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Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Kelsey Davenport

Iran Moves Forward on Nuclear Facilities

Kelsey Davenport

Iran installed additional centrifuges in its underground uranium-enrichment facility at Fordow and increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, according to a Nov. 16 quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a Nov. 18 statement, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the report “confirms” that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful and that “each gram of uranium” is monitored by the IAEA.

The IAEA, however, concludes in the report that it is “unable to provide credible assurance” that all nuclear material in Iran is in “peaceful activities.”

The report, prepared for the Nov. 29-30 IAEA Board of Governors meeting, found that Iran installed 644 centrifuges at Fordow since the previous report on Aug. 30, bringing the total number of centrifuges there to 2,784, which is the maximum capacity for the facility. The number of centrifuges currently enriching uranium to 20 percent, however, remained unchanged at 696 since the previous report. Since August, nearly 1,000 additional centrifuges also were installed at Natanz, Iran’s second enrichment facility, in the area of the plant that produces reactor-grade uranium, although they too are not yet operational.

The report noted that Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent. The size of this stockpile is a principal concern of the international community because this material is more easily enriched to weapons grade. Iran maintains that the material will be used to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Resolutions adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council, however, have called on Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities, including enrichment.

In total, Iran has produced 232 kilograms of the 20 percent material, of which 135 kilograms are stored and could be enriched further should Tehran decide to pursue nuclear weapons. The remainder of the material has been slated for conversion from uranium hexafluoride gas into uranium oxide, a solid powder from which nuclear fuel is made. Although the powder can be returned to the gas form, experts say this process would take several months.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment on the contents of the IAEA report during a Nov. 16 press briefing. She said that the State Department had seen the report and would discuss it with other members of the IAEA board.

Reactors Face Difficulties

The IAEA conducted an inspection of Bushehr, Iran’s sole nuclear power plant, Nov. 6-7 and confirmed in the Nov. 16 report that fuel assemblies had been transferred to the spent fuel pond. Iran informed the IAEA of the transfer Oct. 15.

Mark Fitzpatrick, former deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told Arms Control Today in a Nov. 20 e-mail that the removal of the fuel “almost certainly indicates a technical problem.” Although it is “theoretically possible” for Iran to extract weapons-usable plutonium from the spent fuel, the IAEA would be “alert to any such misuse,” and speculation about the use of the spent fuel for developing nuclear weapons is “unfounded,” he said.

Russia provides the fuel for Bushehr and currently oversees the operation of the plant. Fereydoun Abbasi, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Nov. 10 that the handover of the reactor to Iran will be “made in the near future.”

The Nov. 16 report noted that Iran is continuing to move forward on construction of a heavy-water reactor at Arak, despite resolutions adopted by the IAEA board and the UN Security Council calling on Tehran to halt construction. Iran has pushed back its anticipated date of operation for the reactor to the first quarter of 2014, the report said. IAEA reports earlier in 2012 said Iran had estimated that the operation of the reactor would begin in the third quarter of 2013.

Western governments have expressed concern that the Arak heavy-water reactor is far better suited for plutonium production for nuclear weapons than for the production of the medical isotopes Iran claims the plant is intended to make. In 2004, Iran declared it would not construct a facility that could have been used to reprocess the spent fuel.

Structured Approach

Iran and the IAEA are scheduled to meet again Dec. 13 in Tehran to continue negotiations on a so-called structured approach to resolve the agency’s concerns about Iran’s possible weapons-related activities, which were outlined in a November 2011 IAEA report. (See ACT, December 2011.) Negotiations on the framework agreement began in February.

The Nov. 16 report said there have been no “concrete results” from the agency’s attempts to work with Iran to resolve these issues and that, in the past year, the IAEA has obtained additional information that “further corroborates” the analysis from the 2011 report.

Soltanieh said that the Dec. 13 talks could “clear up ambiguities” if political provocation is avoided. Fitzpatrick, who is now at the International Institute for Security Studies in London, said progress was “unlikely” if there was no “positive movement” in talks between Iran and six world powers. He said Iran is “holding the IAEA hostage” to progress in those talks.

Iran installed additional centrifuges in its underground uranium-enrichment facility at Fordow and increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, according to a Nov. 16 quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran Says Talks to Resume in November

Kelsey Davenport

High-level negotiations between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program will resume in November after the U.S. presidential election, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at an Oct. 21 press conference. An exact date and venue for the negotiations have not yet been determined, he said.

A spokesman for Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator for the six countries, said they hoped to “pick up discussions soon,” but he did not give a time frame.

In interviews, experts said that although little has changed in the official negotiation positions that Iran and the countries, known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), discussed during prior negotiating rounds (see ACT, June 2012), there are still diplomatic paths to resolving international concerns over the nuclear program, which Iran maintains is entirely peaceful.

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 stalled after a June 18-19 meeting in Moscow, the third top-level round of negotiations in as many months. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) Although the lead negotiators for each side remained in contact and the two sides held a technical-level meeting in July, a fourth round of high-level talks was not scheduled due to a lack of progress in the first three rounds. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to The New York Times, there also is a possibility of bilateral talks. An Oct. 20 Times story cited senior administration officials as saying that Tehran and Washington had agreed “in principle” to hold bilateral negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election.

Although it was unclear whether administration officials were referring to a separate track of meetings between the two countries or a bilateral meeting in the context of P5+1 negotiations, both the United States and Iran denied the report.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an Oct. 20 statement that although no “one-on-one talks” have been agreed to, the United States is “prepared to meet bilaterally” with Iran and has held this position since P5+1 talks resumed. During his Oct. 22 debate with his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama said the reports of bilateral talks “are not true.”

