Thursday, January 31, 2008

FCNL Updates Report on Prez Candidates

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) released yesterday an updated version of "Eyes on the Prize," a compilation of the views of the presidential candidates on Iran, Iraq, and nukes.

Compiled by Scoville Fellow Danny Hosein, the publication tracks six candidates' stances on the issues over time. Reflecting recent changes in the presidential race, the report includes Clinton and Obama for the Dems, and Huckabee, McCain, Paul, and Romney for the Republicans.

The updated report includes new statements in regard to the Iran NIE, and on the confrontation between Iranian boats and U.S. ships in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Dems, predictably, used the NIE as validation for their support of diplomacy with Iran. From Clinton,

The new declassified key judgments of the Iran NIE expose the latest effort by the Bush administration to distort intelligence to pursue its ideological ends. The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous Americanled diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns. Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.
And Obama,
By reporting that Iran halted its nuclear weapon development program four years ago because of international pressure, the new National Intelligence Estimate makes a compelling case for less saberrattling and more direct diplomacy. The juxtaposition of this NIE with the president's suggestion of World War III serves as an important reminder of what we learned with the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: members of Congress must carefully read the intelligence before giving the President any justification to use military force.
For those Republicans who actually responded to either the NIE or the Strait of Hormuz incident, comments varied significantly.

On both issues, McCain responded,
Maybe the Iranians think we're weaker because of the NIE. Maybe the Iranians aren't really slowing their export of most lethal explosive devices into Iraq. And I believe the president of the United States made the right statement. He told them that we will preserve the fundamental principle of freedom of the sea, and he will do what's necessary in order to preserve it. So I believe these people -- these commanding officers made the right decision, and I believe that we entrusted their ships and the lives of the people under them in the most appropriate fashion. But don't think that this wasn't a serious situation of the utmost seriousness in one of the most important waterways in the world, because of so much of the world's oil goes through there. The Iranians better understand that the United States will stick to its many years-long tradition of preserving the fundamental principle of freedom of the seas.
Paul, on the NIE,
The Iranians have no nuclear weapon, according to our CIA. There's no need for us to threaten the Iranians. We could immediately turn the Navy around and bring them home, and I think this would be a major step toward peace.
And finally, Huckabee, ruling out a career in diplomacy, responded to the Strait of Hormuz incident,
I think we need to make it very clear, not just to the Iranians, but to anybody, that if you think you're going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle. Be prepared, first, to put your sights on the American vessel. And then be prepared that the next things you see will be the gates of Hell, because that is exactly what you will see after that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Colombia Keeps Ball Rolling, Ratifies CTBT

Colombia became the 144th country to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) yesterday.

The country joins a growing list of recent Treaty ratifiers, including two earlier this year: Malaysia (January 17) and Barbados (January 14). Four other countries ratified the Treaty last year as well: the Bahamas (November 30), the Dominican Republic (September 4), Palau (August 1), and Moldova (January 16).

The move is significant because Colombia is an Annex 2 country, whose ratification is required for the Treaty to take affect. Annex 2 countries are those that participated in the negotiations of the CTBT in 1996 and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time.

Colombia’s ratification leaves China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States as the last Annex 2 country hold-outs who stand in the way of the Treaty’s full implementation. Of these, only North Korea, India and Pakistan have not signed the CTBT.

The ratification also brings Latin America and the Caribbean one step closer to becoming a complete CTBT region. Of the 33 countries that are a party to the 1967 Tlaltelolco Treaty (which established the region as the first nuclear-weapon-free zone), 28 have now ratified the CTBT. Of the remaining five, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago have not signed the Treaty, while Guatemala has signed, but not ratified, the Treaty.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

U.S. To Oppose Treaty Barring Space Weapons

The insider publication Space News reported a couple of days ago that the U.S. plans to oppose a draft treaty that would ban placing weapons in outer space. Written by China and Russia, the treaty is set to be introduced at next month’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Citing China’s anti-satellite test last year, U.S. acting deputy assistant secretary of state for threat reduction, Donald Mahley, remarked that the "existence of opaque Chinese counter-space programs and activities complicates any discussion of a Chinese-Russian treaty proposal and reinforces U.S. opposition to such negotiations."

Somewhere Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is smiling.

UK's Nonproliferation Plea Deceiving

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recent visit to India exposed a disturbing contradiction at the heart of British nuclear nonproliferation policy.

But first, some good news: In a speech to leaders of British and Indian commerce and industry on January 21, Brown took the unprecedented step of pledging that Britain would “be at the forefront of the international campaign to accelerate disarmament amongst possessor states, to prevent proliferation to new states, and to ultimately achieve a world that is free from nuclear weapons.”

And yet Brown’s stirring call for nuclear disarmament rings hollow when viewed in conjunction with his position on the U.S.-India nuclear deal. In a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (also issued on January 21), Brown declared his support for the deal, “including an appropriate India-specific exemption to the Nuclear Suppliers Group Guidelines.” At the same time, the statement declared that India and the UK would work to craft a bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation of their own.

Proponents of the nuclear deal with India in the U.S. and UK generally proffer three key arguments in support of their position:

  1. The deal will serve as the linchpin of a new strategic relationship between the West and India;
  2. The deal will help India meet its burgeoning energy needs as well as provide business opportunities for American and British companies; and
  3. The deal will buttress the fledging global nonproliferation regime by forcing India to accept international safeguards on its nuclear facilities.
As has been well documented on this blog and by the newly launched Campaign for Responsibility in Nuclear Trade, these arguments do not withstand close scrutiny. Rather than strengthen the strategic relationship between India and the West, the agreement rewards and expands India’s nuclear arsenal, is likely to fuel a new arms race in South Asia, and increases the risk of nuclear terrorism.

The economic arguments in favor of the agreement are equally dubious. The deal fails to effectively respond to India’s energy needs and does not guarantee any economic benefits for American and British companies.

Finally, the deal represents a serious blow to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. Despite the fact that India is not a party to the NPT, has not formally forsworn the possibility of future nuclear tests, has made little progress in working towards a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), and is insisting on “India specific” safeguards to its declared civilian nuclear facilities, the U.S. and UK are proposing to reward India with nuclear technology reserved only for countries in good standing under the NPT.

Such a flagrant double standard is likely to further undermine what is an already fragile nonproliferation regime at a time when the international community is trying to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and convince NPT non-nuclear weapon states to take on additional obligations such as the Additional Protocol which provides for more intrusive inspections.

