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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Daryl G. Kimball

In Memoriam: John B. Rhinelander (1933-2014)

Daryl G. Kimball

John B. Rhinelander, a key figure in the negotiation of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and a long-time member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, died unexpectedly on March 2.

Those who worked with John or saw him in action will remember him as a powerful and persistent champion for sensible, bipartisan nuclear risk reduction measures and respect for international treaty obligations.

A Boston native, Rhinelander graduated from Yale University in 1955 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1961, where he was editor-in-chief of the law review. He clerked for a year with Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan and worked with the law firm now known as Davis Polk and Wardwell.

In 1966 he moved to Virginia to serve as special civilian assistant to Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze, the first of many positions he held in the executive branch.

From 1971 to 1972, Rhinelander was the legal adviser for President Richard Nixon’s SALT/ABM negotiating team. The SALT/ABM accords, concluded in the spring of 1972, established the first constraints on the fast-growing U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear arsenals and set limits on further research on and development and deployment of ABM systems, which both sides understood at the time could alter the balance of offensive forces and thereby undermine strategic stability.

In the mid-1980s, as a member of the ACA Board of Directors, Rhinelander was a leading critic of the Reagan administration’s attempt to reinterpret the ABM Treaty to allow expanded research for a “Star Wars” strategic defense system to intercept Soviet missiles. In an article in the September 1987 issue of Arms Control Today, he noted that Nixon instructed the U.S. delegation “to reach agreement on the broad principle that the agreement should not be interpreted in such a way that either side could circumvent its provisions through future ABM systems or components.”

When President George W. Bush decided to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, Rhinelander pointed out in December 2001 that “there was no compelling reason to do so” given that the ABM systems intended for deployment to counter limited missile threats from third parties could be accommodated by the treaty or through modifications that could be negotiated with Russia. Moreover, he accurately predicted that “it will be at least a decade before the Pentagon knows whether it can build anything that is effective.”

As general counsel of the Department of Housing, Education, and Welfare from 1973 to 1976, he played a key role in several major domestic policy issues. He was involved in drafting the implementing regulations for the landmark Title IX section of the 1972 Education Amendments, which mandates equal spending for female and male collegiate athletics, and in efforts to pass legislation that would have established a system of national health insurance.

After leaving government, John was a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm now known as Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and was an active member in ACA and the Lawyers Alliance for World Security.

Often teaming up with his friend and fellow veteran of the Department of State’s arms control legal team, George Bunn, Rhinelander spoke and wrote forcefully on a wide range of key topics, often in Arms Control Today. For instance, in 1991, Rhinelander and Bunn tackled the question of who is bound by the former Soviet Union’s arms control treaties; in 1995, they helped sort out the legal and political options for extending the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT); and in 1996, they called on Washington and the other NPT nuclear-weapon states to take steps to reinforce the legal effect of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty pending ratification and entry into force.

In his later years, John enjoyed life away from Washington at his home by the sea in Gloucester, Mass., spending time with his wife of 51 years, Jeanne; his four children; and his adoring grandchildren.

Rhinelander, who was a life-long Republican, was always seeking to find commonsense, common-ground solutions on arms control challenges facing the United States and the world. ACA members, staff, and fellow board members thank him for his enormous contributions, his wise counsel, and his solid friendship through the years.

John B. Rhinelander, a key figure in the negotiation of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty ...

Arms Checks Unaffected by Ukraine Crisis

Daryl G. Kimball

Although the widening confrontation over the political future of the Crimean peninsula and other parts of the former Soviet Union has ruptured already-strained relations between Moscow and the West and put at risk the implementation of some nuclear risk-reduction initiatives and agreements, Russia is not planning to stop allowing the on-site inspections required under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russian officials said last month.

To protest Russia’s actions to take control of Crimea, the seven non-Russian members of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries have suspended Russia’s membership in the group. As part of that decision, the seven countries—Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—changed the location of their planned June summit from Sochi to Brussels. The Russian actions in Crimea have disrupted planning for the activities of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which the G-8 launched in 2002.

Less than a week into the crisis, on March 8, unnamed Russian Defense Ministry officials told RIA Novosti and other Russian media outlets that Moscow was prepared to suspend receiving inspection teams as required under New START because “groundless threats to Russia from the U.S. and NATO regarding its Ukrainian policy are considered by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow us to declare a force majeure.”

According to the protocol to New START, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections is “circumstances brought about by force majeure,” an unexpected event that is beyond the control of the inspected party.

Antony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on March 9 that ceasing inspections as required by New START would be “a serious development.”

On March 12, however, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters in Moscow that Russia did not plan to suspend inspections under New START and other treaties due to tensions over Ukraine. “We intend to continue to fulfill [our] international obligations and to continue the practice of voluntary transparency in the extent to which it will respond to our interests,” Antonov said. “This applies fully to the START Treaty and the Vienna Document 2011,” he said. The Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures is a politically binding agreement that allows for information exchanges and visits designed to increase openness and transparency with regard to military activities in the participating states.

In a March 14 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official reinforced Antonov’s statement, saying that “inspection activities in Russia continue in [a] regular and unhindered way.” He cited a Feb. 25-March 1 New START inspection at one of the Russian bases for intercontinental ballistic missiles and Russia’s green light for a Ukrainian aircraft to overfly Russian territory as part of an observation mission under the Open Skies Treaty.

New START allows the United States and Russia to conduct as many as 18 on-site inspections annually, with the tally starting on Feb. 5 of each year. In the current period, the two sides have conducted one inspection apiece; more are planned. As of March 14, each side had conducted 56 inspections under New START since 2011. An inspection in the United States and another in Russia were completed in late March, according to U.S. government sources.

Russia’s willingness to meet its New START obligations may be tested in the coming weeks as Western governments impose increasingly tough sanctions on key Russian officials and commercial entities in response to Russia’s ongoing military occupation and March 18 annexation of Crimea.

The current crisis erupted after weeks of political unrest and protests in Kiev over the decision by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych to reject a proposed Ukrainian-EU association agreement opposed by Moscow. Following the violent crackdown on protests and the abrupt departure of Yanukovych on Feb. 21, opposition parliamentary leaders and some former Yanukovych supporters moved to form an interim government.

