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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Nuclear Nonproliferation

The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, May 16, 2018

The Nuclear Deal Minus the United States? President Donald Trump’s irresponsible decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran and withdraw from the accord was unanimously denounced by the other parties to the agreement. Washington’s P5+1 partners – the EU, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom, also announced their intention to sustain the agreement and fully implement it without the United States. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also pledged to continue abiding by the terms of the deal if Iran’s interests are met. But he ordered the...

White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Nuclear Weapons Threat

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For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Thomas Countryman, board of directors chair, (202) 463-8270 ext 110

We are deeply disappointed by the counterproductive response from the Trump administration to the statements from senior Saudi officials threatening to pursue nuclear weapons in violation of their nonproliferation commitments.

We call on the White House to immediately reiterate the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States that it will actively work against the spread of nuclear weapons to any country, friend or foe.

President Donald Trump’s reckless decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has blocked Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place a robust monitoring system to detect and deter cheating, has not only opened the door to an expansion of Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, but it has increased the risk of a wider nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which is already home to one nuclear-armed state.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN Wednesday, May 9, that his country, which, like Iran, is a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), stands ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

Al-Jubeir also praised Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and seek to reimpose sanctions on firms and business engaging in legitimate commerce with Iran.

Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same."

Asked to clarify whether that means the kingdom will work to acquire its own nuclear capability, al-Jubeir replied, "That's what we mean."

This follows similar comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a March 15 interview with CBS News that Saudi Arabia will quickly follow suit if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

When asked May 9 whether Saudi Arabia would “have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

“Right now, I don’t know that we have a specific policy announcement on that front, but I can tell you that we are very committed to making sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons,” she stated.

The administration’s nonresponse to Prince Salman’s threat in March and Sanders’ weak response May 9 amounts to an irresponsible invitation for mischief.

They imply that Trump administration would look the other way if Saudi Arabia breaks its NPT commitments to pursue nuclear weapons.

It is bad enough that the Trump administration, by violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capacity.

President Trump and his advisors must not compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

We call on the White House to immediately clarify that it is the longstanding policy of the United States, as an original party to the NPT:

 “…not to in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons …” and “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

We also call on the U.S. Congress to reject any proposed agreement with Saudi Arabia that permits U.S. nuclear cooperation if Saudi Arabia seeks to or acquires sensitive uranium enrichment or plutonium separation technology which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

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It is bad enough that the Trump administration has violated the Iran nuclear deal and threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for expanded Iranian nuclear capacity. The president and his advisors must not now compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

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Trump just opened the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capabilities

This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill . Fulfilling a misguided campaign pledge, President Trump has chosen to violate the 2015 nuclear deal between the United States and its partners — the EU, U.K. France, Germany, Russia, and China — with Iran and reimpose U.S. sanctions that were waived according to the terms of the 2015 accord in exchange for severe limits and very robust international monitoring on Iran’s nuclear activities. Now, the valuable nonproliferation barriers established by the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are at risk. Contrary to Trump...

Trump Decision on Iran Deal is Foreign Policy Malpractice

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For Immediate Release: May 8, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Thomas Countryman, Chair of the Board, 301-312-3445.

(Washington, DC)—Experts from the Washington-based Arms Control Association denounced President Donald Trump’s reported decision not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“President Trump’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal, which has successfully blocked Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, is an irresponsible act of foreign policy malpractice,” charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent Arms Control Association.

"Reimposing sanctions absent Iranian violations is a twofold abrogation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA* and it is critical that members of Congress and Washington’s P5+1 partners denounce Trump’s actions as a breach of the accord. Not only did the United States commit not to reimpose sanctions, Washington also committed not to interfere with the full realization of sanctions relief,” explained Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy for the Arms Control Association.

“Trump’s action today does not kill the agreement, but it jeopardizes the future of the deal unless other partners, particularly the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), take immediate steps to insulate their companies and banks which are engaged in trade with Iran from U.S. secondary sanctions,” warned Davenport.

"We call on the E3, Russia, China, and other responsible states to pursue implementation of the JCPOA without the United States and implement measures that block the application of U.S. secondary sanctions. We also urge Tehran to continue abiding by the limits of the deal. Resuming troublesome nuclear activities limited by the accord will not serve Iran’s interests and risks provoking a deeper crisis,” Davenport said.

"European-U.S. efforts to negotiate a supplemental agreement intended to address Trump's complaints failed to yield results because Trump stubbornly refused to guarantee that he would uphold U.S. commitments under the JCPOA and demanded that Europe help to unilaterally impose major changes to the original terms of the agreement," Kimball said.

“The Iran nuclear deal is a strong nonproliferation agreement that delivers permanent and robust international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities, strictly limits its capacity to enrich uranium and prohibits other sensitive nuclear activities. Through his reckless actions, Trump is precipitating a proliferation crisis rather than working with our allies to develop a long-term diplomatic strategy to build on the agreement in the years ahead,” Kimball charged.
 

Relevant sections from the JCPOA on sanctions relief:

Paragraph 26 of the JCPOA requires:

“The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA.”

Paragraph 29 of the JCPOA requires:

“The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA.”

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Iran's Past Nuclear Experiments Reflect Value of JCPOA

This op-ed originally appeared in The Iran Primer of the United States Institute for Peace. For decades, the international community has grappled with the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation and, in particular, the risk that the Islamic Republic of Iran might seek the capability to design and produce nuclear weapons. For more than a decade following the 2003 revelation that Iran had surreptitiously built a uranium conversion facility and an enrichment plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the world’s major powers have expended enormous effort and political capital to...

Freezing and Reversing North Korea’s Nuclear Advances


May 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For most of the past year, North Korea’s provocative long-range missile launches and a high-yield nuclear test, combined with the reckless threats of “fire and fury” and “preventive war” from the White House, have raised tensions and increased the threat of a catastrophic conflict in the region. Some of us warned that nuclear war was closer than at any point since the Cold War.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo in April. (Photo by The White House via Getty Images)Now, in an extraordinary turnaround, an uneasy détente has emerged. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced on Jan. 1 that he wants to ease tensions with South Korea, and high-level talks between officials of the two governments were held in advance of the Winter Olympics. Through South Korean intermediaries, Kim extended a summit offer to U.S. President Donald Trump, who, to the surprise of many, immediately accepted. Although Trump deserves credit for being so bold as to agree, the North Korean nuclear problem will not be resolved in one meeting, especially if he goes off-script, acts impulsively, or carries unrealistic expectations.