Salehi said Oct. 21 that there is “no talk of negotiations” with the United States and that Iran will hold talks “within the framework” of the P5+1.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian told Arms Control Today on Oct. 16 said that rather than discussing the specific proposals from past negotiations, the two sides each should recognize a point that is important to the other. Specifically, he suggested that Iran recognize that the “concerns held by Western countries” over its nuclear program must be addressed and the P5+1 recognize Iran’s “legitimate rights” to uranium enrichment.

After this reciprocal recognition, the parties could move to practical steps, taking actions that would address P5+1 concerns on Iranian transparency and “breakout capabilities,” Mousavian said. This would include actions such as increased inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and resolution of questions about possible past activities related to developing nuclear weapons. In return, the P5+1 should be prepared to take proportionate steps in return for “each positive step” that Iran takes, namely in the form of sanctions relief, he said.

In the ideal “end state,” the P5+1 would be convinced that all “technical ambiguities are removed” and that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful, Mousavian said. In return, Iran’s enrichment rights would be recognized, and all sanctions removed.

Former U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan James Dobbins also identified the importance of considering some form of a suspension-for-suspension arrangement in future talks. He told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 18 e-mail that a proposal under which Iran would halt some enrichment activities in return for the suspension of some sanctions should be considered for future negotiations.

Dobbins identified two key questions that must be examined to move talks forward. First, he said it must be determined whether Iran is willing to make “further positive moves to meet international demands.” Second, Dobbins said that Obama’s ability to respond positively to an Iranian concession is key, such as by supporting international recognition of Iran’s enrichment rights in return for an Iranian pledge not enrich uranium to a level higher than 5 percent uranium-235.

Mousavian said that Tehran has been willing to voluntarily cap enrichment at 5 percent and that point is now being “accurately reported by Western media.” He said Iran “never wanted high-level enrichment.”

Future U.S. Sanctions

In the absence of progress in the negotiations, several U.S. senators are considering further U.S. unilateral sanctions, which could be introduced when Congress reconvenes in November.

In an Oct. 16 e-mail to Arms Control Today, an aide to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said the senator is working on legislation that would build on the previous round of Iran sanctions, which were co-authored by Kirk and signed into law last Dec. 31. The new sanctions legislation could be offered as an amendment to the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill.

The aide said that the legislation could include provisions that prohibit all international financial institutions from conducting transactions with Iranian financial institutions that are “in any way affiliated with the Central Bank of Iran” and all transactions with “any Iranian entity related to energy.” Exceptions would be made for humanitarian purposes and oil exports from Iran authorized under current laws.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the co-author of previous sanctions legislation, told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 17 e-mail that he also intends to pursue further sanctions, identifying a “robust multilateral sanctions regime” and a “credible military threat” as the main tools for dealing with Iranian nuclear program. He also said it is “simultaneously crucial” to pursue negotiations by passing additional U.S. and multilateral sanctions to “force Iran to enter real negotiations” over the “termination of its nuclear weapons program.”

Mousavian, however, warned that the imposition of further sanctions and new restrictions would have adverse effects on Iran’s ability to negotiate in any further talks by making it more difficult for Tehran to show “flexibility and cooperation” because the regime would be forced to take a tougher stance so as not to appear to be capitulating to Western demands.

He said that as further restrictive measures are implemented, it becomes more difficult for the United States and the European Union to offer sanctions relief as incentives for Iranian compliance and concessions, as the sanctions become more difficult to dismantle.

New EU Sanctions

During an Oct. 15 meeting, EU foreign ministers agreed to impose further sanctions on Iran for failing to implement resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors.

According to an Oct. 15 EU press release, the new restrictions will target the energy, financial, trade, and transport sectors, including “all transactions between European and Iranian banks” that are not authorized in advance for humanitarian purposes.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an Oct. 15 interview with Radio Free Europe that these new sanctions are “exclusively about the nuclear program” and not regime change.

In a press briefing the same day, White House spokesman Jay Carney described the EU sanctions package as “significant,” saying that the United States “welcomes” the adoption of these measures.

China, however, opposed the new measures. During an Oct. 16 press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the imposition of unilateral sanctions makes the situation “more complex” and “cannot fundamentally resolve the Iran nuclear issue.” He called on all of the parties to “push” for a new round of talks as soon as possible.

Iran’s foreign minister said negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear program would resume in late November, but a spokesman for the six-country group’s lead negotiator was less specific.

Arab States Look to WMD Meeting in 2012

Kelsey Davenport and Daria Medvedeva

The Arab League expects all countries in the Middle East to attend a December 2012 conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in that region and demonstrate a commitment of “political will” despite current destabilizing developments in the region, the group said in an Oct. 8 statement at the UN General Assembly First Committee.

The statement, delivered by Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil on behalf of the 21 Arab League member countries, said that any delay will “impede progress in efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation” and could cause members of the Arab League to “review their policies” in this area.

But an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official told Arms Control Today on Oct. 4 that “domestic concerns and regional unrest” are diverting Egypt’s attention away from the planned December conference and that political will within the region to establish the zone is weaker now than in 2010.

Diplomats from countries outside the Middle East, such as the United States, whose support is considered necessary for negotiations on the zone to move forward, also have expressed concern that the regional upheaval caused by the Arab Spring could disrupt or delay the 2012 conference. (See ACT, June 2012.)

During the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation (NPT) Review Conference, member states committed themselves to holding a conference on the WMD-free zone in 2012 and reaffirmed their commitment to “full implementation” of a 1995 resolution calling for the establishment of the zone. (See ACT, June 2010.) Finland was designated as the host of the conference in October 2011, when Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava was named as facilitator. (See ACT, November 2011.)

