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

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Kelsey Davenport

It's Time for Iran to Cooperate with the IAEA to Resolve Concerns About Its Nuclear Activities

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Volume 4, Issue 12, October 24, 2013

While much of the world's attention will remained focused on Iran's negotiations with six world powers over its nuclear program, Iran will meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on October 28 to continue talks over the agency's approach to investigating Tehran's alleged weapons-related nuclear activities.

These talks provide Iran with an important opportunity to address concerns about its past nuclear activities. Only with such cooperation can the IAEA assure the international community that Iran is no longer pursing actions related to nuclear-weapons development.

Iran-IAEA Negotiations

In an annex to its November 2011 report on Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA detailed concerns about several types of activities with potential military dimensions that the agency is requesting that Iran address. They include:

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

Following up on these allegations, the IAEA submitted to Iran on February 20, 2012 a document identifying the kinds of actions that Iran needs to take to respond to the IAEA's concerns. This document is referred to as the "structured approach." Iran submitted a reply to the IAEA on February 26, 2012, which included an edited version of the structured approach document. The document presented Tehran's preference on how the agency should proceed with the investigations.

In total, Iran and the IAEA have met 11 times to negotiate the approach to the agency's investigations and resolvethe differences first laid out in February 2012. But the sides have failed to make progress on an agreement that will allow the agency to begin its work. In an address to the agency's Board of Governors on June 4, 2013, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said that after the first ten meetings, no progress had been made on the negotiations, and that the talks are "going around in circles."

Despite this lack of progress in the past, the October 28 meeting represents an important opportunity to make progress on the structured approach. This will be the second meeting between Iran and the IAEA since Hassan Rouhani took office as President in August. Rouhani, widely acknowledged to be more moderate than his predecessor, pledged to make Iran's nuclear program "more transparent."

Rouhani also appointed a new ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi. Najafi resumed negotiations on the structured approach with the IAEA on September 27, an introductory meeting that both he and IAEA Deputy Director Herman Naeckerts described as "constructive."

Still, significant differences remain, despite the change in leadership. In a September 26, 2013 document submitted to the IAEA following the agency's August 2013 report on Iran's nuclear program, Iran continued to insist that the IAEA provide it access to the evidence upon which it based it allegations about the possible military dimensions and raised objections to the agency's proposed approach to the investigation.  

Disputed Process

A comparison of the approaches favored by Iran and the IAEA indicate several areas of dispute that are preventing agreement on a modality for allowing the IAEA investigation to begin. As indicated by its February 2012 edits to the structured approach document, Iran objects to the IAEA's proposal on the sequence, scope, and allowance for follow-up activities as the investigation continues. While Tehran should have a say about how the IAEA proceeds, placing undue or arbitrary restrictions on the agency's investigations will continue to fuel international speculation that Iran has nuclear weapons ambitions.

Sequencing: In the February 2012 document, the IAEA laid out its intended sequence for investigating the topics of concern, but noted that some of the areas identified "may also be dealt with in parallel." Iran deleted the clause allowing for parallel investigations in its edits to the document and added the following language in a later paragraph "after implementation of action on each topic, it will be considered concluded and then the work on the next topic will start."

Iran's earlier rejection of parallel investigations would only prolong the process and hinder the IAEA's activities because many of the areas that the IAEA identified are interlinked. It is logical that, if in the course of its investigations in one area, it obtains information relating to another question, it be allowed to direct its attention to these multiple areas simultaneously.

Scope: In 2012, Iran wanted to limit the scope of the IAEA's investigations to only those issues identified in the annex to the November 2011 report.

It may be reasonable to begin with these issues, but the IAEA cannot agree ahead of time not to pursue new areas of concern that might emerge during the process and leave important questions unanswered.

Follow Up: In the 2012 structured approach document, the IAEA stated that it would identify follow-up actions throughout the process as necessary to facilitate its investigations. Iran's proposal on the approach removed that clause that would allow the IAEA to identify any further actions necessary throughout the investigations.

Restricting the agency's ability to follow up if new areas of concern emerge could prevent the IAEA from asserting that all of Iran's nuclear activities are entirely peaceful. In addition, evidence provided to the IAEA about Iran's activities comes in part from intelligence gathered by member states. It is unlikely that this information provides a complete picture of Iran's alleged nuclear activities with military dimensions.

If Iran wants to demonstrate the entirely peaceful nature of its nuclear program, then it should prioritize reaching an agreement with the IAEA that would allow the agency to proceed with its investigation as soon as possible.

The IAEA could encourage Iranian cooperation by assuring Tehran that the agency would not punish Iran in the future if it comes clean about its past activities and the agency is able to conclude that these activities are no longer being pursued.

Additional Transparency Measures

In the September 26 submission to the IAEA, Iran also explained its decision not to implement the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement or Modified Code 3.1 of its safeguards agreement. In both cases, Iran maintains that it has chosen not to observe the agreements because the IAEA's investigations into Iran's nuclear program are politicized and not based on technical or legal justifications.

Iran should reconsider its decision not to implement these agreements. While Iran is not legally required to implement the Additional Protocol, the transparency gained by such actions would go a long way to provide further evidence that Iran's nuclear program is for entirely peaceful purposes, as it claims.

If Iran implements Code 3.1, the IAEA will receive information about any plans Tehran has to expand its nuclear program earlier than it would under the existing safeguards agreement. Iran would also be obligated to share any design changes to existing nuclear facilities. This would give the agency a clearer picture of the trajectory of Iran's nuclear program and provide early assurances about the nature and purpose of new facilities.