The direct dialogue is overdue, it is historic, and it carries high stakes. Trump and his entire national security team must understand that this diplomacy will require preparation, patience, and persistence. To succeed, they must maintain a principled but balanced approach closely coordinated with key allies in Seoul and partners in Beijing. Further, Washington will need to address Pyongyang’s own security and economic concerns.

So far, so good. The North Koreans have expressed a willingness to consider denuclearization if their national security can be guaranteed. Reportedly, the North Koreans have said that they will not demand the removal of all U.S. forces in South Korea. Further, Kim announced April 21 that he is suspending ballistic missile and nuclear testing, is closing the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and will “join the international desire and efforts for the total halt” to nuclear tests. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim reaffirmed their intentions at their successful—and historic—inter-Korean summit April 27.

Kim is clearly confident about his position going into the summit with Trump, and he appears to be preparing his people for potential additional steps toward denuclearization if U.S. leaders negotiate in good faith and can deliver on their promises.

The table is finally set for a meaningful, sustained dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on verifiable denuclearization, normalizing diplomatic ties, and negotiating a formal end to the Korean War. Key near-term U.S. goals should be to solidify North Korea’s testing suspension, to bring about a halt to its fissile material production, to win the release of three captive U.S. citizens, and to discuss measures to further reduce tensions on the divided peninsula.

North Korea’s no-nuclear-testing pledge is very significant. The North already has a proven high-yield warhead design, but additional tests could be used to achieve military and technical advances. Leaders in Washington, Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, and elsewhere should seek to solidify Pyongyang’s nuclear testing suspension by securing its signature and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, along with a confidence-building visit by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

Solidifying a halt to further ballistic missile tests is also crucial because it can possibly stop the North Koreans just short of developing a reliable system to deliver their high-yield warhead. Halting production of fissile material and verifying the freeze is the next logical step, as it would put a ceiling on the potential number of nuclear devices North Korea could assemble.

If Trump could achieve all of this, it would be a major breakthrough, even if falls short of the more sweeping task of negotiating the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But Rome was not built in a day. To achieve the many additional steps toward the long-term goal of denuclearization of the peninsula and a durable peace regime, the Trump-Kim summit should also produce agreement on a balanced framework for sustained, direct, high-level negotiations on these and possibly other issues.

Trump has said that he will not repeat the mistakes of the past negotiations; likewise, Kim said April 27 that he doesn't want a repeat of the past "where we were unable to fulfill our agreements." Indeed, previous agreements had been partially successful in curbing North Korea's capabilities, but fell apart in later stages of implementation.

These negotiations will demand even greater persistence, patience and political will. Kim’s nuclear and missile capabilities are more substantial and dangerous today, his bargaining power is greater, and the cost of failure is higher. And if Trump is foolish enough to withdraw from the successful 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, Kim will be more reluctant to make concessions.

Members of Congress, for their part, should demand clarity about the administration’s strategy and regular reports on the negotiations. Yet, they should refrain from demanding specific outcomes or immediate results. The stakes are too high and the opportunity too great for such games.

Now, after a period of reckless nuclear brinksmanship, the hard work of pursuing disarmament diplomacy begins. Can Team Trump pull this off? As the president often says, “We will see.” It will not come easy, but it is better than the alternatives.


The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.

 

For most of the past year, North Korea’s provocative long-range missile launches and a high-yield nuclear test, combined with the reckless threats of “fire and fury” and “preventive war” from the U.S. White House, have raised tensions and increased the threat of a catastrophic conflict in the region.

Papal Condemnation of Nuclear Deterrence and What Is Next


May 2018
By Gerard Powers

At a major Vatican symposium last year, Pope Francis became the first pope to condemn explicitly not only the use of nuclear weapons but also the “the threat of their use, as well as their very possession.”1

The pope’s statement was praised by many of the 11 Nobel Peace Prize laureates and 300 church leaders, diplomats, scholars, and civil society representatives at the symposium on November 10–11, 2017. His statement and the conference were intended, in part, to further the momentum of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the Holy See had ratified on September 20, 2017, the first day it was open for signature. Predictably, critics have responded to the pope’s statement much as they did the treaty, dismissing it as naïve and utopian, a normative judgment largely irrelevant to the realities of the nuclear predicament.

Pope Francis addresses the crowd in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, shortly after celebrating Easter Mass. (Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)The critics seem to have a point, at least for now, as massive nuclear modernization programs, faltering arms control measures, and nuclear brinksmanship harken back to the Cold War era. Yet, the Vatican tends to play the long game. Given its influence as a norm entrepreneur on nuclear weapons and a major transnational actor headed by an influential pope, the critics might want to pay attention.

Deterrence to Disarmament

The November statement is not a major change in the church’s position on nuclear weapons, as has been widely reported. Every pope in the seven decades since Hiroshima, as well as innumerable church documents, have sought to marginalize nuclear weapons and have insisted on the need for progress toward mutual, verifiable nuclear disarmament. The pope’s condemnation of nuclear use is consistent with the church’s long-standing position that the use of nuclear weapons almost certainly would be indiscriminate or disproportionate, risk escalation to nuclear war, cause irreversible harm to the environment, and would break the nuclear taboo, undermining prospects for nonproliferation and disarmament.

What is a departure of sorts is the pope’s condemnation of deterrence. In 1982, Pope John Paul II enunciated an “interim ethic” on nuclear deterrence: “In current conditions,” he said, “‘deterrence’ based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable.”2 Pope Francis has now made a prudential moral judgment, based on his reading of today’s very different signs of the nuclear times, that the strict conditions for the moral acceptability of deterrence are not being met. He has not abandoned his predecessor’s formula, but has applied it to current conditions and come to a different prudential moral judgment.

Although Pope Francis’ customary clarity in making this judgment has received considerable attention, it is not significantly different in substance from Vatican statements since the end of the Cold War. In his 2006 World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict said that the view that states need nuclear weapons for their security is “not only baneful but also completely fallacious.”3 In 2010, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, referred to John Paul’s interim ethic and concluded that, because “nuclear deterrence is preventing genuine nuclear disarmament…the conditions that prevailed during the Cold War, which gave a basis for the church’s limited toleration of nuclear deterrence, no longer apply.”4 In a similar vein, a 2014 study document released by the Vatican concluded that because the disarmament condition for the moral acceptability of deterrence was not being met, “the very possession of nuclear weapons, even for purposes of deterrence, is morally problematic.”5

These and many other official statements have long made it clear that the nuclear powers could take no more comfort in the church’s position on nuclear weapons before the pope’s November statement than they can now. The interim ethic on deterrence was always a function of context, not time. The Holy See’s reading of the changing geopolitical signs of the times has led it to make a prudential moral judgment that time is up on the interim ethic.