Nuclear proliferation is the most important national security issue facing the world today. If Brown were truly serious about moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons he would not have thrown his support behind an initiative that is so manifestly flawed. In doing just the opposite, Brown's policy toward nuclear proliferation is only serving to perpetuate the nuclear monster it ought to be seeking to destroy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

On January 22, the Senate approved a new version of the Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 4896. The new bill included a modification of the provision objected to by President Bush that deals with Iraqi claims for redress due to actions of Saddam Hussein. The vote was 91-3.

The President will deliver his last State of the Union address on Monday night, January 28. After the Bush Administration presents its Fiscal Year 2009 budget to the Congress on February 4, the shape of the legislative battles ahead for the year will be clearer.



The House of Representatives approved a new version of the Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 4896, on January 16. The new version included a modification of the provision objected to by President Bush that deals with Iraqi claims for redress due to actions of Saddam Hussein. The vote was 369 to 46. The House decided not to try to override President Bush's veto of the bill.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

First Strike Nuclear Madness

Plutonium Page put together a great piece over at Daily Kos today on the recent rumblings that NATO should retain the option to strike preemptively using nuclear weapons.

As she aptly points out,

It's really stretching the imagination try to understand how a new doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear strikes can possibly be part of the War on Terror™. The concept of nuclear deterrence can't apply if your perceived enemy doesn't have nuclear weapons. "We think they might be making them," is not the same as a nation having them, and being overtly hostile toward another nation, as was the case in the Cold War. There are no clear targets; we're talking ideologies and small groups of people. And, let's quit waxing theoretical: the use of a nuclear weapon period is a horrific proposal.

Check out the full piece here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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.

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

The House of Representatives approved a new version of the Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 4896, on January 16. The new version included a modification of the provision objected to by President Bush that deals with Iraqi claims for redress due to actions of Saddam Hussein. The vote was 369 to 46. The House decided not to try to override President Bush's veto of the bill. The Senate returns to session this week, and is expected to take up the Defense Authorization Bill some time this week.

Aside from primaries and caucuses, next up:
January 28 - President Bush's State of the Union address
February 4 - Presentation of the Fiscal Year 2009 budget to Congress

Nuclear Proliferation and Prez Candidates: Deadly Silence?

Catherine Collins (co-author of The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets ... and How We Could Have Stopped Him) published an interesting op-ed in the Chicago Tribune last week on what she perceives as a lack of attention paid to nuclear proliferation in this year's presidential debates.

Though a significant portion of the January 5 Democratic Presidential Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire was dedicated to the issues of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation, with approximately 15 minutes of a one hour debate spend on the topic, she argues that candidates have done little to otherwise address the issue. ABC's Charlie Gibson agreed with Collins' perspective when he put forth this question:

So let me start with what is generally agreed to be, I think, the greatest threat to the United States today and somewhat to my surprise has not been discussed as much in the presidential debates this year as I thought would be, and that is nuclear terrorism.
Collins argues that in 2004, President Bush and Senator Kerry both seemed to agree that nuclear proliferation was the most serious threat to national security. And since that time, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon (though it has now taken concrete steps toward abandoning its nuclear program), Iran's nuclear program has come under more intense international scrutiny, and concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal have arisen in light of domestic "unrest" - to put it mildly - after the death of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Rather than be pushed to the forefront of the presidential debates, however, nuclear proliferation has been largely ignored, she argues. And "the silence has been deafening."

Many of the Democratic candidates' positions on nuclear issues can be found in their comments from the New Hampshire debate, but Collins also sent a questionnaire to the Republican candidates. When only one (Mitt Romney) responded, she compiled some of their quotes from other speeches.

On the Republican side, she argues:
The GOP candidates are more likely to equate nuclear issues with terrorism and they appear unwilling to talk to Iran under current circumstances.

The Republicans have largely avoided discussing whether to build a new generation of nuclear weapons, a program pushed by the Bush administration [the funding for which was recently cut in the December Omnibus Appropriations bill].

Proliferation concerns are most often expressed in terms of putting the burden on non-nuclear countries to stop the development of weapons without addressing the U.S. obligations to reduce and eventually eliminate its own stockpile. Romney set himself apart from others in both parties by proposing a new body of international law that would make trafficking in nuclear technology a 'crime against humanity.' He also outlined a five-point plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, extending the Bush policy by proposing tighter economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
On international treaties:
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson [who just dropped out of the race] are on record opposing the test ban treaty, which suggests that they also support developing new nuclear weapons down the road. McCain has called the treaty broken because it failed to stop the spread of nuclear technology. Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have opposed reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile, as the treaty requires. Rep. Ron Paul is the only Republican who advocates reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal.
She identifies that Democrats and Republicans on the whole offer distinctly different proposals on how to address the issue of nuclear proliferation, but calls on both sides to raise the issue as part of their campaigns.
The world has become a more dangerous and unstable place since the last election. The world's nuclear powers have not lived up to their promise to eliminate nuclear weapons and more countries are trying to acquire them. The time for silence is long past and the candidates of both parties should raise the volume on the nuclear debate.
For further information on the candidates' positions on nuclear weapons, check out "Eyes on the Prize," compiled by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and questionnaire responses from the candidates, collected by the Center's sister organization, Council for a Livable World.

* The Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation does not endorse candidates, presidential or otherwise.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Resignation of Bush Administration Moderate May Signal Shift in Policy Direction

On October 21st, 2007, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani resigned, allegedly because "he wanted to focus on 'other political activities." Larijani was a force of moderation and compromise within the Iranian foreign policy establishment, and had "faced increasing challenges from [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad," who favored a tougher approach.

Given the political context of Larijani's resignation, it was widely recognized as something other than a personal decision on the part of the nuclear negotiator. The New York Times described the "resignation" as
a signal "that officials here [in Iran] may have closed the door to any possible negotiated settlement in its standoff with the West." In other words, the resignation of a moderate who had faced pressure from more hawkish higher-ups was recognized as an indicator of a shift in the ideological power balance of the Iranian administration.

Burns with the Israeli Finance Minister in August, 2007
(Source: State Department)

Today, Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, announced his resignation. According to Secretary of State Rice, Burns resigned because he "decided that it's the right moment to go back to family concerns." It has been clear for some time that Burns--along with Secretary of State Rice--has been locked in a battle over the direction of the Bush administration's foreign policy. Burns occupies a Larijani-like position within the administration, and his departure for "personal reasons" may signal a hawkish change in direction in the White House.

