Proliferation Press

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Archive for the ‘Bush administration’ Category

Senate Approves US-India Deal: Two Wrap-Ups of the New Nuclear Nonproliferation Wrinkle

Posted by proliferationpresswm on October 4, 2008

Time Magazine teases out the practical and symbolic effects of the nuclear deal to India. Yes, they get can now receive more sensitive technologies—but the real impact is breaking the India-Pakistan ‘hyphen’.

But—as Mother Jones notes—will the deal risk a break-down of global non-proliferation efforts? And Asia-One News tacks the deal’s winners and losers.

But one thing is clear: US President George W. Bush just profoundly shifted the international system, and with little fanfare or even notice from Americans. (Though a teetering economy, riveting presidential campaign and two on-going wars would push almost any other story before the fold)

 

Source Material

From Time.Com:

But one thing India does not doubt is that the 123 Agreement will transform the way the country is viewed in the eyes of world. According to strategic affairs analyst Manoj Joshi, without access to international nuclear trade, India “could boast of our bomb, our BPO prowess, economic growth, invites to the G-8 meetings and candidacy for the UN Security Council seat. But we were firmly at a different level from, say, China. They could import powerful computers, uranium, sensitive machine tools, software and components for satellites that were denied to us.” Today, that changed, as did the international community’s policy of equating India and Pakistan as nuclear weapons states. As Indian and U.S. officials have repeatedly pointed out, the deal has “de-hyphenated” India from Pakistan. “For decades India has chafed at the world’s tendency to lock India into a bipolar South Asian framework with Pakistan,” says Joshi. “Now, decisively, the rules have been changed for India, and pointedly not for Pakistan.” The deal also has a bearing on the regional balance of power, making clear the U.S.’s proclivity to India and sending a signal to Beijing that it has other options in the Asian region.

On a slower news day, the deal might have gotten more fanfare. But in Washington, immediately after voting, the Senate went back to deliberating the financial bailout package. The Bush administration had achieved one of its most important foreign affairs successes, but there was more pressing business to be sorted out at home. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected in India later this week to ink the agreement with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. In India, news channels interspersed images from the deal being passed with footage of Oct. 2 bomb blasts in the northeastern state of Tripura. Neither of the governments that led these historic efforts will benefit from it today. But for both, the deal will be a significant and unprecedented legacy.

From Mother Jones

The consequences of the U.S.-India nuclear deal will show themselves slowly, and perhaps in part for that reason, not much has been made of it in the press or in Congress. Immediately after casting their votes last night, Senators returned to debating the financial industry bailout package, the India deal just another piece of business checked off the list. For a measure so important to the future of the spread of nuclear weapons, said Dorgan, “never has something of such moment and such significance and so much importance been debated in such a short period of time and given such short shrift.” 

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Posted in Bush administration, India, Nuclear, WMD | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

US Treasury Department Designates Iran’s National Shipping Line ‘Proliferator’

Posted by proliferationpresswm on September 16, 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports on the recent US Treasury decision to label Iran’s national shipping industry a ‘proliferator’. The move further tightens the screws on Iran, which while a large supplier of crude oil is dependent on other nation’s refiners to turn that oil into usable products—like gasoline. 

It’s an interesting episode of how international trading laws governing maritime commerce intersect with nuclear proliferation and raw realpolitik. 

The move isn’t all that unprecedented for the Bush administration: in 2005, several firms from China, India and Austria faced US Treasury sanctions for providing Iran with missile and chemical-arms related products. But this is the first time a nation’s shipping industry has faced such action: illustrating the Treasury Department’s evolving role in non-proliferation issues.

Read Iran’s response to the news here.

From WSJ

The U.S. Treasury Department accused Iran’s national maritime carrier of helping the country’s nuclear and missile programs, a formal move designed to pressure Iran amid stalled talks over its nuclear work.

The Treasury, in designating the carrier as a “proliferator,” said the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 18 of its affiliated entities were secretly “providing logistical services” to Iran’s military, falsifying shipping documents and using deceptive terms to describe shipments in order to hide their activities from foreign maritime officials.

