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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Daryl G. Kimball

November 2012 IAEA Report on Iran and Its Implications

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November 16, 2012
By Daryl Kimball

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The new quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program finds that Tehran has continued to install more centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground complex at Fordow, although the total number of operating centrifuges at Fordow has not yet increased, according to the Agency. The IAEA report also notes that while Iran continues to experiment with advanced and more efficient types of centrifuges, it is not yet using them for production-scale operations. The IAEA also reports that Iran has continued enriching uranium to the 20 percent level at the previously reported rate and that its stockpile of 20 percent material has increased moderately.

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The new quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program finds that Tehran has continued to install more centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground complex at Fordow, although the total number of operating centrifuges at Fordow has not yet increased, according to the Agency

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New ATT Plan Advances

Daryl G. Kimball

Three months after a July UN diplomatic conference failed to reach consensus on a new treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade, a group of key states has offered a new proposal at the United Nations for a follow-up conference to be held in early 2013.

The proposed arms trade treaty (ATT) would require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers, establish common international standards for approving the transfers, and mandate regular reporting on them.

The resolution on an ATT conference, which was put forward by Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom, would convene a “final” UN conference on an ATT from March 18 to 28, 2013, under the rules established for the July conference, including the rule calling for final adoption of the treaty text by consensus. The resolution also would establish that the draft treaty text submitted by conference president Roberto García Moritán on July 26 is the basis for further negotiations.

Reflecting the broad support evident at the July conference, the new resolution has attracted more than 50 co-sponsor states since it was introduced in mid-October at the UN General Assembly First Committee. The resolution calls on the UN secretary-general to undertake consultations on the selection of a conference president.

The proposal would give states another chance to overcome the 11th-hour decision by the United States and a handful of other states to withhold their support for the July 26 draft treaty text. When they announced the decision, U.S. State Department officials said they needed additional time to address their remaining concerns. (See ACT, September 2012.)

In a statement delivered at the UN debate on the resolution Oct. 24, Walter Reid, U.S. deputy permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, said, “The United States strongly supports convening a short UN conference next spring to continue our efforts to negotiate an effective ATT that will address the issues of international arms trade and its regulation by establishing high standards, that can be implemented on a national basis, and that the overwhelming majority of other states can embrace and take forward effectively.”

In his statement, Reid also said the United States supported the ATT resolution. He argued that “[w]e should use the time between now and the spring to reflect on the text…to determine what additional changes are required to make that text an acceptable and effective treaty.”

Many states, including the members of the European Union, have argued that the only way to achieve universal support for an ATT and ensure the treaty is effective is to negotiate substantive matters on the basis of the consensus rule. Yet, most states are keen not to allow a repeat of the outcome of the July conference. In an Oct. 10 statement to the First Committee, the Nigerian delegation stressed that the consensus rule should “not be exercised as a power of veto.”

One issue on which consensus may be difficult to achieve is how the treaty should address ammunition transfers. The July 26 draft treaty text would require that all states “establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms” covered by the treaty and apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition.

Although the United States regulates its ammunition exports, U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not want ammunition included in the treaty. Most other states, including the United Kingdom and many African countries, have been adamant that the treaty should mandate that states regulate their ammunition exports in order to reduce illicit ammunition transfers and retransfers to conflict zones.

The First Committee is expected to vote in early November on the resolution for the March 2013 conference. Diplomatic sources say the resolution will likely win approval.

Three months after a July UN diplomatic conference failed to reach consensus on a new treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade, a group of key states has offered a new proposal for a follow-up conference to be held in early 2013.

Toward a WMD-Free Middle East

Daryl G. Kimball

By the end of this year, representatives from more than a dozen Middle Eastern states may come together for an unprecedented meeting in Helsinki on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Given their history of conflict; the presence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the region; and the prospect of further proliferation, these states can ill afford to squander the opportunity.

Clearly, a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone is a daunting and distant goal. But the step-by-step pursuit of such a zone can strengthen the security of all states in the region over time. Severe tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as Syria’s brutal civil war, threaten to derail the meeting. Delaying the process, however, will only worsen the proliferation risks in the future.

For more than two decades, all of the states of the Middle East have voiced support for a regional zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Not surprisingly, chronic distrust and animosity between Israel and its Arab neighbors have stymied progress.

Finally, in 2010 the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference agreed, for the first time, to convene a conference of all Middle Eastern states on such a zone by 2012. Last year, Finland was called to facilitate the conference with the support of Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To date, no one has turned down the invitation from conference coordinator Jaakko Laajava, but not everyone has accepted. The participation of Iran and Israel is most in doubt.

The United States played a critical role in winning support at the 2010 NPT conference for the meeting on the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. Now, Washington must work even harder to bring key states, particularly Israel, to the table.

Israel has long asserted that a dialogue on limiting WMD capabilities in the region cannot advance without progress toward normal and peaceful relations. Israel is leery of the proposed conference because it could spotlight the Israeli arsenal of 75 to 200 nuclear weapons and the country’s absence from the NPT.

But if Israel does not join the talks on regional WMD control issues, it will only draw more attention to its 45-year-old regional nuclear weapons monopoly and provide others with an excuse to maintain or improve their WMD and missile capabilities.

By engaging in the process of negotiating a WMD-free zone, Israeli leaders can underscore the need to address the threats posed by Syria’s chemical arsenal and Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, open a much needed security dialogue with Arab states, and help put into motion overdue steps that verifiably curtail the WMD potential of its neighbors.

For Iran, the meeting is an opportunity to lend credibility to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons and to reinforce the taboo against chemical weapons, which were used by Saddam Hussein in the brutal Iran-Iraq war. If Tehran is a no-show or spoiler at the Helsinki conference, it would only increase suspicions that it is seeking nuclear weapons and deepen its political isolation.