The Additional Protocol would allow the IAEA to visit all of the facilities associated with Iran's nuclear activities, including sites that the agency does not currently have access to, such as the uranium mines, Iran's centrifuge production facilities, and its heavy water production plant. The Additional Protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine, undeclared, nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations.

With the Additional Protocol in effect, the IAEA would also be able to visit any site on very short notice. These monitoring and verification measures would give the agency a more complete picture of Iran's nuclear activities and allow for early detection of deviations from peaceful activities. Early notification would give the international community time to respond to any dash Iran might make toward building nuclear weapons.

Implementing the Additional Protocol is a step Iran could take quickly because it already negotiated the agreement with the IAEA. Iran signed the document and voluntarily implemented it between 2003-2006. However, because Tehran did not ratify the Additional Protocol, it is not legally bound to follow it.

Moving Forward

While the scope of Iran's future nuclear activities will be determined by the outcome of its negotiations with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), an agreement is unlikely to be reached if Tehran does not answer the IAEA's concerns and assure the international community that it is not actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

A deal that allows Iran to enrich uranium only to normal reactor-grade levels, limits its enrichment capacity and stockpile, and grants the IAEA more extensive access and monitoring, in exchange for a phased lifting of international sanctions related to its nuclear activities, is still within reach. For it to be realized, however, Iran must cooperate with the IAEA and allow the agency to resolve its outstanding concerns over Tehran's nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.--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. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.

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While much of the world's attention will remained focused on Iran's negotiations with six world powers over its nuclear program, Iran will meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on October 28, to continue talks over the agency's approach to investigating Tehran's alleged weapons-related nuclear activities.

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Myanmar Signs Agreement With IAEA

Kelsey Davenport

Myanmar signed a key nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 17.

The agreement—an additional protocol to Myanmar’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA—will give the agency expanded access to information and sites related to the country’s nuclear activities. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been suspected of pursuing a nuclear weapons program in the past, but announced last November that it would sign and implement an additional protocol.

In an official statement released by Myanmar on Sept. 19, the country said it was “actively pursuing nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation” in international forums and that the additional protocol would contribute toward those goals.

According to a Sept. 17 press release from the IAEA, implementation of the additional protocol in Myanmar will “significantly increase” the agency’s ability to verify that nuclear material in the country is being used for peaceful purposes.

The additional protocol will enter into force when Myanmar notifies the IAEA that it has the statutory requirements in place to meet its obligations under the agreement.

There are currently 121 countries with additional protocols in place.

Myanmar signed a key nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 17.

Images Signal N. Korean Reactor Restart

Kelsey Davenport

Satellite images indicate that North Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in the future, analysts say, but one of the analysts estimates it will be about 18 months before Pyongyang will have more plutonium available for weapons.

In a Sept. 11 piece published by 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Nick Hansen and Jeffery Lewis concluded that satellite images from Aug. 31 showed steam coming from a building near the reactor that was consistent in “coloration and volume” with bringing the reactor’s electrical generating systems online. The reactor is “in or nearing operation,” said Hansen, a former military imagery analyst, and Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

In April 2013, Pyongyang said it intended to rebuild and restart the reactor at its Yongbyon facility. Given the disabling of the reactor in 2007 and the destruction of the reactor’s cooling tower in 2008, it was unclear if North Korea would be able to operate the reactor. (See ACT, May 2013.) The reactor, built in the 1980s, provided North Korea with the plutonium that it separated for use in its nuclear arsenal, an amount estimated to be sufficient for six to 12 warheads.

Although the steam indicates that the reactor is restarting, the facility may not be fully operational. In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said that the initial steam “probably indicated a test” of the reactor. Fitzpatrick, now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that, after six years of dormancy, the reactor will have to go through a “series of start-up tests” before normal operations begin. Imagery showing “successive days of steam” will prove that the reactor is operating, he said.

The reactor at Yongbyon was first shut down in 1994 as part of an agreement reached with the United States, under which Pyongyang was to freeze all nuclear activity and eventually eliminate its nuclear arsenal. In exchange, North Korea was to receive energy assistance in the form of fuel oil and light-water reactors, which are less proliferation sensitive than the heavy-water reactor at Yongbyon.

In 2002 the agreement broke down, and North Korea restarted the reactor. It operated until 2007, when Pyongyang shut it down and sealed it, as required under a 2005 agreement that was negotiated with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States during the so-called six-party talks that began in 2003. U.S. experts verified the disabling of the reactor in November 2007.

According to Fitzpatrick, it will be about 18 months before the “first new bomb-ready plutonium” is available. For North Korea to maximize plutonium production, irradiation of the reactor’s fuel should continue for about eight months before the spent fuel is unloaded, he said. It will then need to cool for at least six months before reprocessing. Fitzpatrick said that reprocessing takes about three months but there could be some disruptions because the reprocessing facility also has been dormant.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the organization’s Board of Governors on Sept. 9 that he remains “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s nuclear activities. Amano said the agency’s knowledge of Pyongyang’s nuclear program remains limited because the IAEA has been unable to carry out any verification activities in the county since 2009.

Talks Remain Unlikely

The State Department declined to comment on reports of the reactor restart. But in a Sept. 13 briefing, spokeswoman Marie Harf said restarting would be a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and North Korea’s 2005 commitment to denuclearize.

The denuclearization agreement was part of the six-party talks that have been stalled since 2008 despite various calls by different states to revive the talks since then. On Sept. 18, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called for the resumption of the six-party talks “without preconditions.”

The United States has repeatedly said that North Korea must take steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization before negotiations resume.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, reiterated that position during a recent trip to Japan. In Sept. 13 remarks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Davies said that the North Koreans are trying to make the talks about “their right” to be a nuclear-weapon state, which the United States “cannot countenance.”

