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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio,
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Greg Thielmann

The Iran Nuclear NIE of 2007: Revise, Reject, or Reiterate?

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Volume 1, Number 18

Comments by senior U.S. officials in 2010 have continued to endorse the principal conclusions of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities." This may come as a surprise for those accustomed to seeing that earlier document described by pundits and journalists as "flawed," or "erroneous." In fact, from the moment the NIE's sanitized Key Judgments were released in late November 2007, the estimate has been subject to virulent criticism, particularly by those who regret that it did not provide justification for a preventive attack on Iran's nuclear program.

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Volume 1, Number 18, August 12, 2010

Comments by senior U.S. officials in 2010 have continued to endorse the principal conclusions of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities." This may come as a surprise for those accustomed to seeing that earlier document described by pundits and journalists as "flawed," or "erroneous." In fact, from the moment the NIE's sanitized Key Judgments were released in late November 2007, the estimate has been subject to virulent criticism, particularly by those who regret that it did not provide justification for a preventive attack on Iran's nuclear program.

Many critics have impugned the motives of its authors. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has called the NIE "deceptive."1 Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Ranking Minority Member (and former Chairman) of the House Intelligence Committee has called it "a piece of trash."2 There is some considerable irony in hearing such criticism from those intimately familiar with the inner workings of the intelligence community, who seemed to have sleep-walked through the serious professional lapses of the 2002 NIE on Iraq WMD.

It is time to take another close look at the claims made by the Iran Nuclear NIE in light of the critical choices now confronting policy makers.

The most important conclusions from the fall of 2007 still obtain:

  • Iran had been working steadily on the facilities and expertise for enriching uranium, which would eventually allow it to make fissile material for a bomb, if it chose.  (Making fissile material is generally considered the most technically demanding and time consuming hurdle to developing a nuclear weapons capability.)
  • For many years, Iran had had a government-directed and clandestine nuclear weapons program (defined as: "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work"), but Tehran halted it in the fall of 2003 and the halt lasted at least several years.
  • The estimate indicated that the Department of Energy and the National Intelligence Council were less certain that the halt to these activities represented a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.
  • Iran still faces significant technical problems operating its uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz, but would probably be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.
  • Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so. Only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

There has been no retreat from the key historical judgment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and no advance to a conclusion that Iran had decided to develop nuclear weapons. According to open source information, foreign intelligence services have suggested that some level of nuclear weapons program activity has been underway since 2003. (See, for example, Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, June 28, 2010). It is reasonable to conclude that Iran wants at least to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons.

Yet Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, Jr., Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in early 2010 that: "The bottom line assessments of the NIE still hold true. We have not seen indication that the (Iranian) government has made the decision to move ahead with the program."3 The State Department's July 2010 Compliance Report stated flatly that: "Iran had a comprehensive nuclear weapons development program that was ordered halted in fall 2003."4

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reached a similar conclusion in his Annual 2010 Threat Assessment: "We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that bring it closer to being able to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."5

If a decision is made to manufacture and deploy nuclear weapons, CIA Director Leon Panetta claims that it would probably take a year for Iran to enrich sufficient uranium from its current stockpile of LEU (following the expulsion of IAEA inspectors) "and another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable."6

It would appear then that the long-anticipated "Memorandum to Holders," which is expected to update the 2007 NIE, is likely to revise it rather than revoke it by acknowledging that some kind of ongoing research on nuclear weapons is occurring, without questioning the validity of the 2003 halt that was detected or concluding that Iran has definitively decided to build a bomb. Iran's secret construction of a uranium enrichment facility near Qom, exposed and effectively neutralized in September 2009, deepened suspicions that Iran was interested in developing at least a breakout capability for clandestinely producing fissile material for weapons, independent of its existing LEU stockpiles, which are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, if there were shocking discoveries of unambiguous nuclear weapons intent in the revelations of defectors like Asgari and Amiri, one would have expected to see an alteration in the phraseology used by senior U.S. intelligence officials to describe Iran's nuclear program. This has not happened.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has decided to withhold from the American people even the bottom line judgment of the next estimate on this critical issue for U.S. security policy. This means that we will have to do our best to divine what our government thinks it knows and when it is making an educated guess. This also means that the public and the press will continue to be vulnerable to careless or deliberate misinterpretations of estimates by pundits with an axe to grind. - GREG THIELMANN