The United States and other countries can help by pushing Egypt and other Arab governments to engage in a serious and sustained technical dialogue on region-wide WMD issues, rather than simply using the forum to chide Israel. For instance, the meeting provides an opportunity to send a united message to Tehran to limit its enrichment work to the level of power reactor fuel and immediately cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify that past nuclear weapons-related experiments have stopped.

Over time, a dialogue on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone can explore the broad framework and the interim steps that would strengthen regional peace and security. Key elements should include compliance with comprehensive IAEA safeguards and an additional protocol, a ban on production of fissile material for weapons and on uranium enrichment beyond normal fuel grade, and accession to the treaties prohibiting biological and chemical weapons.

Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by Egypt, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia would add another important barrier against proliferation. In addition, given that 10 states in the region have some ballistic missile capabilities, it is essential to explore mutual and verifiable limitations on the further deployment of ballistic and cruise missiles capable of carrying WMD payloads.

The states should also consider legally binding assurances against attacks involving nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, backed by security guarantees from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in the event any state is subjected to a WMD attack.

As a 1991 UN study on the Middle Eastern zone noted, “Only a series of steps that reduce tensions drastically can bring the parties to a serious negotiation. And even then it would not be expected that the negotiations would be quick and easy or that the zone—when agreed—can be fully realized without an extended transition.”

The road ahead will be difficult, but the time to begin is now.

By the end of this year, representatives from more than a dozen Middle Eastern states may come together for an unprecedented meeting in Helsinki on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Given their history of conflict; the presence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the region; and the prospect of further proliferation, these states can ill afford to squander the opportunity.

Mongolia Recognized as Nuclear-Free Zone

Daryl G. Kimball

At a ceremony in New York Sept. 17, representatives from the five original nuclear-weapon states and Mongolia signed parallel political declarations that formally recognize Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States reaffirmed their pledges, originally made at the 2000 UN General Assembly, not to use nuclear weapons against Mongolia and pledged to respect Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.

Mongolia declared that it has fully complied with its commitments as a non-nuclear-weapon state under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and with its own domestic laws. Those laws prohibit various activities relating to nuclear weapons, including developing, manufacturing, or otherwise acquiring them and stationing, transporting, or testing them.

The parallel declarations, which are not legally binding, represent the final steps to formalize Mongolia’s non-nuclear-weapon status, which was first declared in September 1992, and effectively expands the territory now internationally recognized as free of nuclear weapons. To date, five nuclear-weapon-free zones have been established in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific, all through multilateral treaties. A Middle Eastern zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is under discussion.

At a ceremony in New York Sept. 17, representatives from the five original nuclear-weapon states and Mongolia signed parallel political declarations that formally recognize Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.

Nuclear Sword of Damocles

Daryl G. Kimball

Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and there are nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

The massive nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia—the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War—have been reduced through successive arms control agreements. Yet, deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear forces still exceed 1,500 strategic warheads each, far more than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

Five decades ago, President John Kennedy warned of the possibility of dozens of nuclear-armed nations. Since then, world leaders have built up an extensive nonproliferation regime that has slowed the spread and reduced the salience of nuclear weapons.

But to remain effective, the nuclear non-proliferation system must be updated, new commitments must be implemented, and progress on disarmament must be accelerated. The newer nuclear-armed states—India, Israel, and Pakistan—must adhere to the same nuclear disarmament measures expected of the world’s 190 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) member states.

Even with the NPT, political and military tensions continue to drive proliferation behavior in regional hot spots. If U.S.-led talks with Iran and North Korea fail to persuade them to curb sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities and meet their nonproliferation obligations, the risk of arms races and conflicts will grow.

Doing nothing is not an option. No matter who occupies the White House following the 2012 election, he must pursue a nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament “stimulus plan.” It should include the following elements:

End Cold War Thinking. The chances of a bolt-from-the-blue nuclear attack by Russia or the United States on the other is near zero, yet their arsenals and strategies are still designed to counter such a threat and engage in a protracted nuclear war. President Barack Obama has taken some steps to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons, but there is much more to be done. The White House must follow through by implementing a saner, “nuclear deterrence only” strategy, which would allow U.S. and Russian arsenal reductions to no more than 500 deployed nuclear warheads each—the size of the Soviet force in 1962.

Reduce Global Arsenals. By signaling he is prepared to accelerate reductions and move U.S. forces below the ceilings of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the U.S. president could induce the Kremlin to build down rather than build up its forces, saving tens of billions of dollars. With New START verification tools in place, reciprocal U.S.-Russian cuts, including new transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons, need not wait for a new, follow-on treaty. Such actions would put pressure on China to abandon its slow increase in nuclear forces and open the door for serious multilateral disarmament discussions.

Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran. Tehran has not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons and does not have the necessary ingredients for an effective nuclear arsenal. Bipartisan experts agree that preventive military strikes would be counterproductive; sanctions can alter Iran’s calculus, but cannot halt its program. Diplomacy remains the best option.

U.S. negotiators must redouble efforts to limit Iran’s enrichment to normal reactor-grade levels, cap its uranium stockpiles, and give international inspectors greater access to ensure that Iran has halted all weapons-related work, all in exchange for a phased rollback of international sanctions.

End Testing Forever. Twenty years after its last nuclear test, the United States no longer needs or wants a resumption of testing. Yet by failing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Washington has denied itself and others the treaty’s full security benefits.

With the CTBT in force, the established nuclear-weapon states would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs, newer nuclear nations would find it far more difficult to build more-advanced warhead types, and emerging nuclear states would encounter greater obstacles in fielding a reliable arsenal. U.S. action on the CTBT is urgently needed to help head off future nuclear arms competition, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Korean peninsula.