Davies, whose trip included stops in Beijing and Seoul, said denuclearization is the “most important issue” of the six-party talks for the United States.

Current U.S. policy toward North Korea also includes tightening sanctions and working with China to pressure North Korea to resume negotiations based on Washington’s preconditions.

Fitzpatrick said that although the reactor restart is a “prima facie case of U.S. policy failure,” a different policy might not have been any more successful. He recommended that, for now, the United States pursue a “quiet exploration of a return to the 2012 Leap Day deal.”

He was referring to a February 2012 U.S.-North Korean agreement under which North Korea accepted a moratorium on its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in return for food aid. (See ACT, March 2012.)

The agreement broke down when North Korea attempted to launch a satellite in April 2012. The United States maintained that the satellite launch violated the missile launch moratorium, while North Korea said it was permitted. (See ACT, May 2012.)

Illicit Trafficking Continues

North Korea also continues to flout UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the import and export of conventional weapons.

According to new accounts, UN inspectors found that the Chong Chon Gang, a North Korean ship detained by Panama on July 15, was carrying a variety of small arms and light weapons. At a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing Sept. 26, Chairman Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said that “small arms and light weapons ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery ammunition for anti-tank guns” were part of the shipment.

After the ship was seized, it was found to be carrying large weaponry systems, such as MiG aircraft. Havana said the weaponry was to be repaired in North Korea and sent back to Cuba. UN Security Council resolutions ban the export or import of weapons by North Korea. (See ACT, September 2013.)

Hugh Griffiths, who heads the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s project on illicit trafficking, said that “only a very small proportion” of North Korean violations are detected. In a Sept. 22 e-mail, he said that a wide range of companies may be “inadvertently involved” in violations of the sanctions on imports and exports because they do not have the “capacity to recognize risk indicators.” Seizure of the North Korean ship’s cargo was unusual, Griffiths said, because only a few states have the “awareness and capacity to know what constitutes a vessel or voyage of proliferation concern.”

Panama originally detained the ship because it was suspected of trafficking drugs.

Griffiths said that a “major issue” is the difficulty that UN member states have in working out how to share classified information with the United Nations. This results in an “information deficit” on monitoring and sharing information about North Korean ships or flights that pose a proliferation concern, he said.

Griffiths said that it is necessary to keep the option of further sanctions on the table. He said that North Korean-owned vessels and aircraft are often used to transfer prohibited items to and from North Korea, so “designating these assets at a later stage could be a potent form of leverage.”

Satellite images indicate that North Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in the future...

Pakistan to Focus on Short-Range Missiles

Kelsey Davenport

Pakistan is likely to remain focused on developing and improving short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to deter India’s conventional military superiority despite the second successful test of India’s long-range, nuclear-capable Agni-5 missile, experts said in recent interviews.

Although India and Pakistan are nuclear rivals, New Delhi’s forays into longer-range missile systems do not seem to be spurring reciprocal developments in Islamabad.

In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Naeem Salik, a retired Pakistani brigadier general, wrote that Pakistan is “not unduly concerned” with India’s development of longer-range missiles, such as the Agni-5, because it would not be cost effective to fire them at reduced ranges to target Pakistan. Because Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “aimed only at India,” Salik said, Pakistan does not require longer-range systems because Islamabad can reach “any target” in India with its current inventory of missiles.

Salik added that Pakistan’s “self[-]imposed restraint” on its missile ranges also is a “conscious decision” not to develop missiles that would allow Islamabad to target Israel. This prevents “unnecessary hostility” from Israel and “pro-Israel lobbies in the United States,” he said.

India’s Sept. 15 test of the Agni-5, its longest-range missile, “met all the mission objectives,” Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said in a statement released following the test. The Agni-5 is a three-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile that can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload 5,000 kilometers, according to reports. It was first tested in April 2012. (See ACT, May 2012.)

In a Sept. 19 e-mail, Toby Dalton, a former senior policy adviser to the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security at the U.S. Energy Department, offered an analysis similar to Salik’s on some key points. Pakistan is not responding “solely or even primarily” to India’s nuclear developments but rather to New Delhi’s “conventional military plans and growing [conventional] capabilities,” he wrote.

Dalton, now the deputy director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that India’s nuclear developments are “primarily driven” by China’s growing nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s presumably growing conventional forces.

The reported 5,000-kilometer range of the Agni-5 puts it just below the 5,500-kilometer threshold for classification as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), but it is capable of reaching most of China, including Beijing, and the Middle East.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Sept. 15 that China “noted relevant reports” of the Agni-5 test and that “both sides should make concerted efforts to enhance” political trust and stability in the region.

Pakistan’s Focus

As India pursues longer-range systems, Salik said that Islamabad is focused mainly on development of two types of missiles: cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles.

The emphasis Islamabad is placing on cruise missile development is important, Salik said, because of India’s “ongoing efforts to indigenously develop or acquire ballistic missile defense systems.” Ballistic missile defense systems are not designed to target cruise missiles.

For the past several years, Pakistan has been testing several types of cruise missiles, including the Babur, which has a range of 700 kilometers with a 300-kilogram payload. The Babur can also be launched from naval surface platforms. Islamabad also is testing an air-launched cruise missile, the Raad, which has a range of 350 kilometers. Salik noted that the Raad will give Pakistan a “stand-off capability,” which allows pilots to launch a weapon at a distance from the target, thus allowing them to avoid defensive fire.

Pakistan also has been focusing more attention on its short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, including the Nasr. Islamabad began testing the Nasr, which has a range of 60 kilometers, in April 2011. It is “ostensibly for use as a battlefield nuclear weapons delivery system” to deter India from launching its Cold Start strategy, Salik said.

