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former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Israel

Progress on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Inadequate to Meet Threats, New Study Finds

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For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—President Barack Obama failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas over the course of his second term, but did achieve important steps to improve nuclear materials security and strengthen nonproliferation norms, namely the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new study released by the Arms Control Association, which evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016," is the third in a series that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories over the past three years. The study evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possess nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern.

“The United States is investing enormous resources to maintain and upgrade nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads and is keeping its deployed nuclear weapons on ‘launch-under-attack’ readiness posture. The lack of U.S. leadership in these areas contributes to the moribund pace of disarmament,” said Elizabeth Philipp, the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association, and a co-author of the report.

“Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report.

“U.S. leadership could spur China and Russia to take positive actions and improve the prospects for further disarmament. Russia’s decision to develop a new missile in violation of its treaty commitments and Moscow’s rebuff of attempts by the United States to negotiate further nuclear reductions is very troublesome, as is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s steps toward increasing the alert levels of its forces,” Philipp added.

“Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties,” said Davenport.

“The July 2015 nuclear deal struck between six global powers and Iran was also a significant nonproliferation breakthrough that has significantly reduced Tehran’s nuclear capacity and subjected its activities to more intrusive international monitoring and verification. While the international community must remain vigilant in ensuring that the deal is fully implemented, blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons negates a serious nonproliferation concern and demonstrates the consequences of flouting the international norms and obligations,” Davenport said.

“For the third time, the United Kingdom received the highest grade of all the states assessed, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list with the lowest overall grades. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and its ballistic missile development require the next U.S. administration to pursue more robust engagement with Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities,” Philipp said.

“Our review of the record indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. By tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of these states over time, we hope this report will serve as a tool to encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

A country-by-country summary can be viewed here.
The full report card can be downloaded here

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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A new study suggests that President Obama, failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas during his second term.

2016 Report Card on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Efforts

Table of Contents

Israel's Potential Future Ratification of the CTBT

Israel’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Merav Zafary-Odiz said “a regional moratorium [on nuclear testing] could enhance security, and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT. Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium, it would be useful for others to do the same.” Zafary-Odiz’s statement came during a Jan. 27 panel at the CTBTO’s Symposium on “Science and Diplomacy for Peace and Security” in Vienna. She also noted that a region-wide test ban would enhance security...

Resolution Calling Out Israel Fails

October 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Delegates attend the closing session of the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on September 18. The previous day, the conference voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program. (Photo credit: Dean Calma/IAEA)The countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program on Sept. 17 after the Arab League decided to move forward on the measure despite Israel’s attempts to persuade Egypt not to pursue it.

During the agency’s annual week-long General Conference in Vienna, IAEA member states voted 61-43 against the resolution, with 33 states abstaining. The resolution, submitted by Egypt on behalf of the 18 Arab League states that are IAEA members, called on Israel to put its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 to 100 warheads. It is an IAEA member and has placed some of its nuclear facilities under agency safeguards.

Prior to the IAEA conference, an Israeli delegation, which included national security adviser Yossi Cohen, traveled to Cairo to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. An Israeli official familiar with the trip said in a Sept. 17 interview that the delegation requested that Egypt drop the resolution or reconsider its approach.

The official said Israel proposed that if Egypt decided to move forward with the resolution regardless, the Arab League could submit the resolution, but not call for a debate and a vote at the conference. Egypt declined to take that approach, the official said.

The official called the defeat of the resolution a “victory for common sense,” but said it was unfortunate that consideration of it “diverted time and attention” from the agency’s core concerns at the conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters after the Sept. 17 vote that he had called 30 world leaders to ask them not to vote for the resolution. The United States voted against the resolution.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

In an Aug. 6 letter to IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, Israel formally objected to the resolution’s consideration at the conference. In the letter, Israel’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Merav Zafary-Odiz, called the resolution “contentious, biased, and fundamentally flawed.” The letter argued that Israel has “never been the subject of an investigation” by the IAEA, whereas Arab League members Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria were found to be in “flagrant violation” of their international commitments under the NPT in the past.

The NPT prohibits member countries that do not have nuclear weapons from taking any steps to develop such weapons.

The letter from Zafary-Odiz said that moving forward on the resolution targeting Israel will only “politicize the IAEA and harm its creditability.”

This is the third year in a row that the Arab League unsuccessfully put forward a resolution on Israel’s nuclear program. Last year, the vote was 58-45.

A similar nonbinding resolution passed only once, in 2009. Similar resolutions were voted down in the years prior to the successful 2009 vote. The Arab states did not put the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

The Arab states revived the measure in 2013 after the meeting on the WMD-free zone did not take place as planned in December 2012.

