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Proliferation Press

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mixed News from Libya: Successful HEU Extraction, Failed Nuclear Trial

The Washington Post and the United Press International reported today on the successful extraction of 6.6 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Libya and the past removal of 37 pounds of HEU in 2004.

The joint venture brought together the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, Russia (where the material originated), and the IAEA.

The recently removed HEU from Tripoli will now be sent to Russia, where it will be blended into low enriched uranium: a much less dangerous substance with US and IAEA supervision.

This latest action shows the transformation of Libya from an isolated, terror-sponsoring nation to 'responsible' nation status. Such a powerful case of counter-proliferation has not been seen since the successful removal of nuclear weapons from former Soviet states after the fall of the Soviet Union.

How the Downblend Process Works

If this current program is following past US-Russian agreements to downblend uranium, the process detailed by Elena Sokova will take place:

Several Russian facilities are involved in the HEU blend-down process, from warhead dismantlement to dilution into LEU. First, Russian nuclear warheads are dismantled at nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly facilities. Following this, HEU components are shipped to the Siberian Chemical Combine (in Seversk) and the Mayak Production Association (in Ozersk), where they are turned into metal shavings and then converted into uranium oxide (U3O8). The U3O8 is then converted into highly enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas at either the Siberian Chemical Combine or the Krasnoyarsk Electrochemical Plant (in Zelenogorsk). These two facilities, as well as the Ural Electrochemical Combine (in Novouralsk), dilute the UF6 to produce LEU with a concentration of uranium-235 below 5%. (For more information on this process, refer to the Megatons to Megawatts section of the USEC website.) The LEU is then packaged and shipped via St. Petersburg to the United States. Upon receipt of the LEU, USEC pays TENEX. Once in the United States, USEC may alter the LEU enrichment level according to its customers' specifications, or send the LEU unaltered to a US commercial nuclear-fuel fabricator.[1]

Botched German Libyan Nuclear Trial

But this good news on the proliferation front, comes along with the sorry conclusion of Gotthard Lerch's trial in Mannheim, GER on charges that he had aided Libya's nuclear program (as reported today in The Guardian). Facing charges that he had violated German anti-proliferation regulations, the judge today threw out the case citing the prosecutions refusal to share evidence with the defense.

If found guilty of accepting 8 million euros in return for helping to bring about a nuclear Libya, Lerch would have faced up to 15 years in prison.

IranWatch, a site dedicated to exposing Iran's illicit nuclear and missile proliferation, has the following description of Lerch:

A German businessman, reportedly identified by Libya and Iran as being involved in their acquisition of uranium enrichment technology as a middleman associated with Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan's nuclear proliferation network; formerly in charge of an industrial technology and metallurgy division at Leybold-Heraeus (now part of Unaxis AG), a producer of high-technology equipment allegedly involved in the supply of nuclear equipment to Pakistan and Iraq in the 1980s, where he was reportedly implicated by German authorities along with co-worker Otto Heilingbrunner in the illegal export to Switzerland of blueprints and construction plans for uranium enrichment plant components; alleged to have tried and failed to obtain supplies of pipes for Libya's Project Machine Shop 1001, allegedly planned by Peter Griffin, a British citizen and alleged longtime supplier to Khan, to be a workshop in Libya to make centrifuge components that could not be obtained from outside Libya; reportedly admitted to supplying Pakistan valves, vacuum pumps, brazing furnaces, measuring instruments and a gas-purifying plant in the 1980s, much of which was reportedly shipped to Pakistan by way of Switzerland, France and Dubai; currently resides in Switzerland. [2]

While not blocking the pathway for a retrial, such a development suggests a weak case against this suspected proliferator. This most likely reflects the inherent difficulty of punishing individuals or corporations that aid nations in illicit proliferation.


"U.S. officials get Libya to return uranium," UPI Security and International. July 27, 2006.
"More nuclear fuel removed from Libya, US says," Reuters. July 26, 2006. Accessed through the Washington Post.
Traynor, Ian. "First trial over Libya'a nuclear bomb plan collapses," Guardian Unlimited. July 27, 2006.

[1] Elena Sokova; "Russia: Overview of the US-Russian HEU-LEU Program." NTI. May 2, 2005.
[2] IranWatch. Taken from the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

US-India Nuclear Deal Roundup:
The Final 'Press' Blitz of the US-India Nuclear Deal in the US House of Representatives;
A Defense of ElBaradei; India's Reaction

Today and tomorrow will witness two key votes that change current US laws on the shipment of nuclear materials to India. The removal of these obstacles then allows US-India nuclear cooperation to commence.