The split between Burns and some of his superiors was aptly described in 2006 by the New York Times, in an article on administration in-fighting over whether to negotiate with North Korea:
This is not a new debate by any stretch. Within the administration, a more hawkish wing that includes Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and John R. Bolton, the ambassador to the United Nations, has chafed against talks with any American foe, be it North Korea or Iran. Meanwhile, advocates of diplomacy, including R. Nicholas Burns and Philip D. Zelikow, two of Ms. Rice’s top lieutenants at the State Department, have sided with European allies in saying that the United States should engage its foes.
Steve Clemmons, Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, reported in an analysis of Burns' departure that this hostile dynamic has persisted throughout Burns' tenure:
Vice President Cheney's team did all it could to undermine Secretary of State Rice and her effective globe-trotting Under Secretary for Political Affairs [Nicholas Burns] in the diplomatic efforts... On nearly all of these subjects [i.e. North Korea, Iran, China, etc.], except perhaps Afghanistan, Nick Burns and Co. have been on one side of constructive efforts to stabilize global affairs and push forward positive "American global engagement" -- and Cheney's acolytes have been on another.
When one of the leading figures in a fierce administration policy battle decides that he will resign "for personal reasons," we ought to be suspicious. Moreover, Burns' announcement comes on the heels of a significant delay in the North Korea negotiations, which Cheney and his "acolytes" have always opposed. As a State Department spokesman put it, "North Korea has not yet met its commitments by providing a complete and correct declaration of its nuclear programs and [is] slowing down the process of disablement." While the extent and significance of North Korea's failure to declare is debatable, for critics of the deal this road-bump validates their initial mistrust of the North Korean leader. As John Bolton argued in a Wall Street Journal editorial, this issue provides the U.S. "an opportunity to extricate itself from this unwise and dangerous deal."

It is certainly possible that Nicholas Burns genuinely resigned because he wants to spend more time with his family. However, given his consistently adversarial relationship with the more hawkish members of the Bush administration and the recent events in North Korea, his resignation may actually signal a change in direction in the Bush administration. As someone who favors constructive diplomatic engagement, I sincerely hope that Burns did resign for personal reasons. As a student of politics, I fear that this resignation is attributable to forces far larger than Burns' family.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

North Korea Nutshell: Missing the Point

The Six-Party Talks remain stalled this week over the issue of whether or not North Korea has offered a “complete declaration” of its nuclear program. The North continues to hold fast to its position that it has already revealed what it promised to the United States despite the fact the Amb. Hill has repeatedly stated that whatever he was shown in the last few months has not been up to par with what the U.S. would consider acceptable.

But while the negotiators continue to haggle over aluminum tubes, an important opportunity is being wasted. Little over a week ago, North Korea referred to having 30kg of separated plutonium in its possession as part of an overall statement concerning the declaration they had prepared in November of last year. As usual, David Albright and the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) picked up on this and issued a quick analysis that can be found here.

Using the data they computed in their previous work on possible North Korean plutonium production, Albright and his team determined that if the 30kg referred only to the amount of plutonium that was gained from reprocessing spent fuel that had been unloaded from the 5 megawatt reactor, then this amount fell within the projected levels. So, while others seem to be unable to concentrate on anything but the uranium program and what was in a blown-up facility in Syria (still important questions), possible progress in getting to the bottom of the most dangerous part of North Korea’s nuclear program isn't being pursued. The ISIS report sums this point up nicely:

Although North Korea’s declaration must be viewed as a partial one, it should be seen as an initial step in a process aimed at achieving a complete declaration. An initial verification process could be initiated by representatives of the Six Party Talks or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who would seek clarifications and additions to that declaration. North Korea has stated that it is willing to provide more details about its plutonium stock, including the amount of plutonium separated during each reprocessing campaign and the amount of plutonium used in the October 2006 nuclear test. The verification process would need to establish confidence that North Korea declares all of its plutonium, including the total amount of plutonium produced and its subsequent separation and use.
By focusing on plutonium, the negotiators would zero in on the material in North Korea’s nuclear weapons, which are the primary target of any denuclearization effort. Few believe anymore that North Korea developed a program to produce highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons. Given the relative importance of North Korea’s plutonium stocks, it would be regrettable if progress were stymied over the issue of uranium. Negotiators should keep the uranium issue in perspective—continue seeking information to clarify North Korea’s actions, but not risk fatal damage to the larger denuclearization process over a uranium enrichment program that fewer and fewer believe ever produced highly enriched uranium (HEU).

Confidence in the Six Party Process continues to be lost each passing day. Once the important question of what to do with the spent fuel from the disabled reactor at Yongbyon is answered, there will be very little left to point to as representing continuing cooperation. Taking up the plutonium issue at this juncture, and designing and implementing an initial verification process, would kill two birds with one stone. North Korea would have an avenue by which it could continue to show it is cooperating with the Six Parties and we could begin to get answers to the most important questions we have about the North Korean nuclear program.

This all seems even more vital given the dismal state of planning towards how we are going to verify the North Korean declaration. Andreas Persbo, an outside government expert on verification, painted a grim picture after attending a conference in England last year:
I asked, in one of the plenary sessions, how the six parties intend to verify the forthcoming North Korean declaration and was greeted with silence. Afterwards, one of the insiders said that the reasons why no one can answer how verification should be conducted, is because verification has not been discussed yet. The six parties are truly implementing the agreement by the seat of their pants.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Campaign for Responsibility in Nuclear Trade Launched to Oppose U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

A diverse coalition of 23 organizations yesterday launched a campaign to stop the Bush administration’s proposed U.S.-India nuclear deal. The deal would allow the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology and material to India, but fails to hold the country to the same responsible nonproliferation and disarmament rules that are required of advanced nuclear states.

Comprised of arms control experts, environmental activists, consumer advocates, religious groups and doctors, the Campaign for Responsibility in Nuclear Trade contends the deal would: dangerously weaken nonproliferation efforts and embolden countries like Iran and North Korea to pursue the development of nuclear weapons; further destabilize South Asia and Pakistan in particular; and violate or weaken international and U.S. laws, including the Hyde Act.

The Campaign’s extensive membership includes the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and among its impressive list of advisors is Dr. Robert Gard, Jr., Lt. Gen. (USA, ret.) and Senior Military Fellow at the Center.

More information can be found on the Campaign’s snazzy web site.

Barbados Signs and Ratifies CTBT

Hats off to Barbados, which both signed and ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on Monday. The country joins a slew of recent ratifications, including four last year: the Bahamas (November 30), the Dominican Republic (September 4), Palau (August 1), and Moldova (January 16). Before Barbados, the last country to sign the CTBT was Montenegro on October 23, 2006. Can Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, or Trinidad and Tobago be far behind?

