Monthly Archives: July 2014

Four activists arrested in Scotland after stopping nuclear weapons convoy

The Nuclear Resister | July 15, 2014

Just after midnight on July 11, a military vehicle convoy which included lorries carrying Trident nuclear bombs, passed through the center of Glasgow, Scotland. Four Faslane Peace campers were arrested when they blockaded the convoy for an hour close to Loch Lomond. One of the activists climbed atop the vehicles.

Francesco Bertozzi (23), Heather Stewart (29), Jamie Watson (32) and another peace camper were arrested and spent the weekend in jail until an initial court appearance. They then learned that only one of them is being prosecuted, for breaching the peace and resisting arrest.

The convoy, which left the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield the morning of July 10 and arrived at the Coulport nuclear store at 2:30 a.m. on July 11, was tracked by Nukewatch (UK) and the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

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UK nuclear weapons convoy

from Abolition 2000

Published on Friday, 11 July 2014

A convoy of more than 20 military vehicles drove through the centre of Glasgow on the M74 shortly after midnight last night. The convoy included four special lorries which transport Trident nuclear bombs. The convoy was stopped for one hour near Loch Lomond by protestors from Faslane Peace Camp. One climbed on top of a nuclear transporter. Four peace campers were arrested.

Scottish CND coordinator, John Ainslie, followed the convoy as it drove along the M74 from Hamilton, through the South of Glasgow, then over the Erskine Bridge. Mr Ainslie said, “This is an insult to the people of Glasgow and the rest of Scotland. Only 10 weeks before we vote on whether to be independent, the UK Government have sent this massive convoy of Weapons of Mass Destruction through the centre of Scotland’s largest city. The convoy was probably carrying six Trident bombs, each one seven times more powerful than the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. This should be taken as a clear reminder of why people need to vote Yes – to rid Scotland of these horrific nuclear weapons.”

The convoy left the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield around 9 am yesterday (Thursday). It arrived at the Coulport nuclear store at 2.30 am this morning (Friday). It was tracked by Nukewatch (http://nukewatch.org.uk) and the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The photo shows one of the nuclear weapon transporters on the A82 near Bowling at 00:50 this morning. The whole convoy was filmed earlier on Thursday on the M69 near Leicester – http://youtu.be/HSOxOnF6LqM (nuclear bomb lorries from 4:20)

The convoy lorries can each carry two Trident nuclear bombs. Normal practice is for one lorry in the convoy to be empty. So a reasonable estimate is that the convoy was carrying six 100-kiloton nuclear bombs.

The UK government are currently upgrading Trident bombs to a new Mk4A design. The convoy was probably bringing new Mk4A bombs to replace older Mk4 bombs. The Mk4A upgrade programme is a significant enhancement of the capability of the UK’s nuclear force. It makes the bombs more effective.

No pasaran! or: how to stop worrying and block the bomb

We’re all recovering this week after a long weekend during which a fair share of the Camp were banged-up for blocking the nuclear convoy by the bonny banks of Loch Lomond last Friday morning. There’s been some press but our own account was curtailed due to our legal support / photographer / press relations multi-tasker being arrested for no valid policing reason and our support team being driven off on the same basis. So, without further ado, here’s the definitive-account-of-the-action-cum-DIY-guide-to-convoy-stopping.

1. Location, location, location

The most important thing when stopping a series of large vehicles carrying nuclear weapons is to do it safely. Location is therefore key. We picked a spot at the top of the hill where the military ‘haul road’ leaves the A82 by Loch Lomond. The steep gradient would slow down the trucks, and the section in question is nice and straight so they would see our traffic-control person clearly from a safe distance. There’re also some nice things to hide behind – this spot has been used before to covertly monitor convoy movements. Arriving as night fell, we observed a vehicle parked in a lay-by overlooking our assembly point. With our spider-senses tingling, we opted to be dropped-off out of sight of this potential servant of the Enemy and make our way back through the roadside woodland. This seemingly-rational decision almost led to disaster as our plucky band of supposed outdoorsfolk managed to get lost twenty yards into the tree-line, sustaining various injuries, including the near-loss of an eye, along the way. With messages from the support team indicating the approach of our target, we decided that we didn’t have time for further clandestine nonsense and retreated to the higher-profile, but more expeditious, route of a drainage ditch close to the road.