As numerous news-sources show, yesterday and today are showing signs of one last push of N-deal opponents to influence the vote in House.

The central figure in this press blitz is Representative Edward Markey (D-MA). This is not surprising as is co-founder of the Congressional Bipartisan Taskforce on Nonproliferation.

Markey, along with Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) of the Armed Services Committee and Barbara Lee (D-CA) of the International Relations Committee, sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice demanding the prompt release of a semi-annual report on all persons or companies engaged in illicit proliferation activities (for an example refer back to this earlier blog entry).

Knowing that such a report would no doubt have Indian persons and companies on it, these Representatives are hoping to use this demand to win some votes against the nuclear deal. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that either the report will be released or the vote will go the way its critics would desire.

The request did provide fodder for some editorials: the San Diego Daily Transcript and the San Francisco Chronicle. While the keyword "India" is the most searched item within the New York Time's search engine, there is no recent editorial devoted to the subject or the upcoming Congressional vote.

Looking to the State Department website, one finds that the administration had an easy way out of Markey's attempt at a news-cycle stunt: talk about everything else. Even with today' s admission that the administration knew of and suppressed knowledge of Pakistani plans for a new plutonium enrichment center (with the express purpose of enlarging their nuclear weapons capability), the news from Lebanon and Iraq is drowning out any prolonged focus on this news-item. Between Bush's meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister and Rice's meeting with the Lebanese President, there is little space for major news outlets to devote to this story.

But the India-US deal has yet to clear every hurdle.

The Senate will not vote on the deal until after its summer recess, giving time for opponents to more effectively use the recent disclosure of the Pakistani plant and any upcoming State Department Report to either pick off supporters or add amendments.

In fact, it seems that the amendment route is the way-- along with stepping up pressure on international organizations-- for opponents to most effectively diminish the deal's enactment.

India's Demand for 'Strings Free' Deal

Kay Benedict, a reporter for the Indian 'Daily News Analysis', points out domestic opposition to the legislative package in India. For details on domestic opposition to aspects of the US legislation refer to this past blog. Central to this discussion is the direct opposition now lodged against the deal by CPI.

Such a development shows the formation of an anti-Congress party bloc (India's ruling coalition) to the nuclear deal. Prakash Karat, General Secretary for CPI, calls the deal a 'trap' and brings up nine points of concern. At the center of all these concerns are perceived attempts by Washington to limit India's independent ability to pursue its nuclear policy-- both in regards to energy and weapons.

The tough road for Indian support for nuclear deal must be included in American attempts to bloc the deal. Opponents have found it much easier to give fodder to Indian nationalists against the deal than changing the votes of their fellow representatives. Much of this owes to the different priorities of each country: for India this deal is top-news, whereas in the United States there is small time to make this a central issue on which to campaign for or against.

Thus one finds that opponents are not so much trying to defeat the bill as make it unpalatable to India. Further, cautious supporters are ensuring that if India acts against US proliferation interested that there is ample space for an American reaction. For both groups, the status of the 'deal' as merely a law revision as opposed to a 'treaty' has played an integral part in the debate. While such a strategy both downplayed the act to the public and helped bring smooth sailing in US Congress, but it has brought ill-effects as well for the Bush administration's goals.

First, this non-treaty status has made it easy for opponents to demand that the Indian waiver on US laws nuclear export laws be temporary and not permanent: making it the President's decision whether or not to continue uranium transfers. As such, any moment in which India is seen as a 'irresponsible' nuclear power (a nuclear testing, large development of weapons, etc.), anti-deal legislators will be able to pressure the President into revoking the deal. Given Bush's weak approval ratings and the fact that a proliferatoring India would grab headlines, it seems this backdoor approach is the most likely to succeed.

Further it has allowed non-binding and language amendments to be added to the deal. While these are not of critical importance within the United States (where the Bush administration will be its own legal interpretor), in India these changes have caused huge problems in drumming up domestic support for the deal. Non-biding amendments such as encouraging India to favor the US position on Iran or join the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty have been deal-breakers to many opponents in India.

Indian Strategy: Unanimous Resolution

The solution for Indian critics is to have a unanimous resolution passed on the parameters of the nuclear deal. By Paraliament passing a unamious resolution (specifically excluding some parts of the US legislation), it is hoped that India will get the deal without the coniditions.

As Express News Service points out, such a strategy made it easier for the past Indian Prime Minister to resist calls from Bush to send troops to Iraq. When Bush made a request, the PM would point out that his entire Paraliament passed a motion to the contrary-- effectively setting policy for him.

But Indian troops in Iraq and nuclear transactions are very seperate ends. It will be interesting such a development could send to Senators after the summer recess.