The addition of Barbados brings the number of Treaty signatories to 178 and Treaty ratifiers to 142. In order for the CTBT to enter into force, however, it must ratified by the 44 countries identified in Annex 2 of the Treaty (countries that participated in the negotiations of the Treaty in 1996 and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time).

While 41 of these countries have signed the Treaty, only 34 have ratified it, leaving the U.S. as only one of ten countries to stand in the way of its full implementation. The other countries are China, Columbia, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan. Of these only North Korea, India and Pakistan have not signed the CTBT.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Report: $20 Billion U.S. Arms Deal to Contain Iran No Substitute for Diplomacy

The Center’s Travis Sharp and Katie Mounts today released a tremendous report which examines the Bush administration’s decision to sell $20 billion in advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia and other GCC states as an effort largely designed to contain Iran. They argue that the sale is another example of how the U.S. continues to use deadly technologies as the flawed currency of friendship with foreign nations.

Click here to read the online version of the report, here to read the PDF version with footnotes, or here for the press release.

The executive summary of the report follows:

In July 2007, the United States announced the sale of $20 billion in advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are slated to receive advanced satellite-guided bomb technology known as Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will receive, inter alia, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and -2 (PAC-3 and PAC-2) missiles.

Bush administration officials have indicated that the $20 billion arms deal is primarily aimed at containing Iran. Supplementary rationales for the deal include the fortification of American influence vis-à-vis peer competitors in the Middle East, future business for the United States providing spare parts, and reassurance of Gulf allies in advance of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

From 1999 to 2006, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia ranked in the top five in the Middle East for the total value of their arms transfer agreements with the United States (Egypt and Israel ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively). The United Arab Emirates received $7 billion in arms transfer agreements ($892 million annual average), Saudi Arabia received $6.5 billion ($815 million annual average), and Kuwait received $3 billion ($334 million annual average) during this period in inflation-adjusted Fiscal Year 2006 dollars.

The United States has consistently used deadly technologies as the currency of friendship with foreign nations. From 1999 to 2006, the value of all U.S. arms transfer agreements worldwide was slightly less than the next five highest suppliers combined (Russia, France, United Kingdom, Germany, China). The United States supplied 56% of all arms transfer agreements with the Middle East during the same period. That is five times greater than Russia's proportion, the second highest supplier, and almost twenty times greater than China's proportion.

Previous experiences with Iran and Iraq illustrate that selling arms to strategic allies can backfire if the regime or relationship changes. The United States supplied Iraq with cluster bombs and chemical weapons in the 1980s, only to fight the Iraqi military in 1991 and again in 2003 and watch helplessly in the 1980s as Saddam Hussein brutally murdered thousands of Kurds. Iran made one-third of its defense purchases from the United States during the 1970s, but the two countries are now approaching their third decade of always chilly and sometimes hostile relations.

Instead of working with countries to improve political freedom, the $20 billion sale rewards an oppressive Saudi monarchy whose human rights record has not met expectations of improvement following the accession to the throne of King Abdullah in August 2005. Moderate Muslims throughout the world resent American involvement in the perpetuation of oppressive regimes through the sale of advanced weaponry.

Monday, January 14, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

The House of Representatives returns from recess on January 15; the Senate will resume work next week. One of the first orders of business is the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization conference agreement. President Bush vetoed the bill because of an obscure provision on Iraq. The House is expected to try to override that veto this week.

Aside from primaries and caucuses, next up:
January 28 - President Bush's State of the Union address
February 4 - Presentation of the Fiscal Year 2009 budget to Congress


As Congress left town in December, it approved $70 billion of the estimated $196 billion Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The bill was called a "bridge," in that it would provide temporary funding for current operations until the full amount could be considered later this year. Congress is expected to consider the remainder of the money in March or April.

Earlier versions of the measure would have required some U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin 30 days after the bill was enacted, and it set a goal – but not a requirement –that most troops 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.

On December 18, the Senate approved the Omnibus Appropriations bill that included the $70 billion to pay for the wars by a vote of 76 - 17 after adopting a McConnell (R-KY) motion to appropriate the $70 billion with no conditions. On December 19, the House approved the $70 billion without any conditions by a vote of 272 - 142.


On May 2, the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee marked-up or wrote its portion of the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill. The Subcommittee cut $45 million from the Administration's $119 million request for a new generation of nuclear weapons called the Reliable Replacement Warhead, leaving $74 million intact. The Subcommittee established a "congressionally-appointed, bipartisan congressional commission to re-evaluate the U.S. strategic posture." The Subcommittee also cut $764 million from the Administration's $10.2 billion request for the missile defense programs, including $160 million from the proposed third ground-based midcourse defense site in Europe, $400 million from the Airborne Laser program and all $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed.

On May 9, the full House Armed Services Committee approved the bill. While some funding for the Airborne Laser program (a component of the national missile defense system) and for other programs was restored, the funds came from other missile defense programs, leaving the top line cut to missile defense at $764 million. The Committee also agreed to the $45 million reductions from the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed and $24.9 million from the facility to build new plutonium cores for weapons, while agreeing to increase the Pentagon's Cooperative Threat Reduction program by $50 million to $398 million and increase the Energy Department's nuclear non-proliferation programs by $150 million to $1.8 billion.

On May 17, the House adopted the bill by a vote of 397 - 27. Before final passage, the House: rejected 136 - 288 a DeFazio (D-OR) amendment to bar a U.S. attack on Iran without prior Congressional approval; rejected 202 - 216 an Andrews (D-NJ) amendment to bar spending in the bill on planning contingency operations in Iran; rejected 127 - 299 a Tierney (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion from missile defense; rejected 199 - 226 a Franks (R-AZ) amendment to restore the $764 million cut from missile defense in the committee; and rejected 201 - 219 a King (R-IA) amendment to weaken a provision in the bill barring U.S. permanent military bases in Iraq. On a motion by Rep. Hunter (R-CA) to recommit the bill with instructions (a procedural move immediately before final passage), the House added $205 million for missile defense programs that help Israel.

On May 24, the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its mark-up of the $648.8 billion bill. In some highlights, the Committee added $100 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, added $87 million for the Department of Energy non-proliferation programs and cut $43 million from the Administration's request for $238 million for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, (note: the Senate is using a different number for this program than the House). While approving $10.1 billion for missile defense, the committee cut $85 million from the request of $310.4 million for the third missile defense site in Europe and cut $200 million from the airborne laser program.

