International Nuclear Non-Proliferation News, Summer 2011

1 August 2011

Welcome to the Summer 2011 edition of the Acronym Institute’s International Nuclear Weapons  & Non-Proliferation News, comprising a digest of news on global nuclear weapons policy issues as well as wider disarmament developments and proliferation challenges.


This edition has been compiled by Kat Barton and covers a range of nuclear-related issues over the period April – mid July 2011. A year on from the signing of New START, we begin by taking a look at the related issues of arms control, US nuclear modernisation, missile defence and so-called ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. We then shine the spotlight on the existing disarmament and non-proliferation regime with a look at progress on NPT implementation one year after the 2010 Review Conference, efforts to promote CTBT entry into force and the status of and possibilities for fissile materials negotiation. After that we move on to the UK where the government’s planned renewal of its Trident nuclear weapons system is being undermined by financial difficulties and further complicated by safety considerations, and where a new government study into alternatives to the current system reflects a broadening of policy-maker perspectives on UK possession of nuclear weapons. Focusing in on proliferation challenges, we provide updates on Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan and potential new proliferators Syria and Myanmar (Burma) before finishing off with a brief roundup of other disarmament-related news.

Arms control & missile defence

Early April 2011 marked a year since the signing of the New START Treaty between Russia and the US. As the initial momentum generated by the treaty receded, prominent US and Russian experts were amongst those encouraging further efforts towards reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons worldwide. Writing in the New York Times in April 2011, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called on the US and Russia to ‘take new actions to reduce nuclear risk and shape a safer world’, whilst members of a new group of US and Russian experts called the ‘Sustainable Partnership with Russia Group’ (SuPR Group) proposed a series of next steps for US and Russian decision-makers. Around the same time, an op-ed for the Financial Times by Obama’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon reiterated the US Administration’s plans for a nuclear-free world emphasising in particular US commitment to ending ‘illegal nuclear programmes’ namely those of Iran and North Korea, ratification of the CTBT, proceeding with negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) and also, pressing ahead with missile defence, a US objective that Russia views as an impediment to further nuclear arms reductions.

The implementation of New START began with onsite inspections in April 2011 and was followed by progress updates on different aspects of the treaty’s implementation. The US confirmed that Russia has already reduced its arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,537 – a little under the 1,550 limit that is required within 7 years of the treaty’s entry into force. On the other hand, it was reported that the US has not yet taken a decision on how to cut the remaining 20 nuclear weapon delivery systems necessary for the US to be compliant with that particular aspect of New START. Meanwhile, a smaller US-Russian agreement on disposing of 34 metric tonnes of weapons-grade uranium was signed in July 2011, following an agreement made last year. In contrast to the moderate reductions under New START the newly published 10-year strategic plan of the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) clearly intends for improvements to the effectiveness and lifespan of US nuclear weapons. The NNSA plan illustrates the contradictions inherent in Obama’s strategy of committing to modernisation of the US arsenal as a means of securing support for a modest reduction in numbers. In fact, under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was approved by the US House of Representatives in May and is now on its way to the Senate, funding for New START would be withheld until investment for nuclear modernisation is certified and further reductions in nuclear arms would be prohibited for the foreseeable future. Given the implications of the bill, it is expected that it will be amended so as not to incur a government veto. However, the current challenges illustrate the pitfalls of linking arms reductions to modernisation plans. In related news, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed concern over the US House of Representatives July approval of a $1 billion cut in proposed funding for the NNSA which would reduce the amount available for modernising US nuclear weapons as well as funding non-proliferation programs.

Following on from New START, the US government says it is seeking agreement with Russia on reducing the number of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons each possesses (Russia has over 2,000; the US has under 500). Given the disparities in numbers, coupled with Russia’s greater reliance on these shorter-range ‘theatre’ nuclear weapons, Russia appears determined to present ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons reduction as a low-priority issue. Though Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported in July that US policy-makers will be engaging in substantive talks with NATO over the possible removal of US ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons from Europe as a means of meeting their cost-saving and disarmament objectives, there have been no confirmations from the US or other NATO governments. Nevertheless, there has been growing pressure from European civil society and some NATO governments for discussions on the future of US nuclear weapons in Europe to be undertaken as part of NATO’s Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR). This was mandated following last year’s debates over revising the Strategic Concept, and is scheduled to be completed by May 2012. Notwithstanding NATO’s internal reluctance to tackle this issue, the problem of US ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons in Europe is a priority issue for some. A German court recently heard a case filed by a German activist attempting to force the withdrawal of up to 20 US nuclear weapons stationed close to her house on the grounds that any participation from Germany in their deployment violates the country's laws against use of “atomic, biological and chemical weapons in situations of armed conflict”. In view of Germany’s strong civil society opposition to nuclear weapons and its official government policy of calling for the removal of US nuclear weapons from its territory, US plans to modernise its nuclear arsenal are highly likely to intensify political opposition, particularly as the issue has become highly contentious for Chancellor Merkel’s coalition government. As would be expected, US plans for modernisation are also likely to inflame relations with Russia. In an effort to reduce tensions and move forward the process of doing away with ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, in April the Foreign Ministers of 10 NATO countries proposed a series of transparency-enhancing steps for NATO and Russia to embark upon.

Inseparable from the US-Russian processes of nuclear arms reduction and itself a subject of contention, US plans for a missile defence shield in Europe moved a step closer in April when the Romanian site for one of the intended missile interceptor systems was announced. However, technical difficulties with the missile defence project persist – for example, the latest failed test prompted the US Missile Defense Agency to cancel weapons manufacturer Raytheon’s delivery of a long-range missile interceptor warhead. In addition to this there were further political developments in April when Russia, having long argued for a shared approach in developing missile defences, stated its desire for dual control over a future missile defence shield. Whilst the US came under domestic pressure to discount the possibility, Russia warned that in the absence of an acceptable cooperation agreement, it would increase its nuclear stockpile, thereby reneging on New START. NATO Head Anders Fogh Rasmussen, meanwhile, has implied that Russia and NATO are close to an agreement on missile defence, although this was not the message being projected by Russia. Reflecting on the implications of Russian apprehension over US missile defence, nuclear physicist and Federation of American Scientists consultant Yousef Butt argues in a June Foreign Policy article that a wholescale review of the security costs of proceeding with the plans is needed. Meanwhile, David E. Hoffman writing in the same publication, criticised the US and Russia for ‘sleepwalking into the future’ by allowing outdated arguments over missile defence to impede progress on nuclear arms reductions.

Similarly the 2011 edition of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yearbook highlighted the fact that 23,000 nuclear weapons still threaten global security, and pointed to the failure of the current global ‘security governance system’ to adapt to the realities of our changing world. In line with this and prompted by a June meeting in London of the campaign group Global Zero, the Financial Times (FT) focused its attention on the $1,000 billion to be spent by the nine nuclear weapon possessor states on procuring and modernising nuclear weapons over the next decade. A subsequent FT editorial urged a ‘more aggressively multilateral approach’ to nuclear arms reductions whilst The Economist was supportive but cautious in articles that commended Global Zero’s objectives but expressed doubts about the prospects for nuclear disarmament. Taking the pragmatic approach, Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, proposed a solution to the financial difficulties facing US policy-makers at present in an Atlantic article entitled ‘How to shave a bundle off the deficit: spend less on nukes’. The article drew attention to the ‘procurement-policy gap’ manifesting in US government plans to spend $700 billion on modernising its nuclear weapons “without any clear guidance on how many weapons we need and for what purpose”. Meanwhile, the film ‘Countdown to Zero’ premiered in the UK a year after being released to mixed reviews in the United States. By focussing on the “clear and present danger” of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the film underscored the need for governments to prioritise nuclear arms reduction. Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, reiterated this message but by pointing to governments’ responsibilities under international law emphasised that as “we all share the duty to eliminate nuclear weapons”, all countries – nuclear and non-nuclear – must be involved in the process of nuclear disarmament, including the Australian government whom he called upon to “adopt a nuclear-weapon-free defence posture and begin contributing meaningfully towards nuclear abolition”.

The existing regime: NPT implementation, CTBT entry into force & fissile materials negotiation

In early May 2011, one year after the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference injected some hope into the 40 year old non-proliferation regime, a group of 10 non-nuclear weapon states calling themselves the “Friends of the Non-Proliferation Regime”, met in Berlin to consider ways to enhance the existing regime. Indeed, since 2010, there has been little progress on conference agreements and NPT implementation, particularly with regard to the flagship commitment to appoint a facilitator and hold a conference in 2012 to take forward the objectives of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, including a Zone free of weapons of mass destruction. In July a Seminar held in Brussels under EU auspices brought together government officials and academic experts to discuss ways to address the issue, but was characterised by Guardian security blogger Julian Borger as “finger-wagging” and as having produced little of substance, although getting the Iranians, Israelis and Arabs in one room was perceived as a positive step in itself. In particular, Israeli opposition, combined with the fact that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the sponsors of the 1995 resolution, NPT depositary states Russia, the UK and the US have so far failed to get agreement on a host country for the Conference and a high level diplomatic ‘Facilitator’ to consult with the countries of the region, are now raising concerns about the feasibility of holding an effective conference in 2012.

A few days before the EU meeting, the NPT-defined nuclear weapons states (NWS) had met in Paris to follow-up on the commitments they’d made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. According to their press statement the self-designated “P5” (so called because the five – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – are also the permanent members of the UN Security Council) “continued their previous discussions on the issues of transparency and mutual confidence, including nuclear doctrine and capabilities, and of verification, recognizing such measures are important for establishing a firm foundation for further disarmament efforts”. After the meeting, a timely op-ed by Desmond Tutu, published first on the Project Syndicate website and then at, said that the “squandering [by nuclear weapons states] of billions of dollars on modernisation of their nuclear forces” makes a mockery of disarmament pledges made at the UN.

US President Barack Obama gave a boost to the established nuclear weapon-free zones (NWFZs) in Africa, the South Pacific and South East Asia when he announced a renewed push for US Senate ratification of the relevant protocols to the African Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty and the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty. In addition, diplomats from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced their intention to restart talks in August with the five nuclear-weapon states in order to resolve outstanding issues that have prevented the NWS from ratifying the 1995 Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty, also known as the Bangkok Treaty. US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher also emphasized in May that the US would undertake an education drive on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the next stage in its push to secure ratification of this important treaty by the US Senate. Her announcement was followed by news that the US had completed a plutonium test that demonstrated what CTBT advocates have long stressed: that Washington no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosions prohibited under the CTBT in order to verify the explosive capabilities of its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, negotiations on a fissile materials treaty have not progressed as the Conference on Disarmament (CD) remains deadlocked, in part due to the strict interpretation of consensus in its rules of procedure. In the light of persistent criticism of Pakistan from some of its CD partners, the Associated Press of Pakistan recently quoted Pakistani Ambassador to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon as saying that the focus on negotiating a FMT “follows a regular pattern of negotiating only those agreements that do not undermine or compromise the security interests of certain states, especially the major powers”. In related news, updated research from Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs claiming that China possesses the smallest stockpile of fissile materials may go some way to explaining China’s reluctance to join the other four NWS in declaring a moratorium on producing fissile materials pending agreement on the FMCT for which the CD obtained a negotiating mandate in 1995. Reflecting growing frustration in the US and elsewhere, a New York Times editorial in April called for fissile material negotiations to be moved to an alternative forum “much like the 2008 convention on cluster munitions and the 1997 land-mine treaty”. According to speculations on Global Security Newswire (GSN), such a move appears now to be being seriously considered by the US, UK and France, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has voiced his opposition to a move that he views as potentially damaging the legitimacy of the CD. In his most recent attempt to resolve the issue, in July Ban Ki-Moon proposed measures aimed at breaking the stalemate. Despite being described by the UN in 1978 as the world’s ‘sole disarmament negotiating forum’, the 66-member CD has been paralysed and unable to negotiate anything on its agenda since 1996, while ad hoc negotiating fora convened by groups of “like-minded governments” to negotiate specific agreements, such as the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions have demonstrated greater effectiveness. Not often covered outside the disarmament and security press, the CD was in the news again in late June when the mainstream media picked up on the fact that North Korea has assumed the chair of the CD for four weeks as dictated by the forum’s system of alphabetical rotation. Several critical articles slammed the UN for including North Korea in this way and Canada announced it was boycotting the CD until 19 August when North Korea gives up the chair. However, others regarded the Canadian boycott as ill-advised, arguing that it could undermine the CD’s rules of procedure, which some states fear might further weaken the CD. In contrast to Canada, the US regarded the whole thing as a “relatively low-level, inconsequential event” and in a statement revealing its frustrations with the CD said “It is not where the main game on these issues are”.

UK Trident renewal

In the UK, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government continues to pursue the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapon system amidst criticism of the opacity of the procurement process and concerns over the substantial and increasing costs of the project. Adding fuel to public anger over widespread government cuts, the Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s long overdue announcement in May 2011 that the Initial Gate for the project had been approved was accompanied by the revelation that when inflation is taken into account the price tag for just the new submarines (excluding missiles, warheads and running costs) is likely to be £25 billion, as opposed to the £11-14 billion announced in 2006. With the defence budget already curtailed by the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and under strain on account of a projected deficit of £36 billion over the next 10 years, these latest figures have prompted further concerns that Trident is being replaced at the expense of conventional military capabilities. Moreover as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is now locked in yet another battle with the Treasury pressing questions are being asked about the costs, benefits, priority and opportunity costs of Trident replacement as compared with other areas of government expenditure. On 3 August, the Defence Select Committee - a cross-party committee of MPs - criticised the government over its "rushed" and "badly done" Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). Responding, Jim Murphy, the UK's Shadow Defence Secretary said "events have exposed the mismatch between policy ambition and the resources provided by ministers".

Originally scheduled for September 2009 the Initial Gate announcement, which gave the green light for the next stages of procurement to be undertaken (up to 15% of the budget), had been postponed numerous times whilst decisions were made regarding design, particularly over which type of nuclear reactor to use in the new submarines. The Defence Secretary’s Initial Gate statement in the Commons revealed that the new PWR3 reactor would be used, which will increase costs further. The decision to install the PWR3 instead of the currently used PWR2 reactor in the new subs was based on the results of a safety assessment which was accidentally made public by the MoD when an unredacted version of the report was posted on the internet. This led to criticisms of the MoD as well as of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, who contradicted the report in Parliament. Anxieties over safety were amplified when an MoD report was published that assessed that government funding cuts are likely to jeopardise the safety of the UK’s nuclear weapons. Likewise, an official inquiry into the August 2010 fire at Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) contained strong criticism of the private management consortium (AWE plc, comprising US arms dealer Lockheed Martin, SERCO and Jacobs Engineering) that runs this publicly-funded nuclear weapons plant, particularly with regard to fire prevention and response. The report led the government's Health and Safety Executive to investigate whether to take legal action against the AWE Management group. Nonetheless, despite a catalogue of problems associated with private sector management of AWE and other UK nuclear sites, in May the Scottish Herald revealed that the nuclear warhead storage base at Coulport is to be sold off to a consortium of private companies also led by, Lockheed Martin.

The statement on the Initial Gate was accompanied by the publication of a report describing work on the Trident renewal programme to date, the decisions taken at Initial Gate and around £3 billion of work scheduled to take place in advance of the Main Gate. Dr Fox also identified spending on long lead items that would cost a further £500 million. Alongside the announcement came the news that, in line with the Coalition Agreement under which it was agreed that the Liberal Democrats could continue to make the case for alternatives, an 18-month study to review the “costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures” would be undertaken. The study will be conducted by the Cabinet Office and overseen by Armed Forces Minister and Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey who is more open to exploring alternatives to Trident than his senior colleague, Conservative Defence Minister Liam Fox, who has made it clear that he is absolutely opposed to change. By way of compromise, the study will consider only nuclear weapons options for replacing the role assigned to Trident in the UK’s nuclear deterrence posture, with no consideration of non-nuclear options for deterrence and security. In Scotland meanwhile, following the May 2011 elections which gave the Scottish National Party (SNP) a strong working majority in the Scottish Parliament, a resolution is to be tabled calling for the removal of UK nuclear weapons from Scottish territory. If successful, such a resolution could have far-reaching implications for the storage of nuclear warheads at Coulport and the deployment of Trident, currently homeported at the MoD’s naval base at Faslane.

In spite of his unswerving commitment to replacing Trident, Liam Fox was keen to stress the UK’s disarmament credentials on the occasion of the ‘P5 follow-on meeting to the 2010 NPT Review Conference’, using the opportunity to confirm that part of the warhead reduction announced by the UK’s most recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has been completed. Not long afterwards, former UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett reignited the debate over the policy of Continuous-at-sea-deterrence (CASD) when she raised the possibility of “not necessarily needing four boats”.

