Monthly Archives: June 2015

Oekraïne-crisis

– Oekraïne herschrijft geschiedenis: eerherstel nazi’s
– Amerikaanse Congres geeft rol nazi’s in Oekraïne toe
– VS blijven conflicten aan Rusland’s grenzen voeden

Henk van der Keur | 29 juni 2015

Terwijl Poetin door het Westen ervan wordt beschuldigd Russisch nationalisme te voeden, wil onze bondgenoot Oekraïne voormalige nazi’s voortaan als helden vereren. Een gevaarlijke stap die het land verder kan verscheuren. Rechtsnationalisme wordt juist vooral in Oekraïne salonfähig. Het door de Amerikanen gesteunde postcoup-regime in Oekraïne steunt zwaar op het Azov-bataljon, een militie die sterke banden heeft met neonazi’s en die verantwoordelijk is voor etnische zuiveringen in het oosten van Oekraïne. Dat gaat, zo blijkt nu, ook het Amerikaanse Congres te ver. Onlangs besloot het Huis van Afgevaardigden unaniem om alle steun aan deze nazi stormtroopers stop te zetten. De duidelijke rol van deze neonazi’s en andere rechtsnationalisten binnen de Oekraïense regering werd in de Westerse media lange tijd verzwegen of afgedaan als Russische propaganda. Het verloop van de gebeurtenissen roept herinneringen op aan soortgelijke conflicten aan Rusland’s grenzen in het recente verleden. Europa lijkt daaruit maar geen lessen te willen trekken. Daardoor blijven patronen zich herhalen en duurt het wapengekletter voort zonder enig vooruitzicht op vredesonderhandelingen. Nu met Oekraïne als epicentrum van een wereldwijde geopolitieke transformatie, waarbij bovendien wordt gedreigd met de inzet van kernwapens.

Eerherstel voor nazi’s
Het Oekraïense parlement, de Opperste Rada, heeft in april een wetsontwerp aangenomen die organisaties eert die betrokken waren bij massale etnisch zuiveringen tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Het wetsontwerp – dat nu op president Petro Poroshenko’s bureau ligt in afwachting van zijn handtekening – erkent een reeks van Oekraïense politieke en militaire organisaties als ‘strijders voor de Oekraïense onafhankelijkheid in de 20e eeuw’ en ‘verbiedt het bekritiseren van deze groepen en hun leden’. Het wetsvoorstel vermeldt niet welke straf erop staat. Twee van de groepen die eerherstel krijgen – de Organisatie van Oekraïense Nationalisten (OUN) en het Oekraïense Opstandige Leger (UPA) – hielpen de nazi’s met het uitvoeren van de Holocaust en doodden bijna 100.000 Poolse burgers tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog. [1] In de Oekraïense geschiedenisboekjes worden deze organisaties neergezet als sociale en pluralistische organisaties die niet alleen joden hebben gered tijdens de Holocaust, maar hen ook uitnodigden om schouder aan schouder te vechten tegen Hitler en Stalin. Zo pogen Oekraïense historici – die na de val van de Sovjet-Unie terugkeerden uit de diaspora – de geschiedenis van de rechts-nationalistische en nationaalsocialistische bewegingen in Oekraïne acceptabel te maken voor Oekraïners. [2]

Amerikanen zetten steun aan neonazi milities stop
De democraat John Conyers – medeoprichter van de Black Caucus in het Amerikaanse Congres – beschrijft Oekraïne’s Azov-bataljon als een 1000 man vrijwillige militie van de Oekraïense Nationale Garde, die Foreign Policy Magazine heeft gekarakteriseerd als ‘openlijk neonazi’ en ‘fascistisch’. En Azov is geen obscure strijdmacht. Minister van binnenlandse zaken Arsen Avakov, die toezicht houdt op de gewapende milities in Oekraïne, kondigde aan dat de troepen van Azov onder de eerste eenheden vielen die door de 300 Amerikaanse militaire adviseurs zouden worden getraind in een missie onder de codenaam ‘Onverschrokken Verdediger’ (‘Fearless Guardian’)

Azov bataljon

In een interview met de Oekraïense tijdschrift Focus in september vorig jaar, beschermde Avakov zijn helden. In reactie op een vraag over de Wolfsangel, het symbool van de Oekraïense nazi’s in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, waarmee het Azov-bataljon zich tooit op vlaggen, emblemen en tattoos, zei hij: “In veel Europese steden is een deel van het stadsembleem. Ja, de meeste van de jongens die samen in Azov optrekken, hebben een bepaald wereldbeeld. Maar wie vertelt je dat je over hen zou kunnen oordelen? Vergeet niet wat het Azov Bataljon heeft gedaan voor het land. Vergeet niet de bevrijding van Marioepol, de gevechten bij Ilovaysk, en de nieuwste aanvallen in de buurt van de Zee van Azov. Moge God toestaan dat iemand die hen bekritiseert 10 procent doet van wat zij hebben gedaan. En wie mij gaat vertellen dat deze jongens nazi-denkbeelden prediken, de swastika dragen, enzovoort, zijn louter leugenaars en dwazen.” [3]

wolfsangel-ukraine

Wolfsangel

De conservatieve Londense krant Telegraph bood meer details over het Azov-bataljon in een artikel van correspondent Tom Parfitt, die schreef: “Kiev’s gebruik van vrijwillige paramilitairen om de door de Rusland gesteunde ‘volksrepublieken’ van Donetsk en Loegansk uit te roeien, zouden koude rillingen moeten doen zenden over Europa’s rug.” [4]

Rusland wil vrede, VS willen oorlog
Weinig mensen geloven nog dat het Minsk-2 akkoord stand zal houden. Niet Rusland – zoals veel westerse nieuwsconsumenten zullen denken – helpt het akkoord om zeep. Zowel Moskou als Kiev hebben weinig te winnen en veel te verliezen bij het voortduren van het conflict. De druk voor ondermijning van het Minsk-2 akkoord komt uit Washington dat zijn invloed gebruikt om de regering in Kiev tot een offensieve houding te bewegen jegens Rusland. Maar wat heeft Washington te winnen met het tegenwerken van vredesonderhandelingen? Voor de Amerikaanse neo-conservatieven, die het Amerikaanse buitenlandbeleid domineren, heeft vrede geen enkele waarde. Ze dringen altijd aan op nieuwe oorlogen, zetten Rusland’s buurlanden tegen Rusland op, en zien aanhoudende conflicten aan Rusland’s grenzen in hun belang. Het is een bekend patroon dat we eerder zagen in het voormalige Joegoslavië, Zuid-Ossetië, Abchazië, en Transdnjestrië. De enige conflictoplossing die aanvaardbaar is voor de neo-conservatieven is de overwinning.