Days later, Russian troops took control of Crimea. On March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia’s actions were taken at the request of Yanukovych and ethnic Russians in Ukraine concerned about the new leadership in Kiev. On March 16, over the protests of the acting government in Kiev, the UN Security Council, and Western governments, the Crimean regional government held a hastily arranged referendum on joining Russia, and on March 18, Russia declared the annexation of Crimea.

The United States, the UK, and Ukraine have called the actions a blatant violation of international law and the security assurances established in the 1994 Budapest memorandum, in which Russia, the UK, and the United States pledged to “refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity.” Those security assurances were a key factor leading to Ukraine’s decision to remove the sizable nuclear weapons arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union, join the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and become a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear-weapon state.

But in his March 14 e-mail, the Russian Foreign Ministry official said that “the security assurances were given to the legitimate government of Ukraine but not to the forces that came to power following the coup d’etat” in Kiev.

Ukrainian officials vehemently disagree with that interpretation of the Budapest memorandum. On March 3, Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, told an emergency session of the Security Council that Russia is “obliged to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. In this regard, I want to underline that, by this aggression, the Russian Federation is undermining the NPT regime.”

Addressing representatives from 53 countries at the nuclear security summit in The Hague on March 24, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “the credibility of the assurances given to Ukraine in the Budapest memorandum of 1994 has been seriously undermined by recent events.”

“The implications are profound, both for regional security and the integrity of the nuclear nonproliferation regime,” he said. But he added, “This should not serve as an excuse to pursue nuclear weapons, which will only increase insecurity and isolation.”

On March 25, the United States and Ukraine issued a joint statement at the nuclear security summit pledging ongoing cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation and security. In the statement, the United States condemned “Russia’s failure to abide by its commitments” under the Budapest memorandum.

Russia’s “unilateral military actions in Ukraine undermine the foundation of the global security architecture and endanger European peace and security,” the joint statement charged.

Arms Control After the Ukraine Crisis

Daryl G. Kimball

The global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at a crossroads as U.S.-Russian relations have reached perhaps their lowest point in more than a quarter century. Nevertheless, it remains in U.S. and Russian interests to implement existing nuclear risk reduction agreements and pursue practical, low-risk steps to lower tensions. Present circumstances demand new approaches to resolve stubborn challenges to deeper nuclear cuts and the establishment of a new framework to address Euro-Atlantic security issues.

Even before the recent political turmoil in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extralegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, relations between Moscow and Washington were chilly. Despite U.S. adjustments to its missile defense plans in Europe that eliminate any threat to Russian strategic missiles, Putin rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal last June to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic stockpiles by one-third below the ceilings set by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Moving forward will be difficult, but doing nothing is not an option. Through earlier crises during and after the Cold War, U.S. and Russian leaders pursued effective arms control and disarmament initiatives that increased mutual security and significantly reduced the nuclear danger. Much has been achieved, albeit too slowly, but there is far more to be done.

As the world’s non-nuclear-weapon states persuasively argue, U.S. and Russian stockpiles still far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements, and the use of just a few nuclear weapons by any country would have catastrophic global consequences. As the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference approaches, pressure to accelerate action on disarmament will only grow.

For now, neither Russia nor the United States wants to scrap the existing arms control regime, including New START and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which provide greater predictability and stability in an otherwise strained bilateral relationship. A return to a period of unconstrained strategic nuclear competition would not only deepen the distrust and increase dangers for both sides, but also would undermine the NPT. Scrapping the existing nuclear risk reduction measures would do nothing to protect Ukraine from further Russian aggression or reassure nervous NATO allies.

Unfortunately, the profound tensions over Ukraine delay the possibility of any formal, bilateral talks on nuclear arms reductions and missile defense. In light of these realities, Obama and other key leaders must explore alternative options to reduce global nuclear dangers and defuse U.S.-Russian strategic tensions.

Accelerate New START reductions. As a 2012 report by the U.S. secretary of state’s International Security Advisory Board suggests, with New START verification tools in place, further nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty. Obama, the report suggests, could announce he will accelerate the pace of reductions under New START. As long as Russia remains below New START limits, he could also move U.S. force levels well below the treaty’s ceiling of 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 strategic launchers, to 1,100 warheads and 500 launchers. Such an initiative could induce Moscow to build down rather than build up to U.S. strategic force levels, which currently exceed Russia’s by more than 275 deployed strategic launchers.

Cap the arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states. Continued progress in cutting bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, which still comprise more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear stockpiles, is possible and necessary, but other countries must do their part. As a first step, other nuclear-armed states, beginning with China, should pledge not to increase the overall size of their growing nuclear weapons and missile stockpiles as long as U.S. and Russian reductions continue. Such an effort must involve states outside the NPT, specifically India and Pakistan, which continue to expand their stocks of nuclear weapons material and their holdings of nuclear weapons.

Ban certain nuclear delivery systems. In 2007 the United States and Russia together called for the globalization of the INF Treaty, which bans ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, in part to curb missile buildups by China, India, Pakistan, and others. Today, the United States and Russia could renew and expand the concept by seeking a global phaseout of all nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The United States no longer has nuclear-armed ground- or sea-launched cruise missiles and does not need new cruise missiles to maintain the bomber leg of the nuclear triad. This would allow both states to forgo expensive modernization programs for nuclear-armed cruise missiles and help to head off dangerous nuclear escalation elsewhere around the globe.

As Obama said last year, “[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.” In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to reduce nuclear dangers.

The global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at a crossroads as U.S.-Russian relations have reached perhaps their lowest point in more than a quarter century. Nevertheless, it remains in U.S. and Russian interests to implement existing nuclear risk reduction agreements and pursue practical, low-risk steps to lower tensions. Present circumstances demand new approaches to resolve stubborn challenges to deeper nuclear cuts and the establishment of a new framework to address Euro-Atlantic security issues.

Mexico Hosts Meeting on Nuclear Effects

Daryl G. Kimball

For the second time in two years, diplomats and civil society representatives gathered last month for a two-day conference on the medical and societal impacts of nuclear weapons use, with many governments calling for “new international standards and norms, through a legally binding instrument,” according to the chair’s summary of the meeting.