The full Senate began debating the bill the week of July 9. The Senate voted 56 - 41 for the Webb (D-VA) - Hagel (R-NE) amendment that would have mandated minimum periods for soldiers between deployments to Iraq, but the measure failed because 60 votes were needed for passage. A similar Hagel (R-NE) amendment No. 2032 barring Army soldiers from serving for more than 12 consecutive months in Iraq and Marines from serving for more than seven months garnered a 52 - 45 majority, but was turned back as 60 votes were required for adoption. After the Senate voted 52 - 47 for cloture on the Levin (D-MI) - Reed (D-RI) amendment (with 60 votes required to close debate), Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the Defense Authorization bill from the Senate floor.

The Senate resumed its consideration of the bill on September 17. A Webb (D-VA) - Hagel (R-NE) amendment requiring more rest and training for U.S. troops before being sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan failed 56 - 44, with 60 votes required for passage. A Feingold (D-WI) - Reid (D-NV) amendment was defeated 28 - 70. The amendment would have mandated the beginning of the withdrawal of most American forces from Iraq 90 days after enactment of the bill, with funds cut off for any American forces remaining in Iraq after June 30, 2008 except for counterterrorism, training and protection of U.S. infrastructure and personnel. A Levin (D-MI) & Reed (D-RI) amendment also failed, this time 47 - 47, with 60 votes needed for adoption. It would have mandated the beginning of withdrawal of American forces from Iraq within 90 days of enactment and completed the withdrawal of most troops within nine months of enactment.

The Kyl (R-AZ), Lieberman (I-CT) amendment urging the Iranian Revolutionary Corps be designated as a terrorist organization on Iran was approved 76 - 22, although language authorizing the use of force against Iranian forces was deleted.

On October 1, the Senate approved the bill by a 92 - 3 vote.

The week of December 10, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The House vote was 370 - 49 on December 12; the Senate vote was 90 - 3 on December 14. The $507 billion bill provided $66 million for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, barred funding for converting Trident nuclear submarines to carry conventional warheads, cut $85 million for construction and deployment at the Europe-based missile defense and established a 12-person commission to study U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

On December 28, President Bush vetoed the bill.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nuclear Terrorism and the 2008 Democratic Candidates

Plutonium Page over at Daily Kos put together an interesting piece on nuclear terrorism and the three leading Democratic presidential candidates. She begins by looking at the definition of terrorism and some of its various forms, including nuclear terrorism, before delving into the candidates’ proposals. (And it doesn’t hurt that she references the Center, Nukes of Hazard, and yours truly a few times – thanks Page!) Click here to read the full piece.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nuclear Power in the UK: Still the Wrong Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions

In the latest stage of the so-called "nuclear renaissance," the British government today approved the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants. This move reverses the previous UK policy on nuclear power, which (as stated in 2003) was that "its current economics make it an unattractive option for new, carbon-free generating capacity."

The decision to build new nuclear power plants has been met with ardent opposition from the British environmentalist movement, but UK Business Secretary John Hutton defended the new policy as a response to global warming: "Set against the challenges of climate change and security of supply, the evidence in support of new nuclear power stations is compelling." However, as the previous British policy explicitly recognized, nuclear power is economically a decidedly "unattractive option" for reducing carbon emissions.

The chart below demonstrates that as far as investments in clean energy go, nuclear power is decidedly sub-prime. We can most efficiently reduce the carbon output associated with energy production by improving efficiency (and thereby reducing the amount of energy that needs to be produced) and by implementing alternative, non-nuclear energy technologies.

(Based on data from the National Resources Defense Council)

Moreover, nuclear power plants pose significant terrorism risks, both as targets for attacks and as potential sources of material for nuclear devices. While the United Kingdom almost certainly has the resources to prevent theft of its nuclear material, this cannot be said for countries like Indonesia, which recently announced plans to develop nuclear power despite what ABC News called a "dubious safety record." By propagating the fiscal myth of nuclear power as a solution to global warming, the UK (and other industrialized nations) are founding a nuclear renaissance on faulty principles.

Nuclear power may be profitable given today's high oil and gas prices, and in the future it could play an important role in (or transitioning to) a global post-carbon economy. But if the British government's goal really is to address the urgent threat of global warming by reducing carbon emissions, nuclear power is a bad investment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ACA Announces "2007 Arms Control Person of the Year"

The Arms Control Association just announced that Reps. Peter Visclosky and David Hobson were voted "Arms Control Person of the Year" for 2007.

U.S. Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), chair of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee, and David Hobson (R-Ohio), ranking Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, were key actors in eliminating funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead - the new generation of nuclear weapons proposed by the Bush administration - in the 2008 budget.

ACA announced that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Christopher Hill, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, tied for second place. Hill succeeded in October helping negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea at the six party talks that, though currently facing obstacles, has resulted in concrete steps to ending North Korea's nuclear program.

Store led a Norwegian initiative to negotiate a treaty banning cluster munitions. These weapons fragment to produce up to 600 submunitions and are estimated to have killed tens of thousands of noncombatants.

More than 620 individuals cast votes over the period for the nine nominees. For the list of all those nominated for 2007, see our earlier post.

Peter Galbraith: US needs to get tough with Pakistan

Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center, Peter Galbraith, recently wrote an interesting op-ed in the Boston Globe, arguing that Pakistan “should be treated like the national security problem it has become.” He suggests that the U.S. should insist that Pakistan’s elected leaders have total control over all of the country’s national security programs, make clear that the U.S. does not believe A.Q. Khan acted alone, insist that Khan and his records are made available to the IAEA, and sponsor a Security Council resolution appointing a UN investigator to look into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

President Bush recently described Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, as an "absolutely reliable ally" in the war on extremists and a man of his word. In fact, Pakistan's record under Musharraf is one of broken promises while tolerating acts harmful to US interests. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, weeks after a US-brokered deal for her return to Pakistan, underscores the bankruptcy of the current approach. Instead of treating Pakistan like the ally it isn't, the country should be treated like the national security problem it has become. Moreover, Bush should be careful with his language. The United States needs to be tough with Pakistan, not gullible.


The United States should get tough with Pakistan. Bush should insist that Pakistan become a real ally in the war on terrorism. In recent years, the Inter-Services Intelligence and Pakistan's nuclear establishment have been pursuing their own anti-American agenda, in violation of Pakistan's supposed official policy. The intelligence agency has supported the Taliban and continues to maintain contact with Islamic radicals, including possibly Al Qaeda. A.Q. Khan, head of Pakistan's nuclear program, sold nuclear weapons technology and materials to America's worst enemies: North Korea, Iran, and Libya. It is not remotely plausible that Musharraf did not know or acquiesce in these activities.