One sign of the times is the judgment that the nuclear powers did not take full advantage of the historic opportunity afforded by the end of the Cold War. The Holy See has welcomed the deep cuts in U.S.-Russian nuclear stockpiles. Nevertheless, the “peace dividend” that was supposed to come with these deep cuts has not materialized. Arms control initiatives have stalled, the nuclear-weapon states have not upheld their end of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s (NPT) grand bargain, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not gone into effect, and major nuclear powers have embarked on massive modernization programs.6 Therefore, the Holy See has concluded that nuclear deterrence has not been used as a step toward disarmament but has become an end in itself, a principal impediment to disarmament.

North Korea and the 9/11 terrorist attacks are emblematic of a second sign of the nuclear times. According to the 2014 Vatican study document, “[T]he structure of nuclear deterrence is less stable and more worrisome than at the height of the Cold War” due to continued nuclear proliferation and the increased risk of nuclear weapons use, including by terrorists and unstable nuclear-armed states.7 At the same time, nuclear weapons are increasingly irrelevant in the face of terrorism, cyberwarfare, intrastate conflicts, and other major security threats.

These developments have only reinforced the Holy See’s longstanding concerns about the morally problematic nature of deterrence theories based on a conditional intention to use nuclear weapons in indiscriminate and disproportionate ways and the injustice involved in wasting scarce resources on these weapons instead of devoting them to integral human development.

One cannot understand the Holy See’s position now or during the Cold War solely in terms of these ethical and policy considerations, however important they might be. In his November address, Pope Francis cited Pope John XXIII’s understanding of “integral disarmament,” which is far more capacious than conventional understandings of the term.8

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See's secretary for Relations with States, signs the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, at the United Nations on September 20, 2017.  At the same time, he handed over the instrument of ratification. (Photo: Darren Ornitz/ICAN)Integral disarmament assumes that the long-term goal of abolishing nuclear weapons has to be part of a much larger cosmopolitan project of developing a global ethic of peace and solidarity that can ground a system of cooperative security. A realist approach that prioritizes a negative peace, defined largely in terms of military security and balance of power, is based on a mentality of fear and the false security of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are an impediment to the kind of cooperative security needed to build a positive peace based on a host of factors: socioeconomic development, political participation, respect for fundamental human rights, strong international norms and institutions, a spirit of dialogue, solidarity in international relations, as well as a change of hearts.9

Although the label would not seem to fit a tradition-bound Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See’s articulation of a moral judgment on nuclear use and deterrence, in the context of a wider vision of a radically transformed world based on conceptions of cooperative security and positive peace, makes the church what political scientists call a “norm entrepreneur.”

Nuclear Ban Strategy

As a norm entrepreneur embracing integral nuclear disarmament, it is not surprising that the Holy See was willing to join its religious-moral voice to the legal-political strategy to delegitimize the nuclear status quo and democratize the nuclear debate through the humanitarian impact conferences and the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

At the third of these conferences in Vienna in December 2014, Pope Francis issued a major letter accompanied by a study document, a lengthy moral and policy argument for nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, he included a strong appeal for progress on nuclear abolition in his September 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, his January 2017 World Day of Peace message, and his March 2017 letter to the UN conference negotiating the prohibition treaty. These papal interventions complemented a host of interventions by Vatican officials, especially during the ban treaty negotiations.

The nuclear weapons prohibition treaty takes a page from the landmine treaty’s “coalition of the willing” strategy. These norm entrepreneurs—non-nuclear-weapon states, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies, religious bodies, and nongovernmental organizations—have sought to reframe the nuclear debate, shifting the focus from national security to moral, legal, and humanitarian concerns. This reframing in normative terms reflects a strategic judgment that the current stalemate on nuclear disarmament could only be broken if new international mechanisms were found to stigmatize nuclear weapons and delegitimize the nuclear status quo.

The limitations of this strategy are obvious. It circumvented established processes, and its normative significance is in doubt given the opposition by nuclear-weapon states and most states under their nuclear umbrellas. While acknowledging these limitations, the Holy See, like others behind this strategy, concluded that it was a reasonable step in a complex and long-term process of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons. According to Pope Francis, the treaty “fill[s] a significant juridical lacuna, inasmuch as chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions.”10

This strategy helps break through the stalemate in bilateral and multilateral negotiations. It will not encourage forum shopping, but rather complements the NPT, CTBT, and other treaties. The Holy See has been quite critical of the morally untenable double standard in the NPT, which perpetuates an unjust, unequal, and dangerous nuclear status quo.11 The prohibition treaty reinforces this critique and helps pressure the nuclear-weapon states to abide by their disarmament obligations under NPT Article VI.

The Holy See’s contributions to the treaty negotiations reflect its priorities.12 First, it successfully pressed for incorporating moral language (“the ethical imperative for disarmament”) into the preamble against the legal positivists who sought to exclude it. Second, it supported language about the “waste of economic and human resources” on nuclear weapons. Third, citing the relevance of nuclear weapons to the global common good, it supported the need for creating a new international authority other than the over-stretched International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to administer and implement the treaty. Fourth, the Holy See supported mention of the moral responsibility of states that had used or tested nuclear weapons to assist with victim assistance and environmental remediation, but recommended a voluntary international fund so as not to stimulate further resistance from nuclear-weapon states. Fifth, the Holy See suggested deleting “any” with respect to the catastrophic consequences and legality of the use of nuclear weapons in order to acknowledge the variety of types of weapons and their potential uses. Finally, the Holy See made a half-dozen different proposals to place nuclear disarmament in the broader context of general disarmament and a positive peace, but succeeded only in including peace education alongside disarmament education.