The agenda of the Feb. 13-14 conference in Nayarit, Mexico, included several presentations from survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and from experts on the effects of and responses to single nuclear detonations and large-scale nuclear attacks.

“It is a fact that no State or international organization has the capacity to address or provide the short- and long-term humanitarian assistance and protection needed in case of a nuclear weapon explosion,” concluded Juan Gómez Robledo, conference chair and undersecretary for multilateral affairs and human rights in the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

The Nayarit gathering brought together 146 government representatives—more than the 127 that met in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013 for the first such conference.

Representatives from India and Pakistan attended the Oslo and Nayarit conferences, but the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) did not. Officials from some of the five governments have expressed concern that the meetings are intended to lead toward talks on a convention on the elimination of nuclear weapons. (See ACT, April 2013.)

In a statement to The Hill Feb. 13, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. decision not to attend “does not indicate any lessening support for nuclear disarmament. We continue to take very seriously the consequences of nuclear weapons use.”

“It is in our interest, as well as the interest of all nations, to extend the nearly 70-year record of nuclear weapons non-use forever. We remain committed to practical step-by-step disarmament and will continue to take steps toward securing a world without nuclear weapons,” she said.

The Nayarit conference reflects the growing impatience of many states with the slow pace of action on nuclear disarmament. In his Feb. 13 opening remarks, Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña complained that “various UN disarmament fora have not produced any substantive work for almost two decades, leading to the frustration of the vast majority of countries.”

During the meeting, several government delegations emphasized that the multilateral focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the action steps on disarmament and nonproliferation agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference are mutually reinforcing.

Seeking to advance the discussion, Austria announced at the start of the Nayarit gathering that in Vienna “later this year,” it would host a third conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use.

In a Feb. 13 statement, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that “[n]uclear disarmament is a global task and a collective responsibility” and that Austria “wants to do its share to achieve the goals” of the NPT by hosting the next conference.

Reflecting the view of many but not all of the delegations at Nayarit, Gómez Robledo’s summary statement said the meeting “has shown that [the] time has come to initiate a diplomatic process” with a “specific timeframe” to outlaw nuclear weapons.

But, expressing a view voiced by several delegations, Australia said that “banning nuclear weapons by itself will not guarantee their elimination.”

Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, the president of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, said the states gathered in Nayarit have a great deal of work to do to reach agreement on the nature on further diplomatic efforts and evaluate how to advance the disarmament action steps agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

In a Feb. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Alexander Kmentt, director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, said the Nayarit participants were united in “the wish to firmly anchor the humanitarian imperative in the discussions about nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament” and in the conviction that the “only meaningful” strategy for preventing nuclear weapons use is eliminating and banning the weapons.

Nevertheless, Kmentt said, “different views still exist at this stage” about how to accomplish that goal.

“This discourse needs to be continued and also widened,” said Kmentt, who led Austria’s delegation in Nayarit.

He said he regretted the absence of the nuclear-weapon states from the meeting. “We will invite them to participate in the Vienna conference and hope that they will come,” he said.

Kmentt said the agenda for the Vienna conference is in the planning stages but the list of topics might include risk prevention and the implications of nuclear weapons use under different areas of international law.

Representatives from 146 countries discussed the consequences of nuclear weapons use and underscored the urgent need to prevent it.

Toward a Final-Phase Deal With Iran

Daryl G. Kimball

Last month, negotiators from the United States, its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework for talks on a “comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”

The road ahead will be difficult. Many differences must be bridged, and hard-liners in Washington, Tehran, and Jerusalem will throw up obstacles along the way. An effective, multiyear deal can only be achieved if each side is ready to compromise and pursue realistic solutions that meet the other sides’ core requirements.

A successful agreement will verifiably roll back Iran’s overall enrichment capacity, block the plutonium path to the bomb, put in place even tougher international inspections, resolve outstanding questions about the purpose of Iran’s program, and lead to the removal of nuclear-related sanctions. But first, negotiators must resolve several tough issues in the next few months.

Uranium enrichment. The two sides have agreed to negotiate “practical” limits on the scope of Iran’s enrichment activities in order to reduce Tehran’s ability to build nuclear weapons.

Today, Iran has a very limited need for enriched uranium fuel for energy production. Iran has one research reactor, for which it has an ample supply of fuel, and a power reactor that uses fuel to be supplied by Russia for the next 10 years or more. Tehran says it has plans for up to 16 more reactors, which would require a sizable enrichment capacity, but these plans are many years away from reality.

Consequently, the P5+1 can and should seek a significant reduction in Iran’s current enrichment capacity—from 10,000 operating, first-generation centrifuges at two sites to approximately half that number or less for a period of at least 10 years. Even with 4,000 or fewer first-generation centrifuges at one site, Iran would have more than sufficient capacity for its foreseeable needs. Along with a cap on the enrichment of uranium to no more than 5 percent, a reduction in the number of centrifuges would increase the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb to six months or more. Enhanced inspection rights would ensure that any such activity would be readily detected within days.

If Iran tried to build a nuclear arsenal, it would take considerably more than a year to amass enough material for additional weapons, assemble a nuclear device, and develop an effective means of delivery.

So far, Iran has insisted that it wants to be able to develop new, more efficient centrifuges. Consequently, the two sides will likely set limits on the overall capacity of Iran’s enrichment program rather than the total number of centrifuges.

The P5+1 wants Iran to close its underground enrichment facility at Fordow, which is less vulnerable to air attacks, while Iran opposes dismantling its facilities. The two sides might compromise by agreeing that Iran will effectively halt any significant enrichment at Fordow and convert it to a “research-only” facility.

The Arak reactor. The P5+1 has argued that Iran should abandon its unfinished 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor near Arak, which is well suited for the production of plutonium. One compromise would be to convert Arak into a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor or, as Iranian officials have suggested, make design and operational changes to reduce its plutonium potential. These changes could include reducing the power level at least to 5 megawatts and using uranium fuel enriched to 3.5 percent. Iran is not known to have a reprocessing plant, which would be needed to extract plutonium from spent fuel, but Iran could be required to send Arak’s spent fuel to a third country to further reduce the proliferation risk.

