Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for May, 2007

Thursday Must-Read: Obama and Romney Duel Over Iraq

Posted by K.E. White on May 31, 2007

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney lay out their Iraq plans in the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs.

Here are some shortcut reads:

WaPo’s summary of the Obama/Romney FP essays

-Double-Take: Politico’s Roger Simon on the underlying convergence all presidential candidates have–or will have–on Iraq

Condensed Iraq Background: Heritage Foundation vs. Center for American Progress

Center for American Progress on the wisdom of Iraq redeployment

Heritage Foundation on why America must stay

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Posted in Barack Obama, Center for American Progress, Heritage Foundation, Iraq, Mitt Romney, Politico, Roger Simon | Leave a Comment »

Wednesday News-Round Up: European Union

Posted by K.E. White on May 30, 2007


“During the interaction on the sidelines of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Mukherjee is understood to have emphasised the need for resolving the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue, avoiding use of force.”

“EUPOL Afghanistan will comprise 160-170 men by the end of 2007. They will be deployed among the NATO-led provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) across the country, including in the southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces.”

“French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who opposes Turkey’s EU membership, has floated the idea of a “Mediterranean Union” but said recently the proposal was not meant as a consolation prize for Turkey if the Muslim nation should lose its bid to join the EU.

Turkish media have dubbed the proposal “Club Med” after the vacation resorts.”

· EU-Pakistan Talks

“Pakistan has demanded duty-free access to European Union (EU) markets for goods produced in the tribal areas of the country.

‘The EU should provide duty free access to the goods manufactured in the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) being established in the tribal areas by the US,” Pakistan suggested to the EU delegation on May 24, the last day of the two-day Joint Commission meeting in Islamabad.’”

· Spain & Netherlands to Resuscitate EU Constitution?

· EU Cooperate to Combat E-Terrorism and Kidnapping

Posted in Afghanistan, EU Constitution, European Union, Netherlands, Spain, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

‘Containment 2.0’: Edwards Addresses the Council on Foreign Relations

Posted by K.E. White on May 23, 2007

Hailing a new foreign policy “based on hope, not fear” presidential candidate John Edwards merged a call for global justice with global security. His speech to the Council on Foreign Relations covered a host of issues: Russia, the rising states of India and China, America’s bureaucratic deficiencies, the folly of missile defense, and new strategies on educating and supporting the world’s poorest members. But at heart, Edwards sketched a strategy of containing the threat of international terrorism through a renewed moral and internationalist foreign policy.

John EdwardsBut Iraq, while addressed often in the speech’s opening, was noticeably absent latter on. Why? Because an Edwards presidency would see U.S. troops leave Iraq. Yet Edwards crept in an admission to his well-known pull-out insistence: his call for U.S. troops within the Green Zone and a Gulf force of unspecified size.

The speech showcased a populist rift on liberal internationalism. What differed this speech from the usual liberal accord for returning to traditional alliances and multilateralism, were three aspects: 1) specific plans to educate and feed the world’s poor through a cabinet-level department, 2) elevating genocide-prevention to the same status as self-defense, and 3) an articulate discussion on how to refocus America’s defense strategy from a war to containment footing.

Hope and boldness were theme hit often by Edwards. Edwards did not promise an eternally safe America, rarely using the word ‘safety.’ Instead he demanded “substance not slogans, leadership not labels.”

But this did not stop Edwards from pledging to feed the world’s hungry and “educate every child in the world.”

Edwards laid out many specific proposals, including the creation of a rapid-action force to stabilize fragile states, a $5 billion increase in foreign aid, and synchronizing the national defense strategies of the State, Defense and Energy Departments. Edwards also called for giving room to non-Pentagon—which he sees as “on steroids”—in matters of national security.

Building up and defending fragile states again and again became the main theme of the speech. Edwards spoke of a fence-sitting generation: a clear allusion to the battling raging between moderate and radical Muslim forces. “It’s America’s job to attract them to our side like a magnet,” Edwards stated without a using only the “hammer” of military power.

But this did not stop Edwards from elevating the need for counter-proliferation efforts, especially in regards to Iran and North Korea. In fact, Edwards placed nonproliferation before fighting terrorism when it came to the uses of American military power.