FOOTNOTES:

1-R. James Woosley, "Too Much Mr. Nice Guy," New York Times, May 6, 2010,
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/opinion/07iht-edwoolsey.html.
2-Eli Lake, "Review: Iran never halted nuke work in '03," Washington Times, January 19,
2010,
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/19/review-says-iran-never-halted-nuke-work-in-2003/.
3-Gary Thomas, "US Defense Spy Chief: Iran Undecided on Nuclear Bomb," VOANews.com,
January 12, 2010,
http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/US-Defense-Spy-Chief-Iran-Undecided-on-Nuclear-Bomb-81256887.html.
4-State Department, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation,
and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," July 2010, p. 66.
5-Dennis C. Blair, "Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence," February 2, 2010,
http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20100202_testimony.pdf.
6-Leon Panetta, Interview with Jake Tapper on ABC News: This Week, June 27, 2010.

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Prompt New START Ratification Essential to Reducing Nuclear Threat

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Volume 1, Number 14

The signing of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia in April was an important step toward reducing the dangers posed by Cold War-era nuclear weapons, but the potential benefits to U.S. security can only be realized if the treaty is ratified.

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Volume 1, Number 14, July 30, 2010

The signing of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia in April was an important step toward reducing the dangers posed by Cold War-era nuclear weapons, but the potential benefits to U.S. security can only be realized if the treaty is ratified. Until it is ratified, our focus on the most lethal potential threat to our nation will become increasingly blurred.

Consideration of New START by the U.S. Senate and Russia's Duma are well under way, but we are now in a race against the clock to get the job done. Ever since the original START expired in December of last year, the United States has been losing ground in understanding Russian strategic forces through the window of that treaty's comprehensive verification regime. In order to regain access to such vital information and to further reduce the huge nuclear arsenal left over from the Cold War, New START must be ratified.

The U.S. Constitution requires that two-thirds of the Senate concur in treaties made by the executive branch. Always daunting, this requirement is especially so in light of the highly partisan climate currently afflicting the Congress. The Foreign Relations Committee has the lead in providing Senate "advice and consent." Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Ranking Minority Member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) have presided over a series of thorough and balanced hearings on all aspects of the treaty. A long list of current and former senior security officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have delivered testimony in support of ratification of the agreement, including President George H.W. Bush's Secretary of State James Baker and George W. Bush's National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, as well as former Defense and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger.

New START has bipartisan support because the treaty would keep Washington and Moscow on track to reduce their bloated Cold War nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent below current limits, continuing negotiated reductions launched in 1991 under START. New START would still leave a powerful and flexible U.S. nuclear force, more than enough to deter the extremely unlikely possibility of a nuclear attack by Russia or any other nation. Under New START, neither Russia nor the United States would deploy more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads - hundreds below Russia's current level.

New START would also enhance U.S. and global security by re-establishing a robust system for verifying each side's warhead and missile deployments. Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Forces commander, explained in Senate testimony June 16 that: "Without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities, and our force modernization planning and hedging strategy would be more complex and more costly."

In a July 14 letter to senators, seven former U.S. military commanders of U.S. Strategic Command or its predecessor, Strategic Air Command, wrote that they "strongly endorse [New START's] early ratification and entry into force" and that "we will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it."

These hard-headed military assessments are very much in accord with my own conclusions from analyzing Russian strategic forces in the State Department's intelligence bureau and monitoring U.S. intelligence capabilities as a senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee. For following Russian nuclear forces, there is no substitute for the information acquired through implementation of strategic arms control treaty verification provisions.

Moreover, approval of New START will maintain the momentum behind U.S.-Russian cooperative programs to secure nuclear weapons-usable material and open the way for reductions of Russia's arsenal of smaller, more portable battlefield nuclear bombs, which are the most vulnerable to theft or loss to terrorist organizations.