Proliferation Challenges and Updates

Notwithstanding the restricted pace of NPT implementation and fissile material negotiations in the CD, challenges to the non-proliferation regime remain a core issue for the international community. Reflecting this, in April the UN committee tasked with monitoring UN Security Resolution 1540 (2004), which deals with the role of non-state actors and seeks to strengthen national and international efforts to prevent the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction, was extended for 10 years to 25 April 2021. Demonstrating the need for increased vigilance, London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published a report in July claiming that Iran & North Korea are engaged in increased collaboration over missile technology.

With much Western attention still focusing on possible proliferation by states such as Iran, North Korea and Syria, in the aftermath of the US assassination of terrorist figurehead Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan on 2 May 2011, the Washington-based Fissile Material Working Group stressed the threat of nuclear terrorism as a key challenge for the US. In April a bill was passed by the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee which would increase congressional oversight of international nuclear cooperation deals like the one signed with India in 2006. If approved by the Senate, the bill would amend Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act to include new conditions aimed at reducing the proliferation risk and improving US access to foreign nuclear markets.


The democracy movements described by many as an “Arab Spring” earlier this year have highlighted a range of security and regional questions going beyond Iran and its nuclear programme. Nonetheless, David E. Sanger wrote in the New York Times in early April the US Administration’s central goal in the region remains one of containing Iran and slowing its nuclear progress. Inside Iran meanwhile, a power struggle between President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei appears to be unfolding, while Ahmadenijad has continued to use the nuclear issue as a means of bolstering support domestically. For example, in April Ahmadinejad declared a ‘Nuclear Technology Day’, which he used to defy those responsible for the Stuxnet cyber attacks and publicise indicators of Iranian nuclear progress such as the successful testing of centrifuges for enriching uranium and the imminent opening of the Bushehr nuclear reactor. A month later on 11 May, the announcement came that the Bushehr reactor had finally – 11 years behind schedule – begun operating at a low level. Around the same time an Israeli newspaper claimed that Wikileaks documents showed how Russia had deliberately slowed down work on the reactor.

Iran’s relationship with the IAEA under Director-General Yukiya Amano has become increasingly strained amid reports of possible Iranian hacking of IAEA laptops. While Iran maintains that certain facilities are not subject to inspection under the NPT, the IAEA’s latest IAEA report on Iran published on 24 May 2011 used stronger language than ever before, saying that “the Agency has received further information related to such possible undisclosed nuclear related activities”. According to David E. Sanger and William J. Broad writing in the New York Times on the day the report was published, the information - currently being assessed by the IAEA - raises concerns that Iran has been conducting work on nuclear weapons trigger technology. The US and others called on the IAEA to bring more pressure to bear on the Iranian regime by ‘drawing some conclusions’. Heeding such calls, when the IAEA Board convened for its week-long meeting on 6 June, Amano read a statement declaring the possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities “may have continued until recently”. Iran’s defiant response was to announce its intention to triple its production of uranium enriched to 20% and move this enrichment from Natanz to its underground site at Fordow. Furthermore, in the weeks that followed Iran made additional announcements indicating that it had tested fired short-range missiles and installed additional centrifuges, leading to angry reactions from Western nations including France and the UK. A Christian Science Monitor article pondered the reasoning for the planned boost in enrichment, concluding that it is partly a display of bravado aimed at the domestic audience and partly a signal to the international community that Iran intends to continue on its chosen nuclear path regardless of international opposition and obstacles. Iran also used the opportunity of a specific IAEA meeting on nuclear safety after Fukushima to once again critique the IAEA for its investigations into the Iranian nuclear programme. Weeks later, in July, a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and IAEA Head Yukiya Amano achieved little but did serve to highlight the disparity between the perspective of the Iranian delegation, who described the meeting as “very positive”, and that of Amano, who reiterated the IAEA’s position that Iran is “not meeting its obligations”.

Nevertheless, in an April radio interview, Gary Samore, Special Assistant to President Obama and White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism, assessed that Iran was still some years away from being in a position to build nuclear weapons. Israel seems to concur with this assessment, although in April, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (drawing from Wikileaks) revealed that Israeli defence officials had ruled out a military strike on Iran as early as 2005. In a similar vein, Israel’s former Intelligence Chief Meir Dagan in May stated publicly for the first time his view that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be “a stupid idea”. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also courted controversy in May by stating that Israel should not spread panic about the Iranian nuclear programme, commenting that ‘if Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely to bomb Israel’. Shortly afterwards, an article in Foreign Policy magazine entitled “Freeing Israel from its Iran bluff” contended that this series of well-reasoned comments from senior Israelis may be a deliberate attempt to walk back the “threat depiction” the author says has led to a “strategic paralysis”, whereby threats to attack Iran reduce Israel’s credibility when it does not fulfil such threats, while to do so would backfire on Israel’s security. Despite these pragmatic assessments, there has been little overt change in Israeli attitudes to the Iranian nuclear programme, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s May speech to the US Congress illustrated when he stressed the importance of appearing to keep ‘all options on the table’. Meanwhile, UK Foreign Minister William Hague added his bit to the pressure when he published an op-ed on US and UK media websites in which he asserted that ‘Iran’s nuclear threat is escalating’.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the US) have remained stalled since January and there has been little mention of their resumption since then. In May, responding to a February letter from EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Iran welcomed a return to negotiations. Ashton dismissed this apparent opportunity, commenting, “On its own, Mr. Jalili's letter does not contain anything new and does not seem to justify a further meeting”. Iran’s readiness to resume talks was reiterated during a June meeting between Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan, but so far no concrete proposals have been brought. Moreover, in July, Iranian parliamentarians rejected Russian proposals for a “step-by-step approach” to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue as a ploy by Moscow aimed at reviving Russian influence in the region. The stalemate between Iran and the West in June prompted six former European ambassadors to Iran to co-write articles in The Guardian and the LA Times urging Western leaders to re-evaluate their failed strategy for engaging with Iran, pointing out that Iran’s activities are consistent with international law and deriding as unacceptable the fact that talks have been deadlocked for so long. Commenting on the significance of former ambassadors admitting that there is no evidence of Iran diverting its nuclear activities to military purposes, an article posted in Middle East Online deemed it a reflection of changing Western attitude to the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue. Around the same time investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, best-known for his book “The Sampson Option” on Israel’s nuclear programme, as well as critical analyses of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, wrote an article in The New Yorker looking at whether Iran’s nuclear programme is being exaggerated, and considering solutions to the current impasse including ‘multinationalizing’ Iran’s uranium enrichment programme.

Despite the West’s failure to deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme, for the US and its allies sanctions remain the weapon of choice. (There have also been cyber attacks, of which another was reported to have targeted the Iranian nuclear programme in April, and the alleged assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists the most recent of which, in June, was reported in The Guardian as “probably the work of western security agencies”). The US is currently at the helm of a renewed sanctions drive that is both unilateral and broader than at any time in the past. Over the past two months the US has imposed sanctions against third-party companies trading with the Iranian energy sector, with negative consequences for Iran’s three main security institutions, its main commercial airline and a key Iranian port operator. A group of US senators is pushing to go even further and the state of California has banned companies already trading with Iran from bidding for state contracts. In addition, the US, UK and Canada have approved a new round of travel restrictions targeting key individuals such as those associated with Iran's nuclear programme and involved in the violation of human rights. With regard to the latest sanctions, Michael Adler, a Woodrow Wilson Center scholar and former AFP journalist covering nuclear issues in Vienna, commented, “the new U.S. sanctions are as much signs of frustration as effective action”. In May, the UN panel charged with overseeing the implementation of international sanctions against Iran, reported that sanctions are “slowing Iran's nuclear program but are not yet having an impact on the decision calculus of its leadership with respect to halting uranium enrichment and heavy water-related activities”. The report also found that Tehran had circumvented the sanctions against it on nine occasions since late March, six of which related to Syria to whom Iran had attempted to ship conventional weapons. Shortly afterwards in June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reminded other world powers of the importance of negotiations, urging them to ease sanctions in order to foster a cooperative atmosphere in which to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. In contrast, former Saudi Arabian diplomat Prince Turki Al-Faisal pushed the West to adopt a more forceful approach when he once again made comments implying that if Iran got a nuclear weapon Saudi Arabia would follow suit.

Also in June, the month that Iran hosted its second nuclear disarmament conference, a posting appeared on the website of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards under the heading: “The day after Iran’s first nuclear test is a normal day”. Picked up by Guardian security blogger Julian Borger amongst others, the posting caused much sabre-rattling by those who believed it provided evidence of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. There was egg on various faces however when it was revealed that the piece was a reposting of an obscure Iranian blog and has been published as part of a satirical look at journalism around the world.

North Korea

Things may have quietened down on the Korean peninsular since last year, but tensions in the region remain high. A South Korean Minister recently speculated that North Korea, which continues to be plagued by food shortages, may by now have developed a short-range ballistic missile, while a US intelligence official claimed North Korea's ballistic missile program would eventually be capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the United States. The claims served to legitimise an announcement by the US and South Korea that they will be conducting a joint analysis of the possible utility of a bilateral missile defence programme. Visible diplomatic efforts at resolving the nuclear issue have been confined to a repeat request from the US that China push North Korea towards denuclearisation and another unofficial visit by former US President Jimmy Carter, this time as part of ‘The Elders’ group of fellow former statesmen and women. South Korea’s symbolic invitation for North Korea to attend the second Nuclear Security Summit scheduled to take place in South Korea in 2012 was, as expected, met with a resounding ‘no’.

As far as talks are concerned, Kim Jong-Il has again indicated a willingness to return to the negotiating table, and in July the first meeting between the North and South Korean nuclear envoys since 2008 took place on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum. A subsequent meeting in New York between North Korea's first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-Gwan, and the US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, was followed by a statement from North Korea saying it is ready to “comprehensively implement” the 2005 agreement on dismantling its nuclear programme in exchange for aid. Bosworth meanwhile said that the “path is open to North Korea towards the resumption of talks” but the US maintains that “North Korea must take steps to improve North-South relations” before Six Party Talks can be resumed.

Sanctions against North Korea remain in place and in May a report produced by a UN sanctions monitoring panel found that North Korea and Iran had been exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of sanctions. Publication of the report however was blocked by China which also attempted to play down its significance after being implicated as the third country through which the transfer was made, an allegation Chinese officials denied. Iran likewise denied the transfer of technology from North Korea. One month later, the UN Security Council announced that the mandate of the UN North Korean sanctions monitoring panel was to be extended for a further year until 12 June 2012.

Potential New Proliferators: Syria & Myanmar (Burma)

Since Syria’s civil society attempted to join in the “Arab Spring” with its own demonstrations from mid-March onwards, reports of the ruling elite’s brutal crackdown on protestors have prompted the international community to take an increased interest in events in the country. Existing questions over possible nuclear proliferation by Syria, first brought to light in 2007 by the Israeli bombing of a suspected nuclear site and sustained by Syria’s poor record of engaging with the IAEA, have become even more pertinent in recent months. Moreover, the mid-April announcement by the US that it was pursuing “targeted sanctions” against Syria indicated a renewal of pressure that also has nuclear implications. The publication on 24 May 2011 of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s latest report on Syria brought further attention when it stated it was “very likely” that the bombed site at Dair Alzour had been a nuclear reactor which Syria should have declared as such under the terms of its IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Following this, diplomats present at a July meeting called by the IAEA said that the design of the Dair Alzour site was very similar to the design of North Korea’s Yongbyon facility. In response to the May IAEA report, the Syrian government, already under pressure at home, and aware that the new assessment increased the likelihood of action by the international community, announced its willingness to cooperate with the IAEA. The IAEA Board was now faced with the option of doing nothing, calling a “special inspection” of Syrian sites or referring Syria to the UN Security Council. In light of this a Reuters article was amongst those to highlight divisions within the IAEA Board which could make resolute action difficult, whilst a New York Times piece by former Bush Administration policy analyst Bennett Ramberg called Syria a “test case” for the non-proliferation regime. Finally, amidst increasing unrest in Syria and despite both Russia and China voting against, the IAEA Board referred Syria to the UN Security Council on 9 June 2011. The referral reflects a formal judgment that Syria has not complied with its NPT obligations and underscores that the burden of proof is now on Syria. However, the highly politicised context in which the referral was enacted has led to murmurings about whether the real motivation is ‘regime change’. Furthermore, some analysts have noted that the referral to the UN Security Council makes an IAEA special inspection more unlikely. Indeed, the fact that the Dair Alzour facility has been destroyed means there is no actual evidence that Syria is currently in non-compliance with its NPT commitments. Nevertheless, a number of questions remain unanswered and the latest IAEA report and its referral of Syria to the UN Security Council – the first since Iran was referred back in 2006 – sends a strong signal to Syria that the international community is awaiting answers to those unanswered questions.

Analysts remain divided over whether Burmese defector Sai Thein Win’s account of working as an engineer in clandestine factories in Myanmar/Burma amounts to evidence that the country has been seeking nuclear weapons technology. In the meantime, the ruling junta is denying the allegations, arguing that they do not have the financial resources to build a nuclear weapon.

India & Pakistan

The February 2011 news that Pakistan had increased the size of its nuclear arsenal has focused attention once again on the problem of nuclear weapons in South Asia. Bruce Riedel writing in the Wall Street Journal commentated on the implications of the increase, speculating that “sooner or later India will have to ratchet up its weapons program”, whilst a call from a senior member of India’s opposition party for the government to re-examine its doctrine of no-first-use (NFU) prompted Reshmi Kazi, writing in The Diplomat, to urge India to stick to its NFU policy. Meanwhile, the 2011 edition of the SIPRI Yearbook declared South Asia ‘the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race’. Interlocutors in the region have taken steps to play down the issue: for example recent talks between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers have been followed by joint press statements including one in June at which it was announced that the two countries would be engaging in separate expert-level talks regarding additional confidence building measures for their conventional and nuclear arsenals.

Pakistan’s successful test of a ‘non-strategic’ nuclear-capable missile in April 2011 added to international concerns over its nuclear build-up at the same time as fuelling anxieties that such small, low yield nuclear weapons could be vulnerable to theft. As revealed by Wikileaks, the security of Pakistan’s nuclear materials has already been the subject of intense scrutiny by the US. The US assassination of Osama Bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town therefore not only increased the level of mistrust between the US and Pakistan – it also put the issue of nuclear security under the spotlight again. A Newsweek interview with ‘father of the Pakistani bomb’ A.Q. Khan, published in the aftermath of the assassination, put further attention on the Pakistani arsenal and was notable for Khan’s suggestion that there may be limits to Pakistan’s fissile material requirements. Then in July, the perception of Pakistan as a nuclear security and proliferation risk was enhanced when Khan shared with journalists documents which appear to implicate senior members of Pakistan’s military in accepting bribes from North Korea in exchange for nuclear know-how, a claim that has since been denied by the Pakistani government.

Responding to increased media interest in the security of Pakistan’s nuclear materials, NATO Head Anders Fogh Rasmussen conceded that Pakistan’s nuclear security is a matter of concern. Meanwhile, analyst Shaun Gregory of the UK’s University of Bradford pointed to two factors – the increase in Pakistan’s arsenal and recent attacks by violent extremists in the country – as reasons to question the ability of Pakistan’s military to keep its nuclear weapons safe. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists provided further analysis in its report on the state of Pakistan’s nuclear forces in 2011, the findings of which indicated that Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. In the case of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the publication date of a report on the terrorist threat to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure was brought forward from the end of 2011 to June. By contrast, Pakistan’s English language daily Dawn reported on comments by US military chief Admiral Mullen which suggested that Pakistan’s control over its nuclear infrastructure is robust enough to withstand attempts by militants to access them. Other articles such as a Wall Street Journal blog quotes Charles P. Blair, the author of the FAS report, as saying “My conclusion isn’t that Pakistan is likely to lose control of fissile material,” … “But the threat is obviously growing.”

In contrast to the growing concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, India has been presenting itself as a “responsible” nuclear state, pursuing a bid for membership of multilateral export control regimes, particularly the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In May it was reported that the question of Indian NSG membership would be included as a ‘special agenda item’ at the June meeting of the group, but in the period running up to the meeting news reports suggested that the NSG would actually tighten trade rules and possibly end the 2008 exemption under which NSG members were able to engage in nuclear trade with India in spite of its possession of nuclear weapons and its refusal to sign the NPT. Following the 23 – 24 June meeting, there was only minimal coverage in the press, with the exception of Indian daily The Hindu which covered the news extensively in a series of news articles and op-eds. Reporting on the NSG decision to ban enrichment and reprocessing technology and equipment (ENR) sales to countries outside the NPT – which would be expected to include India – The Hindu expressed dismay at the decision and made clear on its front page that India would continue to insist that countries stick to what it calls the 2008 “clean NSG waiver”. Despite Indian frustration over the decision, there was no sign that the June decision would overturn the 2008 exemption – a point both the US and France were keen to stress in the weeks after the meeting. Clearly, as much as the most recent move would appear to prevent any future attempts by India and others to use purchases of foreign nuclear-related technology to enhance capacity to produce nuclear weapons, the damage done by the 2008 exemption to the global and regional non-proliferation regime cannot be revoked via a regulatory afterthought. This much was obvious when at the same June NSG meeting Western attempts to procure information from China on its plans to build two new nuclear reactors in Pakistan were rebuffed on the basis that as the deal predated Chinese membership of the NSG, it is of no relevance to the group. Shortly afterwards in July it was reported that Pakistan now wants to join several non-proliferation and export control regimes including the NSG. Although unlikely to be granted – especially as Pakistan insists on the condition it should also be accepted as a “nuclear weapon state” – the statement of intent by Pakistani officials highlights the consequences of the discriminatory US-India nuclear deal which was forced past widespread international and, indeed, American opposition by the administration of George W Bush. But even as opponents of the 2008 deal are seeing their fears realised, the Washington Post in July reported that US advocates of the US-India deal are sorely disappointed by the lack of trade resulting from the deal and by the prospect of Russian and French firms benefiting from the US’ significant diplomatic efforts in securing the deal!