This last point, about the importance of peace and disarmament education, reflects the Holy See’s conviction that the nuclear debate has to be democratized. According to Pope Francis, filling a legal gap was even more important than the treaty’s inclusiveness, the product of “a significant alliance between civil society, states, international organizations, churches, academies and groups of experts.”13

The humanitarian impact initiative and the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty process ensured that the normative concerns for the global common good expressed by the majority of states were not overridden, as they typically have been, by the national interests of the nuclear-weapon states. These processes also gave a greater voice to civil society, which will be so important in garnering public support for the ban treaty, especially in nuclear-weapon states.

Looking Ahead

The Holy See is in the unique position of being the world’s smallest nation-state and the world’s largest religious institution. Its role in the nuclear debate reflects the strengths and limitations of both roles. As a state, it is not surprising that its policy agenda is similar to that of other non-nuclear-weapon states, and that policy agenda is not likely to change significantly now that there is a prohibition treaty.

The Holy See will continue to routinely addresses issues before the IAEA, the Conference on Disarmament, and other international forums. It will continue to join other non-nuclear-weapon states in supporting full implementation of the NPT, including Article VI; a host of other arms control measures, such as the CTBT and a fissile material cutoff treaty; and stronger mechanisms for the IAEA to prevent proliferation, strengthen nuclear safeguards, and enforce arms control agreements.

The Holy See’s most important and distinctive contributions, however, will be less in policy advocacy and more in its ongoing efforts as a religious institution to help ensure that morality is not an uninvited guest at an exclusive party dominated by realists. Amid the irresponsible nuclear saber rattling of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the ambitious programs to develop smaller, smarter, and more usable nuclear weapons, the Holy See will continue to do its part to complement the prohibition treaty and strengthen the nuclear taboo against use with its clear moral condemnations.

The longer-term and less direct impact will be on deterrence and disarmament. The pope’s moral condemnation of deterrence, which echoes the legal prohibition in the treaty, should be of concern to nuclear-weapon states because the credibility of deterrence depends in part on the moral credibility of the threats involved. Nuclear policies, at least in democracies, cannot survive in the long term if major religious bodies and the general public lose faith in their ultimate moral legitimacy.

Religious appeals on the moral imperative of long-term efforts of nuclear disarmament are not new, but the narrative has changed over the past 20 years as moral, legal, and policy arguments for nuclear disarmament have gone mainstream, with the prohibition treaty being the most recent example. The Holy See is helping to provide the moral vision of a possibility that can scarcely be imagined now. But more is needed.

The credibility of that vision will depend on addressing two dimensions of an ethics gap. First is to elaborate on the pastoral implications of the pope’s prudential judgment that nuclear deterrence is no longer morally acceptable. If nuclear weapons are illegitimate but nuclear disarmament is not achievable in the near future, what is the moral responsibility of Catholic politicians, soldiers, and citizens in nuclear-weapon states who approve defense budgets, work in the nuclear military, and vote for those advocating a strong nuclear deterrent?

Second, the policy debate on nuclear disarmament is now ahead of the moral debate. Catholic scholars, policy specialists, and religious leaders need to collaborate in developing an ethic of nuclear disarmament that is as sophisticated as the ethic of nuclear use and deterrence developed during the Cold War.14 Many questions should be considered, such as what forms of deterrence would be morally acceptable and effective if the world moved to a minimal deterrent, with its tendency to revert to the counter-population targeting that the church has unequivocally condemned, or if the world actually abolished all nuclear weapons, making possession of illicit nuclear weapons even more valuable, more usable, and more destabilizing? Would a world without nuclear weapons require the development of an ethic of “disarmament intervention” akin to humanitarian intervention to deal with rogue states attempting a nuclear breakout?

Nuclear Weapons and the ‘Mentality of Fear’

The following is an excerpt from the address by Pope Francis on November 10, 2017, to participants in the international symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament,” held at the Vatican.

“In this symposium, you have met to discuss issues that are critical both in themselves and in the light of the complex political challenges of the current international scene, marked as it is by a climate of instability and conflict. A certain pessimism might make us think that “prospects for a world free from nuclear arms and for integral disarmament,” the theme of your meeting, appear increasingly remote. Indeed, the escalation of the arms race continues unabated; and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations. As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty; the promotion of peace; the undertaking of educational, ecological, and health care projects; and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.

Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned, for they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race. International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity. Essential in this regard is the witness given by the hibakusha, the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with other victims of nuclear arms testing. May their prophetic voice serve as a warning, above all for coming generations!

Furthermore, weapons that result in the destruction of the human race are senseless even from a tactical standpoint. For that matter, while true science is always at the service of humanity, in our time we are increasingly troubled by the misuse of certain projects originally conceived for a good cause. Suffice it to note that nuclear technologies are now spreading, also through digital communications, and that the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons. The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare.

At the same time, a healthy realism continues to shine a light of hope on our unruly world. Recently, for example, in a historic vote at the United Nations, the majority of the members of the international community determined that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but must also be considered an illegal means of warfare. This decision filled a significant juridical lacuna, inasmuch as chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines, and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions.  Even more important is the fact that it was mainly the result of a “humanitarian initiative” sponsored by a significant alliance between civil society, states, international organizations, churches, academies, and groups of experts.

[P]rogress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression, contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals. The teaching of John XXIII remains ever valid. In pointing to the goal of an integral disarmament, he stated, “Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or—and this is the main thing—ultimately to abolish them entirely.”

More moral clarity on these and other issues would reinforce and complement the legal arguments that must be marshalled for the prohibition treaty to gain broader adherence and for sustaining the decades-long process of negotiating and implementing a follow-on convention on nuclear disarmament.

If one of the goals and outcomes of the humanitarian initiative and the landmine ban treaty was to help democratize the nuclear debate, the challenge for the Catholic Church and other religious institutions and civil society actors is to revitalize engagement on an issue that has largely been ignored since the 1980s. As with anti-nuclear mobilization in the 1980s and the current Global Zero campaign, religious institutions will probably not be in the lead. Yet, they can use their vast institutional infrastructure of parishes, dioceses, schools, universities, religious orders, lay organizations, and media to mobilize and motivate around nuclear issues and give added weight to these initiatives.

That has been difficult to do for the past three decades as the nuclear issue moved to the margins of international affairs and understandably receded in the public consciousness. With the exception of the United States, Japan, and Scotland, even episcopal conferences have tended to leave the nuclear issue to the Holy See.

