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– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

IAEA Report on Iran's Past Weaponization Activities Unsurprising



Task Now Must Be to Effect Implementation of the Nuclear Deal

For Immediate Release: December 2, 2015

Media Contacts: Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 102; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Timothy Farnsworth, communications director, 202-463-8270 ext. 110.

(Washington, D.C.)—The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released his final assessment today on Iran’s past activities that could be related to nuclear weapons development, the so-called possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Yukiya Amano’s Dec. 2 report assessed that Iran conducted a coordinated “range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” prior to the end of 2003 and some of the activities continued after 2003. According to the assessment the “activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.” The report said that the IAEA had no credible indications of these activities continuing after 2009.

The investigation was completed as part of a July 14 agreement between Iran and the IAEA. The agency had laid out its concerns in an annex to a November 2011 report, which covered a range of issues primarily relating to activities pre-dating 2004—from acquisition of materials to explosive testing.

“The IAEA’s assessment that Iran was engaged in activities relevant to the development of a nuclear weapon prior to 2004 is not surprising. That finding is consistent with what U.S. intelligence agencies, and nonproliferation watchdogs—including the Arms Control Association—have long-assumed,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association.

“The agency’s finding that there are ‘no credible indications’ that Tehran continued weaponization activities after 2009, or diverted nuclear material in connection with its past activities, is a strong indication that Iran has abandoned a coordinated nuclear weapons effort,” she added.

"While the director-general’s report is a critical step, it does not, however, ‘normalize’ Iran’s nuclear program in the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency or the international community. Iran’s nuclear activities will remain under a microscope and subject to a multi-layered monitoring and verification regime. The IAEA also will continue to work to reach a ‘broader conclusion’ on Iran’s nuclear program – meaning that there has been no diversion of declared nuclear materials and no indication of undeclared nuclear materials and activities over a period of time. That will provide greater assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful,” Davenport said.

“Iran’s long-overdue cooperation with the IAEA’s investigation is an important and necessary step forward to ensure that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons in the future,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. "It opens the way for the the Board of Governors to recognize the director-general’s report and for Iran to take the steps necessary to implement the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers—known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Kimball said.

“Under the terms of the JCPOA, the IAEA will have more wide-ranging authority to monitor Iran’s ongoing nuclear work and verify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. The IAEA will have increased access to Iran’s nuclear sites, including every element of its fuel supply chain, and the ability to investigate evidence of any alleged illicit nuclear activities at undeclared sites, including military bases. That will provide greater assurance that Iran is not pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program in the future,” Kimball added.

The IAEA Board of Governors will convene for a special meeting on Dec. 15 to discuss the results of the director-general’s report and to determine the appropriate response to the report’s findings.

“Contrary to the assertions of some, the agency does not need to know every detail of Iran’s past work to monitor and verify Iran's compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. This is due to the fact that the IAEA’s verification scheme is based on the widely-held assumption that Iran did engage in weapons-related research in the past and that it achieved the capability to produce weapons-grade nuclear material and to weaponize that material some time ago,” said Davenport.

“With the JCPOA, the IAEA will have considerable flexibility to investigate evidence and concerns about any possible future weaponization activities. Without the JCPOA, the agency would have far less access and information to detect and deter illicit nuclear activities in the years ahead. Moving forward, it is critical that Iran and the P5+1 continue to take steps to follow-through on their commitments under the nuclear deal,” Kimball noted.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released...

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Iran, P5+1 Formally Adopt Nuclear Deal

November 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

EU deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmid (left) and Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi sit at the head of the table during a meeting in Vienna on October 19. The two officials were representing their delegations at the first meeting of the joint commission established under a July 14 deal on Iran’s nuclear program. [Photo credit: Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images]Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 formally adopted their July 14 nuclear deal last month and began taking steps to implement their respective commitments.

In an Oct. 18 joint statement marking Adoption Day, as the agreement calls it, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief and head negotiator for the P5+1, said that “all sides remain strongly committed to ensuring” implementation of the deal and “will make all the necessary preparations.”