The Senate should complete its careful examination of the treaty before coming to judgment, but it should not succumb to delaying tactics motivated by partisan politics. The benefits of New START for U.S. national security are too important. - GREG THIELMANN

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The UN Sanctions' Impact on Iran's Military

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Volume 1, Number 7

One of the most significant aspects of the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran has received the least attention - the ban on major weapons deliveries. Yet the weapons embargo is likely to have the most consequential impact of all on Iran's national power and prestige by promising to significantly reduce Iran's military capability in the months and years ahead.

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 7, June 11, 2010

Note chart below on Russian and Chinese Equipment Subject to U.N. Sanctions

One of the most significant aspects of the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran has received the least attention - the ban on major weapons deliveries. Yet the weapons embargo is likely to have the most consequential impact of all on Iran's national power and prestige by promising to significantly reduce Iran's military capability in the months and years ahead.

Some initial media coverage of the P-5 agreement to sanction Iran did not even mention the resolution's embargo on the transfers of heavy weapons, their spare parts, and related training and maintenance assistance.[1] The overall verdict of pundits and press commentators on the June 9 sanctions resolution has been largely negative, with most of the public discussion focused on efforts by Russia and China to "water down" provisions favored by the United States[2] and the ultimate absence of stringent measures to target Iran's energy sector.

Yet the Russians and Chinese, along with ten other members of the UN Security Council, voted to subject Iran, for the first time, to an embargo on creating and maintaining the most import sinews of military strength. UN Security Council Resolution 1929 directs all states to "...prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Iran...of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems... or related materiel" and "shall prevent the provision to Iran...of technical training, financial resources or services, advice, other services or assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms and related materiel..."[3]

This prohibition affects not only the ballistic missiles, which are the presumed delivery vehicle for any future Iranian nuclear weapons, but also the submarines, aircraft and anti-ship missiles, which pose the most significant threats to the safe operation of shipping through the Persian Gulf. The embargo on tanks, artillery, and armored combat vehicles also affects directly the strike elements of any Iranian forces posing an invasion threat to Iran's neighbors.

History Lessons
History provides a dramatic illustration of the potential impact on Iran of a weapons embargo. During the reign of the Shah, Iran's military was largely equipped with U.S. and British weapon systems. With the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, this relationship came to an abrupt end and the Iranian military - including the second most powerful air force in the Middle East - began rapidly to atrophy. However, in those days, the Soviet Union and China were willing to step into the breach, essentially re-equipping the military forces of the Islamic Republic.[4]

After providing significant numbers of fighter aircraft, armor, artillery, and three modern diesel submarines, Russian transfers have tapered off in recent years. Russia was active through most of the past decade in selling air defense systems and in 1998 had licensed Iranian construction of 2,000 anti-tank missiles over a ten-year period. The last direct transfer of equipment from Russia to Iran was the 2006-2007 delivery of 750 SA-15 Gauntlet short-medium range surface-air missiles and 29 more advanced SA-15s (Tor-M1s). Russia's 2007 deal to supply the sophisticated and longer-range S-300 air defense system has not been carried out. Although exclusion of this system from mandatory sanctions has been described by critics of Resolution 1929 as a "loophole," that resolution also "calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint over ...all other arms" as well.[5] There are strong indications that, accordingly, Moscow's freeze on the S-300 transaction will continue.[6]

China was also an important supplier of tanks and artillery to Iran during the 8-year Iraq-Iran War and, in the last two decades, has been the source of ten missile-firing fast attack boats and 565 C801/802 anti-ship cruise missiles, which the U.S. Department of Defense describes as "an important layer in Iran's defense of or denial of access to the (Persian) Gulf and Strait of Hormuz."[7] Indeed, Iran's potential to interfere with crucial oil shipments through the Persian Gulf is of more acute concern to the international community today than any threat of an Iranian invasion.

Iran needs Russian and Chinese Military Assistance
Today, Tehran remains principally dependent on Russia and China for manufacturing and maintaining the most sophisticated core of Iran's arsenal for offensive military operations. It is all the more significant then, that in the latest round of negotiations on UN Security Council sanctions, Russia and China agreed to a total cutoff of these  weapons for Iran - including spare parts and technical training.

