December, 2009

  • Dec 23, 2009

    11. Santa’s sleigh provides key test of missile defense radar capabilities- While General Cartwright and Lt Gen O’Reilly have testified this year that they have over 90 percent confidence in the ability of the ground-based interceptors located in Alaska and California to shoot down an incoming ICBM, others have decried purported test success due to unrealistic test conditions. This upcoming Christmas, conditions could not possibly be more real with Santa’s sleigh visiting millions of homes domestically within a night. The Missile Defense Agency issued a press statement confirming the importance of this Christmas to test the radar and tracking capabilities of our system.

    10. Obama administration recants zero pledge after accounting error—The White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement that revised Obama’s pledge at Prague to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Gibbs explained, “There was an accounting error. We believed the U.S. had 2,200 nuclear weapons, but later discovered that only accounted for those that are operationally deployed.” Because of the accounting error, the Administration underestimated the cost of dismantling the weapons. In this economy, the cost of disarmament is too high.

    9. "CTR 2.0" top new Facebook game—In response to the ever popular “Farmville” game played by 11 million avid Facebook users, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s response, CTR 2.0, has quickly climbed the Facebook games chart and now stands at number 3.  Facebook user Tim Smith noted this game is the “best invention ever” and declined going out this weekend so that he could engage in faux bilateral scientific exchanges with the Pakistanis over water purification technology. Intrade predicts that CTR 2.0 taking over Farmville by mid-March 2010.

  • Dec 23, 2009

    Hopping on the list-mania as the year (and decade) quickly come to an end, PONI has put together the nuclear year in words.  The list represents a collaboration of quotes that represent some of the major issues and discussions on things nuclear in 2009.   Without further ado:

    10. “Let’s sanction Iran, marry Pakistan, and bomb North Korea”- Joe Cirincione, November 30

    Talking on the Colbert Report’s “Better Know a Lobby” feature, Colbert made Ploughshares President Cirincione play sanction, bomb, or marry at the end of the interview despite his protest that he does not want to bomb anyone. The game begins at the 4:50 clip below although the entire interview is a great watch. Not to mention covering 3 of the major nuclear hotspots, the clip speaks to the fact nuclear issues are starting to creep back into the mainstream media and will likely continue to do so over the next year.

    9. Hair-trigger “conjures a drawn weapon in the hands of somebody” but the "reality of our alert posture today" is that "the weapon is in the holster" and “has two combination locks on it” - General Kevin Chilton, February 27

    As reported by the ever reliable Global Security Newswire, STRATCOM Commander Kevin Chilton has worked hard this year to dispel the notion that our nuclear weapons are on "hair-trigger alert." At the same time, working “with Russia to move nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert” was a campaign promise of the Obama administration and increasing decision times was mentioned in the “Gang of 4” follow-on 2008 op-ed. The East West Institute also did a great deal of work on the issue in 2009. This may be one of many issues stuck between the rock and hard place of the NPR and Review Conference heading into 2010.

  • Dec 23, 2009

    AP Interview: Rice says NKorea is feeling pressure
    AP by Edith M. Lederer

    Stalemate: How Obama's Iran Outreach Failed
    Time by Tony Karon

    This is no smoking gun, nor Iranian bomb
    Guardian by Norman Dombey

    US: Arms talks with Russia to drag into 2010
    AP by Bradley S. Klapper

  • Dec 22, 2009

     The Gareth Evans/Yoriko Kawaguchi co-chaired ICNND commission released their final 231 page final report titled “Eliminated Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers” to give folks some light reading over the holidays. The report is filled with recommendations that will be applauded by some and criticized by others. One of the areas where the study breaks the most ground is the creation of two different periods, somewhat similar to the 4 Phase Global Zero action plan, on the road to zero: "minimization" from now until 2025 and then elimination which does not have a specific timetable attached. The minimization phase is broken down into a short term action plan through 2012 and a medium term action plan through 2025. Highlights of the short term plan include ratification of START follow-on, declaration of a “sole purpose” doctrine by nuclear armed states, entry into force of CTBT, conclusion of FMCT negotiations, and “satisfactory negotiated resolution of the North Korea and Iran nuclear program problems.” Extreme skepticism achieving any of those spare START before 2012 aside, efforts in the 2025 medium term agenda include 2,000 nuclear warheads in the world, full NFU declared by all nuclear states, resolution of outstanding issues including missile defense and conventional arms imbalances, and FMCT entry into force.