The United States should insist that Pakistan's elected leaders have full control over all of Pakistan's national security programs, including the nuclear file and the Inter-Services Intelligence. The agency should be restructured, or better, abolished. It is a bastion of anti-Western and antidemocratic sentiment. And, Bush should make clear that he does not believe that Khan acted on his own. At a minimum, the United States should insist that Pakistan make Khan, and his records, available to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States could signal its new approach by sponsoring a Security Council resolution appointing a UN investigator to look into the murder of Bhutto. When a suicide bomber blew up former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, the Bush administration helped lead the effort to pass such a resolution. The Bhutto killing raises similar questions, including as to why there was no Pakistani security or police protecting her.

Instead of praising Musharraf as a man of his word, Bush should tell him that he will no longer tolerate unkept promises or be satisfied with obvious lies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

North Korea Nutshell: The Return of the Light Water Reactors

The North Korean nuclear negotiations are heading towards a pretty important impasse. North Korea claims that it has met its end of the October 3rd deal by making serious progress in disablement and presenting some sort of declaration of its nuclear program to the United States.

Amb. Chris Hill made it pretty clear, especially with the personal letter from President Bush, that the North Koreans still had not entirely fulfilled their end of the bargain and that a more complete declaration would need to be submitted to China (the chair of the 6-Party Talks) before moving forward. The U.S. and other parties still need more information about North Korean efforts towards a uranium enrichment capability and any possible proliferation issues (ie. Syria). There also still may be an issue with Pyongyang’s reporting of plutonium stocks, as the North Korean Ministry recently issued a statement that listed the production at 30kg. U.S. experts place the likely levels of plutonium closer to 50-70kg. The difference is enough to produce several nuclear weapons.

All is not lost, however, as the disablement of the last of the three nuclear facilities at Yongbyon continues and should likely be finished in the next three months. This timeline for completion is somewhat longer than what the U.S. had expected, but it seems that one of the ways North Korea is expressing its displeasure over delayed aid shipments is by reducing staff levels working on disabling the nuclear reactor.

Every expert I talk to concerning this issue gives me approximately the same quote: The North Koreans are going to make this take as long as they can so they can sell us their nuclear program one screw at a time. Given this view, the North’s latest pronouncements seem like yet another attempt to wring further concessions from the 6-Parties. This view tends to be reinforced by the fact that we are now seeing the reemergence of the issue of Light Water Reactors (LWR) in the negotiations.

The Agreed Framework of 1994 had provided the North Koreans with 2 LWR’s in return for the dismantlement of their older, more proliferation friendly graphite reactors. North Korea places a high value on not being beholden to foreign powers for anything and given their extremely large domestic uranium mines, they see nuclear power as essential to their economic development. The building of these reactors never really progressed beyond the initial stages because of a mixture of North Korea continuing to resist IAEA inspections while provoking it neighbors and a hesitation by Congress to fund the project.

In the last few months we have seen a resumption of the request by the North Koreans. What makes this interesting is that a highly regarded figure on North Korean issues, Robert Gallucci, has come out in favor of providing the LWRs. It is not completely surprising that Gallucci would support this move as he was the lead negotiator for the United States in the ’94 deal that included the LWRs. However, it is interesting that he chose to bring it up while talking to reporters during a recent trip to Seoul.

Gallucci made the trip to South Korea as a member of an elite group of officials that went to advise the newly elected President Lee on steps that could be taken to better strengthen their relationship with the United States. The history of U.S.-North Korean negotiations is full of similar situations where important figures float new diplomatic initiatives during their trips to Asia. Whether this is one of those times or just the personal thoughts of a concerned observer, the LWR issue does have the potential to break the current stalemate.

There are two important things that Gallucci discussed that must be kept in mind when considering the viability of LWRs for North Korea. The first is that these reactors use enriched uranium for fuel, as opposed to graphite reactors which use raw uranium, so that the DPRK would need to purchase its fuel from an outside source, and that this would lead to a far greater level of transparency with the North’s nuclear program. The other thing to remember is that the spent fuel from LWRs is not very suitable for plutonium reprocessing which could be then lead to material for nuclear weapons.

North Korea already has significant knowledge on developing nuclear power and is likely to pursue this avenue in the future even under significant international pressure. If the 6-Party talks are able to succeed in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and begins the process of opening them up to more normal relations with the international community (and I understand this is a big if), providing LWRs can help to meet the goals of all concerned parties.

The Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan

Though perhaps not directly tied to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues, the Center's online extraordinaire Ashley Hoffman recently put out an excellent (though disturbing) video that presents the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in U.S. taxpayers' dollars, U.S. lives, and the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians. Check it out below.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Nukes Get Significant Talk-Time at NH Debates

Thank you to ABC's Charlie Gibson for bringing the issues of nuclear terrorism and general nuclear proliferation to the weekend's Democratic presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

Not only were the issues discussed, but they were discussed at length - approximately fifteen minutes of the one hour debate were dedicated to those of nuclear proliferation.

Major highlights here, with a link to the full transcript below:

CHARLES GIBSON: So let me start with what is generally agreed to be, I think, the greatest threat to the United States today and somewhat to my surprise has not been discussed as much in the presidential debates this year as I thought would be, and that is nuclear terrorism.


SEN. OBAMA: ...It is important for us to rebuild a nuclear nonproliferant -- proliferation strategy -- something that this administration, frankly, has ignored, and has made us less safe as a consequence. It would not cost us that much, for example, and it would take about four years for us to lock down the loose nuclear weapons that are still floating out there, and we have not done the job.


MR. EDWARDS: I think the bigger picture on this is, what do we do over the long term? Because what we're doing now is essentially an ad hoc, nation by nation, case by case basis of trying to control the spread of this nuclear technology. In the short term, that is exactly what we should do and what I would do as president of the United States.


And what I believe we should be doing, over the long term, and what I will do as president of the United States, besides dealing with these short term threats -- which are very serious and should be taken seriously -- I, as president of the United States, want to do what some Republicans and some Democrats have said, which is to lead a long-term initiative, international initiative, to actually rid the world of nuclear weapons, because that is the only way to make the world safer and securer and to keep America safe.


MR. GIBSON: I want to get to another question, and it really is the central one in my mind in nuclear terrorism. The next president of the United States may have to deal with a nuclear attack on an American city. I've read a lot about this in recent days. The best nuclear experts in the world say there's a 30 percent chance in the next 10 years. Some estimates are higher: Graham Allison at Harvard says it's over 50 percent.