The agreement specified that formal adoption was to take place 90 days after the UN Security Council passed a resolution endorsing the deal, which the council did on July 20.               

The 90-day adoption period allowed countries to review the deal internally. The United States completed its congressional review process on Sept. 17 (see ACT, October 2015), and Iran’s parliament passed a bill approving the deal on Oct. 13. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei endorsed the deal on Oct. 21, but said that any new sanctions on Iran would jeopardize Tehran’s participation.

After the Oct. 18 formal adoption, Iran began taking steps to restrict its nuclear program while the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) took initial steps to provide Iran with relief from nuclear-related sanctions.

In an Oct. 18 statement marking the adoption of the deal, U.S. President Barack Obama called the day “an important milestone toward preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and said he had directed the government to begin preparations to provide relief from the sanctions.

The European Union also issued a statement on Oct. 18 noting that it adopted the legislative framework to lift its nuclear-related sanctions on the deal’s Implementation Day.

Under the terms of the deal, Implementation Day is to occur when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certifies that Iran has taken certain steps to restrict its nuclear program and put in place increased monitoring. That determination brings U.S. waivers into effect and triggers the lifting of EU and UN sanctions.

The steps that Iran must take include reducing the number of installed centrifuges from more than 19,000 to 6,104 first-generation machines, reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium to no more than 300 kilograms, removing and disabling the core of the Arak reactor to prevent it from producing weapons-grade plutonium, and allowing additional monitoring and transparency measures on its nuclear program. (See ACT, September 2015.)

Next Steps

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), told reporters on Oct. 17 that the exact timing of Implementation Day is unknown at this point but that Iran can complete its commitments by the end of the year.

Richard Nephew, a former State Department official who was part of the team that negotiated with Iran, said in an Oct. 19 e-mail that he thinks “the careful removal, decontamination and storage” of Iran’s excess centrifuges will be the most difficult task.

Iran currently has more than 19,000 centrifuges installed at two facilities, Natanz and Fordow, of which about 10,200 are currently enriching uranium to reactor-grade levels, or about 3.67 percent uranium-235, according to Iran and the IAEA.

Under the deal, Iran must cut its number of centrifuges to 6,104, of which 5,060 will enrich uranium to reactor-grade levels for the first 10 years of the deal at the Natanz site. The remaining 1,044 machines will be at Fordow, which is to be repurposed for isotope research.

On the question of the time that will be required to complete the removal and storage of the centrifuges, Nephew, now at Columbia University, said that he cannot conceive “of a careful effort that takes less than four months,” given the “physical dimensions of the spaces” where the centrifuges are installed, the size and sensitivity of the machines, and the number that must be removed.

He said it is possible to do the job more quickly “but that will require reckless maneuvers with the centrifuges” that would be surprising for the AEOI. The AEOI oversees Iran’s nuclear facilities and will be responsible for implementing many of the steps under the deal.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Oct. 19 that Iran would begin removing centrifuges when President Hassan Rouhani issued an order to the AEOI to implement its nuclear commitments.

Araqchi also said that Iran, the United States, and China worked together on a plan for the modernization of the Arak reactor.

Under the terms of the deal, the core of the unfinished reactor must be removed and destroyed before Iran receives any sanctions relief. The reactor will be modified to produce much smaller amounts of plutonium in its spent fuel. If the reactor had been completed as designed, it would have been able to produce enough plutonium for about two weapons a year.

Chinese officials have said they will work with Iran at the Arak site to modify the reactor.

Joint Commission Meeting

Araqchi spoke to reporters in Vienna after the first meeting of the joint commission set up by the nuclear deal to oversee the accord’s implementation and resolve any disputes between the parties.

In a press briefing two days before the Oct. 19 meeting, a senior U.S. official said setting up the working groups for the commission was on the meeting agenda.

The text of the deal calls for the joint commission to set up several working groups, including ones to monitor the modification of the Arak reactor and Iran’s procurement of any materials and equipment that could be used for its nuclear program.

