Friday, November 30, 2007

UC Paper Publishes Anti-RRW Op-Ed

The Daily Californian, the student newspaper at my alma madder of the University of CaliforniaBerkeley, ran today an excellent op-ed by the Center’s Robert Gard, Leonor Tomero, and Achraf Farraj. The piece urges students and faculty to question UC’s role in the development of RRW. Golden Bears, unite!

When the Deterrent Becomes a Threat
Students and Faculty Should Question the UC Role in Development of a New Hydrogen Bomb

The University of California manages Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a facility leading the development of the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead, the first new hydrogen bomb designed by the United States in 20 years. Students and faculty at the University of California have a unique role to play in actively questioning this misguided U.S. nuclear weapons policy and UC’s involvement in its implementation.

The Cold War is over and the threat of an all-out nuclear war with Russia has greatly diminished. Despite the fact that the United States still has nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads, however, the Bush administration argues that new nuclear weapons are needed to ensure “long-term confidence in the future stockpile.” The administration’s original argument was that plutonium “pits,” the cores of existing nuclear weapons, were aging and becoming “unreliable”—thus explaining the “reliable” nickname.

This argument is misleading, and ignores recent findings. A 2006 report by JASON, a preeminent nuclear advisory group established by members of the World War II-era Manhattan Project, found that plutonium pits safely and reliably function for at least 90 years—over twice what had been estimated previously. Given the age of the oldest existing nuclear weapons in our stockpile, the U.S. nuclear deterrent is therefore guaranteed for at least another 50 years.

Other factors negate the need for new nuclear weapons. The safety and reliability of existing nuclear weapons is certified annually and closely monitored under life extension programs using computer-generated models. The weapons’ reliability is also based on more than 1,000 tests that took place over the years. In contrast, a recent JASON report found that more research, experiments and computer-simulations will be necessary before the safety and reliability of any new nuclear weapon can be confidently certified without resorting to nuclear testing.

Developing new nuclear weapons undermines our moral and diplomatic leadership in stemming the spread of nuclear weapons by making nuclear testing more likely and by undermining our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments. Many states without nuclear weapons that gave up the right to acquire these weapons have expressed concern that the United States is not living up to its end of the bargain to work toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

A resumption of nuclear testing would violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a mainstay of the non-proliferation regime, which the United States already has signed. Professor Sidney Drell, a prominent physicist and adviser to the government on nuclear weapons, has cautioned, “I can’t believe that an admiral or a general or a future president, who is putting the U.S. survival at stake, would accept an untested weapon if it didn’t have a test base.” In fact, there isn’t a single instance in which a class of nuclear weapons has been deployed without first being tested.

Developing new nuclear weapons would signal to the world that the United States, despite its overwhelming conventional military superiority, nevertheless believes it necessary to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. A recent study prepared for the Department of Defense observed that “The world sees us as shifting from nuclear weapons for deterrence and as a weapon of last resort to nuclear weapons for war fighting and first use.” This perception gives emerging world powers like China another reason to feel threatened by the United States and may embolden aspiring powers to seek their own nuclear weapons.

There are many problems facing the United States today, but the viability of its nuclear deterrent is not one of them. Building new nuclear weapons will not make us safer. It will do nothing to deter terrorists, it will not protect our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and it will not improve our relationships with other countries. It will only undermine efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, extend outdated Cold War-era thinking, shirk our international commitments, waste a lot of money and threaten our long-term security.

Robert Gard is a retired U.S. general and a senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where Leonor Tomero is director for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and UC San Diego student Achraf Farraj is a researcher.

Appropriations update

*Update care of David Culp of FCNL.

The House and Senate appropriations staff are working now on an omnibus appropriations bill, which will cover the remaining 11 appropriation bills. The total price tag for the package will be $10.6 billion over the president's request. The House expects to take up the omnibus first, the week of December 10. The bill will then go to the Senate floor, followed by a brief House-Senate conference. (The two bills may end up different.) Congress is hoping to get the bill to the president before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on Friday, December 14, but that will be difficult.

At this point the White House is not compromising in its insistence that the bill's total not exceed the budget request. It now looks likely that the president will veto the omnibus, and that there are not the votes in the House to override such a veto. Congress' default option will be to pass another CR. That could go until sometime in January or through September 30, 2008.

New Sparks in Missile Defense

Several new issues have arisen regarding the controversial third missile defense site planned for Europe since Nukes of Hazard's last summary post on the subject. Two weeks ago, a senior Russian general announced a potential retaliatory measure to the site. The following week, Rick Lehner, spokesperson for the Missile Defense Agency, critically responded to comments by Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) on their purpose. And this week, Russia claimed that U.S. proposals aimed at cooperation between the two nations did not live up to the plans that had emerged from earlier discussions.

The "tit-for-tat" cautionary predictions made by many opponents to the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic were brought closer to reality on November 14 when Russian and Belarusian officials warned that Russia could respond by supplying short-range Iskander missiles to Belarus. According to Russian news agency Itar-Tass, Colonel-General Vladimir Zaritsky, a senior general for the Russian Ground Troops, stated, "Any action must have a counter-action, including with the U.S. anti-missile elements in the Czech Republic and Poland." As the New York Times notes, however, while the Iskander missiles would then be under Belarusian command, due to their close relationship "both countries' missile forces are seen as working in unison."

Just over a week later, a different controversy arose - this time from within the U.S. - over the site's purpose. William Matthews had a great article in Defense News on the topic. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chairperson of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, put the U.S. Missile Defense Agency on the defensive after she claimed that the sites were for protection from long-range attacks on the United States from Iran, and not specifically to protect Europe. Rick Lehner, spokesperson for the Missile Defense Agency, claimed the system "is designed specifically to defend most of Europe" and would have only a "redundant capability to defend the U.S."

Tauscher also raised some eyebrows when, as Matthews continues, she characterized long-range missile defense systems as "a science project." To her credit, the two-stage missile interceptor planned for Poland has to date been neither built nor tested. While it is quite similar to interceptors already used in the U.S, even these have a mixed-at-best record in their testing phases, failing 5 out of 12 times – a meager 58.3% success rate. Not exactly confidence inspiring.