The Arab League statement called for international support that would enable the meeting “to result in a practical outcome coupled with clear implementation mechanisms” set to “a specific timetable” for establishing the zone.

Laajava said in May that progress has been made in the organization for the conference, but further efforts were needed, particularly from conference conveners Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general.

In an Oct. 10 statement at the First Committee, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the co-conveners already had completed much of the work for the conference. He said that ensuring attendance is a “vital task” and urged countries in the region to confirm their participation.

An October 1990 UN General Assembly resolution on the establishment of the zone proposed that it include the Arab League, which currently has 22 members although Syria’s membership has been suspended; Iran; and Israel. Diplomats and experts maintain that Iranian and Israeli participation in the conference will be key to its success, but neither country has confirmed that it will participate.

Israeli Reservations

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor did not make reference to attending the December meeting during his Oct. 16 remarks to the First Committee, but he said that Israel does support the “annual endorsement” of the committee’s yearly resolution on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone in spite of his country’s “substantive reservations regarding certain elements.” He did not expand on those reservations, but in past statements, Israel has said that negotiations can move forward on the zone only when there is peace within the region and Israel’s national security concerns are considered.

In a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference on Sept. 19, Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said the establishment of the zone would require a “significant transformation of the regional trend” toward volatility and that any initiative to promote such a zone in “complete disregard” of the current regional realities, such as violent responses to uprisings and noncompliance with nonproliferation agreements, is “futile.” Chorev also highlighted Iran’s and Syria’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA as obstacles to the establishment of a WMD-free zone.

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 16 e-mail that Chorev’s statement should not be interpreted as a rejection of Israel’s attendance at the December conference, but rather a message that the “realities of the Middle East are very far from being conducive” to the establishment of a WMD-free zone.

Israel will not agree to address these issues in a forum that “singles it out for condemnation” or “promotes a hostile atmosphere,” she said. Keeping the conference within the context of the NPT, to which Israel is not party, also is an obstacle because the proposal for the zone covers not only nuclear issues, but all weapons of mass destruction and delivery vehicles, she said.

Landau went on to say that identifying a “common interest” shared by all parties is a major challenge but that measures that “enhance communication” and lower tensions, while difficult to articulate, could be mechanisms for crafting a common goal.

Israel has attended meetings convened to support the process of creating a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. Prosor noted in the Oct. 15 statement that Israel participated in a July 2011 EU seminar on creating the zone and intends to participate in a second seminar scheduled for November.

Iran Urges Action

Iran also has yet to confirm whether it will attend the conference. In his Oct. 15 statement to the First Committee, Iranian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Eshagh Al Habib said that Tehran “strongly calls” for “immediate implementation” of the NPT resolution on establishment of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

In an Oct. 15 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Alireza Nader, an analyst for RAND Corporation, said Tehran typically views its participation in meetings on this subject as “diplomatically beneficial” as it “highlights the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal” and eases pressures on Iran. Nader said, however, that Iranian participation should not be viewed as producing any “immediate and lasting solutions to the nuclear crisis,” as “nearly intractable issues” shape Tehran’s “quest” for a nuclear weapons capability.

Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Arab League reaffirmed its commitment to holding a conference in December on the establishment of a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction and called on all countries in the region to participate.

South Korea Extends Missile Range

Kelsey Davenport

South Korea announced on Oct. 7 it had reached an agreement with the United States that will allow Seoul to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload, an increase the governments of both countries say is necessary to counter the growing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

Under a 2001 agreement with the United States, South Korea was limited to developing ballistic missiles with ranges of no more than 300 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload. (See ACT, March 2001.) That agreement increased South Korea’s ballistic missile range from the 180-kilometer restriction that the two parties had negotiated in 1979.

Under the new guidelines, South Korea will be able to target any site in North Korea from anywhere in its own territory.

In an Oct. 7 press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney described the extension as a “prudent, proportional, and specific response” that is designed to improve South Korea’s “ability to defend” against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

In an Oct. 12 interview, however, Leon Sigal, a Korea expert at the Social Science Research Council, said that the increased range is “exceedingly dangerous given the state of the military balance” on the Korean peninsula and that South Korea and the United States need to clarify whether the U.S. commander in South Korea will be consulted about any use of these weapons. If the decision on use rests solely with the South Koreans, there is a greater concern for escalation in the event of an incident, Sigal said.

North Korea is believed to have several varieties of operationally deployed ballistic missiles, including the Nodong, which has a range of approximately 1,300 kilometers. North Korea also is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, although it has yet to conduct a successful test of a missile in that category. The last of these tests, which North Korea maintains was a satellite launch on an Unha-3 rocket, took place in April. (See ACT, May 2012.)

Michael Elleman, who was a missile expert for the UN team conducting weapons inspections in Iraq, said in an Oct. 15 e-mail that although Seoul’s “symbolic and psychological need to ‘mirror’” North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities is understandable, it could be done using space launchers and that theater missile defenses “to defeat or blunt” North Korean threats would have “greater utility.” Space launchers use technology applicable to longer-range ballistic missile development.

If striking targets throughout North Korea is Seoul’s priority, developing cruise missiles is a better option because they are “more accurate, militarily effective and less vulnerable to pre-emption,” said Elleman, who now is with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 18 e-mail that, under the new guidelines, South Korea also will be able to develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with “greater range and payload capabilities” for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The official did not provide a figure, but South Korean media reported that the new agreement raises the UAV payload limit from 500 kilograms to 2,500 kilograms with an unlimited range. There was no change from the existing guidelines for cruise missiles, the official said.

Impact on the MTCR

With the 2001 ballistic missile restrictions in place, the United States then supported South Korea’s admission to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The 34 member countries of the MTCR follow export control guidelines designed to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles with ranges greater than 300 kilometers carrying payloads larger than 500 kilograms.