The designation, which typically is designed to stop companies on the list from doing business in the U.S., further blocks the carrier’s ability to move money through U.S. banks as well as blocking it from carrying food and medical supplies not included in Washington’s longstanding trade sanctions against Iran.

… 

This is the first time Treasury has designated a shipping company as a proliferator, the department said.

The company says it has a fleet of 91 ships, most of them bulk carriers designed to transport dry cargo such as grain, coal and iron ore. Oil shipments from Iran, one of the world’s biggest exporters, aren’t likely to be affected. The company says it has just two tankers, and they are used to transport vegetable oil and similar products.

The move could complicate Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines’s dealings with other countries. Its ships call frequently at nearby Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, according to the Iranian carrier’s Web site. The company also says it makes regular trips to big ports in Hong Kong, Singapore, the U.K., Germany and France.

Posted in Bush administration, Iran, Nuclear, WMD | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

IAEA-White House Split Over Iran

Posted by K.E. White on October 3, 2007

Proliferation Press blogged earlier on the split between the White House and ElBaradei over Iran. A September 29th Associated Press article by George Jahn probes the same topic.

What is the source of the White House-IAEA divide? Is it a debate over IAEA authority of IAEA, or the Bush White House silencing dissident voices on Iran?

The AP article presents the views of IAEA Director General ElBaradei, the White House, UN inspector David Albright, and CAP fellow Joseph Cirincione:

“It is not only the core of my mandate to clarify Iran’s nuclear history — it is a central Security Council demand,” he told The Associated Press in comments e-mailed Friday defending his work plan and indirectly countering U.S. criticism that key IAEA members should have been consulted on it first.

“I continue, publicly and privately, to urge Iran to suspend,” he added, countering arguments that he is giving short shrift to Security Council demands. “I continue to call for a ‘double time out,’ which is actually the very same concept laid out in Security Council resolution: If you suspend enrichment, we will suspend sanctions.”

But discontent remains, said a senior U.S. official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to express his views to the media.

“It’s frustrating that he is assisting the Iranians in delaying tactics and helping them do what they want to do,” he said.

David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector, also was critical, saying that “because of the political sensitivity of the issue the board should have been consulted.”

“I think what the U.S. is objecting to is that ElBaradei is trying to use the IAEA to do international diplomacy,” he said. “ElBaradei doesn’t have that mandate.”

Suggesting the cooperation plan is flawed, Albright said that by embracing it, ElBaradei was “fitting the facts on the ground” to try to prevent armed conflict over Iran in a similarly selective way that the Bush administration did to justify the invasion of Iraq.

But Joseph Cirincione, director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said those critical of ElBaradei “should take a deep, hard look at their own role and record for the war in Iraq.

“We have an American government seemingly itching to go to war, and we find that those who are proposing negotiations and inspections instead of war are themselves coming under attack,” he said.

Posted in Bush administration, David Albright, ElBaradei, George Jahn, IAEA, Iran, Joseph Cirincione, White House | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pakistan Update: Power Sharing Deal in Islamabad? And First Ever Muslim 20 Yr. Malt Whiskey

Posted by K.E. White on August 17, 2007

Summary: A quick update on Pakistan and the potential for a Musharraf-Bhutto power-sharing deal. Proliferation Press offers a recap and  some past commentary. Added Bonus: This exciting news for whiskey aficionados.

If you haven’t heard, America would like a ‘moderate’ Pakistani regime. But is it possible?

From WaPo:

The United States wants to see Pakistan’s moderate and democratic politicians unite to fight Islamic extremism, but has no interest in picking sides ahead of upcoming elections, a top U.S. envoy said Thursday.

The danger for both is that Pakistanis will see any deal as a cynical ploy.

“It would be seen as coming to a deal not because there is a convergence of policies,” said Masood. “The leaders would both be seen as compromising for their own interest, not for the interest of the country.”

The danger for both is that Pakistanis will see any deal as a cynical ploy.

