likely isolate the U.S. and carry significant risks for this nation's security."—Chicago Tribune [9/03/2015]

Don't Bunker-Bust the Nuclear Deal With Iran—"The international nuclear deal achieved with Iran avoids Plan W — a future declaration of war by the United States in response to an Iran that might be developing nuclear weapons."—The Montclair Times [9/03/2015]

Good Luck, Mr. Biden, Selling Nuke Deal—"It's also worth noting that a majority of American Jews support the deal, 49 percent to 31 percent, according to a poll by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. We support the deal, too, just as we have always supported Israel's right to defend its people. We know Israel has the most to lose if Iran develops nuclear capability. But we strongly believe this deal will make it more difficult for Iran to achieve that goal."—The Sun Sentinel [9/02/2015]

Casey Right on Iran Deal—"Iran knows how to make a nuclear weapon and there is no scenario where it will lose that knowledge. Mr. Casey’s exhaustive analysis has led him to the correct conclusion: The agreement is the best course available to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions."—Scranton Times-Tribune [9/02/2015]

Follow Merkley's Lead—"Wyden should join Merkley in announcing support for the deal and provide the Obama administration with what could prove the final vote it needs to protect the pact in Congress."—The Register Guard [9/01/2015]

Susan Collins Should Choose the Responsible Path on Iran—"A headline in The Hill newspaper last week called Collins 'Obama’s last hope for GOP support on Iran.' Collins’ vote might not determine the deal’s fate in either direction — President Barack Obama likely has enough support to veto a vote of disapproval and have his veto sustained — but the Maine senator has the chance to send a powerful message when everybody’s listening. That message should be that the deal negotiated with Iran, while not perfect, is the most responsible course of action available both in terms of containing the nuclear capabilities of a state sponsor of terrorism and preserving the United States’ position of leadership in the world."—Bangor Daily News [8/31/2015]

Weighing the Iran Nuclear Deal: Far From Perfect, but the Alternatives are Worse—"We urge members of Congress to vote against the resolution and, if it passes anyway, to support President Obama when he vetoes it, as he almost certainly would do. After that, Congress should press the administration to make good on its promises to counter Iran's dangerous meddling in the affairs of its neighbors and to respond decisively if Iran is found to have cheated on this agreement."—The Los Angeles Times [8/30/2015]

A Cautious "Yes" on the Iran Nuclear Deal—"It's not a perfect deal by any means, but it's better than any alternative that opponents have been able to cite. Congress should support it."—The Denver Post [8/29/2015]

Casey Should Support Deal—"The agreement has been endorsed by leading U.S. nuclear scientists, retired military leaders, several former U.S. ambassadors to Israel, Catholic bishops, many Christian leaders, a majority of American Jews and — despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bellicose opposition — much of the Israeli security establishment. Mr. Casey should join that group in supporting the agreement."—Scranton Times Tribune [8/25/2015]

Don't Toss Aside Iran Deal Lightly—"Reaching an agreement with Iran — not to mention Russia and China — was no small achievement, and the deal should not be lightly tossed aside."—Norwich Bulletin [08/24/2015]

Menendez Opposition to Iran Pact Risks War—"Menendez is no hawk. But he has his blinds spots. He's unreasonable on Cuba, opposing a détente even after a half century of futile sanctions. Derailing the Iran deal could have far more deadly consequences. Our fervent hope is that Sen. Cory Booker does not make a historic mistake by following his lead. Because Obama is right -- rejecting this agreement could put the United States and Iran on a path towards war."—New Jersey Star-Ledger [8/20/2015]

South Florida's Congressional Delegation Should Back Iran Deal—"But sensitive or not, a critical choice is coming up, and the votes of South Florida's delegation could very well affect the result. Elected officials must vote their consciences, but unless they can offer what President Obama calls a "plausible" alternative — and no, we haven't heard one — we urge the undecided members of our delegation to support the deal."—Sun Sentinel [8/18/2015]

The Case for the Iran Deal—“The deal in hand may not be perfect — what agreement ever is? — but it's far better than the alternatives. Those who think we can simply sit back and wait for Iran to come up with a better offer are dreaming.”—The Baltimore Sun [8/12/2015] 

Voices of Expertise and Reason for the Iran Deal—“Hard bargaining produced the agreement. Now the deal should be tested, leading scientists and engineers making a persuasive case that it is well worth trying.”—Akron Beacon Journal [8/10/2015]

As Obama Promotes Iran Deal, Hiroshima Echos Still—"The world has to remember and learn and choose a path that might lead to a diplomatic solution in Iran -- and not the destructive alternative."—Newsday [8/5/2015]

Obama Takes on Opponents of the Iran Deal—"President Obama on Wednesday made a powerful case for the strong and effective nuclear agreement with Iran."—The New York Times [8/5/2015]

Iran Deal Critics Sell A Fantasy: Our View"But those who insist there’s a better deal to be had, if only Congress rejects this one, are gambling that an international coalition, which joined the U.S. to place tough economic sanctions on Iran, can be reassembled. The odds of that happening are about the same as winning the lottery. As President Obama put it in his speech Wednesday, 'Those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy.' The fact is, the deal on the table took a decade of painstaking work."—USA Today [8/5/2015]

Republican Hypocrisy on Iran—“The exaggerations and half-truths that some Republicans are using to derail President Obama‘s important and necessary nuclear deal with Iran are beyond ugly.”—The New York Times [8/1/2015]

Iran Nuclear Deal is Better Than Status Quo—“Does the deal improve our ability to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon as compared to the status quo? Clearly it does. Unless critics can offer something better — something that is acceptable to the other nations participating in the imposition of sanctions — they should embrace the agreement as being beneficial, if not perfect.”—Decatur Daily [7/30/2015]

Heated Rhetoric on Iran Deal Does Nothing but Enrich the Few—“There are scads of money to be made anytime the United States wages war on another nation. If Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear bomb, there is no question that Israel will find a way to strike and that action could lead to a conflagration that makes the current upheavals in the Middle East seem petty by comparison. Are we ready to step back into that fray? Or are we willing to let this deal spin out? We choose the latter.”—Bennington Banner[7/29/2015]

Rigorously Enforce the Iran Nuclear Deal“If Congress kills the deal or significantly alters its terms, America would be blamed for the accord's failure and draw the ire of nations that joined the United States in hammering out an exhaustive pact only to see it crumble. The strong sanctions alliance would unravel and Iran would revive its bomb effort — and Washington's prestige and ability to marshal a global response to Tehran's renewed weapons push would be diminished."—Defence News [7/20/15]

Iran Deal a Gamble, but No Deal Would Be Worse—Without an agreement, however, Iran already is pursuing its aggression and terror. It is acting outside the sphere of responsible states. This agreement creates a scenario in which that fundamentalist dynamic might change. Is it guaranteed? Not at all. But none of the doubters have offered a better idea. This is what we've got.”—El Paso Times [7/20/15]

The Nuclear Deal With Iran is Better Than the Alternatives—War or No Deal at All—“A country of Iran’s size and sophistication will get a bomb if it really wants one. Nothing can change that. But this pact offers the chance of holding Iran back and shifting its course. The world should embrace it, cautiously.”—The Economist [7/18/15] 

Negotiations Produced Nuclear Agreement, Not Iranageddon“Sanctions brought Iran to the table. An agreement required accepting that the perfect is not possible. Now, Congress should read the agreement, debate the issues involved seriously, and make a final decision in the real world.”—Idaho Mountain Express [7/17/15]

Iran Nuclear Deal is a Path Away From War“The pact with Iran announced Tuesday is about diminishing the chances of the United States going to war to stop Iran from deploying a nuclear weapon. To that end, the U.S. and its negotiating partners forged a sound deal. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should be hailed for a historic achievement."—Savannah Morning News [7/17/15]

Utah Politicians Attack Iran Deal With No Alternative—“If Iran cheats, the very unpleasant question of whether to attack that nation's nuclear facilities will still be before us. But even if the bombers do fly — now or 10 years from now — that would be no guarantee of a nuclear-free Iran. So the pact is well worth trying, if only because it stands to at least delay the threat of another costly and almost certainly pointless war in the Middle East.”—The Salt Lake Tribune [7/17/15]

Agreement Should be Given a Chance to Prevent Iran from Building Nuclear Weapons“Failure to craft an agreement all but guarantees that Iran will continue to seek nuclear weapons, perhaps igniting a war as the United States and Israel make good on pledges to prevent that nation from achieving nuclear capability. Only two paths are available, neither of them guaranteed to work: military or diplomatic. The Obama administration and other countries involved in the negotiations have chosen diplomacy. It was the right decision – really, the only decision – even given Iran’s behavior.”—The Buffalo News [7/17/15]

Iran Deal a Lesson in the Value of Diplomacy“Yet even so, here is a profound piece of evidence in favour of talking, of being willing to extend a hand, as US President Barack Obama once put it, if another country was "willing to unclench their fist". It tells us that violent enmities can be improved, and that common interests can be found. It tells us that nothing is pre-ordained – not the antagonisms we presume will last forever, or the conflicts that seem to replay themselves over and over.”—The Dominion Post [7/17/15]

Nukes Deal a Triumph for Iran and US“The deal agreed this week by Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is, therefore, a triumph of perseverance and diplomacy. In one swoop, the prospect of Tehran developing nuclear weaponry has been largely eliminated and the chance of it playing a more constructive role in world, and especially Middle Eastern, affairs has been much enhanced.”—The New Zealand Herald [7/17/15]

Diplomacy, Not War, Goal of Iran Nuclear Deal“War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy, British politician Tony Benn once said. Right now, diplomacy holds the greatest promise of success.”—Detroit Free Press [7/16/15]

Enough With Netanyahu's Iran Deal Hysteria“Netanyahu’s pretention to teach the world history has no basis. His previous assessments regarding the materialization of the Iranian threat have proved false. Only five years ago, he objected to the same sanctions whose removal today he calls “a historic mistake.” Had he been given his wish at the time and had Iran’s nuclear facilities been bombed, either by Israel or the United States, the reactors would have been rehabilitated by now and Iran would be closer than ever to obtaining nuclear weapons.”—Haaretz [7/16/15]

Looking at Iran Nuclear Deal“Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that without a deal, Iran will be free to develop its nuclear program without any restrictions. Iran has everything it needs, including skilled scientists. Informed guesses range from months to years on how quickly Iran could create a nuclear weapon.”—Journal Star [7/16/15]