Other disarmament issues

Having so far destroyed half of its chemical weapons arsenal as agreed under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Russia announced in June that it will complete the process by the end of 2015. This is later than the previously-agreed target date of end 2012 due to the difficulties encountered in destroying the toxic chemicals in accordance with responsible health, safety and environmental procedures. As the seventh Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) scheduled for December 2011 approaches, the conference Chair has stated that it may be necessary to reopen the debate on the historically controversial issue of creating an international verification regime to support the treaty. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists meanwhile devoted its May/June 2011 edition to the BWC, with a series of articles published under the heading “Reviewing the Review Conference: What is next for the Biological Weapons Convention?”

Finally, diplomats at the 11-15 July Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Preparatory Committee meeting continued to make substantial progress toward the negotiation of a treaty aimed at promoting effective and responsible control of international transfers of conventional weapons. The meeting was a precursor to a final preparatory committee meeting scheduled for February 2012 which would finalise procedural issues in advance of a four-week treaty negotiation meeting that is planned for summer 2012. Whilst much of the groundwork has been laid, significant work remains as even countries that say they support an ATT disagree on fundamental issues, which will need to be resolved. The negotiation process currently requires consensus, which increases the risk that countries will only achieve agreement through extensive compromise.


1) Arms control & missile defence
- Arms control after New START
- New START implementation
- Modernisation of US nuclear arsenal
- ‘Tactical’ nuclear weapons
- US nuclear weapons in Europe
- Missile defence progress update
- Russia & US missile defence
- Security threats
- Global Zero
- Procurement-policy gap
- Countdown to Zero
- Nuclear disarmament is the responsibility of all

2) The existing regime: NPT implementation, CTBT entry into force & fissile materials negotiation
- Friends of the Non-proliferation Treaty
- Middle East WMD Free Zone
- ‘P5’ conference
- Desmond Tutu on "Ending Nuclear Evil"
- Nuclear weapon free zones
- CTBT ratification
- Fissile materials talks
- North Korea chairship of CD

3) UK Trident renewal
Criticism of procurement process
- Initial Gate
- Opportunity costs
- Reactor
- Safety
- Coulport takeover
- Alternatives
- Scotland
- Warheads and CASD

4) Proliferation Challenges and Updates

i) Iran
Arab Spring
- Domestic power struggle
- Inside Iran
- Iran & the IAEA
- Reactions to IAEA report
- US, Israeli & UK perspectives
- Prospect of talks
- Changing attitudes to diplomacy with Iran
- Covert tactics
- More sanctions
- 2nd Iranian conference on nuclear disarmament
- Storm in a teacup

ii) North Korea
- Tensions
- Diplomatic efforts
- Bilateral meetings
- UN sanctions panel

iii) Potential New Proliferators
- Myanmar (Burma)

iv) India & Pakistan
Arms race
- Pakistan
- Concern over nuclear security
- India & the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
- NSG waiver ramifications

5) Other disarmament news
Chemical Weapons
- Biological Weapons
- Arms Trade Treaty

1) Arms control & missile defence

Arms control after New START

Moving Ahead on Reducing Nuclear Arms
Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov, New York Times, 6 April 2011
The former US Secretary of State and former Russian Foreign Minister urge the US and Russia to build on the momentum of New START and ‘take new actions to reduce nuclear risk and shape a safer world’, saying the two countries: ‘should initiate early negotiations to further reduce their strategic arms… need a better understanding on missile defense, which otherwise could stall further nuclear reductions… should address non-strategic nuclear weapons in arms reduction negotiations’ and finally, they say, ‘nuclear arms control cannot forever remain a U.S.-Russia-only enterprise… At some point, other nuclear states should be brought into the process.’

Five Next Steps To Increase American Security
Joe Cirincione, Huffington Post, 4 May 2011
‘This week, a unique group of U.S. and Russian experts has hammered out a series of next steps to keep up the momentum created by the treaty's passage. The experts, including Amb. Anatoly Antonov, retired Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, Amb. Steven Pifer and Dr. David Holloway, are part of a new Sustainable Partnership with Russia Group (or SuPR Group)… The New START Treaty reactivated the weapons inspection regime between the two countries and put them back on the road to reducing the two largest nuclear stockpiles in the world. But since then, momentum has slowed. The SuPR group detailed specific, feasible steps to resolve tensions over some of the thorniest issues facing both countries and to get the process moving again. Among their key recommendations, the expert teams exhort the U.S. and Russia to:

  • Accelerate the reductions mandated by New START to ensure completion prior to the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2015.
  • Establish greater transparency with regard to U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, including disclosures of the number of weapons dismantled each year.
  • Make progress on NATO-Russia missile defense cooperation and the Conventional Forces in Europe regime.
  • Take an active role in facilitating the success of the 2012 Conference on the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.
  • Widen participation of Middle Eastern states in international nonproliferation discussions, including the Nuclear Security Summit.’

Iran will not hinder plans for a nuclear-free world (subscription only)
Tom Donilon, Financial Times, 17 April 2011
Against the backdrop of implementation of the New START treaty with Russia, Obama’s National Security Advisor updates us on progress being made towards Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world… ‘Standing in Prague two years ago, President Obama said some believe “we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction”. But he also warned that “such fatalism is a deadly adversary”. Two years on, it is clear that, when the international community works together to meet a shared threat, progress is possible. We remain confident that if this momentum is sustained, a world where fewer nations possess these ultimate tools of destruction is within our grasp.’

New START implementation

US Team In Russia For Inspection Of Nuclear Facilities Under New START Treaty
RTT News, 14 April 2011
‘A team of U.S. inspectors have arrived in Russia for the first on-site inspection of the country's nuclear facilities as agreed under the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).’

Russia cuts nuclear arsenal faster than required
Reuters, 2 June 2011
‘Russia has already cut its nuclear arsenal below the level required in an arms control treaty signed with the United States last year, according to figures released by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday… Russia has 1,537 deployed strategic nuclear warheads, just under the 1,550 ceiling it is obliged to reach by 2018 under the New START nuclear arms reduction pact, while the United States has 1,800, according to a State Department fact sheet… Under the treaty, each side agreed to reduce its deployed nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 within seven years of the treaty's entry into force.’

No Decision on Final Nuke Carrier Reduction, Air Force Official Says
Global Security Newswire, 23 June 2011
‘The U.S. Air Force has submitted its proposal for cutting the remaining 20 strategic nuclear-weapon delivery systems necessary for the United States to be complaint with the New START nuclear arms control treaty, a senior service official told Global Security Newswire on Wednesday. "The Air Force has a position and it's taken it forward to the Joint Staff and there's been a couple of Tank meetings with the service chiefs ... but there's been no decision yet," Air Force Global Strike Command chief Lt. Gen. James Kowalski said’

US, Russia agree to dispose of nuclear weapons material, 13 July 2011
‘The United States and Russia signed an agreement Wednesday requiring both sides to dispose of 34 metric tonnes of weapons-grade uranium - enough to build 17,000 nuclear devices. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the agreement, along with several others, at the State Department. Clinton and Lavrov worked out the nuclear material deal last year.’

Modernisation of US nuclear arsenal

Life span of U.S. nuclear weapons will increase under plan
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, 19 May 2011
‘A new, 10-year strategic plan for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex demonstrates that as the size of the arsenal shrinks because of a new arms control treaty with Russia, the effectiveness and life span of the United States’s weapons will increase. Among the “select initiatives” listed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in an update released Wednesday of its 2004 strategic plan are life-extension programs for two nuclear missile warheads [W-76] and one type of [nuclear] bomb [B-61].’

Defense Authorization and New START
Lawrence Korb and Alex Rothman, Huffington Post, 27 May 2011
‘..this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House yesterday and is now headed to the Democrat-controlled Senate... intended to define the budget of the Department of Defense.. includes provisions that, if signed into law, would undermine a number of President Obama's signature national security initiatives, including.. most significantly, the implementation of the New START agreement.. First, it bars funding for New START reductions until the Secretary of Defense and Energy Secretary certify to Congress that that the administration is on track to invest $180 billion in nuclear modernization over the next 10 years. Second, and more egregiously, the NDAA prohibits the administration from eliminating surplus, non-deployed warheads until two new next generation nuclear facilities become operational, currently scheduled for 2024. Most significantly, in a historically unprecedented move, the NDAA attempts to bar the president from unilaterally reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile below New START levels or amending U.S. nuclear targeting strategy without congressional approval.’

Gates concerned by House cuts in nuclear funds
Reuters, 15 June 2011
‘Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday he was very concerned about plans in the House of Representatives to cut $1 billion from funding to upgrade nuclear weapons infrastructure… Gates said the project involves a considerable amount of new construction, including replacing buildings at Los Alamos, New Mexico, that date from the time of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb. He said the modernization plans had helped to convince the Senate to support the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia in December.’

House Approves $1 Billion Cut to Nuclear Agency Funding
Global Security Newswire, 15 July 2011
‘The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved spending legislation for the next budget cycle that would cut nearly $1 billion in proposed funding for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's weapons and nonproliferation programs’

‘Tactical’ nuclear weapons

U.S. to seek agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons reduction
Ria Novosti, 22 April 2011
‘The U.S. Administration is working intensively to increase transparency on tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe and secure an agreement with Russia on the reduction of such weapons, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller has said… "We will be working with NATO to shape an approach to reduce the role and number of forward-based U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, as Russia takes reciprocal steps to reduce its non-strategic nuclear weapons and relocate them away from NATO's borders," Gottemoeller said… Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in January that it is too early to discuss limiting TNW with the United States because Russia needs to see the way the U.S. fulfills its commitments under the New START.’

Moscow keeps tactical nuclear weapons cuts issue low-key - Russian senator
Rio Novosti, 30 April 2011
‘Russia considers the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons, which has been actively promoted by the United States, a low-key issue, senior Russian senator Mikhail Margelov said after talks with top U.S. officials in Washington… [Rose] Gottemoeller [US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance ] said last week the U.S. Administration was working intensively to secure an agreement with Russia on the reduction of TNW. Moscow has said it is too early to discuss limiting TNW with the United States because Russia needs to see the way the U.S. fulfills its commitments under the New START.’

US nuclear weapons in Europe

NATO, U.S. Said Discussing Removal of Tactical Nukes From Europe
Global Security Newswire, 15 July 2011
‘NATO and the United States are discussing withdrawing short-range U.S. nuclear bombs from several nations in Europe as part of efforts to lower expenses and to realize disarmament goals, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday… Substantive talks on removing the tactical weapons are to occur over the next months and to wrap up before the NATO summit scheduled for May 2012 in Chicago, according to the Japanese Asahi Shimbun newspaper. A high-ranking U.S. official told the newspaper the discussions were being held in accordance with the military alliance's Defense and Deterrence Posture Review.’

Activist takes Germany to court over nuclear warheads
Deutsche-Welle, 14 July 2011
‘Retired pharmacist versus Germany: a Cologne court has begun hearing the case of an activist intent on having Germany remove US nuclear warheads being stored at a military base located in western Germany. A court case got underway on Thursday in Cologne concerning the possible storage of up to 20 nuclear bombs at a military base in Rhineland Palatinate, which, according to Elke Koller, an anti-nuclear peace activist from a nearby village, goes against German basic law.’

Berlin Split over US Nuke Modernization
Der Spiegel, 30 May 2011
‘…the planned modernization could also have an explosive effect within the ruling center-right coalition in Berlin. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle from the junior coalition party, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), has spoken out in favor of the withdrawal of American bombs from Germany. The foreign ministry said that the "reduction of tactical nuclear weapons and, in this framework, their withdrawal from Germany" remains an "important part of our agenda." In his new policy guidelines, however, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), has expressly incorporated a commitment to nuclear deterrence.’

Nuclear Bomb Refurbishment May Alarm Russia, Imperil Obama Plan
Bloomberg, 16 June 2011
‘A U.S. Air Force plan to refurbish aging nuclear bombs deployed in five European countries would increase the weapon’s power and accuracy and risks re-igniting tensions with Russia, an arms control group says… Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons specialist at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the B61 refurbishment plan may make the bombs more capable, in violation of that stated policy.’

10 NATO Countries Want More Transparency for Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons
Hans M. Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists security blog, 24 April 2011
‘Four NATO countries supported by six others have proposed a series of steps that NATO and Russia should take to increase transparency of U.S. and Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons. The steps are included in a so-called “non-paper” that Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland jointly submitted at the NATO Foreign Affairs Minister meeting in Berlin on 14 April. Six other NATO allies – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Luxemburg and Slovenia – also supported the paper.’

Missile defence progress update

US, Romania announce plan for missile defense site
Breitbart/Associated Press, 3 May 2011
‘Romania's president said Tuesday his country will host missile interceptors as part of a planned U.S. shield over Europe. Traian Basescu announced that Bucharest had agreed to build the interceptor site at the Deveselu former air base near the Bulgarian border, in a remote agricultural region. Romania already had agreed to host the interceptors, but the location had not been decided. The president, a staunch ally of the U.S., said it would give Romania "the highest security level in its history." The announcement prompted a strong complaint from Russia, which sees European missile defense as a potential encroachment.’

Pentagon Suspends Shipments of Missile Interceptor Warhead
Global Security Newswire, 5 April 2011
‘The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has directed contractor Raytheon to cease delivery of a long-range missile interceptor warhead following two test intercept failures, the Arizona Daily Star reported on Tuesday… Eight out of the 15 intercept tests to date of the GMD system have been successful. The system encompasses 30 long-range interceptors deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and at Fort Greely, Alaska’

Russia & US missile defence

Ivanov Says Russia Wants ‘Red-Button’ Rights on U.S. Missile-Defense Plan
Bloomberg, 8 April 2011
‘Russia wants to join in the planned U.S. missile shield in Europe with “red-button” rights to launch strikes at incoming weapons, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said. Russia, which is pursuing talks on the issue with the U.S., will only accept an agreement that allows it to have a joint role in operating the defense system, Ivanov said in an interview yesterday in Miami, two days after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. “We insist on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of it,” said Ivanov, a former KGB colleague of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and defense minister until 2007. “In practical terms, that means our office will sit, for example, in Brussels and agrees on a red-button push to start an anti-missile, regardless of whether it starts from Poland, Russia or the U.K.”’

Russia Wants a Finger on Europe's Nuclear Shield
Simon Schuster, Time magazine, 24 May 2011
‘A European missile shield of the kind Obama envisions could demote Russia to a second-rate nuclear power incapable of launching a strike across continents, at least not toward the West. On Friday, during the conference at Russia's top war college attended by military attaches from dozens of countries, Russian General Andrei Tretyak made the unprecedented suggestion that after 2015, the third stage of the planned missile shield over Europe could disturb the Cold War-era balance between the U.S. and Russian arsenals.’

U.S. Senators Warn Obama on Missile Shield Moves
Defense News/Agence France-Presse, 14 April 2011
‘President Obama must beat back any Russian demands for "red-button" sway over a missile shield in Europe and deny Moscow access to sensitive data tied to the program, U.S. senators urged April 14. The 39 lawmakers, all Republicans, said in a letter to Obama that they were "concerned" Russia would exploit his desire for bilateral cooperation on he issue to "undermine" U.S. national security.’

Medvedev warns of buildup if no missile shield deal
Reuters, 18 May 2011
‘President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Wednesday that Russia would be forced to bulk up its nuclear weapons arsenal if no deal is reached with the United States for cooperation on a European missile shield… "I hope the questions that I put to my colleague and friend President (Barack) Obama will be answered and we can work out a model for cooperation in anti-missile defense," Medvedev said at a wide-ranging news conference. "If we don't work this out, then we will have take steps to counter it, which we would not like. Then we are talking about forcing the development of our nuclear strike potential," he said.’

