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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Kelsey Davenport

'Nobody's happy about it': Missile tests increase tensions with North Korea

News Source: 
ABC News (abc-7)
News Date: 
May 9, 2019 -04:00

Iran’s Nuclear Deal Threat

News Source: 
Lobe Log
News Date: 
May 9, 2019 -04:00

Iran’s Countermoves on Iran Nuclear Deal Are a Predictable But Worrisome Response to U.S. Sanctions

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Statement from the Arms Control Association

Proliferation Threat Will Grow Over Time If European Powers Do Not Respond


For Immediate Release: May 8, 2019

Media contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director (202-462-8270 x107); Kelsey Davenport, Nonproliferation Policy Director, x102

(Washington, D.C.)—Iran’s threat to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a very worrisome but predictable response to Trump's dangerous decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal one year ago. The Trump administration’s systematic campaign to deny Iran any benefits from the agreement has driven the leadership in Tehran to take these retaliatory steps.

From Iran's perspective, there is very little incentive to continue complying with the nuclear deal if Washington’s actions block the promised sanctions relief and if other key European states, along with Russia and China, do not work harder to facilitate legitimate commerce with Iran.

The initial steps that Iran announced—that it will no longer abide by limits on its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water—could possibly result in Tehran violating its commitments in the coming months, depending on the rates of production. These steps may result in a technical breach of the JCPOA, but do not represent a near-term proliferation threat.

Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, gave the other parties to the JCPOA (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Russia and China) 60 days to help it thwart American sanctions on oil sales and banking transactions or Iran would take additional measures.

The steps that Iran threatened to take down the road if the Europeans, Russia, and China fail to compensate for U.S. sanctions pose a more serious proliferation risk.

If these states fail to deliver sanctions relief, Iran says it will resume construction on the unfinished Arak nuclear reactor. This may be done on the basis of the modified, more proliferation resistant design Iran agreed to in the nuclear deal and pose less of a threat. Even if Iran pursued the completion of the reactor based on the original design, which would produce enough plutonium for about two nuclear weapons per year, construction would take time. Furthermore, Iran does not have a reprocessing facility to separate plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel.

If the Europeans and the Chinese do not take more serious steps to allow for legitimate Iranian petroleum exports and banking transactions, Iran threatened to take more consequential measures, specifically resuming uranium enrichment to levels above the 3.67 uranium-235 level allowed by the JCPOA. This step is a more serious proliferation risk that would shorten the time it would take Iran to accumulate enough nuclear material for a weapon.

The most responsible path forward in the face of the Trump administration’s gross violations of the nuclear deal is a more robust and effective effort by the European powers, Russia, and China to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran. It is also in Iran’s interests to exercise restraint, continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency with respect to its safeguards commitments and obligations, and refrain from taking further steps that threaten to reignite a nuclear crisis and increase the risk of conflict.

Iranian press reports indicate that Iran’s leadership is threatening to withdraw from the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) if the JCPOA file is referred again to the UN Security Council. Under Article X of the NPT, "a state may withdraw from the treaty, requiring three month's advance notice should "extraordinary events" jeopardize its supreme national interests.”

The NPT, under Article II, obligates Iran an all other non-nuclear weapon states "not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Withdrawal from the NPT by Iran would be extremely counterproductive for Iran and global security. All sides need to comply with the JCPOA and UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and respect their solemn legal obligations under the NPT.

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Statement from the Arms Control Association notes that the proliferation threat will grow over time if European powers do not respond.

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US set to double down on 'maximum pressure' as Iran eases adherence to nuclear deal

News Source: 
ABC News (abc-7)
News Date: 
May 8, 2019 -04:00

Understanding the U.S. Moves on JCPOA Nonproliferation Project Waivers

The Trump administration’s May 3 announcement to extend waivers for critical nuclear international cooperation projects with Iran is a mixed bag. It is clearly in the U.S. and international interest to allow the continuation of projects at key nuclear sites that reduce Iran’s nuclear weapons potential, as required by 2015 multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, the U.S. decision to cut down on the length of the waivers (from 180 days to 90 days) and tighten nuclear-related sanctions in other areas puts the deal in further jeopardy. The...

US renews some Iran nuclear waivers, targets uranium enrichment

News Source: 
Rudaw
News Date: 
May 4, 2019 -04:00

Trump admin slaps new restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities

News Source: 
NBC News
News Date: 
May 3, 2019 -04:00

Trump, Kim Raise Conditions for Third Summit


May 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in April that they are willing to participate in a third summit, but each imposed conditions on the meeting, raising doubt about the prospects for progress.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) greets North Korea leader Kim Jong Un during a portion of Kim's visit to Vladivostok on April 25. (Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP/Getty Images)The Trump administration wants to see additional action from North Korea demonstrating its commitment to denuclearization, while Kim said Pyongyang will abandon the negotiations at the end of this year if the United States does not take a more flexible approach. It is unclear how the two sides will resolve this standoff over the process to advance talks.