Iran Deal: Congress Should Think and Listen, ­Then Maybe Even Read the Agreement“Republicans understandably oppose the president on many fronts, which reflects honest philosophical differences, as well as party politics. But Obama’s support for something does not automatically constitute a logical reason to endorse its opposite. The Iran agreement is supposed to help keep nukes out of the hands of crazies. Denouncing it without actually knowing what is in it or hearing from military and foreign-policy experts about how it might work is irresponsible and dangerous.”—The Durango Herald [7/16/15] 

Diplomacy Creates Hope of a Responsible Iran“Mr Obama's Republican rivals insist they will tear up the agreement in given the chance. But what is the alternative to a deal? The Herald believes there isn't a viable one. Engagement at least offers some optimism, where before there was none.”—The Sydney Morning Herald [7/16/15]

Iran Deal: the World Becomes a Safer Place“The agreement, signed after 20 months of negotiations, offers real hope on at least two fronts. First, there are verifiable measures to contain and reduce the threat of Iran's nuclear capabilities for more than a decade. Under the terms of the agreement, Iran will dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure. The country's capacity to enrich uranium will be be reduced by two-thirds, while its stockpile of enriched uranium will be reduced by 96 per cent. UN inspectors will be able to enter sites where they suspect any undeclared nuclear activity may be occurring. The impact of a successful containment of Iran's nuclear threat in a volatile Middle East cannot be overstated.”—The Age [7/16/15]

Few Seem Happy With U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal — and Rightfully So“Yes, it’s a terrible deal, but breaking off negotiations and letting Iran run wild would be even more terrible. It would also likely lead to war, which is the most terrible alternative imaginable. With that perspective, this deal can be viewed as the least-worst of a number of very bad options.”—Desert News [7/16/15]

A Deal With Iran: The Accord Promises a Decade of Containment“Is the agreement perfect? Certainly not, but it is far better than allowing Iran to fester in dangerous isolation.”—Pittsburgh Post Gazette [7/15/15]

Despite GOP, Israeli Critics, the Iran Deal is a Good One“But the truth is, this is a good deal. It is not perfect, and it is time-limited (Iran will not be able to build beyond a limit on enriched uranium for 10 years) but it is preferable to war, which seems to be the Republican alternative.”—The News & Observer [7/15/15]

Congress Should Support Deal With Iran—“The Iran agreement helps America's national security, protects Israel and contains Iran's nuclear ambitions. It is a compromise, but that is not a criticism. Nothing except a compromise was possible.”—Sun Sentinel [7/15/15]

Better to See Iran Back Away From Nuclear Weapons“The president made a choice, one of those difficult calls that arrive in the White House. Worth adding is that he is not alone. Germany, France and Britain joined in the agreement, along with Russia and China. All concluded the greater danger resided in Iran becoming a nuclear power. To their credit, the partners (for this endeavor [sic]) gained a deal that puts clear and formidable obstacles in the path of Iran.”—Akron Beacon Journal [7/15/15]

Iran Deal is Better Than No Deal at All“After two years of grueling negotiations, the Obama administration has finally pulled off a historic deal with Iran that resolves — at least for the time being — one of the most pressing foreign policy challenges facing the world: concerns that Iran could be building a nuclear bomb.”—The Boston Globe [7/15/15]

Examine Iran Deal Carefully Before Deciding“So let's not rush to judgment. Before we allow cable news mavens of whatever stripe tell us what to think, let's spend time investigating and having an honest discussion with the goal of giving our government guidance on how to proceed.”—Contra Costa Times [7/15/15]

Outcomes Uncertain on Iran Deal, Political Future“The historic agreement announced by the United States and its partners with Iran on Tuesday offers the welcome prospect that, for the next 15 years, the Islamic republic will be restrained from producing a nuclear weapon.”—Santa Cruz Sentinel [7/15/15]

Iran Nuclear Agreement Imperfect but Realistic“Critics have offered no alternative other than a Middle East nuclear arms race among Iran and its rival Sunni states and Israel, and the prospect of a massive regional war. The agreement is realistic, more akin to President Richard Nixon’s outreach to China more than 40 years ago than to appeasement. China remains, in many ways, an adversary. But it is part of the global community and less dangerous than it might have been in isolation. The same prospect now arises relative to Iran.”—PA Citizen Voice [7/15/15]

A Historic Accord on Iran’s Nuclear Program“Yes, this agreement should be closely vetted. But until opponents come up with a realistic strategy, it is the best option available.”—The Fresno Bee [7/15/15]

Question but Give Fair Hearing to Iran Pact“Reaching agreement to freeze Iran’s march toward nuclear capability without resorting to war is a credit to the Obama administration’s persistence.”—Miami Herald [7/15/15]

Diplomacy Over War“[T]he Obama administration has won a victory that prevents another bloodbath. The treaty negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry will let international inspectors verify that Iran’s nuclear power program is doing nothing that might put an atomic bomb into the hands of suicidal terrorists, or governments.”—Charleston Gazette [7/15/15]

The Iran Deal Cuts the Risk of Another Mideast War“But critics of the deal tend to ignore two hard realities. One is that Iran is well along on the path to building nuclear weapons, and will surely acquire them if this agreement is rejected. Even if sanctions are kept in place, a nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous.”—The Star-Ledger [7/15/15]

Proponents Need to Sell Iran Nuclear Agreement“With the next step in the process soon to begin – congressional review of the pact – there'll be plenty of time for questions, but as a start, one should trump all others: Is an imperfect agreement better than no pact at all? That question is at least based in reality. It judges this deal against an actual alternative, not as opposed to some imagined perfect pact.”—The Republican [7/15/15]

The Nuclear Deal With Iran“To evaluate the agreement, let's keep in mind that the alternatives are not many and that there aren't more favorable [sic] ones if the goal is to control Iran's nuclear ambitions.”—Los Angeles Opinion [7/15/15]

Iran Deal Best One Available“But anyone who thought that Iran was going to abandon its nuclear capability was unrealistic. This agreement commits Iran to reducing its potential nuclear material stockpile by 98 percent and diminishing its capacity to produce that fuel by about two-thirds, and to allow independent inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The provisions increase the period that it would take to produce a weapon from about three months to about a year.” The Times-Tribune [7/15/15]

Iran Nuclear Deal Needs Careful Study, Not a Political Pie Fight“Still, an agreement with a reasonable shot at success is worth trying because the alternative is another war, and that should be a last resort.”—San Jose Mercury News [7/15/15]

Is the Iran Deal Good Enough?—“Our preliminary assessment is that, if its terms are strictly enforced, the deal is likely to put nuclear weapons beyond Iran's reach for a decade or more, a significant achievement and probably the best outcome available.”—Los Angeles Times [7/15/15]

For Iran Nuclear Deal, Implementation Will Be Key“Which is scarier: An unconstrained Iran that already has enough fissile material to build ten to 12 nuclear bombs within two to three months? Or an Iran that's agreed to give up all of its highly-enriched uranium, all of its plutonium and key elements of the technology for achieving a bomb, while accepting intrusive and far-reaching international safeguards and inspections?”—Cleveland Plain Dealer [7/15/15]

Global Effort Needed to Prevent Iran Nuclear Deal From Fizzling Out“With Iran agreeing to shrink the program, the nightmare of Iran going nuclear has receded. And with the lifting of sanctions by Europe and the United States, Iran will emerge from its isolation that began with the 1979 Iranian Revolution and start rejoining the international community. The possibility of the United States and Iran working together to bring stability to the Middle East has become more real.”—The Asahi Shimbun [7/15/15]

An Historic Deal to Curb Iranian Nuclear Ambitions“The long-awaited Iranian nuclear deal finalized on Tuesday appears to be the very best — and most certainly the only realistic — shot at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”—Chicago Sun-Times [7/14/15]

The Importance of Iran Deal“If the deal stops "the spread of nuclear weapons in this region," as Obama insisted Tuesday, it will be a magnificent achievement.”—The Denver Post [7/14/15]

Good Faith Needed on Iran Deal“Given this, Tuesday’s announcement that a U.S.-led effort to strike a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions is welcome news if — and it’s a big if — all parties can stick to the terms of the accord. Count as a positive anything that puts off full-scale war and offers at least a chance of a more peaceful world.”—The Anniston Star [7/14/15]

An Iran Nuclear Deal That Reduces the Chance of War“The final deal with Iran announced by the United States and other major world powers does what no amount of political posturing and vague threats of military action had managed to do before. It puts strong, verifiable limits on Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon for at least the next 10 to 15 years and is potentially one of the most consequential accords in recent diplomatic history, with the ability not just to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but also to reshape Middle East politics.”—The New York Times [7/14/15]

Iran Nuclear Deal Appears Promising“A seriously flawed agreement is worse than no agreement. But the initial overview of this deal is positive for the nation and for the world. As Congress wades into the details, it should measure them against the present and the possible — not against the perfect.”—Tampa Bay Times [7/14/15]

Is Iran Nuclear Deal Better Than no Deal? Yes: Our View“So what has been won by these arduous negotiations? First, an option other than war to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, one that positions the U.S. as a leader in making the world a safer place with a stroke of a pen rather than at the tip of a sword.”—USA Today [7/14/15]

The Guardian View on the Iran Nuclear Deal: a Triumph of Diplomacy—“Instead of politicians opting for military solutions, this has been a triumph for diplomats and pragmatists, working hour after hour on the detail of a deal that secures a peaceful compromise – and which represents a heartening success in the global quest to halt nuclear proliferation.”—The Guardian [7/14/15]

Pushing Back Iran’s Nuclear Threat—“They may want to nudge back the hands of the Doomsday Clock. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders have managed to rein in Iran’s worrisome nuclear program, granting the Middle East a reprieve from the spectre of war.”—The Star [7/14/15] 

Bargaining With Tehran—“Republicans are right that we can't trust Iran, and we shouldn't. That's why the U.S. is insisting on a robust inspection and monitoring regime that can respond promptly to evidence of Iranian cheating.”—The Baltimore Sun [7/14/15]

Give the Iran Nuclear Agreement a Chance“The nuclear agreement signed Tuesday between Iran and the six world powers is an incredible diplomatic achievement and a historic milestone in the West’s relations with Iran since that country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.”—Haaretz [7/14/15]