Iran has been creative and energetic in mitigating the impact of past supply chain cut-offs on its front line weapons systems through black market acquisitions and shifting to the use of asymmetrical tactics. With its oil wealth, it can offer large incentives for countries and individuals to circumvent sanctions. Therefore, it will not only be important for states to abide by the arms embargo, but to also use the resolution's own enforcement mechanisms to inspect and seize shipments suspected to be in violation of the embargo.

UN blockage of Iran's traditional sources of weapons will be politically and economically costly for Tehran. Finding a substitute for its principal suppliers will not be easy. It will be forced to adopt compensatory measures requiring more time and more money, and probably to less effect. To be rebuffed in this way by the two countries on which Iran has relied for protection on the UN Security Council is a political as well as a military blow to the regime, raising domestic questions about the government's competence in managing foreign affairs.

Wider Impact
Two of the world's most pressing proliferation challenges, Iran and North Korea, are now subjected to nearly comprehensive arms embargoes and a variety of other restrictions in response to their behavior. These actions by the UN Security Council help to send a message to potential future proliferators that they can expect a similar response, and would need to weigh a risky nuclear weapons program with the degradation of their overall military capabilities. - GREG THIELMANN, with MATTHEW SUGRUE

1 See, for example: David E. Sanger and Mark Landler, "Major Powers Have Deal on Sanctions for Iran," New York Times, May 18, 2010.
2 See, for example: Christopher R. Wall, "Weak Tea; The U.N. sanctions against Iran have been watered down to almost nothing." June 8, 2010
3 UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (S/2010/283), paragraph 8
4 North Korea also played a role in providing ballistic missile help during the last two decades, but Iran's indigenous ballistic missile technology is now generally superior to what North Korea has to offer.
5 UNSC 1929, paragraph 8
6 See, for example: Anna Malpas, "Russia moves to scrap Iran missile sale," AFP, June 11, 2010
7 "Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran," Department of Defense, April 2010

Selected Russian and Chinese Equipment Subject to U.N. Sanctions (June 2010)[i]

Russia Russia flag

Designation

Description

Amount[ii]

Year(s) Delivered[iii]

Navy

Type-877E/Kilo

Submarine

3

1992-1993; 1996

Aircraft

MiG-29/Fulcrum-A

Fighter Aircraft

~34

1990; 1991

Su-24MK/Fencer-D

Bomber Aircraft

~12

1991

Mi-8/Mi-17/Hip-H

Helicopter

~47

2000; 2000-2001; 2002-2003

Su-25/Frogfoot-A

Ground Attack Aircraft

6

2006

Ground Forces

BMP-1

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

~400

1986-1989

BMP-2

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

~413

1993-2001

T-72M1

Tank

~422

1993-2001

D-30 122mm

Towed Gun

~100

1998-2002

BTR-60PB

Armored Personnel Carrier

~200

1986-1987

Missiles

R-27/AA-10 Alamo

Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile

~150

1990-1991

China Russia flag

Designation

Description

Amount

Year(s) Delivered

Navy

Hudong

Fast Attack Craft (Missile)

10

1994-1996

Aircraft

F-6

Fighter Aircraft

~16

1982-1984

F-7A

Fighter Aircraft

~5

1986

F-7M Airguard

Fighter Aircraft

30

1993; 1996

Ground Forces

Type-59-1 130mm

Towed Gun

~626

1982-1984; 1985-1986; 1987; 1992

Type-63 107mm

Multiple Rocket Launcher

~550

1981-1987; 1986-1990

WZ-120/Type-59

Tank

~300

1982-1984

D-74 122mm

Towed Gun

~100

1985-1986

HY-2 CDS

Coastal Defense System

~7

1986-1987

WZ-121/Type-69

Tank

~500

1986-1988

WA-021/Type-88 155mm

Towed Gun

~15

1991

CSS-8 TEL

Surface-to-Surface Missile Launcher

~30

1990-1994

WZ-501/Type-86

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

~90

2001-2009

Missiles

C-801/CSS-N-4/Sardine

Anti-ship Missile

~245

1987; 1995-1998; 2006-2009

HY-2/SY-1A/CSS-N-2

Anti-ship Missile

~150

1986-1987; 1988-1994

M-7/CSS-8

Surface-to-Surface Missile

~200

1990-1994

C-802/CSS-N-8

Anti-ship Missile

~320

1994-2009

Fl-6

Anti-ship Missile

~205

1999-2009

TL-6/C-704

Anti-ship Missile

~10

2005


i System designations, types, amounts and years derived from SIPRI arms transfer database, http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/page/trade_register.php.

ii Amount represents the total number of systems delivered from 1980-2009. Figures preceded by a “~” are estimates.

iii Years separated by semi-colon indicate separate transaction periods.

