Proliferation Press

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

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Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Proliferation Press News Round Up: Is Gordon Strong-Arming Another Term? Also Notes British RRW Research and Gordon’s Nuclear Push Against Iran

Posted by K.E. White on September 4, 2007

There are trade-offs in every form of government. While American voters may complain about overkill, British voters may just suffer from just the opposite. The current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, refuses to debate with his chief rival and may have a “snap poll” (i.e. call a quick election, since polls indicate a Labor bounce).

From the Associated Press, via the International Herald Tribune:

Britain will not get live televised debates between party leaders battling to win the next election, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday — but it may still have a snap poll.

Brown — once an advocate of U.S.-style TV tussles — rejected calls to spar on air with opposition Conservative Party chief David Cameron, but declined to kill off rumors he is planning a surprise election.

His governing Labour Party has had a spate of poll leads over its rivals in recent weeks, sparking speculation Brown will call a national election to capitalize on his popularity. But Brown refused to set out his plans at a Downing Street news conference.

“I’m getting on with the business of governing,” he said. “There is a time and a place to discuss elections. This is not the time.”

Brown does not need to call an election before mid-2010, but opposition parties are on alert for a possible poll later this year or early next year.

Meanwhile Brown in making some nuclear-charged diplomatic moves:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reiterated Tuesday that London will support a new UN resolution against Iran if Tehran does not curb its nuclear programme.

Speaking two days after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran had achieved a key target in its atomic drive, Brown said there was evidence that international pressure was working.

“It is still my belief that the process we have started…which could of course lead to a third UN resolution…is the right process,” he told his monthly press conference in London.

British scientists are also working on a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. From the Hindu News Service:

London, Sept. 4 (PTI): British scientists are secretly working on the design of a revamped nuclear warhead at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, a short drive from here, a leading daily reported today.

“The new device, designated the High Surety Warhead, is the British version of the Reliable Replacement Warhead programme which started more than two years ago at the US military’s California and New Mexico nuclear laboratories,” The Herald quoted sources as saying.

America’s RRW program has brought non-proliferation concerns. This CDI article rehashes the worries of Sam Nunn, former Senator and leading nonproliferation advocate. Boiled down, he worries that refurbishing America’s nuclear warheads is 1) not necessary, 2) could encourage other nuclear powers to upgrade their own stockpiles and 3) embolden nuclear rogue-states:

For example, at a House Energy and Water Appropriations hearing on March 29, 2007, former senator and long-time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sam Nunn, summarized the situation this way: “On the RRW itself, if Congress gives a green light to this program in our current world environment, I believe that this will be misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries, complicate our work to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons … and make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult.”

 

In short, Nunn and other witnesses have questioned how the RRW might impact nuclear non-proliferation efforts worldwide.

 

As Nunn elaborated, “I will leave it to others who have full access to classified material to discuss whether there is an urgent and imperative case for an RRW program at this time, but I can only say that I have not seen it. I can see, however, that we will pay a very high price in terms of our overall national security if Congress gives the approval to go forward with this program.”

Posted in Gordon Brown, Iran, Reliable Replacement Warhead, RRW, Sam Nunn | Leave a Comment »

Iran Update: IAEA Calls Iranian Cooperation “Significant” and Seals New Nuclear Plan; Iran Keeps Up Their Iraq Contribution

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

A Guardian report today seems to ease the nuclear tension between America and Iran:

The U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday that Iran was producing less nuclear fuel than expected and praised Tehran for “a significant step forward” in explaining past atomic actions that have raised suspicions.

The report is expected to make it more difficult for the United States to rally support for a new round of sanctions against Tehran.

At the same time, the report confirmed that Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program, reflecting the Islamic republic’s defiance of the U.N. Security Council. Still, U.N. officials said, both enrichment and the building of a plutonium-producing reactor was continuing more slowly than expected.