The United States was represented at the meeting by Thomas Shannon, State Department counselor, and Stephen Mull, a former ambassador to Poland. Mull was appointed lead coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation on Sept. 17 by Secretary of State John Kerry.

IAEA Completes Probe

The IAEA announced on Oct. 15 that Iran had complied with its obligations under a separate July 14 agreement between Tehran and the agency, which laid out a schedule for completing the IAEA’s investigation of Tehran’s past activities allegedly related to developing a nuclear weapon.

The agency’s Oct. 15 statement said that all of the activities specified in its agreement with Iran were completed on schedule and that the IAEA would provide its board of governors by Dec. 15 with a report assessing Iran’s past activities.

The IAEA listed its concerns that Iran was pursuing activities related to nuclear weapons development in an annex to the November 2011 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program. (See ACT, December 2011.)

According to the agreement with the P5+1, Tehran needed to comply with the IAEA probe before the deal could be formally adopted.

In an Oct. 19 speech in Tehran, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, called on the IAEA to respect the confidentiality of its communications with Iran.

Larijani said that if the IAEA reveals Iran’s “secrets,” then Tehran will “change the quality” of its cooperation with the agency.

Iran Tests New Missile

Iran tested a new ballistic missile last month, apparently violating a UN Security Council resolution prohibiting such launches.

Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan told reporters on Oct. 10 that the test earlier that day was a success and the missile is “capable of hitting and destroying targets with high precision.”

 State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in an Oct. 13 press briefing that the test “appears to violate” a 2010 UN Security Council resolution and that the United States would raise the issue at the Security Council, which it did on Oct. 21.

Under Resolution 1929, Iran “shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Nuclear-capable ballistic missiles are generally understood to be missiles capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload over a distance of 300 kilometers.

The Emad, the missile that Iran launched, is a liquid-fueled, medium-range ballistic missile that is estimated to carry a 750-kilogram payload and has a range of 1,700 kilometers. It is a more precise variant of the Shahab-3 ballistic missile that Iran first deployed in 2003.

In a 2013 report, a panel of experts set up by the Security Council to monitor compliance with sanctions on Iran found that Tehran had violated the resolution by testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Iranian officials have said they do not consider themselves obligated to follow the restrictions in Resolution 1929, which they view as illegal and based on manufactured evidence that Tehran was developing nuclear weapons.

Resolution 1929 was put in place to continue pressuring Iran to negotiate a resolution to the controversy over its nuclear program.

Under the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, Resolution 1929 and other Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to limit its nuclear program will be replaced by Resolution 2231.

The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2231, which endorses the July 14 nuclear deal, on July 20. It will come into effect when the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies that Iran has taken key steps to limit its nuclear program and put in place greater transparency measures.

Resolution 2231 calls on Iran not to develop or test ballistic missiles that are “designed to be capable” of delivering nuclear warheads.

The July 14 nuclear deal does not restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Dehqan said that Iran does not “ask for anyone’s permission for boosting our defense and missile power” and that Tehran would continue its ballistic missile development.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

    Iran and six world powers formally adopted their July 14 nuclear deal last month and began taking steps to implement the agreement.

    Sea Trials Progress for Indian Sub

    November 2015

    By Kelsey Davenport

    The Nirbhay, India’s long-range cruise missile, lifts off during a test launch in the Indian state of Odisha on October 17, 2014. [Photo credit: Defence Research & Development Organisation of India]Sea trials of India’s first indigenously built ballistic missile submarine are going well and may include the first test launch of a nuclear-capable missile this month, an Indian official said last month.

    In an Oct. 15 e-mail, the official confirmed reports in several Indian newspapers that the next steps for the sea trials of the INS Arihant include test launches of a cruise missile and a ballistic missile and that these tests could take place within the next month.

    India, whose submarine program dates back to 1984, started work on the Arihant in 2009. The submarine’s nuclear-powered reactor went critical in August 2013, and it began sea trials in December 2014.

