"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Kelsey Davenport

US analysts locate secret North Korean missile sites

News Source: 
Associated Press
News Date: 
November 13, 2018 -05:00

Iran unlikely to collapse under US sanctions

News Source: 
Strait Times
News Date: 
November 7, 2018 -05:00

Heated rhetoric commences as Trump reimposes sanctions on Iran

News Source: 
Washington Post
News Date: 
November 5, 2018 -05:00

US Sanctions ramp up rhetoric in Iran

News Source: 
New Zealand Herald
News Date: 
November 7, 2018 -05:00

US Sanctions ramp up rhetoric in Iran

News Source: 
New Zealand Herald
News Date: 
November 7, 2018 -05:00

Trump Sanctions Exempt Some Oil Sales and Nuclear Projects

The Trump administration ramped up its reckless and irresponsible “maximum pressure” approach to Iran Nov. 5 when it rolled out the second round of U.S. sanctions, re-imposed after President Donald Trump violated and withdrew from the nuclear deal in May. While the re-imposed sanctions have a biting effect on Iran’s economy and negatively impact the relief envisioned by the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Nov. 5 announcement could have been worse. The Trump administration did not realize its goal of pushing Iran’s oil exports to “zero,” or as close to...

Trump's Oil Sanctions Compound Error of Violating 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal



Statement from Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy

For Immediate Release: Nov. 2, 2018

Media Contact: Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 102 

Iran’s commitment to continue implementing the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), faces another test Nov. 5, when the Trump administration’s biting sanctions on Iran’s oil sector come back into effect.

This move further compounds President Trump's reckless and irresponsible decision in May to violate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, despite acknowledging Iran’s compliance with the accord, and reimpose sanctions. It is another serious blow to the Trump administration’s already low credibility on nuclear nonproliferation matters.

Although the new oil sanctions are unlikely to change Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA in the short-term, the long-term viability of the deal remains at risk.

The Trump administration has falsely claimed that the JCPOA has been a failure because it did not “fix” Iran’s activities in policy areas beyond the scope of the nuclear deal, such as Tehran’s support for non-state actors. 

In reality, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has significantly reduced Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, opened it up to a more robust international inspections regime, and blocked its major pathways to nuclear weapons for years to come. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed that Tehran is complying with the restrictions set by the JCPOA.

Worse yet, the Trump administration turned down earlier proposals from our European partners on addressing Iran’s malign activities in other areas, and the Trump administration’s overreliance on sanctions and its “maximum pressure” policy is not a viable strategy for replacing the JCPOA. The Trump administration’s approach is a recipe for conflict and increased proliferation risks in the Middle East.

We encourage the other parties to the JCPOA to continue to meet their obligations and preserve legitimate trade with Iran. The international community must fulfill UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called upon all states to support it, until such time as the United States comes back into compliance with the agreement and new talks can begin on win-win approaches to extend and build upon key elements of the JCPOA.


Although the new oil sanctions are unlikely to change Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA in the short-term, the long-term viability of the deal remains at risk.

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November 2018 Books of Note

Verifying Nuclear Disarmament
Thomas E. Shea, Routledge, 2018, 220 pages

Thomas E. Shea’s technical discussion of the procedures and institutional architecture necessary to verifiably dismantle nuclear warheads fills a critical gap in the existing literature on disarmament. Shea, a 24-year veteran of the safeguards department of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), approached verifiable dismantlement of nuclear weapons by focusing on the control of fissile material. In addition to describing the processes for inspection, dismantlement, and disposition of fissile materials, Shea proposes the creation of an International Nuclear Disarmament Agency (INDA), which would verify the elimination of nuclear weapons-specific facilities, conduct material accountancy, and certify fissile material controls. Shea explains how an INDA would complement existing international organizations, such as the IAEA, which would be involved particularly on fissile material disposition, facility conversion, and rearmament prevention. He offers a model agreement governing the relationship between an INDA and nuclear-weapon states. Another useful element lists disarmament activities alongside the proposed inspection activities. His work is particularly valuable in light of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires dismantling nuclear warheads but does not contain specific verification provisions. Shea’s book offers a path forward for realizing the political goals of nuclear disarmament.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments: U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia
Moeed Yusuf, Stanford University Press, May 2018, 320 pages

Moeed Yusuf, a scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace, helpfully begins by discussing the theory and existing literature on nuclear crises and brokered bargaining before diving into three specific events in the Indian-Pakistani relationship: the Kargil crisis of 1999, the 2001–2002 military standoff, and the Mumbai crisis, which followed the 2008 terrorist attacks in India. He examines each case using the brokered bargaining model, which asserts that in a crisis scenario the antagonists engage in actions and signaling to deter or compel certain responses from the other side. Additionally, the states try to lure a third party to influence the outcome and de-escalate the crisis. Yusuf also looks at the overarching lessons from the three historical cases and discusses the implications of brokered bargaining for future crisis management. Yusuf focuses on crises in the Indian-Pakistani relationship, but the lessons and conclusions on regional crisis management have implications beyond South Asia. The last two sections of the book place the conclusions garnered from the case studies in the broader context of theory and practical application.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Verifying Nuclear Disarmament
Thomas E. Shea, Routledge, 2018, 220 pages

Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments: U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia
Moeed Yusuf, Stanford University Press, May 2018, 320 pages

U.S., North Korea Agree to Intensify Talks

November 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States and North Korea agreed in October to intensify negotiations after a months-long impasse following the historic June summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but disagreements over the timing of sanctions relief may complicate the diplomatic process.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un hosts a working lunch with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang on October 7.  (Photo: U.S. Department of State)North Korea has sent mixed signals about its potential terms for nuclear-related concessions. After initially pressing for a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which would be a largely symbolic U.S. political concession, Pyongyang is shifting to indicate it wants to receive tangible financial benefits sooner than envisioned by the Trump administration.

North Korea has signaled that its initial moves toward denuclearization, such as dismantling its nuclear test site and a rocket launch facility, should bring relief from tight U.S. and UN economic sanctions. The Trump administration maintains that sanctions should remain intact as a main source of pressure. “The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs,” Trump said in remarks to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25.

During an Oct. 7 trip to Pyongyang, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kim, where the two sides agreed to hold more frequent, higher-level working group meetings. Pompeo told the media on Oct. 9 that he hoped this process would “deliver some good outcomes” at a second Trump-Kim summit.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described Kim’s meeting with Pompeo as “productive and wonderful” and said that the two discussed detailed “proposals for solving the denuclearization issue and matters of concern of both sides.”

The meeting appears to indicate that talks are back on track after faltering over disagreements between North Korea and the United States on the next steps following the Singapore summit. The Trump administration wanted to see North Korea take additional steps toward denuclearization while North Korea emphasized that a declaration ending the Korean War should be the next step. (See ACT, September 2018.)

The stalemate led Trump to cancel Pompeo’s scheduled visit to Pyongyang in August. Pompeo indicated in September that Washington’s position on pursing a declaration and its willingness to engage in a step-by-step process shifted, helping pave the way for his Oct. 7 visit.

Pompeo confirmed that he discussed the prospect of a second Trump-Kim summit during his visit, but did not provide any details as to the location or timing. U.S. State Department officials have been quoted in the press saying the summit will not take place before early 2019.

Heightened disagreements over the timing of sanctions relief, however, may complicate negotiations going forward.

In initial statements after the June 12 summit, North Korea downplayed its interest in sanctions relief and focused on a peace declaration as the next step that the United States could take to create an environment more conducive to further denuclearization steps. Yet, in recent statements, Pyongyang has criticized the continued U.S. pressure campaign and begun to put more emphasis on the importance of sanctions relief earlier in the process.

A KCNA commentary published on Oct. 20 stated that although Pompeo’s visit was a “great achievement,” U.S. talk of sustaining sanctions is “heard so much” and “unpleasant to the ear.”

The piece urged the United States to “act in the elementary give-and-take principle” and said Americans should stop asserting that pressure is the “main card” in the U.S.-North Korean relationship.

North Korea is not alone in advocating for sanctions relief. Russian and Chinese officials raised the prospect of revisiting UN sanctions in recognition of steps taken by Pyongyang to halt nuclear and long-range missile testing during a Sept. 27 Security Council meeting on North Korea.

When officials from North Korea, Russia, and China met in Moscow on Oct. 9, the trilateral statement issued after the meeting said that “taking notice of the significant, practical steps for denuclearization taken by [North Korea], the three parties reached a consensus on the need for the [UN Security Council] to activate the process of adjusting sanctions upon [North Korea] in time.”

The United States has consistently maintained that sanctions will not be lifted until the denuclearization process is complete. It remains unclear if the United States will make any exceptions to allow joint projects between North Korea and South Korea to go forward.

South Korea reaffirmed its commitment to abide by all UN sanctions during the Sept. 27 Security Council meeting, but President Moon Jae-in has also raised the prospect of easing measures if Pyongyang takes steps toward denuclearization rather than waiting until the end of the process to lift restrictions.

After an Oct. 15 meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Moon said that “if North Korea’s denuclearization is judged to enter an irreversible phase, its denuclearization should be further facilitated by easing UN sanctions.” Moon said on Oct. 19 that the Security Council is the appropriate forum for discussing easing sanctions and humanitarian assistance if North Korea takes the appropriate steps toward “irreversible” denuclearization, but he did not provide any details about what that would constitute.

Moon has clearly stated his interest pursing infrastructure projects to link North and South Korea and resuming operations at Kaesong, a joint development complex, as part of the inter-Korean process. These actions will require sanctions waivers.

It is also unclear what next steps the United States is looking for North Korea to take on denuclearization. The Trump administration asked for a declaration detailing the scope of North Korea’s nuclear program after the Singapore summit, but it is unclear if the United States is still pursuing this path.

Moon announced after the inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in September that North Korea was willing to allow inspectors at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

After his meeting with Kim, Pompeo confirmed that North Korea invited inspectors to visit its nuclear test site to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled, with the visit to occur “as soon as we get it logistically worked out.”