Georgië
Nationalistische Georgische milities pleegden begin jaren negentig massale etnische zuiveringen onder de lokale minderheden. Tegen die achtergrond stuurde Rusland op het meest geëigende moment een vredesmacht Georgië in en dat had een breed draagvlak in de Kaukasus. Een logisch vervolg hierop zou zijn dat Georgië het ging bijleggen met zijn minderheden en dat er een compromis zou worden bereikt. Maar dat is nooit gebeurd. De VS beschuldigen Rusland vaak van obstructie die het leven van de burgers in de voormalige Sovjetrepublieken moeilijk maakt. Maar eigenlijk is het de Georgische zijde geweest die consequent extremistische posities heeft ingenomen en het toewerken naar een oplossing onmogelijk heeft gemaakt. In plaats van dialoog heeft Georgië gekozen voor escalatie, door intimidatie om zijn verloren gebieden terug te winnen met wegblokkades, economische sancties en – in het geval van Abchazië – zelfs met terreuraanslagen. Het is voorspelbaar dat dit deze gebieden alleen maar vijandig heeft gemaakt. Het lijkt erop dat Poetin een oplossing met Georgië heeft opgegeven.

Voormalig Joegoslavië
In het voormalige Joegoslavië zagen we in de jaren negentig al dezelfde patronen. Eerst met Kroatië en in 1999 met Kosovo. Republika Srpska (Servische Republiek) houdt in Bosnië de status van een halve paria. Duurzame vrede in Bosnië zou gebaat zijn bij een federatie van regio’s waarbij in elke regio één van de etnische groepen een grote meerderheid heeft. Door deze regio’s vetomacht te geven, kunnen de expliciete vetomachten voor etnische groepen uit de grondwet worden geschrapt en een grote stap voorwaarts worden gezet naar het normaliseren van de betrekkingen. Maar ook hier heeft het Westen – onder leiding van de VS – besloten om de huidige situatie te laten dooretteren. Ze willen hun voorkeursvariant voor hervorming – centralisering – erdoor drukken of anders niets. Hetgeen de Bosnische Serviërs als een nederlaag beschouwen.

Oekraïne en Georgië
Net als de Georgiërs, de Moldaviërs, Kroaten en Bosnische leiders zijn de Oekraïense leiders door de VS voortdurend aangemoedigd om extremistische posities in te nemen. En net als die andere leiders geloven ze de propaganda en handelen ze ten koste van zichzelf en hun land. Het patroon van het verwerpen van de dialoog en het proberen om oplossingen met geweld te beslechten, zoals we nu zien in Oekraïne lijkt sterk op wat er is gebeurd in Georgië.

Zware wapens en kernwapens
Na de NAVO-expansie in 2004, toen de Baltische landen zich aansloten, vermeed Washington permanente stationering van troepen en materieel toen het nog verscheidene vormen van partnerschap zocht met Rusland. Die periode ligt achter ons. De NAVO zendt zwaar wapentuig naar verscheidene Baltische en Oost-Europese landen als reactie op de ‘Russische agressie’. Daaronder ook veel wapensystemen met het kernafvalproduct verarmd uranium die vooral in Irak veel dood en verderf hebben gezaaid. Het lijkt een slotact te zijn van een reeks conflicten die sinds de val van de Muur aan Rusland’s grenzen zijn uitgelokt en in stand gehouden door de VS in NAVO-verband. Een Euraziatische integratie, waarvan de contouren al zichtbaar worden, wil de VS met alle geweld de kop in drukken. Desnoods met kernwapens. Europa moet wakker worden.

[1] Cohen, Josh, Reuters, May, 14, 2015: Vladimir Putin calls Ukraine fascist and country´s new law helps make his case
http://tinyurl.com/mkccrls

[2] Rudling, Per A., The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths. The Carl Beck Papers, No. 2107. University of Pittsburgh Press, November 2011
http://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/164

[3] Parry, Robert, Consortium News, June 12, 2015: U.S. House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine
https://consortiumnews.com/2015/06/12/u-s-house-admits-nazi-role-in-ukraine/

[4] Parfitt, Tom, Telegraph, 11 August 2014: Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists
http://tinyurl.com/otz39ad

Dit artikel is ook verschenen in Proces Nieuws 106 (juni 2015)

‘We Ain’t Found Shit’ – Why Iran shouldn’t accept ‘no notice’ inspections

Scott Ritter explains why Iran shouldn’t accept ‘no notice’ inspections of its nuclear sites

By Scott Ritter | Information Clearing House | June 28, 2015

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and what’s known as the P-5 + 1 group of nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany) are scheduled to conclude on 30 June. A ‘framework agreement’ was set out in April, but still at issue is what kind of access inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will have. Iran has agreed to inspections of all the sites it has declared are being used to develop its nuclear power programme. The US insists that any agreement must also address what it calls ‘possible military dimensions’ – that is, allegations that Iran has pursued an undeclared nuclear weapons capability – and is demanding the right to conduct ‘no notice’ inspections of nuclear sites, and to interview Iranian nuclear scientists. ‘It’s critical for us to know going forward,’ the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said in June, that ‘those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way.’ France has said that any agreement that doesn’t include inspections of military sites would be ‘useless’. Iran has been adamant that it won’t allow them and that its nuclear scientists are off-limits. These positions seem irreconcilable and unless something changes a nuclear accord is unlikely.

My first experience as a weapons inspector was in implementing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the US and the former Soviet Union, and I’m a firm believer that on-site inspections should be part of any arms control agreement. As a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, I worked closely with the IAEA to investigate Iraq’s past nuclear weapons programme, and I have confidence in the IAEA’s ability to implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The provisions of the NPT are at the heart of the framework agreement with Iran, and the measures contained in it – which include sophisticated remote monitoring, and environmental sampling at undeclared facilities – should be more than adequate to establish whether or not it has diverted any nuclear material to a weapons programme. The framework agreement also calls for a range of verification measures beyond those required by the NPT. These cover centrifuge production and aspects of the uranium fuel cycle such as mining and processing, and are needed to verify that Iran isn’t engaged in covert uranium enrichment using a secret cache of centrifuges and unaccounted-for stocks of uranium ore. No notice inspections to investigate ‘possible military dimensions’, however, go far beyond anything required by the NPT. The question is whether such an intrusive measure is warranted or whether, as Iran argues, the inspections would infringe its legitimate security interests.

The facts appear to support Iran’s position. Countries subjected to intrusive no notice inspections have to be confident that the process isn’t actually an intelligence-led operation aimed at undermining their legitimate interests. The nuclear framework agreement with Iran doesn’t require the IAEA to accept anything Iran declares at face value, but none of its protocols justifies no notice inspections of military sites. Iran signed the Joint Plan of Action in 2013, and has abided by the verification conditions it required without incident. This track record should count in its favour, especially when you consider the dubious results of no notice inspections since they were first carried out in 1991.

*

Until the late 1980s, on-site inspections hadn’t been included in any postwar arms control agreements. For decades, negotiators from the US and the Soviet Union discussed different verification measures, including remote sensor monitoring, overflights and ‘national technical means’ (a euphemism for spy satellites). But whenever the US raised the possibility of on-site inspections, the Soviet Union would protest, believing that teams of inspectors visiting sensitive sites would be used as a cover for intelligence-gathering. For the Americans, on-site inspections became a litmus test for judging how serious the USSR was about a particular arms control issue. In July 1987, when the Soviet Union accepted a US plan for verification of disarmament that included an intensive programme of on-site inspections, many American negotiators were taken by surprise. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed that December, and on-site inspections became an essential part of disarmament agreements.