NATO, Russia coming to an agreement on missile defense
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chicago Tribune, 11 May 2011
‘After having pushed the "reset" button with Russia, the U.S. has worked hard to draw Russia closer, including advocating her membership in the World Trade Organization. And the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and Russia is a strong boost, not only for international arms control, but also for our overall relationship with Russia — and it's a major achievement of the Obama administration and Congress. I believe missile defense offers another great opportunity to advance our relationship with Russia. Today, more than 30 countries have or are acquiring ballistic missile capabilities. And several of these capabilities potentially pose a direct threat to various nations. For a number of years, the U.S. has been leading an international effort to defend against this threat. At a NATO summit in Lisbon last November, we decided to make that an alliance mission and to build a NATO missile defense system. We also invited Russia to work with us to explore possibilities for linkages between the independent NATO system and Russia's own missile defense capabilities. President Medvedev took up that invitation.’

Russia Wants US Guarantees on Missile Shield
Voice of America, 16 May 2011
‘Russia says it wants legal guarantees from the United States that a proposed missile defense shield for Europe will not threaten Russian security. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday that Moscow has been disappointed by Washington's reluctance to provide such assurances, saying it cannot agree to missile defense cooperation with the U.S. and NATO without it.’

Billions for Missile Defense, Not a Dime for Common Sense
Yousef Butt, Foreign Policy, 10 June 2011
‘Although the missile-defense system may not offer protection in actual combat, Russian military planners may still view it as effectively neutralizing some Russian warheads -- which they could legitimately present as an infringement on the numerical parity at the very basis of New START… What's really needed is an independent, nonpartisan evaluation of the costs -- and not just the gargantuan monetary costs, but also the security costs -- versus the benefits (if any) of the proposed system.’

Sleepwalking into the future
David E. Hoffman, Foreign Policy, 11 July 2011
‘…the United States and Russia, no longer adversaries, seem to be sleepwalking toward the future… Instead of moving to the next stage in reducing nuclear arsenals, the two countries are debating stale arguments of yesteryear… it will be a real shame if an impasse over missile defense prevents progress on negotiations for deeper cuts in existing nuclear arsenals, or if it begets a new weapons system.’

Security threats

Global security governance: meeting tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s tools
DefenceWeb, 27 May 2011
‘The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says the current arrangement of institutions, agreements and processes intended to manage global and regional security, armament and disarmament — what could be called the “security governance system” — is not adapting quickly enough to the realities of a changing world. SIPRI director Dr Bates Gill says this amounts to meeting tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s tools. This is already having far-reaching consequences for global security, he says.’

Global Zero

Nuclear-armed countries to spend $1,000bn this decade (subscription only)
James Blitz, Financial Times, 19 June 2011
The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers are set to spend a total of $1,000bn on the procurement and modernisation of atomic weapons programmes over the next decade, according to an anti-nuclear weapons group whose cause has won high-level US support. Global Zero, which is campaigning for abolition of the world’s nuclear arsen­als by 2030, will host a London conference this week attended by senior Russian, Indian, US and Chinese figures, among others. It aims to highlight how the cost of nuclear weapons is becoming ever more unaffordable for states whose defence budgets are hard pressed by the financial crisis.’

The road to zero (subscription only)
Financial Times, 22 June 2011
‘As argued by Global Zero, an anti-nuclear group hosting a conference on disarmament in London this week, what is needed is a more aggressively multilateral approach. Global Zero’s attempt to shift the debate is welcome. But even with multilateral involvement, significant cuts in nuclear arsenals will be very hard to achieve. That does not mean multilateral reductions targets are useless. Any cut in the number of nuclear weapons is worthwhile. And by shrinking their arsenals, nuclear powers can encourage their non-nuclear cousins not to seek such weapons themselves. Global Zero’s plan has shown the direction to be travelled; the world’s leaders must now start moving.’

The growing appeal of zero
The Economist, 16 June 2011
‘Global Zero’s persuasive backers, such as Richard Burt, a retired American diplomat who negotiated the first START treaty, have plausible answers to every objection raised by sceptics. But if the gap between what can be achieved and the high ambition of Global Zero grows too wide, its claim to temper idealism with gritty pragmatism will be in jeopardy.’

Move the base camp
The Economist, 16 June 2011
‘A campaign to get rid of all nuclear weapons is worth supporting even if the ultimate goal is unattainable’

Procurement-policy gap

How to Shave a Bundle Off the Deficit: Spend Less on Nukes
Joe Cirincione, The Atlantic, 13 July 2011
‘The government is set to spend almost $700 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, roughly as much as it spent on the war in Iraq over the decade. Most of the money will be spent without any clear guidance on how many weapons we need and for what purpose. Procurement is racing ahead of policy… contracts for new weapons zoom ahead, with Congress set to approve billions in new funding this year. A procurement-policy gap is opening up that threatens to lock in the old nuclear posture for a new generation. As Forbes recently noted, "Barack Obama is likely to spend more money on the U.S. nuclear arsenal than any U.S. president since Ronald Reagan."’

Countdown to Zero

Nuclear weapons still a threat, says documentary
BBC News, 23 June 2011
‘The director of documentary Countdown to Zero, released in the UK this week, explains why she was drawn to address the clear and present danger of nuclear proliferation… Released in the UK this week, Countdown to Zero deals with a new generation of arms races in Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.’

Nuclear disarmament is the responsibility of all

We all share the duty to eliminate nuclear weapons
Malcolm Fraser, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 2011
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser says: ‘These instruments of terror, through their ordinary use, cause indiscriminate human suffering on an unimaginable scale. They violate fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, as well as treaties protecting human rights and the environment. Their continued existence in the thousands undermines the very notion of the rule of law, reinforcing instead a system of rule by force, whereby a small number of nations threaten to inflict mass destruction on others – and themselves to boot – to achieve political objectives… The only sane path is to eliminate these monstrous weapons from all national arsenals without delay. Nuclear disarmament is not just an option; it is mandated by international law. But nuclear powers and their allies, including Australia, are resisting progress towards abolition.’

The existing regime: implementation & negotiation

Friends of the Non-proliferation Treaty

10 States Call For More Action on Nonproliferation
Global Security Newswire, 2 May 2011
‘The aim of the so-called Friends of the Nonproliferation Treaty is to "work toward achieving nuclear disarmament and a strengthening of the of the international nonproliferation regime," the chief diplomats of the 10 nations said in a combined declaration. The countries -- Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates -- met in Berlin over the weekend to brainstorm ways to enhance the nonproliferation regime. The group was formed following the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference.’

Middle East WMD Free Zone

After a Year, Scant Progress Toward Conference on Mideast WMD-Free Zone
Global Security Newswire, 20 May 2011
‘As the one-year anniversary approaches on an international commitment to discuss the elimination of weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, little progress has been made on even the most preliminary steps.’

Iran, Israel and Arabs trade barbs at EU nuclear meeting
Julian Borger’s Blog, The Guardian, 11 July 2011
‘The other big disappointment was that Gary Samore, President Obama's advisor on nuclear disarmament and proliferation, did not show up to make his scheduled keynote speech. He pleaded commitments back in Washington, but it was hardly the show of support from Washington that the idea of a WMD-free zone needs if it is to survive…There are now serious doubts whether a formal conference on the issue can be arranged, as agreed at last year's NPT Review Conference in New York, in time for next year. The US argues that the host government should also provide an international 'facilitator' for the conference, but that cuts down the choice of facilitator.’

‘P5’ conference

Nuclear Powers Discuss Nonproliferation Treaty Goals
Global Security Newswire, 5 July 2011
‘The world's five recognized nuclear powers last week convened a two-day meeting intended to address verification and other measures sought at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, the nations said in a statement… The five powers said they "continued their previous discussions on the issues of transparency and mutual confidence, including nuclear doctrine and capabilities, and of verification, recognizing such measures are important for establishing a firm foundation for further disarmament efforts."… Participants "discussed the particular political and technical challenges associated with verification in achieving further progress towards disarmament and ensuring nonproliferation. They shared information on their respective bilateral and multilateral experiences in verification. They will continue their discussion of this issue later this year at an expert-level meeting in London," according to the document released by the U.S. State Department.’

Desmond Tutu on "Ending Nuclear Evil"

Ending nuclear evil
Desmond Tutu, Al-Jazeera/Project Syndicate, 5 July 2011
‘Eliminating nuclear weapons is the democratic wish of the world's people. Yet no nuclear-armed country currently appears to be preparing for a future without these terrifying devices. In fact, all are squandering billions of dollars on modernisation of their nuclear forces, making a mockery of United Nations disarmament pledges. If we allow this madness to continue, the eventual use of these instruments of terror seems all but inevitable… The only obstacle faced in abolishing nuclear weapons is a lack of political will, which can - and must - be overcome.’

Nuclear weapon free zones

Nuke-Free Zone Pacts Submitted to U.S. Senate
Global Security Newswire, 3 May 2011
‘President Obama on Monday submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification the protocols to two treaties respectively banning from Africa and the South Pacific the presence, production, acquisition and use of nuclear weapons, the White House announced… The State Department has determined ratification of the treaty's protocols "would require no changes in U.S. law, policy or practice," Obama said’

Asean to resume talks with nuclear weapon states in Aug
Business Standard, 18 July 2011
‘The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will resume direct consultations with five nuclear-weapon states in the first week of August in Geneva, ending a nearly decade-long suspension of the talks, Asean officials said… According to the officials, nuclear disarmament experts from Asean countries are expected to launch the new round of "direct informal consultation" with the five nuclear-weapon states to resolve outstanding issues that have barred the nuclear powers from ratifying the 1995 treaty.’

CTBT ratification

Obama administration to push for test ban treaty
Reuters, 10 May 2011
‘The Obama administration said on Tuesday it was preparing a push for approval of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, arguing that Washington no longer needs to conduct nuclear tests but needs to stop other countries from doing so… In the coming months, the administration would seek to educate the Senate and public on the treaty's merits, [US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen] Tauscher said. When the Obama administration does seek a vote, "we intend to win that vote," Tauscher said in remarks to the Arms Control Association in Washington. "Whatever it takes to make that argument, and how long it takes to make that argument, the president is committed to do that," she said.’

Sandia Device Completes Plutonium Test
Global Security Newswire, 12 May 2011
‘The Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico on March 31 fired its Z machine on a plutonium cache in a new test aimed at helping to ensure the upkeep of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the National Nuclear Security Administration said… Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico collaborated with Sandia-based colleagues on the experiment, which marked the machine's second "shot" in six months to examine plutonium's behavior under high pressure and heat levels.’

Fissile materials talks

Pakistani Officials Challenge U.S. on Nuke Criticism
Global Security Newswire, 26 April 2011
‘Current and former Pakistani officials blasted the United States in recent weeks over its arms control priorities and criticism of Islamabad's nuclear activities, the Middle East Media Research Institute reported last week. World powers have strictly emphasized nuclear disarmament initiatives of primary benefit to themselves, the Associated Press of Pakistan earlier this month quoted Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Hussain Haroon as saying. "The present focus on [negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty] follows a regular pattern of negotiating only those agreements that do not undermine or compromise the security interests of certain states, especially the major powers. We observe this pattern in the Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, and even in the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty)."

China May Hold Smallest Fissile Material Stockpile Among Nuclear Powers
Global Security Newswire, 10 May 2011
Updated information suggests China holds 17 to 26 tons of weapon-grade uranium and 2.1 to 6.6 tons of plutonium, said Hui Zhang, a senior research associate with Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The report's uranium estimate has a 4-ton margin of error, and its plutonium estimate has a half-ton margin of error… The expert based his assertions on satellite photography of Chinese atomic sites and computations related to China's nuclear material consumption… Zhang added: "China’s existing smaller stockpile of fissile material would be sufficient for its current modernization programs. However, if the United States moves its missile defense and space weapons plans forward, which would drive China to build more intercontinental ballistic missiles to neutralize those threats, China may need more fissile materials, thus retaining its option to restart production of fissile materials and be unwilling to join a fissile material cutoff treaty"’

Time for Plan B
New York Times, 20 April 2011
‘It is clearly time for a new approach. So we are encouraged that the Obama administration has begun discussing with Britain and France and others the possibility of negotiating a ban outside the conference, much like the 2008 convention on cluster munitions and the 1997 land-mine treaty.’

Nations Weigh Taking Fissile Material Talks Outside Disarmament Forum
Global Security Newswire, 17 May 2011
‘France, the United Kingdom and the United States have recently informally discussed pursuing negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty outside the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, the British American Security Information Council stated. “Our preference is to negotiate the FMCT within the Conference on Disarmament, but it is becoming increasing doubtful that the conference can achieve consensus to begin such negotiations,” U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon said in late March in Washington. “As a consequence, we will begin consultations with our allies and partners to consider an alternative means to begin FMCT negotiations. To be successful, we will encourage all permanent members of the [U.N.] Security Council and other relevant parties to participate in this effort.”’

A dysfunctional disarmament
Ban Ki Moon, Al Jazeera, 20 May 2011
‘The UN process of nuclear disarmament remains stalled, prompting plans to reorganise the voting system of member states… As the United Nations Conference on Disarmament begins a seven-week session in Geneva, its future is on the line. Whereas countries and civil-society initiatives are on the move, the Conference has stagnated. Its credibility - indeed, its very legitimacy - is at risk… The CD's future is in the hands of its member states. But the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda is too important to let the CD lapse into irrelevancy as states consider other negotiating arenas.’

U.N. Chief Floats Measures to Break Conference on Disarmament Stalemate
Global Security Newswire, 28 July 2011
‘An ongoing impasse at the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, might be broken through a U.N. conference, a specially formed commission or a team of prominent individuals, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki- moon said on Wednesday’

North Korea chairship of CD

NKorea assumes rotating presidency of arms body
Associated Press, 3 July 2011
‘North Korea has assumed the rotating presidency of the world's top disarmament body for four weeks. The move provoked criticism from conservative groups who say the country's nuclear weapons ambitions undermine its credibility for the role.’

Is the UN stark raving mad?
The Australian blog, 4 July 2011
‘As a case of lunatics taking over the asylum, it would be hard to beat the announcement that North Korea has assumed chairmanship of the UN Conference on Disarmament, the premier world body charged with the cessation of the nuclear arms race and prevention of nuclear war… It's because of a Buggins's Turn arrangement under which each of the 65 member states serves a term. And it's only for four weeks. But the symbolism of having North Korea in charge of world disarmament for even four hours, let alone four weeks, is monstrous. Its weapons proliferation and human rights record is such that to find its officials running a match factory would be disturbing. That it is being allowed to serve as head of the UN Conference on Disarmament reflects badly on UN processes and the administration of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.’

North Korea to Chair UN Disarmament Conference, 29 June 2011
‘Appointing a North Korean to chair the UN’s only multilateral disarmament forum is like “asking the fox to guard the chickens,” says Hillel Neuer, of the UN watchdog organization UN Watch. Neuer is calling on the U.S. and European governments to protest the appointment, which he says, “damages the UN’s credibility.”’

North Korea takes over UN body for disarmament
National Post, 30 June 2011
‘UN officials say So Sepyong, the North Korean ambassador, becomes president of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) as a result of rules that rotate the position among its 65 member states in alphabetical order. But critics said Wednesday the rules should be changed when they allow the CD -whose mandate is in part to push for world nuclear disarmament -to be led by a country the West considers an international nuclear pariah.’

Canada boycotts UN arms talks over North Korea role
BBC News, 11 July 2011
‘Canada is withdrawing from a UN nuclear disarmament conference in protest of North Korea's presidency of the body, the Canadian foreign minister has said. In Ottawa on Monday, John Baird said it was "absurd" that North Korea had taken the rotating presidency of the Conference on Disarmament.’

Canada’s disarmament conference boycott is ill-advised
The Record, 14 July 2011
‘Yet Canada’s refusal to engage the disarmament conference with North Korea at the helm does little to address legitimate security concerns. It does, however, undermine the work of the premier multilateral disarmament forum in the world. It also chips away at Canada’s strong tradition of multilateral engagement on matters of international security. If states start to pick and choose which rules of procedure they follow at the conference, the prospects for progress at this body — which is already troubled with the inability to reach consensus around a program of work — would be further undermined. Moreover, the door could be opened to further boycotts by other countries whenever the presidency is held by a perceived adversary.’

U.S. Downplays North Korea Chairmanship of U.N. Disarmament Panel, Calls Position 'Inconsequential', 11 July 2011
‘The U.S. won’t follow Canada’s lead in boycotting a United Nations arms control conference chaired by North Korea, even though the State Department concedes the rogue regime has flouted its own disarmament obligations to the Security Council and the international community. "We have chosen not to make a big deal out of this because it's a relatively low-level, inconsequential event," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said… "It's a consensus-based organization, so nothing can be decided just because the chair is a country that we have issues with. So our plan is not to take any particular action with regard to that meeting," Nuland said. "It is not where the main game on these issues are."’