2. Role-play

With our people in place we went over the plan. One would be traffic control, kicking things off by very visibly entering the road and bringing the convoy to a halt for as long as it took for them to be arrested and removed. Whilst this was happening, another two would go for the first warhead carrier, trying to get on top of and underneath it to see which approach proved most effective in delaying the beast. Meanwhile, our fourth agent would be taking action-packed pictures and legal-observing, staying out of the way and getting back to camp to get the word out pronto once everything was over. These roles were based on individual strengths and weaknesses – for example, our climber is a big feartie who has jeopardised actions in the past with weird outbursts of trepidation, so wasn’t suitable for the crucial traffic-control job. With each assigned to something they were comfortable with, it was time to break out our gear.

3. Tools of the trade

We’d decided early on that use of heavy equipment like tripods and tubes would need more people on the job in support roles, therefore sticking to things we could carry in our pockets or small bags. Our traffic controller got a hi-vis vest, a peace flag, and a head-torch for maximum visibility on the road. Our up-and-down guys each took lock-on clips (simple chains with carabiner clips) and superglue, with a great bespoke banner to the climber for maximum visibility. A phone with both camera and internet capabilities went to our documentarian-observer-porter-PR-person superhuman. Everyone ready, we immediately received another message – the convoy was near and getting nearer. With a last, lingering look at our sackload of doughnuts that we’d not now have time to eat, we wished each other luck and got into position.

4. Stop, in the name of love (and peace)

We heard the convoy coming long before we saw it, but minute-to-minute updates from our mobile support made certain we were primed for the push-off. Garbed in gaudy flourescents, and furnished with first-hand observation of previous convoys, the first stopper waited patiently for the approach of the lead police car in the main convoy before boldly stepping before it to bring the trucks to a stop and the action to a start. As predicted, the police gave this person their full attention, failing to notice the disturbance in the bushes as two more of the anti brigade made their way to an unguarded warhead carrier. With the first arrest complete, and a false sense of security, the convoy began to move off again — only to halt almost instantly as a clattering behind the cabin of the first carrier signalled the intervention of our climber. This also triggered the deployment of the remainder of the police escort, and a second arrest was made as the under-blockader was unable to go to ground whilst the target vehicle was still moving.

Gaining the roof of the truck, our get-up-guy broke out the banner and waved its demand at the increasing number of police who were milling around in some disarray – ‘GET YOUR BOMBS OFF OUR STREETS’. Meanwhile, our person of record took some snaps from what seemed a safe distance, as well as making calls to advise our support team and the Nukewatch network as to what was happening.

Thus began something of a stand-off, as the police progressed from running around autonomously taking on random tasks to a slightly more coordinated response. With no chance of a voluntary descent by our climber, a support team got their gear together whilst most of the rest of the cops set to beating the bushes with broom-handles in an attempt to flush out hidden hippies. This process slowly but inexorably brought them to our comprehensive support person and arrest number three.

Pre-empting the raising of the ladders, the last blockader broke out the glue and got sticky with it, attaching one hand to a sidelight at the front of the truck cabin. This precipitated another ten minutes’ running around by the forces of oppression, as a bucket was sought and soapy solution prepared therein. Finally a grizzled specialist mounted the cabin to unseal flesh from plastic, becoming the first of many police to lay hands on the persistent protestor. It seemed that they required assistance throughout the process of making their way from the cabin roof to the back of a police van, with a harness and ropes used to lower them to the ground and four or five police then required to move and search them before the cuffs finally went on and the back of the van banged shut.

5. Crime and (lack of) punishment

After a detour to shepherd the resurgent convoy safely to Coulport, what followed for our people was a long and uneventful weekend staring at the walls in Clydebank nick (some preferred to read). Brought to court in Dumbarton on Monday, three of the four arrested were pleased to be warned about their future behaviour, with the hapless climber given court dates for breach of the peace and resisting arrest charges. If you want to be there for that, the fun is scheduled to start on October 31st at Dumbarton Sheriff Court.