Cold Start is India’s conventional military doctrine aimed specifically at responses to Pakistani incursions into India. It involves quick, limited strikes into Pakistani territory.

India’s conventional military capabilities exceed those of Pakistan.

Dalton said that Pakistan is focusing on shorter-range systems to deter Indian conventional operations to address “substrategic” deterrence gaps. Pakistan’s current focus on short-range systems does not preclude the development of longer-range systems in the future, but at this point, “the objective of such a development is not clear,” Dalton said.

Future Agni Development

In a Sept. 15 press release, the DRDO called the successful Agni-5 test a “major milestone” and announced that the missile will now be tested from a canister, which is how the missile will eventually be deployed.

DRDO Director-General Avinash Chander said that the Agni-5 “canister-launch” should take place early next year. In Sept. 15 remarks, Chander said that, after three or four more tests, the Agni-5 will be stored and deployed in canisters to “drastically” reduce the reaction time for launching the missile, a priority for India. (See ACT, September 2013.)

Recent statements indicate that New Delhi plans to focus on increasing the range of its ballistic missiles in the future. India is in the initial stages of developing an ICBM with a range of at least 6,000 kilometers, the Agni-6, DRDO officials have said on several occasions.

In his Sept. 15 comments, Chander said that increasing the range of future ballistic missiles is the “least problematic” area for India. New Delhi could develop a missile with a 10,000-kilometer range in two and a half years, he said. India does not currently “see the need” for that range, he said.

The DRDO is working on technology for multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), which will allow future Agni missiles to carry several warheads. Although the Agni-5 is being tested with a single warhead, the Agni-6 could be equipped to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, a DRDO scientist told the New Indian Express on Sept. 18.

Dalton said that on “technical drivers” of Indian missile development, including areas such as MIRVs, the DRDO is “often out front of the rest of the government in claims about its technology developments that may not in fact be settled policy.”

Pakistan is likely to remain focused on improving its short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, despite India’s advances in long-range ballistic missiles, experts say.

Iran, U.S. Push Nuclear Diplomacy

Kelsey Davenport

Following a high-level series of diplomatic exchanges and meetings between U.S. and Iranian leaders in late September, both sides say there is a strong basis for a diplomatic resolution to the long-running impasse over Iran’s nuclear program.

In the highest level of contact between the two governments since 1979, President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone about Iran’s nuclear program Sept. 27, Obama told reporters at a White House news conference later that day.

“While there will surely be important obstacles” and success is not guaranteed, “I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution” to the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program, Obama said.

“[T]he test will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions” by Iran that would “bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions,” he said.

Obama’s conversation with Rouhani followed a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations on Sept. 26 that Kerry described as “constructive.” Zarif’s presentation to six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on the nuclear negotiations had a tone that was different from the one Iran had taken in previous meetings with the group, known as the P5+1, and was “very different in the vision” of possibilities for the future, Kerry said afterwards.

Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have been intermittent and largely unproductive for more than a decade. The P5+1 met three times with Iran in 2012 and once each in February and April 2013, but failed to reach an agreement.

The two sides will resume talks in Geneva on Oct. 15-16, a senior State Department official said during a press briefing following the Sept. 26 meeting.

Kerry said that he hoped the negotiations lead to “concrete results that will answer the outstanding questions” about Iran’s nuclear program. Zarif, speaking later that evening at an event organized by the Asia Society in New York, said that he was “optimistic” about negotiations and now the parties need to “match our words with actions.”

In a statement following the Sept. 26 meeting, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the head negotiator for the P5+1, said that the group had put forward a proposal that would remain on the table. (See ACT, May 2013.) Iran can “respond directly” to that proposal or put forward its own at the October meeting, she said.

One-Year Timetable

Zarif said he and Kerry “agreed to jump-start the process” and move to agree “first, on the parameters of the end game.” Iran and the P5+1 will think about the order of steps that need to be implemented to “address the immediate concerns of [the] two sides” and move toward finalizing a deal within a year, Zarif said.

The senior State Department official said that Iran was “urged” to “add some substance” to the ideas presented during the meeting and share some details before talks resume Oct. 15.

The Sept. 26 meeting marked the first set of talks the P5+1 had with Iran under Rouhani, who took office Aug. 3 and is widely seen as more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama said in a Sept. 24 speech at the UN that he made it clear in letters to Rouhani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Washington prefers to resolve its concerns over Iran’s nuclear program “peacefully” but remains determined to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. Obama said the United States “respects the right of the Iranian people to access nuclear energy.”

Since his election, Rouhani made several speeches indicating that Tehran was more serious about making a deal. In his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, he said that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and nuclear weapons have “no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine.”

He said it was “imperative” that Iran “remove any and all reasonable concerns” about its nuclear program.

Colin Kahl, a former Defense Department official in the Obama administration, told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 26 e-mail that Rouhani “signaled his willingness to reach some accommodation” and claims to have “sufficient leeway” from Khamenei to reach an agreement on the nuclear issue.

Sanctions Relief Sought

Rouhani told the United Nations that any deal must respect Iran’s right to enrich uranium and provide relief from the “unjust sanctions.”

Iran is subject to UN Security Council sanctions for failing to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities and provide answers to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding activities that could be applicable to developing nuclear weapons. The European Union and the United States and other countries have imposed their own sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed further sanctions against Iran in July that would result in a de facto oil embargo within a year if signed into law. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee is considering sanctions legislation of its own. That bill had not been publicly released at press time.

Kahl, now with the Center for a New American Security, said that if Iran is motivated to negotiate seriously and work toward a deal, “maintaining the current level of pressure is sufficient for now.”