With the prohibition treaty and a return to nuclear tensions and massive modernization programs, some of the ingredients for new anti-nuclear mobilization are in place. The Vatican symposium, a convening of Catholic leaders from Europe and the United States in London in 2016,15 a joint statement by European and U.S. bishops’ conferences in 2017,16 and other developments suggest that the church is poised to re-engage in a significant way. It is not naïve to hope that, as it does so, it can have the kind of influence it had on President Ronald Reagan and his advisers.17 Catholic and other religious voices in Europe could also reinforce opposition to NATO’s current nuclear modernization programs.

The large, high-profile Vatican symposium showed that Pope Francis is moving the moral imperative of nuclear disarmament back to the center of the church’s international agenda. The challenge for the church is to close the ethics gap and strengthen its capacity to continue to inject morality into the nuclear debate and democratize that debate. As with other entrepreneurial endeavors, that will require a new generation of religious leaders, scholars, and professionals with the competence and interest to contribute to the policy and ethical debate on nuclear disarmament.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Pope Francis, Address to international symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament” (The Vatican, November 10, 2017), https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2017/november/documents/papa-francesco_20171110_convegno-disarmointegrale.html (hereinafter Vatican symposium).

2. “Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the General Assembly of the United Nations,” June 7, 1982, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/messages/pont_messages/1982/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19820607_disarmo-onu.html.

3. Pope Benedict XVI, “In Truth, Peace,” December 8, 2005, https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20051213_xxxix-world-day-peace.html.

4. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Lecture at the Woodstock Theological Institute at Georgetown University, March 16, 2010. For a summary of the talk, see Thomas Reese, “Vatican Questions Nuclear Deterrence,” May 12, 2010, http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/vatican-questions-nuclear-deterrence.

5. Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition,” December 8, 2014, p. 4, www.fciv.org/downloads/Holy%20See%20Contribution-Vienna-8-DEC-2014.pdf (hereinafter study document).

6. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Statement at the High-Level Meeting of the 68th Session of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament, September 26, 2013, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/2013/documents/rc-seg-st-20130926_mamberti-nuclear-disarmament_en.html.

7. Study document, p. 3.

8. Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963.

9. Pope Francis, Letter to president of UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, March 23, 2017, https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170323_messaggio-onu.html.

10. Vatican symposium.

11. Study document, pp. 8-9.

12. See Drew Christiansen, “The Vatican and the Ban Treaty,” Journal of Catholic Social Thought, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2018): 89-108.

13. Vatican symposium.

14. For a more detailed explanation of this gap, see Gerard F. Powers, “The Nuclear Ethics Gap: Finding Our Way on the Road to Disarmament,” America, May 17, 2010, p. 11.

15. The event was titled “Colloquium on Catholic Approaches to Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament” and was held at the University of Notre Dame London Centre and the Millbank House on May 24-25, 2016. See Catholic Peacebuilding Network, “Colloquium on U.S.-European Approaches to Nuclear Disarmament,” n.d., https://cpn.nd.edu/news-events/past-events/london-2016/ (accessed April 8, 2018).

16. Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich and Bishop Oscar Cantú, “Nuclear Disarmament: Seeking Human Security,” Justitia et Pax Europa and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, July 6, 2017, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/nuclear-disarmament-seeking-human-security-2017-07-06.cfm.

17. Lawrence J. Korb, “The Vatican Tries to Reduce the Revived Global Threat of Nuclear War,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
December 13, 2017, https://thebulletin.org/vatican-tries-reduce-revived-global-threat-nuclear-war11346.


Gerard Powers is director of Catholic peacebuilding studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. From 1987 to 2004, he was an adviser on nuclear issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis has made a judgment that the strict conditions for the moral acceptability of deterrence are not being met.

‘Denuclearization’ Poses Summit Challenge


May 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have agreed to negotiate “denuclearization” at their planned summit, but different expectations for what that means could complicate or even derail their talks.

Stepping back from the personal insults and threats of nuclear devastation hurled at one another just months ago, the two leaders have surprised the world with gestures to ease the way to what would be the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of isolated, communist North Korea. Most notably, Kim announced on April 21 that North Korea will “discontinue” nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, close its nuclear test site, not transfer nuclear weapons and technology to other countries or groups, and refrain from using nuclear weapons unless threatened.

In a photo provided by the White House, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown shaking hands with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who secretly flew to Pyongyang during Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the anticipated summit meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump. (Photo: The White House via Getty Images)Those steps by the Kim regime, however welcome, fall short of what the United States has considered to be denuclearization. The Trump administration regards denuclearization as meaning North Korea “no longer having nuclear weapons that can be used in warfare against any of our allies,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on April 22.

Although administration officials have not been specific, they likely want Kim to dismantle his considerable nuclear weapons infrastructure, which includes warheads, delivery systems, production of fissile material, and weapons research laboratories that together have been a source of national pride and regime security. Measures to ensure that North Korea is not cheating would require elaborate verification provisions and monitoring by international inspectors.

For its part, Pyongyang views denuclearization as a two-sided process that includes U.S. nuclear weapons that are part of Washington’s core defense commitment to allies South Korea and Japan.

This definitional mismatch increases the likelihood that both sides are entering talks with unrealistic expectations.

The Trump national security team has not publicly detailed its approach, but past U.S. administrations have called for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear program to achieve the goal of a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons. This concept, known as CVID, was a principal U.S. demand during the multiparty negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program from 2003 to 2009, known as the six-party talks.

UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea similarly describe denuclearization. Dating back to 2006, when the council passed Resolution 1718 in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test, the body declared that North Korea “shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.”

CVID also has roots in the January 1992 South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which Pyongyang and Seoul agreed not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” The U.S. decision to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea in 1991 helped pave the way for the joint declaration the following year.

For Pyongyang, reportedly, denuclearization must include the removal of U.S. nuclear and strategic assets from South Korea, a commitment not to deploy nuclear and strategic assets during military exercises, and a guarantee that the United States will not conduct a nuclear attack. It is not clear what if any inspections North Korea would insist on to verify the absence of nuclear weapons and strategic assets from the peninsula.

North Korea is also looking for other, related changes, including a peace treaty, lifting of international sanctions, and some form of guarantee against U.S. efforts for regime change.