By ratifying the INF treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that teams of inspectors would supervise the destruction of missiles, conduct ‘baseline’ inspections of all declared facilities and regular monitoring inspections at each country’s largest missile production facility: the Hercules Plant in Utah, and the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant in the foothills of the Urals. Provisions for short-notice ‘challenge’ inspections – which could be at any declared site and could not be refused – were agreed on and implemented without any serious disputes. Mutual fears over the ‘inspector-spy’ gaining access to sensitive military installations soon gave way to mutual respect for the professionalism of the inspectors and the inspected.

During the 13 years that on-site inspections were in force, both parties were serious about keeping to the provisions of the INF treaty. Proposals – I know of two – to expand intelligence collection by US inspectors beyond what could be observed through serendipity were immediately rejected by the CIA. This didn’t mean there wasn’t any controversy: there was a crisis, for example, over the US installation of an X-ray imaging system known as CargoScan at Votkinsk in the spring of 1990: the Soviet Union was concerned that it might damage the propellant in its non-treaty-limited missiles. But rather than allow their differences to undermine the treaty, both parties continued to refer back to its terms when seeking a solution for any problems. The INF treaty became the template for subsequent arms control and disarmament agreements, whether bilateral (such as the US-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START) or multilateral, such as the Security Council resolutions calling for the disarmament of Iraq in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. With START, the INF model worked. In Iraq it didn’t.

In the INF model, all inspection procedures were spelled out in the treaty, and what was inspected was determined by data provided by the inspected party. Intelligence played a minor role: the CIA operated two ‘gateway’ facilities – one in Frankfurt and the other at Yokota Air Base in Japan – which provided support for INF inspections. This support was logistical – equipping and arranging transport for the inspection teams – and it was never the intention that CIA intelligence should alter the course of the inspections themselves. Inspections in Iraq were initially supposed to operate in the same way, with Security Council resolutions and Iraqi declarations setting the parameters for on-site inspections. But incomplete data submissions and active concealment by Iraq made the INF model hard to follow. For Unscom, the UN programme to inspect Iraqi weapons, on which I served between 1991 and 1998, the CIA set up a ‘gateway’ operation in Bahrain, with the assistance of the British, Canadian and Australian intelligence services. Intelligence support was available only to those four countries. This led to friction within the inspection teams, and concerns about American influence over what was supposed to be a UN operation.

Two senior Americans at Unscom with considerable experience in INF inspections, the director of operations and a ballistic missile chief inspector, did their best to strike a balance between the UN’s need to maintain its independence and the CIA’s sensitivities over information security. But Iraqi obstruction made it possible for the CIA to criticise both men for being too soft on the Iraqis and having an anti-American bias. In October 1991 Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, demanded that they respond to the CIA’s allegations. The charges against them were refuted, and Powell dropped his inquiry, but by the summer of 1992 both men had been pushed out of Unscom.

The CIA was in a position to make demands because intelligence provided by the US played such an important role in the Unscom inspections. A pair of Iraqi defectors had provided the CIA with information about locations in Baghdad used to hide sensitive documents from the inspectors. A joint Unscom-IAEA inspection team was put together in a rush, the critical mission planning done not by the director of operations or the veteran INF chief inspector but by the CIA. The result was what’s known as the ‘parking lot incident’: in September 1991, the inspection team seized thousands of documents, including some that provided clear evidence that Iraq had an undeclared nuclear weapons programme. The team was led by an aggressive IAEA inspector called David Kay, though it was not really an IAEA operation but a US one: the deputy chief inspector, the American diplomat Bob Gallucci, called most of the shots. ‘The team,’ Gallucci said in 2001, ‘was very, very special … we had a lot of team members with special skills, especially people who knew how to search buildings.’ Gallucci recalled sitting with another inspector, who ‘looked at the fellow who was driving the vehicle, who was one of our “special people”, and he said to me: “He does not look like a physicist.” And I said: “It’s just because he has a really thick neck. Is that what you’re thinking?” And he said: “Yes, that … and the crew cut. Where did you get him?” I answered: “Well, there was an ad in the New York Times.”’ In fact, these ‘special’ team members, trained in ‘close target reconnaissance’ and ‘surreptitious entry’, worked for the Combat Applications Group and the Special Activities Division, better known as Delta Force and the CIA. And after the success of the parking lot incident the US relied on them to conduct all no notice inspections in Iraq. From the American perspective, Unscom now had a model of on-site inspection that worked.

*

I got my first taste of the realities of no notice inspections in December 1991 at a US-run briefing in an aircraft hangar in Bahrain. My notes from that day: ‘The inspection is like a raid. Surprise, speed and decisive action will carry the day.’ The instructor was a man of military bearing with a non-regulation haircut and facial hair, an expert in what he called ‘sensitive site exploitation’ – the art of rapidly entering and evaluating a room or structure for persons and materials of interest, and securing anything worthwhile. Other members of the team included a number of US paramilitary types, French Marine commandos, various British soldiers of fortune, and the odd rocket scientist, chemist, biologist and nuclear physicist. It could have been a casting call for Mad Max.

When we arrived in Iraq, our convoys of four-wheel-drive vehicles raced through city streets or across the desert, with sensor-laden helicopters and U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft above and high-resolution spy satellites providing further imagery. Later inspections included covert operators whose task was to intercept sensitive Iraqi communications, as well as networks of agents who reported on what was happening in and around the targeted areas. The parking lot incident was the template for these raid-like inspections: highly sensitive intelligence was released by the US on condition that the inspectors would protect the source and make sure they surprised their targets.

But in the summer of 1996, the CIA used paramilitaries assigned to an Unscom inspection team to assist in a failed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein – an action which Unscom had no knowledge of, and would never have permitted – and from then on Bob Gallucci’s special people were no longer made available by the US government. By this time, however, Unscom had significant experience in no notice inspections. By 1997 I had started to run a five-day Inspector Operations Course before each major inspection round. The techniques used in the raids themselves remained fundamentally unchanged, although some new tactics, such as the use of remote cameras, had been added. Team members were instructed in subjects ranging from cultural sensitivity (‘Your behaviour must be beyond reproach at all times’) to attitude (‘You are the Alpha Dog’), along with training in site exploitation, document processing and tactical convoy driving.

Inspectors’ résumés no longer listed work in places like Mogadishu, Khartoum or San Salvador, but rather involvement in Unscom missions that had often turned into intense confrontations between inspector and inspected. The change led to a new ‘inspector culture’ that was alien to all who weren’t part of the tribe. A reporter from Le Monde observed this in action at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which served as the headquarters of the United Nations in Iraq: ‘One lot wore jeans, knocked back cans of beer, played darts and put on deafening disco music. The other group wore ties, sipped gin and tonics, watched CNN news and tried to turn down the volume of the music.’ Inspectors were derided by their humanitarian colleagues as ‘cowboys’, and the humanitarian workers were referred to by inspectors as ‘bunny huggers’.