Although the MTCR guidelines are voluntary and do not restrict countries from indigenously developing their own longer-range systems, it has been the U.S. practice to request that non-nuclear-weapon states joining after 1993 adhere to those guidelines for their own missile programs as well as their exports.

Elleman said that the damage done to the MTCR by the South Korean exception is “troublesome” but “should not be overestimated.”

In the Oct. 18 e-mail, the State Department official dismissed the possibility that the new South Korean missile guidelines would have an adverse effect on the MTCR, saying that the extension will have “no implications for other countries’ missile-related export behavior” and that it does “not impact the export control commitments” to which South Korea agreed when it joined the MTCR.­­­­

 

North Korean Response

The North Korean Foreign Ministry responded to Seoul’s announcement in an Oct. 10 statement saying that the United States “discarded its mask of deterring” missile proliferation by supporting South Korea’s increased missile ranges and killed efforts to restrain the development of long-range missile launches on the Korean peninsula.

The statement alluded to future North Korean launches of long-range missiles for “military purposes.” Sigal said the wording of the statement was significant because North Korea’s statements on its most recent test launches have not acknowledged a military purpose, claiming that they were for satellites.

South Korea and the United States reached an agreement allowing Seoul to extend the range of its ballistic missiles. Both countries say the increase is necessary to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s missile capabilities.

Pakistani Security Called Adequate

Kelsey Davenport and Marcus Taylor

Pakistan’s security is adequate to deal with the recent attacks on its military installations, including a Sept. 5 threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear complex, according to former Pakistani and U.S. officials.

Naeem Salik, former director of arms control and disarmament for Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority, told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 16 e-mail that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are “very well protected” and security arrangements at sites such as the Dera Ghazi Khan complex are “adequate” to deal with threats such as the one last month. He said that nuclear weapons are not stored at that complex or Minhas air base, which was attacked on Aug. 16. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, the threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan complex was discovered when Pakistani intelligence services intercepted a Sept. 5 phone call between two suspected members of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban. Pakistani newspapers quoted a military officer as characterizing the plans for this attack as the “first-ever serious security threat” to the Dera Ghazi Khan military facilities.

According to Salik, the Dera Ghazi Khan complex includes facilities for uranium mining and processing and for the fabrication of fuel elements for civilian power plants, but contains “no fissile materials or weapons related facilities.”

Pakistani newspapers reported that suicide bombers were planning to gain access to the complex using three or four vehicles. The government responded by deploying forces from the Pakistani army and the local Punjab police. No actual attack on the facility was reported. If such an attack had occurred, it would have caused “more of an embarrassment than any real damage,” given the nature of the nuclear facilities and the remote location of the complex, Salik said.

In a Sept. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Christopher Clary, who worked on South Asia issues in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the record of such incidents over the past two years “does not suggest any dramatic worsening in Pakistan’s stability.” He said that Pakistan’s “remarkable ability to muddle through” is “often missed by outsiders.”

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and director of its South Asia program, agreed that Pakistani security forces have been “up to the task” of defending against both of the “primary patterns of attack”: attacking “soft targets, like buses, near military installations” and entering “sensitive sites.” In a Sept. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Krepon said the security forces must take into account the possibilities of “more attacks, and attacks by larger numbers.”

The Obama administration also voiced its confidence in Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear arsenal after the attack on Minhas air base. In an Aug. 16 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States and Pakistan have been discussing nuclear security issues “for quite a long, long time” and that Washington has “confidence” that Islamabad is “well aware” of the threats to its nuclear weapons and has “secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.”

Clary said that concerns over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, however, are “understandable and appropriate” because it is difficult for nuclear weapons security in any state to “function perfectly all the time.” Such concerns are even more acute in the case of Pakistan, where the militant and terrorist threat makes the situation “more dangerous” than in any of the other countries that possess nuclear weapons, he said.

At an Aug. 14 press briefing, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if terrorism is not controlled in Pakistan, the country’s nuclear weapons could be at risk.

Clary expressed greater concern over Pakistan’s decision to pursue battlefield nuclear weapons and the country’s “rapid production” of fissile material. He said that the battlefield weapons are the “most worrisome” and if deployed during a conflict would increase risks in several ways.

During a war, they are more likely to be used, he said. Also, he said, “in the event of a war or a crisis, they are more likely to be assembled, mated, and dispersed, increasing the risk of accidents, unauthorized use, or loss of control.”

Pakistan’s security is adequate to deal with the recent attacks on its military installations, including a Sept. 5 threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear complex, according to former Pakistani and U.S. officials.

North Korea Makes Progress on Reactor

Kelsey Davenport

North Korea’s continued construction of a light-water reactor (LWR) that experts say could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium is “deeply troubling,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month.

Addressing the IAEA Board of Governors at the start of its quarterly meeting on Sept. 10, Amano said Pyongyang has made “significant progress” on the reactor since the IAEA submitted its previous findings on the status of North Korea’s nuclear program in September 2011. Citing its monitoring through satellite imagery, the agency said in its latest report, dated Aug. 30, that a dome has been installed over the facility and a system for pumping water up to the reactor building has been put in place.

In a Sept. 5 statement, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry denounced the IAEA report, saying that the agency does not have the “qualifications to intervene” in the country’s “nuclear activities.” The IAEA has not been able to implement safeguards in North Korea since April 2009 when Pyongyang decided to cease cooperation with the agency.

The LWR is one of the two known facilities that North Korea has not declared to the IAEA. In his speech to the board, Amano also expressed concern over statements issued by North Korea regarding its second undeclared facility, which houses centrifuges for uranium enrichment. In the report, the agency said it had “no new information” and is “unable to determine the facility’s configuration or operational status.” However, in an Aug. 31 letter to the UN Security Council, North Korea said it started “the production of enriched uranium” to provide fuel for the LWR.