North Korea’s nuclear-related conditions are less specific and onerous when compared to past instances when it has defined denuclearization. In July 2016, North Korea said that the “denuclearization being called for” applies to the “whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.” (See ACT, September 2016.)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) embrace after signing the Panmunjom Declaration during their Inter-Korean Summit on April 27 at the Peace House in Panmunjom, South Korea.  (Photo: Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)Specifically, North Korea called in 2016 for disclosure of any U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, guarantees the United States will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, assurance it will not conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons. Although the United States does not deploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, South Korea and Japan are covered by the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent, and strategic assets are used in joint military drills.

Trump has claimed incorrectly that North Korea’s agreement to talk about denuclearization and its April 21 pledge constitutes an agreement to denuclearize. In response to the announcement, Trump tweeted that “we haven’t given up anything and they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, and no more testing!” Another tweet said that “only time will tell” if things will work out with Pyongyang.

North Korea has not made any public commitment to give up existing nuclear weapons, which Kim in his statement to ruling party officials called a “powerful treasured sword for defending peace.” North Korea is estimated to have assembled 10 to 20 nuclear warheads and to have the fissile material for an estimated 30 to 60 nuclear weapons, as well as advanced chemical and biological weapons programs.

Kim’s pledge is a new and positive commitment, but North Korea has hinted previously it would be willing to take such limited steps. In his new year’s address, Kim laid the groundwork for a suspension, stating that North Korea had completed its nuclear and missile programs.

How North Korea’s shorter-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles fit into the denuclearization negotiations is also an open question. Although the promised moratorium on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles may satisfy the United States, it is unlikely to be enough for regional allies, notably Japan, given that North Korea’s short- and medium-range missile systems put that country within range.

Japanese President Shinzo Abe, during an April 17 meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, emphasized the importance of negotiations covering all missile systems, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, such as North Korea’s large stockpiles of chemical weapons.

According to an April 18 White House statement, Trump and Abe raised the bar for the negotiations, stating that North Korea “needs to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programs.”

Trump and Kim may have different views as to what precisely is up for negotiation.

Legislatures Act on Ban Treaty


May 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

A number of legislatures are taking steps for ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while some other states, including two NATO members, are launching studies on the implications of ratifying the landmark treaty opposed by the major nuclear powers.

When the treaty opened for signature in September 2017, 50 states signed and three ratified the treaty. (See ACT, October 2017.) Since then, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela, as well as Palestine, have ratified the treaty, and eight other states have signed it.

Supporters of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) gathered February 5 in Sydney to urge the Australian and Japanese governments to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)Further, the treaty is being considered in other countries, such as Austria, where legislation supporting ratification passed the Austrian National Council on March 21 and the Austrian Federal Council on April 5, in both cases unanimously. Once Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has signed the legislation, and the country will soon submit its instrument of ratification.

Ireland is drafting treaty-implementation legislation, which could pass before the parliamentary recess in July. Campaigners in Ireland are advocating inclusion of the treaty’s prohibition of assistance with banned activities in the implementing legislation, which could mean limiting foreign investment in companies whose products or action contribute to nuclear arsenals.

Costa Rica’s legislative assembly voted unanimously March 15 for legislation in support of ratifying the treaty. Tim Wright, treaty coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), expects Costa Rica to ratify the treaty in the coming weeks. “We expect to see more ratifications from Latin America in the near future,” Wright told Arms Control Today in an April 17 interview.

Brazilian President Michel Temer is working to have Brazil ratify the treaty by the end of the year, Christian Vargas, deputy chief of mission at the Brazilian embassy in Washington, told the Arms Control Association annual meeting April 19.

In a February speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated she would pursue “early ratification” of the prohibition treaty. But an official in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Arms Control Today in an April 18 email that no parliamentary process to do so had commenced.

The Marshall Islands, where there is strong domestic support for nuclear disarmament derived from the environmental and humanitarian impact of past U.S. nuclear testing there, has begun its legislative process on the treaty. A member of the Nitijela, the islands’ legislative body, submitted a resolution in September 2017 calling for the signature and ratification of the prohibition treaty. The resolution is currently in parliamentary committee.

The committee has held one public hearing, as of mid-March, but plans to hold more, said Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law at Harvard Law School in an email to Arms Control Today. The committee aims to release its report to the Nitijela in August so that a vote on the resolution can take place before elections in November 2019.

Some officials are concerned about the compatibility of the treaty with the Marshall Islands’ 2003 Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States. The compact guarantees U.S. defense of the island nation in exchange for its promise not to take any action that the United States deems to be against its “responsibility for security and defense matters” in the Marshall Islands. (See ACT, September 2017.) Docherty contends that the two agreements are compatible.

In Switzerland, a member of parliament introduced a motion Dec. 12 requesting that the country sign the treaty “as soon as possible” and submit it to parliament for ratification “without delay.” A National Council vote, originally planned for March 15, had to be rescheduled and will likely occur during the summer session from May 28 to June 15, according to Maya Brehm, adviser to the group Article 36, in an email to Arms Control Today.

The Swiss government recommended Feb. 21 that the parliament reject the motion, citing a “need to clarify important technical, legal and political questions.” The government raised concerns that some treaty provisions “may not be verifiable or that the treaty could weaken existing standards, instruments or forums.” It also stated that it could not sign the treaty before completion of an interdepartmental analysis of the treaty, which is expected by July.

Other states are also launching studies into the implications of joining the treaty.

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in October 2017 that it would authorize such a review to be completed within a year. The Norwegian Parliament voted Feb. 8 to launch a similar study, although the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs opposes the accord.

“A process to achieve a ban on nuclear weapons that is not supported by any of the countries that actually have weapons of this kind will not, unfortunately, advance the disarmament agenda,” asserted Audun Halvorsen, state secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an April 18 email to Arms Control Today. The prohibition treaty “is not compatible with our NATO obligations. None of our NATO allies support the prohibition of nuclear weapons, and it is not appropriate for Norway to sign a treaty that could undermine NATO’s position as a defense alliance. However, the government is now following up parliament’s request to examine what the consequences of signing the [treaty] would be.”

The study’s conclusions will be available by the end of 2018, Halvorsen added.

Iceland, another NATO member, is also looking into the implications of joining the treaty, according to Wright. Iceland’s new prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who took office in November, is a member of the Left-Green movement and, although still a member of parliament, signed ICAN’s parliamentary pledge to work toward the treaty’s signature
and ratification.

An official in the prime minister’s office, in an email to Arms Control Today, did not comment on Jakobsdóttir’s current views on prohibition treaty ratification. The official underlined Iceland’s commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the country’s desire to see progress on nuclear weapons reductions.