And instead of discussing how to hunt down terrorists, Edwards spoke more on how restore America’s legitimacy and respect: demanding the closure of Guantanamo, more engagement in NATO and the United Nations, and restoring habeas corpus/banning torture towards foreign terrorists.

Throughout the speech Edwards slammed the Bush administration on every aspect of security. Edwards views Iraq as an insistence of “misuse and misdirect[ing] the extraordinary power America has.” Edwards criticized the administration’s conception of civilian rule over the military, pledging to keep “tactical” aspects of military operations in the hands of professional military staff. Edwards noted Bush’s support for missile defense, in particular, as a prime example of waste on unworkable policies.

While Edwards bemoaned the Iraq monopoly on discussion of America’s foreign policy, one wonders how the many policies Edwards hope to pursue can overcome a possibly disastrous American pullout.

What succeeded after WWII can succeed again, Edwards stated. Again and again Edwards returned General George Marshall and the tremendous impact of the Marshall plan in ending the Cold War. It was this economic assistance, in tandem with America’s alliances and—far less described—military capability that permitted America to win the Cold War.

Edwards argued that the “power of example” should be used to “spread the dream of freedom across the globe.”

Whether or not this speech covered all the bases, one wonders if the power of example will solve a possible Iraq conflagration after a U.S. withdrawal—or for that matter a flawed escalation. (Granted, this flaw is shared by every presidential contender.) But by publicly presenting his view of a post-Bush U.S. foreign policy, Edwards has given the American public–and his opponents–a series of policies to contemplate, debate and respond to.

Posted in Council on Foreign Relations, John Edwards, May 23 speech, Nuclear, proliferation, Terrorism, United States, WMD | Leave a Comment »

American Strategy in Pakistan: How Should America Perceive Pakistan’s Overlapping Proliferation and Terrorism Dangers?

Posted by K.E. White on May 23, 2007

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state currently seething with unrest, presents a profound challenge to American and global security. Pakistan is a terrorist hotbed, possibly offering international terrorists a new homebase. And Pakistan comes with a nuclear punch: What happens if one of these groups acquires a nuclear weapon?

But before crafting solutions, U.S. policy must prioritize its strategic goals toward Pakistan.

Is stabilizing the Musharraf regime to be gained at all costs? Should concerns over nuclear weapon leakage outweigh combating terrorist operations in the state? Naturally all these goals should be accomplished: But what goal should set American policy towards Pakistan?

Two recent publications point to the ‘Pakistan divide’ among the non-proliferation community.

Alex Stolar argues that fear of nuclear leakage obscures the greater problem facing Pakistan: Musharraf failing to consolidate the state. Even the most likely WMD-related threat facing Pakistan—a radiological device detonated in Pakistan—demands the state authority be strengthened.

Here is a portion of Stolar’s Stimson Center article:

…Today, the military’s Strategic Plans Division devotes over 8,000 men, mostly undercover, to protecting Pakistan’s weapons and fissile material. The Pakistani military is a highly capable and professional force. It is highly improbable that it would hand over its crown jewels to individuals or organizations that it cannot control during this period of unrest.

It is equally unlikely that terrorist would be able to steal Pakistani nuclear weapons or fissile material. It is true that the fiat of the Pakistani state is being challenged throughout Pakistan, and especially in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. In the most troubled regions, police and military forces are struggling to maintain order. However, the installations that house Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fissile material, as would be expected, are heavily guarded and among the most secure facilities in all of Pakistan.

Similarly, fears that the current unrest could lead to a takeover of the Pakistani government by extremists are also misplaced. Religious parties are an important element of Pakistani society, but their political clout remains limited. It is unlikely that religious parties could engineer a takeover of the Pakistani government, as they lack both the popular support and the military power that would be required. The political power of religious parties would be further diminished if General Pervez Musharraf would remove the shackles from the two major political parties in Pakistan that do not define themselves in religious terms.

Unfortunately, unfounded fears about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have obscured more pressing threats. Radiological terrorism in Pakistan, as elsewhere, is possible. To conduct an act of radiological terrorism, extremists would need to fashion a radiological dispersal device (RDD) which consists of little more than conventional explosives and radiological materials that can be found in laboratories and hospitals. Though an RDD would cause few deaths, it could contaminate a large swath of land and stretch Pakistan’s emergency response capabilities.