The U.S. and North Korean negotiating teams have not met since the second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi ended abruptly on Feb. 28 without any progress on the goals of denuclearization and peace-building on the Korean peninsula. (See ACT, March 2019.)

Meanwhile, Kim met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 25 in Vladivostok. It was their first summit meeting. Putin told reporters afterward that he discussed denuclearization with Kim, but said North Korea “needs guarantees of its security and sovereignty” in return.

Putin said multilateral talks may be an option to develop “internationals security guarantees for North Korea,” and he said he would convey to Washington Kim’s position on future negotiations with the United States.

Trump, speaking to reporters during his April 11 summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said he would be willing to meet Kim again and expressed his belief that “tremendous things will happen” with North Korea, but it is “not going to go fast.”

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on April 17 that Washington is looking for a “real indication from North Korea that they’ve made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons” and that Trump would be willing to participate in a third summit only if he can get a “real deal.” Bolton described a real deal as a “big deal,” likely referring to the more comprehensive agreement outlining the end state of negotiations that Trump sought in Hanoi. (See ACT, April 2019.)

In April 12 remarks to the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim said that he is willing to try “one more time” if Washington proposes a third summit, but the United States must have the “right stance,” likely referring to the Trump administration’s preference to pursue a more comprehensive deal and its unwillingness to offer relief from economic sanctions earlier in the process.

Kim was clearly seeking relief from UN sanctions targeting North Korea’s economy during the Hanoi summit, but he told the assembly that the United States is miscalculating if it believes North Korea can be pressured into submission. North Korea “will no longer obsess over lifting sanctions” and will open the path to economic prosperity through our own means,” Kim said.

Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected pursing a big deal and indicated its preference for an incremental approach. In his April 12 remarks, Kim criticized the Trump administration’s “methodology” for pursuing negotiations.

He called for the United States to “lay down unilateral requirements and seek constructive solutions,” saying that the United States has until the end of the year to change its negotiating approach or the “prospects for solving a problem will be bleak and very dangerous.” He did not specify what if any actions North Korea would take if its deadline was not met.

Trump said on April 11 that the United States is still focused on the big deal with North Korea, but he did not rule out a step-by-step approach to negotiations, saying there are “various small deals that could happen.”

Trump continues to rule out economic sanctions relief early in the process. He said on April 11 that sanctions will “remain in place” until denuclearization is complete but that he would not impose new measures at this time.

The Trump administration’s unwillingness to consider economic sanctions relief is a setback for Moon, who reportedly hoped during his April 11 visit to Washington to persuade the Trump administration to be more flexible on sanctions and grant waivers allowing inter-Korean projects to proceed.

At the April 11 press conference, Trump said that he would support joint economic projects between the two Koreas at the right time but that now is not that time. He did say the United States is discussing “certain humanitarian things” and the United States is supportive of South Korean food aid for North Korea.

Moon is seeking a fourth summit with Kim. He said on April 15 that it was time to “begin the preparations in earnest” for the next meeting and that he hopes to hold “detailed and substantive talks on how to achieve further progress that goes beyond the previous two summits” between Trump and Kim.

Kim, however, has criticized Moon for attempting to act as a “mediator” between Pyongyang and Washington. He said on April 12 that Moon should “subordinate everything to the improvement of North-South ties.”

Commentary in North Korean media outlets has also criticized South Korea for “succumbing to the pressure” of the United States and failing to move forward on economic projects designed to promote integration between North and South Korea.

North Korea also criticized the composition of the U.S. negotiating team, with the foreign ministry calling for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to step aside as head of delegation. In an April 18 statement, Kwon Jong Gun, head of the ministry’s Department of American Affairs, said that “talks will become entangled” if Pompeo is involved in future rounds of negotiations. He called Pompeo “reckless” and said North Korea would prefer a “person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”

In what may have been an attempt to demonstrate limited patience with the negotiating process and put pressure on the Trump administration, Pyongyang tested what it called a new tactical weapon on April 17. North Korea did not provide specific details about the weapon, but it appeared to be an artillery system with a conventional warhead. Such a weapon would not break Kim’s voluntary moratorium on long-range ballistic missile testing announced in April 2018.

Kim was present at the test, and the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Kim described the weapon as “increasing the combat power” of the army.

 

North Korea threatens to end talks if U.S. refuses to ease its stance on denuclearization.