Apocalypse Averted: Lessons From the Man Who Saved the World

Last Monday – October 27 – marked the fifty-second anniversary of a day when the world came staggeringly close to nuclear war. Despite the many decades that have transpired since that fateful date, the story of that day remains a worthy one to re-tell, for all the things that went wrong, the one thing that went right, and for the enduring implications it has for the command and control of nuclear weapons on submarines in today’s world. On that day in 1962, deep in the Cuban Missile Crisis , a U.S. destroyer began dropping depth charges on a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine with the intention of...

Resolution on Israel Fails at IAEA

By Kelsey Davenport

For the second year in a row, a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month. 

IAEA member states voted 58-45 against the resolution on Sept. 25.

The nonbinding resolution, referred to as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” and sponsored by a group of 17 Arab states, called on Israel to put its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

In 2009 a similar resolution passed the IAEA conference for the first time after being voted down for years. An attempt the next year failed. The Arab states did not put the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a regional meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

The Arab states revived the measure in 2013 after the meeting on the WMD-free zone did not take place as planned in December 2012. 

A commitment to hold the meeting by the end of 2012 was a critical piece of the consensus on the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. A meeting subsequently was scheduled for December 2012 in Helsinki, but was postponed when it became clear that not all of the countries in the region were willing to attend the conference. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 to 100 warheads. Israel is an IAEA member and has placed some of its nuclear facilities under agency safeguards.

Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said in a Sept. 25 statement that the United States “regret[ted]” that the resolution was introduced.

He said discussion of the resolution diverted IAEA member states from the “shared priority of strengthening the IAEA, and has diverted the regional states from the critical task of engaging with each other.”

For the second year in a row, a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month. 

Another View from Israel on Iran's Nuclear Program and What it Means

By Greg Thielmann (Image source: Globalzero.org) Comments by the former Director-General of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Brig. Gen. Uzi Eilam, made big news in Israel on May 8 because they seriously challenge key elements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's narrative concerning the Iranian nuclear threat. Excerpts from an Eilam interview appearing in Israel's largest circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth , included four critical assertions: The Iranian nuclear [weapons] program will only be operational in another 10 years. I'm not even sure that Iran would want the bomb. It...

Israel Indicates Support for CTBT

Daryl G. Kimball

With entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) still awaiting ratification by eight key states, officials from one of those states, Israel, have recently signaled strong support for the treaty.

Following a visit to Israel by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed the treaty in 1996, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a March 19 report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo, making his first visit to Israel since becoming executive secretary last year, held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

While attending an April 10-11 meeting of an experts group in Stockholm to discuss options for bringing the CTBT into force, Zerbo told Arms Control Today that his Israeli interlocutors were “very positive” about the treaty. He said he believes that “Israel could be the next” state among the eight key holdouts to ratify the treaty.

Zerbo reported on his visit to Israel during the meeting with the experts group. The CTBTO established the group last September to promote the objectives of the CTBT and help secure its entry into force. Its 18 members include current and former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and other senior diplomatic leaders.

“We have an action plan that helpfully is differentiated for the nature of the challenges of the eight countries which we will be principally focusing on. We all have a reinforced obligation to see that the de facto moratorium becomes a legally binding ban to outlaw these dreadful tests,” said group member and former UK defense secretary Des Browne in an April 11 interview following the Stockholm meeting. The group is scheduled to meet again this fall in Hungary.

Meanwhile, in an address on the CTBT delivered in Hiroshima, Japan, on April 15, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the CTBT is “a key part” of leading the nuclear-weapon states “toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Regarding U.S. efforts on ratification, Gottemoeller noted that “it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers” and the Obama administration therefore “need[s] time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification.”

She said there is “no reason” that the other key states that have not ratified the treaty need to wait for U.S. action.

Also in Hiroshima, 12 countries called on the United States and other CTBT holdouts “to sign and ratify [the treaty] without delay.” The call was part of an April 12 joint statement issued at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. At their meeting, NPDI foreign ministers were joined by Gottemoeller and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The NPDI statement urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocative actions including, among others, ballistic missile launch, nuclear test or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 30 that North Korea “will not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.”

In an interview at the Stockholm meeting, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said that, by banning nuclear tests, the CTBT was designed to limit nuclear competition. “We were lucky in the Cold War that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky the second time,” he warned.

Israel appears to be signaling that it is seriously considering ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Israeli Government Expresses Strong Support for CTBT

Following a mid-March visit to Israel by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he considers the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be of no use in the Middle East, the sources said, but by contrast Israel considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed it, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a report in The Times of Israel. Zerbo held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission Shaul Chorev. Israel...

Week Ahead March 3-9: IAEA mtg; Pentagon Budget; Nuclear Security; Ukraine & the NPT

As the crisis in Ukraine continues to dominate global attention and the news headlines, several other arms control developments of significance in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. The March issue of ACT will be available online later this week to all subscribers. - the Editors at Arms Control Today Week of March 3: IAEA Board of Governors Convenes The 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)...

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