Putting Pressure on the IAEA

Also today was harsh critique of El Baradei's support for the India Nuclear Deal by a group of proliferation experts (letter has yet to be tracked down). Such a piece reflects the transitional role Baradei (rightly) is guiding the IAEA. While some may say its inconsistent for the IAEA to support the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it chief duty is to ensure a transparent and safe nuclear environment: both goals that cannot be met if its divorces itself from American interests, completely.

Yet, what is interesting about the critique is that it judges before the verdict is in. ElBaradei has yet to have his voice heard fully on the details of the inspection regime India will receive. While currently the US-India deal calls for only 'non-military' Indian installations to be monitored, how this is enacted has yet to be seen.

Whether the India passed Congress or India is not the key step to focus on. The real 'prime time' event will be the long and detail orientated discussion among the NSG and IAEA. It is this step that will provide the evidence for cursing or crediting ElBaradei.

So before those are too critical on ElBaradei, perhaps they should first step back and realize he is maximizing the likelihood that this deal will not cause destabilize proliferation. To do so he is open to charges of inconsistency, but he is guaranteeing an increased (not silenced) voice for the IAEA in the future. That is something 1) to cheer and 2) incredibly difficult to achieve.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

News-Cycle Roundup: Updates in the World of Missile Proliferation and Missile Defense Systems

Israel's Non-Use of Anti-Missile Systems

In a very thorough and well written report, Victoria Samson explains why the world has not seen Israel respond its recent missile threat by activating their two-tiered anti-missile system.

She explains the two-tiered system, using an early form of the US Patriot System and an Arrow System, is unable to defend Israel form the short-ranged attacks used by Hezzbolah. This newly percieved threat by Israel-- a Hezzbolah armed with thousands of weapons Israel cannot stop-- helps explain Israel "disproportionate response" Israel is currently enacting in Lebanon.

Interestingly, Isreal recently rejected plans to produce the Northrop Grumman Corporation's Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHE) system. This system is now seen in a recent US press release as the 'right' solution for the threat of short-ranged missiles. We'll see if Northup Gruman finds a way to recoup the Israeli loss of business in the US.

Austraila's Broken System

Owing to poor decision-making by the Austrailian Defense Agency, it seems a already paid for missile defense system for Hornett planes will have to forever lay unused. Why? It seems the system cannot be integrated into the plane.

The loss: $200 million and airdefense for pilots.

Making a Real Axis of 'Evil'? Iranian presence at N. Korean Missile Testing

The US State Department has publicly disclosed its suspicion that representatives for the Iranian government were present at the recent North Korean missile test.

Such a disclosure comes at a curious time: while the US is blaming Iran for the Lebanese crisis and stepping up pressure to open the option of sanctions if Iran does not respond to the recent nuclear proposal.

Not a bad move to put Iran and North Korea together: UN cooperation on the North Korean problem has been quicker to forge. Placing these two nations together may help turn away recent Russian opposition towards the idea of sanctions on Iran. Getting China and Russia on the same page as the US would increase the liklihood of international diplomacy curbing Iranian nuclear ambitions. To see a detailed reasoning behind such a position, read this recent TIME article by Elaine Shannon.

US-Japan Anti-Missile Sytem Cooperation

The United States will be deploying its PAC-3 Anti-Missile System-- an advanced Patriot System-- in southern Japan. The surface-to-air system will be run by 600 US troops, and will be expanded to Japanese installations latter in the year.

The build-up reflects fears of the North Korean missile program and also strengthening ties between the United States and Japan in the face of a burgeoning Chinese power in the region. One can get a sense of growing power of China in this Taiwenese press release demanding more concern be expressed in the international community at China's arms build-up.

Proliferation News Update: Economist Comes Out Against US-India Nuclear Deal

In an article posted today, the Economist urges other nations to find "the courage of their anti-proliferation convictions" and stand up to India and the United States.

For the complete text, click here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Britain on Path to Revamping Nuclear Deterrent

Brown's smooth moves & Looking Ahead to Parliamentary Debate

Updating an earlier posting on Gordon Brown's commitment to revamping Britain's nuclear deterrent, Jack Straw (once Foreign Minister now Commons Leader) has promised a full parliamentary debate and vote on the measure before any decision is made (reported in the Guardian earlier today).

This latest political maneuver reflects the attempt of Blair & Gordon to give weight to Labour concerns with the proposal, while also guaranteeing that the Trident nuclear force is updated.