And BBC News reports on a new Iran-IAEA plan:

In a confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by the BBC, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the work plan it had agreed with Iran to clear up key questions about its past nuclear activities was a “significant step forward”.

But it added: “Once Iran’s past nuclear programme has been clarified, Iran would need to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present and future nuclear programme.”

It said it was essential for Iran to stick to the agreed timeline.

But Max Boot blog over at Contentions highlights this Kim Kagan report on Iran’s military activities in Iraq:

Kagan notes that, among other things, the Iranian government began plotting to undermine coalition forces in 2002—before the U.S. and its allies even entered Iraq. That effort has expanded so much over the years since then—now encompassing aid not only to Shiite but also to Sunni militants—that, according to Kagan:

Coalition sources report that by August 2007, Iranian-backed insurgents accounted for roughly half the attacks on Coalition forces, a dramatic change from previous periods that had seen the overwhelming majority of attacks coming from the Sunni Arab insurgency and al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the New York Post ran an enlightening interview, conducted by Ralph Peters, with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq. Odierno has a lot of interesting things to say, but this point jumped out at me: “There are some signs that Syria’s doing a bit more to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, but their efforts are off and on. The airport in Damascus remains a major conduit for terrorists. The Syrians clearly still believe that instability in Iraq is to their benefit.”

The full Kagan report can be read here.

Posted in IAEA, Iran, Iraq, Nuclear, nuclear plan, proliferation | Leave a Comment »

Chinese Spies Released: What’s Behind the Timing?

Posted by K.E. White on August 21, 2007

Iran released two supposed Chinese spies yesterday. The Chinese explanation:

“In early July, two people from Chinese companies mistakenly took some pictures of some sensitive buildings when they were helping local owners to conduct field measurements in Iran,” China’s Foreign Ministry said.

“They were detained by Iranian police and now they have been freed,” the ministry said on a fax sent to Reuters. “Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy in Iran have warned Chinese citizens in Iran to behave so as to prevent misunderstandings.”

Proliferation Press blogged on this story earlier. But one question comes into sharper relief: Why did Iran wait until the S.C.O. summit to announce this arrest?

But while an answer to that question may never materialize, there’s always re-reading that priceless Chinese explanation.

Posted in China, Iran, Nuclear, spy | Leave a Comment »

Monday Evening Tea: Press Proliferation Press News Round Up

Posted by K.E. White on August 20, 2007

Big Shock—Iraq’s elite is leaving in droves. Can Iraq be rebuilt?

Pakistan rescues 21 Iranian hostages from Iranian radicals.

Japanese approval of the US-India deal on the way? We’ll see how the Abe-Singh talks turn out.

Will these make the difference? Another round of UN talks with Iran.

American Prospect interviews Mid-East Envoy Dennis Ross. Section of note:

Second, we live in a world where many of the traditional threats that we used to face are changing. Now that doesn’t mean that deterrence has no meaning in a world where you have non-state actors. It’s true, those non-state actors are governed by a philosophy that says, “Kill me and you reward me.” Yet it’s interesting that most of the leaders of those non-state actors are not so quick to become martyrs themselves. There are still punishments that matter. If you can find ways to discredit them, that’s a terrible punishment.

Learn about ‘Sovereign Wealth Funds’ here, and their possible threat to the US economy.

And so much for the politics of fear—at least according to Ross Douthat.

Posted in American Prospect, Dennis Ross, Iran, Ross Douthat, Sovereign Wealth Funds | Leave a Comment »

China-Iran Spying Update: Did China Ignore an Earlier Warning? And the SCO Goes Off (At the United States) Without a Hitch.

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

Summary: No wonder Iran’s perturbed over the Chinese spying—they already sent them a warning. And the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit goes well, war games and all.

From the Daily Times:

Nine days before Iran announced it had arrested two Chinese nationals for taking photographs of military and nuclear installations, China’s foreign ministry had already warned its citizens not to photo sensitive subjects.