Officials Say IAEA Inspected Warehouse in Iran


May 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reportedly inspected a warehouse in Tehran that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleges was used to store documents and materials related to Iran’s past nuclear weapons program. News reports did not specify exactly when the inspection took place, but one official said inspectors visited the site in March, according to a Reuters article.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano (left) and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet in Washington, DC, on April 3. During his U.S. visit, Amano described his agency's efforts to monitor Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.  (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)Netanyahu revealed the location of the warehouse during his speech at the UN General Assembly in September and said it was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material for Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” including 15 kilograms of radioactive material that had recently been removed from the building. Netanyahu called on IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to “do the right thing” and send inspectors to visit the site “immediately.”

The IAEA typically does not comment on inspections and has not confirmed that a visit to the warehouse took place, but Amano said on April 3 that the agency had not seen any activities taking place “contrary to the Iran nuclear deal.”

Netanyahu did not specify what type of radioactive material was removed from the warehouse. To comply with its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments, Iran is required to declare certain nuclear materials, primarily uranium and plutonium, to the IAEA. There are no restrictions on other types of radioactive material, such as cobalt and radium.

The diplomats quoted in the Reuters article said the IAEA collected environmental samples to test for the presence of nuclear materials, but those results may not be fully analyzed until June.

Netanyahu has also been pushing the IAEA to follow up on archival materials documenting Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related work that Israel stole from Iran in January 2018. (See ACT, May 2018.) Netanyahu has argued that the archive’s existence is evidence that Iran is still seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Without naming Israel, Amano has spoken out against efforts by states to influence IAEA monitoring and verification activities. He said on April 5 that states “should not intervene in our work of safeguards implementation.” He emphasized that IAEA work depends on its independence and said that “if attempts are made to micromanage or put pressure on the agency in implementing nuclear verification, that would be counterproductive and extremely harmful.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), described Netanyahu’s efforts to pressure the IAEA to further investigate as “futile.” He said on April 9 that the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s past activities is closed “legally and politically.”

Iran was not required to destroy archives detailing its past nuclear weapons-related work as part of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal does commit Iran to address concerns raised by the IAEA about the military dimensions of its nuclear program prior to receiving U.S., EU, and UN sanctions relief.

In a December 2015 report assessing the material provided by Iran, the IAEA concluded that Tehran had an organized nuclear weapons development program until 2003 and continued some activities intermittently through 2009, but there were no indications of nuclear weapons-related work after that point. (See ACT, January/February 2016.)

U.S. intelligence assessments reached a similar conclusion, and in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats assessed that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

Meanwhile, Iran has continued nuclear research and development allowed by the JCPOA. During the celebration of National Nuclear Day on April 9, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani drew attention to the country’s nuclear achievements and announced the installation of 20 advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

Iran is permitted to enrich uranium using only up to 5,060 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuge machines under the nuclear deal, but Tehran can test limited numbers of advanced centrifuges based on the terms of the JCPOA and a more specific research and development plan submitted to the IAEA that is not public.

The nuclear deal states that Iran can test limited numbers of IR-6 centrifuges in small and intermediate cascades, but does not provide specific numbers until eight and a half years after implementation of the deal, at which point Iran can test 30 machines in a cascade. Iran is allowed to introduce uranium into the cascades, but cannot withdraw any enriched material.

A European official from one of the states party to the nuclear deal told Arms Control Today on April 12 that if Iran follows through on Rouhani’s announcement, “it would not appear” to violate the terms of the nuclear deal.

 

U.S. Ends Exemptions to Iran Oil Sanctions

Ramping up U.S. pressure on Tehran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on April 22 that the Trump administration will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions designed to shut down Iranian oil exports.

U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sales took effect last November as part of President Donald Trump’s May 2018 decision to withdraw from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran and reimpose pre-agreement sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration issued 180-day waivers in November allowing seven states and Taiwan to continue importing Iranian oil, but those waivers expire May 2. (See ACT, December 2018.) The president has the authority to renew the waivers every 180 days if a nation significantly reduces its oil imports from Iran.

Pompeo said that issuing the waivers in November gave U.S. allies and partners time to “wean themselves off of Iranian oil and to ensure a well-supplied oil market.” The United States is now “going to zero,” Pompeo said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the U.S. decision as an act of “economic terrorism.” Iranian officials said Tehran will respond and raised the prospect of closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 30 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes on a daily basis.

China, the largest purchaser of Iranian oil, denounced the U.S. decision, and experts speculate that Beijing may continue importing oil despite Pompeo’s announcement. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on April 23 that Beijing “opposes U.S. unilateral sanctions” and is committed to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.”

Pompeo said that the United States will “enforce sanctions and monitor compliance.” He warned that “any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution.”