Iran Nuclear Deal is a Path Away From War“But if Congress succeeded in clearing the high bar needed to reject the pact, our nation would be left with only one viable option for deterring a nuclear Iran. That option is war. And we know where that leads. The pact announced Tuesday is a path away from conflagration.”—The Kansas City Star [7/14/15]

Congress Must Fully Vet Iran Deal“On Tuesday, the U.S., its international colleagues and Iran reached an agreement that purports to bar Iran from developing nuclear weaponry. Sanctions against Iran will be lifted in return for Iranian promises to be nice. Congress will have an opportunity to assess the agreement. It would be presumptuous to pass immediate judgment when Congress will devote two months to the debate.” Richmond Times-Dispatch [7/14/15]

Give Iran Deal a Chance to SucceedThis deal wasn’t slapped together with little thought given to the consequences — it was reached after two years of negotiations involving six world world powers with vastly disparate views on Iran. That’s not appeasement, it’s pragmatism.”—The Ottawa Citizen [7/14/15]

A Historic Accord on Iran’s Nuclear Program“When you listen to the critics, ask yourself: Are they offering any kind of plausible alternative? Without this pact, we’re left with what? More economic sanctions that hurt the civilian population as much as Iran’s leaders? A military strike that may or may not completely wipe out Iran’s nuclear capability, but could spark a wider war in the Middle East, where there is more than enough bloodshed already?”—The Sacramento Bee[7/14/15] 

Deeper Opportunities in Iran Nuclear Pact“Its nuclear program was just one of many strategic aims to enable Iran to lead the Islamic world’s 1.6 billion believers, or 23 percent of the world’s population. Iran (the country) claimed geopolitical reasons for needing to acquire advanced nuclear know-how. But perhaps Iran (the religious revolutionary) decided its secretive, militarized nuclear program was hurting its reputation as the leader of all Muslims. After all, a violent and political version of Islam has lost much support since 9/11 in favor of an Islam that is peaceful.” The Christian Science Monitor [7/14/15]

Carefully Consider All Aspects of Iran Deal—“[I]t is precisely the nature of the regime that makes this accord so important. President Obama, who in his statement said the deal was “not built on trust, it is built on verification,” offered “extensive briefings” to members of Congress. They should take him up on that.”—Star Tribune [7/14/15]

No Need to Rush on Iran Nuclear Deal“It has always been a long shot, the hope that the U.S. could reach an accord with Iran that would keep that country from building nuclear weapons for many years. Yet the goal is attractive enough to justify the Obama administration's pursuit of such a deal.”—The Denver Post [7/9/15]

Take Time for Verifiable Iran Nuclear Deal“It’s true that Iran already is fomenting conflict in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and across the region. Iran, however, would be even more of a regional menace – and a global threat – if it were armed with nuclear weapons. Done right, a negotiated deal can stop that from happening for years to come.”—The Sacramento Bee [6/30/15]

Ayatollah Khamenei’s Fateful Choice“Compromises are part of any negotiation. Any agreement can really be judged only when the text is signed and details are made public. The April framework accord was a solid basis on which to build a credible final deal. Ayatollah Khamenei must decide whether he and his government can live with the economic and political consequences if he sabotages this deal.” —The New York Times [6/24/15]

Rubio on Wrong Side of Iran Deal“While nothing is perfect, we were disappointed to see Rubio try to scuttle the deal with political gamesmanship. As [Deputy National Security Advisor Ben] Rhodes said, ‘this deal is a far better choice than a military confrontation or a world in which Iran exists as a nuclear weapon state.’ Amen to that.”—Sun Sentinel [5/7/15]

Among Iran Options, One Makes Sense—"To put it simply, Wilkerson believes that it’s important for the good of the world that the United States cultivates a meaningful relationship with Iran. ...The art of diplomacy has marked the forward progress of mankind since the first victim of the first weapon of war fell dead to the ground. Be skeptical of any politician who claims the path to peace must run through fields of blood.”—Concord Monitor [4/21/15]

A Reckless Act in the Senate on Iran“Congress has formally muscled its way into President Obama’s negotiations with Iran, creating new and potentially dangerous uncertainties for an agreement that offers the best chance of restraining that country’s nuclear program.”—The New York Times [4/14/15]

Israel’s Unworkable Demands on Iran—“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s] government made new demands that it claimed would ensure a better deal than the preliminary one that Iran, President Obama and other leaders of major powers announced last week. The new demands are unrealistic and, if pursued, would not mean a better deal but no deal at all.”—The New York Times [4/7/15]

Iran Deal Better Than Expected—“The agreement falls short of achieving the goals initially spelled out by the White House. But it does place enough restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to offer at least some hope its ambitions to produce a weapon will be significantly delayed, if not completely deterred.”—The Detroit News [4/4/15]

Nuclear Deal With Iran is Worth a Try—"Congress and others are correct to be wary of Iran and its intentions. Yet that is no reason not to attempt to negotiate a workable agreement. Who trusted the Soviet Union when Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet regime? On both of those occasions, the Soviet Union had many nuclear weapons in place ready and targeted upon the United States and vice versa.”—West Central Tribune [4/4/15]

Critics of Iran Deal are Off-BaseIf a nuclear agreement were a reward for Iranian good behavior across the board — or if it were a clear first step toward a full rapprochement with the Islamic Republic — the critics might have a point. But that's not what the agreement is. Rather, it is more narrowly designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a goal that (if it can be achieved) would serve the interests of the whole world.”—The Los Angeles Times [4/3/15]

Negotiating With IranMonths more of hard bargaining will be needed to work out the details of how those principles translate into a final agreement acceptable to both sides. But the fact that negotiators appear to have cleared this first major hurdle is a hopeful sign that the goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons through diplomatic means is achievable.”—Baltimore Sun [4/3/15]

Warmongers Aren't Happy About Iran Nuke Deal, the Rest of Us Should Be—“A nuclear Iran was not an option, and the Obama Administration has succeeded in outlining a comprehensive framework to defang the problem. Yet early criticisms of the plan seem to be rooted in a stubborn ignorance over the level of enriched uranium that is required to build a nuclear weapon.”—Star Ledger [4/3/15]

A Promising Step Toward an Iran Deal—“[T]his framework significantly reduces the risk of Iran covertly acquiring a nuclear weapon. It drastically reduces the number of Iran's centrifuges and the size of its uranium stockpile, dismantles or repurposes some of its most problematic nuclear facilities, places limits on its development of nuclear technology, and imposes a regime of surveillance and inspections that in some cases will continue for 25 years.”—Metro-West Daily News [4/3/15]

In Judging Iran Nuclear Deal Consider the Alternatives—“Would another war have been preferable? That's the simple, straightforward question that must be answered by those who'd dismiss the outline of a pact limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities.”— The Republican [4/3/15]

The Guardian View on the Iranian Nuclear Agreement: Diplomacy Shows Its Worth—“There are stronger reassurances on weaponisation, because – as a condition of getting sanctions relief – Iran has to provide the International Atomic Energy Authority with access to sites and people of interest. All told, it kicks the can down the road. It makes it almost impossible for Iran to go for a bomb in the next decade…”—The Guardian [4/3/15]

Give the Iran Nuclear Deal a ChanceBut Thursday, Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — announced "parameters" for an agreement that were highly specific and, frankly, somewhat reassuring. At a minimum they justify continued negotiations with the aim of producing a final compact by the end of June. In the meantime, Congress should refrain from aggressive actions that could undermine the delicate process.”—The Los Angeles Times [4/3/15]

A Big Step to Stop Iran’s Nuclear Bomb Ambitions“[M]oving forward on the tentative framework announced Thursday is far more promising than the alternatives – giving up on diplomacy and increasing sanctions, or launching a military strike that could lead to a wider war in the Middle East.”—Sacramento Bee [4/3/15]

 A Promising Iran AgreementAll that said, the framework's scope and strength are promising. Congress should refrain from passing any legislation that would impose additional sanctions and mandates on the talks, or otherwise seek to tie the president's hands.”—Bloomberg [4/2/15]

A Promising Nuclear Deal With Iran—“Over the long run, an agreement could make the Middle East safer and offer a path for Iran, the leading Shiite country, to rejoin the international community.”—The New York Times [4/2/15]

Iran Accord May Be the Real Deal—“The real naivete is among those who think Iran can be pressured into eliminating its nuclear program altogether or say the U.S. must never negotiate with an untrustworthy regime.”—Denver Post [4/2/15]

Outline of Iran Deal Offers the Best Chance to Thaw Relations“…[T]he concessions made by Iranian diplomats, and the level of specificity offered to the public, show that all sides were negotiating in good faith. It is now up to Congress to give the negotiators the time they need to finalize the deal — and they should do so by refraining from proposing more sanctions that could jeopardize months of hard work.”—Boston Globe [4/2/15]

Iran Deal Watchwords: Distrust and Verify—“…[T]he deal is crafted to block all pathways to a bomb. Iran would not be allowed to enrich uranium to weapons grade and would have to abandon its push toward plutonium production.”—Newsday [4/2/2015]

Give Nuclear Deal With Iran a Chance“The agreement the United States, other major world powers and Tehran announced Thursday for containing Iran's nuclear program could set the stage for peacefully resolving one of the longest-running threats to global security.”—Tampa Bay Times [4/2/15]

Gazette Opinion: Daines Was Wrong on Iran Letter“[Montana Sen. Steve Daines’] participation in this half-baked scheme doesn’t just make him look foolish; it has a destabilizing effect on the world and undermines U.S. credibility. In other words, he’s done just the opposite of what should be expected from our leaders: His actions make the world less safe, not more.”—Billings Gazette [3/17/15]

Letter to Iran—“Even in the current Washington environment, writing letters to hostile foreign governments at a time when the State Department is trying to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough seems well beyond the pale. The Republican senators did not serve their country or their party well with this stunt.”—Providence Journal [3/16/15]

With Letter to Iran, GOP Senators Place Spite Before Diplomacy“[The senators] said as much in a duplicitous, disrespectful letter to Iranian leaders that sought to undermine delicate international negotiations and the authority of the White House.”—The Kansas City Star [3/15/15]

Constitutional Lesson Lost in Letter to Iran—“To the 47 Republican senators who sent that letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran downplaying the significance of any nuclear development deal they might make with President Obama: Boy, did you whiff it.”—Daily Miner [3/15/15]