As James Kirkup points out in the Scotsman, Gordon Brown's deterrent announcement in June was unexpected and caused considerable anger among 'traditional' Labour supporters (Greens and Union groups). Yet, it was also a necessary one: Brown needs prove his security credentials before his long awaited raise to Prime Minister. Such thinking reflect fears that Labour today may be seen as Labour in 1983, when the party wrote "longest suicide note in history": placing in their party manifesto a commitment to full, unilateral nuclear disarmament.

So it seems that Brown has successfully proved his 'independence' from 'traditional Labour' but still has permitted them their time to vent. This political move was shrewd: surprise announcement (Brown shows leadership and minimized any attempt by opponents in the party to block the proposal since the public a) supports the move and b) the evitable 'follow the leader' effect), followed by the expected anger in the backbench, now followed by a lengthy debate and vote which 1) allows the backbench to moan and grown and 2) still spells success for the revamped deterrent owing to Conservative support.

Gordon and Blair have successfully played the expectations game. Knowing that any proposal would--barring a shocking development-- pass, they minimized any backlash by showing things could always be worse: Brown's earlier announcement committed Britain to revamping its nuclear deterrent without any floor vote. Now by agreeing/'caving' on the need for a full debate, Gordon and Blair 'appear' to have given in these opposing voices: making it easier for these groups prove to their supporters they have achieved something, while still failing to actually change the policy.

Net-result: a controversial policy within Labour is adopted without alienating supporters.

But what is the exact plan?

What will be interesting is how the government presents this plan to opponents both within and outside Labour (meaning the Social Democrats). What will be the exact details of the revamped deterrence plan? And finally, how will Labour-- while updating their nuclear force-- still project 1) Britain as a role model for counter-proliferation and 2) Labour critical role in both keeping Britain strong but also in line with 'progressive' policies.

All these questions and more will be answered with the actual commencement of parliamentary debate. And I'll be sure to bring it to you here in condensed form, at Proliferation Press.


"MPs will get nuclear deterrent vote"; Guardian Unlimited. July 20, 2006.

Kirkup, James. "Britain 'will keep' nuclear deterrent" ; The Scotsman. June 22, 2006.

"Gordon Brown reaffirms Britain's 'Independent Nuclear Deterrent'"; Proliferation Press. June 26th, 2006.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

News Roundup: The Threat of Missile Proliferation & the Current Crisis in Lebanon

The crisis in Lebanon points to another dimension of WDM proliferation: short to medium range missile proliferation. The links below helps explain 1) what weapons are being used against Israel, 2) how they got there, and 3) why they are there in the first place. I'll be posting a more in depth discussion on this topic (or linking to one) latter this week.

Hutchison, Harold. "Where Terrorists Get Their Missiles"

AFP, "Hezbollah ready for long war against Israel"

Hendawi, Hazma. "Lebanon battles raise Hezbollah questions"

Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker
. "Hezbollah's Unexpected Firepower"

ISN Security Watch. "Behind Iran's tough talk"

New, Very Good Report: PINR; ''The Role of Iran and Syria in the Israel-Lebanon Crisis''
***[added 7/20]***

Very Good, Concise History of Hezbollah: The Reliant; "In Focus: Hezbollah Prolife."
***[added 7/25]***

The Topsy-Turvey Path to Approval: US Congress and the India Nuclear Deal

As reported in the Indian Tribune, Senator Lugar has confirmed that a final vote on the US-India Nuclear Deal ( a legalistic bundle of exemptions to certain nuclear-commerce laws for India along with conditions) will not be voted on before the Congressional summer recess, which begins August 4th. Lugar made these comments to reporters after a speech to the US India Friendship Council, a interest group for the US Indian community.

There have been numerous reactions to this announcement, reflecting vastly divergent viewpoints on the legislation now awaiting floor votes in Congress.

The US State Department, in a recent Press Release, makes light of the delay. The article states that US Senators "praise" the India deal, while making no mention of the announcement that more time would be needed before a final vote. (For those of you interested, here is a transcript of a recent speech by Condoleezza Rice to the group).

No where mentioned is the following statement by Lugar in regards to the proposed legislation (which was also made to reporters after his speech):

"Now there are some in our state Department, there are some in the Indian Foreign Office who say, "listen, those Senators, those members of the House changed the language here a little bit. This is not exactly what we signed on to. What about this little addition here and that one there?"
... This is the deliberative process...I believe the changes are constructive; but even if they are controversial, I am hopeful that statesmen on both sides, India and the United States, will not be so adamant that somehow or other this is delayed."