UK Trident renewal

Criticism of procurement process

EDM 1477
Trident Submarine Proposals
‘That this House strongly condemns the Government plans to order the steel for the first new Trident replacement submarine before any formal decision is made on whether to go ahead with the project, a decision not due until 2016; notes that the decision is at variance with the commitment given during debate on the Strategic Defence and Security Review that Trident would not be renewed in this Parliament; and therefore calls for a statement by the Secretary of State for Defence and a proper Parliamentary debate before any further commitments on renewing Trident are made.’

Initial Gate

Work on Trident nuclear renewal gets go ahead
BBC News, 19 May 2011
‘The defence secretary has given the go-ahead for initial work to begin on the replacement of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system… But the issue continues to be a source of disagreement within government. At the same time progress on Trident renewal was confirmed, Dr Fox also said the Ministry of Defence would commission a study into alternative deterrent options to see whether they were "feasible and credible" - to be overseen by Lib Dem Armed Forces minister Nick Harvey.’

New Trident fleet cost will top £25bn
Richard Norton-Taylor and Allegra Stratton, The Guardian, 18 May 2011
‘The figure was released as the Ministry of Defence announced significant new funding for a new Trident system even though, at the Lib Dems' behest, a final decision is not due to be taken until after the next general election… Fox announced that a further £3bn will be allocated to designing a new fleet of nuclear missile submarines, in addition to the £900m already spent.’

Opportunity costs

Time to move beyond Triden
Nick Richie, Comment is Free,, 19 May 2011
‘As the government insists on pushing ahead with a "like-for-like" Trident replacement programme it is getting more and more difficult to see how a nuclear weapons capability can make a significant contribution to our security in an increasingly complex international security environment filled with messy conflicts for which nuclear deterrent threats are irrelevant. When the government's choice comes at the expense of conventional capabilities more suited to our security needs, the wisdom of staying in the nuclear weapons business becomes even more questionable. It is time to rethink our reflexive attachment to nuclear status and the myths of nuclear security before the bills truly pile up.’

£25bn defence shortfall leaves Cameron and Osborne at odds
Nick Hopkins, The Guardian, 18 July 2011
‘David Cameron is locked in a standoff with his chancellor over defence spending after a secret study concluded the government will need to find an extra £25bn to pay for its modernisation of the armed forces…"If decisions are not taken soon, either to approve significant real defence spending growth after 2014 or to make further cuts in capabilities, the MoD will become increasingly reluctant to approve new financial commitments." [Malcolm Chalmers of RUSI said].

MPs hit out at ‘rushed’ defence shake-up (subscription only)
Kiran Stacey, Financial Times, 3 August 2011
'The recent overhaul of Britain’s defence policy was rushed through and peppered with bad decisions, says an influential group of MPs… In its report on Wednesday on the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the defence select committee identifies a series of policy problems and rejects the government’s line that Britain can maintain its current level of influence in the world while the defence budget is cut.

Initial Gate Ministerial Statement & debate
House of Commons Debate, Nuclear Deterrent, 18 May 2011, Column 351


Trident: plans to buy state-of-the-art reactors will add to £20bn cost
Daniel Boffey and Toby Helm, The Guardian, 14 May 2011
 ‘Ministers will announce plans to buy the most advanced and expensive nuclear reactors for new Trident submarines this week in a move set to create tensions within the coalition government. The decision has been delayed by months due to the sensitivities within the cabinet and concerns over costs, with Liberal Democrats keen to avoid progress on the issue. The party's manifesto had stated it was against a like-for-like replacement for the country's nuclear deterrent.’

Accidental leak of British nuclear submarine secrets
Associated Press/, 18 April 2011
‘A technical error meant sections of a Ministry of Defence report that appeared to have been blacked out could in fact be read by anyone who copied and pasted them into another document. The offending paragraphs have now been properly covered up [PDF] but were reported to have included expert opinion about the fleet's ability to withstand a catastrophic accident… The document involved was an assessment drawn up by the head of the defence nuclear safety regulator, Commodore Andrew McFarlane, concerning options for the reactors in future submarines to replace the Trident fleet. In sections released intentionally on the parliament website, it concluded that the existing reactors were "potentially vulnerable" to fatal accidents – leading ministers to suggest new versions would be used.’

Unredacted version
Redacted version

MoD accused of misleading MPs over safety of submarine reactors
Rob Edwards, The Herald (Scotland), 24 April 2011
‘In a parliamentary answer earlier this month, the defence minister, Peter Luff, failed to respond directly to a question from the SNP’s defence spokesman, Angus Robertson, about the emergency cooling systems used on the submarines.
Instead Luff is accused of making a reassuring statement disguising the fact that the reactors have cooling systems that, according to a senior MoD safety expert, renders them vulnerable to a major loss-of-coolant accident… Robertson asked if British submarines have “systems for the safety injection of coolant into the reactor pressure vessel head” in the event of an emergency. Luff replied on April 5, 2011 that “all submarines in the Royal Navy have passive core cooling and the ability to add coolant into the reactor pressure vessel if necessary”. But what Luff didn’t say was that there are no systems for automatically injecting coolant into the reactor. The lack of such systems was highlighted in a 2009 report by the MoD’s nuclear safety regulator, Andrew McFarlane, which the MoD has tried to keep secret.’


Cuts could endanger nuclear safety, warns MoD report
Rob Edwards, Caledonian Mercury, 6 June 2011
‘The public, military personnel and the environment could be put at risk of accidental explosions, spillages or radiation leaks, according to a new assessment by the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Environment and Safety Board. A summary of the board’s report for 2010 by its chairman, Howard Mathers, says that safety issues “present a risk that it will become increasingly difficult to maintain that the defence nuclear programmes are being managed with due regard for the protection of the workforce, the public and the environment.” The report by Mathers, posted on the MoD’s website without announcement, warns that there is a “lack of adequate resource to deliver the Defence nuclear programmes safely”. There is an “adverse trend in resources’, Mathers points out, “which I expect will become yet more painful.”’

Cuts threaten safety at Ministry of Defence sites, warns report
Jamie Doward, The Observer, 12 June 2011
‘An official Ministry of Defence report has warned that cutbacks threaten to compromise safety at the UK's leading military sites and on its aircraft, submarines and ships. The Defence Environment and Safety Board is the senior panel that reports to ministers about all aspects of safety across the MoD estate, including nuclear weapons sites… The report warns: "It will become increasingly difficult to maintain that the defence nuclear programmes are being managed with due regard for the protection of the workforce, the public and the environment"’

Firefighters criticise nuclear weapons plant following serious blaze
Rob Edwards, The Guardian, 31 May 2011
‘Efforts to tackle a major fire at Britain's top secret nuclear weapons research site were plagued by poor communication, faulty fire hydrants, safety breaches and repeated confusion, according to an internal fire service report seen by the Guardian. The official inquiry into the blaze last August at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (Awe) by the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service contains strong criticism of the nuclear plant's firefighting performance. There were "numerous problems" with the way the emergency was tackled, the report said… The government's Health and Safety Executive is investigating whether to take legal action against Aldermaston.’

Coulport takeover

Anger as US arms dealer takes over running of Scottish nuclear bomb base
Rob Edwards, The Herald (Scotland), 29 May 2011
‘The running of Britain’s nuclear bomb base at Coulport on the Clyde is to be handed over to a consortium of multinational private firms led by the controversial US arms dealer, Lockheed Martin, the Sunday Herald can reveal. Defence ministers in Westminster have decided that the highly sensitive job of managing more than 200 Trident nuclear warheads, and arming the Royal Navy’s submarines with them, should be taken over by the group of companies within the next year… According to the MoD’s detailed internal plan leaked to the Sunday Herald, ABL will be granted a contract to run Coulport for 15 years.’


Trident alternatives to be assessed
Belfast Telegraph, 18 May 2011
‘The Cabinet Office is to conduct a new assessment of alternatives to Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent in a fresh concession to the Liberal Democrats, it was announced… "To assist the Liberal Democrats in making their case for alternatives I am also announcing today the initiation of a study to review the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures." [Liam Fox] He said that the study would be carried out by officials in the Cabinet Office under the supervision of the Lib Dem armed forces minister Nick Harvey.’

Trident review seeks cheaper option (subscription only)
James Blitz, Financial Times, 19 May 2011
‘Liam Fox announced on Wednesday the government would examine whether there were viable alternatives to Britain’s submarine-launched nuclear deterrent, bowing to Liberal Democrat demands for a survey of cheaper options. In a statement to the Commons that touched on some of the most sensitive areas of the coalition agreement, the defence secretary said he was instructing the Cabinet Office to carry out a review of Trident that would look at the “costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures”.’

Trident upgrade to be used against Tories(subscription only)
George Parker and Helen Warrell, Financial Times, 24 May 2011
‘Speaking to the Financial Times, the Lib Dem minister [Nick Harvey] said the question of Britain’s nuclear deterrent would be a bigger issue at the planned 2015 election than “at any time since the 1980s”… Mr Harvey says the military establishment has tended to give ministers the advice they wanted to hear – including to the previous Labour government – and he has promised to take a genuinely fresh look at the issue. “I have detected from speaking to policy officials, the military and scientists a genuinely open mind: people who are more than willing to have a fresh look at things and to report to someone who wants to see if there are viable alternatives,” he said.’

Liam Fox: Liberal Democrat Trident review is a joke
Wintour and Watt Blog,, 19 May 2011
‘The defence secretary, who regularly talks of his hope that the Tories will govern without the Lib Dems after the next election, had a broad grin on his face as he walked around the corridors of Westminster after making his statement on Wednesday afternoon. Fox let it be known that he thought the review was a joke and a complete waste of time that will do nothing to change Britain's "continuous


SNP to call for removal of Trident base
Eddie Barnes, The Scotsman, 22 May 2011
‘The Scottish Parliament is to call, for the first time, for the Trident nuclear submarine weapons system to be removed from Scotland. The devolved parliament is to back a formal resolution on the matter soon, with this month's Scottish elections having returned a majority of parliamentarians who are now opposed to the base at Faslane… The resolution would tie the party down to an unconditional demand for Trident to be removed from Faslane.’

Warheads and CASD

U.K. Starts Nuclear Deployment Cuts
Global Security Newswire, 30 June 2011
‘In its Strategic Defense and Security Review, the United Kingdom's Conservative Party-led administration last October called for each of the country's Vanguard-class submarines to eventually carry a maximum of 40 warheads rather than 48. The government would also reduce to eight the maximum number of missiles to be deployed on each vessel… "The program for implementing the SDSR [Strategic Defense and Security Review] warhead reductions has commenced: at least one of the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) now carries a maximum of 40 nuclear warheads," Defense Minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday in a statement to Parliament.’

Former Top Diplomat Says U.K. Might be Able to Cut Trident Sub
Global Security Newswire, 8 July 2011
‘The United Kingdom might be able to cut one of its four submarines armed with nuclear-tipped Trident ballistic missiles, according to the nation's former top diplomat… The debate centers around "whether continuous at-sea deterrence is any longer a stance that you need to maintain, or whether you can take a less immediate approach," Beckett noted in an interview. "It is an issue that people are increasingly discussing and examining. And given that," she said, "takes you in the direction of not necessarily needing four boats."… Beckett also argued that the roughly 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that analysts believe remain in the European theater are a relic of the Cold War face-off between the United States and Russia. While noting that their removal is a "sensitive" issue, both for U.S. allies and Moscow, "I think most people believe they are no longer of value," Beckett declared’

Proliferation Challenges and Updates

Ban welcomes extension of UN body dealing with weapons of mass destruction
UN News Centre, 26 April 2011
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the 10-year extension of a committee tasked with monitoring a United Nations resolution seeking to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction… Last week the Security Council extended until 25 April 2021 the mandate of the committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), which imposes binding obligations on all States to establish controls preventing the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and their means of delivery.’

North Korean security challenges: a net assessment
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), 21 July 2011
‘This IISS Strategic Dossier provides a detailed and objective assessment of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programmes. It is also broad in scope, addressing North Korea’s conventional forces; internal dynamics amidst an unfolding dynastic succession; non-military security threats, including state criminality, human rights abuses and refugee issues; and unification scenarios for the peninsula. The Dossier is intended to assist public understanding of the security challenges posed by North Korea and to contribute to the debate on the best policy responses.’

North Korea and Iran increase collaboration on nuclear missile, report claims
Damien McElroy, The Telegraph, 21 July 2011
‘North Korea and Iran are jointly working on weapons programmes designed to build a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, a leading British security think tank has said.’

After bin Laden: Nuclear terrorism still a top threat
Fissile Materials Working Group, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 13 May 2011
‘Osama bin Laden's death may represent a significant turning point in the US effort to defeat Al Qaeda, but the threat of nuclear terrorism will not lessen in the wake of his demise. Such threats, however, are preventable, and the United States must now take care to sustain the nonproliferation and threat reduction programs that will help stop terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials.’

House Bill Includes Spate of New Nonproliferation Measures
Global Security Newswire, 29 April 2011
‘House legislation that would heighten congressional oversight of U.S. nuclear trade agreements also contains a number of other new provisions aimed at strengthening the nation's nonproliferation policies… One new feature in the bill would for the first time require the State Department to draw up a list of "state sponsors of proliferation," akin to a designation that Washington already uses to identify international backers of terrorism… The measure passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a 34-0 vote on April 14. It remains unclear when H.R. 1280 might go to a floor vote or potentially be considered by the Senate.’


Arab Spring

The Larger Game in the Middle East: Iran
David E. Sanger, New York Times, 3 April 2011
‘The Obama team holds no illusions about Colonel Qaddafi’s long-term importance. Libya is a sideshow. Containing Iran’s power remains their central goal in the Middle East. Every decision — from Libya to Yemen to Bahrain to Syria — is being examined under the prism of how it will affect what was, until mid-January, the dominating calculus in the Obama administration’s regional strategy: how to slow Iran’s nuclear progress, and speed the arrival of opportunities for a successful uprising there.’

Domestic power struggle

Iran's president admits rift with country's senior Islamic figures
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, The Guardian, 7 June 2011
‘Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has admitted for the first time that a rift has developed between him and some of the most senior figures of the Islamic regime. In a press conference in Tehran on Tuesday, the first since news emerged of his power struggle with the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president said: "It is very clear now that we are 180 degrees away from them – we are actually on opposite sides."’

Inside Iran

Iran touts major advances in nuclear program
Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 12 April 2011
‘Scientists from Iran’s atomic energy program, in announcements over the past three days, said they have successfully tested advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium and are less than a month away from starting the country’s first commercial nuclear reactor. The announcements, linked to the observance of “nuclear technology day” in Tehran, underscore recent assessments by intelligence officials and Western nuclear experts suggesting that Iran is preparing to speed up its production of enriched uranium.’

Bushehr Reactor Starts Low Level Operations
Moscow Times/Reuters, 11 May 2011
‘Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station has begun operating at a low level in a crucial step toward bringing it online, the Russian company that built the plant said Tuesday.’

Russia Intentionally Delayed Iran Reactor: Report
Global Security Newswire, 19 May 2011
‘Leaked records indicate Russia secretly moved in 2006 to undermine activities at Iran's unfinished Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported on Thursday… Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin approved efforts to deliberately slow down work on the facility, which Moscow had pledged 11 years earlier to finish building, an Israeli atomic official purportedly quoted Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads the Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom, as saying. Russia had also agreed to supply nuclear material for the Iranian site that would be returned after use, Agence France-Presse reported. In a discussion with then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones, Israeli Atomic Energy Commission head Gideon Frank recounted his prior encounters with Kiriyenko as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, according to the documents reportedly obtained by the transparency organization WikiLeaks. The records were not accessible on the WikiLeaks or Yediot Aharonot websites, according to AFP.’

Iran & the IAEA

Nuclear watchdog fears Iran may have hacked into laptops
Catrina Stewart, The Independent, 20 May 2011
‘The United Nations nuclear watchdog is investigating whether Iranian officials hacked into computers and mobile telephones left unattended by inspectors monitoring Iran's nuclear sites, diplomats say… The agency's inspectors are understood to have reported unexplained incidents following site visits to Iranian nuclear facilities earlier this year, suggesting that unguarded mobile phones and laptops may have been tampered with, news agencies cited unnamed diplomats as saying.’

Iran to continue nuclear program under IAEA eyes
Xinhuanet News Agency, 13 April 2011
‘[Iran's permanent representative to IAEA Ali-Asghar] Soltanieh said the IAEA has no right to inspect "Taba", which is the center for producing parts for centrifuges, arguing that the NPT does not require the inspection of plants producing centrifuge parts.’

Watchdog Finds Evidence That Iran Worked on Nuclear Triggers
David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, New York Times, 24 May 2011
‘The world’s global nuclear inspection agency, frustrated by Iran’s refusal to answer questions, revealed for the first time on Tuesday that it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.’