Secure Nuclear Material. Today, dozens of states possess nuclear material that must be safeguarded from terrorists. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are especially vulnerable. Recent nuclear security summits have prompted significant action, but states must maintain and improve their performance. Consistent funding and U.S. leadership on a long-term, global framework for action are critical.

New efforts to end the production of fissile material, particularly by India and Pakistan, are also essential. To help achieve a global cutoff treaty, the five original nuclear powers could formalize their de facto production halt and engage Islamabad and New Delhi in direct talks to curtail their fissile production.

As Kennedy once suggested, we must work faster and harder to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. In the months ahead, U.S. policymakers must overcome petty partisan politics to help address today’s grave nuclear challenges.

Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and there are nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

No Going Back: 20 Years Since the Last U.S. Nuclear Test

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Volume 3, Issue 14, September 20, 2012

On September 23, 1992, under the surface of the Nevada Test Site, the United States conducted its 1,030th--and last--nuclear weapon test explosion. At the time, there were serious questions about whether the United States could indefinitely extend the service lives of its nuclear warheads without regular nuclear testing.

But today, with the help of two decades of hard data and problem-solving through the nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program, those questions have been answered. As Bruce T. Goodwin, principal associate director for weapons at Livermore National Laboratory told The Washington Post in November 2011: "We have a more fundamental understanding of how these weapons work today than we ever imagined when we were blowing them up."

It is now widely recognized that the United States no longer has any need for, nor any interest in, conducting nuclear explosive tests.

Four presidential administrations have determined that it remains in the U.S. national security interests to refrain from resuming nuclear explosive testing: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The more time passes the more it becomes clear: the days of U.S. nuclear testing are over.

The Test Ban and Stockpile Stewardship

The 1992 U.S. testing halt was triggered by Congressional approval of the Exon-Hatfield-Mitchell 9-month test moratorium legislation--a bipartisan initiative that was prompted by the end of the Cold War, the closure of the Soviet test site in Kazakhstan in 1989, and Russia's unilateral test moratorium announced on October 5, 1991.

The Senate approved the measure on August 3, 1992 by a 68-32 vote. The House adopted it on September 24 by a 224-151 margin. The legislation limited the number and purpose of any additional testing and set a September 30, 1996 end date for U.S. testing.

On July 3, 1993, after an extensive interagency review, President Bill Clinton nnounced he would extend the U.S. moratorium and pursue multilateral negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Negotiations began in 1994 and concluded in mid-1996. The treaty, which was opened for signature in September 1996, prohibits "any nuclear weapon test explosion," provides for an extensive global monitoring system and the option for short-notice, on-site inspections to detect and deter surreptitious nuclear weapons testing.

Before signing the CTBT on September 24, 1996, President Clinton created the Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the absence of nuclear test explosions. Before the program would be able to show concrete results, the Senate rejected the CTBT in 1999 after a hasty and abbreviated debate, in part because some senators were concerned that the new approach might not work.

Now, the stewardship program has proven so successful over the years that many informed observers who were initially skeptical believe that the United States does not need nuclear tests.

As Linton Brooks, former director of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under President George W. Bush, said in November 2011, "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again... I have been in and out of government for a long time.  And in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

And George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, said in April 2009, "[Republicans] might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.... [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate."

That Was Then, This Is Now

During the Congressional debate on the proposed nuclear test moratorium legislation in June 1992, then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) argued: "... as long as we have a nuclear deterrent, we have got to test it in order to ensure that it is safe and it is reliable."

Times have changed since 1992 and many of the old assumptions and beliefs about nuclear weapons and nuclear testing no longer apply. We now have almost two decades of experience with the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which has exceeded all expectations.

The recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, "The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty--Technical Issues for the United States," lays out a compelling technical case, based on the latest information, that the United States does not need nuclear tests to maintain its arsenal.

The NAS report finds that "The technical capabilities for maintaining the U.S. stockpile absent nuclear-explosion testing are better now than anticipated" when the NAS issued its previous report in 2002, and that "the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile without explosive testing has been in place for almost two decades. Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable through a rigorous annual certification process. The Stockpile Stewardship Program includes nuclear weapons surveillance and maintenance, non-nuclear and subcritical nuclear experiments, and increasingly sophisticated supercomputer modeling.  Life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads and can continue to do so indefinitely.

A 2009 study by JASON, the independent technical review panel, concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

Arguments for resuming U.S. nuclear testing have become weaker and weaker with time, as the stockpile is certified year-after-year and more warhead types have their service lives extended.

Moreover, NNSA has more resources than ever before to perform core stockpile stewardship work. Since 2009, funding for the nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13%. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more, by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted at a March 21, 2012 appropriations committee hearing, "Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile."

Nevertheless, some die-hard CTBT critics say that the United States might someday need to test to develop a new type of nuclear weapon. First, there is no military requirement for new types of nuclear weapons.

Second, in the exceedingly unlikely event that nuclear testing is needed in the distant future, the United States has the option to exercise the CTBT's "supreme national interest clause" and withdraw from the treaty.

Given that the United States already has the most advanced nuclear arsenal in the world, setting off another round of global nuclear tests would only serve to undermine U.S. security by helping other nuclear-armed states improve their nuclear capabilities.

Time To Finish The Job

The CTBT has now been signed by 183 nations and ratified by 157. The treaty has already improved U.S. and global security. Both Russia and China halted nuclear testing as a result of the CTBT and only one nation (North Korea) has conducted nuclear tests since 1998.

In order for the CTBT to formally enter into force, however, it must still be ratified by the remaining eight "holdout" states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty.

Ratification by the United States and China is crucial. By signing the treaty and ending nuclear testing, Washington and Beijing have already taken on most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them-and others-the full security benefits of the Treaty.