Since our return, we’ve been pleased and privileged by the many messages of support we’ve received. Thanks to all who sent them, and to the Nukewatch network who tracked the trucks, and to the roving support who stayed on top of them so we could get on top of them, and to the Campers left to manage the Camp whose celebration meal was a winning counter to the cardboard cuisine the prisoners had endured, and to the supporters who made their way to court to ensure a friendly presence, and to the former campers whose advice informed the action, and to anyone else we’ve regrettably failed to include in this list. All these actions are a mass team effort in some way. Here’s to many more, for as long as it takes…

Ending the Civilian Use of Highly Enriched Uranium

CNS | Miles Pomper | May 28, 2014

View the full article by The Stanley Foundation:
Crossing the Finish Line: Ending the Civilian Use of Highly Enriched Uranium

Winning global support to phase out the civilian use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) has been one of the seminal achievements of the Nuclear Security Summit process that President Barack Obama started four years ago.

For decades, the United States has sought to secure and minimize the worldwide use of this dangerous nuclear bomb-making material. Important US-led efforts such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative have successfully eliminated civilian HEU in more than two dozen countries, removing enough material to build 200 nuclear weapons. However, broader international efforts have been too often hampered by a lack of multilateral support.

As the final summit approaches in 2016, the world needs a comprehensive strategy to eliminate HEU from the civilian sector, write CNS Senior Research Associate Miles Pomper and student Philippe Mauger in a new policy analysis brief for the Stanley Foundation. Pomper and Mauger argue that the United States, the Netherlands, and South Korea should take full advantage of the NSS mechanisms—while they have them—to build sustained support for civilian HEU elimination.

Pomper and Mauger offer a dozen specific recommendations, including:

  • Calling for an explicit commitment in the NSS communiqué to end civilian HEU use, when technically and economically feasible, not merely to minimize it.
  • A gift basket or a joint statement drafted by the NSS troika of hosts (the United States, South Korea, and the Netherlands) that provides a road map for ending civilian HEU use within a clear time period.
  • A commitment at the 2016 NSS to end exports of the vital HEU-based isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) unless international experts certify that global non-HEU production capacity is not sufficient.
  • Continued attempts to convince Belarus and South Africa to reduce the risk created by their HEU stockpiles, including through several potential compromises with South Africa.
  • Efforts to build on the success of an effort to remove hundreds of kilograms of weapon-grade HEU from Japan.

Joint Statement by Ashton and Zarif

Joint Statement By EU High Representative Catherine Ashton And Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Eurasia Review OP-ED | July 20, 2014

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, made today the following statement:

“We, together with the Political Directors of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), have worked intensively towards a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, building on the political momentum created by the adoption and smooth implementation by both sides of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on 24 November 2013. We are grateful to the Austrian government and the United Nations for their tremendous support in hosting these negotiations in Vienna.

We have held numerous meetings in different formats, and in a constructive atmosphere, to reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.

During the past few weeks, we have further intensified our efforts, including through the active involvement of E3+3 Foreign Ministers or their Vice Ministers, who came to Vienna on 13 July 2014 to take stock of progress in the talks. While we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.

We, together with the Foreign Ministers of the E3+3, have therefore decided to extend the implementation of measures of the Joint Plan of Action until 24 November 2014, in line with the timeframe that we envisaged in the Joint Plan of Action. Iran and the E3/EU+3 reaffirm that they will continue to implement all their commitments described in the Joint Plan of Action in an efficient and timely manner.

We will reconvene in the coming weeks in different formats with the clear determination to reach agreement on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at the earliest possible moment.”

US Hawks Would Love to Wreck the Iran Talks—but They Won’t

The Nation | Bob Dreyfuss | July 17, 2014

Barring a last-minute miracle, the talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers on Iran’s nuclear program will go into extra time. Since January 20, when the parties began to implement the interim accord struck last fall, the clock has been ticking on a six-month deadline to reach a final agreement. But the accord itself contained an option for another six-month extension, and by all accounts it now appears that that’ll happen. As a result, though, one can expect many of the hawks and neoconservatives who’ve opposed the talks from the beginning to launch a new effort to disparage, disrupt or even wreck the negotiations.

Their effort won’t succeed, though they’re trying. Last January, following the interim accord, a coalition of hawks including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, led by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and a passel of meddling members of Congress tried to enact yet another round of sanctions against Iran—even though the interim accord explicitly forbid the imposition of additional sanctions during the negotiations, and even though the White House made it clear that the legislation that AIPAC wanted would destroy the talks. In a display of toughness, back then the White House issued a strongly worded, direct challenge to the supporters of the sanctions bill, telling them that if they wanted war with Iran, they should say so. The tough talk from the White House scared off a number of pro-AIPAC members of Congress, especially in the Senate, and the legislation died. It was a huge and unprecedented defeat for AIPAC.