(Graphic produced by the BBC)

Finally, an additional issue arose this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of submitting written proposals that did not live up to agreements made during the October discussions. The U.S. submitted to Russia new proposals for the missile defense program, in an effort to reduce their opposition to the program. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that they were "a significant rollback from what American representatives [Gates and Rice] said" in October. He stated, "If by joint work they mean pursuing unilateral plans to install missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe, and inviting us only to help them and provide information we have, that's not what we have in mind when we propose…together conducting analyses to determine threats…and neutralize them," AP reports. The Pentagon disputes this claim, but details of the proposal have yet to be made public.

What all of this will mean for the missile defense system remains to be seen, but these issues may be less relevant if the funds don't exist to pursue the project. An earlier post identified that the 2008 Defense Appropriations bill reduced funding for the European Third Site program by $85 million. In addition, while Congressional Quarterly declared "Missile Defense a Winner in Policy Bill" in the 2008 Defense Authorization bill (still held up in conference) because the cuts to overall missile defense were less than expected (only $185 million less than Bush's requested $8.84 billion), it also cuts funding for the third site by $85 million and blocks construction until agreements are reached with Poland and the Czech Republic.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Introducing the "North Korea Nutshell"

North Korea remains one of the most important challenges in nonproliferation today. As such, Nukes of Hazard is unveiling a brief weekly recap of events in and around North Korea called the “North Korea Nutshell,” courtesy of Eli Lewine. Given the large amount of material that could be covered, we invite readers to add anything that we might have missed and, of course, encourage you to chime in and leave comments as well.

Earlier this month, North Korea began working with international experts to disable its nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant at Yongbyon. The agreement reached on October 3rd called for this process to be completed by the end of the year. The “disablement” of these facilities effectively means that it would take significant financial and technical resources as well as the period of over a year to reinstate them, were the situation to regress.

The plan, as laid out in the September of 2005 agreement, is that the initial disablement would be followed by the dismantlement of these facilities following the delivery of heavy fuel oil and progress towards the normalization of relations between North Korea and the other members of the six-party talks (United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan).

U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill is currently making stops throughout Asia to confer with the six-party states before the next session of the talks which are tentatively scheduled for December 6-8. Part of his travels will include making his second trip to North Korea to personally view progress on the disablement work at Yongbyon. The negotiating session after this visit will likely be the last round of talks before the end of the year deadline for the disablement.

Of singular importance during these meetings will be the mandated declaration of nuclear materials and facilities by North Korea. There has been much debate over how complete this declaration will be, with many experts believing that the North will leave off the list some or all of its reprocessed plutonium. In Congressional testimony at the end of October, Hill said that a draft list was going to be circulated in the weeks prior to this round of talks, so it seems that this problem has been anticipated and steps are being taken to ensure that the list presented at this round is as complete as possible. We’ll have to wait and see until next week.

While all of this is going on, the North and South Koreans have been hard at work at improving relations between the two countries. This week, each country has sent its Defense Ministers to meet in Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for plans discussed at previous North-South summits held earlier this fall.

As of today, the negotiations are reported to be moving slowly as both parties are having difficulty agreeing over how to set boundaries for a joint fishing area on the western border. This area is a great point of contention between the two nations and has twice escalated into naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. The delay is likely to prevent the two officials from discussing necessary security logistics for a railroad project linking the two countries that was proposed earlier this month in a meeting of Korean Prime Ministers in Seoul.

Despite these delays, officials from both sides are scheduled to continue to exchange visits, with the next such visit coming from the head of North Korean intelligence. However, it will be interesting to see how this policy evolves under a new South Korean President, with elections taking place in mid-December.

Another new development this week came with a report by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper that an American diplomat had been “permanently” residing in the North Korean capital. While it is likely that this individual is serving a mostly technical purpose, helping to facilitate communications between the U.S. experts in North Korea and Washington, the fact that a diplomatic official of the U.S. government is spending a substantial period of time in the North Korean capital is certainly another sign of improving U.S.-North Korean relations.

Finally, for those interested in insight into the future of the North Korean regime, reports have come out claiming that a 66 year-old Kim Jong’il may have finally tapped one of his sons as his successor. Kim Jong’chul, 27, was appointed this year as Vice-Chief of the Korean Workers’ Party’s Organization and Guidance Department. The post is highly influential in the North Korean government and was the same post that Kim Jong’il himself took at the same age of 27, five years before he was tapped to succeed Kim Il’sung. Whether the succession will remain in the family remains to be seen, but this move clearly shows the favor towards to Kim Jong’chul given that his 2 other brothers have yet to receive such important government posts.

Suffice to say, much has changed since our German friends brought us this video a little over one year ago.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dangerous Rhetoric: Putin Calls for "Raising the Combat Readiness" of Russian Nuclear Forces

In a public address to the heads of the Russian Armed Forces last Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin stated that, "One of the most important [military modernization] tasks remains raising the combat readiness of the strategic nuclear forces. They should be ready to deliver a quick and adequate reply to any aggressor.”

While some media sources treated the statement as an important development in the Russian military posture, Putin's statement appears to have been more rhetorical than strategic. However, Putin's tendency to flex his country's nuclear weapons capabilities for domestic political purposes does not bode well for future bilateral disarmament measures.

Putin with the heads of the Armed Forces (Photo by the Presidential Press and Information Office)

The Times of London
reported that by last week's remarks, Putin "ordered the military to place the country’s strategic nuclear arsenal on a higher state of alert." However, Putin's declared intent to "raise the combat readiness" of the nuclear forces so that they can execute a "quick and adequate" strike is much vaguer than the Times' summary. With one third of the Russian nuclear arsenal already on "hair-trigger alert," it is hard to believe that Putin seriously perceives the Russian nuclear arsenal as having an excessively lengthy launch time.

Putin's statement was a vague and slightly strange declaration for a public address, and should not be seen as an order to the military, or even a specific policy proposal. On the other hand, Putin's choice of rhetoric may have important consequences. In "
Television, Voters, and the Development of the Broadcast Party," Sarah Oates (a professor at the University of Glasgow) demonstrated that Vladimir Putin came to power by avoiding specific political stances that could alienate voters, and casting himself instead in vague terms of strength, stability, and authority.