There’s no doubt that the Unscom cowboys had a bit of an attitude, but it sprang from unfulfilled expectations, not arrogance. Each inspection began like a cup final, only to lose its excitement because of Iraqi obstructionism, external political interference (usually from the US) or Security Council ambivalence – sometimes all three. Team morale remained high, but cynicism crept in: our theme song was U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, and every laptop had a copy of a clip from the movie Spaceballs (‘Find anything yet? We ain’t found shit!’) that was played at the end of each day, as we returned empty-handed to prepare our daily reports.

*

During my seven years as an Unscom inspector, I worked with the CIA, the Israeli Aman, the Dutch BVD and the German BND. But my closest relationship was with British intelligence. From 1991 to 1996, our dealings were managed through Operation Rockingham, a Defence Intelligence Service organisation that served as a clearing-house for all the intelligence support provided to Unscom by the UK. By 1996 most of Unscom’s leads had dried up and my need for actionable information was such that the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agreed to deal with me directly. The SIS assigned me a codename – Dark Knight – for use in our correspondence (Richard Butler, Unscom’s executive chairman, was Dark Prince).

The sites for Unscom inspections were originally determined by declarations made by Iraq. In the first statements it provided to the UN, in April 1991, it underestimated its holdings of chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, and failed to acknowledge either a biological or nuclear weapons programme. Unscom was forced to turn to member governments for new intelligence to make up for the information shortfall. The inspection process temporarily revived: information from a defector led to the parking lot incident, which exposed the existence of the country’s nuclear weapons programme; satellite imagery detected a still existing covert missile force; and contracts that documented the purchase of complex growth media for propagating bacteria compelled Iraq to admit it had a biological weapons programme. But even this intelligence had a ‘use by’ date. What was lacking was a source inside Iraq who could update the information provided by defectors. The CIA refused to discuss the agents it might be controlling inside Iraq and how they might be able to help Unscom. SIS was much more accommodating, especially after a meeting I attended at its headquarters in Vauxhall in August 1997. Debriefing reports coming out of the gateway office in Bahrain had highlighted the name of a Special Republican Guard officer who had had contact with the inspection team. It happened that this officer had been in contact with relatives in England, and had expressed dissatisfaction with life in Iraq. SIS had assigned him the codename Ultimate Goal, but since it no longer had a presence inside Iraq, the recruitment effort had gone nowhere.

Enter Unscom. At Vauxhall the SIS official responsible for the Middle East (I’ll call him ‘the Don’) approached me about a matter of great sensitivity. It was my inspection team that had made contact with Ultimate Goal, and I’d spent a significant amount of time questioning him about his role in concealing material from Unscom. ‘Could you arrange for another inspection of his office?’ the Don asked. I told him that I could. The Don then introduced me to an Arabic-speaking junior officer (the Junior Executive), and we hatched a plan. I would get the Junior Executive into Ultimate Goal’s office, and then create a distraction while the Junior Executive conducted a quick assessment of the situation before deciding whether or not to place in Ultimate Goal’s desk instructions on how to make contact with SIS. I ran this by my boss, Richard Butler, when I returned to New York, and to my surprise he signed off on the proposal without any debate. The next month, the Junior Executive gained access to Ultimate Goal while I kept his colleagues busy. I don’t know what the result of the mission was. ‘We won’t be able to tell you if this worked or not,’ the Don had told me. ‘What I can promise you is that if and when we get information that is of use to you and your team, you will get it.’

The continued failure of Unscom to uncover significant proscribed activities and material in Iraq, combined with the political fallout from the no notice inspections, caused Unscom’s collapse in 1998. SIS played a role in the final drama: an agent in Iraq provided information about ballistic missile components hidden in a Baath Party property in Baghdad. The site was due to be inspected in August 1998, but the mission was aborted after the Iraqis ceased all co-operation with Unscom. In December 1998 Unscom tried again to inspect it, prompting a confrontation with Iraq that led to the withdrawal of Unscom and to Operation Desert Fox, a 72-hour aerial assault by the US and the UK. Unscom inspectors never returned. In September 2002, I went back to Iraq to film a documentary about disarmament and visited the Baath Party property in question. The SIS report contained errors in critical details about its layout, bringing into question the source’s credibility; it’s unlikely anything would have been found had an inspection gone ahead.

*

Unmovic, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, was created by the UN Security Council in December 1999. It was designed to be different from its predecessor, staffed by employees paid by, and ostensibly loyal to, the UN; Unscom had used ‘experts on mission’ loaned from its member governments. Each inspector was required to attend a month-long course of instruction; in February 2003 Unmovic’s executive chairman, Hans Blix, told attendees at one such course that there would be ‘detailed lectures about various Iraqi weapons programmes, about the result of past inspections, about the craft and tools of inspection, the rights and duties of inspectors in Iraq and about the history, culture and religions of Iraq’. An Unmovic inspector, he said, should be ‘driving and dynamic – but not angry and aggressive’; ‘ingenious – but not deceptive’; ‘keeping some distance – but not arrogant or pompous’. Between its creation and the return of inspectors to Iraq in November 2002 Unmovic had nearly three years to prepare. Once on the ground, it conducted 750 inspections at 550 sites. Most of them were routine, familiarising Unmovic inspectors to sites already inspected by Unscom. But there were also no notice inspections of sites that hadn’t been inspected before, based on intelligence provided by supporting governments. The vast majority of these inspections produced no results: the intelligence was either wrong or out of date. But on one occasion it was dead-on: the inspection of the home of Fahel Hassan Hamza, a scientist who in the 1980s had conducted work related to the laser separation of radioisotopes. A cache of three thousand documents was discovered, most of which related directly to Hamza’s work with lasers. It looked as if the Unmovic model had succeeded where Unscom had failed.

Inspectors have remained tight-lipped about the tip that led to the inspection of Hamza’s house. The British government’s ‘Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (better known as the Butler Review), published in July 2004, attributes the intelligence to the UK, and most likely to SIS. According to the Butler Review, SIS had six agents in Iraq at the time. (I can’t ascertain if one of them was Ultimate Goal.) The nuclear-related reporting appeared to come from two of these sources, both termed ‘new’, neither of whom had direct experience in current WMD programmes. The British were more reticent about sharing human intelligence sources with Unmovic than they had been with Unscom. Unmovic’s new ‘independent’ profile meant it was willing only to receive information.

Unmovic’s point of contact for receiving foreign intelligence, the Canadian ex-intelligence officer Jim Corcoran, was cleared to handle sensitive information, but SIS was less confident about the rest of the Unmovic staff or its procedures for transmitting sensitive data into Iraq. When Corcoran met with SIS, they insisted that intelligence had to be carried into Iraq by hand, and that knowledge of each report had to be limited to as few people as possible. Two inspectors – Kay Mereish, a retired US colonel who had worked at the Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, and Martin Fosbrook, a British biologist – flew back to New York so that Corcoran could brief them, along with Dimitri Perricos, a veteran IAEA inspector who served as chief inspector for this mission, in a secure space, precluding any need for conversation in Iraq of a sort that shouldn’t be overheard. On 14 January the three inspectors returned to Baghdad. Two days later they inspected Faleh Hamza’s house.