The United States will maintain the sanctions until Iran ends its “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” ballistic missile testing and proliferation, and terrorism sponsorship, Pompeo said.

He did not offer any evidence that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons or violating the 2015 nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency, tasked with monitoring the agreement, has repeatedly stated that Iran is meeting its obligations.

Prior to the November sanctions, Iran had been exporting approximately 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. That volume has dropped to about 1 million barrels daily as a result of the sanctions.

Pompeo said the United States was in close contact with other oil suppliers to ensure that the oil market remained balanced. In an April 22 statement, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that Riyadh would be “monitoring” the market, but did not commit to increasing production.
—KELSEY DAVENPORT

The nuclear watchdog has continued monitoring activities in Iran as suspicions linger.

Indian ASAT Test Raises Space Risks


May 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

India’s successful March 27 test of a weapon designed to destroy satellites has raised concerns that the resulting debris field may threaten orbiting space objects and that other states will develop similar weapons.

InIndia launched a satellite interceptor on this booster March 27. (Photo: Defense Research and Development Organization) dian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that New Delhi had successfully used a ballistic missile interceptor to destroy an orbiting satellite, becoming just the fourth country after China, Russia, and the United States to test such anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

India launched the target satellite into low orbit in January, and the interceptor, developed as part of India’s ballistic missile defense system by the Defense Research and Development Organization, was launched from the Abdul Kalam Island launch center. India may have attempted an earlier test on Feb. 12, but that effort appears to have been unsuccessful.

Modi called the test a “historic feat” and said that the country is now “an established space power.” Modi said that India continues to maintain that “space should not be an area for warfare and that remains unchanged” despite the successful test. He described the test as defensive and said it was not targeted at any particular country.

Despite Modi’s insistence that the test was defensive, India’s development of ASAT capabilities could be perceived as offensive and destabilizing. ASAT weapons allow a state to target another country’s satellites, which could cripple intelligence and communications in the event of a conflict.

India has been seeking to match and deter Chinese military capabilities, and New Delhi’s pursuit of an ASAT weapon may have been designed to send a signal to Beijing, which conducted its own ASAT weapons test in 2007. ASAT capabilities are less useful against India’s other regional adversary, Pakistan, because Islamabad relies less on satellites for military and security purposes.

The U.S. State Department press release following the March 27 test took note of India’s announcement, but did not condemn the test. The muted U.S. response could be interpreted by India and other states as a green light for future testing, contributing to concerns about igniting a space race.

In addition to enhancing risks of an ASAT weapons competition, the Indian test introduced orbital debris that could threaten other objects circling the globe, including the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a “terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris” above the station. He said it is “not acceptable” to put astronauts at risk.

Other nations’ ASAT weapons tests have created even larger debris fields. China tested an ASAT weapon in 2007, creating more than 2,300 pieces of debris. The Indian test likely produced about 400 pieces, similar to a 2008 test conducted by the United States. The United States argued at the time that its test was necessary to destroy a falling satellite.

The United States, Russia, and China are continuing to develop and refine ASAT weapons, but the testing is largely done through “proximity operations,” which are designed to prevent the actual destruction of satellites.

A March 27 statement from the Indian foreign ministry said that the test deliberately targeted a satellite in low orbit “to ensure that there is no space debris” and that any debris created “will decay and fall back onto the Earth within weeks.”

The Indian test revived calls for negotiating new limits to guide the peaceful use of space. Currently, the only international restraint is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the placement and testing of weapons of mass destruction and military installations in outer space, but does not address other space-based weapons or ASAT technology.

The European Union began to push for negotiations to develop guidelines on the use of outer space in 2008 and produced a draft code of conduct for outer space in 2012. India participated in the discussions on the code, and the draft included commitments by states to pursue space debris mitigation efforts and a controversial commitment to avoid “intentional destruction and other harmful activities.”

The United Nations held negotiations in July 2015 on the proposed code, which would be nonbinding, unlike a treaty. The Obama administration said at the time that the United States supported the meeting, but would not propose the negotiation of an ASAT weapons test moratorium.

Russia and China also objected to elements of the code and preferred to limit its applicability to civilian space activities, which would not cover ASAT weapons testing.

Preventing an arms race in space is on the agenda for the Conference on Disarmament (CD), but the issue has seen little progress there. Russia and China drafted a treaty and presented it to the CD in 2008. They later revised it in 2014, and a group of governmental experts made recommendations to the CD in 2017 on elements necessary for a legally binding treaty preventing an arms race in outer space. The Russian and Chinese proposal, however, does not definitively define what constitutes a space weapon, and because ASAT missile interceptors are ground based, they would likely not be covered by the draft text.

 

Advocates for the peaceful uses of space decry India’s successful test to destroy an orbiting satellite.

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