These "little" changes are making big ripples. From India, we have S Ragotham (in his article Nuclear deal: What 'ironclad' guarantees?) slamming Bush for not standing by his initial stand earlier this year-- blanket exemption from current US laws on proliferation. While he sees the bill as sailing through Congress, he suggests that India might (and should) reject it. Why? He points to the bill's prohibition on further Indian nuclear weapons tests, the deal's status as a 'presidential waiver' (meaning a new administration could easily stop it), and the legislation explicit goal to ensure India does not use such cooperation towards nuclear armaments.

The Raghotham position is rather fantastic: suggesting India end its deal to the United States because the US dares to stop India from developing more nuclear weapons. The absence of any such language in the bill would go against America's obligations to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which explicitly prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapon technology by any member-state) and would make any approval by skeptical nations within the Nuclear Supplier Group (which runs on a unanimous system) even harder to receive.

But whether or not Raghotham is out of step or not is not the central point. What is truly worrisome in Ragotham's article is the notion that the NPT prohibitions on nuclear weapons proliferation do not and should not apply to India. While one can consider his position merely that of a strong nationalist (how can a country stop another country from pursuing its interests), such a mentality highlights the risk to global non-proliferation posed by the India deal.

If India is rewarded with nuclear supplies and technology by virtue of it respecting or being a part of the NPT, what does that tell current member states who now restrain from proliferation (based on the premise that their abstention means every other nation's abstention)?

Also what happens when the deal gets passed (for it will be passed regardless of language concerns) and one finds India using it to increase its nuclear weapons stock-pile? Normally this would be a controllable problem: India is an NPT-outlier and not subject to its prohibitions. But when the United States (a dispository power of the treaty) is seen helping India violate the intent of the Treaty (curbing the proliferation of weapons), what weight does the Treaty have or America's call to control other aspiring proliferators (North Korea and Iran)?

Now this might not be a problem for Ragotham: he seems to only wish to maximize Indian security interests and is profoundly paranoid of American interests. Yet, what happens when such a deal leads to other countries (Egypt or Saudi Arabia) producing their own weapons or increasing and modernizing their current forces (China and Pakistan)? Such a development does two things: 1) takes away the very prestige India has received from this 'special' nuclear package by diluting the nuclear genie and 2) erodes their security situation. This is not even to mention the risk of nuclear terrorist attacks, fears which have been given new credence by the recent attacks in Mumbai.

Such observations seem to refute Bush administration arguments that the N-deal would bring India into the counter-proliferation fold. While it does crave out a position for them, a exceptional one, it has so far failed to inculcate the norms behind the NPT: chiefly that nuclear weapons are destablizing forces within the international system. If anything the deal has heightened demands within India for a 'free hand' when it comes to its nuclear decisions. While some may be sympathetic to such a position (for the US and others have done the same for decades), what happens when 2, 5 or 10 more nations-- stable or otherwise-- request the same treatment? And to top it off, there is no longer any effective measure to stop them-- short of hard force.

Suddenly the world looks a lot more grim.

The India deal is fundamentally flawed: giving India nuclear supplies without demanding that all its nuclear sites (not just non-military, as defined by them) or a guarantee adopt either the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty or NPT turned a diplomatic deal into a 'gift' to India. And with such a negative response from common-sense and necessary language amendments from Congress, it seems this 'gift' has not come with the promised healthy and understanding partnership between India and the United States.

But while flawed, the deal does not guarantee failure: with the right enactment, NSG amendments and IAEA inspection protocols disaster can be avoided. Furthermore, future administrations (as the legislation coming out of Congress emphasizes US executive flexibility by its 'waiver' component) will have a crack at modifying any problems with the deal latter. But in the meantime, this much is clear: there will be two more months of 'nuclear spin' coming out of the US Congress, the White House, and India.



Australia's Future as 'Energy Superpower'?

A Glimpse into the New World of Counter-Proliferation

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday on Austrailan Prime Minister Howard's speech to theCommittee for Economic Development of Australia. Of his lengthy address, one line has gotten the attention of many foreign relations observers-- not to mention his own constituents and political rivals):

"With the right policies, we have the makings of an energy superpower." Austraila a superpower? How can this be.

Austraila's Uranium

Austraila holds 30% of the world's low-cost uranium (map). While the industry shut down in the 1971 had come to a complete stand-still, new times bring with them new demand. With a surging demand for long-term power solutions and weapons news, Austraila has found itself as the last great, stable area for uranium exploration. Such a demand is leading to strange bed-fellows: China and Austrailia recently concluded a uranium deal. Guess 'Clash of Civilizations' is out, 'Energy Compatriots' is in:

"Australia's energy exports are forecast to grow to around $45 billion in 2006-07, more than three times what we earned last year from meat, grains and wool combined...Australia can, and should, supply the domestic and world economies with low-cost energy."