“It would be seen as coming to a deal not because there is a convergence of policies,” said Masood. “The leaders would both be seen as compromising for their own interest, not for the interest of the country.”

Musharraf’s response:

President Gen Pervez Musharraf has ruled out any deal or power-sharing with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), saying it (PPP) will be the rival of the ruling PML in the general elections.

President Musharraf met ruling party MNAs and MPAs from six districts-Faisalabad, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Sargodha, Mianwali and Khushab – at the Faisalabad airport on Thursday.

The president said he would be re-elected president in uniform as the constitution allowed him.

So it all comes down to the elections: which in Pakistan will be a two-pronged process.

First Muharraf will seek reappointment as President by the parliament in September or October, with general parliamentary elections to be held within the following three months.

The aim of the United States—a stable Pakistan—is understandable. (The Boston Herald reports on US worry over Pakistan in the wake of 9-11.) But should the White House be sending such advice before the results are in?

In any case, the next few months will prove critical for Pakistan—a nuclear weapons state plagued by Islamic extremism.

Here are two previous posts on the Pakistan dilemma.

And, for any whiskey drinkers, take heart: The first ever Muslim 20-year aged malt whiskey is set for roll out.

Posted in Bhutto, Bush administration, Musharraf, Spiegel | Leave a Comment »

The India Nuclear Deal: On Life Support or Creeping Steadily Towards Success?

Posted by K.E. White on August 5, 2007

The Bush administration backed US-India Nuclear deal has been a diplomatic rollercoaster. On March 6th, 2006 President Bush announced the US India nuclear deal and pushed Congress to pass the legislation last summer, to only see the deal stalled owing to Indian objections. Now in the twilight of his presidency, the President is pushing for its approval.

But can a now unpopular, lame duck President seal this controversial deal?

Congress passed last summer a bundle of legislative changes allowing America cooperate with India on nuclear issues. While the changes do not amount to an official recognition of India’s non-NPT sanctioned nuclear weapons program, it gives it de facto recognition.

Bush has now unveiled a slightly reworked deal with India, forcing Congress to reconsider the matter—but with one critical change: Democrats now control Congress.

Advocates of the deal point to its realism—it deals with India’s status as a nuclear power—and hope it will foster a strong partnership between two strong democracies.

But critics view the plan as rewarding India for bad behavior, thereby encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons. Critics also point to an apparent double-standard: America is encouraging India’s reprocessing facilities while demanding Iran—who claims to be merely developing its civilian nuclear power—stop all nuclear repossessing.

So what’s next for this proposal? Under Secretary of State R. Nicolas Burns lays out the future hurdles succinctly in this recent interview with the CFR:

Two things have to happen before it goes back for a final vote in Congress. First, India has to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which I expect will happen in the next thirty to thirty-five days. Secondly, the Indians will need to convince the nuclear suppliers group—this is the group of forty-five nuclear energy powers in the world—that it should give the same kind of international treatment in terms of civil nuclear trade to India that the United States would have just given bilaterally. Once those two steps are taken, then perhaps by November or December we’ll be ready to formally send this agreement to Capitol Hill for a final vote. We hope that vote will mirror the Hyde Act vote which was, of course, an overwhelming vote in favor of India and the United States by Congress.

In India the BJP opposition party has come out against the new deal. While not able to stop Indian approval, the BJP resistance could sap public support for the deal. The Hindustan Times reports on the party’s objections:

The inspections that India would be subject to and the conditions imposed on it under the agreement would be equivalent to those applicable to non-nuclear weapons nations, both he and Shourie stated. For these reasons, the BJP had consistently opposed the deal and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his reservations on the issue even in 2005 with regard to its impact on India’s strategic nuclear programme, they added.

Expressing BJP’s objections to the provisions of the agreement, they said since each party was required to implement the agreement in accordance with its national laws and regulations, there was no doubt that India would be governed by the provisions of the Hyde Act of 2006 and the US Atomic Energy Act, 1954.

Sinha found US commitment on fuel supplies “vague and futuristic”. Besides, as the US would, under the provisions of the deal, retain the right of end-use verification of all its supplies, it would ensure that American inspectors would roam around all Indian nuclear installations, he felt.