“Piling on additional sanctions now, prior to testing Rouhani’s will to strike a deal” and his ability to sell it in Iran, could be “highly counterproductive,” Kahl said. New sanctions would “provide ammunition to Iranian hardliners,” allowing them to argue that “Tehran’s new, more conciliatory approach has made circumstances worse, not better,” he said.

Passing new sanctions if Iran “refuses to engage seriously and move toward meaningful concessions” could be a useful tool for diplomacy, Kahl said.

‘Very Constructive’ IAEA Talks

Iran resumed negotiations Sept. 27 with the IAEA over an approach for the agency’s investigations into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) The IAEA negotiations have had little visible progress over the past two years.

Herman Nackaerts, deputy director-general of the IAEA, and Reza Najafi, Iran’s new ambassador to the IAEA, struck a positive tone in comments to reporters.

Speaking before the meeting, Najafi said that the parties would “exchange views” on how to “continue cooperation to resolve these issues.”

Nackaerts said after the meeting that the sides agreed to meet again on Oct. 28.

Following a high-level series of diplomatic exchanges and meetings between U.S. and Iranian leaders in late September, both sides say there is a strong basis for a diplomatic resolution...

IAEA Members Reject Israel Resolution

Kelsey Davenport

A resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program, revived after a two-year hiatus, failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month.

The nonbinding resolution, sponsored by a group of 18 Arab states, would have called on Israel to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and put all of its nuclear sites under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. The measure, referred to as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” on the IAEA agenda, failed by a vote of 43-51 on Sept. 20, the last day of the conference.

Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, an Egyptian official and head of the Arab League’s mission to the IAEA, told Reuters on Sept. 20 that the world needs to know about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and that its nuclear arsenal is “not playing a constructive role.”

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 warheads. Israel has not joined the NPT, but is a member of the IAEA, and its nuclear research activities are subject to IAEA monitoring and verification.

In a Sept. 18 statement at the conference, Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that introducing the resolution “inflicts a serious blow to any attempt to embark on a regional security dialogue.” He called on states to “condemn the Arab initiative” and “decisively defeat this motion.”

The United States voted against the resolution. In a statement delivered after the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Joseph Macmanus said that the United States regretted that the resolution had been brought to a vote or even discussed at the IAEA.

A diplomat who attended the conference told Arms Control Today on Sept. 26 that about 30 European countries also voted against the resolution, as did Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

China, Russia, and South Africa were among the countries that voted with the Arab League. More than 60 IAEA members abstained or were absent during the vote.

A similar resolution passed the IAEA conference for the first time in 2009, after being voted down for several years. An attempt the next year failed. The Arab states refrained from putting the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a regional meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

As part of an accord that was crucial to reaching consensus on the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the treaty parties agreed to hold a meeting on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East by the end of 2012. The meeting was set for Helsinki last December, but the conveners, which included Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced that the conference would be postponed because some states from the region had not yet agreed to attend and because there were disagreements over the agenda for the meeting. (See ACT, December 2012.)

At the time of postponement, Israel was the only country not to have publicly committed to attending a meeting.

A June 12 memorandum and letter submitted by Oman’s ambassador to the IAEA, Badr bin Mohamed Al Hinai, on behalf of 18 Arab states and the Palestinian territories asked that the resolution be placed on the agenda of the IAEA conference. According to the memorandum, the “recent course of events” failed to meet the expectations of the Arab states, motivating them to pursue passage of the resolution.

In his Sept. 20 statement, Macmanus said that the United States would continue to work toward “constructive dialogue” on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and called on “all concerned states” to “engage directly and on the basis of consensus and mutual respect” to establish the zone.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, member states voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program.

 

Israel Back on Agenda of IAEA Conference

Kelsey Davenport

Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.

An item on Israel’s nuclear capabilities has been on the annual conference’s agenda since 1987, but 2009 was the only year in which the member states approved a resolution on the topic.

In 2011 and 2012, the Arab states refrained from submitting a resolution on Israel’s nuclear program, a move they said they made to encourage Israeli participation in the process of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.

A June 12 memorandum submitted by Oman’s ambassador to the IAEA, Badr bin Mohamed Al Hinai, said that Israel “continues to defy the international community” by refusing to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This refusal threatens peace and exposes the region to “nuclear risks,” the memorandum said. Al Hinai submitted the memorandum and an accompanying letter on behalf of the Arab Group, which is made up of 18 Arab states and the Palestinian territories.

Ehud Azoulay, Israel’s ambassador to the IAEA, told Reuters on July 9 that the Arab states “are taking a counterproductive route by raising this issue…and trying to bash Israel.”

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, despite the government’s insistence that it will not be the first country to introduce such weapons into the region.

According to the memorandum, the “recent course of events” failed to meet the expectations of the Arab states, motivating them to put the resolution on Israel’s nuclear program back on the agenda for the IAEA conference.

A meeting was scheduled to be held in December 2012 on creating the WMD-free zone in the region, but was postponed.(See ACT, December 2012.)

Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.

U.S. Says Nuclear Security Work Remains

Kelsey Davenport

The United States decided to host a nuclear security summit in 2016, which would be the fourth such meeting, because the “existing nuclear security architecture” needs to be strengthened and deepened before the summit process ends, a White House official said last month.

Although a July 1-5 ministerial-level conference on the topic hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) played an important role in strengthening and institutionalizing nuclear security, progress in this area has not reached an appropriate point for the summit process to end, the official said in an Aug. 21 interview.

President Barack Obama launched the process with an April 2010 summit in Washington that focused attention on securing vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide in four years.