U.S. ratification would reinforce the taboo against testing and prompt other key states--such as China, India, and Pakistan--to ratify the treaty. Without positive action on the CTBT, however, the risk that one or more states could resume nuclear testing will only grow.

Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the Cold War that the United States rightly abandoned in 1992. After 1,030 tests, the United States does not need further nuclear explosive testing, but those who would seek to improve their arsenals do.

It is past time to take another look at the CTBT. The Senate has a responsibility to reconsider the treaty and to do so on the basis of an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. --TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Description: 

On September 23, 1992, under the surface of the Nevada Test Site, the United States conducted its 1,030th--and last--nuclear weapon test explosion. At the time, there were serious questions about whether the United States could indefinitely extend the service lives of its nuclear warheads without regular nuclear testing.

IAEA Board of Governors Calls on Iran to Cooperate with IAEA, But Tehran Continues to Balk

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Volume 3, Issue 13, September 18, 2012

After years of denying any need to respond to international concerns about suspected nuclear weaponization work, Iran finally engaged in discussions earlier this year with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a plan to address its alleged weapons-related activities. After months of on-and-off talks, however, Iran has still refused to agree to the IAEA's proposal for a "structured approach" to that investigation.

In response to the impasse and to findings of the agency's latest quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA Board of Governors approved a resolution 31-1-3 on Sept. 13 that faults Iran for failing to address UN Security Council demands to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and to cooperate with the IAEA's investigation about its suspected weapons-related experiments.

IAEA-Iran Talks

Earlier this year, senior IAEA officials met with Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss a way forward on the issue. Since those initial January and February meetings, however, Iran has refused to allow the IAEA to begin with an initial step of visiting the Parchin military site, which is suspected to have been involved in warhead-related high explosives testing prior to 2004.

Subsequent discussions between the agency and Iranian officials have not yielded progress on the "structured approach." IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano called the lack of progress "frustrating." Iran also appears to have systematically demolished the suspected facility at the Parchin military site.

At the most recent round of discussions on August 24, Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, said that Iran would agree to a framework if the IAEA shared documents with Tehran outlining the evidence of the alleged weapons-related activities. He also said the "structured approach" must take into account Iran's national security considerations.

What Is the "Structured Approach" and What Is In Dispute?

In a February 20, 2012 IAEA document, the agency identifies the kinds of actions Iran needs to take to address suspected weapons-related activities and ensure that there is no ongoing warhead development work. The specific topics that the IAEA wants to address were laid out extensively in the agency's November 2011 report, including:

  • High-explosives experiments with nuclear weapons implications;
  • Neutron initiation and detonator development;
  • Work to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile, along with arming, firing and fusing mechanisms;
  • And Iranian procurement activities related to its alleged warhead work.

Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, distributed a version of the Feb. 20 document to members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that contains Tehran's suggested revisions to the IAEA's proposed work plan. In distributing the document to NAM states, Iran was apparently trying to demonstrate its how close the two side are to an agreement and how reasonable Iran is being.

A close reading of the document, however, reveals that Iran is seeking to place unreasonable limits on the agency's ability to carry out its job.

While any country would have a legitimate need to protect information that is not relevant to the IAEA's investigation, Iran's counter-proposals to the Agency's proposed work plan would place undue limitations on the agency's work that will make it more difficult to determine whether Iran has carried out or still maintains a warhead development program.

Any access that Iran is willing to provide is a step in the right direction and should be encouraged, but the international community should make clear that token measures will only drag out the investigation rather than close the case. Three issues in particular stand out in the document that Soltanieh circulated.

The IAEA Should Avoid a "One and Done" Approach

Iran's responses to the agency show that it would like to prevent the IAEA from adequately following up on any information it obtains during the course of its investigation. Iran has suggested removing a clause stating, "Follow up actions that are required of Iran to facilitate the agency's conclusions regarding the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program will be identified as this process continues."

Iran also inserted language specifying that, after steps are taken on each issue the agency wishes to address, that issue "will be considered concluded."

Iran's proposed approach risks that, even if the agency does not receive sufficient information from Iran during its initial investigation, Tehran will try to assert that particular aspects of the case are closed and refuse to answer any follow-up questions. Iran's suggestions would preclude any efforts to go back to topics that the agency previously investigated should new information arise. Such limitations do not match up with what Soltanieh describes in his communication to the NAM states as a "proactive and cooperative approach."

Strictly Sequencing the Issues Investigated Only Delays the Process

The Feb. 20 document says that steps to address the IAEA's questions should be completed in time for the agency's June 2012 meeting, "if possible." Such a quick timeframe would be welcome, particularly as tensions over the issue increase.

But Iran's opposition to potentially addressing some of the IAEA's questions in parallel unnecessarily delays the process. If Iran's nuclear program is purely peaceful, there is little reason to drag out the investigation in such a way and rejecting any parallel investigations does nothing to address legitimate concerns about protecting access to information unrelated to Iran's nuclear program.

More importantly, because many of the activities that the IAEA is investigating appear to be interlinked, it would be natural for the agency to seek to address multiple issues at once if information it obtains is relevant to them.

Verifying the Completeness of Iran's Declarations

Section C of the Feb. 20 document details steps the IAEA requests Iran take to ensure that it has a firm grasp of all the nuclear-related activities being carried out in the country. These steps are hardly new. Most of them either stem from provisions of Iran's safeguards agreement that Tehran unilaterally suspended (a requirement to provide early design information of nuclear facilities under so-called Code 3.1), or the agency's Additional Protocol (allowing access to undeclared sites).