Despite important signs of progress, no agreement has been reached yet, so there’ll likely be more talks—perhaps not as long as six months, if an accord can be reached sooner—and President Obama says he’s ready to extend the talks. “We have a credible way forward,” said Obama. In editorials, The New York Times, Bloomberg and, a bit more surprisingly, the hawkish Washington Post support the extension in editorials today. The Times, in its editorial, points out that hawks on both sides would love to derail the talks:

Negotiators have made progress on other issues, such as strengthening inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites and winning Iran’s consent to alter a heavy water reactor at Arak to reduce its plutonium output. None of that has impressed the hard-liners in Tehran and Washington who are determined to sabotage any deal. Some in Congress are demanding conditions that would tie President Obama’s hands and make it impossible to lift sanctions on Iran, essential to any agreement.

Among the conditions demanded by members of Congress is for the United States to get concessions from Iran on issues that have nothing at all to do with the one at hand, such as Iran’s alleged support for terrorism and its program to build missiles. As the White House and the State Department know, adding unrelated topics such as those to the mix now would kill the talks once and for all, convincing Iranians that the United States isn’t serious about an accord.

Members of Congress such as Menendez and Senator John McCain especially oppose US efforts to reduce or eliminate economic sanctions on Iran unless Tehran blows up its entire nuclear program, destroys its infrastructure, halts all enrichment of even low-grade, fuel-quality uranium and takes other steps—unthinkable, now that the United States has conceded formally that Iran can have a limited enrichment program as part of a deal. The issue of economic sanctions is critical for Iran, needless to say. But if the United States overplays its hand—seeking too many concessions from Iran, pushing moderate President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif further than they’re able to go—then, in fact, the worldwide sanctions regime against Iran could crumble. At present, the United States has been able to corral and pressure most of the world into going along with the set of harsh sanctions, part of which are set by a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions and part of which are unilaterally imposed by the United States and other nations. But if the United States pushes Iran too hard, as hawkish members of Congress demand, and the talks fail, it’s likely that the global sanctions effort will fall apart, with countries such as Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan simply ignoring them. So Obama and Kerry have to play their hand very carefully in order to the hold the P5+1 together.

Iran’s Rouhani, Zarif Not Desperate for Nuclear Deal

Lobe Log | Adnan Tabatabai | July 16, 2014

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The negotiations in Vienna between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program are in the home stretch even if the July 20 deadline to reach a final deal set by last year’s interim accord will not be met.

Few expected a deal to be reached so quickly, less than one year after last year’s historic agreement, the Joint Plan of Action. Experts argued early on that there would be an extension. Even Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi said on July 12 that “there is a possibility of extending the talks for a few days or a few weeks if progress is made.”

While the possibility of a final deal being reached any time soon is far from guaranteed, one thing is certain: the Rouhani government’s most important task will be effectively framing the outcome of these talks at home.

Zarif Makes Iran’s Case

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team made two significant moves in presenting Iran’s position more clearly than ever before during this marathon round of talks, which began on July 2.

First, Zarif offered details, for the first time, about Iran’s proposal in an interview with the New York Times.

Second, Zarif’s team published a document clearly outlining Iran’s view of its practical needs for its nuclear program in English, which it distributed through social media.

Prior to this latest round of talks, Zarif also again emphasized his country’s willingness to reach a comprehensive agreement with world powers in a video message released by the Foreign Ministry.

This commitment is based on a number of domestic incentives.

In order to gain more strength in his critical second year in office, President Hassan Rouhani needs a policy success story. Solving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program was among his top campaign promises, and so far he has yet to achieve any of them.

A nuclear deal would embolden him to push for ambitious policy decisions to pursue his other campaign promises.

Rouhani — to use his own words — has to “break” the devastating sanctions imposed on Iran before any meaningful economic reconstruction and development can be implemented.