On the basis of satellite imagery of these construction activities, experts say the reactor could be completed in mid- to late 2013. North Korea announced plans for the facility in 2009.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has been plutonium based, and the construction of the uranium-enrichment plant was widely seen as an effort to develop the means to produce highly enriched uranium for weapons.

North Korea’s Intentions

LWRs, while typically not used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, can be configured for this purpose, although the IAEA report draws no conclusion about the eventual purpose of the facility. The agency said that, without access to the site, it cannot assess the facility’s “design features.”

North Korean statements about the purpose of the facilities appear to have shifted in the past year. In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry Nov. 30, a spokesman said that the country’s nuclear activities were peaceful and that the LWR would be used to solve the “acute electricity problem” in North Korea. However, in an Aug. 31 submission to the UN Security Council, North Korea said it would be “expanding its nuclear deterrent capability” in response to what it perceives as “increased hostile moves” by countries such the United States and had redirected its “peaceful nuclear power industry for producing electricity to the building-up of a self-defensive nuclear deterrent.”

The statement is the latest twist in the history of Pyongyang’s changing actions and rhetoric in connection with its nuclear program. North Korea is building the reactor near the site of its previous plutonium-production reactor and plutonium-separation plant, which it clandestinely built in the late 1980s and 1990s to produce weapons-grade plutonium, despite having signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985.

In 2007, with assistance from the United States, Pyongyang dismantled the reactor and separation plant as part of the denuclearization framework for North Korea being negotiated through the six-party talks, which also included China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. (See ACT, March 2007.) After the negotiations stalled in December 2008, North Korea resumed some nuclear activities (see ACT, May 2009) and began new ones, such as construction of the new LWR.

Shortly after the United States and North Korea reached the Feb. 29 agreement on a uranium-enrichment moratorium in exchange for food aid, North Korea issued an invitation to the IAEA in a letter dated March 16 to visit the country to “discuss technical issues” related to the moratorium. (See ACT, April 2012.) After the agreement between the United States and North Korea broke down following a failed April 13 satellite launch by North Korea, Pyongyang withdrew its offer to the IAEA.

U.S. Response

Addressing the IAEA board Sept. 12, U.S. envoy Robert Wood echoed Amano’s concern over North Korea’s recent nuclear activities, saying that the country “continues to engage in nuclear activities and expand its nuclear infrastructure.” He said that the U.S. “core objective” remains “verifiable denuclearization” and North Korea’s “return to the NPT and IAEA safeguards.” North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003.

When asked at an Aug. 22 press briefing if placement of a dome on the LWR raised concerns in the administration about North Korea’s progress on its nuclear program, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the U.S. “concerns are the same as they have always been” and that the State Department would like North Korea to return to the six-party talks “ready to deal with the international community’s concerns.”

Although a resumption of the talks has not been announced, all six parties were present at this year’s Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, which was held Sept. 27-28 in Dalian, China. The group’s 2009 meeting in California was the last that all six countries attended. North Korea did not attend the 2010 meeting in Seoul or the 2011 meeting in Hawaii. Begun in 1993, the talks serve as an unofficial forum for discussions among the six countries on regional security issues.

North Korea’s continued construction of a light-water reactor (LWR) that experts say could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium is “deeply troubling,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month.

Negotiators Mull Future of Iran Talks

Kelsey Davenport

Top negotiators representing Iran and six world powers met Sept. 18 in Istanbul for what both sides described as a “constructive” discussion on the future of high-level negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

According to a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the six powers in the talks, this meeting was not a “formal negotiating round,” but provided Ashton the “opportunity to stress” the urgent need for Iran to take a “meaningful confidence-building step.” The six countries, known as the P5+1, are China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Saeed Jalili, the lead Iranian negotiator, said that the two sides evaluated “common points” during the meeting. He said a decision to resume negotiations at the highest political level would be made after the P5+1 had a chance to confer during the UN General Assembly session, which opened on Sept. 18.

The Istanbul meeting was the first time that Ashton and Jalili had met since the last round of high-level diplomatic negotiations, which took place June 18-19 in Moscow. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) The Moscow meeting was the third round of talks in as many months since negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus.

Although high-level diplomatic meetings stalled after the Moscow meeting due to what Ashton called “significant gaps” between the two sides’ proposals, communication continued through July and August in the form of an experts-level meeting and several phone calls between top and deputy negotiators. (See ACT, September 2012.)

In a Sept. 17 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that the P5+1 would meet with Ashton during the UN General Assembly session and “consult” on whether Iran is “prepared to bring anything new” to negotiations. She said there is no plan for the six countries to meet with Iran during the UN session.

Redlines

The meeting between Ashton and Jalili came amid Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the lack of progress toward a diplomatic solution and a push for the United States to set “redlines” on the development of Iran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu has accused President Barack Obama of failing to set a clear threshold for a military strike against Iran. In a Sept. 11 news conference, Netanyahu said that Iran will continue to move toward “obtaining nuclear weapons capability” if Tehran “knows that there is no redline.”

In a Sept. 12 press briefing, White House Spokesman Jay Carney defended the administration’s position and said that Obama had “made clear” to Netanyahu in a phone conversation the previous evening that there is “time and space” for diplomacy. Carney reiterated that the administration’s policy is to “use all tools of American power to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.” The administration has said repeatedly that the list of options includes the use of military force.

Many U.S. nonproliferation experts argue that Iran’s technical developments have already given it a nuclear weapons capability but that Tehran has not decided yet to build a nuclear weapon.