On the morning of 16 January 2003 a convoy of white UN vehicles left the Canal Hotel, accompanied by their Iraqi minders in a hotchpotch of civilian vehicles. The convoy crossed the Tigris and arrived in Ghazaliyah, a neighbourhood in west Baghdad, just after nine in the morning. As well as Hamza’s house, the inspectors raided the house of his next-door neighbour, Shakir al-Jibouri, another Iraqi nuclear scientist. Both men were at work, and only their wives and children were at home. The inspectors waited outside for hours while their Iraqi minders tracked down the two scientists and brought them home. Then the inspections began. The documents were found in a wooden box in a cupboard upstairs in Hamza’s house, and Perricos ordered Mereish to take them into Unmovic custody. The Iraqi government protested and a compromise was struck: Hamza would accompany the documents to the Canal Hotel, where they would be copied by the inspectors in his presence, and he would receive a complete copy. The process took hours, and Hamza claims that at one point he was separated from his Iraqi minder and approached by a female Unmovic inspector who offered to take him and his wife out of Iraq so that he could talk to the inspectors without fear of reprisal. Hamza refused, and later complained to the press about the inspectors’ ‘mafia tactics’.

Blix used the seized documents to remonstrate with the Iraqis; he said that they represented ‘a sign that not everything has been declared’. Colin Powell, then secretary of state, cited the documents as ‘dramatic confirmation’ that Saddam was concealing evidence and not co-operating with the inspections. Unnamed Western diplomats went further, and said the documents showed there was ‘ongoing work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons’. The Iraqi government publicly criticised Unmovic for inspecting a private residence, called the seized documents ‘private papers’, and claimed that their contents were already known to the inspectors, and had nothing to do with the Iraqi nuclear programme. On 14 February Mohammed ElBaradei, then the director general of the IAEA, said that the Hamza documents ‘provided some additional details about Iraq’s laser enrichment development efforts’, but ‘refer to activities or sites already known to the IAEA and appear to be the personal files of the scientist in whose home they were found. Nothing contained in the documents alters the conclusions previously drawn by the IAEA concerning the extent of Iraq’s laser enrichment programme.’ In short, the Unmovic version of the no notice inspection accomplished nothing of significance but contributed to an already confused story. On the eve of an American-led war that used Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as its raison d’être, the results of the inspections proved disastrous.

*

The history of no notice inspections in Iraq does not bode well for their use in Iran. Such inspections are intelligence-based exercises. The bulk of the intelligence underpinning the US concerns over ‘possible military dimensions’ comes from the ‘alleged studies’ documents – a series of files the IAEA obtained in 2008 which appear to show that Iran had conducted some nuclear weapons development in 2002 and 2003. Their credibility has often been called into question and the Iranians declare they are fake. There’s good cause, too, to believe that much of the remaining intelligence buttressing the CIA’s case against Iran is flawed. The strange tale of the Iranian physicist Shahram Amiri, whose defection the CIA facilitated in the spring of 2009, serves as a case in point. Amiri was for several years before his defection an American agent-in-place whose reporting was used by the CIA in formulating its assessments on Iran. But his re-defection to Iran in 2010 suggests that he may have been a double agent, calling into question all his reporting to the CIA, before and after his defection. Operation Merlin, in which the CIA attempted to pass on to Iran flawed designs for a nuclear weapon, further undermines the CIA’s credibility as a source of information about an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

If they were permitted, where would no notice inspections in Iran take place? There are two sites that the IAEA has publicly declared to be of interest. The first is Parchin, a military facility associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command. The IAEA was granted a ‘managed access’ inspection of the facility in 2005, and found nothing. In 2007, the IAEA claimed to have received new information linking Parchin to a test of a neutron initiator, the device which starts fission in a nuclear warhead, and asked to visit the site again. Iran has refused on the grounds that the basis for such an inspection is flawed. Robert Kelley, a former IAEA inspector, agreed: ‘The allegations that Iran carried out hydrodynamic experiments related to nuclear explosives in a large steel containment vessel [at Parchin] have questionable technical credibility.’ Parchin is a sensitive military facility, and Iran fears that giving inspectors access would lead to an intelligence-driven fishing expedition. The other site of interest is in Marivan, where the IAEA contends that Iran conducted large-scale explosive tests of a multi-point initiation system, which is used to initiate nuclear fission, and in doing so to activate the neutron initiator, in a weapon. The source of this allegation appears to be what Iran justifiably claims is a set of forged documents. In 2014, Iran offered to let the IAEA conduct another ‘managed access’ on-site inspection of Marivan; the IAEA declined.

‘You can’t hang your hat on a single issue,’ Garry Dillon, the former head of the IAEA’s Action Team in Iraq, told me in October 1998. ‘By insisting on investigating every minor discrepancy, regardless of the bigger picture, you’re putting process ahead of substance. In the end, all you’ll be doing is chasing ghosts.’ He was right. In Iraq, the inspection process became a vehicle for creating confrontations that undermined international confidence in Baghdad’s willingness to abide by its disarmament obligation. When Iraq finally told the truth about its weapons programmes, no one believed it. We used to joke about how often we came back from an inspection empty-handed, repeating the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The intelligence about the ‘possible military dimensions’ of Iran’s nuclear programme is of questionable provenance and most of it is more than a dozen years old. The consequences of failure to reach a nuclear accord with Iran today are too serious for the world to embrace a process that has been so controversial while having so little impact on legitimate disarmament. This is especially true when the inspected party, as is the case with Iran, has agreed to implement stringent verification measures and has a proven track record of abiding by them. Iran has been put in the impossible position of having to prove a negative. If it accepts inspections based on allegations it knows to be baseless, then it’s opening itself up to an endless cycle of foreign intrusion into its military and security infrastructure, and the inability of inspectors to discover something of relevance will only reinforce the belief that something is being hidden. We saw this happen before in Iraq, and the end result was a war based on flawed intelligence and baseless accusations that left many thousands dead and a region in turmoil.

 

Scott Ritter is a former intelligence officer with the United States Marine Corps. From 1991-98, he served as a Chief Inspector for the UN in Iraq, where he led inspections to find weapons of mass destruction.

United States grants advance consents rights to Korea for overseas reprocessing

IPFM Blog | Shaun Burnie | June 25, 2015

The United States has granted for the first time advance programmatic approval for the Republic of Korea to ship spent fuel overseas for reprocessing. The protracted negotiations between both nations conducted since 2010, concluded with the signing on June 15, 2015 of a new Agreement For Cooperation Between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. While most of the focus on the new agreement was that the Republic of Korea (ROK) would not be permitted to embark on spent fuel reprocessing and uranium enrichment, this specifically applies to the development and operation of such technologies and facilities within the ROK. Whereas, the new agreement grants the ROK advance programmatic approval to ship spent fuel overseas for reprocessing.