    Indian officials have said that they plan to conduct test launches of the submarine’s missiles before the Arihant is ready to go on patrol. Currently, New Delhi says the Arihant will be handed over to the navy to begin service in 2016, ideally before the International Fleet Review, an international naval exhibition, in February. But the deployment of the Arihant has been delayed in the past.

    The plan to test a cruise missile from the submarine may have suffered a setback after a land-based test of the missile was aborted last month.

    In an Oct. 16 press release, India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said that, to “ensure coastal safety,” a test of the Nirbhay long-range cruise missile was “terminated” midway through its flight after “deviations were observed from its intended course.” The release said that the Oct. 16 test still met basic mission objectives successfully.

    The Nirbhay is likely a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of 1,000 kilometers, although India has not confirmed its nuclear mission. India has tested the missile several times, including in March 2013 and October 2014. The March 2013 test was terminated when the missile veered off course. The October 2014 test was deemed a partial success by a DRDO official.

    The other missile suitable for the Arihant-class submarine is the K-15, a two-stage ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead an estimated 700 kilometers.

    The submarine is designed to carry 12 K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

    India has tested the K-15 missile multiple times, including from a submerged pontoon in 2013, but not from the Arihant.

    The DRDO also is developing a longer-range SLBM, the K-4, which will have an estimated range of 3,000 kilometers with a nuclear payload. That range puts Pakistan and most of China within range if India launches the K-4 from the northern Indian Ocean.

    India first tested the K-4 missile in March 2014. Each Arihant-class submarine could carry up to four K-4s.

    Once the Arihant is on patrol, India will have a complete nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers. Currently, only China, Russia, and the United States deploy nuclear warheads across all three delivery systems.

    India will also join China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States as the only countries with a sea-based nuclear deterrent.

    India has two submarines similar to the Arihant at various stages of construction. 

    An Indian official said sea trials of its ballistic missile submarine are going well and may include missile tests this month.

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    Building on the Iran Deal

    October 2015

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    The historic nuclear nonproliferation agreement struck on July 14 between Iran and six world powers is moving forward.

    Now the task is to implement the deal and reinforce it. Leading states in and outside the Middle East should build on the deal by jointly exploring additional barriers against further nuclear proliferation in the region and beyond. 

    The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will severely curtail Iran’s nuclear capabilities for at least 15 years and put in place a multilayered verification and monitoring regime. By blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb, the agreement also helps head off nuclear competition in the unstable Middle East.

    The agreement contains innovative but time-limited provisions that go beyond the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and standard International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. These and other measures could be applied indefinitely if pursued on a regional and even global basis by the United States and other leading countries. Among the options are the following:

    Expand application of additional protocols. Region-wide adoption of and adherence to additional protocols, which will provide the IAEA with enhanced monitoring and inspection authority in Iran under the agreement, would help to guard against illicit military nuclear activity elsewhere. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are among the states that have not concluded an additional protocol with the IAEA.

    One approach would be to update the law governing U.S. civil nuclear cooperation to require cooperating states to adopt an additional protocol and early-notification procedures. Another would be for the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group to agree not to engage in any civilian nuclear cooperation with a state in the Middle East unless it has taken those steps.

    Ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. In the agreement, Iran agreed not to enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent uranium-235 for a period of at least 15 years. Iran has indicated a willingness to extend that restriction if other countries in the region follow suit. A goal of U.S. policy should be to secure a region-wide commitment to establishing a ceiling of 5 percent U-235 for uranium enrichment.

    A related strategy would be to accelerate the phaseout of reactor fuel with an enrichment level greater than 5 percent for any purposes by any country and to provide technical support to convert reactors fueled with highly enriched uranium to low-enriched fuel.

    Iran also committed not to separate plutonium from spent fuel in its reactors for at least 15 years. A permanent region-wide ban on reprocessing could also be adopted.

    If additional countries chose to pursue enrichment in the Middle East or elsewhere, they should be encouraged to allow the same continuous IAEA monitoring at key nuclear facilities to which Iran is subject under this agreement.