Tightening Sanctions

In the absence of diplomatic progress, policymakers in the United States and the European Union are considering tightening sanctions against Iran.

On Sept. 12, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging the administration to require countries purchasing Iranian oil to reduce imports by at least 18 percent to be eligible for continued exemptions from U.S. sanctions. Under the current law, which went into effect June 28, the administration can waive sanctions against countries that buy oil from Iran if they demonstrate a “significant reduction” in the quantities purchased. (See ACT, June 2012.) In total, 20 countries were granted waivers, which must be renewed every 180 days.

The administration announced the first round of waiver renewals Sept. 14, extending sanctions exemptions for Japan and 10 EU countries for a second 180-day period. Despite that action, the European countries are unable to import oil from Iran because they are under a separate EU oil embargo, which began on July 1.

The EU is considering new sanctions directed at Iran. Speaking to reporters after a Sept. 7 meeting of EU foreign ministers in Cyprus, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that “probably the next round [of sanctions] is necessary” if Iran does not “come back to the table.” Although specific details on the new sanctions were not mentioned, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said on Sept. 25 that measures targeting Iran’s finance and trade sectors would be included.

Top negotiators representing Iran and six world powers met Sept. 18 in Istanbul for what both sides described as a “constructive” discussion on the future of high-level negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

IAEA Resolution Urges Iran to Cooperate

By Kelsey Davenport

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors passed a resolution Sept. 13 calling on Iran to “immediately conclude and implement” an agreement with the agency to resolve the “outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions” of the country’s nuclear activities.

The resolution passed three days after IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in his remarks at the beginning of the board’s week-long meeting in Vienna that, “despite intensified dialogue” with Iran, there have been “no concrete results” in negotiating a structure for establishing the topics and arrangements to clarify alleged prior weapons-related activities. The IAEA laid out its suspicions regarding those activities in an annex to a November report to the board. (See ACT, December 2011.) Iran says its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes.

In response to the adoption of the board resolution, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, said Sept. 16 that the agency’s actions raise questions about the “benefit of the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and membership” in the IAEA.

The resolution, supported by 31 of the 35 countries on the board, stressed that Iran was not providing the IAEA with the “necessary cooperation” to ensure that Tehran’s nuclear activities are peaceful. The six countries currently negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—sponsored the resolution. Cuba was the only country to vote against it, while Ecuador, Egypt, and Tunisia abstained.

The resolution “expresses continued support” for a “constructive diplomatic process” to allay international concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities and “encourages the intensification of this dialogue.” Currently, no new high-level negotiations are scheduled between Iran and the six countries, although top nuclear negotiators from each side have remained in contact since the talks stalled in June (see "Negotiators Mull Future of Iran Talks").

Structured Approach

Discussions between Iran and the IAEA on a framework agreement to resolve the agency’s concerns about alleged military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program have been ongoing throughout the year.

On Feb. 20, the IAEA laid out a “structured approach” for dealing with the unresolved concerns from the November report. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, responded with an edited version of the work plan Feb. 29, reflecting Tehran’s preferences for a framework to clarify the unresolved issues. Despite multiple meetings since the February exchange of proposals, Iran and the IAEA have not yet reached an agreement on how to move forward. (See ACT, June 2012.)

The most recent talks between the two sides took place Sept. 17, during the week of the IAEA’s yearly General Conference. In a press release, Amano said he conveyed to Fereydoun Abbasi, Iran’s vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, that the structure for negotiations must be “agreed and implemented as soon as possible.”

Addressing the conference on the same day, Abbasi said the IAEA needs to “act more cautiously” to “respect the rights and security” of its members. He said that “mutual trust” is necessary to “properly remove ambiguities.”

In a Sept. 10 interview with Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Soltanieh laid out more-specific conditions that Iran wanted the IAEA to meet in the structured approach. He said that Iran would not agree to the framework until the IAEA submitted to Tehran the “alleged documents” containing evidence of Iranian military-related activities. He also said that the agency must agree to several “main considerations” regarding Iran’s national security concerns, but did not specify what the considerations were.

IAEA Report

In an Aug. 30 report to the board members, Amano said Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear program and still was in noncompliance with UN Security Council resolutions calling for Iran to halt certain nuclear activities. The report said Iran had installed more centrifuges at Fordow, its underground uranium-enrichment facility, although these centrifuges were yet not operating.

The agency also reported that although Tehran has continued to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent, its stockpile of that material remained nearly unchanged since the May IAEA report because it had converted some of the stockpile into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Fabricating the 20 percent-enriched uranium into fuel for the reactor adds to the time and effort that would be required to make the material suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.

Abbasi told the IAEA conference that the increase in the number of centrifuges and the production of 20 percent-enriched uranium are “required measures” to fulfill Iran’s needs and “deal with possible damages,” apparently referring to the possibility of sabotage or military attack.

The production and stockpiling of 20 percent-enriched uranium is the primary concern of the six countries negotiating with Iran, who are calling on Tehran to halt 20 percent enrichment, shut down the facilities enriching uranium to that level, and send the stockpile out of the country. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

The agency also said that it had obtained further evidence that “corroborates the analysis” of alleged activities related to nuclear weapons development that it outlined in the annex to November’s report, but did not describe in detail the new information it had received.

In his statement to the IAEA board, Robert Wood, the U.S. envoy to the agency, characterized the report’s findings as “vivid.” He said Iran “utterly refuses to act like a responsible member” of the IAEA and comply with its obligations.

NAM Meeting

Shortly before the IAEA meetings, Iran assumed presidency of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement and, during the group’s Aug. 30-31 summit in Tehran, reiterated its claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. In an Aug. 30 speech to the meeting, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country supported “nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none.”