Some countries have said they would prefer the IAEA to take over the work of the nuclear security summits, but the official said the United States does not intend for any single organization or entity to assume the summits’ work. The official said, however, that the “mortar” between various layers of international organizations and informal processes needs to be strengthened before the summit process concludes.

The 2010 Washington summit came after President Barack Obama laid out his goal of leading a global effort to lock down and consolidate nuclear materials in an April 2009 speech in Prague. (See ACT, May 2010.) A second summit was held in March 2012 in Seoul, and the Netherlands will host more than 50 participating states and several international organizations next March 24-25 in The Hague. (See ACT, April 2012.)

In a June 19 speech in Berlin, Obama announced his intent to host a 2016 summit. Many experts had speculated that 2014 might be the end of the summit process because it would mark the conclusion of the four-year effort. (See ACT, November 2011.)

With an Office of Nuclear Security and a Nuclear Security Fund, the IAEA already plays a significant role in efforts to secure nuclear material, but that role is not defined in the agency’s statute. In his July 5 closing statement at the Vienna meeting, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said the meeting recognized the “central role of the IAEA in supporting States’ efforts to strengthen nuclear security.”

In an Aug. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Piet de Klerk, who is leading the Dutch preparations for the 2014 summit, made a similar point and added that the Vienna conference was important because it emphasized the prominence that nuclear security has attained “within the spectrum of IAEA activities.”

The meeting produced a declaration that the 125 participating countries adopted by consensus on the opening day of the conference. The declaration reaffirmed the role of the IAEA in “strengthening the nuclear security framework” and “coordination of international activities” in the field, but also said nuclear security is fundamentally the responsibility of individual states.

The declaration, although outlining proposed actions for states to take to strengthen nuclear security, did not contain any binding language. In a press conference on the first day of the IAEA meeting, Amano said that the declaration should not be characterized as weak. It marked the first time that language on nuclear security was adopted by consensus by such a large number of participating states, he said.

Amano declined to say what he hoped the next nuclear security conference would achieve. The White House official suggested that one way to strengthen the IAEA conferences and maintain the momentum for improving nuclear security would be to establish the meetings as a forum for announcing recent concrete accomplishments in that area and making commitments for further action.

As an example, the official cited the announcement during the IAEA conference by Canada, Russia, the United States, and Vietnam that they had completed a cooperative project to remove all remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Vietnam. The HEU, which came from a research reactor, was sent back to Russia for disposition.

The idea of using a prominent event to spur progress in nuclear security in this way was part of the concept behind the nuclear security summit process. At the Washington and Seoul summits, countries announced pledges of specific actions, or “house gifts,” to the meeting.

The declaration from the Vienna meeting suggested that the IAEA consider organizing a conference on nuclear security every three years.

Mixed Reviews

In a July 5 interview at the end of the IAEA meeting, a second Dutch official said that the declaration could have been “more ambitious” in what it asked of member states. He also said the meeting exposed a need to “better coordinate” multilateral initiatives related to nuclear security to “avoid duplication” of activities. The 2014 summit in The Hague will seek to increase such coordination, he said.

The White House official agreed that the meeting confirmed the role of the IAEA in nuclear security, adding that the declaration was “forward looking” and increased the visibility of nuclear security.

The White House official and de Klerk said that the emphasis on completing ratification of an amended convention that sets protection standards for the storage and transport of nuclear materials was a positive result of the meeting. At the 2012 summit, participating states set a goal of bringing the treaty into force by 2014, which will require more than 30 additional ratifications.

Several participants at the Vienna meeting raised concerns about the IAEA’s ability to increase its nuclear security activities, given uncertainties about funding for those efforts. The budget for the Office of Nuclear Security comes primarily from extrabudgetary contributions, which often are attached to particular projects. IAEA member states provide such funds on top of their assessed contribution to the agency.

In a May 2013 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office raised the concern that nuclear security work might be underfunded at the IAEA. The report recommended that the U.S. secretary of state work with the agency and member countries to “evaluate the nuclear security program’s long-term resource needs” and determine whether extrabudgetary funding can provide a reliable basis for planning future efforts.

Even if the IAEA has limited resources for its nuclear security work, it should be the primary driver for strengthening nuclear security, a Slovenian official said in a July 3 interview. All IAEA member states should have a voice in developing a nuclear security regime, the official said.

The IAEA has 159 members.

Slovenia attended the IAEA meeting, but does not participate in the nuclear security summit process.

The Slovenian official said that if the nuclear security summit participants are serious about framing nuclear security as a “global problem,” they should open the summit process to all interested states to “craft a global solution.”

The Dutch official acknowledged the concern that the participant list was limited, but he said this was necessary to achieve more-concrete results and that outreach to nonparticipating countries will remain an important part of the summit process.

U.S. Priorities

In addition to strengthening the nuclear security architecture and ensuring that participating states make further pledges of specific actions, a main U.S. goal for the 2014 summit is to develop the concept of “assurances,” voluntary steps that states can take to demonstrate that they are maintaining high standards of nuclear security without disclosing sensitive information, the White House official said.

Assurances balance the “immutability of sovereignty with the interdependence of global norms,” the official said. One way to provide such assurances is to take advantage of the IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Services (IPPAS), the official said.

At the request of member states, the agency can conduct an IPPAS mission at a designated facility. After visiting the site, IAEA experts provide the state with recommendations on how it can enhance its physical protection.

If all countries allowed peer reviews of their nuclear facilities, that would “make a big difference,” Amano said in a June 28 op-ed for Project Syndicate. The United States strongly supports IPPAS reviews, the White House official said.