The implications Stolar’s argument are two-fold:

1) Push Musharraf to make the political accommodations necessary to stabilize Pakistan (i.e. presumably have open/contested elections and relinquish his grasp over military control).

2) Push aside concerns of an illusory nuclear leakage threat and put American efforts into ensuring a stable state apparatus

But Daniel Byman offers a different take in his PSQ article:

The country that deserves the greatest attention today is Pakistan. Pakistan hosts of large domestic jihadist presence and significant numbers of foreign jihadists while possessing a nuclear weapons program that it has demonstrated it does not, or will not, control. The possibility of leakage is more than plausible, and the results could be catastrophic for the region and for the United States. Unfortunately, the United States will have to make trade-offs between working with Pakistan to fight terrorism and its efforts to stop proliferation.

In Pakistan, several assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf appear to have involved military officials linked to jihadists. Each component, by itself, is important, but together they present an exceptionally dangerous combination.

…Pakistan stands out as an exceptionally dangerous combination of high levels of corruption and a high risk of terrorist penetration, with at best a medium-level security force. Other countries that are corrupt and do not have highly competent security forces do not have a grave risk of terrorist penetration.

America’s first priority, according to Byman, should help Pakistan secure its nuclear supplies directly—even if this hurts general non-proliferation efforts.

Should American energies first go to pushing Musharraf or securing nuclear arms? While a tactical (and somewhat overlapping) discussion, it rests of two very different views of Pakistan and the challenges it poses.

And when the possibly catastrophic costs of choosing the wrong policy, this discussion is one of the most urgent in the crosscutting nonproliferation and American foreign policy establishments.

Posted in Alex Stolar, Daniel Byman, Musharraf, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, Pakistan, Political Science Quarterly, Stimson Center, Terrorism | 6 Comments »

Russia’s Nuclear Moves

Posted by K.E. White on May 18, 2007

  • Russia-Iran: Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant On Track

From the Persian Journal:

Bushehr is a contract beneficial for Russia, although it is affected by the Iranian nuclear problem, but we have made a lot of efforts so the Bushehr NPP is not part of the UN Security Council sanctions, and intend to transparently work on this project in accordance with Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA Charter. I hope we will complete it,” he said.
The $1-billion project, implemented under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came under threat of suspension after Russian contractors said in February that Tehran had only covered 60% of the required funding by the fourth quarter of 2006, and had completely stopped payment in mid-January.

Read more on the Bushehr site here.

In a potentially controversial deal, the centre will include a 10MW light-water reactor and facilities for processing and storing nuclear waste.

It will be monitored by the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, Rosatom said.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Burma’s military rulers, whom they accuse of widespread human rights abuses.

With 10MW, running on low enriched uranium, the proposed reactor could not be used for a nuclear weapons programme, says the BBC’s Steven Eke.

But the deal will again raise questions about Russia’s willingness to export nuclear know-how to countries the West considers repressive or hostile, our reporter adds.

Russia‘s nuclear cooperation with Iran – who the US and other nations accuse of trying to develop nuclear weapons – has been a source of tension between Moscow and western nations.

  • Kazakhstan and Russia set up Uranium Enrichment Center

From InformKZ:

MOSCOW. May 18. KAZINFORM – Russia and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement to set up the International Uranium Enrichment Center. The document formalized the two countries’ uranium processing cycle, from the production of uranium ore to its refining into low enriched uranium.

This inordinate event is important not only for Russia and Kazakhstan, but also reflects international interest in uranium enrichment. The establishment of the center creates new opportunities for all countries, including those who do not have nuclear technologies but still want to gain access to reliable nuclear energy.

Posted in Burma, Bushehr, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uranium Enrichment Center | Leave a Comment »

What Ever Happened? The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on May 1, 2007

Why the delay on the U.S.-Indian Nuclear deal?

Stratfor.com helps unpack the two sticking points: US demands for India to a) stop all nuclear testing and b) not reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

(Some background:

1) The U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954 that prohibits the United States from trading nuclear materials that foster other nation’s nuclear weapon capabilities.