While this sort of posturing is common in any political system, Putin's use of the tactic was, and continues to be, exceptional. For example, before Putin took office in 2000, his legislative party won control of the Russian parliament by making very public use of its three newly appointed leaders: Sergei Shoigu, director of the Russian disaster response agency, Alexander Gurov, the head of the government's task force against organized crime, and Alexander Karelin, a famous Russian Greco-Roman wrestler.

As Oates explains, Putin's Unity party made use of the three men to advertise an image of strength almost devoid of political content.
In fact, the image makers avoided words as much as possible, using pictures of the three men respectively as a soldier, victor in a wrestling match, and policeman. One five-minute free-time spot for the party...is almost text free. The spot shows the men in action in their various roles with stirring music (a different theme tune for each), allowing them each to utter merely a single sentence about strength and worthiness in the final seconds of the ad.
Though a political ad showing a victorious wrestler might seem ridiculous, Putin's approach to image-making is methodical, organized, and doctrinal. What is worrisome about Putin's recent statement about increased nuclear readiness is not that it will usher in nuclear policy changes, but that this latest example of nuclear grandstanding indicates that Putin is increasingly relying on Russia's nuclear arsenal as a symbolic pillar of his strength and prestige in the same way that he used the wrestler, the policeman, and the soldier.

The more Putin draws on nuclear weapons as an image-maker, the less politically viable nuclear disarmament becomes in Russia. Putin's nuclear saber-rattling should not be confused with policymaking, but his choice of rhetoric may serve to undermine policy options in the future.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If You Like War in Iraq, You’ll Love War on Iran

The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation today launched an online ad campaign which asks people to sign a petition urging Congress to prevent a military attack on Iran. The ad (right) will run throughout the blogosphere through Sunday night.

The Center opposes any potential nuclear weapons program in Iran, but we believe that Iran is not an imminent threat to U.S. national security and is unlikely to be for several years. U.S. policy should focus first on tough, strong-minded diplomacy and negotiation. If we have learned nothing else from Iraq, it is that there are limitations to the use of military force.

Please join our efforts by adding your name to our petition urging Congress to prevent a military attack on Iran. Our goal is to gather at least 1 million signatures before we deliver the petition to Congress. Make your opposition heard in Washington!

Click here to sign the petition.

Monday, November 19, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, November 13-16 2007

Congress is out of town for two weeks until December 4th. Before leaving town for the Thanksgiving recess, both houses of Congress considered legislation to continue funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but with restrictions. The House voted 218 - 203 to approve $50 billion for the wars while establishing a timetable for the withdrawal of most American troops from Iraq, prompting a veto threat from President Bush. The Senate voted 53 - 45 to bring up the same legislation, but 60 votes were required and the bill died. The conferees did not reach final agreement on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill.

ACTION IN THE LAST WEEK

The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills. While it had been expected that the conference negotiations would be completed last week, the measure reportedly has been held up by the hate crimes legislation approved in the Senate.

About a quarter of the Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now totals about $196 billion -- was considered last week. The bill was called a "bridge," in that it would provide temporary funding for current operations until the full amount can be considered next year. The measure would have required some U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin 30 days after the bill is enacted, and it set a goal -- but not a requirement -- that most troops to be brought home by December 15, 2008. In addition to these measures, the bill required more time at home between tours of duty in Iraq, banned waterboarding and other torture techniques and prohibited the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq.

The House approved the bill by a 218 - 203 vote. The Senate refused to bring up the bill; it voted 53 - 45 in favor of beginning debate, but 60 votes were required and the bill died. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to bring up a $70 billion bill to pay for the wars that had no restrictions, but his measure died 45 - 53. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pledged not to approve new war funding without any restrictions. The Senate may consider a less restrictive version at that point in December, but the House may wait until 2008.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill has passed the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee but may never get to the Senate floor, going instead directly to a House-Senate conference as part of a larger package of bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 State, Foreign Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

U.S. and Russian Publics Strongly Support Steps to Reduce and Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

The University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) and its Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) recently released a new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of American and Russian attitudes toward recent cooperative nuclear risk reduction proposals.

The key findings of the study are:

1. De-alerting Nuclear Weapons

Large majorities of Americans and Russians favor reducing the number of nuclear weapons on high alert. Robust majorities on both sides would even favor a mutual agreement to take all of their weapons off high alert, if the two countries established a verification system. Few Russians or Americans think their country should have a policy of launching nuclear weapons on warning of a potential attack.

2. Deep Cuts in Nuclear Arsenals

Very large majorities endorse the U.S.-Russian SORT agreement to reduce the number of active nuclear weapons in each arsenal to about 2,000 weapons by the end of 2012. Most think such cuts should be made even sooner. Majorities in both countries also favor cutting the arsenals below the 2,000 levels. Americans and Russians would favor lowering U.S. and Russian arsenals to the level of 400 nuclear weapons if all other nuclear powers also promised not to increase the number of weapons in their arsenals.

Both Russians and Americans believe nuclear weapons are of very limited military utility: A majority of both Americans and Russians say that nuclear weapons should be used only in response to a nuclear attack and a large majority of Americans say that the United States should have a policy of never using nuclear weapons first. When Americans are asked how many nuclear weapons are necessary for deterrence, the median response is just 500. When asked how many nuclear weapons do you think the U.S. has, the median response is 1000 – much lower than the actual size of the U.S. arsenal (approximately 10,000 total warheads).

3. Eliminating Short-Range Weapons

A large majority of Americans believe the U.S. should agree to eliminate its short-range weapons based in Europe if Russia agrees to eliminate its short-range nuclear weapons based in western Russia. (Russians were not asked this question.)

4. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Overwhelming majorities of Americans as well as Russians think their country should participate in the treaty banning all nuclear weapons testing. Indeed, a clear majority of Americans assume that the United States already does.