“With Katrín Jakobsdóttir as prime minister, Iceland is in a strong position to join the treaty and lead other NATO countries to support real steps towards nuclear disarmament,” Ray Acheson, director of the group Reaching Critical Will, said in November 2017 after Jakobsdóttir attended a talk she and Wright gave in support of the treaty.

Advocates see support for the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

Trump's Threat To Violate The Iran Nuclear Deal And How To Respond

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Volume 10, Issue 5, April 30, 2018

President Donald Trump’s unrealistic demands that Congress and Washington’s European partners “fix” the effective 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran is setting the United States up to violate the deal, jeopardize its future, and undermine U.S. credibility and leverage in the region.

Despite the success of the nuclear deal in verifiably blocking Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, Trump has threatened not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers May 12, as required by the nuclear deal, if the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and Washington do not conclude a supplemental agreement designed to address what he terms are “flaws” in the accord.

Although E3 and U.S. negotiators have been meeting since Trump issued his ultimatum in January, it looks increasingly likely that Trump will choose not to renew sanctions waivers May 12, putting the United States in violation of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

While there has been progress in areas outside of the nuclear deal that Trump wants to address, such as on ballistic missiles, his demand that an agreement changing the so-called "sunsets"—those provisions of the deal that expire over time—has proven contentious and may prevent the E3 and the United States from finalizing an arrangement. Trump’s claim—that the deal paves the way to an Iranian nuclear weapon in 10 years—is based on a flawed analysis that discounts the value that the permanent monitoring mechanisms and prohibitions put in place by the deal have as a bulwark against nuclear weapons development.

Trump also disregards the fact that his solution, making permanent some of the limitations that expire in 10-25 years under the threat to reimposing sanctions, would violate the accord. Congress and the E3 have rightly resisted agreeing to make demands that would abrogate, or otherwise recast, the terms of the JCPOA. These fundamental differences make an arrangement between the E3 and the United States that addresses Trump’s areas of concerns without violating the agreement difficult to negotiate.

Additionally, given Trump’s record of hostility toward the accord, his campaign pledge to tear up the deal, and his unpredictability, there is no guarantee that even if an agreement on a supplemental arrangement is reached, Trump will accept it or abide by it.

After meeting with Trump and floating the idea of a new agreement that keeps the 2015 nuclear deal in place and, in separate arrangements, addresses regional issues, ballistic missiles, and options for how to address Iran’s nuclear program after the deal expires, French President Emmanuel Macron predicted April 26 that Trump “will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons.”

While it behooves the E3 to continue pursuing negotiations with the Trump administration on an arrangement that satisfies Trump without violating the deal, the E3, Russia, China, Iran, and the U.S. Congress should now prepare to pursue “plan B”–implementation of the JCPOA without the United States. That must include denouncing Trump’s failure to renew sanctions for what is a clear violation of the deal —and taking steps to sustain the nuclear accord.

For as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated in October, the nuclear agreement is multilateral and it is “not up to a single country to terminate it.”

A Clear Violation of the Deal

Reimposing sanctions is a twofold abrogation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA and it is critical that members of Congress and Washington’s P5+1 partners recognize it as such. Not only did the United States commit not to reimpose sanctions, Washington also committed not to interfere with the full realization of sanctions relief.

To the first point, Paragraph 26 of the JCPOA clearly states that the United States “acting consistent with the respective roles of the president and Congress, will refrain from reintroducing or reimposing the sanction specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA.”

Reimposing sanctions lifted by the deal, particularly when even top U.S. officials and critics of the deal admit that Iran is in compliance with its commitments, clearly abrogates U.S. commitments under this paragraph.

Additionally, the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, given the extraterritorial nature of the measures, will interfere with foreign companies and banks conducting legitimate business with Iran that is permitted by the JCPOA.That would directly inhibit Iran from realizing the benefits of sanctions relief.

For instance, the United States also committed in Paragraph 26 to “make best efforts in good faith… to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting.” In paragraph 28, the United States committed to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”

Even if the administration claims that it is not implementing the sanctions and therefore not violating the deal, failing to renew the waivers will make certain transactions with Iran illegal. Additionally, entities are not going to wait for the Trump administration to start implementing the measures to take actions to comply with the restrictions and avoid being penalized by the United States. The risk of sanctions penalties alone will result in a certain amount of self-enforcement, particularly for the sanctions measures that are due to be renewed May 12.

The Impact of Reimposing Oil Measures

The sanctions that will be reimposed May 12 if Trump does not renew waivers come from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012. The sanctions in the NDAA require states purchasing oil from Iran to make significant reductions in imports every 180 days or risk being sanctioned. While “significant reduction” was not defined in the legislation and it is unclear what standard the Trump administration will use, it was understood by the Obama administration to mean an 18 percent decrease in the total price paid for oil purchases every 180 days. If the sanctions are reimposed, compliance would be assessed Nov. 8, 2018. Failure to meet the “significant reduction” standard would result in sanctions on the foreign banks that process the transactions.

Key U.S. allies will be affected if this measure is snapped back. Right now the top five purchasers of Iranian oil include China, Japan, South Korea, India, and the European Union. Some of these states have already begun reducing purchases of Iranian oil in anticipation of the reimposition. South Korea’s purchases of Iranian oil products were down 40 percent in March 2018, when compared to prior year, although that is partially due to a decrease in the supply of certain oil products.

Reimposing these measures will also have a negative impact on support in Iran to maintain the deal, given the central role that oil sales play in Iran’s economy. The increase in oil sales after the JCPOA was implemented constitutes a significant portion of the sanctions relief Iran has experienced under the JCPOA.

In addition to higher sales since the agreement was implemented in 2016, Iran’s production of oil has also rebounded to 4 million barrels per day, up from the approximately 2.6 million barrels per day during the period from 2012-2016 when the EU oil embargo and the U.S. sanctions from the 2012 NDAA were in place. Crude oil sales are up from 1.1 million barrels per day during the negotiations from 2013-2015, when further reductions were capped, to about 2.5 million barrels per day.

Options for Congress

If Trump fails to renew the sanctions waivers, it is critical that members of Congress immediately denounce his action as a clear violation of the nuclear deal and call upon Washington’s partners in the agreement to sustain the accord.