Domestic Opposition

Howard's comments have both an international and domestic aim. On the domestic front, Howard boasts the best electoral record of any Aussie politican: being elected in 1995, 1998, 2001, and 2004. Most speculation on Howard today revolves around when he will leave, but it is clear that Howard is not done pushing his image of Austrailia in regards to dometic power needs or Austrailia position in the international system. On the first front, it is interesting to note Austrailia, standing only with the United States, rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.

Critics charge that such pro-petrol policies have put Austrailia in sorry state in terms of long-term energy needs. Yet, Howard has answered this call: with nuclear power.

Such a stance is controversial in Austrailia: there is considerable support for more 'green' solutions, and still concern about the dangers of using nuclear power. But it is clear that Howard, like Bush, is pushing for nuclear power. And while some may claim such a policy keeps Austrailia away from lucrative, long-term investment in renewable energies, it comes with one large attraction: transforming Austrailia into world's first uranium-driven superpower.

Austrailia on the World Stage: Can it Fit into the America's Grand Vision of Counter-Proliferation

Pushing uranium is geo-political boast to Austrailia. Becoming the central pub to the world's growing appetite for nuclear materials spells success not only for the Austrailian economy but also its international prestige. Yet, would such a shift be welcomed by the international community?

President Bush is often assailed by critics as eroding the norm of counter-proliferation through revamped nuclear armament plans, special nuclear deals and disregard for international agreements. To counter this image of 'selective standards', the Bush administration has made early steps with Russia to make a 'rules based' system for nuclear power. At the recent G-8 meeting, upon announcing their own nuclear cooperation deal, Bush and Putin announced their goal of providing all nations the ability to obtain nuclear energy.

Such a plan seeks to control nuclear proliferation not by controlling the raw resource (uranium or plotunium) but rather its enrichment. The plans allows nations to get their uranium enriched in another country, then have it used for their respective power needs, with reminder supplies being returned back to the site of enrichment. Such a plan keeps the main ingredient of weapons --excess highly enriched uranium-- out of the hands of non-enriching nations. Such a plan finds its roots in a past proposal to solve the Iranian nuclear stand-off: have Russia provide Iran with nuclear fuel and then having the used materials returned, ensuring that enriched uranium could not be used to construct weapons. In short the rule would be as follows: nuclear power 'yes', 'no' to uranium enrichment.

While on face this plan may seem to solve some problems, it isn't really different from the 'legalistic fiction' of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: all nations with legal enrichment facilities continue to monopolize it, while getting to choose who or who not to give materials too. Furthermore the new framework (by going away from the NPT) seems to open the way for all depository members (those nations with 'legal' nuclear weapons) to caste away any fidelity to the long-term goal of nuclear weapon abolition-- a central principle of the NPT.

But what dose Austrailia have to do with this plan? Austrailia's PM Howard is pushing the
envelop on this putative plan: hinting at Austrailia's desire to be added to the 'enricher' list. The addition of a staunch US ally makes attempts to codify the new norm of 'non-enrichment' exceedingly difficult. But it doesn't seem the United States can refuse: 1) it risks losing the most important uranium supplier of the centry and 2) it must face up to its own India precedent of 'trustworthy' nations getting special treatment. It would be hard for most members of the international community to consider Austrailia not 'trustworthy' enough to possess its own enrichment capability while green-lighting India. As such, Austrailia's addition would promise only further deadlock on the Iranian front. How can the United States drum up support to bar Iran from enrichment activities when it bends rules for its Aussie ally?

The New World: The Race for Energy Partnerships & Proliferation Solutions

So it seems the world system has fully entered a new stage: the race for nuclear energy. Such a development is understandable given dwindling oil supplies, yet it comes with a large risk: the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There is still room for a norm reserval: in Austrailia the Labor could take over and push Austrailia off the path of energy super-power, being statisfied with clean energy and middle power status. On the American front, a new administration could revitalize the once strong and bi-partisan counter-proliferation voting bloc. Yet it seems both outcomes are unlikely. Will voters really support policies that diminish their nations' prestige and power in the age of terrorism? Can politicans really win on the 'detente' principle that safety depends on mutual danger? Unlikey.

But neither the extreme (the norm of counter-proliferation or extreme-proliferation) shows reality for policymakers today: in the middle is the nebulous ground of WDM proliferation management.
How that middle ground will be shaped is of critical importance to our security. Below is the growing list of nuclear partnerships:




-France-India; (historical link)


But such a growing list can be turned into a strong counter-proilferation wave: with a strong, international inspections regime by the IAEA. Having a robust, international inspection regime can allow nations to achieve their power needs but curtail dangerous weapons proliferation (and with Iraq, has been shown to partially succeed). Yet, before such a plan can be actualized, a clear notion of what benefits non-proliferators (whether they be satisfied states or revisionist) get from abstaining from abstaining. If they recieve no tangible benefit and watch other powers develop 'nuclear primacy', such a plan is doomed to failure. Yet if their is mutual sacriface on the part of major powers, concensus can be found to stop new proliferators.