De Klerk praised the IAEA meeting’s emphasis on the use of IPPAS missions and the participants’ encouragement of the IAEA “to foster the sharing of experiences and lessons” from these missions. Discussing these issues in the IAEA will contribute to taking further steps in nuclear security at the 2014 summit, he said.

Although not optimistic about the possibility of a future requirement that all countries undergo peer reviews, the White House official said that the United States will soon receive an IPPAS mission, which Washington views as a valuable tool for “continuous improvement” in nuclear security. IPPAS missions originally were viewed as reviews to assist states with problems in their security arrangements, but the United States is working to “de-stigmatize” these missions and demonstrate their value as a tool for “mature programs” as well, the official said.

Some countries have called for legally binding international requirements for nuclear security, but a German official cautioned against placing too much emphasis on binding requirements in the short term. In a July 4 interview, he said moving toward a treaty on nuclear security, or required peer reviews, may act as a “disincentive” for states to strengthen norms in the short term because they may choose to wait for “what is coming next.”

A Russian official said in a July 3 interview that binding reviews would “undermine the consensus” achieved at the meeting that nuclear security is a state responsibility.

Toward the 2014 Summit

In the August 26 e-mail, de Klerk said that the 2014 summit will be the “right moment for looking at results” from the previous two summits in their “core business” of reducing the quantities of vulnerable material or providing better protection for it.

He said that closer cooperation between governments and the nuclear industry will be another priority in 2014, adding that these groups “share the same goal but have different responsibilities.” Industry involvement in “evaluating regulations and providing input for new regulations” has been seen to contribute to the effectiveness of the nuclear security regime, de Klerk said.

A third focal point for the 2014 summit is increased sharing of “training, knowledge, and expertise” to be “better prepared against nuclear terrorism,” de Klerk said.


Kelsey Davenport's reporting from Vienna was supported by a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America.

The United States decided to host a nuclear security summit in 2016, which would be the fourth such meeting, because the “existing nuclear security architecture” needs...

N. Korea Continues to Evade Sanctions

Kelsey Davenport

Panama stopped a ship carrying Soviet-made Cuban weapons to North Korea on July 15, charging a violation of UN Security Council sanctions that prohibit transfers of arms to Pyongyang.

The intercepted shipment provides further evidence that North Korea continues to evade sanctions imposed by UN Security Council resolutions and that Pyongyang “likely uses these networks to continue developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” a former UN official told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 23 e-mail. North Korea’s continued development of these programs is prohibited by Security Council resolutions.

The former official said the Panama incident supports the conclusion reached in a June 11 report by a UN panel of experts, which highlighted the “uneven implementation” of the sanctions resolution. The panel was first authorized in 2009 to study the implementation of a series of sanctions approved by the UN Security Council starting in 2006.

Together, Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 prohibit arms sales and transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to North Korea, ban the sale of luxury items to Pyongyang, and give states broad authority to inspect North Korean cargo suspected of violating these measures if it passes through their territories.

Panama used this authority to stop the ship on the suspicion that it was trafficking drugs, which is prohibited by the resolutions. But when inspecting the ship, Panamanian authorities found 240 tons of armaments, including two MiG fighter jets and nine anti-aircraft missiles.

The United States supported Panama’s decision to inspect the ship, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at a July 16 briefing. Although Ventrell said there is a process for determining if a specific case is a violation of UN sanctions, he said that “any shipment of arms or related materiel” would violate Security Council resolutions. UN experts began an investigation of the ship Aug. 13 and are to produce a report on whether the shipment is a violation of the sanctions resolution.

According to a July 16 statement by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the “obsolete defensive weaponry” was being shipped to North Korea for repair.

In a July 17 statement, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the weapons were to be sent back to Cuba after “overhauling them according to a legitimate contract.” He called on Panama to release the ship, crew, and weapons.

Security Council Resolution 1874, approved in 2009, extends the 2006 prohibition on arms sales to and from North Korea to include the repair and maintenance of systems, unless a notification is sent prior to the shipment. Cuba apparently did not send any such notification.

The former official said that although the repair story is plausible and that the obsolete armaments would be unlikely to add strategic value to North Korea’s weapons systems, the incident raises “broader concerns” about what is slipping past export controls into Pyongyang.

Looking toward the future, he said that “efforts should focus on implementation of existing sanctions, rather than the imposition of new measures.” He noted that the June report found that only about half of the UN member states have submitted reports on their implementation efforts. More complete reporting will give a better picture of where implementation gaps still exist, he said.

The UN panel concluded in its report that sanctions have not halted North Korea’s development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs but that they have likely “delayed the timetable” and “choked off significant funding” for these activities.

North Korea has not recently displayed any new ballistic missiles, which is consistent with the conclusion in the report that sanctions are affecting the program. Michael Elleman, who served as a missile expert for the UN team that conducted weapons inspections in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War, said in an Aug. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that longer-range missiles paraded during North Korea’s Victory Day celebrations in July marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War “appear to be display mock-ups.”

North Korea displayed these same missiles, which experts have concluded are fake, during previous parades, such as the April 2012 parade that first featured the KN-08, also known as the Hwasong-13. (See ACT, March 2013.)

Elleman, who is now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that these mock-ups are of “better quality” than previous fakes but that the “inconsistent features” on the missiles “suggest convincingly” that they are not flight ready.

Neither system has been flight-tested, and it is not clear if either is currently under development, he said, noting that there have been rumors of engine tests for the Hwasong-13 but no details as to the size or power of the engine.

Despite the sanctions, North Korea appears to be expanding its nuclear facilities. An Aug. 7 report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) says that North Korea has expanded the building that houses its centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Using satellite imagery, the report concludes that Pyongyang began expanding the roof of the building housing its centrifuges at the Yongbyon site in March 2013 and that the area now covered is twice the size of the original structure. According to the ISIS report, this could allow North Korea to double the number of centrifuges contained in the building, which Pyongyang said was 2,000 in 2010.