And the NGS negotiations may hit a Beijing road block. Ravni gives a good backdrop the coming negotiations, painting China as the critical player:

India has already received broad support from Russia, Britain and France. India’s cooperation and growing engagement with Brazil and South Africa under the IBSA framework has also lead these countries to support India’s use of civilian nuclear technology. Australia [Note: Australia previously opposed to deal], too, seems to have veered around to supporting India’s right to civilian nuclear technology. In the past the NSG has always worked on a consensus and Indian interlocutors will hope to achieve this consensus in their favour. Here the position taken by China will be of great importance to India.

DNA views China as opposing the deal:

China has emerged as a source of concern as India begins the next stage of negotiations for implementation of the nuclear deal. According to a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the government is disturbed by reports of a quiet Chinese effort to block India’s bid for an unconditional waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for participation in international nuclear trade.

All this seems to only lead to the same murky conclusion: The fate of the US-India nuclear deal, clouded in doubt for over a year, is still uncertain.

Posted in Bush administration, Council on Foreign Relations, India, Nicolas Burns, NPT, NSG, Nuclear Deal, U.S. India Nuclear Deal | Leave a Comment »

Saudi Arabia Round-Up: US Criticizes then Gives Arms; Economy on the Up and Up; And Why Not to be Sri Lakan 17-Year Old in Saudi Arabia

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

Short Read: Review of recent develops out of Saudi Arabia: Zalmay Khalilzad backpedals on earlier criticisms on Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq; Gates & Rice head over to Saudi Arabia for desert-side chats; Saudi Arabia pushes ‘A+’ economic reforms. Oh and Bradford Plumer and Israel Chime In

 

UN Ambassador Khalilzad’s ‘before’ shot: (detailed article from Al Jazeera)

“Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq,” he said on “Late Edition.” “At times, some of them are not only not helping, but they are doing things that is undermining the effort to make progress.”

And the ‘after’ shot (from Justin Bergman at AP):

Zalmay Khalilzad attempted to play down the critical remark he made Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition,” telling reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that Saudi Arabia is “a great ally” and friend of the United States.

This diplomatic dance only added focus to a Bush administration backed arms deal to Saudi Arabia. Jim Lobe offers this description in an excellent Asia Times article:

Under the arms-for-allies plan, the US would provide $13 billion in aid over 10 years – roughly the same amount that it has been getting for most of the past decade. While precise figures have not been released, State Department officials said Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council will be encouraged to buy some $20 billion in new arms, including satellite-guided bombs, missile defenses, and upgrades for their US-made fighter jets over the same period.

To dampen concerns by Israel and its supporters in Washington, the Bush administration is also proposing a 10-year, $30 billion package to preserve the Jewish state’s military superiority – or “qualitative edge” – over its Arab neighbors. That would amount to a 25% increase in US military assistance to Israel over current levels.

Lobe’s article offers a critical eye on the plan, while illustrating its chief aim: solidifying anti-Iran forces in the Middle East. Doing so through arms sales—and not regime change—is a major shift in Bush administration: returning to the realism of the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations. The down side? The United States is arming despotic, and perhaps fragile regimes.

Sometimes map can help. Notice that Iran is effectively surrounded by US allies:

Map of Iran

These arms deals to Saudi Arabia and Israel are giving these nations tools to covertly attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. Should Iran get on the verge of having an atomic arsenal, what better way to split anti-American rhetoric than have an Arab state strike Iran?

Would this actually happen? Doubtful–but nuclear genies pack a big punch.

And Bardford Plumer slashes the deal, revealing the ‘joke’ of helping Saudi Arabia’s military:

Indeed, Tariq Ali mentioned something similar in his recent review of two books on Saudi Arabia: “[T]he Saud clan, living in a state of permanent fear… [has] kept the size of the national army and air force to the barest minimum. [W]hat happens to the vast quantity of armaments purchased to please the West? Most of them rust peacefully in desert warehouses.” Is that true? The Saudis don’t even want the weapons in question and have no intention of using them? They just buy them “to please the West”? Do these deals make any sense to anyone who’s not a defense contractor?