Senator Sam Nunn, in 2005, who knows a lot about this, posed two questions that stick in my mind, and I want to put them to you here. On the day after a nuclear weapon goes off in an American city, what would we wish we had done to prevent it? And what will we actually do on the day after?


SEN. OBAMA: We would obviously have to retaliate against anybody who struck American soil, whether it was nuclear or not. It would be a much more profound issue if it were nuclear weapons. That's why it's so important for us to rebuild the nuclear proliferation -- nonproliferation treaty that has fallen apart under this administration.

We have not made a commitment to work with the Russians to reduce our own nuclear stockpiles.

That has weakened our capacity to pressure other countries to give up nuclear technology. We have not locked down the loose nuclear weapons that are out there right now. These are all things that we should be taking leadership on. And part of what we need to do in changing our foreign policy is not just end the war in Iraq; we have to change the mindset that ignores long-term threats and engages in the sorts of actions that are not making us safe over the long term.


SEN. CLINTON: Well, the first -- the first part of your question was what would we wish we had done. And I have worked on this and passed legislation to move in the direction that I think we should go to have a very high level of commitment from the White House, including a person responsible in our government for marshaling our resources against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There has to be a better organizing effort to make sure that every part of the United States government is working together.


GOV. RICHARDSON: Charlie, when I was secretary of Energy, that was one of my responsibilities, securing nuclear stockpiles, nuclear materials, mainly with the Soviet Union. And I went there many time; we made progress. But since then there's been a proliferation of loose nuclear weapons, mainly in the hands of terrorists, that could cross presumably a border, that could be smuggled in in a cargo ship with our very weak port security.

If I'm elected president, I will do two things. First, I will seek immediate negotiations with the Soviet Union and other nuclear states to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. But also a treaty on fissionable material, where you have verification, where you try to secure those loose nuclear weapons from states like North Korea and others that -- that could be drifting into the international community.
For a complete transcript of the debate from the New York Times, click here.

Peter Galbraith Videos Discussing Iran

The Center’s Senior Diplomatic Fellow, Peter Galbraith, recently spoke at a briefing session on U.S. policy toward Iran, hosted by the World Policy Institute.

Below are the videos of Galbraith’s portion of the briefing.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

John Isaacs: Congress and National Security in 2007

The Center’s Executive Director, John Isaacs, recently penned an excellent wrap-up of Congressional action on national security issues in 2007, including nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, non-nuclear strategic weapons, missile defense, North Korea, and Iran. He argues that despite Congress’ failure to end the Iraq War, it was successful in a number of other areas, especially nuclear weapons.

The full article is provided below.

On December 18, as Congress was about to head out of town, the Senate took three last votes on the war in Iraq. The outcome of the votes replicated a host of votes earlier in the year and ran into the same law of mathematics: 60 votes are needed to pass controversial legislation in the Senate, such as requiring U.S. troops to return home from Iraq. Beyond that 60-vote barrier lies the president's veto pen, and a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress is needed to overcome that barrier. There are not 60 votes in the Senate to end the Iraq War, and there is certainly not a two-thirds majority in either the House or the Senate.

This salient congressional failure to end the disastrous Iraq War in 2007, however, masked a series of less visible but nonetheless important triumphs on national security issues, particularly related to nuclear weapons. Congress was able to stop, limit, or reverse some ill-advised Bush administration initiatives—more on that later.

It is true that the war in Iraq continues unabated. It is true that the military budget has skyrocketed, approaching $700 billion in approved funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through passage of the $70 billion "bridge" supplemental. It is true that the missile defense program, the largest single Pentagon weapons program, continues to lead a charmed life and will receive $8.7 billion in the next fiscal year, despite the flawed national missile defense ground-based system that lies at the heart of the program.

Policymaking in Washington in 2007 reflected some old truths. Powerful defense contractor lobbyists and their defenders in Congress continue to protect Cold War-era weapons programs that should be cancelled. Interest groups such as the newly cash-flush Freedom's Watch that back the Iraq War as part of what presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani bellicosely referred to as the "Terrorists' War on Us," a Clash of Civilizations against "Islamofascists," also seek to confront Iran as soon as possible with military force. And Republicans continue to maintain a religious zeal for missile defense, stemming from Ronald Reagan's embrace of the program 25 years ago; however, almost no corporations or interest groups support building new nuclear weapons or expanding the nuclear weapons complex. Even Republicans who salute Bush's military policies are silent, publicly opposed, or active participant s in the rebellion against the administration's nuclear weapons plans.

Nuclear weapons. After entering office in 2001, President George W. Bush sought expanded uses for nuclear weapons through a series of nuclear policy pronouncements and proposals to Congress to fund a new generation of nuclear weapons. First, the administration tried to persuade Congress to fund research into a small, low-yield, and therefore supposedly more "usable" nuclear weapon. Congress refused.

Next, the administration promoted a nuclear bunker buster, formally known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, designed to attack national leaders hiding underground or to target deeply buried bunkers harboring biological or chemical weapons. Congress said "hell, no" and promptly killed the program.

Not giving up on plans for a new nuclear weapon, most recently the Department of Energy proposed building a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), a program designed to develop a nuclear warhead it claimed was safer and more reliable than the existing stockpile. Before leaving town shortly before Christmas, Congress passed a huge Omnibus Appropriations Bill that denied any funds for this latest scheme.

Foes of these new weapons programs pointed out that more than 15 years after the Cold War, the United States still maintains huge numbers of nuclear weapons—albeit many fewer than at the height of the Cold War—with no real mission or purpose. A force designed to face off against a massive Soviet nuclear arsenal has much less raison d'être today.

Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN), chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee that originally nixed the funds for RRW, said in a statement after congressional action: "Despite the fact that the Cold War has ended, and we now face different national security threats that include terrorists acquiring nuclear material, the administration has not yet established a revised nuclear defense strategy and stockpile plan to reflect the new realities of the world. To put it simply, funding the RRW right now puts the cart before the horse."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the Senate's leading opponents of the RRW program, added: "The administration has pushed hard over nearly eight years to spend aggressively on new nuclear weapon programs that the nation does not need and which would make the world a more dangerous place. The Reliable Replacement Warhead was just the latest."

Another victory came when Congress refused to fund the administration's plan to build a new facility to produce annually 125 to 200 plutonium "triggers" or pits for nuclear weapons. These plutonium pits are of the cores of modern nuclear warheads, and the plan was a key part of the Department of Energy's plan to rebuild the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. However, after a 2006 study by national laboratory scientists, reviewed by independent scientists, concluded that existing pits in current nuclear weapons could last reliably for several more decades than previously estimated, Congress saw little need for a major new "bombplex" plant and zeroed out the work.