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New START Verification: Up to the Challenge

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The multilayered limits of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the difficult negotiations conducted in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The streamlined verification measures in the New START agreement, finalized in April 2010, are an appropriate response to the replacement treaty’s specific limits, which are designed to address post-Cold War realities. Combining proof-tested measures from 15 years of START implementation with new approaches to contemporary challenges, New START verification provisions are well suited to fulfill their core function. These provisions promise to permit the same high confidence in compliance achieved when the original START was in force, but will do so with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for monitoring deployed warhead ceilings.

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May 17, 2010
By Greg Thielmann

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The multilayered limits of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the difficult negotiations conducted in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The streamlined verification measures in the New START agreement, finalized in April 2010, are an appropriate response to the replacement treaty’s specific limits, which are designed to address post-Cold War realities. Combining proof-tested measures from 15 years of START implementation with new approaches to contemporary challenges, New START verification provisions are well suited to fulfill their core function. These provisions promise to permit the same high confidence in compliance achieved when the original START was in force, but will do so with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for monitoring deployed warhead ceilings.

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New START Verification: Fitting the Means to the Ends

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The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to lock in significant reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals by establishing lower ceilings on deployed weapons. The treaty’s verification provisions are means to that end--providing confidence that the sides are complying with those lower limits. Although the goal is to establish the high confidence levels maintained during the 15 years of the original START (1994-2009), the successor agreement will achieve that goal with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for deployed warhead ceilings. START’s multilayered limits and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the Cold War. New START verification can be streamlined in accordance with the new, simplified limits and in response to post-Cold War realities. In assessing the new treaty, it is critical that verification provisions be judged by how well they fulfill their core function.

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February 22, 2010
By Greg Thielmann

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The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to lock in significant reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals by establishing lower ceilings on deployed weapons. The treaty’s verification provisions are means to that end--providing confidence that the sides are complying with those lower limits. Although the goal is to establish the high confidence levels maintained during the 15 years of the original START (1994-2009), the successor agreement will achieve that goal with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for deployed warhead ceilings. START’s multilayered limits and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the Cold War. New START verification can be streamlined in accordance with the new, simplified limits and in response to post-Cold War realities. In assessing the new treaty, it is critical that verification provisions be judged by how well they fulfill their core function.

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Dealing With Long-Range Missile Threats: It's All About Russia

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The nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads on Russian ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles constitute the sole near-term existential threat to the United States. The U.S. response to this threat has been to maintain the nuclear war-fighting posture adopted during the Cold War. Yet, this posture does not lead toward an improvement in U.S. security; it merely reinforces Russia’s incentive to persist in its own anachronistic security calculus. The New START and a transformational post-Cold War Nuclear Posture Review would clear the path for major U.S. and Russian arms reductions, laying the foundation for a rejuvenated effort to halt nuclear nonproliferation and for engaging other nuclear-weapon states in arms control.

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November 22, 2009
By Greg Thielmann

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The nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads on Russian ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles constitute the sole near-term existential threat to the United States. The U.S. response to this threat has been to maintain the nuclear war-fighting posture adopted during the Cold War. Yet, this posture does not lead toward an improvement in U.S. security; it merely reinforces Russia’s incentive to persist in its own anachronistic security calculus. The New START and a transformational post-Cold War Nuclear Posture Review would clear the path for major U.S. and Russian arms reductions, laying the foundation for a rejuvenated effort to halt nuclear nonproliferation and for engaging other nuclear-weapon states in arms control.