But Rice and Gates are still pushing the deal in their Middle East trip.

At least money isn’t a problem for Saudi Arabia. From Forbes:

Fitch Ratings said it raised the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Outlook to positive from stable as it affirmed the country’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating at ‘A+’.

High oil prices continue to strengthen the government’s domestic and external balance sheets and government is using its fiscal surplus — that touched 25 pct of GDP in 2006 — to pay down domestic debt, build external assets and invest in infrastructure, Fitch said.

And this comes on the heels of extensive economic reforms:

Economic policy has not focused only on internal domestic issues. Indeed, the Saudi government has also sought to further advance the country’s integration with the regional and global economy. The first step aimed at improving and cementing Saudi Arabia’s bilateral and multilateral trade relations on a regional level, starting with the customs union formed with the other five members of the GCC in 2003 that lowered custom duties on most products to 5%. Saudi Arabia then granted GCC citizens equal treatment as its Saudi citizens in areas such as investing in the stock market, establishing a company, private sector employment, social security benefits, government procurement, shipping, and retail, including real estate, according to NBK report.

On a broader scale, the Kingdom’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was finalized toward the end of 2005, ending about 12 years of negotiations. WTO accession has committed the Kingdom to lowering its tariff barriers and other trade barriers and to accelerating the liberalization process of its key sectors, including telecommunications, banking, and insurance. The Kingdom had also signed 39 bilateral agreements, notably with its largest trading partners, the European Union, the United States, and China.

Looking forward, Saudi Arabia has the potential to continue to grow rapidly -driven by the strength of global energy demand, substantial public and private investment, an improving business environment benefiting from liberalization and privatization initiatives, and a rapidly growing population enjoying higher purchasing power.

If arms deals, coupled with wise policy on the part of Saudi, helps 1) reinforce American alliances and 2) lead to long-term stability in the Middle East, what’s the problem? Especially with American military resources stretched and low credibility, what other path is there?

Granted the US could push to transform its relationship with Iran, but such work will fall to the next administration. Bush’s best role: put that administration in the best place possible for talks with Iran. (Yet, in my view, the biggest boast Bush could give would be setting up a plan to pull out of Iraq.)

But one should note Saudi Arabia’s still troubled image: Note the slated execution of a minor on seemingly fluff charges.

A human rights group has urged Saudi Arabia to reconsider the death sentence given to a Sri Lankan maid accused of killing a baby in her care, saying she was a minor at the time and cannot be executed under international law.

Last month, a Saudi court sentenced Rizana Nafeek, 19, to be beheaded for killing the infant two years ago. She has appealed the conviction, which human rights groups say was based on a coerced confession. (AP)

Posted in arms deal, Bush administration, Gates, Iraq, Israel, Rice, Rizana Nakfeek, Saudi Arabia, Zalmay Khalilzad | 6 Comments »

Advice on Iraq, From Everyone: The Real Battle on Iraq Is Local

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

Proliferation Press Editorial

The public, contrary to the image of many polls, is still lost on Iraq. And, predictably, the presidential candidates will mould the ’08 public consensus on Iraq. But it will be the micro-politics on think tanks, advocacy groups and veterans who will hand the White House aspirants their choices, and most likely determine the winner.

Progress is building on reconstituting the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The proposal, emerging as a thought on the House floor on June 7th, now has funding. The House approved a measure Friday to transfer $1 million from other State Department funding to the ISG. (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in undoubtedly thrilled.)

But, as WaPo notes, will this ever-increasing volume of advice drown out any definitive Iraq assessment?

Probably. But such a concern presumes the following: 1) The White House will change policy, 2) Congress can dictate that change, and 3) Congress would want to take the reins on Iraq.

The first assumption has some substance. The White House, while incredibly resolute or stubborn—depending on your view—on Iraq policy, cannot have Republican support for the executive collapse on Iraq. Such a collapse would destroy any momentum on other foreign policy fonts—India nuclear deal or North Korea nuclear crisis are two examples. And Bush would be an utterly empty suit on the world stage.