With a nuclear deal in his pocket, Rouhani could begin to counter Iranian hard-liners’ and conservatives’ deep-rooted scepticism towards the West. Indeed, a nuclear deal would fly in the face of those who argue that the West cannot be trusted. Rouhani could prove that moderation and reconciliation, when strategically applied, can be extremely beneficial.

A no-deal scenario, one could therefore conclude, would considerably weaken Rouhani while strengthening his opponents at home. But this train of thought is highly simplistic.

Framing the Outcome

Regardless of what these negotiations lead to, more than half the battle will involve controlling how the outcome is framed and perceived at home.

Rouhani and Zarif will have to respond to two forms of criticism: factual and ideological.

The factual criticism will be concerned with the actual details of the negotiations — particularly those determining the scope and future prospects of Iran’s nuclear program.

The ideological criticism will be related to Zarif’s negotiating strategy. For Iran’s far-right principlist faction, Zarif’s reconciliatory approach toward world powers is not in line with Iran’s revolutionary ideals.

Many of them former supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, these parliamentarians and archconservative clerics prefer a more confrontational foreign policy approach through which Iran maintains its position of resistance, is the main regional powerhouse and pursues its nuclear program without seeking approval from the international community.

The latter dimension was stressed in a follow-up meeting of the “We’re concerned” conference in Tehran, which I discussed in May. The very same figures who launched the first event gathered again in a “Red lines” session July 15 to set clear limits on what is and is not negotiable.

In many ways, these hard-liners resemble hawks in the US Congress. Both groups are trying hard to impose themselves into the negotiating process and express their discontent at being side-lined through emphatic opposition to reconciliation and prospects for normalized relations.

In fact, deal or no deal, Rouhani and Zarif will have to convince critics at home that they safeguarded Iran’s national interests — especially in terms of scientific progress and security — and maintained Iran’s position as an important regional actor.

Successfully framing the post-negotiations environment will mean that neither Rouhani nor Zarif will be able to maintain their considerable political capital even in a no-deal scenario.

A “Win-Win” for the Supreme Leader

Rouhani and Zarif have not only proven themselves as adept negotiators (Rouhani was Iran’s chief negotiator from 2003-05), they have also been skilfully manoeuvring Iran’s domestic political scene in the following ways:

  1. They know how to address criticism. Be it in media appearances, public speeches or during parliamentary questioning sessions, both of these men have demonstrated the perfect mix of responding to some concerns while strongly making their own cases. They have not allowed their critics to intimidate them.
  2. Whenever criticism has taken over, influential actors including former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, or Chief of staff of the Armed Forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi threw their political weight behind Rouhani and his foreign minister. This was only possible through Rouhani’s connections with various political factions prior to his presidential election and his approach to the presidency thus far. These key figures’ public approval of Zarif’s negotiating strategy has often been voiced with reference to the words of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  3. Iran’s foreign minister has become one of the most popular politicians in Iran. Allowing him to go alone into the firing line of hard-line criticism — especially in the case of a no-deal scenario — could be too costly for the overall political atmosphere The Supreme Leader has therefore not allowed Zarif or Rouhani to be openly criticized too harshly.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, even in the case of a no-deal scenario, the Supreme Leader may, in the end, achieve one major goal: proving to the Iranian public that the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) stood in the way of a final agreement, and not him. While he has thus far supported Iran’s negotiating team, he has consistently decried the other side’s sincerity, which enables him to be right, deal or no deal.

“Khamenei’s personal win-win,” as a Tehran-based political analyst recently told me, would also eliminate a lot of pressure from the Supreme Leader’s shoulders, which — as the past 25 years have shown — has always led to less domestic turmoil.

Indeed, when under pressure, Supreme Leader Khamenei approves tighter security measures. Not only was this the case during the 2009 post-election crisis when crackdowns on protests and the arrests of prominent critics escalated, but also during the final year of the Ahmadinejad presidency when some of his aides were verbally and, in the case of Ali Akbar Javanfekr, even physically attacked.

Thus, Iran’s negotiating partners should keep in mind that while Zarif’s negotiating team is committed to achieving a comprehensive agreement, and Rouhani would gain considerable political clout in the event of one, it would be wrong to operate on the assumption that they are desperate for it. Their careers do not depend on the outcome of the talks.