It is unknown if or to what level North Korea is enriching uranium or if other uranium-enrichment facilities exist within the country. North Korea is known to have a stockpile of weapons-usable plutonium. It tested nuclear devices in 2006, 2009, and 2013.

Panama stopped a ship carrying Soviet-made Cuban weapons to North Korea on July 15, charging a violation of UN Security Council sanctions that prohibit transfers of arms to Pyongyang.

Rouhani Wants ‘Serious’ Nuclear Talks

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six world powers need to pursue “more serious and explicit negotiations” on Tehran’s nuclear program, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at an Aug. 6 press conference.

Speaking three days after his inauguration, Rouhani said Iran will not “put aside” its uranium-enrichment capabilities but that a “win-win” scenario that will “allay mutual concerns” still is possible.

In an Aug. 4 statement, the White House said that Rouhani’s inauguration is an opportunity for Iran to “act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns” about the country’s nuclear program.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but many countries are concerned that Iran could use its nuclear capabilities to pursue nuclear weapons. The six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia the United Kingdom, and the United States) have been negotiating intermittently with Iran over its controversial nuclear program since 2006. The six countries, known as the P5+1, met with Iran twice in 2013, but did not make any progress on a deal. (See ACT, May 2013.)

Catherine Ashton, who heads the negotiating team for the P5+1, spoke Aug. 17 with Iran’s new foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, about resuming the negotiations, according to a statement later that day from Ashton’s office. During the call, Ashton “confirmed the need for substantial talks that will lead to concrete results swiftly,” the statement said.

Some analysts have said that Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s June 13 presidential election offers a new opening for negotiations. Just days after his win at the polls, Rouhani said he would make Iran’s nuclear program “more transparent.” (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

In an Aug. 23 e-mail, a former U.S. official told Arms Control Today that, unlike his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani is “willing and able” to make a deal if the United States and its partners show that they are “ready to negotiate in good faith” and put “meaningful sanctions relief” on the table.

Rouhani “has the ear” of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which makes him “more likely to get a deal though Tehran” than Ahmadinejad, the former official said.

Rouhani already has made changes in key personnel involved in Iran’s nuclear program, but has not named a negotiator to take over for Saeed Jalili, whose appointment ended with Rouhani’s inauguration. Rouhani reportedly is considering moving the responsibility for nuclear negotiations to the Foreign Ministry. This would give him more authority over the negotiations than the president has had in the past, when the lead negotiator has been the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran. The supreme leader must confirm decisions of the council.

The Aug. 17 press release from Ashton’s office said she told Zarif the P5+1 is “ready to work” with Iran’s new negotiators as soon as they are appointed.

New IAEA Envoy

One of Rouhani’s new appointments is Reza Najafi, who will take over from Ali Asghar Soltanieh as Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Soltanieh was scheduled to leave the post Sept. 1.

Najafi, who has worked on disarmament issues in the Iranian Foreign Ministry, was considered for the position in 2010, but Ahmadinejad decided to extend Soltanieh’s posting at the agency instead.

Iran and the IAEA are negotiating an approach for the agency’s investigations into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities. The two sides have met 10 times since January 2012 in an attempt to reach agreement on the scope and sequence of the investigations. Yukiya Amano, director-general of the IAEA, told the organization’s Board of Governors at its quarterly meeting in June that talks with Iran are “going around in circles.” The IAEA said that it would resume talks with Iran in Vienna on Sept. 27.

The IAEA’s quarterly report on Iran, dated Aug. 28, found that Iran’s nuclear program is progressing. Since the previous report, dated May 22, Iran has installed further centrifuges at its Natanz facility, and its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent increased slightly to 185 kilograms.

A principal P5+1 concern is halting Iran’s production of 20 percent-enriched uranium and limiting the size of its stockpile of that material. (See ACT, May 2013.)

Uranium enriched to 20 percent is more easily converted to weapons grade than reactor-grade uranium, which is enriched to less than 5 percent. Experts say that approximately 250 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent, when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough for one bomb.

Space Launch Site

Meanwhile, satellite imagery published last month by IHS Jane’s Military and Security Assessments revealed that Iran is currently building a launch site that could be used for larger ballistic missiles.

Michael Elleman, who served as a missile expert for the UN team that conducted weapons inspections in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War, said in an Aug. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that although it is “too early to know with confidence” how the Sharud site will be used, the distance between the structures and launch pad are “consistent with a facility designed to handle large solid-propellant motors.”

Iran has tested a solid-fueled ballistic missile, the Sajjil-2, only once in the past three years, and developments on that system appear to be stalled, he said. Solid-fueled missiles are less vulnerable to pre-emptive strikes than liquid-fueled systems because the former do not need to be fueled before launch, which can take several hours.

Elleman, who is now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that “most probably” the site will be used for satellite launches.

Iran already has a satellite launch facility, but a second site is prudent given that “catastrophic launch vehicle failures” are common when developing new systems, he said. Brazil, China, the Soviet Union, and the United States all have experienced rocket explosions that destroyed launch pads, he said.

Elleman said there is a possibility that the facility has been designed to “facilitate long-range missile tests,” noting that the launch tower is taller than any ballistic missile Iran has tested to date. There are three possible designs Iran could use for a longer-range missile based on its existing systems, but there is no evidence that any of these routes is being pursued, he said.

Iran and six world powers need to pursue “more serious and explicit negotiations” on Tehran’s nuclear program, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at an Aug. 6 press conference.

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