  • Dec 22, 2009

    Talks on N. Korean nukes should resume before March: FM 
    Yonhap by Lee Chi-dong

    South Korea let off for nuclear deceptions
    Asia Times by Gareth Porter

    Obama Administration Prepares Iran Sanction Options
    Washington Independent by Spencer Ackerman

    Help Iranians. Stop worrying about the bomb
    London Times by Nader Mousavizadeh

  • Dec 21, 2009

    U.S. to Make Stopping Nuclear Terror Key Aim
    NYT by Thom Shanker and Eric Scmitt

    U.S.-Russia arms deal unlikely before February: report
    WP by Reuters

    Next Stage on Iran Could Hold Real Peril
    NYT by John Vinocur

    Iran nuclear negotiator calls for atomic arms ban
    AP by Malcolm Foster

  • Dec 18, 2009

    Russia, U.S. close to nuclear pact: report
    Reuters by Guy Faulconbridge

    Inside the Ring
    Washington Times by Bill Gertz

    Nearing New Arms Pact, U.S. and Russia Look Beyond It
    NYT by Peter Baker

    A plan to eliminate nuclear weapons
    FT by Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi

  • Dec 17, 2009

    China calls for efforts to resume nuclear talks
    AP by Kwang-tae Kim

    Fears of nuclear arms race as nations gear up to follow Iran
    London Times by James Hider, Tony Halpin, and Hugh Tomlinson

    Russia says US slowing down nuclear talks
    AFP by Anna Smolchenko

    U.S. Disarmament Is Dangerous for Asia
    WSJ by Franklin C. Miller and Andrew Shearer

  • Dec 16, 2009

    Obama wrote a personal letter to North Korea's Kim Jong Il
    WP by Glenn Kessler

    Iran tests missile, warns opposition leaders
    Reuters by Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi

    Inside the Iran sanctions debate
    Foreign Policy (The Cable) by Josh Rogin

    No plans to sign Russia nuclear deal this week: U.S.
    WP by Jeff Mason and Conor Sweeney (Reuters)

  • Dec 15, 2009

    North Korea arms seizure may prod it back to talks
    Reuters by Jack Kim

    Iran denies working on nuclear bomb component

    Evidence of Iran's nuclear arms expertise mounts
    WP by Joby Warrick

    New Report Calls for Nuclear States to Reduce Arms

  • Dec 14, 2009

    A year on, Iran, NKorea threats worsen
    AP by George Jahn

    Western, U.N. officials assess secret Iranian document
    WP by Joby Warrick

    West Decries Iran's Latest Nuclear Offer
    WSJ by Chip Cummins

    US-Iran Talks: The Road to Diplomatic Failure
    Common Dreams by Gareth Porter

  • Dec 11, 2009

    NKorea says it understands need for nuclear talks
    AP by Jae-soon Chang

    Gates, EU leaders say Iran to face new sanctions
    Reuters by Adam Entous

    Verifying START Successor Pact Might Demand New Levels of Openness
    GSN by Elaine M. Grossman

    Obama's non-nuclear dream dissolves in politics
    The Age by Warwick McFadyen

  • Dec 10, 2009

    Since Obama’s Prague speech, the outline of his disarmament agenda has been clear:  a new START treaty, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, then begin negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. Today, where the CTBT fits is less clear.

    According to Bill Gertz in the Washington Times, the Obama administration is beginning its push to get the treaty ratified:

    The Obama administration has launched a new effort to win ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, known as CTBT, which was voted down by the Senate in 1999.
    The effort is being led by Jon Wolfsthal, an arms-control specialist at two think tanks until he became a national-security aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a staffer on the White House National Security Council in January.
    Mr. Wolfsthal was making the rounds in the Senate on Wednesday, checking to see if the administration can drum up the 67 votes needed - a two-thirds majority - to ratify the treaty, which prevents underground nuclear tests.

    The GSN, citing the above article, ran a similar story.

    However according to an article in Forbes, attributed to Oxford Analytica, the Administration is backing off of the CTBT to concentrate on and secure ratification of a new START:

  • Dec 10, 2009

    U.S. envoy: No commitment by N. Korea on future talks
    WP by Blaine Harden

    Iran tries to reassure IAEA over new uranium units
    AFP by Aresu Eqbali

    US, Russia closing in on nuclear agreement
    AFP by Jim Mannion
    December 9, 2009

    Obama's Nuclear Agenda Troubles
    Forbes by Oxford Analytica

  • Dec 9, 2009

    After doing some work on missile defense over the past few weeks, I attended a screening of Heritage’s 33 minutes film last night. The film is geared toward the general public and emphasizes just how bad a nuclear and/or EMP attack would be. Fair enough.  After the event Jamie Fly and James Carafano provided some remarks about missile defense. Two of Carafano’s major themes were that the threat has not changed and but that the program has changed (in a negative way). Those in favor of the administration's policy would obviously disagree with both but an in-depth look at the 24 September SASC hearing on the issue provided some good back and forth on the issue. 