5. Controlling Nuclear Weapons-grade Material

Very large majorities of Russians and Americans say that their countries should put a top priority on cooperating with each other to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. Majorities, especially in the United States, favor an agreement among all nuclear powers to share information about the number of nuclear weapons and the amount of weapons-grade nuclear material they have. Americans, however, lean against highly intrusive bilateral monitoring systems, while Russians lean in favor of them. Americans also lean slightly against providing money and technical assistance to aid Russia in securing its nuclear weapons and materials, while Russians are lukewarm about the idea.

6. Getting Control of the Production of Nuclear Fuel

Americans support various proposals for gaining greater international control over the production of nuclear fuel. A majority favors the idea of discouraging countries from building their own facilities through an agreement that would provide them with fuel in return for a promise not to produce it themselves. A modest majority also favors having a UN affiliate control all facilities that process nuclear material, while guaranteeing countries a supply of fuel for nuclear power plants. (Russians were not asked these questions). Both Russians and Americans who are aware of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tend to view it positively.

7. Ban on Producing Fissile Material

A majority of Americans and Russians favor having a ban on any further production of fissile material suitable for nuclear weapons.

8. Intrusive and Multilateral Verification

Americans and Russians believe that achieving deep cuts in nuclear arsenals would require verification by an international body. A majority of Americans believe that international inspectors charged with verifying compliance with arms control agreements have too many limits on what they can do. Russians lean toward this belief but are largely unsure.

As explained above, majorities, especially in the United States, favor an agreement among all nuclear powers to share information about the number of nuclear weapons and the amount of weapons-grade nuclear material they each have. Both publics prefer this to a bilateral information exchange and monitoring arrangement.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that when the U.S. and Russia agree to a nuclear arms reduction it should be done through a legally binding and verifiable agreement rather than a general understanding that both sides decide how to implement.

9. Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Large majorities of Russians and Americans favor an agreement among all countries to eliminate all nuclear weapons, assuming that there is a well-established system for verifying compliance. Most approve of this objective, even though they are unaware that their country has already agreed to pursue it under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Indeed, large majorities on both sides feel that the nuclear powers have not been doing a good job of fulfilling this obligation and very large majorities would like their country to do more. Support for eliminating nuclear weapons softens, however, without an international system for verification and an orderly sequence of reductions. Also, trend line data suggest that support for elimination may have declined in light of the current suspicions about Iran’s nuclear program.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nuke and Nonpro Highlights from Last Night’s Dem Prez Debate

Feisty beginning aside, last night’s CNN-sponsored Democratic presidential debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas held little in the way of nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues.

Nevertheless, provided below are John Edwards’s response to a question on Pakistan and Barack Obama and Bill Richardson’s response on what should be done with nuclear waste. Key points are bolded. The full transcript can be found here.

The first international issue of the night, Wolf Blitzer asked John Edwards to weigh in on the topic of Pakistan:

MR. EDWARDS: Well, I think first of all, we have some basic goals that we need to be focused on with respect to Pakistan. One is to make sure that the extremists in northwest Pakistan are under control. Second, that we provide support for the democratic reformers. Third is that -- Senator Biden just spoke about, to make sure these elections take place in January. And fourth, we need to make certain that the nuclear weapons are under control.

Now, this leads to a bigger question. I think Pakistan is the living, breathing example that America's ad hoc policy of dealing with the spread of nuclear weapons, while it's absolutely required in today's world given what's happening with Iran, given what we see today in Pakistan and the incredible fragility of the administration in Pakistan and the presence of extraordinary extremist elements within Pakistan, that this is the living, breathing example … of a policy that will not work over the long term. … What we have to do, what America needs to do and what I will do as president of the United States is to lead a long-term international effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

It is the only way we're going to keep the world secure and keep America secure.


Later, on the nuclear waste front…

MR. ROBERTS: Want to explore the energy issue for a moment here because it's been of particular importance to the state. Senator Obama, the price of oil is flirting with the $100-a-barrel mark right now, making all the more urgent the need for alternate fuel forces. You support nuclear energy as a part of the plan for the future, but there is an issue of what to do with the waste. You are opposed to the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository about 90 miles from here. Your state uses about -- gets about 48 percent of its power from nuclear compared to 20 percent for most other states.

Yet you are opposed to bringing nuclear waste from other states and keeping it in Illinois.

The question is, if not in your backyard, whose?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, as I've said, I don't think it's fair to send [nuclear waste] to Nevada, because we're producing it.

So what we have to do is, we've got to develop the storage capacity based on sound science. Now, laboratories like Argonne in my own home state are trying to develop ways to safely store nuclear waste without having to ship it across the country and put it in somebody else's backyard. But keep in mind that I don't think nuclear power is necessarily our best option. It has to be part of our energy mix.

We have a genuine crisis that has to be addressed and as president, I intend to address it, and here's what we have to do. We have to, first of all, cap greenhouse gases, because climate change is real. And it's going to impact Nevada and it's impacting the entire planet.

That means that we're going to have to tell polluters, we are going to charge you money when you send pollution into the air, that's creating climate change. That money we can then reinvest in solar, in wind, in biodiesel, in clean coal technology and in superior nuclear technology.

MR. BLITZER: All right. Senator, until there's some new technological breakthrough, as you would hope and all of us would hope, where do you send the waste?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, right now it is on site in many situations, and that is not the optimal situation, Wolf. But don't keep on assuming that we can't do something. I mean, this is about the third time where you said, "assuming we can't do it, what's our option?"

MR. BLITZER: Well, until we -- until we do it.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, but I'm running for president because I think we can do it.

[snip]

MR. BLITZER: … Governor Richardson's a former Energy secretary. What do you do with the nuclear waste in the interim?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, you mentioned all the labs, Argonne, Yucca Mountain. I was in charge of them. Here's what you do.

First, the future is renewable. It's not oil, it's not coal, it's not nuclear. What you do with the waste is you don't put it in Yucca Mountain. All my life -- as secretary of Energy, as a congressman -- I opposed the site for environmental reasons, water saturation.

I don't think the answer, also, is in regional sites.