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ACA Event - Iran's Nuclear Challenge: Where to Go From Here? Full transcript now available

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Panelists: Paul Pillar, Greg Thielmann, and James Dobbins

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Arms Control Association Press Briefing
Thursday, October 22, 2009
9:30 - 11:00 A.M.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC

For the first time in several years, serious multilateral discussions with Iran over its nuclear program were held on October 1. The outcome of that meeting was an agreement, "in principle" that Iran would send about 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment, and then to France to fashion it into fuel for a safeguarded Iranian reactor. Another meeting is scheduled on October 19 to finalize the details of this arrangement. This tentative progress occurs in the context of revelations regarding a secret Iranian enrichment facility, which the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit for the first time on October 25. At this important juncture, ACA will host a panel of experts on Iran and its nuclear program to explain these developments, what they mean for efforts to address the Iranian nuclear challenge, and how to make progress moving forward.

Paul Pillar, Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University. Pillar served for three decades as an analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, including most recently as the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000-2005. He will discuss how current developments affect the U.S. intelligence community's assessments on Iran and the likely consequences of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow, the Arms Control Association. Thielmann was most recently a senior professional staffer of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and previously a U.S. Foreign Service Officer for 25 years, last serving as Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He will address how recent events may impact the timeframe in which Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and the time available for a diplomatic strategy to make progress.

James Dobbins, Director, RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center. In addition to serving in several senior diplomatic posts in the White House and State Department, Dobbins was the U.S. representative to the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in 2001, which involved negotiating with Iranian officials on establishing the new Afghan government. Bringing his experience in negotiating with Iran, he will weigh in on what the initial talks have accomplished, what to expect from the Iranian negotiators, and where the U.S. diplomatic approach should go from here.

Peter Crail, Nonproliferation Analyst, Arms Control Association, Moderator

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Greg Thielmann Discusses Iranian Nuclear Program at Cannon Building

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On October 7, 2009, Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann participated in a briefing to congressional staffers and the press on the Iranian nuclear program arranged by Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). His remarks at the Cannon House Office Building built on his September ACA Threat Assessment Brief, "Is There Time to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon?" (PDF).  Watch it here.

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On October 7, 2009, Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann participated in a briefing to congressional staffers and the press on the Iranian nuclear program arranged by Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). His remarks at the Cannon House Office Building built on his September ACA Threat Assessment Brief, "Is There Time to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon?" (PDF).

 

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Is There Time to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon?

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The Obama administration has identified September as a time for reassessing its approach to negotiation with Tehran over Iran's nuclear program. It is imperative that this reassessment be based on a realistic appraisal of Iran's weaponization capabilities and limitations and not fall prey to politically motivated hyperbole. Iran's nuclear program is undeniably bringing that country closer to an ability to construct nuclear weapons-bad news for the region, the United States, and the world. Yet, a nuclear-armed Iran is years, not months, away, which is ample time for negotiating an outcome that prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state while strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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September 20, 2009
By Greg Thielmann

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The Obama administration has identified September as a time for reassessing its approach to negotiation with Tehran over Iran's nuclear program. It is imperative that this reassessment is based on a realistic appraisal of Iran's weaponization capabilities and limitations and not fall prey to politically motivated hyperbole. Iran's nuclear program is undeniably bringing that country closer to an ability to construct nuclear weapons-bad news for the region, the United States, and the world. Yet, a nuclear-armed Iran is years, not months, away, which is ample time for negotiating an outcome that prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state while strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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Preventive Military Action: The Worst Way to Deal With Iran's Nuclear Program

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Although the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons is a major concern for Israel and the United States, leaving the "military option" on the table is counterproductive. Preventive military action by either country against Iran's nuclear facilities would only delay, rather than halt, Tehran's nuclear program, and it would cause Iran to retaliate against the United States as well as Israel. The aftermath of such an attack would be disastrous for the U.S.position in the region-particularly for relations with Israel and with Iraq-and its position in the wider world.

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June 18, 2009
By Greg Thielmann

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Although the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons is a major concern for Israel and the United States, leaving the "military option" on the table is counterproductive. Preventive military action by either country against Iran's nuclear facilities would only delay, rather than halt, Tehran's nuclear program, and it would cause Iran to retaliate against the United States as well as Israel. The aftermath of such an attack would be disastrous for the U.S.position in the region-particularly for relations with Israel and with Iraq-and its position in the wider world.

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