This is a departure from the prior agreement between the two nations signed in 1974, under which the right to reprocess would require a determination that it would be in compliance with Article XI. This effectively gave the U.S. a veto right over the reprocessing of ROK spent fuel during the last four decades, despite the efforts of European reprocessing companies to secure contracts.

In the case of the return of ‘recovered material’ – plutonium and uranium to the ROK, the U.S. has committed its approval, but with both parties required to agree to which form, almost certainly it would be in fresh MOX fuel. The process for the return of MOX fuel to the ROK, would require a U.S. ‘Subsequent Arrangement’ to be concluded. Under Section 131 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended by the Nuclear Non Proliferation Act of 1978, U.S. agencies would have to determine that the return of plutonium MOX fuel would not be inimical to its “common defense and security”.

With the conclusion of the new Agreement, the long standing question that has plagued U.S./Korean nuclear relations for decades, why should the ROK not have the same reprocessing rights as Japan, has in part been answered.

In a Minute to the new Agreement, it states that,

2 – The Parties agree that irradiated nuclear material subject to Article 10 and Article 11 of the Agreement may be transferred (such transfers being hereinafter referred to as “retransfers”) by either Party for storage and reprocessing to France, the United Kingdom, and also to any other country or destination as may be agreed upon in writing by the Parties. All such retransfers described in this paragraph shall be made in compliance with the policies, laws, and regulations of the recipient country, group of countries where applicable, or destination.

and,

4 – In the case of irradiated nuclear material subject to the Agreement transferred by either Party pursuant to paragraph 2 of this Section, the non-transferring Party agrees to provide its consent, under the applicable agreement for cooperation, to the return to the territorial jurisdiction of the transferring Party of nuclear material recovered from irradiated nuclear material so transferred subject to the conditions that: (a) Any such nuclear material returned to the territorial jurisdiction of the transferring Party shall be subject to the Agreement; (b) Any such nuclear material recovered from any reprocessing in the third country or destination shall be transferred in the form and subject to physical protection arrangements as agreed in writing by the Parties.

and,

6 – Arrangements for Spent Fuel Management and Disposition 1. The Parties have initiated a joint study to review the technical, economic and nonproliferation (including safeguards) aspects of spent fuel management and disposition technologies (the Joint Fuel Cycle Study). Following the completion of the Joint Fuel Cycle Study, or at such other time as the Parties may agree, the Parties shall consult with a view to identifying appropriate options for the management and disposition of spent fuel subject to the Agreement and for further development or demonstration of relevant technologies. The Parties shall conduct all consultations referred to in this Section as promptly as possible so that nuclear energy programs of either Party would not be unduly hampered due to the delay of the consultations.

After 30 years of nuclear power plant operation, the ROK has yet to secure concrete plans for spent fuel disposal. Attempts have been made to establish an off-site central spent fuel interim storage site but they have failed due to public opposition.The ROK maintains its inventory of spent reactor fuel in wet storage spent fuel pools at each of the four reactor sites, and at a dry storage facility at Wolsong. As of December 2012, there was 5,829 tons of PWR spent fuel in storage at the ROK’s reactor sites, with an additional 6,878 tons of Candu HWR fuel. Annual PWR spent fuel discharge in 2011 was 300 tons and 380 tons HWR.

According to a study performed by an expert group composed of members of the ROK’s nuclear establishment, the storage pools at the ROK’s four reactor sites, Kori, Ulchin, Yonggwang, and Wolsong are projected to be full by 2028, 2028, 2024 and 2025.

In granting advance programmatic approval to the ROK the U.S. has adopted the same approach as the recently concluded agreement with Taiwan, with one significant difference. Whereas, any separated plutonium or uranium from Taiwanese spent fuel would not be permitted to be returned to the country, the ROK has been given that option. Such transfers would be conducted on a case by case basis as was the case between the U.S. and Japan prior to 1988.

The new agreement was signed only a week after an advisory body to the Government recommended that spent fuel dry storage should be undertaken prior to the establishment of a geological repository. There are currently no indications that the Korean nuclear industry have plans to enter into negotiations for the shipment and subsequent reprocessing in Europe.

Trouble ahead for UK’s nuclear hopes

Politico | Sara Stefanini | 25/6/2015

BRIDGWATER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12:  The sun sets behind Electricite de France SA's (EDF) (L) Hinkley Point B, and (R) Hinkley Point A nuclear power stations besides the Bristol Channel near Bridgwater on November 12, 2013 in Somerset, England.  EDF, who last month announced it was to construct a new plant at Hinkley Point after reaching a deal with the U.K. government, said today that energy bills will rise by 3.9 percent on average.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Hinkley Point nuclear power stations on the Bristol Channel, near Bridgwater, Somerset, U.K | GETTY

The next generation of reactors in the U.K. has been in the works for a decade, but now a looming challenge in the European Court of Justice attacking nuclear subsidies, growing technical problems and cost overruns are casting doubt on the idea of using nuclear to meet emissions reduction targets.

The original idea was launched under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said in 2006 that nuclear energy would have to be coordinated with renewables.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government then put its nuclear hopes into French company Areva’s new European pressurized reactor (EPR) technology, with a deal reached in 2013 to provide as much as £17.6 billion in subsidies for two nuclear power units at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which are expected to cost £24.5 billion in total.

But, nine years after Blair’s show of support, the future of Hinkley Point C looks increasingly uncertain, as the first EPR projects in France and Finland have been hampered by delays, cost overruns and safety concerns, and as the Austrian government prepares to challenge the European Commission on its approval of the U.K.’s state aid.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann announced this week the government would lodge its complaint in the European Court of Justice next week; the Greens said it would be Monday. It is backed by Luxembourg, which takes over the European Council presidency next week, as well as a number of companies and cities.

Vienna opposes nuclear energy overall, on the grounds that it is expensive and environmentally dangerous. A long-time importer of nuclear power from the Czech Republic and Germany, the country decided in 2013 to ban all foreign supplies, beginning this year.

The complaint, however, does not seek to interfere with another member state’s choice of electricity supply, Austrian and Luxembourgish sources stressed. Instead, it targets the U.K.’s use of a so-called strike price, which triggers government subsidies if wholesale electricity prices fall below a certain level. Until now, the scheme has only been used to support wind and solar energy projects.

“The technology gives reason for security concerns, and cannot be considered environmentally nor socially sustainable, nor is it an economically competitive technology. It is therefore not qualified to support the energy and climate goals the EU has set,” said MEP Paul Rübig, a European People’s Party member from Austria.

The U.K.’s decision to subsidize the Hinkley project was a political one, based on “very shaky legal grounds,” added MEP Claude Turmes, a member of the Greens from Luxembourg.

“In the EU treaty, it says state aid should only be granted in exceptional cases, and Hinkley does not provide these exceptional security of supply issues, because the U.K. has other ways of ensuring its security of supply,” he said. “It has cheap alternatives, notably renewables like offshore wind, and also more interconnections. Technically, there is no emergency situation.”