Unlike the rest of the document--which is focused on Iran's alleged warhead work--the actions requested in Section C are directly related to ensuring that Iran's known nuclear activities are not being diverted for possible weapons use. Achieving agreement on these steps would provide some of the most vital assurances that Iran's nuclear activities will not be misused. However, the appearance of bracketed text suggests that this section may be subject to extensive negotiation. Iran has refused to provide many of these measures for several years.

The Importance of Transparency

The November 2011 IAEA report and accompanying annexes make a convincing case that Iran was indeed involved in a comprehensive nuclear weapons program prior to 2004, some elements of which have likely continued. Iran's full and complete cooperation with the agency would likely bear this out, demonstrating that Iran's claims that it has pursued a peaceful nuclear program all along have been false.

Tehran does not appear to be ready to either make such an admission, or to be confronted with more conclusive evidence of such activities. Iran's leaders should understand that their failure to address the agency's concerns only undermines Tehran's claim that it is simply pursuing a peaceful nuclear program and it undermines the credibility of the Supreme Leader's fatwa against nuclear weapons.

The international community should also make clear that, while additional transparency on Iran's part is positive, half measures will not alleviate suspicions. The agency has a job to do, and it should continue to pursue of answers to questions raised over the course of its investigation.

At the same time, the leadership in Tehran is unlikely to decide that it can fully address the IAEA's concerns and verifiably end any ongoing warhead work absent a diplomatic process aimed at producing a comprehensive resolution to the nuclear impasse. Unfortunately, the talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations--China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States--have stalled out.

Following the U.S. election in November, both sides must be prepared to overcome the gaps in their respective positions and resume the effort on the basis of new and more creative proposals.

In the course of a renewed diplomatic dialogue, Iran must be convinced of two things: 1) that continuing down a path toward nuclear weapons will only result in increasing isolation and diminished security; and 2) that genuine and meaningful cooperation will be met by an easing of pressure, rather than an escalation. Iran should not be at risk of being punished for coming clean.

Answering the IAEA's questions will be a critical step en route to a broader, comprehensive arrangement. A deal that that allows Iran's to enrich uranium only to normal reactor-grade levels, limits its enrichment capacity and stockpile to realistic civilian purposes, and grants the IAEA more extensive access and monitoring, in exchange for a phased lifting of international sanctions related to its nuclear activities is still within reach.

Note: This Issue Brief is an updated version of ACA's March 2, 2012 Issue Brief written by Peter Crail.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Description: 

After years of denying any need to respond to international concerns about suspected nuclear weaponization work, Iran finally engaged in discussions earlier this year with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a plan to address its alleged weapons-related activities. After months of on-and-off talks, however, Iran has still refused to agree to the IAEA's proposal for a "structured approach" to that investigation.

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ACA Director Speaks in Moscow on CTBT

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Prospects for Realizing the Full Potential of the CTBT

Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
at Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference
Moscow, Russia
September 7, 2012

Distinguished colleagues, it is an honor to address you at this important meeting on the value of and the path forward on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Since the opening for signature of the CTBT nearly sixteen years ago, the vast majority of the world’s nations have signed and ratified the Treaty. They recognize that nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the past and understand that the CTBT is a cornerstone of the international security architecture of the 21st century.

The CTBT would reinforce the widely supported de facto global nuclear test moratorium.

By banning all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT can help accomplish the indisputable obligation under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve nuclear disarmament.

With the CTBT in force, other states can be assured that the established nuclear-weapon states cannot proof-test new, more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs.

Without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer nuclear nations cannot perfect smaller, two-stage thermonuclear warheads, which are more easily deliverable via ballistic missiles. Such weapons, if developed, would undermine security in Asia and could lead to a dangerous action-reaction-cycle.

The CTBT also can provide confidence about the peaceful intentions of non-nuclear weapon states, such as Iran. Ratification of the CTBT is a tangible way for states, including Israel, Egypt, and Iran, to contribute to the realization of a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and help de-escalate tensions in the region.

With the CTBT in force, the already robust International Monitoring System will be augmented by the option of on-site inspections, which would improve the detection and deterrence of potential cheating.

Although 183 states have signed the CTBT, the long journey to end testing is not over. For the CTBT to formally enter into force, it must still be ratified by the remaining eight “holdout” states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty.

The United States and China

Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important. By signing the treaty and ending nuclear testing, Washington and Beijing have already taken on most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of the Treaty.

What are the prospects for U.S. approval of the CTBT twenty years since the last U.S. nuclear test and more than fifteen years since President Bill Clinton signed the treaty?

The task will be very difficult, but is within reach in 2013 or 2014, if President Barack Obama is reelected this November and the Democratic Party retains control of the U.S. Senate. Both of which appear to be likely at the moment, though nothing is ever certain until election day.

To date, Governor Mitt Romney had said nothing about the CTBT and the Republican Party Platform does not mention the CTBT, but it is highly unlikely he would make the CTBT a priority. It is more likely that Romney would, if elected, maintain the U.S. nuclear test moratorium but try to reverse President Obama’s policy of not pursuing new types of nuclear weapons or modifying existing warhead types to give them new military capabilities.

Why do I remain optimistic?  Partly because the successful approval of New START in 2010 shows that even controversial arms control agreements can be approved in a tough political climate when the executive branch devotes sufficient time and high-level attention, when key Senators take the time to ask good questions and seriously consider the facts, and when U.S. military leaders speak up in support of the treaty.

It is self-defeating for the United States to oppose a treaty that prohibits an activity—nuclear testing—for which it has no need or interest in resuming. As Linton Brooks, the former head of the United States’ National Nuclear Security Administration, said in December 2011: "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again ... in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

Another reason for optimism is President Barack Obama’s strong support for moving the CTBT forward.