GOP Senators Demean Office With Letter“This extreme example of congressional interference in diplomatic negotiations begins with the condescending assertion that the leaders of Iran ‘may not fully understand our constitutional system.’ After providing a brief lesson in American civics, the senators make clear that they ‘will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.’”—The Press Democrat [3/14/15]

Who Needs the Civics Lesson: Ayatollahs or GOP Senators?“In reality, the letter was an orchestrated attempt to undermine U.S. efforts to negotiate an agreement with Iran on a critically important issue: the use of nuclear materials by one of America's most volatile foreign adversaries.”—The Des Moines Register [3/14/15]

Senate Republicans Should Not Interfere With Iran Negotiations“…[I]t is astounding that Sen. Marco Rubio and nearly all of his fellow Republican senators would send a letter to Iran looking to scuttle a potential diplomatic deal that could freeze Iran's nuclear program for at least a decade.”—Tampa Bay Times [3/13/15]

Capito Unwisely Joined ‘Rush to War’“The White House called these actions ‘a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national security.... The rush to war or at least the rush to the military option that many Republicans are advocating is not at all in the best interest of the United States.’ In other words, Republicans would rather unleash military strikes on Iran and sink America into another Mideast war, instead of letting international inspectors verify that Iran isn’t building nukes.”—Charleston Gazette [3/13/15]

Senators' Iran Stunt Takes Disrespect to New Level“It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked, and the war dragged on for another seven years.”—The Journal Gazette [3/12/15]

Republican Idiocy on Iran—“Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, is now sort of acknowledging his error. ‘Maybe that wasn’t exactly the best way to do that,’ he said on Fox News on Tuesday. He was referring to the disgraceful and irresponsible letter that he and 46 Senate colleagues sent to Iran’s leaders this week that generated outrage from Democrats and even some conservatives.”—The New York Times [3/12/15]

Interfering With Obama on Iran Comforts Our Foes“The letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders — saying that any agreement the U.S. reached with them without congressional approval could be reversed by the next president "with a stroke of a pen" — is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start.”—The Commercial Appeal [3/12/15]

GOP Letter to Iran Diminishes World Standing“The freelance foreign policy overture to Iran's clerics by 47 Republican senators was not quite the treason proclaimed by tabloid headlines this week. Nor was it the first time the party out of presidential power tried to scuttle a foreign policy initiative. But it was a stunning display of arrogance, and it may well have doomed the only chance of peacefully resolving Iran's nuclear status. That is bad enough.”—San Jose Mercury News [3/12/15]

47 GOP Senators Have Wrong Strategy on Iran“One has to wonder exactly what the Republicans were trying to accomplish. If they were trying to gain support of American opinion, this was a classic fail. If the hope was to derail the negotiations completely, they have likely only offended five other nations who also are working in earnest to control Iranian nuclear aspirations.”—Longview News-Journal [3/12/15]

47 GOP Senators Send Open Letter to Iran“The 47 Republican Senators who brazenly issued an open letter Monday to Iran’s leaders not only undermine President Barack Obama’s attempts to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, but they undercut their whole purpose of writing the letter in the first place — to achieve Congressional buy-in of any accord.”—Canton Repository [3/12/15]

Our View: Risch, Crapo Antagonize Iran—"This isn’t about good policy. This isn’t about facing the challenges posed when desperate groups with desperate agendas have an interest in the same turf. The 47 Senate Republicans want only the status quo with Iran: continued isolation, which could culminate in escalating hostility and a nuclear state."—Times-News [3/11/15]

Corker, Alexander Refused to Sign Iran Letter. Good.—“The new Senate leadership has decided that instead of allowing experienced professional diplomats to try to negotiate a nuclear disarmament deal with America’s longtime enemy Iran, it should let a freshman senator lead an amateurish and unprecedented effort to undermine U.S. foreign policy.”—The Tennessean [3/11/15]

Senators’ Iran Stunt Off Base“But [Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake] also recognizes the executive branch has the responsibility for negotiating such agreements: ‘I’m not very bullish on the chance of these negotiations resulting in a good agreement, or an agreement at all, but we ought to explore it. We ought to give it every opportunity to succeed.’ That kind of maturity and restraint is too often missing today in a Washington where vicious sound bites and partisan one-upmanship are valued more than governance.”—The Tampa Tribune [3/11/15]

Republican Letter to Iran Puts Politics Above Nation“Just seven of 54 GOP senators had the good sense not to sign the letter. The others acted rashly and allowed their passions to rule the day. They imprudently and shamefully put politics above our national interest,”—The Republican [3/11/15]

Outrageous Senators"The American people do not want to find themselves engaged in a new ground war in the Middle East. Preventing Iran from having nuclear capabilities is a priority for U.S. officials and an imperative for Israel's security.”—The Record [3/11/15]

Republican Senators go Nuclear With Missive to Iran—“But what is most objectionable about the senators' letter is neither its condescending tone nor its legal analysis. It's the fact that the letter injects the senators into ongoing international negotiations that are properly the prerogative of the executive branch — with the obvious intention of subverting those negotiations.”— The Los Angeles Times [3/11/15]

GOP Letter to Iran was Outrageous“Senate Republicans hit a new low with their group letter to Iran’s leaders encouraging them to reject current nuclear talks with the United States and five other nations. It was a dumb move both in terms of its own cynical partisan goals and, more importantly, in how it might undermine national and global security.”—The Herald [3/11/15]

‘Dear Iran’ Letter Subverts Nuclear Talks“It’s not every day that you see U.S. senators pressing leaders of a hostile power to help them kill off American-led negotiations aimed at removing a potential nuclear threat to the United States and its allies. In fact, nothing quite like that had ever happened until Monday, when 47 Republican senators wrote a letter to the leaders of Iran warning that any agreement they reach with President Barack Obama to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program might be reversed by a future president.”—The Daily Journal [3/11/15]

An Ignorable Letter From 47 SenatorsAn open letter to the 47 U.S. senators who signed a letter addressed to Iran’s political leaders: We are struck by your letter that condescendingly attempts to lecture Iran’s leadership on the fine points of the U.S. Constitution while at the same time blatantly trampled on the constitutionally defined roles in foreign affairs of presidents and members of Congress.”—The Anniston Star [3/11/15]

GOP's Political Posturing on Iran Could Ostracize the U.S.“[Senator Tom Cotton] has since been denounced by members of his own party. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said it best: ‘We ought to support the negotiations going on,’ he said, ‘and this effort does not do that.’”—New Jersey Star Tribune [3/11/15]

GOP Senators' Dumb, Destructive Letter“The sanctions that convinced Iran to roll back and freeze its nuclear program and join the talks are enforced by all the parties to the negotiations. The U.S., which has nearly no trade with Iran, depends on those who do – principally Russia and China – to apply the pressure. If these talks fall apart, Russia and China could make the sanctions effectively disappear, and there would be nothing to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Is that what the Senate Republicans want?”—Metro-West Daily News [3/11/15]

Where's Issue in Iran Deal?“There are, in fact, too many mysteries involving federal lawmakers, presidents and judges to list in this space. But now, we can add another mystery to the list — why would mostly Republicans in Congress not want Iran to agree to forego building a nuclear weapon?”—Lampoc Record [3/11/15]

GOP Senators Need Lessons in Both Civics and Politics—“Everyone wants to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. If diplomacy can delay the day of reckoning for a decade, that is far preferable than a military strike that could spark a wider war in the Middle East.”—Fresno Bee [3/11/15]

A Deeply Misguided Senate Letter to the Leaders of Iran“The signatories, who sadly include the usually rational Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and John McCain of Arizona, have lost sight of national interest -- and of how their letter is undercutting it.”--Cleveland Plain Dealer [3/11/15]

Hate Mail: Senators Seek to Sabotage Obama’s Foreign Policy“America’s partners in the talks are among the world’s most important nations — China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. They can only be appalled at seeing Secretary of State John Kerry and the president, who are charged with making the nation’s foreign policy, hit from behind by one house of the federal legislature. The senators who signed the letter should be ashamed.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [3/11/15]

47 Senators Stomp on the Constitution—“A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Flake acknowledges he is "not very bullish on the chance of these negotiations resulting in a good agreement." But Congress nevertheless must give them every opportunity to succeed.”—Arizona Republic [3/11/15]

Burr, Tillis Add Their Names to Outrageous Letter to Iran—“This is one of the most horrid and tangible examples of pure partisanship run amok in modern times. So much do Republicans resent the fact that President Obama has won two terms they’ll now resort to blowing up a negotiation aimed at preventing war in the Middle East.”—The News & Observer [3/10/15]

'Dear Iran' Letter Subverts Nuclear Talks—“It's not every day that you see U.S. senators pressing leaders of a hostile power to help them kill off American-led negotiations aimed at removing a potential nuclear threat to the United States and its allies.”—USA Today [3/10/15]

Republicans Fumble Their Chance to Focus Attention on an Iran Deal“Congressional republicans are trying to obstruct President Obama from concluding a nuclear agreement with Iran, but the only tangible result of their efforts has been to impede serious debate about the legitimate issues arising from the potential deal.”—Washington Post [3/10/15]

GOP Senators Need a Civics Lesson and Should Stop Meddling in Iran Nuclear Deal“Everyone wants to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. If diplomacy can delay the day of reckoning for a decade, that is far preferable than a military strike that could spark a wider war in the Middle East.”—Sacramento Bee [3/10/15]

A Stunning Breach of Protocol“If the treaty is scuttled, there will be no inspection regime to make sure Iran is not cooking up a nuclear weapon. One gets the impression that Netanyahu and his fellow hard-liners want to proceed straight to a bombing campaign without any diplomatic do-si-do preceding it. If bombs fell on Iran, it would likely only forestall the development of a nuclear program there for a few years and further inflame passions in the Middle East.”—Observer-Reporter [3/10/15]

The Real Key to Any Nuclear Deal With Iran“The risk, however, is sabotaging the multination negotiations and leaving Iran unrestrained in building nuclear weapons. That's a bad path that could lead to use of military force to stop Iran's pursuit of a bomb.”—Newsday [3/10/15]

GOP Senators Play Dangerous Game With U.S. Foreign Policy“The 47 senators seem to be blithely ignoring necessary perspectives from London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing and Moscow, as well as other capitals influenced by these powers. If Iran is able to claim that it was Washington, not Tehran, that torpedoed the talks, the sanctions regime may well unravel without Iran having to compromise on its nuclear program.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune [3/10/15]