There's a technological solution, a scientific solution. What I would do, I would turn Yucca Mountain into a national laboratory. We have the greatest brains, our national lab scientists. We need to find a way to safely dispose of nuclear waste. There is a technological solution.

But while we do that, we shouldn't be giving the nuclear power industry all of these advantages in the Senate bills that are coming forth, or subsidies. Oil, coal and nuclear are getting most of the subsidies.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nukes! Huh! What Are They Good For?

The Arms Control Association (ACA) released an excellent report last week that concludes “ambitious nuclear weapons reductions by the United States would help lessen distrust with Russia and aid global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear arms.” Entitled What Are Nuclear Weapons For? Recommendations for Restructuring U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces, the report was authored by Stanford physicist Sidney Drell and Ambassador James Goodby.

Drell and Goodby suggest a total U.S. force structure of 1,000 nuclear warheads in 2012, with 500 nuclear warheads being operationally deployed and an additional 500 held in a responsive force. This contrasts sharply with current U.S. plan for a stockpile between 5,000 to 6,000 nuclear warheads at that time. Significantly, however, the authors note that “A world without nuclear weapons should be the ultimate goal.”

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, Drell and Goodby propose the following individual components for the “500 + 500 in 2012” force:

Operationally Deployed Force

· Three Trident submarines on station at sea, each loaded with 24 missiles and 96 warheads (a mix of low-yield W76s and high-yield W88s). Reducing the D5 missiles from their full complement of eight warheads to four per missile will substantially increase their maximum operating areas.

· 100 Minuteman III ICBMs in hardened silos, each with a single W87.

· 20–25 B2 and B52H bombers configured for gravity bombs or air-launched cruise missiles.

Responsive Force

· Three Trident submarines, each loaded with 96 warheads, in transit or being replenished in port for their next missions as part of a Ready Responsive Force for a rapidly building crisis, plus two or three unarmed boats in overhaul.

· 50–100 additional Minuteman III missiles taken off alert and without warheads, and 20–25 bombers, unarmed, in maintenance and training, all of which would comprise a Strategic Responsive Force, for a more slowly building confrontation.

The authors explain that this force is composed of existing warheads and delivery systems, requires no new nuclear weapons, and retains the current diversity of systems as a hedge against common failure modes. In fact, they contend that with the cooperation of the other nuclear-armed nations, nuclear deterrence might be maintained entirely with a responsive force of no more than 500 warheads from the initial operationally deployed force.

Drell and Goodby also argue that there’s no need for designing new nuclear weapons against potential new threats, believing instead that current weapons will be sufficient. They maintain that keeping thousands of nuclear warheads serves no useful purpose, contending “yesterday’s [nuclear] doctrines are no longer appropriate for today’s realities.”

The full report is available here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Congressional Schedule for DoD and DoE Bills

Provided below is an updated schedule of Congressional action on key Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) bills, as prepared by David Culp of FCNL.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, November 5-9 2007

With one week to go before a two-week break for Thanksgiving, Congress is working on completing a significant amount of legislation. Last week, both houses of Congress approved the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill. This week, both houses may consider a completed Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Bill. In addition, a bill may come up to appropriate $50 billion to pay for several months of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, House leaders released a draft version of the bill, which is described below.

ACTION IN THE LAST WEEK

On November 8, Congress approved the $459.4 billion Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill. The House vote was 400 -15; the Senate approved the measure by voice vote. The bill is $3.5 billion below the Administration's request but $39.7 billion above last year, a 9.5% increase (excluding about $190 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). The conferees cut the $30 million requested for the Reliable Replacement Warhead to $15 million (there is additional money in the Department of Energy Appropriations Bill), cut out $85 million of the $310 million for European missile defense, including all construction money, and approved $8.7 billion for missile defense, $185 million less than requested.

The bill also contained a Continuing Resolution to keep government programs going until the appropriations bills are completed, with the new expiration date of December 14.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills. The conference report is expected to be completed and approved this week.

About a quarter of the Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now totals about $190 billion -- is likely to be considered this week. The bill is being called a "bridge" or temporary funding until the full amount can be considered next year. The measure requires some U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin 30 days after the bill is enacted, and sets a goal -- but not a requirement -- for most troops to be brought home by December 15, 2008. It requires more time at home between rotations in Iraq and bans waterboarding and other torture techniques and prohibits the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill has passed the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee but may never get to the Senate floor, going instead directly to a House-Senate conference as part of a larger package of bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 State, Foreign Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dem Prez Candidates on Iran

Admittedly, I’m again a little late to the party, but nevertheless I thought I’d recap some key points from the Democratic presidential debate sponsored by MSNBC at Drexel University in Philadelphia on October 30.

Aside from Kucinich equivocating on his UFO experience, the best line of the evening came from Biden: “Rudy Giuliani -- I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani -- there's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11. I mean, there's nothing else.”

But I digress.

A major portion of the early debate centered around recent legislative developments involving Iran and their potential implications for military intervention there. Edwards pressed Clinton (the only Dem candidate who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, as Russert points out), saying “she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran -- and he's taken it.”

Clinton responded by saying that she is against both rushing to war and doing nothing, and instead prefers “vigorous diplomacy,” which includes economic sanctions.

On whether the Kyl-Lieberman measure was a justification for war in Iran, Dodd said that he’s “very concerned that we're going to see those 76 votes come back, being waved in front of us here as a justification when the Bush administration decides to take military action in Iran.”

Biden agreed that it could be used as a declaration of war against Iran, and also noted that it emboldened President Bush and had “incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

For his part, when asked if he had a “red line” in respect to attacking Iran, Obama said that it was premature to speak of attacking Iran and that “what we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our allies, but also talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas where we do not accept their actions, whether it be terrorism or developing nuclear weapons…”

When asked the same question, Clinton again emphasized, “we have to try diplomacy, and I see economic sanctions as part of diplomacy. … But I also think when you go to the table to negotiate with an adversarial regime, you need both carrots and sticks.”

Presumably railing against the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, Edwards asked rhetorically, “has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted.”