In his April 5 speech in Prague, President Obama declared that his administration “will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” More recently, March of this year, he said: “… my administration will continue to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” And the official Democratic Party platform—out just this week—once again pledges to “work to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

To date, however, the Obama administration has not done enough to mobilize the scientific and technical expertise necessary to debunk spurious assertions against the Treaty and to mobilize support for its reconsideration by the U.S. Senate.

The focus of the administration’s attention over the course its first term has been the negotiation and ratification of New START, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and its implementation, the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the challenges posed by the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

As a result, the administration’s CTBT effort has not been immediate nor has it been aggressive. President Obama has not yet launched what could be called a systematic and high-level political effort that will be necessary to win the support of key senators for the CTBT.

In a May 10, 2011 address before the Arms Control Association, then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said the Obama administration would take the time necessary to brief Senators on key technical and scientific issues that gave some Senators reason for pause during the 1999 debate.

"In our engagement with the Senate,” Tauscher said, “we want to leave aside the politics and explain why the CTBT will enhance our national security. Our case for Treaty ratification consists of three primary arguments: One, the United States no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosive tests, plain and simple. Two, a CTBT that has entered into force will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests. And three, we now have a greater ability to catch those who cheat."

Since she spoke there is new evidence in support of the treaty that the Obama administration has at its disposal.

The March 2012 report by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reaffirms that the United States no longer needs and would not benefit from further nuclear testing. The report documents the significant technical advances over the past decade that should resolve the Senate’s concerns about the treaty in 1999.

For instance, the report finds that maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions.

The report also finds that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” The new report confirms that with the combined capabilities of the nearly completed IMS, as well as tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

As George Shultz said in 2009, his fellow Republicans “might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.”

A thoughtful, thorough Senate review of the issues is essential. There is no reason for further delay, but at the same time the process cannot be rushed.

The Senate has not seriously examined these issues in years. In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, 59 Senators have left office; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain. Although treaty ratification has become very political in the United States, it is important to recognize that New START ratification was approved with the support of 13 Republican Senators—10 of whom remain in the Senate today.

To move forward quickly after election day on the CTBT, President Obama will need to appoint a senior, high-level White House coordinator to push the ratification campaign along. For weeks and months, key committees and key Senators will need to be briefed in detail on the new National Academy of Sciences report and the new NIE on nuclear test monitoring issues and the progress of the U.S. stockpile stewardship program.

The Obama administration will also need to more aggressively address misconceptions and misinformation being put forward by hard-line opponents of the CTBT. For instance, some critics erroneously claim the CTBT does not define "nuclear test explosion" and therefore some states such as Russia believe low-yield tests are permitted. The record is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means zero nuclear test explosions.

While the final outcome will depend on the politics of the moment, it will also depend on the administration’s ability to make a strong case and bring forward the many U.S. military and scientific leaders who support the CTBT and to mobilize key political constituencies in support of the treaty.

In sum, U.S. ratification of the CTBT has been delayed too long but it remains within sight.

The Role of Other Key States

While U.S. action on the treaty is essential for entry into force, other Annex II states must provide leadership rather than simply remain on the sidelines on the CTBT. Indonesia’s ratification of the CTBT in 2011 is an example of how key states can do so.

In particular, it is time for China’s leaders to finally act on the CTBT. On January 19, 2011, President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama issued a Joint Statement in which they declared: “… both sides support early entry into force of the CTBT.”  Such statements are welcome but insufficient.

Concrete action toward CTBT ratification by China would increase its credibility as a nonproliferation leader and improve the chances that other states will follow suit. Chinese ratification would put pressure on India to approve the treaty and would help constrain the possibility of a future nuclear arms race in Asia in the coming years.

China has provided no plausible reason—technical, political, or military—not to ratify. President Hu should provide the leadership necessary to take China off the list of CTBT holdout states or else provide a timeline for Chinese action on CTBT ratification.

China has and must continue to play a more constructive role to underscore the importance of the global nuclear test moratorium and accession to the CTBT, particularly with North Korea.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan could also advance their own cause and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments to end nuclear testing through the CTBT.

India’s current leaders should recall that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s eloquent and visionary 1988 action plan for disarmament argued for “a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons … to set the stage for negotiations on a comprehensive test-ban treaty.”

India has pledged in various domestic and international contexts to maintain its nuclear test moratorium, which makes it all the more logical for New Delhi’s leaders to reinforce global efforts to detect and deter nuclear testing by others through the CTBT. Those in India who once argued for a resumption of testing have been pushed to the margins and there does not appear to be any major political faction that opposes the CTBT for military or technical reasons.

Pakistan would clearly welcome a legally binding test ban with India and entry into force of the CTBT, and would very likely agree to ratify the treaty if India were to do so.

UN member states that are serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear risk reduction should insist that India and Pakistan sign and ratify the CTBT before they are considered for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and that India should sign and ratify before its possible membership on the Security Council is considered.

The Middle East

With no shortage of conflict and hostility in the Middle East, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Israel’s ratification of the CTBT would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit. Israel’s stated concerns about the CTBT at this point have to do with the procedures for on-site inspections, but in reality Israel is unwilling to ratify unless other states in the region also indicate they will do so.

Iran was at one time an active participant in the CTBT negotiations and on September 24, 1996 it signed the treaty. Today, Iranian ratification would help reduce concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop and deploy deliverable nuclear warheads. Iranian ratification could help reinforce the credibility of the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons and address urgent concerns that Iran may race to build nuclear weapons.

Continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear activities, which remain under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The member states of the Non-Aligned Movement need to play a stronger leadership role in pressing Iran, the incoming chair of the NAM, to ratify the CTBT.

North Korea

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests have undermined Asian security and further isolated the country. A third nuclear test explosion would worsen an already tense situation on the Korean peninsula and make it far more difficult for the DPRK to be accepted back into the global community of nations.