But such a collapse will unlikely. Americans, while favoring a pull-out, still support the White House making the final call on Iraq. Why this dissonance, illustrated so strongly by the staunch report for U.S. troops in Iraq by Republican contenders for the White House.

Increasingly the public feels the war is lost, but they also know—in the age of international terrorism—that leaving Iraq could cause problems at home or aboard. And most critically, the public has yet to find a national leader on Iraq.

This leaves Congress in a bind. Congressional Democrats lose whenever they try to ‘own’ Iraq, as Reid’s disastrous attempt to cut funding for Iraq. Not only do the Democrats lose on opinion polls, Democratic unity is shattered. Bush owning Iraq, which he can continue to do for the near-term, is the best path for Democratic success in 2008.

So drowning the public in Iraq advice meets everyone’s interest. Republicans can cover themselves, but continue support for a lingering surge. Democrats can increasingly choke the White House, without stinging ‘cut and run’ labels bandied about.

But 2008 looms large. The two-major party candidates will have to lead on Iraq—something that has yet to fully materialize.

Priming the now wandering public is paramount. Advocacy groups, politicians and other invested parties on both sides of Iraq policy will work hard to influence public opinion.

This frenzied, grass-roots battle to mesh the ‘silent majority’ on Iraq will set the 2008 Iraq debate.

Posted in 2008 Election, Bush administration, Iraq | 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 »

Nuclear Blow-Back on Bush Administration’s New Generation Weapons Plan

Posted by K.E. White on April 24, 2007

Concerns are mounting on the Bush administration’s proposal a funding a new nuclear warhead design. The debate pits arms control advocates against a Bush White House that has shown an appetite to revise arms control policies—leaving the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and signaling support for nuclear ‘bunker buster’ weapons.

U.S. nuclear weapons currently carry W76 warheads, which after two decades need eventual replacement. But replacement plans—referred to as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW)—may also bring new nuclear offensive capabilities, bringing worries of a great WMD proliferation, and a new arms race among nuclear weapons states.

The American Association for the Advancement in Science recently aired these concerns by bringing together nuclear weapons experts today. The Associated Press reports:

The Bush administration has yet to make the case for building a new generation of replacement warheads and “the role of nuclear weapons” in a post-Cold War, post-9/11 world, a panel of nuclear weapons experts said Tuesday.

Development of the new warhead, the first in two decades, could have “international impacts” if critics view it as a new weapon rather than a replacement for the current aging stockpile, said the scientists, including three former directors of the government’s nuclear weapons research laboratories.

Some countries could see the warhead “as contrary to both the spirit and letter” of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty “unless explicit and credible efforts to counter such assertions are made,” said the panel, which was convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to study the warhead plan.

Today’s International Herald Tribune reports on the event also:

Development of the new warhead, the first in two decades, could have “international impacts” if critics view it as a new weapon rather than a replacement for the current aging stockpile, said the scientists, including three former directors of the government’s nuclear weapons research laboratories.

….

The scientists also said in a report that it is impossible to estimate the cost of warhead modernization plan, or assure that Energy Department claims of cost savings will ever be achieved. Proponents of the program may be “overselling” the eventual benefits, the report said

 

Sunday’s Washington Post reported on Congressional opposition to the RRW plan. The report reveals two interesting aspects of this nuclear debate: 1) the warheads are not needed for at least 50 years and 2) the administration opaqueness when it comes to detailing the plan and justifying it.

Yet even with these worrisome aspects, it seems there is a potential deal in the works: link RRW approval to ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

WaPo’s report:

Experts inside and outside the government questioned moving forward with a new warhead as old ones are being refurbished and before developing bipartisan agreement on how many warheads would be needed at the end of what could be a 30-year process. Several, including former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), suggested linking production of a new warhead with U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a move the Bush administration has opposed.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the nuclear weapons complex, said at a hearing Wednesday on the RRW program that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have “not been forthcoming” about their views on the issue.