Pressure builds over Iran nuclear activities (subscription only)
Daniel Dombey and James Blitz, Financial Times, 5 June 2011
‘The US and its allies are pushing the UN to declare that Iran has operated a nuclear weapons programme in the past and that related activities are continuing, despite Tehran’s assurances to the contrary… “Many countries, including the US, have urged the International Atomic Energy Agency [the UN’s nuclear watchdog] to draw some conclusions,” said a senior US administration official, in comments echoed by counterparts from the UK and France… But the IAEA has never formally found the programme is militarily oriented. Instead, the agency says it has been unable to verify that it is exclusively peaceful – and despite the sanctions Tehran has continued to enrich uranium, a process that can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material.’

Iran’s Recent Nuclear Work Raises New Concerns at UN Watchdog
Bloomberg, 6 June 2011
‘The International Atomic Energy Agency “received further information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities” that “may have continued until recently,” Director General Yukiya Amano said today in a statement in Vienna. The IAEA’s 35-member board convened for a one-week meeting. The agency, which has been investigating alleged Iranian nuclear-weapons work since 2003, is assessing new data it received on high-explosive, electronic and missile warheads, it said in a May 24 report. Amano sent a June 3 letter to Iranian Vice President Fereydoun Abbasi reiterating the IAEA’s desire to gain access to suspected sites and speak with scientists.’

Reactions to IAEA report

Iran to boost uranium enrichment (subscription only)
Najmeh Bozorgmehr and James Blitz, Financial Times, 8 June 2011
‘Tehran announced it would aim to treble production of uranium enriched at the 20 per cent level…. Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said production would move from the Natanz underground site, where most enrichment takes place, to the Fordow underground bunker near Qom, south of Tehran.’

Iran's acceleration of its nuclear programme angers the west
Julian Borger, The Guardian, 19 July 2011
‘Western capitals have reacted angrily to an announcement by Iran that it is installing more advanced centrifuges in a uranium enrichment plant with the aim of accelerating its nuclear programme… France said Iran's move – which Tehran claims could triple the rate at which it enriches uranium – confirmed suspicions that the Iranian nuclear programme had "no credible civilian application". The French foreign ministry said: "Iran has just given in to another provocation by announcing the imminent installation of next generation centrifuges.’

Iran testing missiles that could carry nuclear weapon, UK's Hague says
CNN, 29 June 2011
‘Iran has been carrying out covert tests of missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday, in contravention of a U.N. resolution. It has also said it wants to enrich uranium to "levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy," Hague said… His comments in the House of Commons come a day after Iranian news agencies reported that the country's military had successfully test-fired 14 missiles during military drills, as part of a week of war games.’

Iran accelerates uranium enrichment: Danger or bluff?
Christian Science Monitor, 13 June 2011
‘Western experts aren't sure why Iran is speeding up its nuclear enrichment. Is it bravado for domestic political consumption or a genuine move toward developing weapons that can be hidden from attack? … “This is part bravado, and the statement being made at this time is clearly designed to shore up a government that is internally divided,” Mr. [Daryl] Kimball [of the Arms Control Association] says. But the statement is also aimed at an international audience, he adds, noting that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, just issued its “toughest report yet” on Iran’s nuclear program. “This is Iran’s response,” Kimball says. “It suggests they are determined to expand their enrichment capabilities despite the difficulties they are facing as a result of sanctions, and despite the fact they are more and more isolated.”’

Iran's nuke chief critiques IAEA
Associated Press, 20 June 2011
‘A top Iranian official told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday to focus on nuclear safety rather than "baseless and marginal issues" — an expression of unhappiness with attempts to probe charges that Tehran wants nuclear arms. Fereidoun Abbasi's comments to a high-level meeting on improving nuclear safe practices reflected Iran's dissatisfaction with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano for making the Iran investigation a top priority of the agency. It contrasted sharply with other statements on the opening day of the conference that were restricted to the meeting's agenda — tightening and improving nuclear safety in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.’

Iran, UN Watchdog Appear Deadlocked on Nuclear Dispute
Voice of America, 12 July 2011
‘Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency appear to remain deadlocked in a dispute over the Iranian nuclear program following talks between Iran's foreign minister and the agency's chief in Vienna. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi described Tuesday's meeting with IAEA chief Yukio Amano as "very positive" and said both sides agreed to have their experts work on a "new mechanism" for cooperation. But, the IAEA said Amano reiterated its position on issues where it believes Iran is "not meeting its obligations."’

US, Israeli & UK perspectives

Obama Adviser Gary Samore: 'The Ball Is Very Much In Tehran's Court'
Gary Samore interview on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14 April 2011
‘The good news though is that Iran's technical capacity really has slowed down. I mean, they really have experienced enough technical difficulties, and secret projects have been exposed, so all of that I think has given -- in my view -- the world some number of years to work on this problem before Iran is in a position where it could make a political decision to build nuclear weapons.’

Haaretz WikiLeaks exclusive / Israel ruled out military option on Iran years ago
Haaretz, 10 April 2011
‘2005 report says senior defense officials did not believe an attack similar to Israel's assault on Iraq's Osirak reactor was possible... Senior defense officials ruled out an Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear sites as early as five and a half years ago, telegrams sent from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv in 2005 and 2006 indicate.’

Israeli Strike on Iran Would Be ‘Stupid,’ Ex-Spy Chief Says
Sabel Kershner, New York Times, 8 May 2011
‘Israel’s former intelligence chief [Meir Dagan] has said that a strike on Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid idea,” adding that military action might not achieve all of its goals and could lead to a long war… His assessment contradicts the policy of the country’s political leaders, who have long argued in favor of a credible military option against Iran’s nuclear program… Mr. Dagan, speaking for the first time in public since his retirement, was addressing a conference of senior public servants… Mr. Dagan is known to have long opposed military action against Iran, but he had never said so publicly. Mr. Dagan, who also said Friday that Iran must not be allowed to produce nuclear weapons, has advocated covert means of setting back the Iranian program.’

Barak to Haaretz: Iran won't drop nuclear bomb on Israel
Haaretz, 5 May 2011
‘If Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely to bomb Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Haaretz in an Independence Day interview.
Barak said Israel should not spread public panic about the Iranian nuclear program − a position that seems to put him out of step with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has repeatedly compared the Iranian push to develop a nuclear bomb to the Third Reich’s development of increasingly sophisticated weapons.’

Freeing Israel from its Iran bluff
Trita Parsi, Foreign Policy, 11 May 2011
‘As Israeli politicians built up the Iranian threat and established a near-consensus that Tehran constituted an existential threat, it became increasingly difficult for any Israeli politician to walk back the threat depiction without losing critical political capital at home. As a result, there was a steady escalation of the threat depiction from Iran and no clear ways to de-escalate.… Dagan's challenge to the official Israeli line may have been calculated to do exactly what no sitting Israeli Prime Minister seems capable of doing -- breaking the strategic paralysis, and to stop painting Israel in a corner where pressure on the U.S. to attack Iran chips away from Israel's credibility due to its repeated inability to fulfill its threats.’

Transcript: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress
Washington Post, 24 May 2011
‘…the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons… The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. And this is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message that America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.’

OPINION: Iran’s nuclear threat is escalating
The Hill, 11 July 2011
‘On June 8, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, announced plans to triple Iran’s capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium, transferring enrichment from its Natanz to Fordo plant. Inside Iran, this announcement by a discredited regime drew little comment and was quickly overshadowed by the domestic political theater of the latest high-profile tussles between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But it was an important statement because it makes even clearer the fact that Iran’s program is not designed for purely peaceful purposes.’

Iran's nuclear threat is escalating
William Hague, Comment is Free,, 11 July 2011
‘This latest revelation demonstrates the urgency of increasing pressure. The UK is prepared to take action: I have already agreed a further 100 designations to add to EU sanctions in May, and last week announced additional travel bans against known proliferators. Iran may hope that the unprecedented changes of the Arab spring will distract the world from its nuclear programme. We are determined that it shall not.’

Prospect of talks

Iran Seeks New Talks on Disputed Nuclear Program
Voice of America, 10 May 2011
‘Iranian state media report Tuesday that chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili welcomed the return to negotiations with world powers, in a response to a letter sent by EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton in February… The letter comes a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Islamic Republic hoped for a new round of nuclear negotiations to be held in Turkey.’

Iran letter does not justify new nuclear meeting: EU
Reuters, 11 May 2011
‘Iran's response to a letter from the European Union aimed at reviving talks on Tehran's nuclear program contains nothing new and does not appear to justify another meeting, the bloc said on Wednesday. "On its own, Mr. Jalili's letter does not contain anything new and does not seem to justify a further meeting," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, referring to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. "We are surprised to hear the Iranians talking about meetings. They have not been in touch with us with any proposals," she said. "We will be in touch with the Iranians with the aim of creating the basis to renew dialogue."’

Iran ready to resume talks on peaceful nukes
Voice of Russia, 16 June 2011
‘Iran does not plan to develop nuclear weapons and will take additional efforts to make its nuclear program more transparent, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday. He was summing up the results of the talks between the Presidents of Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan Dmitry Medvedev, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Nursultan Nazarbayev in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Wednesday.’

Iran lawmakers reject Russia's nuclear proposals
Ria Novosti, 16 July 2011
‘Iranian lawmakers on Saturday dismissed Russia's "step-by-step" approach on Iran's nuclear program as a bid to revive Moscow's own political influence in the region, Press TV reported. The approach, laid out by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, would enable Iran to address questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its nuclear program. MP Mohammad Karami-Rad said Iran has already responded to questions and ambiguities regarding its nuclear program, adding that "new conditions for resuming negotiations are not acceptable."’

Changing attitudes to diplomacy with Iran

Iran is not in breach of international law
Richard Dalton and five other former ambassadors to Iran: Paul von Maltzahn (Germany), Steen Hohwü-Christensen (Sweden), Guillaume Metten (Belgium), François Nicoullaud (France) and Roberto Toscano (Italy), Comment is Free,, 9 June 2011
‘There is no evidence that the country is building nuclear weapons. The west's strategy has helped create the standoff… The next step should be for the two sides in this conflict to ask the IAEA what additional tools it needs to monitor Iran's nuclear programme fully, and to provide credible assurances that all its connected activities are purely peaceful. The agency's answer would offer a basis for the next round of pragmatic negotiations.’

Nuclear proliferation: Engaging Iran
Richard Dalton and five other former ambassadors to Iran: Paul von Maltzahn (Germany), Steen Hohwü-Christensen (Sweden), Guillaume Metten (Belgium), François Nicoullaud (France) and Roberto Toscano (Italy), LA Times, 9 June 2011
‘A period of uncertainty in the Arab world and the Middle East offers an opportunity to reconsider the West's position on Iran and restart negotiations over its nuclear program… As ambassadors to Iran during the last decade, we have all followed closely the development of the nuclear crisis between Iran and the international community. It is unacceptable that the talks have been deadlocked for such a long time.’

Changing Western Attitude and Resolution of Iran’s Nuclear Issue
Abolghasem Bayyenat,, 13 June 2011
‘The first admission by the former European ambassadors is that they recognize that Iran’s nuclear activities are consistent with international law and that there has been no diversion of nuclear activities in Iran to military purposes, notes Abolghasem Bayyenat… The memo has been written by the former European ambassadors in recognition of the failure of the current Western strategy towards Iran’s nuclear issue and with a view to offering Western powers a solution to the existing deadlock in their relations with Iran.’

Annals of National Security, “Iran and the Bomb”
Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, 6 June 2011
‘Abstract: Annals of national security is about whether Iran’s nuclear program is being exaggerated. Is Iran actively trying to develop nuclear weapons? … There’s a large body of evidence, however, including some of America’s most highly classified intelligence assessments, suggesting that the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago—allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimates of the state’s military capacities and intentions… The unending political stress between Washington and Tehran has promoted some unconventional thinking. One approach, championed by retired ambassador Thomas Pickering and others, is to accept Iran’s nuclear-power program, but to try to internationalize it, and offer Iran various incentives. Pickering and his associates are convinced that the solution to the nuclear impasse is to turn Iran’s nuclear-enrichment programs into a multinational effort.’

Covert tactics

Iran target of new cyber attack
Mehr News, 25 April 2011
Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency has reported that ‘Iran has been targeted by a new computer worm named Stars, the director of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization announces… certain characteristics about the Stars worm have been identified, including that it is compatible with the (targeted) system and that the damage is very slight in the initial stage, and it is likely to be mistaken for executable files of the government,” Jalali stated.’

Iranian scientist's death 'probably the work of western security agencies'
The Guardian/Reuters, 27 July 2011
‘Analysts suggest Mossad or CIA behind murder of Rezaeinejad, who Iran now denies ever working on its nuclear programme… The Iranian government's past responses to such incidents have appeared confused, but from the outset the authorities have adopted a strikingly different tone in the Rezaeinejad case. "Assassinations will continue to be a tool used in this covert war. While it's impossible to tell with certainty whether Rezaeinejad was an active nuclear scientist, his death appears to be another episode in that war," said the London-based analyst Ghanem Nuseibeh, the founder of Cornerstone Global Associates. "The Iranian narrative has been confused about Rezaeinejad's work and this adds credence to the speculation that he has been involved in the nuclear programme."’

More sanctions

US and EU step up Iran nuclear sanctions drive
Financial Times, Daniel Dombey and David Blair, 24 May 2011
‘The US and the European Union have stepped up their sanctions drive against Iran’s nuclear programme, with Washington imposing measures against PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. The penalties against PDVSA, along with six other energy groups, are the first sanctions imposed under unilateral US legislation enacted last year aimed at third-country companies that supply Iran with refined oil or associated products.’

US puts new sanctions on Iran security forces (subscription only)
Anna Fifield, Financial Times, 10 June 2011
‘The US has hit Iran’s three main security institutions with new sanctions, seeking to punish them for human rights abuses since the disputed 2009 presidential election… Thursday’s new sanctions directly hit Iran’s national police force and the police chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, as well as the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basiji militia. They freeze any of their assets under US jurisdiction and prohibit any US citizens or institutions from doing business with them and could restrict visa issuance.’

US widens scope of Iran sanctions (subscription only)
Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, 20 June 2011
‘The US has widened the scope of its sanctions against Iran to include the country’s main commercial airline and an important port operator. The US says that Iran Air has provided material support for the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, already the target of UN sanctions – while Tidewater Middle East, which runs seven Iranian ports, is owned by the Revolutionary Guards. Washington alleges the groups have been involved in activities including illegal weapons transportation. The measures against the two transport groups increase the broad economic impact of the sanctions drive, which initially was focused on companies directly connected with Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes and the banks that financed them.’

Senate unveils tough new Iran sanctions legislation
Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, 23 May 2011
‘A group of bipartisan senior senators is set to introduce the Senate's version of new, wide-ranging sanctions legislation targeting the regimes of Iran, Syria, and North Korea… A primary focus of the bill, which will be called the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Sanctions Consolidation Act of 2011, will be to increasing pressure on companies based in other countries that are still doing business with Iran's energy sector, especially China. "I worry that the Obama administration has given Chinese banks and companies a get out of jail free card when it comes to sanctions law and they should not," [Senator Mark] Kirk explained.’

California tightens screw on trade with Iran (subscription only)
Financial Times, 27 June 2011
‘A new Californian law that prohibits companies with Iran investments from bidding for state contracts has prompted scores of international companies to clarify their status regarding the Middle East country, according to a pressure group… By insisting companies sever ties with Iran before they bid for lucrative state and city contracts, California has “changed the game” on Iran divestment, according to Mark Wallace, president of United Against Nuclear Iran. “Its law says: if you do business in Iran we want to know about it and you will be subject to potential disbarment.”’

Iranian officials put on travel blacklist by UK, US and Canada
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, The Guardian, 8 July 2011
‘Britain, the US and Canada have approved a new round of travel restrictions targeting the Iranian regime, including members of the judiciary and prison officials. The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Friday that the punitive measures were aimed at individuals associated with Iran's nuclear programme as well as those involved in the violation of human rights in the country. "The UK is working closely with its partners to prevent a wide range of individuals connected with Iran's nuclear enrichment and weaponisation programmes from entering our countries. These include scientists, engineers and those procuring components," Hague said in a statement.’

What can U.S. sanctions on Iran do?
Michael Adler,, 26 May 2011
‘This is still far from a dramatic development concerning Iran — certainly not one to match the surprises of the Arab spring. Washington’s latest move is in the realm of scene-setting. It comes after the European Union widened its sanctions on Iran. These U.S. sanctions are designed to “send a strong signal to companies around the world about the risks of dealing with Iran,” the official said. “So it serves as a signal, a deterrent, as much as it does as having a near-term, practical impact…the new U.S. sanctions are as much signs of frustration as effective action…”’

Sanctions hold up Iran nuclear drive: UN report
AFP, 12 May 2011
‘A panel of experts which monitors the sanctions said Iran is circumventing the action but that nuclear work has been hit. The sanctions are "slowing Iran's nuclear program but are not yet having an impact on the decision calculus of its leadership with respect to halting uranium enrichment and heavy water-related activities."’