Failure to call out Trump for violating the deal could be interpreted as an implicit endorsement of his approach and, more broadly, a rejection of multilateral efforts to address issues of proliferation concern. For this reason, it is also critical that members of Congress call on the remaining P5+1 to continue to implement the nuclear deal with Iran.

At a time when the overarching nonproliferation and disarmament architecture is under considerable stress, the nuclear deal with Iran was widely viewed in the international community as a nonproliferation success that averted a nuclear crisis and brought Iran back into compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Now, with the deal under threat from Trump, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, opened the door to Iranian withdraw from the NPT in response to a U.S. violation of the JCPOA, an action which would have grave consequences for the treaty and remove the binding legal prohibition on developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Such an action would not only undermine international security, but it would severely undermine Iran’s own security and standing.

Demonstrating that Trump’s extreme view is outside of the mainstream and the deal still has support from policymakers in the United States may help persuade Tehran from making such a drastic move in response to the U.S. violation.

Members of Congress would also be right to point out that Trump will be responsible for the consequences if the U.S. violation ultimately causes the deal to collapse and the damage that would be done to U.S. credibility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported Iran’s compliance with the accord in 10 consecutive reports and Trump’s own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a critic of the Iran deal, testified to Congress that there is no evidence of Iranian noncompliance with the accord, there is no legitimate reason for Trump to violate the agreement. Given Iran’s full implementation of the JCPOA, a decision by Trump to violate the accord and risk the future of the nuclear deal should be denounced by responsible members of Congress.

EU Measures to Sustain the Deal

Washington’s P5+1 partners, particularly the EU, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have committed to the continued implementation of the JCPOA, irrespective of U.S. actions. To sustain the deal, however, the E3 and the EU must do more than just denounce U.S. actions as a violation and detrimental to the future of the nuclear deal.

The EU can, and should, take actions to block the application of U.S. secondary sanctions and seek to assure Iran that the rest of the P5+1 remain committed to Iran realizing sanctions relief under the deal.

The EU has experience responding to U.S. extraterritorial sanctions. In the 1990s, the EU issued blocking regulation to protect its banks and businesses from U.S. sanctions targeting Cuba by instructing the entities not to comply with U.S. sanctions. In that case, the EU had an assurance from the United States that Washington would not target EU businesses for violating the sanctions.

While a handshake agreement that the United States will not seek to penalize EU businesses in the Iran case is highly unlikely, the EU should still pursue the blocking regulation. The blocking regulation probably will not provide enough guarantee that banks and businesses will be shielded from U.S. sanctions that business with Iran will continue–the penalty of being cut off from the U.S. financial system is likely too high a risk—but it will send an important political signal to Iran that the EU supports the deal. Equally important, it sends a message to the United States the decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran is unacceptable and the EU will not be pressured into abiding by U.S. measures.

The EU could also consider setting up channels to facilitate business transactions with Iran that do not rely on the U.S. dollar. Isolating such transactions from the U.S. financial system could provide an avenue for doing business with Iran and demonstrate to Tehran that the EU is still serious about implementing the deal.

These actions will be critical to try and continue sanctions relief. Failure to do so might push Iran to resume troublesome nuclear activities halted by the JCPOA, such as enrichment to 20-percent uranium-235, an activity currently prohibited by the deal until 2031.

As Zarif told CBS April 22, if “benefits of the deal for Iran start to diminish, then there is no reason for Iran to remain in the deal.”

The EU also has other channels for supporting the JCPOA. One often overlooked benefit of the nuclear deal is the technical cooperation for nuclear research and assistance in advancing nuclear safety and security. The EU and Iran have conducted several meetings to date and the results over some clear benefits to Iran. Pledging to continue to help Iran realize the full benefit of Annex III of the JCPOA is another way the EU can show its commitment to the deal.

Russia and China have also indicated support for sustaining the JCPOA and denounced Trump’s threats to the deal. At a meeting on the NPT in Geneva, Russia and China circulated a statement affirming their "unwavering support for the comprehensive and effective implementation" of the deal and invited all states present to sign on to the agreement. The Russian envoy to the meeting called upon states “not to remain silent in hopes that this situation will somehow blow over by itself but rather to take serious steps to preserve the JCPOA.”

Washington’s P5+1 partners should also use the dispute resolution mechanism set up by the JCPOA to present a united front in the face of the U.S. violation or support Iran if Tehran chooses this path. While the dispute resolution might push the E3 and the EU into the unattractive position of siding with Russia and China against the United States, it would send a strong signal to the Trump administration that the United States is isolated in its rejection of the deal.

Beyond the P5+1

The world is looking to the E3 to save the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran–but it is not just the responsibility of the other P5+1 states to avert the nonproliferation crisis that would follow if Trump reimposes sanctions. States beyond the P5+1 have an obligation to contribute to efforts to sustain the deal and uphold nonproliferation norms.

The UN Security Council endorsed the JCPOA in a 2015 resolution that “calls upon all Member States” to “take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA” and “refraining from actions that undermine the implementation of commitments” under the deal. The preamble of the Resolution 2231 also emphasizes the importance of a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue “would benefit nuclear-nonproliferation.” The Security Council resolution statements may be nonbinding, but they underscore the global importance of the deal for nonproliferation and the responsibility that all UN member states have toward supporting the agreement.

States like South Korea, Japan, and India also have a stake in the economic consequences of any U.S. decision to violate the deal and reimpose sanctions. Not only would they be subject to restrictions on oil purchases from Iran, but banks and entities in these countries engaged in legitimate trade with Iran risk penalties if they do not cut ties with Tehran.

Like the EU, these states may think about what measures they can take to shield businesses and entities from U.S. sanctions. Pursuing strategies similar to the EU blocking regulation would send a strong signal of support for the Iran deal and demonstrate to Washington that there are consequences for blatantly disregarding multilateral accords.

Conclusion

If Trump fails to renew sanctions waivers May 12 it will be a clear violation of the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. Withholding waivers would be irresponsible, dangerous, and risk a nuclear agreement that is verifiably restricting Iran’s nuclear activities. Trump’s action may not cause the deal collapse, but it certainly jeopardizes the future of the JCPOA and isolates the United States from key allies.

It is critical that members of Congress, Washington P5+1 partners, and the broader international community denounce Trump for violating the agreement if he fails to renew the sanctions waivers. Collapse of the agreement would have international consequences. Defending the JCPOA must be a global responsibility.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

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