Congress bolstered these program cuts with provisions launching two reevaluations of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Congress established a 12-member congressional commission "to look at the strategic posture of the United States in the broadest sense," including both conventional and nuclear. The commission was asked to include a threat assessment, a detailed review of nuclear weapons policy and strategy, and an examination of non-nuclear alternatives to nuclear weapons. The commission's report is due December 1, 2008.

In addition, Congress mandated the secretary of defense to conduct a comprehensive review of the nuclear posture of the United States for the next 5 to 10 years. This report would make recommendations on: the role of nuclear forces in U.S. military strategy; the policy requirements to maintain a safe, reliable, and credible nuclear deterrence posture; the composition of the nuclear delivery systems that will be required for implementing U.S. military strategy; and what kind of nuclear weapons complex is needed to support these activities.

Significantly, both studies are designed to guide the next president of the United States as he or she takes office in 2009. Thus, while another year remains in Bush's second term, most of Washington is already looking forward to the next president's new policies beginning in 2009.

Nuclear nonproliferation. There were other positive developments in 2007 in the nuclear realm. In February 2006, the Bush administration unveiled its plans for reprocessing U.S. and foreign nuclear waste as part of its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) program, reversing a 30-year practice of not reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. As part of this program, the Bush administration planned to build a full-scale commercial reprocessing plant and fast reactor to separate plutonium from the nuclear waste. Congress cut out more than half the funds, appropriating only $179 million, and Congress' last words on the program in the final bill were that the "controversial initiative ... will cost tens of billions of dollars and last for decades, but it continues to raise concerns among scientists and has only weak support from industry."

The Bush administration has generally given short shift to nuclear nonproliferation policies, never giving high priority to important programs that minimize the risk of nuclear terrorism by securing and disposing of vulnerable nuclear weapons in Russia and materials in more than 40 countries that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Congress proved itself more responsible than the Executive Branch, however, and reversed previous attempts to cut funding for such programs. This year, it added $623 million in two bills for core nonproliferation programs. Congress also eliminated bureaucratic restrictions that had long hampered carrying out these vital nonproliferation programs.

One priority of the arms control community is the ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Bush made it clear upon taking office that he had no interest in resurrecting the treaty, which the Senate failed to ratify in 1999. The fact remains, however, that the United States has not conducted a nuclear explosive test for 15 years. While the administration requested funds in earlier years to speed up an eventual resumption of nuclear weapons testing (which Congress wisely denied), it did not even try in 2007.

Congress took on the test-ban issue in two ways. First, while the administration requested only $18 million for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, the international organization that monitors worldwide for any secret tests, even as the United States fell into arrears in its dues, Congress increased that amount by one-third to $24 million. Second, a compromise of sorts came on language proposed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) endorsing eventual ratification of the CTBT. Conservatives, led by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who was recently elevated to the number two position in the Senate Republican hierarchy, put together a letter signed by 37 senators objecting to Levin's language. With neither side willing to risk a Senate floor fight over the provision, it was quietly dropped.

Non-nuclear strategic weapons. Congress also rejected a Pentagon request to put conventional warheads on Trident nuclear-powered submarines. These Trident submarines are a cornerstone of the mighty U.S. nuclear deterrent capacity. The Pentagon, looking for a way to strike targets quickly across the globe, proposed replacing some nuclear warheads on Trident submarines with conventional warheads that could be launched quickly at far-off targets. Congress demurred, concerned about whether or not other nations could reliably tell whether a missile flying overhead contained a nuclear or a conventional warhead. While recognizing the need for the United States to have a capacity to strike quickly with a conventional warhead, the Defense Authorization conferees stated: "The conferees remain concerned about prompt global strike concepts that would employ a mixed loading of nuclear and non-nuclear system s and believe that [the Department of Defense] should carefully address these ambiguity concerns."

Missile defense. While Congress continues to pour huge amounts of money into missile defense programs, it did establish limits on the administration's proposed missile defense system in Europe that is supposed to protect against Iranian nuclear missiles. The United States plans to place new interceptor missiles in Poland, along with tracking radar in the Czech Republic. This plan has already stirred up fierce domestic opposition in Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Congress stepped into the controversy by barring any spending on "procurement, site activation, construction, preparation of equipment for, or deployment of a long-range missile defense system in Europe" until Poland and the Czech Republic give final approval and until the Pentagon's director of Operational Test and Evaluation submits a report certifying that the proposed interceptor "has demonstrated, through successful, operationally realistic flight testing, a high probability of working in an operationally effective manner." These conditions may mean that any deployment decision is delayed until the next U.S. president takes office.

North Korea. Another area of progress on national security is the effort to stop North Korea's nuclear program. The Bush administration—reversing course after six years—devoted new energy this year to negotiations with the secretive North Korean regime as part of the Six-Party Talks. These negotiations made significant progress after the departure of John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and previous undersecretary of state for arms control, who, no longer in government, has been liberated to criticize his former colleagues from a comfy perch at the American Enterprise Institute. Progress in the talks has been followed by steps forward on the ground, and North Korea has taken concrete steps to shutter its nuclear facilities.

Hawks in Congress could have objected to the talks with North Korea, one of the members of the "axis of evil," and could have tried to withhold funds to implement the agreement. But the Omnibus Appropriations Bill approved $53 million for energy assistance to the Pyongyang regime and authorized another $10 million for dismantlement work. The final bill stated: "The Committee on Appropriations strongly supports ... disablement of North Korea's nuclear weapons arsenal and production capability."

Iran. The final area of mixed progress relates to Iran. Congress spent 2007 passing resolutions condemning Iran and its Revolutionary Guard, adopting greater economic sanctions, advocating a missile defense site in Europe to protect against Iranian missiles, and appropriating funds for an ineffectual and controversial program to "promote democracy" in Iran that has been thoroughly rejected by its intended beneficiaries.

But the trend toward confrontation and war was abruptly halted in early December when the intelligence community disseminated a new National Intelligence Estimate that found Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure. The estimate further concluded: "We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons." Ironically, Congress had been insisting since October 2006 that the Bush administration update its intelligence estimate of Iran's nuclear programs.

In sum, a year overshadowed by war in Iraq produced a number of significant victories for those focused on nuclear weapons activities. It is very likely that the major priority of the arms control community in 2008 will be to similarly hold the line against the Bush administration's nuclear weapons proposals, and then to push for wholesale change by the new president who takes office on January 20, 2009.