Letter of Intent“The letter is little more than a mischievous attempt to throw a monkey wrench into a years-long, multinational effort to obtain a secure, verifiable agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear-weapons program through diplomacy, rather than war.”—Miami Herald [3/10/15]

Was Iran Letter Traitorous or Just Treacherous for GOP Sens. Blunt, Roberts and Moran?“Obama and the leaders of several other nations are trying to find ways to get Iran to stop its efforts to obtain a nuclear bomb. It’s a reasonable quest. Properly so, even some in the GOP didn’t agree to sign the letter, saying it could backfire on the party. It could make Iran more likely to sign a deal with Obama — one that the Republicans might not like at all.”—Kansas City Star [3/10/13]

GOP Letter to Iran Disgraces America“America looks weakest when its internal arguments spill over into its international diplomacy — something that has been rare in the nation's history. That it is happening now is a blot on the 114th U.S. Senate; specifically, on the 47 Republican senators who signed an open letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a missive whose sole purpose is to end President Barack Obama's ongoing nuclear negotiations with that country.”—Detroit Free Press [3/10/15]

Senate Saboteurs“A blatant attempt to sabotage the discussions to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity, the letter is signed by by (sic) 47 GOP senators, aligning themselves — President Obama noted ironically — with hardliners in Iran who oppose any deal with the United States.”—Courier-Journal [3/10/15]

Ayotte Signs Up for a Dangerous Political Game—“The Iran nuclear situation is complex and worthy of vigorous debate. In fact, there are plenty of Democrats who are not thrilled with the goal of the talks, namely a 10-year pact that would reduce but not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. But what they and seven Republican senators who didn’t sign the letter understand is that diplomacy is a fragile art that doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”—Concord Monitor [3/10/15]

GOP Letter to Iran is a Reckless Intrusion Into Nuclear Talks“Under the guise of an American civics lesson pointedly but also pointlessly aimed at Iran’s already isolated, mistrustful, hostile-to-the-United States leadership, Senate Republicans may sabotage highly delicate negotiations to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear development program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.”—Boston Globe [3/10/15]

The GOP's Poison Pen Note“That Senate Republicans are so intent on denouncing anything that could possibly come out of the talks — even if it ultimately benefits the U.S. and its allies — suggests they are all too inclined to let the national interest take a back seat to partisan politics.”—Baltimore Sun [3/10/15]

GOP Senators Play Dangerous Game With U.S. Foreign Policy“The 47 senators seem to be blithely ignoring necessary perspectives from London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing and Moscow, as well as other capitals influenced by these powers. If Iran is able to claim that it was Washington, not Tehran, that torpedoed the talks, the sanctions regime may well unravel without Iran having to compromise on its nuclear program. If so, the next step could include military action, which could spiral into yet another major Mideast war. The GOP senators should be as blunt about this possibility as they are about their opinions on Obama’s diplomacy.”—StarTribune [3/10/15]

The Real Key to Any Nuclear Deal With Iran“In addition to flexing for their political base, the senators may be gambling that their intransigence will result in a better deal. The risk, however, is sabotaging the multination negotiations and leaving Iran unrestrained in building nuclear weapons. That’s a bad path that could lead to use of military force to stop Iran’s pursuit of a bomb.”—Newsday [3/10/15]

GOP Senators Need a Civics Lesson and Should Stop Meddling in Iran Nuclear Deal—“Everyone wants to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. If diplomacy can delay the day of reckoning for a decade, that is far preferable than a military strike that could spark a wider war in the Middle East.”—The Sacramento Bee [3/10/15]

Sabotaging a Deal With Iran—“After more than a year of negotiations, the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany can take credit for an interim deal that has sharply limited Iran’s nuclear activities, and they are on the verge of a more permanent agreement that could further reduce the risk of Iran’s developing a nuclear weapon. Congress needs to think hard about the best way to support a verifiable nuclear deal and not play political games that could leave America isolated, the sanctions regime in tatters and Iran’s nuclear program unshackled.”—The New York Times [3/7/15]

Let's Hope Netanyahu Loses“Netanyahu is it making it impossible to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians by relentlessly expanding housing settlements on the West Bank. He is using Israel's military superiority not just to secure the nation's borders, but to answer the demands of religious zealots and others who are determined to hold onto land that is essential to building a Palestinian state.”—New Jersey Star-Ledger [2/26/15]

Bipartisan Supporters of Israel Should Skip Netanyahu Speech“In a bald breach of protocol, Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu without informing the Democrat in the White House, who sees negotiations with Iran as the best hope for preventing that country from obtaining a nuclear bomb. The alternative is military action. Like President Obama, we’d rather take a shot at peace first.”—Chicago Sun Times [2/26/15]

An Emerging Nuclear Deal With Iran“The agreement must be judged on the complete package, not on any single provision. Even if the deal is not perfect, the greater risk could well be walking away and allowing Iran to continue its nuclear activities unfettered.”—The New York Times [2/25/15]

Boehner's Netanyahu Ploy Runs Onto the Rocks“Even if the ploy succeeds in torpedoing the arms negotiations, it would be a costly win, raising troubling questions about the degree of control Netanyahu has over decisions that could cost American lives. There is no more sensitive task — or a more hazardous one — than trying to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran's hands. Throughout the talks, the six nations negotiating with Iran have shown remarkable unity. It would be a shame if all that effort was lost because of political gamesmanship here or in Israel. Politics, as they used to say, should end at the water's edge.”—USA Today [2/1/15]

Menendez Steps Back From Fight With Obama Over Iran—“If Obama is right about the political dynamic in Iran, Menendez's bill could scuttle a deal. And without a deal, pressure will build for air strikes against Iran's dozens of nuclear facilities. Military experts say such a campaign would require weeks of repeated bombings and lead to significant civilian casualties, since many of the targets are in cities and densely populated suburbs.”—Newark Star Ledger [1/28/15]

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Angola Ratifies Test Ban Treaty

May 2015

By Shervin Taheran

Angola on March 20 became the 164th country to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Angola’s ratification leaves 10 African countries that have not ratified the pact. 

Mauritius, Somalia, and South Sudan have not signed the treaty; seven others—Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, São Tomé and Principe, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe—have signed but not ratified it. 

Egypt is one of the 44 countries that, under the terms of the treaty’s Annex 2, must ratify the CTBT to bring it into force. In addition to Egypt, seven other countries—China, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—of the 44 have not ratified the treaty.

Angola signed the CTBT on Sept. 27, 1996, three days after the pact was opened for signature.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), congratulated Angola on its ratification. “This development is an unequivocal reminder of Angola’s commitment towards creating an Africa free of nuclear weapons, as an essential component of a nuclear-weapons-free world,” Zerbo said in a March 20 press release.

The CTBTO is building a global monitoring system as part of its verification regime to detect nuclear tests. According to the CTBTO, about 90 percent of this network has been established, including 31 facilities in 22 African countries. Among the African states that have not joined the CTBT, Egypt has two dedicated monitoring stations that are part of the monitoring system, and Zimbabwe has one dedicated station.

SPECIAL REPORT: Did Maridia Conduct a Nuclear Test Explosion? On-Site Inspection and the CTBT

January/February 2015

By Jenifer Mackby

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission launched a large-scale simulation of an on-site inspection in Jordan on November 3, 2014, to test the organization’s ability to find a nuclear test explosion site. The exercise, involving two fictitious countries, lasted for five weeks and used 150 tons of equipment to comb a large swath of land next to the Dead Sea.

Lassina Zerbo (center right, in broad-brimmed hat), executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission, participates in Integrated Field Exercise 2014 in Jordan on December 2, 2014. (CTBTO)The inspection area encompassed 1,000 square kilometers, the maximum area allowed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), although the 30-day inspection period for the exercise was much less than the potential 130 days that the treaty allows. Searching for clues of a nuclear explosion in such an expanse and in such a shortened time period was a daunting task. It required the international teams, comprising 200 scientists and experts in on-site inspection technologies from 44 countries, to focus on their respective tasks for 12- to 14-hour days.

The 40 inspectors employed 15 of the 17 techniques provided in the treaty, some for the first time. The on-site inspection began with less-intrusive techniques, such as visual observations (including satellite imagery), overflights, and seismic networks, and moved into more-intrusive techniques, such as magnetic field mapping and electrical conductivity measurements. The objective was to narrow down the areas of interest to one limited area where the inspection team found traces of relevant radionuclides, the “smoking gun” indicative of a possible nuclear explosion. The CTBT provides for inspection measures that are more intrusive than those of any other arms control treaty.

The purpose of the exercise in Jordan, called Integrated Field Exercise 2014 (IFE14), was to test the Provisional Technical Secretariat’s ability to conduct the complex logistics, procedures, and techniques in a cohesive manner. The Preparatory Commission has been working on the key provision of on-site inspection for several years so that it will be sufficiently developed and operational prior to the CTBT’s entry into force.[1] Such an inspection cannot be requested until the treaty is in force.

The CTBT specifies 44 nuclear-capable countries that must ratify the treaty to bring it into force, and eight of those ratifications are still lacking (China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States). All the countries that have signed but not ratified the treaty (China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the United States) participated in IFE14.

On-site inspection is a significant, final component of the CTBT’s verification regime and is seen as a deterrent to noncompliance. The other components include the International Monitoring System (IMS), comprised of 337 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound, and hydroacoustic facilities, which transmit data from the stations to the CTBTO International Data Centre in Vienna. Under the terms of the CTBT, neither the inspection team nor the Technical Secretariat can make a judgment about the nature of an event or the measures to be taken in the case of possible noncompliance. That is the prerogative of the states-parties.

The Scenario

Did the fictional state of Maridia really detonate a nuclear device underground early in the morning of October 28? Its neighbor, the fictional country of Alluvia, certainly thought so, based on the discovery of telltale clues—a seismic event followed by unusual radioxenon isotopes detected by the IMS. Alluvia decided to request the ultimate verification measure, an on-site inspection under the CTBT. Thus began IFE14, which took place near the peak of Mount Nebo.