Photo: The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi (left), and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with President Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Ho, AFP/Getty Images

Revisiting Enrichment for Bushehr

Arms Control Wonk | Mark Hibbs Op-Ed | July 12, 2014

With just days to go before the July 20 deadline for making a deal to end the Iranian nuclear crisis, can’t Iran and the six powers just split the difference and permit Iran to expand its uranium enrichment capacity to about 100,000 centrifuges? No. But that doesn’t have to mean that no agreement can be reached over Iran’s enrichment activity. In principle the powers could offer Iran a deal like this:

  • Iran could use a specified and limited number of centrifuges (or instead installed centrifuge capacity expressed in separative work units (SWU) per year) to produce enriched uranium product (EUP) which would be shipped to Russian fuel fabricator TVEL to make a limited amount of fabricated fuel for the power reactor at Bushehr.
  • Iran might initially be permitted to enrich up to about 10,000 SWU/y (consistent with the number of centrifuges Iran is currently operating), and gradually increase this amount during the term of the final agreement.
  • The agreement would expressly allow the enrichment for the purpose of producing a specific amount of EUP dedicated to fueling specific reactors in Iran only.
  • Since a Russo-Iran understanding from 1992 calls for Russia to supply the fuel for Bushehr for the entire operating lifetime of the reactor, going this route would penalize Russian industry. So Iran and the powers would have to work out a deal to compensate Russian industry for the revenue it would forfeit in permitting Iran to enrich the uranium.
  • This arrangement would obtain for as long as the comprehensive agreement between the powers and Iran remained in force. Thereafter Iran would be free to tailor its nuclear fuel production infrastructure to meet its “practical needs” by a combination of domestic activities and reliance on the world market.
  • With that end in sight, the powers and especially Russia could in coming years negotiate with Iran a longer-term cooperative arrangement underpinned by political incentives (not necessarily limited to nuclear energy) that would encourage Iran to rely on outside sources for fuel and enrichment services for most of what it needs after the “final step” expires.
  • How much centrifuge capacity Iran would be permitted under the comprehensive agreement to produce EUP for Bushehr-1 would depend on the extent to which Iran satisfies the EU3+3 on issues it believes essential.
  • Accordingly, the longer the term of a comprehensive agreement, and the more Iran cooperates with the IAEA in answering PMD-related questions, addresses concerns about the IR-40 heavy-water reactor, and permits access and verification beyond what’s in Iran’s Additional Protocol (AP-plus measures would be developed in part from what the IAEA learned from Iran about its nuclear weapons-related capabilities), the more centrifuges Iran would be permitted to produce the EUP it needs.

An approach like the above won’t satisfy fundamentalists–either in the U.S. or in Iran. It could run aground on the cold logic of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) based on preventing Iran from “breaking out” and making a nuclear bomb using its declared population of centrifuges and enriched uranium. It could also falter on Russian commercial designs to infinitely supply all the enriched uranium and fuel for power reactors in Iran.

The claim of Iranian leaders that Iran needs a uranium enrichment capacity which would represent about 240,000 of the P-1 centrifuges which Iran has set up so far doesn’t even remotely reflect Iran’s “practical needs”—the benchmark for Iran’s future enrichment capacity which was set up by the JPOA. For as long as a comprehensive agreement with Iran will be in force, Iran will not have sufficient infrastructure, experience, and intellectual property to make power reactor fuel for its sole unit, Bushehr-1. Iran’s clerical leaders may not understand or accept that, but the scientists and engineers running Iran’s nuclear power program know it to be a fact. Iran can enrich uranium to its heart’s content, but without Russian cooperation that won’t translate into fuel supply security for Bushehr.

Iran has a weak hand to play in negotiating with Russia to make fuel for Bushehr and other reactors which no one will supply without the Iran nuclear crisis having been diplomatically resolved. Iran has built up its enrichment capability while neglecting the other skills and infrastructure it needs to make reactor nuclear fuel to generate electricity in reactors. The approach outlined above can put Iran squarely on the path of rectifying that deficit. An agreement which provides Iran a stepwise peaceful-use rational for its enrichment program should be in Iran’s interest. To make that happen, Russia’s enrichment industry may have to be compensated to accommodate a greater Iranian stake in the commercial nuclear fuel cycle. But Russia also knows that without a comprehensive deal with Iran, its revenue stream from nuclear business in Iran cannot increase.