    Encourage lifetime fuel-supply and fuel take-back guarantees. To help obviate Iran’s justification for increasing its enrichment capacity beyond the agreement’s limit of 5,060 of its first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1, any country that supplies additional power reactors to Iran could provide fuel supply guarantees for the lifespan of the reactor and agree to take back the spent fuel to deny Iran access to the plutonium in the fuel. Russia already has such an arrangement with Iran. The United States should strongly encourage lifetime fuel-supply arrangements for any country in the region seeking nuclear reactors.

    Forgo nuclear weapons-related experiments. In the deal, Iran agreed to a ban on all nuclear weapons-related experiments, even though some ostensibly have civilian applications. By encouraging other states in the region and elsewhere to voluntarily declare or reach a memorandum of understanding with the IAEA that such experiments, if conducted, would constitute a violation of their safeguards agreements, confidence in the NPT would be strengthened.

    Encourage region-wide adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Nuclear test explosions enable states to prove new warhead designs, particularly smaller, lighter warheads for delivery on ballistic missiles. The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all such tests. Currently, three states in the Middle East—Egypt, Iran, and Israel—must ratify the CTBT to facilitate its entry into force. Iran and Israel have signed the treaty, and their current leaders have expressed general support for the treaty.

    To reinforce Iran’s commitment to a future without nuclear weapons and increase security in the region, all CTBT states-parties should actively encourage states in the Middle East that have not signed and ratified the CTBT, including Saudi Arabia, to do so and to fully support the CTBT International Monitoring System, as well the development of the on-site inspection capabilities that will be available after the treaty enters into force.

    The Iran deal is a major step forward. The United States and other leading governments can strengthen it further by advancing additional nonproliferation initiatives in the years ahead.

    The historic nuclear nonproliferation agreement struck on July 14 between Iran and six world powers is moving forward.

    BOOK REVIEW: Turning the Page on Pax Atomica

    October 2015

    Reviewed by Randy Rydell

    The War That Must Never Be Fought: Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence
    Edited by George P. Shultz and James E. Goodby Hoover Institution Press, 2015, 530 pp.

    On June 14, 1946, U.S. representative Bernard Baruch addressed the UN Atomic Energy Commission and launched his country’s ambitious plan for global nuclear disarmament and international ownership of the nuclear fuel cycle.

    The plan was not without its conditions. Actual disarmament would occur only after other steps had been taken, most notably the imposition of intrusive controls over the nuclear programs of every other country and the establishment of the International Atomic Development Authority. In 1961 the U.S. Department of State’s press release accompanying the McCloy-Zorin joint statement on “general and complete disarmament” referred to the attainment of that goal “in a peaceful world,” suggesting that disarmament would occur at the end of a very long road, essentially with the dawning of world peace.1

    A new collection of essays, The War That Must Never Be Fought: Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence, takes a somewhat more practical approach by outlining specific actions needed to achieve and sustain global nuclear disarmament. Although contemporary in focus, the chapters all illustrate the continuity of the primary challenges faced some 70 years ago in this field. Which must come first—peace and security or disarmament? How can sovereign states respond to enforce a nuclear disarmament commitment if it is violated? Does the “inalienable right” to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) puts it, extend to the technologies that produced the Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bombs? Is nonproliferation a precondition for disarmament or vice versa?

    Taking Disarmament Seriously

    Edited by George P. Shultz and James E. Goodby, this book is an exceptional contribution to the literature on nuclear disarmament and arms control. Yet, it is more than that. It also is a valuable addition to the wider political campaign to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

    It achieves these goals by inviting contributions from authors of diverse backgrounds, including the military, academia, private research institutes, and many other fields of public service.

    The book begins with chapters by Benoît Pelopidas, Goodby, and Steven Pifer that identify the fallacies of nuclear deterrence, including the myth that nuclear weapons are responsible for keeping the “long peace” during the Cold War. Although many self-described realists denigrate disarmament, Pifer offers a defense of the concept as practical, reasonable, and in the interests of the United States and the world community.