Such an outcome is perhaps the hardest. Many proliferation analysts (and watchers like myself) feel that the best time to curb nuclear proliferation-- expressed by the Achaeson-Lilianthal Plan-- has long since passed. And attempts at internationally monitoring would have to buck a poor historical record. But it seems with the new dynamics of energy, freezing nuclear technology is impossible.

But management is still possible. But its come by making the right deicisions: whether it be in how we deal with an aging population of nuclear warheads, follow current treaties, seek to construct a meaningful inspection regime, or make effective nuclear deals with countries. Austrailia's role has yet to be defined. Furthermore, the plans for freezing enrichment nations has brought agreement between the US and Russia, two of the three heavyweights (add China) when it comes to international proliferation policy. One must closely watch the reaction to this proposal and see how it develops. One thing is clear: new solutions are needed. But any solution needs the right details (for example an inspection regime and clear pathyway to sanctions for violating countries) if it is to work.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4731244.stm http://indiaenews.com/2006-07/15336-french-scientist-advices-caution-indias-n-programme.htm http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/15/AR2006071500398.html http://www.sea-us.org.au/uran-res.html






Sunday, July 16, 2006

Proliferation Press Brings Back an Old News-Cycle

Rhetorical Escalation: The Imposition of US Sanctions on Chinese Companies accused of aiding Iran's Weapons Program and its Implications on the India Nuclear Deal and the Iranian Nuclear Dilemma

On June 13 the United States has banned all American companies and individuals from doing business with four Chinese companies and one American company. Why? Alleged aid to Iran's weapons program by aiding in missle design. (Note: from all the articles I've read the proper count is four total industries, three Chinese and one Chinese Represenative in America.)

This action comes as no great shock: all companies are repeat offenders. Yet, the actual imposition on sactions has brings with it 1) the expected Chinese response, 2) the US delivery and 3) timing.

The Sactioned Companies

China Daily and Aviation Now provide us with the details of the action. The three Chinese companies are Beijing Alite Technologies Company Ltd, LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd and Great Wall Industry Corporation. The US-affiliated company is California-based GW Areospace International, the American representative for China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC).

Upon going to the web-site of CGWIC, one finds the following note:

"CGWIC is a responsible and credible state-owned company in China with its business scope focusing on international commercial launch services and the import and export of aerospace products, etc. During the past decades, CGWIC has conducted twenty-four international commercial launch missions and six piggyback missions, launching thirty satellites. Commercial satellites successfully launched by CGWIC cover more than 100 countries and regions in Asia, Europe, America and Australia, providing telecommunications services to 75% of the world population. Nine out of twelve geo-stationary satellites successfully launched provide direct services to Asia. CGWIC’s mission is to bring benefits to the humankind with space technology."

It goes on to demand that the sanctions be reversed and all finanical losses incurred be covered by the US government.

So what do all these companies have in common? They are all Chinese-owned and do business in Iran. Furthermore, as stated before, all of these companies are repeat offenders of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. Looking to the US State Department's list of past activations of the 2000 Act, one finds that CGWIC was sanctioned in September of 2004, Bejing Alite in December 2004, and LIMMT in December 2005 for simliar activity.

Before we try to figure out the reason behind the recent rhetorical escalation (from sanctions being posted within dry US State Department notices to the US Teasury's bold press statement), what is the Iran NonProliferation Act of 2000?

National Export Controls & the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000

This bill basically serves as a supplement to the expired 1979 Export Administartion Act (introduced by Adalai Stevenson). This bill sought to formally gave the President the powers to curtail trade that was deemed dangerous to national security.

The 1979 Act was an update to an 1969 act, which followed the progenitor-- the 1949 Export Control Act. While the focus has shifted from fighting communism to fighting terrorism, the goal of all the acts are the same: to keep dangerous materials out of the hands of enemies of the United States, while maximizing the amount of trade that could be done.

Disputes between these competing goals are intense, perhaps ensuring that the 1979 Act would be renewed in 2001, only to expire the following year. In its wake, President Bush has kept the Act in force through Executive Order while Congress has explicitly delegated the executive powers in the case of Iran (the Iran NonProliferation Act of 2000).

