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 ‘proliferation’ Category

Two Nonproliferation Press Notes: Syria Gets IAEA-OK for Nuclear Plant; S. Korea and Brazil Kick Off Nonproliferation Events

Posted by K.E. White on November 28, 2008

Interesting update from Syria, courtesy of the LATimes:

The International Atomic Energy Agency approved a contested Syrian bid for assistance in planning a nuclear power plant Wednesday after being assured that the effort would be closely monitored.     

The United States, Canada and Australia had led Western efforts to freeze the project while allegations of covert activity that could lead to nuclear weapons were investigated. But the U.S. and its allies finally joined a consensus in favor of the aid since they could not have won a vote, diplomats in the closed meeting said.

Syria’s request for the power plant aid, something rubber-stamped for many nations, degenerated into a political tug of war after an agency report suggested Damascus might have tried to build a nuclear reactor in secret…
And I want my tickets to Jeju Island and São Paulo, as any seriously aspiring non-proliferation should–at least this week.
From Brazzil Maganize’s coverage of two United Nations Conferences aiming to focus world-wide attention on WMD proliferation:

São Paulo, BrazilIn the Brazilian city of São Paulo, UN’s Office for Disarmament Affairs has organized a week-long workshop on implementing Security Council resolution 1540. That resolution, adopted by the Council in 2004, focuses on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The workshop aims to enhance national capacities for the management of export control processes at a practical level as well as to improve information and experience-sharing between national expert control and enforcement authorities.

Meanwhile the seventh annual Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-proliferation issues, organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and South Korea, is taking place on Jeju Island.

This year’s conference will focus on such concerns as revitalizing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) process, the nuclear renaissance, a multilateral assurance mechanism for nuclear fuel supply, and non-proliferation challenges in North-East Asia.

Jeju IslandSome 40 representatives of governments, international organizations, academic and research institutions, as well as civil society are expected to participate.

The annual event, which has been hosted by South Korea since 2002, is a forum for dialogue and the exchange of views on pressing security and disarmament-related issues facing the international community, addressing particular disarmament and non-proliferation concerns in the Asia-Pacific region.

Acknowledging that obstacles to nuclear disarmament are daunting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month that it is more imperative than ever to make it a reality given the twin economic and financial crises the world is currently facing.

Posted in IAEA, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, proliferation, Syria, United Nations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bolton on the UN & International Law: Not So Needed, After all

Posted by K.E. White on February 19, 2008

Less Shocking: Former UN Ambassador John Bolton favors US unilateralism/bilateralism over international organizations.

More Shocking: His swipe at international law.

From Yale Daily News’ report on Bolton’s Thursday Yale Law School visit:

“There’s only one country that’s going to stop nuclear proliferation and the threats presented by Iran and North Korea, and that’s the United States,” he concluded. “And that’s the cold, hard truth about international organizations.”

Bolton served as U.N. ambassador under a recess appointment beginning in August 2005. His nomination to the post in 2006 was never approved by the Senate.

Bolton described what he sees as the current challenges in American non-proliferation policy and discussed the United States’ best options in addressing nuclear threats — hardly bothering to veil his disdain for international law and institutions.

“When I was here, I didn’t take any courses at all on international law,” he said, “and frankly I don’t think I missed a thing.”

The paradigm for stemming proliferation, Bolton said, is Libya’s voluntary disarmament in 2003 under American and British pressure — without the help of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

Posted in Foreign Policy, John Bolton, proliferation, United Nations | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Rowen on ‘Nuclear Free’ Plan: Helps Countries to Get the Bomb

Posted by K.E. White on January 17, 2008

Henry S. Rowen—Hoover Institution Fellow and Former Assistant Secretary of Defense—takes a hit on new policies advocated by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn that aim to free the world of nuclear weapons.

While Rowen agrees that more must be done to monitor weapons, build early-warning detection systems, and discarding massive attack plans. But Rowan disagrees that there is any way for the nuclear weapons states (America, Russia, Britain, France and China) to assist other nations in developing peaceful nuclear technology without risking increased nuclear weapons proliferation.

But one must ask: Can nuclear states overtly refuse to help developing countries meet their energy needs, especially when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—the international framework for legal procession of nuclear weapons—ensures such assistance?