    The second part of the book delves into specific challenges to disarmament emanating from four regions: Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. The omission of Latin America and Africa is unfortunate, given their long record of support for global nuclear disarmament and their many regional actions to advance that goal.

    With respect to Europe, Isabelle Williams and Steven P. Andreasen explain the situation in NATO. They describe the dualism of NATO’s stubborn reaffirmation of the role of nuclear weapons as the “supreme guarantee” of alliance security and the organization’s recent recognition of the desirability of eliminating such weapons globally. Pavel Podvig offers an enlightened discussion of Russian interests and motives in nuclear arms control and disarmament, and in their jointly written chapter, Katarzyna Kubiak and Oliver Meier draw the reader’s attention to the critically important policy positions taken by Germany and Poland concerning the future of nuclear weapons.

    The three chapters on the Middle East appear as a dialectic, with the thesis characterizing Israel as the responsible nuclear-weapon custodian (Shlomo Brom), the antithesis emphasizing the reluctance of Arab states to participate in regional peace talks as long as Israel retains its nuclear arsenal (Karim Haggag), and the synthesis being a proposal for a middle course incorporating regional negotiations on many dimensions relating to peace and to disarmament in particular with many timetables (Peter Jones).

     In the one chapter on South Asia, S. Paul Kapur focuses on prospects for decoupling “deterrence” from nuclear weapons. He outlines how deterrence can persist even if nuclear weapons are excluded from the region.

    East Asia justifiably receives significant attention in this book. This includes an informative chapter on China’s nuclear policies by Michael S. Gerson, who draws attention to the “increasingly important—and potentially dangerous—interplay between nuclear and conventional forces in the modern era.” Li Bin’s chapter refreshingly mentions Article VI of the NPT. He explains the lack of progress in U.S.-Chinese nuclear arms control and disarmament as largely due to what he calls the contrasting “security paradigms” of the two countries—that is, their fundamentally different perspectives on defense policy and strategy. Peter Hayes and Chung-in Moon go beyond the familiar, customary assessments that simply describe the tensions between North and South Korea. They offer a concrete fix for such tensions in the form of a broad regional security regime that includes but is not limited to a regional nuclear-weapon-free zone. Nobumasa Akiyama discusses how Japan has sought to reconcile its support for global nuclear disarmament with its embrace of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

    Goodby and Pifer wrap things up with a conclusion setting forth various conditions for the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons. Their proposal emphasizes the role of the great powers, in particular Russia and the United States, the countries with the largest nuclear arsenals. Goodby and Pifer emphasize the importance of a multidimensional approach, arguing that conventional arms control and nuclear disarmament goals must be pursued together. The two analysts argue that these goals must be pursued at the highest level of government in summit meetings, supported politically in many international forums, and advanced through a “joint enterprise,” a term used in a series of Wall Street Journal op-eds written by Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, involving a coalition of like-minded states. The authors also offer a draft communiqué and work plan to advance their proposals.

    The Joint Enterprise in Practice

    An Agni-3 missile moves through New Delhi on January 26, 2009, as part of India’s observance of its Republic Day. The Agni-3 is nuclear capable.  (Photo credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)One of the key purposes of this book was to put some flesh on the bones of the joint enterprise proposed in the Wall Street Journal op-eds on nuclear disarmament. The authors deserve credit for taking up this difficult mission and for setting forth some ideas on how to achieve it. The Goodby-Pifer proposal places a strong emphasis on summit meetings between key states with nuclear weapons and their allies. Fair enough; as Pelopides wrote, “engage the expected veto player.”

    A popular alternative these days is to build a coalition of like-minded states to advocate a nuclear weapons ban, an approach actively being advanced by many nongovernmental groups. Yet, the great weakness of global nuclear disarmament proposals that involve “coalitions of the willing” minus the nuclear-weapon states is in their inability to establish an irrefutable link between the actions of those coalitions and the necessary achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world. It is difficult to achieve the norm of global nuclear disarmament without the participation of states possessing such weapons. A universal norm, after all, implies universal application.