U.N. Says Iran Violated Arms Ban
Wall Street Journal, 12 May 2011
‘Tehran has shipped conventional weapons to Syria in violation of a U.N. arms-export ban, according to a new U.N. report, which also concludes that U.N. sanctions are constraining Iran's pursuit of materiel for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The report, reviewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, says sanctions are working because nations are "taking a more active role" in implementing them at ports and customs points and through financial and regulatory bodies. "Sanctions have clearly forced changes in the way in which Iran procures items" that are banned by the U.N., the report by a U.N. panel of experts says.’

U.N. Panel Reports Possible Iran Sanctions Breaches
Global Security Newswire, 24 June 2011
‘A U.N. Security Council panel on Thursday said it had learned since late March of three new purported breaches of international penalties targeting Iran's disputed atomic activities… The report by the panel's team of specialists describes "troubling findings" on breaches of the penalties, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said at a council meeting convened on Thursday to address sanctions against Iran… Syria was involved in most of the breaches and has not assisted the specialists' probe... The assessment describes nine sanctions transgressions, two-thirds of which involved Damascus, AFP reported.’

Iran Sanctions Should Be Eased to Foster Nuclear Cooperation, Russia Says
Bloomberg, 2 June 2011
‘World powers should offer to ease sanctions to gain Iran’s cooperation in resolving the dispute over the country’s nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said… “We have to show to Iran that if it cooperates, if it answers satisfactorily the IAEA demands, then it should see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Lavrov said… “It’s a process that can only be successful if we count not on new sanctions and threats, but on negotiations,” he said.’

Saudi Suggests 'Squeezing' Iran Over Nuclear Ambitions
Jay Soloman, Wall Street Journal, 22 June 2011
‘A leading member of Saudi Arabia's royal family warned that Riyadh could seek to supplant Iran's oil exports if the country doesn't constrain its nuclear program, a move that could hobble Tehran's finances. In closed-door remarks earlier this month, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal also strongly implied that Riyadh would be forced to follow suit if Tehran pushed ahead to develop nuclear weapons and said Saudi Arabia is preparing to employ all of its economic, diplomatic and security assets to confront Tehran's regional ambitions… U.S. and Arab diplomats said Saudi Arabia's monarchy often uses Prince Turki to float ideas concerning the country's future policies.’

2nd Iranian conference on nuclear disarmament

Iran kicks off nuclear disarmament conference, calls for " practical mechanisms"
Xinhuanet News, 13 June 2011
‘Iran kicked off the second International Nuclear Disarmament Conference in Tehran on Sunday, calling for practical mechanisms to the issue of nuclear disarmament… Tehran's two-day conference brings together delegates from 40 different nations across the world, including ambassadors and representatives from international bodies such as the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).’

Storm in a teacup

'The day after Iran's first nuclear test is a normal day'
Julian Borger’s blog,, 9 June 2011
‘Any mention of an Iranian nuclear weapon is taboo in the Islamic Republic, which insists that its nuclear programme is entirely for peaceful, civil purposes. So it is remarkable, to say the least, that an article has appeared on the Gerdab website, run by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, anticipating the day after Iran's first test of a nuclear warhead.’

Iran Anticipates the Day After Nuclear Test
Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary Magazine, 10 June 2011
‘Though the evidence that Iran is working on building a nuclear bomb is overwhelming, apologists for the Islamist regime have accepted its cover story that their program is only aimed at peaceful civil uses of the technology. But apparently a website run by the country’s Revolutionary Guard deviated from the party line on April 24… Lest anyone think the hypothetical piece is pure science fiction, the news about the article came the same week that Iran announced that it would triple their production of enriched uranium.’

More on the Gerdab Nuke Test Story
Jeffrey Lewis,, 17 June 2011
‘Well, we finally have some clarity on that very strange post on an IRGC website about the day after Iran’s first nuclear test.  It appears that the website in question,, reposted content from an Iranian blog… As I thought, it does appear that many people  were reading a bit too much into his post, which was in part a satirical look at journalism around the world.’

North Korea


North Korea 'may have developed nuclear warhead for ballistic missile'
The Telegraph, 13 June 2011
‘North Korea may have developed a nuclear warhead small enough to be loaded onto a ballistic missile, the South Korean defence minister said yesterday, warning that risk of another “surprise provocation” by the Stalinist regime was now rising.’

North Korean Missile Reach Will Extend to U.S.: Senior Intel Official
Global Security Newswire, 19 May 2011
‘North Korea's ballistic missile program would eventually yield systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the United States, a senior U.S. intelligence official said on Wednesday… "No one is looking at the North Koreans as building these systems to have a first-strike capability or anything like that. That's not what we're really concerned about. But they are certainly building missiles that eventually will be capable of targeting the U.S., and these missiles will be capable of having nuclear weapons."’

S. Korea to complete building own missile defense system by 2015
Yonhap News Agency, 12 April 2011
‘South Korea's military will complete building its own missile defense system by 2015 that is designed to intercept ballistic missiles from North Korea, the defense ministry said Tuesday, amid high tensions following the North's two deadly attacks last year… The move is a part of the military's mid-term plans to bolster its defense capabilities against North Korea's focus on unconventional or "asymmetric" warfare, the report said.’

U.S., S. Korea sign agreement on missile defense system development: Pentagon
Yonhap News Agency, 15 April 2011
‘"With South Korea, we have engaged in bilateral missile-defense cooperation discussions and have recently signed a Terms of Reference and an agreement that will enable our two nations to carry out a requirements analysis so that South Korea can make informed decisions about the utility of any future BMD program," Bradley Roberts, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, told a Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, according to a transcript on the committee's website. South Korea has opposed any idea of joining the U.S.-led global missile defense, but sought cooperation with the U.S. for the development of its own missile defense targeting short- and mid-range North Korean missiles flying from North Korea, which has hundreds of such missiles. Seoul has been lukewarm due to the global missile defense in order not to provoke China and Russia, which believe any such system led by the U.S. targets them.’

Diplomatic efforts

U.S. urges China to push N. Korea toward denuclearization
Yonhap News Agency, 13 April 2011
‘The United States Wednesday urged China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and refrain from provoking South Korea.’

North Korea Rejects Invitation by South’s Lee for Summit on Nuclear Plans
Bloomberg, 12 May 2011
‘North Korea rejected South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s proposal for a summit with Kim Jong Il to discuss nuclear issues as a “ridiculous attempt to disarm” the communist nation. Lee’s invitation, made during a visit to Berlin this week, is conditional on North Korea promising to abandon its atomic weapons program.’

North Korea’s Kim Ends China Trip With Pledge to Purge Weapons
Bloomberg, 26 May 2011
‘North Korean leader Kim Jong Il ended a six-day visit to learn about China’s economic growth by saying his country is still committed to eliminating its nuclear weapons through negotiations… The two governments agreed that their interests converge in the “adherence to the goal of denuclearization on the whole Korean peninsula, peaceful settlement of the issue through dialogue, including the resumption of the six-party talks and the elimination of obstructive elements,” KCNA said.’

DPRK leader says willing to negotiate with S. Korea, six-party members: Carter
Xinhuanet News, 28 April 2011
‘"Although we did not meet with the leader of North Korea (DPRK), when we had already departed from our guest home, we were asked to come back to receive a personal message," Carter told reporters in Seoul, later clarifying it was a written message. "He specifically told us that he is prepared for a summit meeting directly with President Lee Myung-bak at any time to discuss any subject directly between the two heads of state," he added… While in Pyongyang, Carter wrote on his blog that Pyongyang officials, while they want to improve relations with their counterparts in Seoul and Washington, are still unwilling to give up its nuclear program "without some kind of security guarantee from the U.S.."’

Bilateral meetings

North and South Korea hold ‘constructive’ disarmament talks
Globe and Mail (Canada)/Associated Press, 22 July 2011
‘Top nuclear envoys from North and South Korea emerged smiling from a face-to-face meeting Friday, saying they were ready to work together to resume stalled disarmament talks. The meeting was the first between envoys from the two nations since 2008, when international efforts to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program collapsed, and the announcement was certain to be welcomed in regional capitals and Washington.’

Pyongyang Seeks Return to Talks, 2005 Nuclear Agreement
Voice of America, 1 August 2011
‘North Korea is repeating its call for an early resumption of six-party talks on its nuclear programs. In its first public comments since nuclear talks ended in New York last week, North Korea also said Monday it is ready to implement a 2005 agreement calling for it to abandon its nuclear programs… In comments quoted Monday by North Korea's official KCNA news agency, a spokesman said Pyongyang still seeks to resume the six-party talks at an early date and without preconditions. The spokesman said the North seeks to "comprehensively implement" the September 19, 2005, agreement on the principle of "simultaneous action."’

U.S. Won’t Back Nuclear Talks Until North Korea Changes Ways, Clinton Says
Bloomberg, 22 July 2011
‘“We remain firm that in order for six-party talks to resume, North Korea must take steps to improve North-South relations,” Clinton said today at a meeting of the Asia Regional Forum on the Indonesian island of Bali. “North Korea continues to present a critical proliferation challenge to the international community and to threaten regional stability with its provocative actions,” Clinton said.’

UN sanctions panel

China blocks U.N. report on N.Korea-Iran ties: envoys
Reuters, 17 May 2011
‘China on Tuesday blocked the publication of a U.N. expert panel's report that suggests North Korea and Iran have been sharing ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions, diplomats said. The confidential report, which was obtained by Reuters, also said the illicit technology transfers had "trans-shipment through a neighboring third country." That neighboring country was China, several diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.’

China downplays UN report on NKorea missile export
Forbes/Associated Press, 17 May 2011
‘Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tuesday in a faxed statement that the report does not represent the position of the Security Council nor the position of the relevant Security Council sanctions committee.’

China denies it is conduit for North Korea-Iran weapons trade
Reuters, 18 May 2011
‘China rejected Wednesday reported allegations by U.N. diplomats that it was a trans-shipment point for banned nuclear missile technology between North Korea and Iran. U.N. diplomats said in the report, obtained by Reuters over the weekend, that North Korea appeared to have been exchanging ballistic missile technology and expertise with Iran in violation of Security Council sanctions. The report did not identify China, but said North Korean-Iranian missile trade went via a country neighboring North Korea, which diplomats at the United Nations told Reuters was China. "I completely deny such a view," Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue told reporters at a briefing. He did not elaborate.’

Iran Denies Report of N. Korea Missile Aid
Bloomberg, 17 May 2011
‘Evidence that North Korea aided Iran’s ballistic missile program in violation of United Nations sanctions is fabricated, the government in Tehran said as the U.S. and Britain sought steps to halt the technology transfers.’

UN Security Council extends mandate of North Korea sanctions panel, 10 June 2011
‘The United Nations Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the expert body dealing with the UN sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear arms testing. The sanctions panel was extended for a third term in the resolution adopted by the 15-member Council. The panel of experts was established in 2009 in a resolution which condemned a nuclear test in North Korea.’

Potential New Proliferators: Syria & Myanmar (Burma)


US policy shift builds pressure on Syria (subscription only)
Financial Times, 25 April 2011
‘The US announcement on Monday that it was pursuing “targeted sanctions” against Syria heralds a likely shift by western governments towards increasing pressure on Damascus. Although imposing sanctions on leading Syrian officials might have limited practical effect, it marks a big change in the US stance towards Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, and is the latest shift in tortured relations with Damascus.’

May 2011 IAEA report on Syria
IAEA Director general’s Report, 24 May 2011

West wants Syria case sent to U.N. council: diplomats
Reuters, 25 May 2011
‘In a report to member states on Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency's chief assessed that a site in the Syrian desert bombed to rubble by Israel was "very likely" to have been a reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA… Since mid-2008, Syria has refused to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to revisit the site known as Dair Alzour, which U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor intended to produce plutonium for atomic bombs… Pierre Goldschmidt, a former head of global inspections at the IAEA, said Syria must fully cooperate with the agency but that its case was different from that of Iran. "Very few people would believe today that Syria after the September 2007 bombing still represents a nuclear threat in the foreseeable future," Goldschmidt said.’

Syria 'did have a nuclear plant'
The Provnce/Bloomberg News, 15 July 2011
‘The design of a secret Syrian nuclear facility destroyed by Israel in 2007 closely resembled a North Korean plant that produced material for nuclear weapons, two diplomats said after a report Thursday by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency. Neville Whiting, the International Atomic Energy Agency's director of nuclear safeguards for the Middle East, drew the comparisons between the Syrian facility at Dair Alzur and North Korea's plant at Yongbyon in a briefing to the UN Security Council, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition they not be identified when discussing a closed-door meeting.’

Syria offers to cooperate on nuclear inquiry
Julian Borger, The Guardian, 29 May 2011
‘Syria has offered to cooperate with a UN investigation into evidence that it tried to build a reactor that could have been used to make a nuclear weapon, it has been reported. For the past three years, the country has prevented inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency gaining access to the site at al-Kibar. The offer of cooperation comes as the government of President Bashar al-Assad is trying to suppress demonstrations inspired by the Arab spring democratic movement.’

Western push on Syria may spark divisive IAEA debate
Reuters, 1 June 2011
‘Western states are pressing ahead with a drive to report Syria to the U.N. Security Council over suspected nuclear activity, despite misgivings among some other countries and a last-ditch bid by Damascus to thwart the move. Next week the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is set to debate a U.S.-led push to refer Syria to the council in New York for stonewalling for three years an IAEA probe into a site bombed by Israel in 2007… The IAEA gave independent backing to the U.S. allegation in a report last week which said the desert complex was "very likely" to have been a reactor, setting the scene for possible action by the agency's board at a June 6-10 meeting in Vienna. The United States has circulated a draft resolution that would report the "non-compliance" of Syria - which is also facing Western sanctions over a crackdown on pro-democracy unrest in the Arab state -- to the U.N. Security Council.’

The I.A.E.A. and Syria
Bennett Ramberg, New York Times, 31 May 2011
‘At its meeting next week, the I.A.E.A. board of governors must decide whether to formally declare Syria in noncompliance with the nonproliferation treaty. Doing so will place the matter before the U.N. Security Council, opening the way for sanctions. The decision will test whether responsibility overrides timidity. At stake, the agency’s reputation as the world’s nuclear watchdog. To date Damascus has gamed that reputation and succeeded… failure will only encourage prospective nuclear proliferators to follow Syria’s path. If the international community believes in the nuclear nonproliferation regime, it must act with conviction. Syria is a test case.’

Divided U.N. atom body sends Syria to Security Council
Reuters, 9 June 2011
‘The U.N. nuclear watchdog board reported Syria to the Security Council on Thursday for covert atomic work, a U.S.-led move coinciding with Western condemnation of Damascus's crackdown on opposition protests. Russia and China voted against the proposal at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), highlighting big-power divisions that may augur vetoes of any punitive measures by the U.N. council in New York. It was the first time the governing board of the IAEA -- the Vienna-based U.N. body tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons -- referred a country to the Security Council since it sent Iran's file there five years ago.’

A Bridge Too Far? Syria & GOV/40
Mark Hibbs,, 11 June 2011
‘The preambular language in GOV/40 also presented a problem. It’s reference to “concerns regarding the maintenance of international peace and security” is clearly aimed at the UNSC with a wink at Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, authorizing the UNSC to use non-military and military means to ”restore international peace and security”  Until now, a lot of IAEA member states have doubted whether the nuclear situation in Syria represents such a threat, since the installation in question at Dair Alzour has been destroyed. And that issue raised among a number of board members the concern that the Syria resolution–on the eve of a UNSC resolution brought forth by France and the U.K. concerning Syria’s action in brutally suppressing domestic dissent–was “meant to further the goal of regime change,” as one NAM country ambassador told me in the middle of the board discussion on Thursday.’

IAEA Seen Avoiding Special Audit in Syria
Global Security Newswire, 13 July 2011
‘The International Atomic Energy Agency will probably avoid pursuing a "special inspection" in Syria because the organization's governing board has asked the U.N. Security Council to take up a long-running dispute over potential undisclosed atomic activities in the Middle Eastern nation, diplomatic insiders and ex-officials said in remarks reported by Arms Control Today in its July/August edition’

Myanmar (Burma)

 Myanmar nukes? Defector's tale stokes suspicions
Associated Press, 15 June 2011
‘Robert Kelley, a former IAEA director and nuclear weapons inspector who interviewed Sai Thein Win and assessed the evidence he provided for the 2010 documentary, is confident it does, although engineering drawings were unprofessional and the manufactured items appeared crude. The method identified for enriching uranium, molecular laser separation, was highly unlikely to succeed. David Albright, an analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security think tank and a former U.N. weapons inspector, concluded there could be non-nuclear applications. He wrote that it was impossible to discern whether a vital piece of equipment known as a bomb reactor was intended to produce uranium or some other metal instead. Albright also questioned the credibility of information from defectors who could have a political ax to grind against Myanmar's rulers.’