In a little noticed announcement on its website, the foreign ministry said the Iranian police had detained some Chinese on suspicion of spying because they did “not understand Iran’s national situation”. “They mistakenly photographed sensitive local political, economic and military areas,” it said, without providing details. “The Foreign Ministry’s consular section and the embassy in Iran remind Chinese going to Iran to strictly respect local laws and religious customs,” the statement said.

“Apart from obviously signed tourist areas, don’t take random pictures in the street to avoid creating trouble.” Reuters

And spying woes didn’t stop the SCO Summit from jabbering away:

Leaders issued a statement Thursday, at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that was an apparent warning to the United States to stay away from the strategically placed, resource-rich region.

“Stability and security in Central Asia are best ensured primarily through efforts taken by the nations of the region on the basis of the existing regional associations,” the leaders said at the end of the organization’s summit in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and leaders of four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations that are part of the SCO were all also set to attend Friday’s military exercises in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia’s Ural Mountains.

At the same time, China and Russia—under the SCO banner—staged their largest yet joint war games exercise. But Marcel de Haas tells Reuters this:

But the senior research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael said the SCO was unlikely to turn into an anti-Western club. “Russia wants to use the SCO for its anti-Western (aims) but the others will not allow it.”

But that won’t stop Russia from bring back Soviet-era bomber patrols.

Posted in China, Iran, Marcel de Haas, Russia, SCO, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, spying, war games | Leave a Comment »

Bad Timing: Iran Arrests Two Chinese Nuclear Spys During SCO Talks

Posted by K.E. White on August 16, 2007

Summary: Iran sends an arrestingly loud message to China over its nuclear program. And what perfect timing: the nations’ two leaders are in the middle of SCO summit talks. Coincidence? Probably not. Read for more on this spy game gone wrong, and a possibly emerging counterweight to NATO.

Could it be China and America see eye-to-eye on Iran?

Probably not. But one thing’s clear: China and America share a profound—dare say arresting—curiosity over Iran’s developing nuclear program.

From the International Herald Tribune:

Iran has detained two Chinese nationals on charges of spying on its military and nuclear facilities, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Though such accusations against Westerners are common in Iran, the announcement is the first such charge against China, with which Iran usually enjoys good relations.

“The Chinese nationals were detained while taking photo and recording video tape of a military complex in Arak city,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters. “They entered Iran through Kish Island as tourists.”

How this story was buried below reports of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard becoming a “specially designated global terrorist” by the White House, one can only guess.

The Guardian teases out this additional tidbit of diplomatic gossip:

It is believed to be the first time any Chinese have been charged with espionage in the country. Oil-rich Iran has recently enjoyed good relations with China, which has resisted US-led attempts to impose harsher sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear programme.

But what both reports miss is the ongoing SCO summit that Iran and China are both attending. For that part of the story, let’s take a look at the current front page of the China Daily (which as of 10 pm EST does not mention the detention/espionage issue):

President Hu Jintao discussed the Iranian nuclear issue and bilateral ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday before the start of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit Thursday.Chinese President Hu Jintao Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Bishkek August 15, 2007

Hu said China is keen on resolving the nuclear issue through peaceful negotiations.

He said China understands Iran’s concerns but hopes the country shows flexibility for the peaceful settlement of the issue.

Ahmadinejad said that Iran will not go beyond international laws and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in using nuclear energy.

Talk about bad timing.

What’s the SCO you ask? It’s a six-member energy policy forum consisting of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But just read this tid-bit from a very useful PINR article by Dr. Marcel de Haas:

Considering these recent activities in different dimensions of security, is the S.C.O. developing into a “N.A.T.O. of the east” as it was regularly described after the anti-Western flavor of the 2005 Astana Summit? The S.C.O. still lacks a considerable number of essential elements which N.A.T.O., as a mature security organization, has: an integrated military structure with permanent headquarters, a rapid reaction force (N.A.T.O. Response Force), and continuous political deliberations. Moreover, S.C.O. member states and observers cooperate in many areas but also possess large differences, such as contradictory political and economic interests.