The leaders of the DPRK have an opportunity to take a new approach in the years ahead by following through on their February 29 pledge to observe a moratorium on nuclear test explosions as a confidence-building measure and resume action-for-action process for denuclearization and normalization. The Russian Federation and China can play an especially important role in pointing out the benefits of such an approach.

Reinforcing the Test Ban

There are other actions that should be pursued that would reinforce the de facto test moratorium and accelerate CTBT entry into force. Specifically:

  1. Responsible states should provide in full and without delay assessed financial contributions to the CTBTO, fully assist with the completion of the IMS networks, and continuously and without interruption transmit data from the monitoring stations. This will ensure the most robust capabilities to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions. States should also recognize that the Provisional Technical Secretariat to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission is–for all practical purposes–no longer “provisional.” The International Monitoring System and International Data Center are now an essential part of today’s 21st century international security architecture that enables all states to detect and deter nuclear tests;
  2. In order to further reinforce the de facto global taboo against nuclear testing and deter any state from considering nuclear test explosions in the future, the UN Security Council should discuss and outline the penalties that could be imposed in the event that any state breaks this taboo;
  3. Russia and China could join the United States and formally declare they will not pursue new types of nuclear weapons or modify weapons in ways that create new military capabilities. Such policies would reinforce the effect of the CTBT on halting the qualitative improvement of nuclear arsenals;
  4. Nuclear armed states—particularly Russia, China, and the United States—should halt activities at the former sites of nuclear test explosions that might raise concerns about compliance with the CTBT and begin serious technical discussions on confidence building measures that could be undertaken in advance of CTBT entry into force to reinforce the moratorium and the CTBT itself.

None of these steps are simple nor are they easy. Each requires that leaders from key states think creatively and seize the initiative to close the door on nuclear testing forever.

Thank you for your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description: 

Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association at Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference in Moscow, Russia on September 6, 2012.

The August 2012 IAEA Report on Iran: An Initial Assessment

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Note: correction on Fordow centrifuge totals (3pm, Aug. 30)

By Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

The IAEA’s latest quarterly report on Iran, now in circulation, finds that Tehran has installed more machines for uranium enrichment in its Fordow underground facility, but has not started to use them. This means that Iran has not significantly increased its rate of enrichment at this facility since the IAEA's previous report from May.

Moreover, although Iran has enriched additional uranium to almost 20%--a level that could be more quickly turned into weapons material--Tehran has converted much of this material to reactor fuel. Thus Iran’s available stockpile of 20% enriched uranium (91 kg) is essentially unchanged from May.

Iran is still continuing enrichment at two sites and seeking to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Although, the August IAEA report is another troubling reminder of Iran's proliferation potential, it is not a “game-changer” in terms of Tehran’s capability to build a nuclear arsenal if it were to decide to do so.

As White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said August 24, “there is still time and space” for diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff. But it is also clear that new and more energetic diplomacy is needed to resolve the most urgent proliferation risks posed by Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Here is our brief summary of key takeaways from the new IAEA report:

Continue reading...

Description: 

The IAEA’s latest quarterly report on Iran, now in circulation, finds that Tehran has installed more machines for uranium enrichment in its Fordow underground facility, but has not started to use them. This means that Iran has not significantly increased its rate of enrichment at this facility since the IAEA's previous report from May.

Country Resources:

Bid to Craft Arms Trade Treaty Stalls

Farrah Zughni and Daryl G. Kimball

A month-long UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the first-ever treaty to regulate the international arms trade failed to reach consensus on a final document by its July 27 deadline as a handful of key countries, including the United States, said they needed additional time to resolve their concerns with the proposed draft of the pact.

The meeting, which brought together more than 190 countries at the United Nations July 2-27, overcame procedural difficulties as well as numerous conflicting positions on substance and appeared to be close to agreement on a 12-page treaty text that was circulated by conference president Roberto García Moritán on July 26. The general aim of an arms trade treaty (ATT) is to require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers, establish common international standards for approving the transfers, and mandate regular reporting (see box).

The apparent momentum for an agreement was halted by the unexpected announcement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman of unresolved U.S. objections to the July 26 draft treaty text. Addressing the plenary meeting on July 27, Countryman said he did not see problems with the document’s general framework but that he still had concerns about a few aspects of the text.

The United States “wishes to see all progress preserved for a successful treaty, but I have to say that my capital does not have the time that is needed to address these issues; we need to not take a step backward but to get this right,” Countryman told the conference.

Shortly after Countryman spoke, Russia and a handful of other delegations joined the call for more time to negotiate a final text. In a July 27 story, the Associated Press quoted a Western diplomat as saying the United States had “derailed” the process and that it was likely that no further action would be taken on the treaty until after the U.S. elections in November.

Many states expressed disappointment with the outcome, particularly because the July 26 draft negotiated by the conference had incorporated major U.S. proposals and avoided U.S. negotiating “redlines,” according to several diplomats.

“We came to New York to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today. We believe we were very close to reaching our goals,” said the Mexican delegation in a written statement on July 27 on behalf of more than 90 countries, including major arms exporters France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

“Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text…put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community,” the governments’ statement said.

Some major human rights organizations blamed the United States for the outcome. “This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a July 27 statement. “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough,” she said.

Key Elements of the Proposed ATT

The July 26 draft text of an arms trade treaty (ATT) would require all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized, and require annual reporting of such transfers. In particular, the July 26 ATT text would

• require that states “shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list” and “shall designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the international transfer of conventional arms.” (Currently only 90 countries have international arms transfer regulations.)

• prohibit arms transfers to states if the transfer would violate “obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes;” other “relevant international obligations;” or would be “for the purpose of facilitating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, [or] war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions”;

• prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” “a serious violation of international human rights law,” or an act of terrorism;

• require that states “shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope” of an ATT and shall apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition;

• require that each state “shall take the appropriate measures, within its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms under the scope” of an ATT; and

• enter into force when 65 states ratify the treaty.