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the nuclear complex, said at a hearing late last month that the program is proceeding “although the administration has not announced any effort to begin a policy process to reassess our nuclear weapons policy and the future nuclear stockpile required to support that policy.” He also noted that the Pentagon‘s Defense Science Board reported last year that there has been virtually no high-level, long-term articulation of U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Former defense secretary William J. Perry, also appearing at the hearing, said current nuclear policies were developed for the Cold War and are “really not appropriate to the world we live in today.” A new nuclear plan is “long overdue” and should be shared with the appropriate congressional committees, he said. It should include “not only issues about what numbers we need,” Perry said, “but on what a future trajectory of those numbers in our forces should be and what kind of R&D is needed to support it.”

Perry said there are two “valid” arguments being made in support of the RRW program — that it would maintain the capabilities of U.S. weapons designers and provide a new warhead that “cannot be detonated by a terror group, even if they were able to get their hands on it.”

However, he said, development of the RRW program “will substantially undermine our ability to lead the international community in the fight against proliferation, which we are already in danger of losing.” Noting that present U.S. nuclear weapons will retain their capabilities for 50 to 100 years, he said the program could be deferred “for many years.”

Posted in American Association for the Advancement for Science, Bush administration, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Congress, Pete Domenici, Peter Visclosky, Reliable Replacement Warhead, RRW, W76, William Perry | 1 Comment »

Iran Not As Threatening as Thought? And America Ushers New Era of ‘Nuclear Equity’ by Granting Libya a Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on March 12, 2007

Iran's Nuclear Currency from Little Green FootballsToday Iran issued a nuclear bank note. Leave it to a blog to actually show the currency.

Unfortunately, Iran can’t seem to keep their nuclear finances straight:

Iran‘s Bushehr nuclear power station will not be launched in September and nuclear fuel will not be delivered to the station this month as earlier planned, the Russian contractor said Monday, blaming the hold-up on unpaid bills.

“The lack of financing from the Iranian side means that Atomstroiexport did not receive payments for two months,” Irina Yesipova, a spokeswoman for Russian state-owned contractor said by telephone.

“This means the timeframe has been moved and so the launch cannot happen in September – we simply cannot do it. If we can’t launch the station in September then we cannot deliver the fuel according to the old timetable either.”

But it’s doubtful such an embarrassing episode will cool the nuclear tensions between America and the United States.

But maybe former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will?

From BBC News:

In an interview with an Iranian newspaper, former Mr Khatami conceded that the outside world does have legitimate worries about Iran’s nuclear programme that need reassuring.

Mohammad KhatamiHe said Iran did not want a nuclear bomb but it should use patience and tolerance to remove the concerns of those who worry about the risks of proliferation.

Mr Khatami stressed Iran should insist on its right to nuclear technology, but he said courage should be shown to avoid a crisis, or at least minimise the damage.

“I believe we should pay a certain price, and pay it bravely, for talks and not head towards crisis as well as guaranteeing our rights in future,” he said.

“We must try to prevent the adoption of another resolution.”

His remarks came as Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni urged the international community to extend sanctions “without delay”.

Speaking to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she said sanctions imposed in December after Iran failed to stop uranium enrichment were already having an impact.

But don’t worry. perhaps Iran and America will soon see eye-to-eye on the nuclear issue.

The Bush administration’s recent (and undoubtedly reluctant) decision to sign a nuclear deal with Libya is just the diplomatic move to forge consensus with Iran. How can Iran not see the subjective wisdom of America’s approach to nuclear technology proliferation?

From Swissinfo:

The United States will help Libya generate nuclear electricity, the North African country said on Monday, in an announcement appearing to herald a further improvement in ties with the West.

There was no immediate comment from Washington, which has been repairing ties with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi since he began a series of moves in 2003 aimed at ending decades of international isolation for his oil and gas exporting country.

Libya‘s official Jana news agency said an agreement between the two countries would be signed shortly.

Posted in Bush administration, Iran, Iran Nuclear Currency, Libya, Mohammad Khatami, US Libya Nuclear Deal | Leave a Comment »