Richardson, meanwhile, stated that “we have to use diplomacy. And there is a redline. We cannot permit Iran to use nuclear weapons.” He does, however, note that “we can achieve a compromise on the nuclear issue,” later pleading that “we have to engage them vigorously, potentially also with sanctions.”

Not to be outdone, Kucinich asserted that “we need to adamantly reject any kind of a move toward war with Iran,” arguing that “Even planning for the war against Iran is illegal.”

Then in a strange move Tim Russert asked the candidates if they would “pledge to the American people that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while [they] are president” and each predictably responded largely in the affirmative.

After being badgered by Russert, Clinton pledged she “will do everything [she] can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb;” Edwards proclaimed that he will “take all the responsible steps that can be taken to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon;” Biden pledged “to keep us safe” and emphasized the importance of Pakistan; and Dodd agreed.

Notably Richardson also agreed to the pledge, but explained, “what we're also talking about is not just Pakistan. We're talking about enriched uranium, a loose nuclear weapon, nuclear materials, fissionable material throughout the world.”

Kucinich also went further, stating, “It is time that the United States government enforced and participated in fully the Non- Proliferation Treaty, which calls for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. We must lead the way, and we must have a president who understands the danger of these nuclear weapons and have America lead the way among all nations towards nuclear abolition.”

Whew. For those still interested, provided below are the relevant (and admittedly lengthy) portions of the debate as they regard to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation. Key points are bolded. The full transcript can be found here.

Russert: Senator Edwards, you issued a press release, your campaign, and the headline is "Edwards to Clinton: American people deserve the truth, not more doubletalk on Iran."

What doubletalk are you suggesting that Senator Clinton has been engaging in on Iran?

John Edwards: … [Sen. Clinton] says she'll stand up to George Bush on Iran. She just said it again. And, in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran -- and he's taken it. Bush and Cheney have taken it. They have now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

[snip]

Russert: I want to stay on Iran, Senator Clinton.

As you know, you voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, the only member of the stage here who did that.

Senator, Jim Webb of Virginia said it is for all practical purposes mandating the military option, that it is a clearly worded sense of Congress that could be interpreted as a declaration of war.

Why did you vote for that amendment which would -- calls upon the president to structure our military forces in Iraq with regard to the capability of Iran?

Clinton: Well, first of all, I am against a rush to war. I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.

Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing.

Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism.

So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is the way the Republicans sound -- it's not even a question of whether, it's a question of when and what weapons to use -- and doing nothing.

I prefer vigorous diplomacy. And I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We used them with respect to North Korea. We used them with respect to Libya.

And many of us who voted for that resolution said that this is not anything other than an expression of support for using economic sanctions with respect to diplomacy.

You know, several people who were adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq, like Senator Durbin, voted the same way I did, and said at the time that if he thought there was even the pretense that could be used from the language in that nonbinding resolution to give George Bush any support to go to war, he wouldn't have voted for it. Neither would I.

So we can argue about what is a nonbinding sense of the Senate, and I think that we are missing the point, which is we've got to do everything we can to prevent George Bush and the Republicans from doing something on their own to take offensive military action against Iran.

I am prepared to pass legislation with my colleagues who are here in the Congress to try to get some Republicans to join us, to make it abundantly clear that sanctions and diplomacy are the way to go. We reject and do not believe George Bush has any authority to do anything else.

Russert: Senator Dodd, you said that bill was a justification for war in Iran.

Chris Dodd: Well, Tim, I believe that this issue is going to come back to haunt us. We all learned, some of here painfully, back in 2002, that by voting for an authorization regarding Iraq, that despite the language of that resolution which called for diplomacy at the time, this administration used that resolution, obviously, to pursue a very aggressive action in Iraq.

I'm in a view here, what you didn't learn back in '02, you should've learned by now. And you don't just have to listen to this resolution. There's been a series of drumbeats by this administration, by Dick Cheney, by the president, by others, clearly pointing in a direction that would call for military action in Iran.

It is a dangerous view, in my view. And therefore, I thought it was incumbent upon us. It was interesting that people like Dick Lugar, the former Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- Republicans who also had serious reservations and voted against that resolution the other day on September 26th.

I'm very concerned that we're going to see those 76 votes come back, being waved in front of us here as a justification when the Bush administration decides to take military action in Iran.

So it was a moment -- it's a critical moment, when I think leadership is called for here. If you're going to seek the leadership of our country, this is the most serious time in a generation. You have an ascending China. You have an Iranian that's ambitious to acquire nuclear weapons. You have, obviously, a $4 trillion economy that's in trouble, a health care crisis in this country, energy and other issues that are going to confront the next president.

Good judgment and leadership at critical moments must be a part of this debate and discussion. That was a critical moment and the wrong decision was made, in my view.

Russert: Senator Biden, do you agree with Senator Webb: It was, de facto, a declaration of war?

Joe Biden: Well, I think it can be used as declaration. Look, we have a problem in the Senate -- and I'm not just directing this at Hillary; there were 75 other people who voted with her; we are in the minority -- that there are consequences for what we do.

And it's not even about going to war. Let's look at what happened from the moment that vote took place. Oil prices went up to $90 a barrel.

Who benefits from that? All this talk of war, all this talk of declaring people to be terrorists droves up the price of oil.

Secondly, we have emboldened Bush, at a minimum, his talk of world war III -- totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him, Tim, to be able to move, if he chooses to move.

They're terrorists. The fact that they're terrorists on one side of the border or the other, we just declare them terrorists. That gives him the color of right to move against them.

Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody talks about this. The 75 of our colleagues don't understand. We have no driven, underground, every moderate in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.

This literally -- literally puts Karzai, as well as Musharraf in jeopardy. The notion is it plays into this whole urban legend that America's on a crusade against Islam.

This was bad -- if nothing else happens; not another single thing -- this was bad policy. The president had the ability to do everything that that amendment -- that resolution called for without us talking to it.

And all it has done is hurt us. Even if not another single action is taken, actions have consequences. Big nations can't bluff.

Williams: Senator Obama, let's get at this another way. "Red line" is the current expression of the moment where Iran is concerned in Washington. What would your red line be concerning when to, if to attack Iran? What would make it crystal-clear in your mind that the United States should attack Iran?