Nevertheless, in spite of these shortcomings, the last couple of years the S.C.O. has taken steps in intensified cooperation in a wide scope of security dimensions. This has occurred to such an extent that development toward a genuine security organization can no longer be excluded, although this still might take a considerable number of years. Although the West at present does not have anything to fear from the S.C.O., current developments might encourage the West to closely observe further activities of the grouping. In any case, the time has gone that Western security experts could depict the S.C.O. as simply one of many insignificant organizations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Iran is an observer nation to the evolving treaty. As such, the timing of the arrests—or merely their announcement—seems designed to send an embarrassingly loud and clear message to China: Iran’s nuclear program—and presumable secrets—are for her, and her alone.

Posted in China, Espionage, Hu Jintao, Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Marcel de Haas, Nuclear, PINR, SCO, Shanghai Cooperation Organization | Leave a Comment »

Russia Up-Date: New Air Defense System Can’t Stop Missile Miscues

Posted by K.E. White on August 7, 2007

 

Summary: Russia shows off new missile defense, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too impressed: Russia may have just shot a dud-missile at Georgia. And Russia tightens the nuclear screws on Iran.

The International Herald Tribune reports on Russia new S-400 air defense hardware:

Vadim Volkovitsky, the deputy air force commander in charge of antiaircraft defense, told NTV television that the system contained “not only the functions of air defense but also antimissile defense.”

The new unit, called the S-400, can destroy targets traveling five kilometers, or three miles, per second, which would include aircraft and medium-range missiles, he said.

But he added that it was not able to stop intercontinental missiles, which travel faster.

But this scripted expression of Russian military prowess has been mucked up a bit:

Georgia accused Russia on Tuesday of firing a guided missile into its territory near a village about 65 km (40 miles) west of its capital, but Moscow denied any involvement.

Georgia‘s interior minister said the missile was launched by jets that crossed the border from Russia in an “act of aggression.” In Tbilisi, Russia’s ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry where he was handed a note of protest.

The missile did not explode, instead burrowing into a field of corn and potatoes near the village of Tsitelubani, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. An interior ministry official said it would have caused a “disaster” if it had detonated.

But, in a undoubtedly welcome development from the American perspective, Russia is pushing Iran for greater nuclear transparency:

Moscow has warned Iran that it will not deliver fuel to a nearly completed Russian-built nuclear reactor unless Tehran lifts the veil of secrecy on suspicious past atomic activities, a European diplomat said Tuesday. (AP)

Posted in Georgia, Iran, missile defense, Russia, Tsitelubani | 1 Comment »

Containing the Nuclear Genie: Will Turkey Tap into Nuclear Power?

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

Turkey’s recently empowered AKP majority government might just dust off as till now dormant plans for a nuclear power program. If Turkey takes this step, will nuclear weapons be an inevitable outcome in the future? 

No—but that depends a lot on Iran. And Turkey may follow Iran’s nuclear trajectory, developing its nuclear weapons capability by asserting its right to pursue nuclear energy technology. 

From the Turkish Daily News:

Recent power and water cuts led to intensified calls to consider nuclear energy as a solution out of the current crisis, as temperatures are predicted to keep rising resulting in longer and hotter summers for the country. 

The Turkish capital woke up to dry taps yesterday as a result of dramatic rises in temperatures that have dried up water reservoirs, while power cuts remained restricted to a few cities in western Turkey. A series of interruptions in energy supplies prompted both fears of regular blackout and debates over the government’s energy policy.  

Earth Times, citing the Turkish Daily News, gives more detail to Turkey’s still manageable energy woes: 

The Turkish Daily News reports the country’s average appetite will be 190 billion kilowatt hours this year, up from 176 billion kwh last year, which was an 8.4-percent increase from 2005.