North Korea voluntarily pledged to halt nuclear testing in April and in May demolished with explosives test tunnels at the site. Yet, after initially saying that members of the press and experts could observe the closure, North Korea limited the invitation to select media outlets. As a result, there has been no independent expert confirmation of the extent of North Korea’s actions.

Pompeo did not specify if the inspections will be conducted by the United States or a multilateral team or if the group will include representatives of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which has protocols for conducting on-site inspections after suspected nuclear tests.

North Korea has not provided any details in its public statements regarding expert inspections.

The Pyongyang declaration issued by Kim and Moon said North Korea would dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which houses the reactor and reprocessing facility that North Korea uses to produce separated plutonium for nuclear weapons and a uranium-enrichment facility, in return for “corresponding measures” by the United States.

Neither South Korea nor North Korea provided much detail on what measures Pyongyang is seeking, and Pompeo did not provide any additional details on the prospects for actions to be taken at Yongbyon after his talks in Pyongyang.



Disagreements over the timing of sanctions relief may complicate the diplomatic process.

Israel Claims Secret Nuclear Site in Iran

November 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he described as a secret nuclear warehouse in Iran and publicly called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the site, putting pressure on the international watchdog agency that could hamper its independence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the United Nations, uses a visual aid to highlight his allegations about a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran. His comments were misleading, according to two U.S. intelligence officials cited by Reuters. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)Netanyahu’s allegations come as the United States is pressuring countries to support its sanctions on Iran and as the remaining P4+1 parties (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) to the July 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran are taking steps to work around the coercive U.S. measures and preserve the accord. (See ACT, October 2018.)

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 27, Netanyahu described the facility in central Tehran as a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.” Netanyahu called on IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to “do the right thing” and inspect the warehouse “immediately” before Iran finished clearing it out.

Amano pushed back in an Oct. 2 statement, saying that the agency does not take any information at “face value.” Although Amano did not mention Netanyahu directly, he said that all material, including that received from third parties, is subject to a rigorous and independent assessment. Further, Amano said that IAEA nuclear verification work “must always be impartial, factual, and professional” and that the agency’s independence is “of paramount importance.”

Netanyahu’s remarks garnered headlines around the world, but it remains unclear whether the facility is of interest to the IAEA. Still, Netanyahu’s comments could complicate work by the agency. IAEA inspectors should visit the facility if their assessment determines that an inspection is warranted. Yet, if inspectors visit the site now, it may appear as if the IAEA is acting at Israel’s behest, which would jeopardize the agency’s credibility and independence.

Brandishing a picture of the facility, Netanyahu charged that Iran removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material from the warehouse in August. It is not clear if Netanyahu was referring to uranium, plutonium, or another radioactive material. Possession of undeclared uranium or plutonium would violate Iran’s safeguards agreement and the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but radioactive materials used for a variety of purposes, including medical and industrial activities, are not subject to the same restrictions.

U.S. intelligence officials also disputed Netanyahu’s description of the facility and said his comments were misleading. One intelligence official quoted by Reuters on Sept. 27 said that the facility has been known to the U.S. intelligence community for some time and is full of documents, not nuclear equipment. The officials said that “so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out” of the nuclear deal any faster. Iranian officials immediately denounced Netanyahu’s accusation as a farce, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sept. 30 that Netanyahu is “desperately seeking to find a pretext to create hype” about Iran’s nuclear program.

This is the second time Netanyahu has publicly revealed what he describes as secret information tied to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In February 2018, Israel stole archival material from a facility in Iran that appears to document activities related to the country’s nuclear weapons development and shared the information with several states and the IAEA.

Netanyahu publicly revealed that the raid took place and released some details from the stolen material at a press conference in April, just weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and reimpose sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the provisions of the deal. Israel is one of the few states that encouraged Trump to withdraw from the accord.

In his Sept. 27 speech, Netanyahu claimed that the IAEA “has still not taken any action” following up on the archival material and “has not demanded to inspect a single new site.”

The information shared publicly confirms what the IAEA and the U.S. intelligence community already concluded, that Iran had an organized illicit nuclear weapons program that it abandoned in 2003, although some activities continued. The IAEA reported in 2015 that it had no evidence of nuclear activities with military dimensions after 2009.

Netanyahu’s allegation that the IAEA has done nothing appears to be at odds with the U.S. assessment.

During the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 11–14, Nicole Shampaine, an official at the U.S. mission in Vienna, told the board that the United States supports the agency’s “careful assessment of the newly acquired archive materials.” She said any “concern” related to undeclared nuclear activities or material must be pursued and the United States has “full confidence” in the IAEA and its inspectors “to do so appropriately.”

If any of the archival material indicated that Iran pursued illicit nuclear activities after the nuclear deal was concluded, it is likely that the Trump administration would have accused Iran of violating the agreement and its safeguards obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), given Trump’s animosity toward the accord.

The U.S. State Department released a report in April that concluded Iran is in compliance with its NPT obligations and, through 2017, with the Iran nuclear deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charge draws pushback from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.


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