Obama: I don't think we should be talking about attacking Iran at this point for some of the reasons that Chris and Joe just talked about. Look, we have been seeing, during the Republican debates, the drum beat of war. The president has been talking about World War III.

That is a continuation of the kinds of foreign policy that rejects diplomacy and sees military action as the only tool available to us to influence the region.

And what we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our allies, but also talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas where we do not accept their actions, whether it be terrorism or developing nuclear weapons, but also talking to Iran directly about the potential carrots that we can provide in terms of them being involved in the World Trade Organization, or beginning to look at the possibilities of diplomatic relations being normalized.

We have not made those serious attempts. This kind of resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn't send the right signal to our allies or our enemies.

And, as a consequence, I think over the long term, it weakens our capacity to influence Iran.

Now, there may come a point where those measures have been exhausted and Iran is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon, where we have to consider other options. But we shouldn't talk about those options now, when we haven't even tried what would be a much more effective approach.

Williams: Same question to Senator Clinton. What would be your red line?

Clinton: Well, first of all, we have to try diplomacy, and I see economic sanctions as part of diplomacy. We have used it with other very difficult situations -- like Libya, like North Korea. I think that what we're trying to do here is put pressure on the Bush administration. Joe is absolutely right. George Bush can do all of this without anybody. You know, that is the great tragedy and that's why we've got to rein him in, and that's why we need Republican support in the Congress to help us do so.

I invite all of our colleagues to pass something immediately that makes it very clear: He has no authority and we will not permit him to go take offensive action against Iran. But what we're trying to do is push forward on vigorous diplomacy. That has been lacking. I believe we should be engaged in diplomacy right now with the Iranians.

Everything should be on the table, not just their nuclear program. I've been advocating this for several years. I believe it strongly.

But I also think when you go to the table to negotiate with an adversarial regime, you need both carrots and sticks. The Revolutionary Guard is deeply involved in the commercial activities of Iran. Having those economic sanctions hanging over their heads gives our negotiators one of the set of sticks that we need to try to make progress in dealing with a very complicated situation.

Everybody agrees up here that President Bush has made a total mess out of the situation with Iran. What we're trying to do is to sort our way through to try to put diplomacy, with some carrots and some sticks, into the mix and get the president to begin to do that.

Williams: Respectfully, Senator, same question though: Do you have a threshold, a red line beyond which...

Clinton: I want to start diplomacy. I -- you know, I am not going to speculate about when or if they get nuclear weapons.

We're trying to prevent them from getting so. We're not, in my view, rushing to war. We should not be doing that, but we shouldn't be doing nothing, and that means we should not let them acquire nuclear weapons. And the best way to prevent that is a full court press on the diplomatic front.

[snip]

Edwards: … Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said and she said she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration. So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written, literally, by the neo-cons.

I mean, has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted. It didn't just give them what they wanted. They acted on it.

A few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and -- this is going to sound very familiar -- remember from Iraq? The prelude to Iraq? -- proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

The way you put pressure on this administration is you stand up to them; you say no.

A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way, that you give this president an inch and he will take a mile. And this is about such an important issue, and we have to stand up to this president. We need to make it absolutely clear that we have no intention of letting Bush, Cheney or this administration invade Iran because they have been rattling the saber over and over and over.

And what this resolution did, written literally in the language of the neo-cons, is it enables this president to do exactly what he wants to do. He continues to march forward. He continues to say this is a terrorist organization. He continues to say these are proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

How in the world is that -- Democrats -- we're not talking about Republicans now, Chris and Joe -- Democrats standing up to this president and saying, "No, we are not going to allow this, we are not going to allow this march to war in Iran"?

Russert: Governor Richardson, would you negotiate with Iran without any conditions?

Bill Richardson: Yes, I would. And I'm the only one on this stage that has actually negotiated with a foreign country...

(Unknown): That's not true.

Richardson: And I want to just say to you that, in my judgment, we have to use diplomacy. And there is a redline. We cannot permit Iran to use nuclear weapons. And I do believe what you do is Ahmadinejad -- it's very difficult to deal with him. But there are moderate elements in Iraq. There are moderate clerics. There's students. There's a business community.

And I believe that we can achieve a compromise on the nuclear issue. In exchange for them having a nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power, they don't develop nuclear weapons -- carrot and sticks, diplomatic initiatives, economic incentives.

The problem is we saber-rattle. And this resolution in the Senate saber-rattles. I was U.N. ambassador. I know this region. And I do believe that it's critically important that we talk to North Korea, that we talk to Syria, that we talk to Iran.

It's going to take skilled diplomacy. What we have in this administration is a policy of preemption, of saber-rattling, of leaking out potential targets in Iran. That's not going to get diplomacy started.

I believe its critical that if we're going to resolve the situation in the Middle East, if we're going to get Iraq to stop Iran's helping terrorists, we have to engage them vigorously, potentially also with sanctions. We need to get European allies who refuse generally to help us with sanctions, as well as Russia. What you saw recently is Russia and Iran embracing each other. That is not healthy.

Russert: Congressman Kucinich, your opinion of this resolution?

Dennis Kucinich: Well, first of all, we need to adamantly reject any kind of a move toward war with Iran.

There's no basis for it whatsoever. But we have to realize, Tim, that we have a number of enablers who happen to be Democrats who have said over the last year, with respect to Iran, all options are on the table. And when you say all options are on the table, you are licensing President Bush.

And I'm the only one up here on the stage who not only voted against the war in Iraq, voted against funding the war, but also led the effort against Bush's drive toward war.

The problem is: These policies of preemption license a war. Preemption, by virtue of international law, is illegal. Our president has already violated international law.

The war in Iraq is illegal. Even planning for the war against Iran is illegal.

[snip]

Russert: … Senator Clinton, would you pledge to the American people that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you are president?

Clinton: I intend to do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Russert: But you won't pledge?

Clinton: I am pledging I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Russert: But, they may.

Clinton: Well, you know, Tim, you asked me if I would pledge, and I have pledged that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Russert: Senator Edwards?