Nuclear power was promised to be too cheap to meter. It is now too expensive to generate.

The Commission approved the U.K.’s state aid in October 2014, after Whitehall agreed to change the project financing terms to reduce the burden on taxpayers. The U.K. government succeeded in dispelling the Commission’s doubts about whether the state aid was needed to fix a market failure, and convinced it that consumers would be able to share in the project’s gains.

Europe’s climate action and energy chief, Miguel Arias Cañete, acknowledges there is a role for nuclear. “Nuclear is there, and member states are free to develop and commission nuclear,” he told POLITICO. “The Commission only establishes the best standards of safety; that’s our responsibility.”

Supporting Hinkley

In the deal it reached with energy utility EDF Group and Areva in October 2013, the U.K. agreed to set the price of electricity from Hinkley Point C at £92.50 per megawatt hour for 35 years, making up the difference if the price goes higher. The first unit was expected to start up in 2023.

At the time, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said this would save households £74/MWh per year by 2026-2030. The European Commission estimated it would cost the government between £4.78 billion and £17.6 billion over the period.

While Austria and Luxembourg argue this scheme should be reserved for solar and wind generation, the U.K. believes all three types of energy qualify as zero-carbon sources, which will help it achieve its emissions reduction goals.

The nuclear energy industry agrees. “If there’s any complaint about the U.K. model, it should reflect the fact that the model incorporates all zero-carbon technologies, not just one,” said Michael Kirst, vice president of strategy and external affairs at Westinghouse Electric, which has its own nuclear technology.

Austria’s challenge is unlikely to cause the Commission to reject the state aid outright, but it does raise further uncertainties for Hinkley, said Antony Froggatt, a senior research fellow at Chatham House.

“What is more likely than it being rejected out of hand is that it would be to required to make some modifications. But then the question becomes, what does that do to the business case for Hinkley, and how do the different parties react?” Froggatt said.

Faymann believes it will slow the project, and plans for others. “The purpose of suit is not only to have a postponing effect on the state aid, but especially be a deterrent for investors, not only in Great Britain but across the EU,” the chancellor said.

Make-or-break for Areva

The case also comes amid growing concerns about the cost and safety of Areva’s EPR technology.

Before construction starts on Hinkley, EPR is being put to the test with the Flamanville reactor in France, Olkiluoto in Finland, and Taishan in China.

The Flamanville and Olkiluoto plants are already behind schedule; Flamanville’s start up has been pushed back by a year to 2017, while Olkiluoto is now expected online around 2018, which would be a decade later than planned for a project that started construction in 2005.

Areva is also teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and the French government has backed EDF’s plan to buy a controlling stake in the company to keep it afloat.

But now there could be even more delays and cost overruns. French safety regulators flagged up concerns earlier this month that the steel used for the pressure vessel, which contains the reactor’s radiation, was too weak. To test the vessel’s strength, Areva has said it would break the 110-ton spherical steel lid meant to sit on top of the Hinkley reactor.

This will likely add costs and time, particularly as it may cause U.K. safety regulators to more closely monitor the Hinkley construction, analysts said.

“The regulatory and government uncertainty, coupled with higher construction costs, may cause concern for some of the investors,” said Froggatt. “The industry’s recent record in France has not been good, and delays and uncertainties are likely as a result of further concerns over the material used in the new reactor pressure vessels at Flamanville, which may also affect reactors in China.”

20/20 hindsight

Meanwhile, there is growing talk in the U.K. of whether the government should cut and run from nuclear.

In a speech to the House of Commons last week, Labour MP Paul Flynn questioned whether Whitehall would have made the same decision if it knew what it knows now about the cost of nuclear.

“Nuclear power was promised as an energy source that would be too cheap to meter. It is now too expensive to generate,” said Flynn, adding that the fall in oil and gas prices since 2013 makes the strike price of £92.50/MWh twice the average rate for electricity nowadays.

While the European public has largely turned against nuclear since the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011, the British have been shielded by a “skilled public relations operation,” Flynn added.

Renewables offer alternatives, he said, commending the government for providing funding to project that would harness energy from tides in Wales. “That is vast untapped energy — British, free, eternal and entirely predictable.”

Kalina Oroschakoff contributed to this article.

Preliminary findings positive for Swedish repository

WNN | 25 June 2015

The Swedish nuclear regulator has said it believes the country’s radioactive waste management company can meet all the safety and radiation protection requirements for its planned repository for used nuclear fuel.

Forsmark used fuel repository concept - 460 (SKB)
An artist’s impression of the planned repository concept, with its 66-kilometre network of underground tunnels (Image: SKB)

Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) submitted its application to build the country’s first repository for used nuclear fuel, together with a plant to encapsulate the fuel prior to disposal, to Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, SSM) in March 2011.

The regulator has now outlined its preliminary findings from its ongoing review of SKB’s application to build and operate the repository.

SSM section head Ansi Gerhardsson said, “Our preliminary assessment is that SKB has demonstrated that there are prospects for meeting the authority’s nuclear safety and radiation protection standards in connection with rock excavation, the handling of disposal containers in the underground facility and emplacement of the waste in accordance with SKB’s concept for final disposal.”

She added, “As far as the initial status of the repository after closure is concerned, that is, the starting point for analysis of long-term radiological safety, our assessment is also cautiously positive. However, further investigation work is needed in order for us to take a position on further aspects of SKB’s account of how the repository is expected to comply with radiation safety requirements over a minimum period of 100,000 years.”

SSM said that “certain issues remain to be solved in respect of the repository’s assumed status at closure.” These, it said, primarily relate to the manufacture of the copper canisters in which the used fuel will be stored within the repository. It said it needs to continue its review work in order to determine whether the underlying documentation is sufficient for this step of the licensing process.”

Helene Åhsberg, project manager for licensing at SKB, welcomed the regulator’s initial findings, saying: “The permitting review for the used fuel repository is a gradual process, and therefore it is positive that we have taken a step forward with these preliminary results. We have also received valuable input to take with us in future work. Although these are preliminary assessments, it is of course gratifying that SSM believes we have the potential to meet the requirements, a confirmation that we are on the right path,” she added.

SSM intends to publish additional preliminary findings throughout 2015. It plans to submit an opinion on SKB’s overall licence application to the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm in early 2016. The regulator will deliver its comprehensive final assessment of the application to the government in 2017. SKB plans to start construction of the repository as soon as the government issues a permit, expected sometime in the early 2020s.

Gerhardsson noted, “The outcomes we have presented today are preliminary and it is too soon to draw any conclusion regarding our future overall assessment.”

Sweden’s used nuclear fuel is currently under temporary storage at the interim storage facility (Clab) in Oskarshamn. SKB plans to build a used fuel repository at Forsmark in Östhammars municipality. The method that has been developed involves first encapsulating the fuel in copper canisters, which are then sealed and placed in a system of tunnels about 500 metres deep in the solid bedrock. Here they will be embedded in Bentonite clay.