Tougher international inspections. If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons development, it most likely would try to do so in secret at undisclosed facilities. Consequently, Iran must allow international inspectors access to all sites, including undeclared sites, under the terms of the additional protocol to its existing safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the protocol would be permanent. Further monitoring measures of Iran’s nuclear industry could help detect and deter any secret weapons program.

Concerns about potential weapons experiments. Iran also will need to accelerate its cooperation with the IAEA to allow the agency to determine with confidence that Tehran is no longer engaged in research with potentially military dimensions. Given that the investigation will continue for some time, the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 should specify that Iran shall not conduct any experiments with nuclear weapons applications.

These step-for-step actions will require a new UN Security Council resolution to replace earlier resolutions on Iran’s nuclear program; positive, prompt follow-up actions by the EU states; and approval by Congress of revised legislation that unwinds nuclear-related sanctions.

Negotiating an agreement along these lines will be difficult, but a sustainable arrangement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran is achievable. It is the best and perhaps only alternative to an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program, the risk of war over the issue, and potentially a nuclear-armed Iran.

Last month, negotiators from the United States, its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework for talks on a “comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”

Final Phase P5+1/Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Realistic Options on the Key Issues

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Volume 5, Issue 4, February 26, 2014

Last week, negotiators from the United States, its "P5+1" partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework and timetable to guide the talks on a "comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

The road ahead will be difficult. Many differences must be bridged, and hardliners in Washington, Tehran, and Israel will throw up obstacles along the way. However, an effective, multi-year deal can be achieved if the parties are ready to compromise and pursue realistic solutions that meet the core requirements of both sides.

A successful agreement will verifiably roll-back Iran's overall enrichment capacity, block the plutonium path to the bomb, put in place even tougher international inspections, and resolve outstanding questions about the purpose of Iran's program. It must also lead to the removal nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council, United States, and the European Union.

To reach this agreement, negotiators must resolve several tough issues in the coming months. Expert-level talks will take place in Vienna in early March and the political directors will meet again for the next round of negotiations on March 17.

Uranium Enrichment Capacity: The extent to which Iran is willing to reduce the capacity and the scope of its uranium enrichment program is key. The agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 states that the program should be "consistent with practical needs."

In other words, Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile of material should not exceed the fuel supply needs of its nuclear power and research reactor programs, which for now are close to zero but could grow in the coming years.

Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with preliminary information on the selection of sites for up to 16 new nuclear power reactors and a light water research reactor. These reactors would, if built, require a reliable supply of enriched uranium fuel from abroad or through indigenous production. However, these reactors are many years away from reality.

The United States and its P5+1 partners will point out that Iran currently has very limited or nonexistent needs for enriched uranium fuel for energy production. Today, Iran has one research reactor (the Tehran Research Reactor) that produces medical isotopes and Iran has enough material to fuel that reactor for years to come; Iran also has a light-water power reactor (Bushehr), which uses fuel supplied by Russia under a ten year arrangement that could be renewed.

In the near term, the P5+1 powers will and should push for a significant reduction in Iran's overall enrichment capacity from 10,000 operating, first generation (IR-1) centrifuges at two sites to approximately half that number or less. Even with 4,000 or fewer first generation centrifuges at one site, Iran would have more than sufficient capacity for its foreseeable "practical" nuclear power reactor fuel needs.

By rolling back Iran's enrichment capacity to such levels, limiting enrichment to reactor grade levels (up to five percent) and placing caps on Iran's enriched uranium stockpile, the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb would be extended to six months or more. Such an effort could be readily detected within days with the increased monitoring and verification measures that are likely to be imposed as part of the comprehensive deal.

If Iran tried to "break out," it would take still longer for Iran to amass enough bomb-grade material for additional weapons, assemble a nuclear device, possibly conduct a nuclear explosive test of the warhead design, and develop a reliable means of delivering the weapons. This would give the international community ample warning and time to respond to Iran's actions.

Iran is also developing new and more efficient centrifuges and will likely resist any P5+1 effort to limit its ability to develop and deploy such centrifuges. Once operational, these more advanced centrifuges, such as IR2-Ms, could enrich uranium much more efficiently.

Consequently, the two sides will likely set limits on the overall capacity of Iran's enrichment program (as measured in "separative work units (SWU)") rather than the total number of centrifuges. This would allow Iran to continue its research and development activities under strict IAEA monitoring, which it views as a necessary part of the comprehensive deal.

Some P5+1 states would also like to see Iran mothball the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which is less vulnerable to an airstrike, while Iran will resist such an outcome. The two sides might compromise by agreeing that Iran will effectively halt any significant enrichment at Fordow and convert it to a "research-only" facility for uses including testing and developing advanced centrifuges.

The Arak Reactor and the Plutonium Path to the Bomb: The P5+1 states have argued that Iran should abandon the unfinished Arak 40MW heavy water reactor, but Iran has resisted such an outcome.

Heavy water-moderated reactors are well suited to the production of plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons. Arak is some time away from completion and Iran does not have (and says it has no intention to build) a reprocessing facility that would be necessary to extract plutonium from the spent fuel. Nevertheless, the Arak reactor clearly represents a significant, long-term proliferation threat that must be addressed in the comprehensive deal.

One compromise that would effectively neutralize Arak's plutonium potential would be to convert Arak to a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor, but this option would require Iran to abandon its original heavy-water technology choice and would be strongly resisted by Iran, given its indigenous development of the reactor.

However, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iran's official English-language Press TV in an interview Feb. 5 that Iran may agree to other modifications of the Arak heavy-water reactor near Arak.

"We can do some design change--in other words, make some change in the design in order to produce less plutonium in this reactor and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns," Salehi said.

Some of those options could be to reduce the reactor from 40MW to perhaps 10MW. Another option is to use uranium fuel enriched to 3.5 percent or 20 percent (instead of natural uranium fuel) in order to reduce the reactor's output of plutonium that is suitable for weapons. While fueling the reactor with enriched uranium would increase Iran's "practical needs" for enriched uranium, the plutonium produced in the spent fuel from the Arak reactor would pose less of a concern for weapons.

An additional option would be to require that all spent fuel from the Arak reactor to be verifiably removed for disposition in a third country--possibly Russia--to prevent it from becoming a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Russia is already responsible for removing the spent fuel produced by the Bushehr reactor.

Tougher International Inspections: If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, it would most likely try to do so by means of a secret program carried out at undisclosed facilities.