Tough Negotiations

Before and during the July conference, it was not clear whether it would be possible for so many states to achieve consensus on a treaty in such a short time. The start of the conference’s work was delayed for two days when a group of countries, led by Egypt, proposed that the Palestinian Authority be granted voting status at the conference. A walkout by some states that oppose voting status for the Palestinians was avoided when a compromise was forged that granted the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican observer status.

Through long hours of parallel working sessions and informal consultations, the diplomats offered divergent perspectives and struggled to reach agreement on core elements of the treaty, including its scope and the criteria for evaluating arms transfers. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) By the last week, bottom-line positions became more apparent, and García Moritán presented a consolidated draft text on July 24. A revised version followed on July 26, just one day before the scheduled close of negotiations.

Some states pushed for an ATT with a relatively broad scope, while others sought a narrower one. In the end, the states could agree only that the draft treaty text should cover seven categories derived from the existing UN Register of Conventional Arms—battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers—plus small arms and light weapons.

Most states argued that the treaty’s scope should include transfers of ammunition, but some, including the United States, resisted its inclusion in the scope section of the treaty. The July 26 text struck a compromise that would obligate states-parties to regulate only the export of ammunition.

There also were competing proposals on how the treaty should address arms transfers that contribute to human rights abuses. The July 26 treaty text contains a compromise formula that would prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” “a serious violation of international human rights law,” or an act of terrorism.

Toward the end of the conference, treaty supporters were most concerned about the possibility that countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, and Syria—all of which had voiced strong opposition to central components of the agreement—might decide to block consensus. Prior to Countryman’s statement, however, no delegation had publicly declared that consensus at the conference would not be possible.

Once it became clear that adoption of a final treaty text was out of the question, the conference approved a report for the UN General Assembly relaying the meeting outcome.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement July 27 calling the forum’s “inability” to conclude its work a “setback.”

“There is already considerable common ground and states can build on the hard work that has been done during these negotiations,” he said.

U.S. Concerns

In his July 27 remarks, Countryman listed a number of specific issues that the U.S. delegation found problematic in the July 26 text. None of the points he raised, however, disputed the core treaty elements, such as the scope, criteria for determining whether an arms transfer should be authorized, and prohibitions on certain transfers.

Countryman criticized language in Article 5 that says the treaty “shall not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations under defence cooperation agreements.” Diplomatic sources say the provision was included at the insistence of India over the objections of many states. Countryman argued that the language was “so broad that it threatened to undermine the treaty’s goals” of setting the highest common standards to regulate the international arms trade. Countryman said a provision of Article 3 stipulating that a state-party shall not authorize a conventional arms transfer that would “violate its relevant international obligations” was too ambiguous. He also said that Article 9, which calls on importing and exporting states to “cooperate and exchange information” with “transit and transshipment” states, would need to be rewritten in a manner that is “consistent with international law.” Countryman did not elaborate on the U.S. objection or how it could be addressed.

Some aspects of Countryman’s critique echoed concerns outlined by a group of 51 U.S. senators in a July 26 letter to President Barack Obama. Referring to the first consolidated treaty text of July 24, the senators said the draft treaty text’s requirements for national regulations on international transfers, including those that transited through national territory, and for national reporting of arms transfers potentially infringe on individual gun-ownership rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The lawmakers, including eight Democrats, said they “will oppose the ratification” of any ATT that does not “explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful activities associated with firearms.”

In a July 31 press briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell underscored that, “from our perspective, this treaty and this text, and indeed, in all of the rounds of the text that we saw, in no way would infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

The July 26 text explicitly recognizes “the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems.”

Next Steps Unclear

Most ATT supporters said the July conference’s failure has postponed but will ultimately not prevent the treaty’s adoption. “An ATT is coming. It did not happen on [July 27], but it is coming soon,” said Jo Adamson, British permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, in a July 31 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The July 27 multicountry statement affirmed its signers’ determination “to secure” an ATT “as soon as possible.”

The French government said in an Aug. 1 statement, “France is not resigned to this situation. The UN General Assembly…must follow up on this process. The efforts made in recent weeks were not in vain. The text of July 26 must be considered the basis for negotiations whose accomplishments must be preserved.” France said that “this text is not perfect.… [W]e would have liked to see more robust, clearer language on munitions and technologies.”

In an Aug. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil said the draft text was “a work in progress” that “provides ample material for proceeding further.”

“Any negotiations for a future arms trade treaty,” Khalil wrote, “must take place within a multilateral framework and under the auspices of the United Nations…. It is important to keep in mind that the value of an ATT depends on its universal adherence including from major arms exporters and importers.”

According to diplomatic sources, treaty backers are considering their options ahead of the next session of the UN General Assembly, which convenes in September. Unlike the ATT diplomatic conference, the UN General Assembly does not operate by consensus, and resolutions can be approved with the support of a two-thirds majority of UN member states.

The United States has maintained that it would accept an ATT only if it were adopted on the basis of consensus. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a July 27 written statement that the United States did not support the adoption of an ATT in the General Assembly. Rather, Nuland said, the U.S. government favors “a second round of negotiations, conducted on the basis of consensus” on a treaty “next year.” At the July 31 briefing, Ventrell acknowledged that, with respect to getting a commitment to another round of ATT negotiations, “We’re not there yet.”

A month-long UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the first-ever treaty to regulate the international arms trade failed to reach consensus on a final document by its July 27 deadline as a handful of key countries, including the United States, said they needed additional time to resolve their concerns with the proposed draft of the pact.

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