In February, Finland’s radiation and nuclear safety authority, STUK, gave its backing to Posiva’s application to construct a final repository and waste encapsulation plant. The planned KBS-3 repository for used nuclear fuel would use the same storage method as that which SKB wants to use.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Saudi Arabia, France to sign $12b deals

Gulf News | AFP | June 25, 2015

Paris: Saudi Arabia and France announced contracts worth some $12 billion (about Dh44 billion) in Paris on Wednesday, which included the possibility of France building nuclear reactors in the kingdom.

“We are about to sign deals worth $12 billion,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a news conference ahead of a ceremony between President Francois Hollande and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Under one of the agreements Airbus will sell 23 H-145 multipurpose helicopters to Saudi Arabia for €500 million as well as launch a feasibility study into building the reactors, Fabius said.

A slew of deals worth billions of euros were announced following the first “Franco-Saudi Joint Commission” meeting.

Safety training

Fabius also mentioned the Saudi Arabian Airlines order for 50 Airbus passenger planes valued at $8 billion, first announced at last week’s Paris Air Show.

The study for two European Pressurised Reactors —which France considers the safest and most advanced in the world — takes on added significance given the current efforts by Iran to develop its own nuclear capabilities.

In addition, France will sign an agreement to train the Saudis on nuclear safety and the treatment of nuclear waste.

Fabius also announced a “commitment” from Saudi Arabia to acquire about 30 patrol boats for its navy. “It represents the creation of many jobs and hundreds of millions of euros,” Fabius added.

Nuclear Talks: Paradigm Shift in Iran Foreign Policy?

Lobe Log | Adnan Tabatabai | June 25, 2015

P5+1 Talks With Iran in Geneva, Switzerland. November 24, 2013. U.S. Mission / Eric Bridiers

 

During my recent trip to Tehran I had a chance to listen to and participate in discussions on both the political and societal levels about the final stages of the nuclear talks. As I discussed here in mid-February, the level of anxiety in Iran could not be higher.

More importantly, the overall debate about the talks and all its details goes far beyond factional politics. The often-cited (mostly Western) perception that debates in Iran on the nuclear issue run along factional lines is simplistic and misleading.

This debate is not defined by an ideological or programmatic gap between reformists and principlists or moderates and conservatives. Rather, this debate is about Iran’s general foreign policy conduct. In fact, the Islamic Republic is in the process of implementing a foreign policy shift from isolation and resistance towards constructive engagement and cooperation.

If the implementation of this new conduct proves effective and yields foreign policy successes (such as a comprehensive nuclear agreement), it may well lead to an enduring new foreign policy paradigm. But speaking of Iranian politics in factional terms—even after the deal is struck—can harm Iran’s internal dynamics and distract from following up on a promising new foreign policy approach.

Growing Regional Instability

Iran’s foreign policy shift is a logical consequence of the dramatic regional developments since 2010-11 as well as evolving domestic dynamics as early as spring 2011. These changes began to take place long before anyone expected Hassan Rouhani to win the presidential elections in summer 2013.

On the regional front, the post-“Arab Spring” contexts have significantly changed the nature of Iran’s regional security concerns and threat perceptions. Between the early 2000s and early 2011, literally encircled by US military bases, troops, and US-controlled air space, Iran perceived the US military presence in the region as its major security threat.

After 2011, however, the lack of stability, integrity, and security in the region concerned Tehran. With the gradual withdrawal of the US in the region (particularly from Iraq) Iran has had no choice but to act as a responsible actor trying to stabilize this highly conflict-prone region. There is no external superpower anymore that Iran can blame for the region’s insecurity.

Iran has thus put a lot of effort into strengthening the central governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Similarly, Tehran advised Yemen’s Ansarullah movement not to seize the capital Sana’a (but it did not listen). It is not in Iran’s security interest for non-state actors to gain control of capitals in the region. After all, no international conventions, no bilateral or multilateral agreements, and no diplomatic principles apply to such organizations.

Extremism, as Iranian officials well understand, flourishes best in such fragile contexts. The uncontrolled circulation of weapons, the increasing number of refugees, and the negative impact on the overall regional economics all pose a direct threat to Iran.

Hence, the Rouhani administration is seeking to foster regional cooperation. It has made overtures to Saudi Arabia many times and on various levels since Rouhani became president. But this outreach has not been well received in Riyadh. Indeed, the olive branch appears to have intimidated Saudi Arabia.

The already complex relation between the two countries reached a new low during the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen explicitly aimed at thwarting what Riyadh perceives as Iran’s regional ambitions. Western states may therefore have to facilitate rapprochement, according to some Iranian officials who believe in the necessity of improved relations.

Emphasis on National Security

Not only regional developments have made Iran change course in its foreign policy. The eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency (2005-13) were defined by a foreign policy that established resistance as an intrinsic value. The idea of resisting US dominance in the region was ubiquitous.

Iran became increasingly isolated regionally and globally. The international sanctions regime significantly exacerbated the already existing economic problems of the country. In addition, the social, cultural, and political environments progressively worsened due to the provocative and polarizing policies encouraged by the dominant discourse.

Eyeing events and uprisings in other parts of the region, however, Iran’s political elite realized this situation was not tenable. Influential clerics and commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, as well as veteran political figures, expressed serious concerns. Two years into the second term of president Ahmadinejad, segments of the elite came to the conclusion that internal divisions and external tensions were starting to undermine national security.

This sense of “national security” became the basis of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency. To put it bluntly, Rouhani promotes the idea of regional cooperation and win-win not because he cares for the win of the “other,” but for what he believes is the most valuable win for Iran: national security. Rouhani speaks in favor of opening up Iran socially and politically not because he believes in pluralism and social participation but because he is convinced that a repressive political landscape will lead to conflict and endanger national security.

Link between Foreign and Domestic Politics

Given the urgent need to improve the economy of the country, President Rouhani has thrown all his weight behind the resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is the embodiment of the foreign policy shift that president Rouhani intends to implement. The minister is seeking constructive dialogue with regional and global powers in order to explore common ground for cooperation.

This new approach has one big shot to prove itself. A comprehensive nuclear agreement can show that diplomatic dialogue in a multilateral format can break deadlocks. It will further demonstrate that the world powers acknowledge and appreciate constructive diplomacy and have changed their views towards Iran. If the Rouhani administration succeeds in translating this achievement into less economic hardship, a more responsive job market, and a gradual political opening, his strategy will gain him enduring popularity.

Opponents to this approach can be found in all political camps. Some stress their distrust of Western states. Others believe that Iran as an anti-imperialist revolutionary state should not give concessions to world powers. Other voices argue that Iran is able to stand on its own feet and survive economically even with sanctions in place – an assessment some well-established economists share. The hardship, they argue, is worth the independence Iran maintains by not giving in to external pressure.

But the vast majority of people and political figures alike support Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. Supreme Leader Khamenei reiterated his support in a recent meeting with high-ranking officials. Given the broad-based support and the political capital invested in the talks by all sides, a deal will likely be struck soon in Vienna.

Photo: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif