Policy white papers are objective assessments of key security and disarmament issues with recommended policy responses by Arms Control Association staff and fellows.
On June 19, Iran concluded the third round of talks on its nuclear program in as many months, this time in Moscow, with senior officials of the six powers - the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China. Although there were strong incentives for the six to secure limits on Iran's most worrisome stockpiles of enriched uranium and for Iran to avoid an impending tightening of economic sanction, no breakthrough was achieved by the end of the latest round. But neither did diplomatic dialogue come to an end.
North Korea's failed attempt to launch a satellite from its Unha-3 space rocket on April 13 and India's successful flight test of the Agni-5 long-range missile on April 19 marked significant events in the ballistic missile development programs of the two countries. These two ballistic missile test events not only reveal technical information about system performance, but also invite reflection on U.S. policy responses.
The U.S. intelligence community still assesses that Tehran has not yet actually decided to build a nuclear weapon. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be the one to give that order and the one who would control the weapons. It is therefore worth pondering what steps could discourage him from proceeding down the nuclear weapons path.
Even as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program rise, the principal parties engaged in the issue say that they seek a peaceful resolution through diplomacy. Earlier this month, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili reportedly sent a letter to European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton—who represents the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States)—in response to the six-country offer for the renewal of serious talks on Iran’s nuclear program. With the P5+1 insisting that a diplomatic path to resolve the issue remains open and Tehran’s professed interest in dialogue, the question arises: what steps could the two sides take to resolve the impasse?
The Nov. 2011 report of the International Atomic Energy Agency details why the international community remains deeply concerned about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. While sanctions and other measures have slowed down Iran’s movement toward acquiring a nuclear weapons option, Tehran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities and has so far refused to implement the confidence building steps necessary to ensure it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
The release of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear program in early November attracted intense media interest and stimulated strong political reactions in the United States and around the world. The IAEA report and its 14-page annex represented a milestone for the Vienna-based agency in terms of its willingness to present detailed information to the public on activities of concern in Iran’s nuclear program.
Shortly after the early September release of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report on Iran’s nuclear program, the Arms Control Association assembled a panel of top experts to assess the status of Iran’s nuclear effort and examine strategies to address it. The September 19 briefing for Congressional staffers was part of an ongoing series of briefings organized by ACA and its partners on “Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle.”
With Russia’s ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the stage is now set for new discussions between Washington and Moscow on further steps toward reducing the two states’ enormous nuclear arsenals that together comprise more than 90 percent of total nuclear weapons worldwide. Based on statements in Russia’s ratification documents and the statements of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, continued U.S.-Russian disagreements on missile defenses threaten to undermine those future talks. U.S. policymakers need to consider ways to prevent strategic missile defense system development and deployment from becoming an obstacle to progress in enhancing stability and reducing nuclear dangers. In his latest Threat Assessment Brief, ACA’s senior fellow Greg Thielmann analyzes the nature of the U.S.-Russian missile defense challenge.
The multilayered limits of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the difficult negotiations conducted in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The streamlined verification measures in the New START agreement, finalized in April 2010, are an appropriate response to the replacement treaty’s specific limits, which are designed to address post-Cold War realities. Combining proof-tested measures from 15 years of START implementation with new approaches to contemporary challenges, New START verification provisions are well suited to fulfill their core function. These provisions promise to permit the same high confidence in compliance achieved when the original START was in force, but will do so with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for monitoring deployed warhead ceilings.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to lock in significant reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals by establishing lower ceilings on deployed weapons. The treaty’s veriﬁcation provisions are means to that end--providing conﬁdence that the sides are complying with those lower limits. Although the goal is to establish the high conﬁdence levels maintained during the 15 years of the original START (1994-2009), the successor agreement will achieve that goal with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative veriﬁcation provisions for deployed warhead ceilings. START’s multilayered limits and the elaborate veriﬁcation measures ﬂowing out of them were born of the Cold War. New START veriﬁcation can be streamlined in accordance with the new, simpliﬁed limits and in response to post-Cold War realities. In assessing the new treaty, it is critical that veriﬁcation provisions be judged by how well they fulﬁll their core function.