  • Dec 9, 2009

    US Assures NKorea of 'Robust' Direct Talks Channel
    NYT by AP

    N. Korea mum on Bosworth's trip, spawning media speculation 
    Yonhap by Lee Chi-dong

    UN nuclear watchdog to supply 20% fuel to Tehran reactor - Salehi
    RIA Novosti

    U.S. to unveil biological threat strategy
    WP by Mary Beth Sheridan and Spencer S. Hsu

  • Dec 8, 2009

    Bosworth Offers No Concessions in Pyongyang Talks
    Bloomberg by Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Stuart Biggs

    Iran rules out Turkey's mediation on nuclear row

    Erdogan resists US calls for Iran sanctions
    AP by Desmond Butler

    Verification Holding Up New START Deal, Diplomat Says
    Radio Free Europe by Reuters

  • Dec 7, 2009

    Pyongyang's nuclear-backed grand strategy
    UPI by Mitsuo Takai

    AP sources: US eyes January for new Iran sanctions
    AP by Matthew Lee and Jennifer Loven

    Iran Will Not Quit Treaty, Its Nuclear Chief Asserts
    NYT by Nazila Fathi

    START I treaty ends: what lies ahead?
    RIA Novosti by Vladimir Yevseyev

  • Dec 4, 2009

    Hu Jintao and Medvedev

    Whether through sanctions, diplomatic pressure, or a negotiated solution, Russia and China are two countries critical to the international effort to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. has been lobbying both countries on the matter, and the IAEA vote censuring Iran – which both nations signed on to – was seen as a diplomatic victory for U.S. efforts to generate consensus on the issue. Recently, both countries have been more willing to address the Iran nuclear issue in their own ways.

  • Dec 4, 2009

    Iran rejects IAEA transparency demand on atom sites
    Reuters by Parisa Hafezi

    Iran deadline still year-end - White House

    Few concerns as US-Russian nuclear treaty expires
    AP by Desmond Butler

    Napolitano Says U.S. Cannot Meet Cargo-Screening Goal

  • Dec 3, 2009

    After a trip to Asia that did not include a stop in New Dehli, the Obama administration was quick to bring Prime Minister Singh to DC for a visit to foster a relationship with the country Fareed Zakaria termed the real prize in the "AfPak" discussion.  One of the central areas of possible cooperation between the two countries is the India Deal inked by the Bush administration.  As Singh prepared for his Wsahington meeting, he made sure to emphasize India’s pristine credentials when it comes to respecting non-proliferation norms, telling Fareed Zakaria (via Lexis) on 22 November that

    We are a nuclear weapons state, but we are responsible nuclear power. We have an impeccable record of not having contributed to unauthorized proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction.

    At this same time, the Jumbo-sized elephant lurking in everyone’s mind is the not so minor nonproliferation treaty that only India, Pakistan, and Israel have refused to sign. In a follow-up video clip expounding on the statements  a week later on CNN, Zakaria directly asked about the issue:

    Despite its status as a nuclear nation, it has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India's ultimate goal is actually to sign the treaty, but it does not have official status as a nuclear weapons state yet. China was given that status in 1992, and that's what India wants. How do I know this? Well, Manmohan Singh told me. So, I'm going to play to you that bit of the interview -- and we were not able to play this last week.
    ZAKARIA: Is it fair to say that one of the ultimate objectives of India would perhaps be to become a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty system, but to be invited in as a nuclear weapons state in the way that China was?
    MANMOHAN SINGH, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: Well, if we were to go that way, that would be a very positive development from our point of view. And we are a nuclear weapons state, but we are a responsible nuclear power. We have an impeccable record of not having contributed to unauthorized proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction.
    So, I think India does require, I think, greater consideration of the global community.
    ZAKARIA: Do you think that the United States should try to press the issue and have India brought into the system as a nuclear weapons state?
    SINGH: Well, I hope it will happen.

    Singh’s measured response makes a lot of sense. He emphasized India’s good behavior but “if we were” and “hope it will happen” highlight some much needed caution about the prospects of India being given an  invitation to join the NPT as a nuclear weapons state.  

  • Dec 3, 2009

    Russian-American Nuclear Agreement Close
    Fox News by Dana Lewis

    NSC Adv Jones upbeat on new START deal
    Fox News by Major Garrett

    Atomic-Blast Detection Station Established Near Iran
    Bloomberg by Jonathan Tirone

    Iran to review ties with countries over IAEA vote

  • Dec 2, 2009

    The old START is about to expire, and new START negotiations are entering their final stage.  While negotiations are unlikely to be finished by the self-imposed December 5th deadline when the old treaty expires, they will likely be completed by the end of the month (or at worst early next year).  In the interim, there will likely be some sort of bridging agreement (though some, such as Pavel Podvig, are less optimistic).

    So in the final days and hours of negotiations, what’s the biggest hold-up?  Is it the number of operationally deployed warheads? The number of strategic missile launchers? Restrictions on missile defense?  How to restrict conventional capabilities? It appears that the answer is none of the above.  Instead, the biggest obstacle remaining is verification.

  • Dec 2, 2009

    Russia shifts stance on Iran, Ahmadinejad defiant
    Reuters by Oleg Shchedrov

    Ex-IAEA inspector: Press Iran harder
    Jerusalem Post by Hilary Leila Krieger

    US treaty inspections to end at Russia missile plant: report

    What to Do About Europe's Secret Nukes
    Time by Eben Harrell

  • Dec 1, 2009

    Iran enrichment plans largely bluster, experts say
    AP by Ali Akbar Dareini and Jason Keyser

    Iran hints at diplomatic solution to nuclear crisis
    AFP by Aresu Eqbali and Farhad Pouladi

    Measuring the Return on Diplomacy
    WSJ by Gerald F. Seib

    US hopes to clinch draft START deal by end December