Consequently, the P5+1 will also seek to persuade Iran to allow even more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program under the terms of the Additional Protocol to its existing comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. These inspections allow the IAEA to access non-declared sites without prior notification, which is a strong deterrent against any clandestine nuclear weapons work. Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the duration of the Additional Protocol would be unlimited.

The P5+1 will also seek "Additional Protocol- plus" inspection measures for an extended period of time to provide still more confidence to the international community that Iran's nuclear program is being used for entirely peaceful purposes.

Resolving Concerns About "Possible Military Dimensions:" To resolve longstanding questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted in secret in past years, Iran will also need to fully cooperate with the IAEA investigation on these experiments.

The IAEA laid out its concerns about the experiments and other concerns about the completeness of Iran's nuclear declaration in an annex to its November 2011 report to the agency's Board of Governors. Shortly after the November 2011 report, the IAEA and Iran began negotiating an approach to resolve these concerns. However, no progress was made until Iran and the IAEA agreed on a path forward to guide the agency's investigations. This breakthrough came on Nov. 11, 2013, when the IAEA and Iran agreed to a new Framework for Cooperation that committed both sides to cooperate to resolve the agency's outstanding concerns. The agreement also specified the first six steps that Iran would take over the course of the following three months.

While these steps provided the IAEA with necessary information and access to nuclear sites to verify Iran's nuclear activities, they did not include any of the contentious experiments with possible military dimensions.

The successful completion of these actions, however, is building trust and cooperation. When Iran and the IAEA agreed on the next set of steps for Tehran to take during talks on Feb. 8-9, Iran and the agency finally began to address the concerns about activities with possible military dimensions. One of the seven new steps that Iran agreed to take will require it to provide information on exploding bridge wire detonators to the IAEA. Exploding bridge wire detonators can be used to trigger nuclear weapons, but they also can be used for conventional explosives and civilian applications.

While other experiments with possible military dimensions must be addressed and soon, progress on the bridge wire detonators issue would be an important first step toward resolving these issues.

In the coming months, the IAEA and the P5+1 will insist that Iran provide all the information and cooperation that will be necessary to enable the IAEA to determine with confidence that whether such activities occurred or not and whether they were intended for a weapons program or not, and that no such weapons-related work continues.

While implementation of the Iran/IAEA framework has gone smoothly thus far, it is very likely that the investigation will continue for some time beyond the six-months to a year timeframe for the negotiation of the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement.

In addition, it is possible that the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement will specify that Iran will not henceforth conduct certain research and development activities with nuclear-weaponization applications, such as those identified in the annex of the IAEA's November 2011 report.

Sanctions Relief: To secure a "final phase" agreement, the P5+1 will need to phase-out the tough multilateral nuclear sanctions regime now in place, including the international oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy. Iran will likely insist that with each of the successive steps that it undertakes as part of a comprehensive agreement, there will be commensurate actions to suspend and then lift sanctions.

This step-for-step approach will require a new UN Security Council Resolution on Iran's nuclear program and positive, follow-up actions by the European Union states and approval by Congress of revised legislation that unwinds U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that impact other nations' dealing with Iran.

Negotiating an agreement along these lines will be difficult and implementing it will be very challenging, but a sustainable arrangement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran is achievable.

Myths and Misperceptions

Some policy makers and observers will likely continue to push for outcomes that are not realistic or necessary to stop Iran short of building nuclear weapons. For instance, some critics of the current diplomatic negotiations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argue that the only "acceptable" outcome is one that requires Iran agree to the permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and the dismantlement of the Natanz, Fordow, and Arak facilities.

According to the U.S. intelligence community Iran has had, at least since 2007, the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so. That capacity can be reduced but not entirely eliminated, even it Iran were required to dismantle its uranium enrichment machines and facilities.

A "zero-enrichment" outcome would be ideal from a nonproliferation perspective and may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges.

But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran, and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.

Others argue that allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium is counter to the U.S. policy position that does not recognize the right to enrich as part of the NPT, especially if states have engaged in illicit nuclear-weapons related research. However, Iran believes it has a right to pursue as a member of the NPT, which refers to the "inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy...."

The two sides did not agree on the nature of Iran's nuclear energy "rights" in their Nov. 24 first phase agreement, but the P5+1 recognized that Iran already has a nuclear enrichment program and would insist on retaining some enrichment capacity. As such, as part of the broad parameters of the final deal, the parties agreed to negotiate practical limits on the scope of the enrichment program and additional safeguards on ongoing Iranian enrichment activities at its Natanz and Fordow facilities, in order to reduce Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities.

Another misperception is that the UN Security Council's earlier demands for Iran to "suspend" uranium enrichment require that a final phase agreement must end all Iranian enrichment activity.

In reality, the purpose of the demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions is to prevent Iran from accumulating more LEU until it restores confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program--not to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. (See: "What the UN Security Council Resolutions Say (and Don't Say) About Iran's Nuclear Program," Dec. 4, 2013.)

The Nov. 24 agreement effectively accomplishes that goal by capping the total amount of 3.5 percent material and it goes further by requiring Iran to neutralize its 20 percent stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20 percent levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

Bottom Line: A "Win-Win" Deal to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran

To guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and avoid a future confrontation over its nuclear program, the P5+1 and Iran should promptly implement the first-phase agreement and expeditiously negotiate a long-term final-phase agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals that meets their core requirements and respects the bottom-line needs of the other side.

A "win" for the P5+1 countries is a comprehensive agreement that: 1) establishes verifiable limits on Iran's program that, taken together, substantially increase the time it would take for Iran to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and build nuclear weapons; 2) increases the ability to promptly detect and effectively respond to a breakout; and 3) decrease Iran's incentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.

A "win" for Iran's President Hassan Rouhani would be to: 1) preserve key elements of its nuclear program (including some uranium enrichment and R & D); 2) protect Iran's "right" under the NPT to a peaceful nuclear program; and 3) remove international, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

If either side pushes unrealistic requirements on the other side, the chances for a negotiated resolution will decrease and the chances of a conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran will increase.

Any resort to military force against Iran's nuclear sites would, at best, only delay Iran's nuclear program and at worst, would lead to a wider conflict and very likely prompt Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons.

A final phase agreement will require hard compromises on the part of both sides, but it is the far more preferable and effective way to resolve the long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.--Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport

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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: 

Last week, negotiators from the United States, its "P5+1" partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework and timetable to guide the talks on a "comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

Country Resources:

Nuclear Disarmament and Human Survival

Daryl G. Kimball

Since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons have motivated ordinary citizens to push their leaders to pursue arms control and disarmament measures to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use.

For decades, it has been well understood that the direct effects of a large-scale nuclear conflict could result in several hundred million human fatalities, while the indirect effects would be far greater, leading to the loss of billions of lives.

Since the end of the Cold War, the threat of a U.S.-Russian conflict has decreased, but the risk of a nuclear war in other regions has grown. Recent studies find that a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan involving 100 detonations of 15-kiloton bombs would kill 20 million in the first week and reduce global temperatures by 1.3 degrees Celsius, thereby putting another 1 to 2 billion people at risk for famine.

Clearly, the use of nuclear weapons would result in humanitarian emergencies far beyond the immediate target zones of the warring parties and would violate the basic principles of international humanitarian law, including avoidance of attacks that could affect civilians indiscriminately.

Nevertheless, the world’s nine nuclear-armed nations still threaten to use their massive nuclear arsenals in the name of deterrence, and many continue to build up their nuclear war-fighting capabilities.

Appropriately enough, the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference final document expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and the need for all States…to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”

The NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.” In keeping with the NPT document’s action plan, Norway hosted a conference last March in Oslo on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. Mexico will host a follow-up conference in February. In April, 80 countries declared that “[i]t is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” In October, 125 states endorsed a similar statement.

Unfortunately, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states boycotted the Oslo conference, and several have criticized the April statement as a “distraction.” The arrogant and hostile response, particularly from France and Russia, has only deepened the frustration of the non-nuclear-weapon states.

Rather than dismiss the Mexico conference, the nuclear-weapon states should participate in and support future statements warning of the consequences of nuclear weapons use. Leading non-nuclear-weapon states also must come together around proposals that more effectively challenge dangerous nuclear doctrines.

The call from some states to negotiate a convention banning the possession of nuclear weapons in the moribund Conference on Disarmament (CD) is a recipe for inaction. Even if non-nuclear-weapon states were to adopt such a convention outside the CD, it would have little value without the support and participation of the NPT nuclear-armed states, which oppose such an effort.

A more promising way to meet the NPT action plan goal of assuring non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be to develop a legally binding instrument banning the use of nuclear weapons. This is the approach taken with respect to chemical and biological weapons through the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

Discussions on a ban on the use of nuclear weapons could begin in a new, dedicated diplomatic forum. Even if the nuclear-weapon states do not initially join in the negotiation or sign the instrument, the process itself and the final product would further delegitimize nuclear weapons, strengthen the legal norm against their use, and put pressure on nuclear-armed states to revise their nuclear doctrines.

Another approach would be to press each of the nuclear-armed states to explain the effects of its nuclear war plans at the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Each should be required to explain how the use of such weapons would be consistent with the law of armed conflict and other aspects of international human rights and humanitarian law.

With action on key disarmament initiatives at a near standstill, initiatives designed to jump-start progress are in order. For example, the United States could accelerate implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and Washington and Moscow could agree to reduce their stockpiles well below treaty-mandated ceilings. At the same time, other nuclear-armed states could pledge not to increase the overall size of their nuclear stockpiles, so long as U.S. and Russian leaders continue to slash theirs.

As President Barack Obama said last September, “The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere.” That certainly holds true for nuclear weapons as well. It is vital that global leaders welcome and pursue new, creative approaches to disarmament in order to guard against nuclear catastrophe.

Since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons have motivated ordinary citizens to push their leaders to pursue arms control and disarmament measures to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use.

Congress Should Not Sabotage Iran Nuclear Deal with Additional Sanctions

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Volume 5, Issue 1, January 8, 2014

The "Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act" (S. 1881), introduced in the Senate on December 19 by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirk (R-Ill.), threatens to derail the breakthrough agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in Geneva on November 24 that will pause Iran's most worrisome nuclear activities in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief.

Contrary to the claim of the bill's authors, the proposed legislation would violate the terms of the first-phase deal that the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners committed to in the November 24 Joint Plan of Action. In addition, the bill would place new and unrealistic restrictions on the comprehensive solution that the parties will soon begin negotiating. Efforts by the U.S. Congress to move the goalposts for the final phase negotiations beyond the parameters already established by the P5+1 would undermine prospects for a final phase agreement that limits Iran's uranium enrichment capacity and other sensitive nuclear fuel cycle projects.

The November 24, first-phase agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is an important opportunity to limit and roll back key areas of Iran's nuclear program. It provides more stringent monitoring and verification mechanisms that will help guard against the pursuit of a secret bomb program. Rather than sabotaging this deal before it is implemented and undermining the prospects for a more far-reaching final phase deal, U.S. policymakers must give Tehran a chance to demonstrate its willingness to curb its nuclear activities and follow through on the actions it is required to take.

S. 1881 Contradicts the Geneva Agreement
In the November 24 agreement, the United States committed to "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions."

S. 1881, if approved, would directly violate this commitment. This bill would impose further sanctions on Iran in several areas - including greater restrictions on oil imports and expanding business and financial sanctions on Iran's mining and construction sectors.

Nevertheless, the authors of the bill, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Kirk (R-Ill.), argue that their proposal for additional sanctions is not a violation of the agreement because the bill gives the U.S. president authority to temporarily waive the sanctions if Tehran meets the terms of the November 24 agreement.

This reasoning is illogical and incorrect for two reasons. First, this bill would impose new sanctions and, while the measures may not be enforced, they will become law. Iran made clear that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a December 7 interview with Time magazine that the "deal is dead" if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the six month time frame of the first-phase agreement.

Additionally, the conditions that must be met for the president to waive the sanctions exceed the terms of the Joint Plan of Action - specifically the bill requires Iran to adhere to limits on ballistic missile testing and the prohibition of financing for terrorist groups acting against the United States. Neither of these areas were addressed in the November 24 agreement. Requiring Iran to adhere to further stipulations in order to avoid further sanctions is a violation of this agreement.

Sen. Menendez argues that the additional sanctions should be approved now because "If we wait until we determine whether or not a negotiation succeeds, and if it fails, and then try to move" there may not be enough time before Iran can produce enough fissile material for nuclear weapons.  

If Iran violates the November 24 agreement or talks fail to produce a comprehensive agreement, Congress can quickly pass new sanctions--within days--and the administration says it would fully support further sanctions measures under such circumstances.

However, no member of Congress, including Sen. Menendez, should be under the illusion that further sanctions can or will stop Iran from advancing its sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities if the current round of talks fail. Only a serious, verifiable diplomatic agreement that significantly limits its enrichment capacity and increases international inspection authority to verify compliance and deter possible cheating will be effective in the long-run.

S. 1881 Threatens International Unity
The sanctions imposed on Iran played a role in motivating Tehran's leadership to reach the first-phase deal agreed to in Geneva on November 24. This success, however, was due to solid international support for unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Moving forward on this bill threatens to erode support for existing sanctions amongst Washington's five other negotiating partners that could fracture sanctions enforcement.

Enforcement of the core sanctions regime that remains in place, including U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil and banking industries will be integral in motivating Iran to reach a comprehensive agreement. If international support for enforcing these sanctions falters because the U.S. is viewed as not holding up its end of the November 24 agreement, one of the key factors pushing Iran to agree to a deal that seriously limits its nuclear potential will have been removed.

S. 1881, by imposing additional sanctions would risk alienating states, such as China, that have cooperated with the existing sanctions regime. Why? If passed into law, S. 1881 would require countries still importing oil from Iran, such as China, to reduce their imports by 30 percent within the first year and to near zero within two years. This places an unrealistic burden on the countries that still import oil on Iran and places the United States in the position of having to sanction banks from these countries in the future, if the oil import cuts are not met.

This legislation also sends the signal to Iran and the international community that the United States cannot deliver its end of the agreement. It stands in stark contrast with the December 16 meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, during which they agreed to support the November 24 agreement and refrain from passing further sanctions during the course of its implementation.

Following the meeting of the foreign ministers, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, leader of the P5+1 negotiating team, also encouraged all parties to "refrain from actions that could delay" implementation of the November 24 agreement. Moving forward on S. 1881 will certainly delay the agreement.

S. 1881 Would Set Unrealistic Demands on A Final Agreement
The Menendez-Kirk bill also sets out unrealistic demands for the comprehensive deal that Iran will not accept and contradict the broad parameters of the agreement laid out in the November 24 deal.

According to the November 24 Joint Plan of Action, the comprehensive, final phase agreement will include a "mutually defined enrichment program" for Iran. However, S. 1881 seeks to impose a different outcome by allowing the suspension of sanctions only if Iran agrees to zero-enrichment and complete dismantlement of its "illicit nuclear infrastructure," which presumably would include Iran's uranium enrichment facilities and the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak.

Such an outcome may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges. But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran-and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran if appropriate limits and monitoring mechanisms are put in place.

S. 1881 also stipulates that the President may only waive sanctions if Iran complies with all earlier and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Some of the bill's cosponsors have erroneously interpreted the UNSC resolutions to mean that Iran must permanently "suspend" all uranium enrichment activities.

In reality, the UNSC demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran is meant to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program during the course of negotiations on a permanent solution. It is not a demand to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. The November 24 first phase agreement effectively accomplishes the suspension goal of the UNSC by capping the total amount of 3.5% material and it goes further by requiring Iran to convert its 20% stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20% levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

An additional goal established by the P5+1 and Iran in the November 24 Joint Plan of Action for the final phase agreement is the lifting of all U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. S. 1881 would seek to keep the nuclear-related sanctions in place and only allow the U.S. President to waive implementation on a yearly basis if the president certifies that Iran is complying with the comprehensive agreement. This could be interpreted as a violation of the agreement, which calls for a "comprehensive lift" of the sanctions, not merely a series of temporary waivers.

S. 1881 would also try to impose a fixed time frame for the final phase negotiations. According to the legislation, the P5+1 would only have one year to reach a final deal before the sanctions laid out in the bill would be imposed. The bill limits the presidential waiver period to 180 days, plus four 30-day extensions.  Given the complexity of these negotiations, there is a good chance that the first-phase deal could be extended for and a second, or third, 6-month time period while negotiations on a comprehensive agreement continue.

S. 1881 Gives Iranian Hardliners Ammunition
From a negotiating perspective, moving forward on this bill will also give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that President Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal.

Already in the Iranian Parliament, a law was drafted in December that will require Iran to increase its uranium enrichment to 60 percent. As of January 4, over 200 members of parliament signed on in support of the legislation. One member said that this is in retaliation to "America's hostile act" of moving forward on further sanctions.   

Iran currently has no need for uranium enriched to this level, which is still below the 90 percent enrichment required for nuclear weapons. However, several members of parliament said that increased enrichment levels could be used to power Iranian ships in the future, which is permitted under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Uranium enriched to 60 percent would also allow Iran to move more quickly to weapons-grade enrichment levels, if Tehran chose to do so.

Bottom Line
Moving forward on further, U.S. imposed Iran sanctions at this time will sabotage the important progress made in Geneva to limit Iran's nuclear activities and improve IAEA scrutiny of its program. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a December19 press briefing that moving forward on additional sanctions at this time would "proactively undermine American diplomacy."

As European High Representative Catherine Ashton, the lead P5+1 negotiator, said on Dec. 16, "It is a very sensitive diplomatic process." She added, "it is important that we refrain from actions that could delay the process. And as you already know, the E3 +3 have made a commitment to refrain from additional sanctions for the implementation period."

Though the cosponsors of S. 1881 may have good intentions, their bill threatens the diplomatic opportunity to rein-in Iran's nuclear capabilities, it would contradict the commitments made by the United States--to both Iran and our P5+1 negotiating partners--to refrain from approving further sanctions legislation, and, most significantly, could push Iran to pull out of the deal and allow it to continue advancing its nuclear program without restrictions.

New, additional sanctions are clearly unnecessary. The existing, core sanctions regime provides more than sufficient leverage on Iran to take further concrete measures to restrain its nuclear potential and improve transparency measure necessary to guard against a secret nuclear weapons effort in the future.

The Senate need not and should not move forward with new sanctions legislation, such as S. 1881, at this time and should support--not blow up--the promising P5+1 diplomatic process to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.--KELSEY DAVENPORT 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. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

Description: 

The "Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act" (S. 1881), introduced in the Senate on December 19 by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirk (R-Ill.), threatens to derail the breakthrough agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in Geneva on November 24 that will pause Iran's most worrisome nuclear activities in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief.

Country Resources:

Updating Nonproliferation Criteria for U.S. Nuclear Trade

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By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director Arms Control Association
Prepared Comments for Nonproliferation Policy Education Center Forum Dec. 11, 2013
Washington, D.C.

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, efforts to exploit nuclear technology for energy and for profit have complicated the task of reducing the nuclear weapons threat.

The United States and other possessors of enrichment and reprocessing technology have appropriately sought to deny the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies—particularly enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used to make nuclear bomb material—to states that do not already possess the technology through the terms of our nuclear cooperation agreements, which are based on the requirements in the 1978 Amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.

In addition, the new and important NSG rule adopted in June 2011—that bars enrichment and reprocessing technology transfers to states without comprehensive safeguards agreements, have not joined the NPT, do not have an additional protocol in force, or to states in proliferation sensitive regions—makes it highly unlikely that other nuclear suppliers can even offer to transfer enrichment or reprocessing technology or equipment to these states.

This week, the Obama administration is expected to roll out its revised policy regarding civil nuclear cooperation agreements. It expected that the policy will continue to encourage higher standards in U.S. nuclear cooperation partner countries but will not require that every U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement is exactly the same.

Some members of Congress, including Sen. Corker (R-Tenn.), have complained that the Obama administration’s revised policy on nuclear cooperation agreements is “inconsistent” because it does not require that all states foreswear enrichment and reprocessing.

It is important that the United States use every tool it has to prevent the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology, but requiring that states foreswear enrichment and reprocessing as a condition for a U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement is not practical in every case.

If Congress wants a greater degree of consistency and higher nonproliferation standards, it can strengthen the leverage of the executive branch by legislating higher standards that should be sought in nuclear cooperation agreements with the United States and if those standards are not all achieved, Congress should revise the process by which such agreements should be considered for approval or disapproval by the Congress.

In other words, it is time for Congress to revisit, update, and strengthen the Atomic Energy Act standards and procedures for peaceful nuclear cooperation agreements.

H.R. 1280, authored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Howard Berman, Brad Sherman and others, and introduced in 2011 offers a framework useful to build on.

H.R. 1280 would not require that states adopt the so-called “Gold Standard:” the renunciation of their option to pursue enrichment or reprocessing before the United States enters into a nuclear cooperation agreement or renews an existing agreement—which some refuse to do because they claim it is their right under the NPT.

Instead the bill would add several new requirements to the nine key requirements already in Section 123 of the AEA[i] that, if met, would “fast track” that country’s nuclear cooperation agreement for approval.

Agreements with states that cannot meet the higher set of standards would be subject to a more rigorous process requiring affirmative Congressional approval.

Among the most important new requirements for “fast track” approval that would be added are:

  • the application of the IAEA Additional Protocol. Dozens of states have not yet approved an additional protocol, including Algeria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, whose ambassador to Washington recently threatened that his country would build nuclear weapons if Iran does; and
  • a pledge not to acquire enrichment or reprocessing capabilities/facilities.

I would also suggest that the bill should be strengthened by:

  • clarifying that the recipient state must allow for the application of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) under the terms of the most up-to-date IAEA revisions, which today are known as code 3.1.
  • requiring termination of U.S. nuclear cooperation in the event the recipient state conducts a nuclear test explosion, is found to be in violation of its IAEA safeguards obligations, or acquires enrichment or reprocessing equipment from sources other than the United States.

A modified version of H.R. 1280 is a very reasonable and common sense approach that would simply put into U.S. law the standards that all nuclear supplier states have already agreed are essential to preventing future proliferation.

The Case of Iran

Would adopting tougher standards for U.S. nuclear cooperation have helped prevent Iran from acquiring enrichment technology? Probably not, because we are not engaged and will not in the future become engaged in formal nuclear cooperation with Iran.

And because Iran acquired its enrichment technology on the black market via Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, tougher global standards would likely not have been able to head off the transfer of the technology to Iran.

The best way to limit Iran’s fissile material production capacity is to implement the Nov. 24 P5+1/Iran agreement to pause it nuclear program and negotiation a final-phase deal that significantly reduces its enrichment capacity and bars any reprocessing capability.

If we are to succeed in limiting the number of states capable of producing nuclear bomb material in the future, the executive branch and the Congress can and should work together to update the terms for civil nuclear agreements as outlined in the Atomic Energy Act.

ENDNOTE

[i] Section 123(a) lists nine criteria that an agreement must meet unless the President determines an exemption is necessary. These include guarantees that:

  • Safeguards on transferred nuclear material and equipment continue in perpetuity;
  • Full-scope IAEA safeguards are applied in non-nuclear weapon states;
  • Nothing transferred is used for any nuclear explosive device or for any other military purpose, except in the case of cooperation agreements with nuclear weapon states, in which the United States has the right to demand the return of transferred nuclear materials and equipment, as well as any special nuclear material produced through their use, if the cooperating state detonates a nuclear explosive device, or terminates or abrogates its IAEA safeguards agreement;
  • There is no retransfer of material or classified data without U.S. consent;
  • Physical security on nuclear material is maintained;
  • There is no enrichment or reprocessing by the recipient state of transferred nuclear material or nuclear material produced with materials or facilities transferred pursuant to the agreement without prior approval;
  • Storage for transferred plutonium and highly enriched uranium is approved in advance by the United States; and
  • Any material or facility produced or constructed through use of special nuclear technology transferred under the cooperation agreement is subject to all of the above requirements.
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Prepared remarks by Daryl G. Kimball for the Dec. 11, 2013 Nonproliferation Policy Education Center Forum that took place in Washington, D.C..

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Subject Resources:

Is Iran borrowing North Korea's nuclear playbook?

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Agence France-Presse
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November 28, 2013 -05:00

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