    Aside from the predictable difficulties of engaging the nuclear-weapon states, proponents of this book’s approach will also need a strategy to ensure that the proposed summits will remain focused on nuclear disarmament and not get sidetracked by endless discussions on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues. Most non-nuclear-weapon states oppose the idea that the commitment in the NPT to undertake negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament is conditional at all. They are not interested in discussing progress toward disarmament; they want to see progress in disarmament.

    These states certainly oppose expanding nonproliferation commitments in the face of what they see as the failure to fulfill the disarmament side of the NPT bargain. While the nuclear-weapon states and their allies are demanding numerous preconditions for fulfilling their disarmament commitments, the non-nuclear-weapon states have not responded in kind by attaching provisos to their own nonproliferation commitments. The longer that disarmament is deferred, however, the more likely it is that this game of “conditions” will be played in the nonproliferation field. The book’s proposed joint enterprise can most successfully address such challenges by remaining a global enterprise with an equitable balance of obligations among all states.

    Therefore, it seems that the road to nuclear disarmament will have to involve some players other than the nuclear-weapon states and their allies. In particular, non-nuclear-weapon states and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have important roles to play, as do national legislatures. How they can all fit within the summit proposal offered in this book is unclear.

    A protester against NATO nuclear weapons takes part in a demonstration on September 4, 2014, at the alliance’s summit meeting in Newport, Wales. (Photo credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)Non-Nuclear Deterrence

    As for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, its frailties are exceptionally well documented in this book by many authors. Yet, the book’s subtitle, Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence, unintentionally diverts attention from another important challenge facing nuclear disarmament, namely, the dilemmas of non-nuclear deterrence.

    As the Clinton White House put it in 2000, “Because of [U.S.] conventional military dominance, adversaries are likely to use asymmetric means, such as WMD [weapons of mass destruction], information operations or terrorism.”2 Earlier, Secretary of Defense William Cohen similarly stated that “a paradox of the new strategic environment is that American military superiority actually increases the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical attack against us by creating incentives for adversaries to challenge us asymmetrically.”3

    As these comments suggest, the unconstrained production and improvement of conventional arms can serve as a driver for the proliferation of nuclear and other nonconventional weapons. Thus, the notion that the United States can comfortably rely on expanded and more-capable conventional forces for purposes of deterrence in a nuclear-weapon-free world does not seem to take into account all the possible international responses to this dominant U.S. capability. It is by no means clear that these responses would be fully compatible with global nuclear disarmament.

    Beyond Deterrence Alone

    In short, deterrence by conventional arms is not necessarily the enabler for global nuclear disarmament that some might wish. More likely, realists in the foreign and defense policy communities will recognize that the global elimination of nonconventional weapons must be accompanied by the regulation and limitation of conventional arms as well as the reduction of military spending.

    Furthermore, the realists will have to concede that great progress is needed in establishing mechanisms to advance some fundamental goals of the UN Charter, especially the peaceful resolution of disputes and the ban on threats or use of force. These mechanisms logically would include greater reliance of states on such measures as mediation, adjudication, fact finding, and the “good offices” of globally recognized resources such as the office of the UN secretary-general and regional organizations for international peace and security. Yet, are these institutions prepared to perform that role? This is a work in progress at best, totally dependent on the political will of states to use such resources.

    Ironically, WMD disarmament, conventional arms control, the peaceful resolution of disputes, reductions in military expenditures, and strengthening the norm against threats and use of force together comprise the goal of “general and complete disarmament under effective international control,” which is already recognized by all UN member states as their “ultimate goal.”4 Many authors in this volume reach for some form of a “big picture,” but none recalls this particular goal—hence the reader sees Podvig’s “new security framework,” Goodby’s “new global commons,” Brom’s “comprehensive cooperative security regime,” Haggag’s “comprehensive arms control framework,” and Jones’s “inclusive regional security system in the Middle East.” It is not clear what these alternatives offer that are not already intrinsic to the concept of general and complete disarmament, which has been recognized by the General Assembly and enshrined in a dozen multilateral treaties, including the NPT. The key recommendations in this book with respect to nuclear disarmament and, to the extent they are addressed, conventional arms control are fully consistent with general and complete disarmament. What is missing is some recognition of the global support that already exists for this ultimate goal.