2) India’s rich supplies of thorium)

Now for the article:

A testing ban simply will not fly in Indian defense circles. India’s last major military standoff with nuclear rival Pakistan was only about five years ago, so New Delhi feels it cannot agree to become legally bound by a moratorium on nuclear testing while it faces a very real threat across its border. The issue could be resolved, however, by inserting language similar to that included in the withdrawal clauses of several other disarmament treaties such as the NPT. Such a clause allows the party in question to withdraw from the agreement when “extraordinary events … have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.”

The reprocessing issue is a bit more complex. At its current pace, India does not have enough uranium reserves to support both its civilian and military nuclear programs in the long run. With the U.S. nuclear deal, India can preserve its domestic source of uranium for its unsupervised military program, and use imported uranium for its supervised civilian reactors, allowing the Indian nuclear defense program to leap ahead (and keep Pakistani leaders up at night).

However, India also owns more than 30 percent of the world’s thorium reserves, compared to just 0.7 percent of uranium reserves. It makes good economic sense — and is one of India’s long-term goals — to pursue a nuclear program that fully utilizes the country’s abundant thorium reserves, rather than become increasingly dependent on foreign suppliers for its nuclear fuel.

At the risk of getting too technical: uranium-fueled reactors will operate with thorium in the reactor chamber, so that while the Indians are potentially generating “traditional” nuclear power, they are also irradiating thorium, which will turn it into U-233. That U-233 can then be extracted, via reprocessing, and used to create a new type of nuclear fuel for a different reactor. This would allow India to take advantage of its wealth of thorium for power production.

The problem (from the U.S. perspective) is that U-233 also can be used in nuclear weapons programs — and the idea of indirectly supporting India’s nuclear defense program is not something that U.S. President George W. Bush will be able to sell to Congress, even though, with Iraq in shambles, his administration is extremely keen on claiming a foreign policy success.

The Economist Newspaper gives this take on the motivations from New Delhi and the White House:

For India, however, the devil in the 123 agreement is not just in the technical detail. Above all, Mr Singh is under strong pressure from his nuclear establishment, and from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which supervised India’s most recent bomb tests in 1998, not to agree to anything that would curtail India’s right to test again, should it so choose. But the Hyde Act is clear: if India tests, the deal is off.

India would still be free to test, of course, and damn the consequences. But it is these—from increased pressure not to test in the first place to accusations that India had trashed the deal—that it wants to avoid. And the Hyde Act rules out ruses such as getting others to supply India with nuclear fuel if America backs out, or helping it build up large enough fuel stocks to test with at least nuclear impunity. Crafting words that satisfy India’s wish to keep all its nuclear options open, and yet could squeak past Congress, is hard.

For although India has not signed the NPT, America has; it is not supposed to assist others’ weapons building in any way. To India’s frustration, the Hyde Act therefore also rules out selling India (or bending NSG rules far enough to allow others to sell) equipment and technology for three processes used in making nuclear fuel that are also crucial for producing the fissile material for bombs: uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing of spent fuel and the production of heavy water (used as a moderator in reactors fuelled by natural uranium that can be ideal for producing bomb-useable plutonium). Nor is India to be allowed to reprocess American-origin spent nuclear fuel to extract its plutonium.

Might India test again? How many more bombs does it want? If the deal goes through, the foreign fuel it can import will anyway take the pressure off its own tight uranium stocks, enabling more of these to be used in its military programme. It has also exempted its plutonium-producing fast-breeder reactor from safeguards.

In the discussions that followed its 1998 tests, India indicated to America that its need for plutonium was not open-ended, and that it would not seek nuclear parity with China. Since then, says Robert Einhorn, who took part in those talks and is now at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, India seems to have changed its strategic goals; its insistence on the option for large-scale plutonium production suggests a revised view of where it thinks it should be in the global pecking order, he says.

Privately, some Bush administration officials would not be unhappy if India’s growing nuclear arsenal gave China more pause. As the momentum behind the deal slows, the going gets tougher.

So it this deal going to happen?

Nonproliferation Advocates are ready to fight, as IAEA ElBaradei knows all to well himself.

But the real bargaining will come in the US Congress—where the 123 Agreement must be approved—and the Nuclear Suppliers Group reaches consensus on the deal.

And this assumes Indian support for the plan stays robust.

Posted in 123 Agreement, America, Bush administration, India, Nuclear Deal, proliferation, thorium, U.S. India Nuclear Deal | 5 Comments »