The scenario, which presumes that the CTBT has entered into force, began at 5:54 a.m., when the CTBTO recorded a magnitude 4 seismic event and then detected xenon-133 coming from the state of Maridia, located in the Middle East. To the trained analyst’s eye, it did not look like an earthquake. In addition, Alluvia’s national radionuclide station detected xenon-133 coming from Maridia. For its part, Maridia expressed its “outrage and grave concerns about the false and unfounded accusations” made by Alluvia in the request for an on-site inspection. Maridia said it had never violated its obligations and had always been a staunch supporter of the treaty.

The treaty requires the CTBTO Executive Council to decide within 96 hours whether to conduct an inspection, and on November 3, it voted to do so.[2] Once the council had endorsed the inspection, inspectors had to arrive within six days in Maridia. The Technical Secretariat’s On-Site Inspection Division and Operational Support Center began to mobilize immediately. All members of the inspection teams, which had been trained by the secretariat, were called to duty. The treaty provides for a roster of on-call inspectors rather than having them on staff because an on-site inspection is not likely to occur frequently. The secretariat arranged visas and air tickets for inspectors who assembled at the airport in Amman.

The inspection team developed an initial plan, and the support center checked that the 431 pieces of equipment, including seismic sensors, magnetometers, geophysical instruments, and radiation monitoring devices, were working properly. Each piece of equipment carries a bar code so that it can pass quickly through the loading and receiving area. All 150 metric tons of equipment were sealed in containers and sent off to Maridia within the six days.

The logistics of such an operation are complex. The Preparatory Commission keeps the equipment in a warehouse in Vienna. For IFE14, the Provisional Technical Secretariat devised plans, maps, routes, color-coded templates, and log forms. After arriving in Jordan, the inspection team set up a base of operations in a parking lot overlooking the Dead Sea and Jerusalem.

Although participants slept in a nearby hotel, the base became home for the experts serving in the exercise. It consisted of numerous inflatable tents that served as work spaces for representatives of the inspection team and Maridia, as well as management, communications personnel, and evaluation teams. A receiving area was designed to scan people and equipment with dosimeters for possible radiation exposure. A decontamination tent stood nearby with shower facilities and a 500-liter water tank. A doctor staffed a medical tent. Inspectors installed ultra-high-frequency and very-small-aperture-terminal (VSAT) antennas to ensure communication with the teams in the field as well as with Vienna. Portable laboratories consisting of tightly outfitted cargo transport containers analyzed samples brought back from the field to detect the possible presence of radionuclides.

Inspectors deployed the world’s only portable laboratory designed to analyze argon. Inspection team and Maridian representatives were required to inspect each piece of equipment before leaving for the field and after they returned, when they reviewed together the data harvested. They analyzed three to five samples each day.

In addition to working in the field or analyzing data most of the day, the teams held multiple meetings in the morning and evening to review the day’s activities and plan the next few days. Because IFE14 was an exercise, the inspected state-party had fewer staff in its contingent than it would have had in real life. With only about 25 people on its team, many of them had multiple functions.

“No one is being paid extra for this,” said inspector Natalie Brely, chief of the Provisional Technical Secretariat’s Monitoring Facilities Support Section. In the exercise, she directed the convoys each day, insisting that they stick together.

Revealing Signs

The first few days after a nuclear test are crucial because the telltale signs, called signatures, of a nuclear explosion are most pronounced during this period. When the cavity created by a nuclear explosion begins to collapse, it causes seismic aftershocks, which dissipate exponentially. So do radionuclides. Xenon-133 has a half-life of 5.24 days, and argon-37 has a half-life of 35 days. Therefore, the inspection team must act with great haste. It is looking for radionuclides, consisting of fission products and noble gases that are listed in the Preparatory Commision’s manual for on-site inspections.

Thus, setting up the 18 seismic aftershock monitoring stations was a high priority. The positioning of this system is based on the location of the epicenter of the seismic event. Differentiating between normal radioactivity in any given area and radionuclides coming from a nuclear explosion can be quite difficult because the absence of radionuclides does not exclude the possibility that a nuclear test took place. If the explosion is fully contained, there might be no seepage through the rock fissures or cracks, although this would be unusual.

Safety and security were paramount during the exercise. To cope, five means of communication were available, from cellphones to satellite antennas. This combination provided coverage that was close to 100 percent, allowing the base to be able to reach the inspectors even in the deep canyons of the region.

The inspection area ranged from the Dead Sea, which lies 1,378 feet below sea level, to mountains reaching 6,083 feet above sea level. The terrain includes numerous valleys and sinkholes and is susceptible to landslides. The inspection team also needed to bargain with Bedouins herding sheep, donkeys, and camels and with private landowners whose permission was needed to install equipment or to conduct gamma surveys.

Further complications came from rain and the presence of scorpions and rodents. Almost every day, the rodents nibbled their way through cables, causing a certain amount of data loss.

The inspection teams snaked through the mountains in convoys of five cars, including one that carried a VSAT communications satellite rack on top, and always included one or more gendarmes supplied by the government of Jordan. In spite of the strains in the war-ridden region, Jordan was seen as providing an example for Egypt, Iran, and Israel, the nearby countries that are among the eight whose ratification is still needed for entry into force of the CTBT. Mohammad Hassan Daryaei, former counselor at the Iranian mission in Geneva who was an IFE14 observer, said he was “amazed by the level of maturity of the [on-site inspection] capability and component.”

Every day, four or five teams inspected different sites. In the early phase of the inspection, one team used helicopters to cover the entire inspection area of 1,000 square kilometers with handheld cameras. Later, the helicopters would carry equipment capable of multispectral imaging, which can provide additional information about changes in surface and subsurface features, and gamma spectroscopy, which assists in identifying elevated levels of gamma radiation. Inspectors relied initially on visual observations to detect anomalies on the surface, such as fresh landslides, scraping of earth, new roads, and roads leading to nowhere. They also used satellite imagery to look for changes in order to focus on specific areas and eliminate others.

The inspection team started the initial phase (November 11-20) with the least intrusive techniques and proceeded to more-intrusive techniques during the so-called continuation period (November 22-December 4). In the treaty, the initial phase is to last 25 days, after which the teams must send a preliminary report to the Executive Council. The council could then vote to end the inspection; otherwise, the inspection would continue. For IFE14, the initial phase was compressed into 10 days.

Parsing the Polygons

Based on visual observations on the ground and from the air, inspectors found a number of areas of interest, which they blocked on maps in areas known as polygons. By November 20, the team had created 29 polygons. Within days, however, it began to eliminate some in the southern part of the inspection area where the team found no interesting evidence of nuclear testing. The objective was to narrow down the territory to be inspected so that the team could focus on a smaller area with more-sophisticated inspection techniques to identify or confirm the possible nuclear nature of an underground explosion.

Click image to enlarge.As part of this process, inspectors took samples of earth, plants, and debris on top of rocks or even on the tires of vehicles. Although most of the detection equipment is very sophisticated, the inspectors resorted to using small shovels to dig up the dirt, small plastic bags to hold the plant material, and plastic wrap to rub against rocks to remove debris for a sample. They divided each sample into two, one for the inspection team and one for Maridia, and immediately labeled them with barcodes for chain of custody and identification purposes back in the laboratory.

Within 10 days, the inspectors were focusing their search on two polygons of high interest (numbers 18 and 29), where they began to take samples of soil, plants, and soil gas. Mysteriously, in polygon 18, newly laid stones forming a staging area appeared at the end of a short dirt road that ended at a locked grated door on the side of the hill. The inspection team suspected that the door might lead to a tunnel under the hill. The team asked Maridia if it could sample the air from the top of the door and then sucked air from behind the door with a tube leading to an air sampler mounted on a pickup truck. The sample was compressed into what looked like a scuba tank and taken back to the base of operations for analysis.

One of the inspectors walked up the hill above the locked door and began to swipe a pipe sticking out of the ground. When he reached the cap on the top of the pipe, he tried to swipe around under the cap, but it fell off into his hand. This caused quite a stir because he was supposed to ask permission before swiping anything.

“Inspectors don’t manipulate things without asking first,” said the senior representative of the Maridian team at a subsequent meeting with the inspection team. “I will, of course, give you a chance to explain, but my government is not happy about this and expects an explanation. You will not go back to the site if this happens again.”

He also suggested that the inspector might be asked to leave. The inspector in question replied, “Believe me, no one was more surprised than I that the cap fell off into my hand.” He explained that as he swiped the pipe near the lid the cap fell off. “The hinge on the cap was broken,” he said.

It was a crucial time in the inspection, as the inspection team wanted to introduce two large geoprobes into polygons 18 and 29 the following day. These large machines, which poke holes up to about five meters into the ground, had to be delivered by large flatbed trucks. The senior representative of the Maridian team said that it would usually take three weeks to obtain permission to enter the requested area with such equipment, and he would get back to the team the following day about further action. When the team asked to visit another location, he said that there were local landowners who did not want inspections on their land, so he would have to get permission.

The inspection team leader later told his colleagues that Maridia “shows interest in getting us out of the area sooner rather than later, so it is worthwhile to begin continuation-period techniques.” These inspection techniques assist in locating features of possible nuclear explosions conducted underground, such as certain tunnel infrastructures. They are employed when the inspectors conclude the initial inspection period of 25 days and have narrowed down the search to a number of limited areas of interest that are roughly the size of a soccer field.

These techniques are more intrusive than those used in the initial period of the inspection. One  such technique is gravitational field mapping to measure changes in the earth’s gravity. Another is magnetic field mapping from the air and the ground to measure the deviations in the earth’s magnetic field that could indicate the presence of pipes, cables, and shafts.[3]

According to the preliminary inspection report of November 22, during the initial period, the team conducted 137 field missions, including sampling and laboratory activities at the base of operations. The team identified 29 polygons of interest, triggering 35 ground visual observation field missions and numerous radionuclide missions.

Maridia strongly condemned Alluvia’s “malicious act” of calling for an on-site inspection and provided an explanation of the nature of the event. Maridia is located in a part of the Middle East where three tectonic plates meet, providing active seismicity in the “Palestine-Sinai subplate.” This complex tectonic setting produces frequent earthquakes. Indeed, the location of the suspected event that triggered the on-site inspection is in an area of known seismic activity, consistent with the fault lines shown in a map that Maridia produced. Thus, Maridia said, the event was an earthquake.