Edwards: What I will do is take all the responsible steps that can be taken to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Obama: I think all of us are committed to Iran not having nuclear weapons, and so we could potentially short circuit this.

[snip]

Russert: Senator Biden, would you pledge to the American people that Iran would not build a nuclear bomb on your watch?

Biden: I would pledge to keep us safe. If you told me, Tim -- and this is not -- this is complicated stuff; we talk about this in isolation. The fact of the matter is, the Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium.

But the Pakistanis have hundreds -- thousands of kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed with nuclear weapons on them that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then that's a bad bargain.

Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum in which they operate, by the situation they find themselves in the world.

I will do all in my power to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but I will never take my eye off the ball. What is the greatest threat to the United States of America: 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out-of-control Pakistan? It's not close.

Williams: Senator Dodd?

Dodd: … I agree with Joe. I think the more immediate problem is Pakistan, the one that needs to be addressed. But certainly, bringing that experience together so that you're able to marshal the resources, put together the kind of team, and demonstrate as a result of what you've been able to accomplish over the years that you can actually handle this situation.

Results matter. Experience matters. Having the demonstrated ability to deal with these issues is critical.

So, certainly, I would make a pledge obviously to do everything we can to avoid this problem. But I would suggest to you, Tim, that the more immediate issue is the one exactly that Joe has identified here. Pakistan does pose a more serious issue for this country, and one that needs to be addressed.

[snip]

Williams: Governor Richardson?

Richardson: Well, I would make the pledge. It would be through diplomacy. And what we're also talking about is not just Pakistan. We're talking about enriched uranium, a loose nuclear weapon, nuclear materials, fissionable material throughout the world.

Even more of a threat than nuclear weapons is a loose nuclear weapons crossing the border. So what we need is an international agreement. But the key has to be diplomacy.

[snip]

Williams: Congressman Kucinich, same question.

Kucinich: With all due respect to our friends from the media here, the media itself has to be careful how you frame these questions. We don't want to be put in a position where we are taking this country to the threshold of war. The media did play a role in taking us into war in Iraq. And I'm urging members of the media -- urge restraint upon you and our president, whose rhetoric is out of control.

I would go to Iran and I would urge Iran not just to not have nuclear weapons. I would urge then to give up nuclear power because nuclear power is the most expensive type of power there is. It is not a sustainable type of power because of the costs of it. It is unsafe. I would urge Iran to give up nuclear power.

But I would also do something further. It is time that the United States government enforced and participated in fully the Non- Proliferation Treaty, which calls for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

We must lead the way, and we must have a president who understands the danger of these nuclear weapons and have America lead the way among all nations towards nuclear abolition.

When we do that, we will have the credibility to go to an Iran and any other nation that may have desires for nuclear power to say, "Look, we want to take it in another direction."

We are not going to stand by and watch our country lost because we are ratcheting up the rhetoric toward war against Iran.

We have to stop this, Tim. We have to stop ratcheting up the rhetoric for war. We really need to stop it.

[snip]

Williams: Senator Obama, was Senator Clinton's answer to the opposition of the Iraq war question consistent, in your view?

Obama: I don't think it's consistent with the Iran resolution, for example, which specifically stated that we should structure our forces in Iraq with an eye toward blunting Iranian influence. It is yet another rationale for what we're doing in Iraq, and I think that's a mistake.

[snip]

Edwards: … And the second thing that I want to make certain that voters are aware of, when we talk -- we've had a long discussion about Iran. And Barack just made the connection to Iran, and there is a very clear connection.

Because we need to learn from the past. And what we've learned from the past is you cannot trust this president. And what I worry about is, if Bush invades Iran six months from now, I mean, are we going to hear: "If only I had known then what I know now?"

Well, we know enough now to know we have to stand up to this president.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Iranian Nuke Program Further Developed, New Approach Necessary

The war of words between President Bush and Iranian President Ahmadinejad continues to intensify. As Bush reaffirmed his warning on Wednesday that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to WWIII, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran reached its target of 3,000 fully-functioning centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility. Although no independent authority has verified these claims, Ahmadinejad’s announcement goes beyond previous statements by indicating that the centrifuges are now up and running.

Centrifuges produce uranium gas, which can either be developed into fuel for a nuclear reactor or – at higher levels of enrichment – fuel for a nuclear bomb. AP notes that "the number 3,000 is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used as a platform for a full industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons, should Iran chose to go the route." According to AFP, "this number is a key milestone because scientists say that in ideal conditions it is sufficient to produce enough enriched uranium in one year to make a single nuclear bomb."

Iran's continued development of its uranium enrichment program is in clear defiance of unilateral and multilateral efforts by the U.S. and the international community to curb the development of its nuclear program. Even assuming the truthfulness of Ahmadinejad's claims, his public statements about his country’s nuclear program are aggressive at a minimum.

But examining this issue from beyond the somewhat limited perspective we are offered by the Bush administration or the mainstream media, it is not far-fetched to argue that Ahmadinejad's rhetoric and actions may be as much of a response as they are a catalyst in the international controversy regarding the country’s nuclear program.

Statements that Iran "could not care less" about UN Security Council resolutions because they are based on a "wrong report" seem on provocative-par with Bush's recent discussions of "WWIII," a "nuclear holocaust," and threats of military action against the Islamic state. The battle of words has certainly intensified in opposition to the goal of trying to prevent a battle of nuclear weapons.

In addition to a war of words, other recent activity from Washington has done little to create an environment conducive to constructive dialogue. These activities include the blacklisting of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, as well as unilateral sanctions initiated by the U.S. and encouraged for European nations. The UN Security Council has already instituted two sets of sanctions, with some countries pushing for a third.

It seems that it might be a valuable lesson for the Bush administration to learn that any action short of military engagement does not automatically constitute "diplomacy." The recent debate in the U.S. regarding Iran's nuclear program seems to have devolved into a false dichotomy. One side advocates a hawkish stance in which military action against the country is seen as necessary, while the other advocates "everything else," a position which is now dominated by punitive measures.

A word of advice to the Bush administration: rather than just using sticks and bigger sticks in our effort to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, a few carrots might come in handy.