    Old Challenges, New Openings

    Pessimists and optimists will find material in this book to support their views on disarmament. Pessimists will be informed that there is no hope that India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, or NATO will give up its nuclear weapons anytime soon. Reading between the lines, they could also deduce that the absence of nuclear disarmament agencies in the nuclear-weapon states, coupled with the lack of national disarmament legislation, regulations, policies, timetables, and plans, provides some rather compelling grounds to be skeptical about the whole global nuclear disarmament project. To his credit, Gerson addressed this specific challenge in his chapter on China, but the point is valid throughout the nuclear-armed world. Disarmament simply has not been “internalized” in the nuclear-weapon states; until it is, the goal will be all that more elusive.

    Catalysts for change, however, should not be underestimated. The determination of NGOs and non-nuclear-weapon states to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament remains strong and is expanding. The rapid growth of the “humanitarian approach” to disarmament is a good case in point, as the vast majority of UN member states have now adopted a joint position in opposition to nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds, a subject already of three major international conferences with more no doubt to come. Although national leadership from within the nuclear-weapon states is indispensable, the willingness of such leaders to launch disarmament initiatives will certainly be shaped by the wider political climate—a climate that includes public opinion and pressure from the diplomatic community. The more persistent and diverse these forces become, the greater will be the incentive for leaders to adopt a more constructive approach to disarmament. Pressure can shape summits.

    Material for a Sequel

    Without using the term “pax atomica,” this book dissects the doctrine of nuclear deterrence and exposes it for the anachronistic fantasy that it is in the 21st century. It is less strong in identifying the dilemmas of non-nuclear deterrence in a world without nuclear weapons. It does not take very seriously the role of civil society in advancing the global nuclear disarmament agenda and says very little about the international campaign now underway to advance a humanitarian approach to disarmament.

    Yet, none of these are critical shortcomings in this excellent book. They are instead guiding lights for a sequel to build on this solid foundation pulled together by Shultz and Goodby, who continue to demonstrate through their actions and principled leadership that nuclear disarmament not only can work better than any alternative response to nuclear weapons threats, but also is the right thing to do.


    1.  Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, “Freedom From War: The United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World,” pub. no. 7277, September 1961. The McCloy-Zorin joint statement of September 20, 1961, outlined a U.S.-Soviet agreement on eight principles to serve as a basis for future negotiations on general and complete disarmament. Its authors were diplomats John McCloy of the United States and Valerian Zorin of the Soviet Union. See “McCloy-Zorin Accords,” n.d., http://www.nucleardarkness.org/solutions/mccloyzorinaccordstext/.

    2.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “A National Security Strategy for a New Century,” January 5, 2000, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/nss/nss2000.htm.

    3.  U.S. Department of Defense, “Proliferation: Threat and Response,” November 1997, http://www.dod.mil/pubs/prolif97/message.html (emphasis in original).

    4.  UN General Assembly, “Resolutions and Decisions Adopted by the General Assembly During Its Tenth Special Session, 23 May-30 June 1978,” Supp. No. 4 (A/S-10/4), September 1978, http://www.un.org/disarmament/HomePage/SSOD/A-S-10-4.pdf.

    Randy Rydell is an executive adviser to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation (Mayors for Peace) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association. He served from 1998 to 2014 as senior political affairs officer in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and was a nonproliferation aide to Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) from 1987 to 1998. He was report director and senior counselor to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, headed by Hans Blix, from 2005 to 2006, when he was also senior fellow at the Arms Control Association. 


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