In addition, Maridia contended that the xenon concentrations detected at the radionuclide station of the IMS originated from a medical isotope production facility southwest of Maridia where molybdenum-99 is produced from the fission of uranium targets. Maridia was aware that molybdenum-99 was being produced for 12 days (October 20-31) prior to the IMS radionuclide detections. For the same reasons, Maridia dismissed the radioxenon signals from Alluvia’s radionuclide station. The report noted that seismic aftershock monitoring had detected four local seismic events. One was identified as an explosion and at least one as a potential aftershock.

The report concluded that there was “a discrepancy” between the clarification provided by Maridia and the inspection team findings within the inspection area. Therefore, “the collection by the inspection team of facts as are relevant to the…inspection has not yet been concluded.”

At the beginning of the continuation period, one of the inspection teams returned to polygon 18 to begin the laborious process of gravimetry, measuring the changes in gravity in the field above the locked door to determine if there was a tunnel below. This technique involves dividing the area into quadrants of four square meters, using stakes, tape, and orange spray paint to mark where the gravimeter should take measurements.

Another inspection team set out for a second visit to polygon 29. A Bedouin accompanying his large flock of sheep occupied the road, so experts waited in the car, listening to the famous Lebanese singer Fairouz on the Palestinian radio station. This polygon was located in an old quarry, and noting the interest of the inspection team, Maridia quickly established a restricted access site. According to the treaty provisions on managed access, an inspected party can delineate an area of four square kilometers as off-limits to inspectors in an on-site inspection.

Citing security risks, Maridia said the team could not enter the area. In the area, inspectors saw a pipe sticking up from the ground with wires coming out of it. This could be a strong clue of instrumentation underground. They also saw that buildings were fractured, which could have been caused by the ground motion from an explosion or earthquake. In addition, the inspection team observed freshly plowed land next to the site. Satellite photos showed that the road leading to this part of the site had been upgraded since September.

The inspection team ordered that large geoprobes be placed in polygons 18 and 29 to sample the subsoil for radiation. Maridia managed to delay the deployment of the geoprobes for a few days, but they arrived on November 26. At polygon 29, the geoprobe drilled some holes in the ground, and the inspectors placed tubes into the holes to draw air overnight into a large yellow balloon. They compressed the air from the balloon into a scuba tank so that they could bring it to the portable laboratory at the base of operations to analyze it. As the machine probed the earth, one member of the Maridian team kept repeating, “You will find nothing. My country is innocent.”

In a November 21 interview, Peter Sankey, a senior scientist at the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment who helped create the IFE14 scenario, said he thought the exercise, as a whole, was going well. “We need to quicken the uploading and processing of information, and [fix] a few other kinks, but it is demonstrating an integration of techniques and procedures,” he said. The 2014 exercise showed “dramatic progress” over the one in 2008, he said.

Multiple Missions

The teams planned the work of each day two days in advance. Each day, the teams set out on various missions, including overflights, visual observations, gamma radiation monitoring, and environmental sampling with equipment to monitor air particulate and noble gas. Gamma radiation monitors were mounted in airplanes, cars, and even backpacks to trace the possible presence of radionuclides. Each team comprised a color-coded representative from the inspectors (light blue), Maridia (red), a control team to monitor that the teams operated within the limits of the scenario (bright blue), an evaluation team (green), and a management team (black).

Early in the continuation period, an additional overflight, along with updated information from the International Data Centre on the area of the epicenter and ground-based missions, resulted in most polygons in the southern part of the inspection area being moved lower on the list of sites of interest or eliminated from it. Others, in particular numbers 18 and 29, continued to elicit high interest, requiring the more sophisticated inspection equipment that is used in smaller areas of concern.

Mounting Evidence

By December 2, the noose seemed to be tightening on Maridia. “We have now had several significant detections of xenon in polygon 29 from analyses of soil gas samples,” said Charles Carrigan, who played the role of a key member of the Maridian team. (Carrigan is a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where the soil gas sampling system used by inspectors was developed.) It would be a significant challenge to explain the presence of xenon as resulting from something other than an underground nuclear explosion. “There are a lot of technologies to potentially deploy and only a small amount of time to really use them, given the compressed nature of the field component [of the exercise],” Carrigan lamented.

Nevertheless, the inspection team found enough evidence to press its case. It detected xenon-133, xenon-131m, and argon-37 in subsoil gas samples taken at polygon 29 at a level that “could be considered as strong evidence of a nuclear explosion,” according to an expert. As noted above, however, the CTBT gives the states-parties, not the inspectors or the secretariat, the right to make a judgment about the findings of an inspection.

On December 6, members of the inspection team and Maridia met to sign and formally exchange the Preliminary Findings Document on the inspection. Maridia held to the position that no test had occurred in this seismically active part of the world and that the xenon gases detected were not of weapons origin. The iodine-131 detected came from a spill of a radiotracer used in a groundwater study at the quarry in polygon 29, Maridia argued. In the end, the main evidence against Maridia was noble gases. Although the high level of observed argon-37 might be expected in a limestone quarry location, Maridia had a difficult task in explaining the xenon. Experts quietly noted that the findings were indicative of an underground nuclear explosion in polygon 29.

Methodology

Senior experts from China, France, Germany, Israel, Russia, the UK, and the United States created the scenario for this simulation. A number of them had worked on nuclear testing for many years. Other experts commended their ability to design a clever, challenging, and plausible exercise. Only the control team, comprising individuals involved in the elaboration of the scenario, knew the scenario in advance, and they kept it quiet. As there has not been any nuclear testing in Jordan, it was essential to create a convincing scenario so that the inspectors could collect credible data.

Members of the inspection team use a geoprobe to poke holes in the earth for sampling of subsoil gases as part of the exercise’s simulated on-site inspection on November 25, 2014. (Courtesy of Jenifer Mackby)As part of the exercise, the control team injected variables to ensure that the inspection operated within the boundaries of the scenario and that the objectives of the exercise could be accomplished. The designers of the scenario actually detonated three chemical explosions in order to create the seismic signals and injected radioactive noble gases into some samples before they underwent analysis in the laboratory so that it would appear that a nuclear explosion might have been conducted.

Ward Hawkins, project leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory, chaired the task force set up in November 2012 to create the event. He said the group studied 150 potential locations, using maps and aerial photos, to determine which would be the best place to test the 15 on-site inspection techniques. “The exercise needed to be technically realistic, rationally coherent, temporally logical to narrow the search area, and intellectually motivating,” he said in an interview on November 24. He said the inspection team was more or less where it should be at that point and that he thought the exercise would demonstrate that it is possible to catch a noncompliant state.

The exercise in Jordan was the second and largest IFE conducted by the Preparatory Commission. The first took place in 2008 at the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. In that exercise, the Preparatory Commission learned a great deal about how to test crucial aspects of the various phases of an inspection as well as the gaps to be filled. A robust evaluation process revealed the areas that required more work and refinement.

What has changed since 2008? North Korea has conducted another two tests (2009 and 2013), both of which were detected by the Provisional Technical Secretariat. The IMS is now more than 90 percent complete. Communications and data analysis systems have been improved. In addition, the Preparatory Commission had conducted a number of build-up exercises and field tests to test various individual on-site inspection techniques and prepare for IFE14. As noted above, the IFE14 inspection team employed 15 of the 17 on-site inspection technologies provided in the treaty, whereas in Kazakhstan it tested 10. Drilling and resonance seismometry were the only two not employed in Jordan.

Another significant difference between the 2008 and 2014 exercises was the role of the United States. The country did not participate in any on-site inspection activities during the administration of President George W. Bush and therefore did not participate in IFE08. Now it is contributing fully, which makes a substantial difference as the United States has extensive experience and expertise in this field. Washington sent a number of experts from its national laboratories and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to take part in the exercise.

In addition, some participants said they believed that the recent IFE was based on a scenario that was more plausible and technically credible than the one in 2008.

The Provisional Technical Secretariat spent $10 million on the exerise; the European Union and 10 countries[4] contributed another $10 million in voluntary funding and in-kind contributions. As a finale to the 2014 exercise, a South Korean Ministry of Defense representative told the observers that his country is thinking about hosting the next IFE.

An Assessment of IFE14

IFE14 will provide a wealth of information, scientific findings, and recommendations. The Preparatory Commission expected to obtain information about the preparedness of the inspection team in a number of areas, in particular radionuclides; multispectral imaging, including infrared equipment; continuation-period technologies; documentation; and shortcomings. This will entail a lengthy evaluation period.

In the first stage of the evaluation process, the Provisional Technical Secretariat will hold a two-part workshop, one near Tel Aviv in April and one in Vienna in June, to obtain reactions from the participants, examine the functioning of the equipment, assess procedures and management, and make recommendations. In addition, the participants will review the observations of an external evaluation team. All of these elements will be integrated into a new On-Site Inspection Action Plan to be submitted to the signatory states of the Preparatory Commission by the end of 2015 for further action. According to the commission, the plan will address achievements, progress made since IFE08, capabilities requiring further development or training, and recommendations to be approved by signatory states.

Although it is too early to draw conclusions about IFE14, some of the experts shared a few preliminary observations. While expressing a strongly positive view of the exercise overall, they noted some flaws. They found that some members on the inspection team missed seeing some obvious indications. In some instances, the inspection team underestimated the time it would take to go to proposed deployment sites and did not sufficiently review the data in advance to determine that some seemingly suitable locations might be out of the question as sites for a nuclear test. Some of the equipment malfunctioned (a high-resolution camera on an initial overflight, some radionuclide detectors, other equipment that resulted in delays of additional overflights).

The equipment likely should have been operated or tested more often while in storage in Vienna, the experts said. It took the inspectors longer than expected to find the iodine-131 at polygon 29, and in general, they should have taken more samples than they did, according to the experts. Undoubtedly, these and other criticisms will be aired at length in the workshops in 2015, and experts will be provided opportunities to find ways to rectify the problems.

Countries are expected to honor their legal commitments to treaties they have signed, and they usually do so. Thus, an on-site inspection under the CTBT will be an unlikely although very significant event. Nevertheless, it is valuable to test the provisions of a regime that has been so arduously developed over the years.

Although many countries that have ratified the treaty have expressed frustration that the treaty has not entered into force because certain countries have not ratified it, only one country, North Korea, is not abiding by it. Russia, the UK, and the United States have not conducted a nuclear test since 1992, France and China since 1996, and India and Pakistan since 1998.

The CTBT has established a norm against nuclear testing. Nevertheless, countries cannot request an on-site inspection until the treaty enters into force.