Turkey’s energy minister says cuts to supply will be limited to a handful of areas, not mass cuts countrywide.

 But the Turkey still categorically rules out a nuclear weapons program:

 We believe that states of the region should terminate their efforts for developing such weapons and their delivery means and, become party to the non-proliferation regimes and treaties as soon as possible. In this respect, the need for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is of paramount importance.

Turkey does not possess WMD and does not intend to have them in the future. Turkey adheres to all major international treaties, arrangements and regimes regarding non-proliferation of those weapons and their delivery means, and actively participates and supports all efforts pertaining to non-proliferation in the NATO.

In line with our non-proliferation policies, we are committed to the goal of extensive and complete disarmament of WMD under strict and effective international control. In our view, success in disarmament and arms control initiatives primarily depends on the creation of a political atmosphere inspiring confidence. (Turkish General Staff website)

But an earlier section of this policy statement merits attention:

As it is known, Turkey is situated in a region having an inclination to the proliferation of WMD and their delivery means. Some of our neighbours, who are not parties to the regimes or organizations aiming at preventing the proliferation of WMD, are attempting to develop these weapons. These dangerous attempts are being observed closely and anxiously.

Turkey—a member of NATO and strong US partner—is not now pursuing a nuclear weapons program. 

But this policy is based on a critical premise: that the Middle East remains nuclear free. While this region did not hit a tipping point with Israel ‘non-existent existent’ nuclear deterrent, Iran’s developing nuclear program risks setting off nuclear weapons proliferation throughout the region. 

And while a nuclear armed Middle East could bring Cold War era stability, this outcome comes with a grave risk: nuclear weapons entrusted to slippery hands. 

Fragile regimes + strong currents of radicalism + nuclear weapons = greater global security? 

Doubtful.

Posted in AKP, Foreign Policy, Iran, Nuclear, nuclear energy, Nuclear Weapons, Turkey, WMD | Leave a Comment »

Can Israel Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Facilities?

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

Short-Read: Israel can strike Iran, Human Intelligence Vital to These and Similar Operations

Whitney Raas and Austin Long size up Israel’s ability to successfully strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Their verdict?

“…Israeli leaders have access to the technical capability to carry out the attack with a reasonable chance of success. The question then becomes one of will and individual calculation.” (30)

Using Israel’s Osirak operation as a benchmark, Raas and Long find any future operation against Iran shares the same likelihood as the 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear facilities.

The authors compare Israeli and Iranian air defenses and airforces, outline Iran’s main nuclear sites, and show three likely pathways for the attacks.

While Iran’s air defenses are greater than Iraq’s in 1981, Israel’s F-15 and 16 I’s aircrafts coupled with their ready supplies of BLU-109 and BLU-113 bunker busters are more than enough to knock out Iran’s critical nuclear sites.

But don’t think missiles and buttons are the only keys to successful coercive counter proliferation. Israel boasts two specialized forces: Sayeret Shaldag-Unit 5101 (laser aiming) and Unit 5707 (assessment).

Here’s a quick visual on such an operation’s pathways:

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And here’s a review Israel’s targets in Iran:

Iran‘s nuclear complex has three critical nodes for the production of fissile material: a uranium coversion facility in Isfahan, a large uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, and a heavy water plant and plutonium production reactors under construction at Arak. (13)

Read the article for more details, but here’s a boiled down version of the policy implications of the study:

This analysis, however, highlights the critical nature of target knowledge. In many cases, the means of striking or defending WMD targets may be less important than the ability to locate or hid them. Those seeking to stop proliferation would be advised to invest heavily in intelligence collection and analysis, while proliferators should rely on concealing and dispersing rather than hardening targets. (31)


Posted in Arak, Counterproliferation, Iran, Isfahan, Israel, Natanz, Sayeret Shaldag, Unit 5707 | 2 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 »