A deal like the one outlined above could also serve the long-term interest of the powers negotiating with Iran. The architects who drafted the JPOA as a blueprint for a final deal with Iran set it up as a numbers game to demonstrate to critics in Israel and the U.S. Congress that diplomacy would measurably reduce the threat that Iran would dash to a nuclear bomb using the enriched uranium and centrifuges that Iran had declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That logic implies that, if giving Iran more centrifuges shortens the theoretical timeline to an Iranian bomb, the U.S. administration’s critics will reject the negotiated outcome. Bob Einhorn, the former U.S. State Department negotiator who has transmitted some of U.S. official thinking about these negotiations into the public space, says that Iranian demands for “an enrichment capacity greater than a few thousand first-generation centrifuges would give Iran an unacceptably rapid breakout capability” and therefore be a “show-stopper.”

But the six powers should recall, as U.S. officials have said, that a comprehensive deal with Iran is a package deal—not a matter of checking boxes. Accordingly, if Iran goes far to accommodate the powers as outlined in the last bullet point above, they should be prepared to be flexible about permitting Iran to operate centrifuges which are declared to the IAEA. Seventy years after nuclear weapons were invented, it remains true that nuclear proliferators have by and large attempted to reach for nuclear arms secretly and by means of dedicated nuclear weapons programs—not by diverting declared nuclear materials and infrastructure. While the “breakout” math may assure critics, it may not accurately measure the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and its rigid application could stand in the way of a creative solution to a complex challenge.

This article was originally published in Arms Control Wonk

 

 

Past “Possible Military Dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program

Right-Headedness on the PMD Issue Apparently Prevailing

Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | June 27, 2014

I was pleased to see this NYT article by David Sanger, which seems to indicate that a pragmatic and prudent approach to the PMD issue is prevailing in the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1/IAEA on Iran’s nuclear program. Quoting from the piece:

American negotiators seem to be steering away from forcing a full historical accounting from the Iranians before any accord is signed, arguing that excavating the past is less important than assuring Iran does not have the raw material to make a weapon. And the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said in an interview last week that no one should expect a complete historical accounting.

“It is not possible to find out everything,” said Mr. Amano, a former Japanese diplomat who is trying, as his predecessor did, to work methodically through a list of a dozen areas that he calls “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian program.

As I’ve written before, this is a welcome development, and the negotiators from the West should be complimented for it (never thought you’d hear me say that, did you?). The basic philosophy underlying it, with which I very much agree, is that what is most important now is to come to an agreement among the parties about the present and future, in order to reduce tensions and begin the process of normalizing relations between Iran and the West, both politically and economically. And that stressing investigation into past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear work will only make such a comprehensive agreement impossible.  A very practical position that correctly apportions emphasis, in my view.

There are many, including notably David Albright, who have insisted, and continue to insist, that a full reckoning of Iran’s possible weaponization R&D in the past must precede any comprehensive agreement.  This is entirely impractical, as well as unnecessary, and seems calculated to keep a diplomatic accord from ever happening. I’m pleased that P5+1 negotiators have not listened to such voices on this issue.

More Right-Headedness on PMD

Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | July 17, 2014

from Greg Thielmann in this op-ed in Reuters today:

Though discussions between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are proceeding in parallel to the six-power nuclear negotiations with Iran, some argue that Tehran must “come clean” on past military experiments before it can be trusted to make new commitments. But reaching and implementing a nuclear agreement should not be held hostage to resolving all the complicated questions about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear programs.

I’m following the news on the negotiations like everyone else, and at the moment it doesn’t seem to be looking good for reaching a comprehensive agreement by this weekend. In fact it appears that there is a resignation among the negotiators to opt for an extension of the current interim agreement, and come back to the negotiating table in August or September.

I don’t have a whole lot that’s original to add to the reams of commentary about what should happen here. I’m glad to see some people criticizing the P5+1 for their misplaced focus on denying Iran “breakout capability.”  Paul Pillar and Steve Walt have written very good pieces on this recently. I think the P5+1 negotiators should take their advice and not press for unrealistic limits on Iran’s enrichment capability.

I think the window for making a deal will not last forever, and that Iran has already given a lot by way of concessions on Arak and its enrichment program. Its time for the P5+1 negotiators to realize that the deal isn’t going to get much better, and that not making a deal could result in missing this fleeting opportunity altogether.