The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, with the proper exceptions, allows the President to slap sanctions on companies or individuals that aid Iran in proliferation activities (both missile development and nuclear development). There is a review process, but only after the sanctions are levied and all violitions are able to be classified. This bill, coming before the first expiration of the Export Adiministration Act, showed the intense concern of Congress to Russian activity within Iran. The bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously, forcing then President Clinton to include a prohibition on aiding missile programs as well as nuclear technology.

While such a protocol is understandable when dealing with the proliferation activities of countries such as Russia and China, its easy to see how this Presidential power can be used politically. The Iran Nonproliferation Act failed to achieve the goal of many in 1979, best articulated by George Schultz to construct "rules instead of authorities - rules that we can read; rules that are predictable." In regards to an overall reauthorization of export controls, a 2001 attempt to reauthorize the bill by Congress succeeded, only to expire in 2002. In 2004 another reauthorization attempt failed to get a floor vote. As such, any imposition of sanctions comes with the expected response: foreign consternation at breaking unwritten rules.

The Chinese Response

China, unsurprising, has responded to this recent, bundled and country specific imposition of sanctions quite negatively. Denying any improper conduct, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu Press stated on June 15:

"The U.S. wrong practice severely undermines our non- proliferation cooperation and will not benefit the development of bilateral relations...We require the U.S. side to change their practice and abandon completely the wrong practice of sanction and pressure." (Global Security)

The Timing and Current Implications

Why did the United States release these stories in the press a month ago? Two potenial factors: the India nuclear deal and the Iranian nuclear row.

On the India nuclear deal, China now stands as the last, major impediment to clearance. With the recent G-8's decision to tacitly endorse the deal, China (the lone P-5 member not represented at the G-8) is left, along with Scandivanian countries and New Coalition Nations such as Ireland. Associating China with illict proliferation activities itself on the run-up to the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting makes any Chinese 'lecturing' ineffectual. Furthermore, it helps show that a rules-based proliferation strategy on the part of the United States, while perhaps preferred, does not reflect the reality of other nations proliferation activities.

On the Iranian front, its clear that the purpose behind this media-blitz was to make it harder for China to oppose sanctions for Iran. In light of the June 6th package offered to Iran, this story highlights the US effort to push all P-5 members of the United Nations to get tougher with Iran. For Russia, the answer has been more clear-cut: offer another nuclear package.

On both these issues, the recent Lebanese crisis makes Chinese opposition to US goals considerably more difficult to effectively voice. On the Indian front, its now not only accused of aiding Iran's programs but must deal with heightened evidence of Iran's terrorist connections. The US position of making an exception for India (a recent victim of terrorist attacks), while still going against the global 'norm' of non-proliferation, becomes easier to swallow.

In regards to the Iranian dilemmna, it seems the net-result of the Lebanese crisis is 1) to harden negative views of Israeli actions and 2) diminish the view of Iran as a responsibile nation. As such, Chinese (and Russian) opposition to sanctioning Iran-- or giving full diplomatic pressure to respond to the June 6th deal-- becomes more and more difficult to sustain.

While such a reading may suggest the success of using export controls as political weapons to aid the American counter-proliferation agenda, nationally based (and perhaps selective) enforcement of counter-proliferation laws seems to erode the norm of proliferation. Using these counter-proliferation tools to push for the success of an India deal, seems only to further encourage nuclear competition between the great powers. As such national security agendas may be succeeding on particular points (ensuring regional allies recieve much wanted technology), but failing to stop the main problem: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

General News Sources

"U.S. Freezes Chinese Space Company Assets over Iranian Missile Aid"; Aviation Today

"President's Address"; Great Wall China Industry Corporation;

"2001 Export Administration Act Passes Senate', Includes Bennett Amendment";

"US to dangle nuclear deal in exchange for Russia's help on Iran"; Yahoo News

"China: US Sanctions Undermine Non-Proliferation Cooperation"; Global Security http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/china/2006/china-060615-voa01.htm

"Washington sanctions on China Fims 'Irresponsible'"; China Daily

"Treasury Designates U.S. and Chinese Companies Supporting Iranian Missile Proliferation"

"Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000" (a history of its use); US State Department

Sources on Export Controls

"2004 Foreign Policy Controls." Bureau of Industry and Security, US Department of Commerce;

RL30169: Export Administration Act of 1979 Reauthorization; CRS Report

"Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000." (text of law);

"Clintion Signs 'Iran Nonproliferation Act' "; Arms Control Today.

"The Export Administration Act (S.737 - H.R.4034) " (archival discussion of orginial 1979 act); Heritage Foundation

"Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 (50 U.S.C. 1701 note)"; US State Department