Myanmar Asserts It Cannot Afford Nuclear Weapons
Global Security Newswire, 3 June 2011
‘"Myanmar is in no position to take account of nuclear weapons and does not have enough economic strength to do so," Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo was reported by official media to have said to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday in Myanmar's capital of Naypyidaw. The vice president said the Southeast Asian state was in compliance with U.N. resolutions and had put the brakes on a civilian atomic research effort due to potential misunderstandings by the international community, the state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.’

India & Pakistan

Arms race

South Asia’s Looming Arms Race
Bruce Riedel, WSJ/United News Service, 8 April 2011
This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal (subscription only) and is reproduced for the United News Service. ‘Pakistan’s arsenal of warheads, currently close to overtaking the fifth largest (the United Kingdom) in the world, is growing faster than any other… So far India has held back but that restraint will become harder to maintain as Pakistan forges ahead… While India is the main enemy that has driven Pakistan’s nuclear build-up, the army now also sees the bomb as a useful deterrent against Washington… Absent a diplomatic breakthrough, sooner or later India will have to ratchet up its weapons program. This will have implications for military planners in the region, including in Iran and China, and fallout for countries farther afield like Israel.’

Folly of an Indian Nuclear Shift
Reshmi Kazi, The Diplomat, 14 April 2011
‘When one of the senior lawmakers from India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party—and a former External Affairs Minister—calls on the government to re-examine its doctrine of no-first-use (NFU), it’s bound to turn some heads, at home and abroad… Whatever the headlines over Pakistan’s nuclear build-up, India should stick to its no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons.’

South Asian Nuclear Arms Race Seen Heating Up
Global Security Newswire, 8 June 2011
‘In releasing the "SIPRI Yearbook 2011," institute Deputy Director Daniel Nord said the rivalry between New Delhi and Islamabad now represents the top atomic danger. The South Asia region is "the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race," he said. "India and Pakistan which are de facto nuclear weapon states outside NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] continue to develop new ballistic and cruise missile systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons," the SIPRI report states. "They are also expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes."’

Pakistan, India to discuss new nuclear confidence-building measures+
Breibart/Kyodo, 24 June 2011
‘Pakistan and India decided Friday to hold separate meetings of experts to discuss new confidence-building measures (CBMs) for nuclear and conventional weapons. The agreement was reached during two days of talks between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao in Islamabad. A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said the sides decided to "convene separate expert level meetings on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs to discuss implementation and strengthening of existing arrangement and to consider additional measures, which are mutually acceptable to, to build trust and confidence and promote peace and security."’


Pakistan Tests HATF IX Nuclear-Capable Short Range Tactical Guided Weapon, 27 April 2011
‘Pakistan has tested a nuclear-capable tactical missile dubbed HATF IX (also known as Nasr)… The single stage solid-fuel missile, developed by Pakistan’s National Development Complex (NDC), has a range of 60 km… Nasr test firing also demonstrates that Pakistan has progressed with the development of compact sub-kiloton, low yield tactical nuclear warheads… The test indicates Pakistan has the technology to build a small nuclear warheads for all kinds of delivery platforms’

U.S. Scrutinizes Pakistani Nuke, Missile Tech Purchases: Cables
Global Security Newswire, 25 May 2011
‘The United states has closely scrutinized and sometimes tried to subvert Pakistan's purchases of missile and nuclear technology, despite Islamabad's multiple promises that its track record as a proliferator was a thing of the past, Dawn reported… Dozens of U.S. diplomatic memos -- some classified as secret, others as confidential -- obtained by the Pakistani newspaper show an intense focus by the United States on international acquisitions by Pakistan's missile and atomic programs.’

'I Saved My Country From Nuclear Blackmail'
A. Q. Khan, Newsweek, 16 May 2011
‘In this week’s Newsweek, the “father” of the Pakistani bomb on why Pakistan deserves to have nuclear weapons, and why we shouldn’t be afraid… I have little knowledge of the present status of our program, as I left Kahuta, Pakistan’s main nuclear facility, 10 years ago. As the pioneer of the program, my guess is that our efforts have been to perfect the design, reduce the size of the weapons to fit on the warheads of our missile systems, and ensure a fail-safe system for their storage. A country needs sufficient weapons to be stored at different places in order to have a second-strike capability. But there is a limit to these requirements.’

Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb maker says North Korea paid bribes for know-how
Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, 7 July 2011
‘The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program asserts that the government of North Korea bribed top military officials in Islamabad to obtain access to sensitive nuclear technology in the late 1990s. Abdul Qadeer Khan has made available documents that he says support his claim that he personally transferred more than $3 million in payments by North Korea to senior officers in the Pakistani military, which he says subsequently approved his sharing of technical know-how and equipment with North Korean scientists.’

Pakistan Rejects Khan's Claims of North Korean Payoffs
Global Security Newswire, 8 July 2011
‘The Pakistani government on Thursday rejected claims from former top nuclear-weapon scientist and proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan that North Korea paid millions of dollars to senior military officers for help in acquiring atomic expertise and technology, the Press Trust of India reported. "Such stories have a habit of reoccurring and my only comment is that this is totally baseless and preposterous," Foreign Office spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua said to reporters.’

Concern over nuclear security

NATO concern over Pakistan nuclear arsenal
Al-Jazeera, 24 May 2011
‘The head of NATO has admitted that the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is a matter of concern, the day after the worst assault on a Pakistani military base in two years… "Based on the information and intelligence we have, I feel confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe and well protected,'' Rasmussen said. "But of course, it is a matter of concern and we follow the situation closely."’

Growing Pakistani Nuke Arsenal Raises Security Threat: Expert
Global Security Newswire, 8 July 2011
‘The increasing size of the Pakistani nuclear weapons complex increases the challenges in keeping all the assets secured against militants operating in the country, one analyst said in a National Public Radio report on Thursday… "The more nuclear weapons you have, the more nuclear weapons storage sites you have to have, the more nuclear weapons in transit at various times you have to have," said Shaun Gregory, of the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, who studies Pakistani nuclear security. He added that this also requires "more people involved in the safety, security, manufacture, deployment, [and] preparedness for use you have to have."’

Terror Strikes Hint at Pakistani Nuke Security Gaps: Expert
Global Security Newswire, 14 June 2011
‘Recent extremist strikes on several armed forces sites in Pakistan indicate the nation might not be capable of protecting its nuclear weapons and related assets from a direct attack, a British analyst wrote in a journal article published this month. “A frontal assault on nuclear weapons storage facilities, which are the most robustly defended elements of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons cycle, is no longer an implausible event,” the National Post on Tuesday quoted Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, as stating. “As the number of nuclear weapons facilities grows, and the number of those with access to nuclear weapons or related components rises, the complex challenge of assuring the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons components will become ever more difficult,” the expert said.’

Nuclear Notebook: Pakistan's nuclear forces, 2011(subscription only)
Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 4 July 2011
‘The US raid that killed Osama bin Laden has raised concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. In the process of building two new plutonium production reactors and a new reprocessing facility to fabricate more nuclear weapons fuel, Pakistan is also developing new delivery systems. The authors estimate that if the country's expansion continues, Pakistan's nuclear weapons stockpile could reach 150–200 warheads in a decade. They assess the country's nuclear forces, providing clear analysis of its nuclear command and control, nuclear-capable aircraft, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles.’

Pakistan Seen as Having Fastest Expanding Nuke Stockpile
Global Security Newswire, 1 July 2011
‘A soon-to-be-published analysis has determined that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal at a much faster rate than any other nation and could have 200 nuclear bombs in 10 years if the present pace of production is maintained, the Indian Express reported on Thursday… "At worst, it appears that Pakistan's stockpile could approach the size of the British stockpile within a decade, but that depends on a lot of other factors such as how successful it is in bringing the new delivery systems up to full operational capability," Kristensen [co-author of the report] told the Express.’

‘Terrorism Analysis Project: Anatomizing Non-State Threats to Pakistan’s Nuclear Infrastructure’
Charles P. Blair, Federation of American Scientists (FAS), June 2011
‘The greatest threat to Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure comes from jihadists both inside Pakistan and South and Central Asia. While there is appreciation of this danger, there are few substantive studies that identify and explore specific groups motivated and potentially capable of acquiring Pakistani nuclear weapons and/or fissile materials. This report fills that gap by exploring the Pakistani Neo-Taliban (PNT) and the groups that fill its ranks.’

US praises Pakistan’s steps to secure N-arsenal
Dawn, 9 July 2011
‘Pakistan’s control over its nuclear weapons appears strong enough to prevent the militants from accessing them, says the US military chief. A transcript released on Friday quoted Admiral Mike Mullen was telling reporters that the US also had helped Pakistan secure the weapons. “I am as comfortable as I can be that they have taken significant steps, including steps in recent years to improve the security with respect to their nuclear weapons,” he said. “There have been investments made by our government in improving security, not through the Department of Defence, but through the Department of Energy to improve security through the last several years,” he added.’

Are Pakistan’s Nukes Safe?
Tom Wright, Wall Street Journal blog, 29 June 2011
‘But the report, a copy of which was sent to The Wall Street Journal, includes no new information on why Pakistan’s nuclear assets are at heightened risk beyond saying militants have been able to mount successful attacks on armed forces’ installations in the past few years… The report’s author, Charles Blair, who is director of FAS’s Terrorism Analysis Project, is keen to point out that he believes Pakistan can still keep its nuclear assets safe. “My conclusion isn’t that Pakistan is likely to lose control of fissile material,” he said in an interview. “But the threat is obviously growing.” George Perkovich, an expert on Pakistan’s nuclear program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says it’s incorrect to draw conclusions that because militants have been able to attack armed forces’ installations, some perhaps with insider help from Islamist-leaning military officers, then nuclear weapons also could be at risk. “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are the safest, most secure things in Pakistan,” he says. “They’re more motivated to keep nuclear weapons in their control than anything else.”’

India & the NSG

India building campaign for membership of multilateral export control regimes
The Hindu, 19 June 2011
‘Although India is bracing itself for a set back at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology (ENR), it is going ahead with the campaign for membership of four multilateral export control regimes – the NSG itself, the Missile Technology Control regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia group.’

NSG to include India's request for membership as special agenda item
The Hindu, 25 May 2011
‘The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the world's premier non-proliferation body, has decided to include India's request for membership as a special agenda item when it holds its annual meeting in the third week of June. This was agreed upon during a meeting on Monday between the Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and the NSG Troika, currently consisting of the Netherlands, New Zealand and Hungary, Government officials told The Hindu from The Hague where the discussions were held.’

NSG all set to up-end India's clean waiver
The Hindu, 18 June 2011
‘Barring last minute objections, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is set to approve new guidelines for the transfer of “sensitive” nuclear material that will do undo the hard fought “clean” waiver India obtained in 2008 from the cartel's restrictive export rules.’

Nuclear suppliers tighten trade rules, may irk India
Reuters Africa, 28 June 2011
‘A 46-nation export control group has acted to bar states that shun a global anti-nuclear weapons pact from obtaining technology which can be used to make atomic bombs, diplomats and experts say. Last week's decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to tighten guidelines for transfers of sensitive uranium enrichment and reprocessing technology may irritate nuclear-armed India, after Washington helped it win a waiver from NSG rules in 2008.’

The NSG challenge
The Hindu, 27 June 2011
‘The Nuclear Suppliers Group may well have been trying to tighten the general rules for the international transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology (ENR) but its insistence on membership of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as a condition of supply has effectively punched a hole in the historic waiver India negotiated with the cartel in 2008… India's initial response to last week's setback at the NSG has been guarded. It has indicated to the three major reactor-supplying nations that they must stand by their earlier commitments. But if they baulk or prevaricate, New Delhi will have to exercise the leverage it has… Even today, the ENR issue is not a lost cause: like the nuclear embargo itself, this latest unjust restriction on India can be reversed. But only if the government has the political stomach to play hardball.’

India expects partners to fulfil nuclear commitments
The Hindu, 26 June 2011
‘The Nuclear Suppliers Group may have decided to ban enrichment and reprocessing technology and equipment (ENR) sales to countries outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but India will continue to insist that its partners fully implement the 2008 “clean” NSG waiver for the country and all bilateral agreements, official sources told The Hindu on Saturday.’

India stung by tightened rule on supplying sensitive nuclear technology
Washington Post/Associated Press, 6 July 2011
‘Irritation has built up in India over revised rules agreed on last month by the U.S., Russia, France and other major suppliers banning the sales of key technology and equipment that has civilian applications but also can be used to arm nuclear weapons. The agreement does not limit India’s access to modern U.S. or other foreign-made reactors that are difficult to use for making fissile warhead material. The move, however, does appear to slam the door on any future attempts by New Delhi to expand its secretive nuclear arms program through foreign purchases of weapons-making technologies… In any case, the Asian giant is unhappy at what it sees an anti-Indian move backed by Washington and other suppliers — and is hinting that it may retaliate by cutting them out of any multibillion dollar reactor deals’

India nuclear trade waiver safe-U.S. ambassador
Reuters, 30 June 2011
‘India's U.S.-brokered exemption from nuclear technology trade rules is secure, the U.S. ambassador to the country said on Thursday, easing worries that new global regulations would harm New Delhi's rapidly-growing nuclear programme… "The White House and the Obama administration strongly and vehemently support the clean waiver for India," outgoing U.S. ambassador Timothy Roemer told reporters after a speech to mark his departure from the post. "Secondly the [Section] 123 civil nuclear legislation also underscores our support for India in this debate that is going on. And thirdly our law clearly points to the clean waiver for India," Roemer added.’

NSG waiver unaffected, France assures India
The Hindu, 5 July 2011
‘With India insisting on concrete assurances from all its nuclear partners, France has again sought to allay Indian concerns about the sanctity of the waiver it received in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s export ban. “With longstanding French support, India has been granted a clean exemption by the NSG, allowing for full civilian nuclear cooperation”, Ambassador Jérôme Bonnafont said in a statement here on Tuesday, hissecond in a week. “This exemption reflects the unique situation of India and constitutes a historical achievement. Therefore, in the French view, nothing in the existing and future guidelines shall be interpreted as detracting from that exemption or reducing the ambition of our bilateral cooperation.”’

NSG waiver ramifications

West queries China over Pakistan atom ties
Reuters, 29 June 2011
‘Western nations pressed China at closed-door nuclear talks to provide more information and help address concerns about its plans to expand an atomic energy plant in Pakistan, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday. But China showed no sign of reconsidering its position on building two more reactors at the Chashma nuclear power complex in Pakistan's Punjab region, said the sources who attended a June 23-24 meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).’

Pakistan wants to join Nuclear Suppliers Group
The Express Tribune, 15 July 2011
‘Pakistan has offered to join four nuclear export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, if the international community recognises it as a nuclear weapons state, but remains unwilling to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty…“The National Command Authority reiterated Pakistan’s desire to constructively contribute to the realisation of a world free of nuclear weapons and to the goals of non-proliferation on the basis of equality and partnership with the international community,” said a statement issued after the meeting.’

U.S.-India nuclear deal drifts dangerously
Washington Post, 15 July 2011
‘Hailed as the centerpiece of a new partnership between the world’s two most populous democracies, the U.S.-India nuclear deal has drifted dangerously since it was signed in 2008, analysts and former negotiators from both countries say. The risk now is that other countries, particularly Russia and France, might benefit from all the hard work that the United States put into the deal.’

Other disarmament issues

Chemical Weapons

Russia extends scrapping of chemical weapons until 2016
Ria Novosti, 2 June 2011
‘Russia has extended the deadline for complete destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal until December 31, 2015, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Thursday. The country has so far destroyed a half of its chemical weapons stockpile (20,000 metric tons out of 40,000) and was under an obligation to complete the program by May 2012.’

Biological Weapons

BWC Review Conference Could Revive Verification Debate, Chairman Says
Global Security Newswire, 7 July 2011
‘There is growing sentiment among involved nations that the upcoming review conference for the Biological Weapons Convention should reopen the debate on the historically controversial issue of creating an international verification regime for the pact, according to the meeting's chairman.’

Special issue on the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference
The Bulletin, May/June 2011
‘The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was negotiated as a simple treaty but its fulfillment has not been so simple: The convention has no monitoring or verification agency, no governing council, and no permanent secretariat. Instead, in an effort to make the treaty more robust, a body of extended understandings, definitions, and procedures have gradually been agreed upon at its first six review conferences. The Seventh Review Conference, in December 2011, can take forward this evolutionary process by building on the best elements in the treaty regime.’ – ‘A Simple Treaty’ by Nicolas Sims is amongst The Bulletin’s series of articles looking at what the forthcoming Review Conference needs to achieve.

Arms Trade Treaty

Global Arms Trade Treaty Picks Up Speed
Louis Belanger, Huffington Post, 15th July 2011
‘Delegates from across the world met in New York for the last 2011 preparatory committee to discuss the details of a future treaty that would regulate the trade in conventional arms… "The ground-work has been laid for a future arms trade treaty. Despite a number of important gaps in the latest documents and attempts by some to derail the talks, there was substantial progress," said Jeff Abramson, Coordinator of the Control Arms Secretariat.