From Rowen’s essay:

There is a sense that Arab fear of Iran’s nuclear weapons, along with lower confidence in U.S. protection, is causing some of them to want the bomb. These governments understand that the way to do this is to follow the traditional path of building reactors for ostensible civilian purposes because the line between civilian and military uses is thin. Moreover, the economics of nuclear electric power in these countries ranges from bad to atrocious. Making big power reactors is hard and lengthy work; our subsidizing their infrastructure and fuel would not only foster uneconomic power systems, it would speed the creation of easy weapons options.

Nor does the statement obligate recipients to refrain from going to the brink of having nuclear weapons with or without the materials supplied by the “advanced nuclear countries.”

The U.S government has a lot of work to do regarding Iran and the stability of the Persian Gulf, but helping countries to get the bomb is not one of them.

The Shultz-Perry-Kissinger-Nunn op-ed builds on an earlier plan they outlined last year.

Posted in NPT, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, proliferation, Rowen, Sam Nunn | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nuclear Dust-Up: Bhutto Gets Blow Back for Backing IAEA Questioning of AQ Khan

Posted by K.E. White on September 27, 2007

Benazir BhuttoAbdul Qadeer Khan (or AQ Khan), founding father of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and suspected of exporting nuclear technology to North Korea and other nations, is making headlines again. And this nuclear dust up shows just how divergent perspectives on nuclear proliferation can be.

Benazir Bhutto, who will return to Pakistan on October 18th, has started a firestorm by stating the following: if Prime Minister, Bhutto would allow IAEA officials to question AQ Khan.

The Australian notes the harsh response from other Pakistani political figures:

In a rare show of unanimity, leaders from across Pakistan’s political spectrum rounded on Ms Bhutto yesterday.

They insisted that Dr Khan was a hero across the Muslim word. The rogue scientist is responsible for Pakistan’s becoming the only Muslim state with a strategic nuclear capacity.

“It is our internal affair and he is still a national hero,” senior cabinet minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said yesterday.

“We cannot compromise on it and the statement of Benazir Bhutto is highly condemnable. It’s the wrong statement at the wrong time, and its sole purpose is to please the United States.”

Cricketer-turned-political leader Imran Khan condemned Ms Bhutto’s promise, while Liaquat Baloch, a senior member of the Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal religious front party, accused her of “doing everything to appease the US. She wants to gain power and the people of Pakistan know that to achieve her objective she is ready to compromise the country’s nuclear program.”

Bhutto, in exile for years and perceived as a favorite of Washington, isn’t helping herself with Pakistani domestic base. We’ll see how this affects her return to Pakistani politics—and thus the direction of this volatile nuclear power.

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Posted in Abdul Qadeer Khan, AQ Khan, Bhutto, Nuclear, Pakistan, proliferation | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

North Korea: Still Unresolved, Still a Problem

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

Remember the February 13th agreement that was going to fix the North Korean nuclear crisis?

Well, it looks like putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle is proving difficult.

Talks are again stalling over financial squabbles between North Korea and the United States. Russia is publicly blaming the United States for the delay, showing cracks within the partners that brokered the February deal with North Korea (America, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea).

Naturally Japan and the United States are arm-in-arm in expecting stern action from the G-8. (Between the war of words between Russia and America, Global Warming and Global Poverty, there’s little reason to expect anything substanial from the G-8 on North Korea).

Meanwhile, Australia may install an antiballistic missile system to counter the North Korean threat. From the Sidney Morning Herald:

The Royal Australian Navy will consider installing SM-3 surface-to-air missiles as part of an Aegis ballistic missile defence system on its three destroyers, which enter service in 2013. The upgrade would bolster the Aegis anti-ballistic missile shield already used by the US and soon to be introduced by Japan.

America has already expanded this technology to Japan–bringing with it leaks of the sensitive information. From United Press International:

Data on the U.S.-made Aegis defense system may not have been the only classified material leaked by members of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Sources told the Kyodo news service it appears information on the advanced SM-3 surface-to-air missile and the Link 16 data exchange system also made their way into the hands of unauthorized military personnel.

The sources close to the military and civilian investigation into the leaks, gave no other details but “police confirmed the latest cases of information leak, based on analyses of voluntarily submitted materials, such as personal computers,” the report said.

Posted in AEGIS leak, Australia, G-8, Japan, North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, proliferation, Russia, Six Party Talks | 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 »

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? 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 »