On the same day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chastised Iran in his remarks for failing to cooperate fully with the IAEA. He urged Iran to take “necessary” actions to “build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature” of its nuclear program by complying with UN Security Council resolutions and working with the IAEA.

Ban also spoke in favor of a diplomatic solution and advised all countries to “stop provocative and inflammatory threats.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors passed a resolution Sept. 13 calling on Iran to “immediately conclude and implement” an agreement with the agency to resolve the “outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions” of the country’s nuclear activities.

India Moves Closer to Nuclear Triad

Kelsey Davenport

India announced the successful development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in July, bringing the country one step closer to completing the strategic nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers.

On July 31, at a yearly awards ceremony for the defense sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented an award to A.K. Chakrabarti of India’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory for the “successful development” of India’s first SLBM system. India has been working on producing its first SLBM, the K-15, for a number of years, conducting the first undersea trial of the weapon in February 2008, although tests of components probably began much earlier. (See ACT, April 2008.)

The K-15 has a range of at least 290 kilometers and can carry a 1,000-kilogram payload, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Media accounts from the 2008 test place the range closer to 750 kilometers.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

The K-15 is likely to require further testing before becoming fully operational, according to Indian defense officials. The missile has been tested from submerged vessels, but not from the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that India is developing as a delivery platform for its sea-based deterrent. The ballistic missile submarines have been subject to numerous delays, but according to a May 8 statement by Defense Minister A.K. Antony, the first in the fleet of at least three submarines should go into service by mid-2013.

A week after the K-15 announcement, in an Aug. 7 speech marking his retirement, Adm. Nirmal Verma, India’s chief of naval staff, said that the Indian navy is “poised to complete the triad” and that the first submarine platform for the K-15, the INS Arihant, will “commence sea trials in the coming months.”

Click image to enlarge

In a June 25 speech, Verma had said a sea-based deterrent that is “credible and invulnerable is an imperative” for India, given New Delhi’s no-first-use commitment. New Delhi’s ability to deploy SLBMs will align India’s naval capabilities with its nuclear doctrine, according to Verma. In a 1999 publicly released draft of its nuclear doctrine, New Delhi stated its intention to develop a “triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets” and said it required “sufficient, survivable, and operationally prepared nuclear forces” for deterrence.

Indian, Pakistani, and U.S. experts are concerned that India’s pursuit of the triad could lead Pakistan to develop its own SLBM capability. Abhijit Singh, a research fellow at New Delhi’s National Maritime Foundation, argued in a June 29 article that the expansion of India’s navy has “become an excuse” for Pakistan to expand its own capabilities to include naval nuclear missiles.

Although Pakistan did not respond to India’s announcement on the K-15, Adm. Asif Sandila, Pakistan’s chief of naval staff, said in a Feb. 20 interview with Defense News that the “nuclearization of the Indian Ocean” would not contribute to regional stability and that Pakistan would be taking “necessary measures to restore the strategic balance.” In a May 19 press release, Sandila announced the establishment of Pakistan’s Naval Strategic Force Command, which he said would oversee a sea-based second-strike capability that will “ensure regional stability.”

India already possesses the capabilities to deliver nuclear warheads using land-based missiles and bombers (fig. 1).

New Delhi is working to improve the range and accuracy of its nuclear-capable land-based missiles, which currently comprise primarily the short-range Prithvi-1 and Agni-1 systems. India has deployed two medium-range solid-fueled missiles, the Agni-2 and the Agni-3, although some experts question whether both systems are fully operational. The Agni-2, which has a 2,000-kilometer range, was tested successfully Aug. 9. According to a Defence Ministry statement, all systems “functioned fully.” The Agni-3 was last tested in February 2010.

India also is developing longer-range systems and successfully tested the Agni-5 on April 19. This three-stage solid-fueled ballistic missile has a tested range of 5,000 kilometers. Under the most commonly used classification system, 5,500 kilometers is the dividing line between intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Indian air force is believed to have three types of bombers capable of flying nuclear missions. In January, the Indian government announced it would be buying a fourth type of nuclear-capable fighter plane, the Rafale, from France.

India announced the successful development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in July, bringing the country one step closer to completing the strategic nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers.

Future of Iran Talks in Question

Kelsey Davenport

The future of senior-level negotiations between Iran and six world powers remains unclear after several rounds of lower-level discussions in July and August appear not to have made decisive progress toward an agreement that addresses international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

The parties had agreed on the sequence for the July-August lower-level talks at the end of the last round of senior-level meetings, which took place June 18-19 in Moscow. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) At that time, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who led the six-country delegation in its talks with Iran, said “significant gaps” existed between the positions of the two sides.

The six-country group is known as the P5+1 because it includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 resumed in Istanbul last April after a 15-month hiatus. They were followed by two other rounds of senior-level negotiations, a May session in Baghdad and the June talks in Moscow.

The first of the lower-level talks, a technical-level meeting, took place July 3 in Istanbul. The purpose of the meeting, according to the EU Foreign Office, was to provide further details on the technical aspects of the proposals made by Iran and the the P5+1 during the earlier senior-level talks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that although the talks were not a failure, they did not produce a breakthrough or “decisive progress.”

The experts meeting was followed by a July 24 deputy-level meeting in Istanbul and an Aug. 3 phone conversation between Ashton and Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.

Ashton released a statement after the call, saying she pressed for Iran “to address the issues” now in order to “build confidence” and that she and Jalili were planning to talk again at the end of August “after further reflection.” Jalili told Iranian news outlets that, during the conversation with Ashton, he requested a “clear and specific response” from the P5+1 to Tehran’s proposals. Neither side mentioned a resumption of the high-level political talks.

Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Aug. 13 that there is “every reason to continue” the P5+1 negotiations “while time and space remains.” Carney’s comments came the day after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called on the P5+1 countries to say that the “talks have failed” during an interview on Israel Radio.

U.S. Sanctions Strengthened

In the absence of progress in the negotiations, Congress and the Obama administration instituted harsher sanctions against Tehran in July and August. Carney described the effort as the “stiffest, most severe sanctions ever imposed” on a country.

On July 31, the administration issued an executive order expanding existing sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical industry and authorizing sanctions against individuals or entities that provide support for the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company, or the Naftiran Intertrade Company.

On the same day, the White House announced that it was sanctioning China’s Bank of Kunlun and Iraq’s Elaf Islamic Bank for violating the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. According to the administration’s July 31 press release, the two banks were sanctioned under the act’s provisions that prohibit providing financial services to Iranian banks that are “designated for their connection to Iran’s support for terrorism or proliferation.” David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the penalties “cut off Kunlun and Elaf from the U.S. financial system.”

The next day, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation imposing additional sanctions after Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) worked out a compromise reconciling versions of a bill that passed the House of Representatives in December 2011 and the Senate in May. The new bill passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 421-6 in the House.

The legislation includes provisions that will sanction any entity or individual that works in or provides services to Iran’s energy sector, purchases Iranian debt, helps Iran evade sanctions, or helps transport Iranian oil.

The legislation also further restricts the administration’s ability to provide waivers under the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that allow foreign countries to continue purchasing oil from Tehran without penalty. (See ACT, June 2012.) Countries now must demonstrate that they are moving toward a complete cessation of Iranian oil imports to receive a renewal of its waiver, as opposed to reducing it “significantly.” Waivers are granted for 180-day periods.

Johnson said that the bill would send a “clear signal” to Iranian leaders that they will face “even greater economic and diplomatic pressure” if they do not “come clean on their nuclear program” and end support for terrorist activities.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Aug. 10

U.S. Charges Pair With Export Violations

A federal grand jury in Washington indicted two men for allegedly seeking to purchase and illegally export U.S.-origin materials to Iran that could be used to “operate and maintain gas centrifuges,” according to a July 13 Justice Department press release.

The two men are accused of having placed orders in the United States between October 2008 and January 2011 for materials that Iran cannot legally purchase because of sanctions imposed by Washington and the UN Security Council. U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen said in the press release that the indictment “underscores” the commitment to “aggressively enforcing export laws.”

One of the materials that the men allegedly attempted to obtain is maraging steel, a special high-strength steel that can be used for developing advanced gas centrifuges and ballistic missiles. Posing as a toymaker, Zongcheng Yi attempted to purchase 20 tons of the material from a U.S. company, the Justice Department said. His Iranian partner, Parviz Khaki, intended to ship the material to Iran after it arrived in China, according to the department. The U.S.-based steel company that Yi allegedly contacted informed U.S. officials about the unusual request. Federal agents then began communicating with Yi and eventually Khaki; the agents claimed they could help the men buy and export the maraging steel, the Justice Department said.

In the following months, according to the press release, Khaki continued to contact the agents, requesting assistance with purchases of other nuclear-related materials, including radioactive sources and mass spectrometers. Khaki was arrested in the Philippines on May 24. Yi, believed to be in China, has not been detained.

The case “sheds light on the reach of Iran’s illegal procurement networks” that “continue to target U.S. and Western companies,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said in the press release.

Separately, German officials on Aug. 15 announced the arrest of four men who allegedly “helped in the delivery of special valves” in 2010 and 2011 for construction of a heavy-water reactor in Iran. Although the statement from the prosecutor did not mention a specific site, Iran is constructing a heavy-water reactor at Arak. Tehran says it hopes the reactor will begin operations in 2013. The United States is concerned that it could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

International Response

Russia and China, however, have publicly criticized the U.S. government’s unilateral expansion of sanctions, indicating that the unity of the six powers behind the sanctions effort may be fracturing.

On Aug. 13, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the sanctions imposed by Washington “under the veil of concern about [the] Iranian nuclear program” are unacceptable and that Russia would “reject the methods” applied by the United States. Such an approach “cripples the chance for a settlement” and “compromises the process of negotiations,” the ministry said.

China reacted to the administration’s decision to sanction the Bank of Kunlun, which is affiliated with the country’s largest gasoline producer, the China National Petroleum Corporation. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Aug. 1 that the sanctions “seriously violated norms governing international relations” and requested that the United States “correct” its actions and revoke the restrictions imposed on the bank. The statement said that China’s cooperation with Iran in the energy sector has “nothing to do” with Iran’s nuclear activities and does not violate UN Security Council resolutions.

Israeli officials have criticized sanctions efforts over the past several weeks, but for a different reason. In remarks delivered Aug. 1, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the restrictive measures are hurting Iran’s economy, but “neither sanctions nor diplomacy” are having “any impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

A panel of experts, however, came to a different conclusion, reporting to the UN Security Council in June that sanctions are slowing Iran’s uranium-enrichment and ballistic missile efforts. The panel was authorized in June 2010 under UN Security Council Resolution 1929 to assess the effect of UN sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. The Security Council first imposed international sanctions on Iran in December 2006, after Tehran failed to comply with an earlier resolution calling on the country to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment.

The panel of experts concluded that although Iran’s nuclear activities are continuing, sanctions are slowing the procurement of “critical items required for its prohibited nuclear program” and hampering Tehran’s ability to “expand some aspects of its fuel cycle activities.” According to the report, the panel observed that countries demonstrated a “marked increase in awareness” of the need to implement sanctions.

The future of senior-level negotiations between Iran and six world powers remains unclear after several rounds of lower-level discussions in July and August appear not to have made decisive progress toward an agreement that addresses international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

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