Jenifer Mackby is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and a senior adviser to the Partnership for a Secure America. She was a technical observer in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission’s Integrated Field Exercise 2014. She previously served as secretary of the negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in Geneva and secretary of the Working Group on Verification at the Preparatory Commission in Vienna.


ENDNOTES

1. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) stipulates that until it enters into force, the organization is to be called the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which has a Provisional Technical Secretariat. Thereafter, these will be the CTBTO and the Technical Secretariat.

2. The CTBT requires the support of 30 of the 51 members of the Executive Council for this measure. As the exercise began after the vote occurred, a tally was not provided.

3. Other examples are electrical conductivity measurements to identify metallic objects near the surface and disturbances deeper underground, ground-penetrating radar to locate buried objects, and active seismic surveys to identify anomalous areas.

4. The 10 contributing countries are Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In an exercise in Jordan lasting five weeks and involving 200 experts and 150 tons of equipment, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Preparatory Commission sought to assess its capabilities to detect a nuclear test explosion.

CTBTO Conducts Major Field Exercise

December 2014

By Daryl G. Kimball

Participants in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s five-week-long field exercise in Jordan adjust monitoring equipment on November 18. (CTBTO)The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) launched its second full-scale, on-site inspection field exercise in a remote desert region adjoining the Dead Sea southwest of Amman, Jordan, in early November.

The objective of the five-week-long exercise, which will cost an estimated $10.3 million, including in-kind contributions from nine states and the European Union, is to test the CTBTO’s ability to determine whether a nuclear test explosion has taken place following the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The month-long event, known as Integrated Field Exercise 2014 (IFE14), involves a multinational team of more than 200 experts and scientists, including officials from the fictitious CTBT state-party under inspection and an inspection team of 40 experts searching a rugged area of approximately 1,000 square kilometers for evidence of a nuclear test. The team is deploying a wide range of inspection techniques, including radionuclide, seismic, geophysical, and other methods, as would be permitted under an actual inspection if requested and approved by the CTBTO’s executive council of states-parties.

At a Nov. 15 briefing at the inspection area in Jordan, Oleg Rozhkov, the director of the On-Site Inspection Division and IFE14 project executive, described the exercise’s scenario. Under that scenario, the CTBT has been in force for six months when the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System (IMS) detects suspicious seismic readings and noble gas emissions indicative of a nuclear blast. Five days later, a state-party requests an on-site inspection; the Executive Council approves the request. Ten days after the initial readings, the inspection team moves in to set up a base of operations.

Fourteen days later and after negotiations with officials from the inspected state who claim the IMS’s readings were wrong, the first CTBTO team moves into the field using sensitive and mobile seismic and radiation monitoring equipment. Using visual surveys, aircraft reconnaissance, and satellite information to supplement the readings from the field equipment, the inspection team quickly narrows its search to four smaller areas of interest in the inspection zone. Once there, the team looks for more-definitive evidence of a prohibited nuclear explosion, such as the collapse of an underground cavity or emissions of additional noble gases.

“IFE14 demonstrates the CTBTO’s advanced capabilities” and shows that the organization is in “the last phase of [its] preparations for on-site inspections” and is ready for the CTBT’s entry into force, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said in a Nov. 18 interview.

Short-notice on-site inspections can only be requested and approved following the treaty’s entry into force. Under Annex 2 of the treaty, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. Eight of those 44 countries have not ratified the treaty.

The IMS consists of 337 stations, 85 percent of which are operational and transmitting data.

The exercise in Jordan is the most extensive since the CTBTO was established in 1997. In 2008 the CTBTO conducted its first IFE at the former Soviet nuclear test site located in present-day Kazakhstan. (See ACT, November 2008.)

Beginning in 2009, the CTBTO carried out a series of build-up exercises for IFE14 to practice specific methods, techniques, and sensor technologies in Austria, Finland, Hungary, and Jordan. These included testing special multispectral and infrared sensors used for overflight monitoring, as well as field-testing communications equipment to ensure it is secure from eavesdropping by inspected states-parties. Several training workshops on on-site inspections also were held, most recently in Yangzhou, China, in November 2013.

In combination with the CTBTO’s success in detecting North Korea’s three nuclear tests, the exercise in Jordan “proves that we’re ready to detect any type of nuclear test explosion,” Zerbo said in a separate statement issued Nov. 18.

The results of IFE14 will be evaluated at a workshop to be held in Israel in March 2015, which will be open to officials from all signatory states, including Egypt and Iran, according to CTBTO officials. Those two countries, along with Israel, are the region’s Annex 2 states.

“I am confident the exercise will prove that CTBT on-site inspections are a viable deterrent against would-be Treaty violators,” Rozhkov said.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization launched a five-week-long, on-site inspection field exercise in a remote desert region adjoining the Dead Sea.

U.S. Officials Reaffirm Support for CTBT

By Shervin Taheran

A group of senior U.S. officials from the State, Energy, and Defense departments last month reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, even as one of the officials made clear that the administration would not be sending the treaty to the Senate for approval in the near future.

Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said at a Sept. 15 event at the U.S. Institute of Peace that ratification of the CTBT would “help to enhance our leadership role in nonproliferation and strengthen our hand in pursuing tough actions against suspected proliferators. That is more important than ever in our current global environment.”

But she said the Obama administration “has no intention of rushing into this or demanding premature [Senate] action before we have had a thorough and rigorous discussion and debate.” 

The current priorities, Gottemoeller said, are “education” and “a healthy, open dialogue” with senators, rather than setting a timeline.

The United States signed the CTBT in 1996, when the pact was opened for signature. The Clinton administration submitted the treaty to the Senate three years later. On Oct. 13, 1999, the Senate rejected the treaty by a vote of a 51-48. Treaty approval requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

Several speakers at the event, which was organized by the Arms Control Association, Green Cross International, and the Washington embassies of Canada and Kazakhstan, emphasized changes in the landscape since the 1999 vote. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared that “[t]he world will be a safer and more secure place if nuclear testing is relegated to the pages of history” and said there had been “enormous progress” over the past 15 years on two key technical issues from the 1999 debate: ensuring the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile and verifying that countries are not covertly violating their no-testing commitment.

With regard to the first point, Moniz said that the directors of U.S. national laboratories “believe that they actually understand more about how nuclear weapons work now than during the period of nuclear testing.”

The United States has not conducted a nuclear weapon test explosion since September 1992. To ensure the readiness of U.S. nuclear warheads, the Energy Department has carried out a program known as stockpile stewardship to monitor, replace, and refurbish key components of the warheads in the nuclear stockpile. 

Moniz also cited progress in the global verification system that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is putting in place. 

A 2012 report by a National Academy of Sciences committee said stockpile stewardship had been “more successful than was anticipated in 1999.” The report found that “U.S. national monitoring and the [CTBTO] International Monitoring System has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” (See ACT, April 2012.)

At the Sept. 15 event, Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, said the United States is “not even considering” a resumption of nuclear testing. 

Nevertheless, he said, the U.S. government is not prepared to shut down its nuclear testing facilities in Nevada. “I would expect that if we can get ratification and entry into force [of the CTBT], those facilities would be closed. But there is a desire to keep at least a limited readiness until the treaty enters into force,” he said.

Weber is the staff director of the Nuclear Weapons Council, through which the Defense and Energy departments coordinate management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Under terms outlined in Annex 2 of the CTBT, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. The United States is one of eight countries on that list that have not ratified the pact. The other seven are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. In her remarks, Gottemoeller reiterated the U.S. position that “there’s no reason for the remaining Annex 2 states to wait for the United States before completing their own ratification processes.”

In his closing remarks at the Sept. 15 event, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said that although it is important to be patient in the effort to bring the CTBT into force, “we have to be mindful of those who have signed and ratified this treaty long ago and have been waiting for its entry into force.”

Senior U.S. officials reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force, but made clear that the Senate would not be asked to consider the pact in the near future.

Israel Indicates Support for CTBT

Daryl G. Kimball

With entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) still awaiting ratification by eight key states, officials from one of those states, Israel, have recently signaled strong support for the treaty.

Following a visit to Israel by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed the treaty in 1996, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a March 19 report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo, making his first visit to Israel since becoming executive secretary last year, held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

While attending an April 10-11 meeting of an experts group in Stockholm to discuss options for bringing the CTBT into force, Zerbo told Arms Control Today that his Israeli interlocutors were “very positive” about the treaty. He said he believes that “Israel could be the next” state among the eight key holdouts to ratify the treaty.

Zerbo reported on his visit to Israel during the meeting with the experts group. The CTBTO established the group last September to promote the objectives of the CTBT and help secure its entry into force. Its 18 members include current and former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and other senior diplomatic leaders.

“We have an action plan that helpfully is differentiated for the nature of the challenges of the eight countries which we will be principally focusing on. We all have a reinforced obligation to see that the de facto moratorium becomes a legally binding ban to outlaw these dreadful tests,” said group member and former UK defense secretary Des Browne in an April 11 interview following the Stockholm meeting. The group is scheduled to meet again this fall in Hungary.

Meanwhile, in an address on the CTBT delivered in Hiroshima, Japan, on April 15, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the CTBT is “a key part” of leading the nuclear-weapon states “toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Regarding U.S. efforts on ratification, Gottemoeller noted that “it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers” and the Obama administration therefore “need[s] time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification.”

She said there is “no reason” that the other key states that have not ratified the treaty need to wait for U.S. action.

Also in Hiroshima, 12 countries called on the United States and other CTBT holdouts “to sign and ratify [the treaty] without delay.” The call was part of an April 12 joint statement issued at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. At their meeting, NPDI foreign ministers were joined by Gottemoeller and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The NPDI statement urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocative actions including, among others, ballistic missile launch, nuclear test or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 30 that North Korea “will not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.”

In an interview at the Stockholm meeting, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said that, by banning nuclear tests, the CTBT was designed to limit nuclear competition. “We were lucky in the Cold War that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky the second time,” he warned.

Israel appears to be signaling that it is seriously considering ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Week Ahead, April 7-11: Iran Talks Resume; Hagel in China; CTBTO Group of Eminent Persons Meets

The following are some of the key arms control dates and developments to watch in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. - written and compiled by Tim Farnsworth April 7-9: P5+1 Talks With Iran Resume Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are meeting April 7-9 in Vienna to continue discussing elements of a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program...

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