Monthly Archives: May 2006

de Klerk and Nuclear Weapons

Newsweek published “an interview”: the other day with former South African president F.W. de Klerk.

He discussed several topics, including South Africa’s past nuclear weapons program.

Asked about the country’s decision to give up its weapons, he said:

I wasn’t part of the inner circle that developed [the program]. It was not my decision to build [the bomb], and I did not have the power to stop it. I was never enthusiastic about it. But as it was explained [to me] then, it was built never to be used, but to have it as a deterrent†to almost be used as a shield. It was built in the face of a definite threat, a definite strategy by the U.S.S.R., to directly or indirectly gain control of the whole of southern Africa … When I became president this threat changed in the sense that the Berlin Wall came down. Suddenly the U.S.S.R. was no longer this world power …

Interestingly, he addressed the oft-repeated claim that South Africa gave up its weapons because it didn’t want the ANC to have them:

Some people accuse me of doing it [because] I realized that our constitutional negotiations would lead to a [Mandela-led] African National Congress government and [that] I was not prepared to let them control such a weapon. It’s not true.

First of all, the threat had changed, we didn’t need [the bomb], it had become a millstone around our neck. [Also,] I wanted South Africa to return as soon as possible to the international arena, and I wanted to convince the rest of the world that we really were not playing with words, we really were prepared to undertake negotiations which would result in fundamental change. I wanted to achieve international support for the change process in South Africa, and I wanted to ensure that the leading countries of the world would keep an eye over the negotiation process and that if [there were] a threat of the negotiations deteriorating into further conflict, then they would step in to assure that a negotiated solution is guaranteed.

The former president also commented on the Iran situation. Asked whether isolation and negative incentives could persuade Iran to compromise on its nuclear program, de Klerk noted that South Africa developed nuclear weapons

because of the stick… [the] result of growing isolation from the rest of the world. I’m not a believer in sanctions [which were imposed against South Africa] as being a very successful method of exercising pressure. My viewpoint about the value of sanctions and international isolation is that they should be reserved for very serious situations, and if that doesn’t work in 18 months or two years, then it should be accepted that as a strategy it has failed to achieve its objectives. I believe in engagement, and I believe in negotiation.”

Department of Dead Horse Flogging

Treaties can help establish rules for state behavior which, in turn, can foster some degree of transparency and predictability in international relations.

But when people just start making stuff up on the fly, it’s more difficult to predict and understand other states’ intentions.

Exhibit A: US-India nuclear deal.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, 14 March:

A second contention is that by allowing the IAEA to come in and putting these reactors under safeguards, India is going to have an opportunity to use its domestic uranium supplies to build more bombs, which will fuel an arms race between India and Pakistan in South Asia. We don’t think that argument stands to reason, either.

What are India’s motivations here?

India is a country that desperately needs power. It needs electricity. And as I understand …Indian politics and Indian plans for the future, India’s plans are to build up the civilian nuclear power structure. We believe that India will have — will seek, after laws are changed, to purchase eight 1,000-megawatt reactors, all of which would come under safeguards.

And so our belief is — and the Indian government’s figures show — that eventually within 10 or 15 years, up to 90 percent of India’s nuclear capacity shall come under safeguards because the great majority of growth is going to be in civilian nuclear power.

…we believe that the whole motivation of the Indian government is to grow its economy, to increase power production, and that’s where they’re going to put the great percentage of their funds.

The agreement does, of course, allow India to do whatever it feels like with its future nuclear reactors.

Mark Hibbs reported 8 May that India may build another military reactor in short order:

A project to construct a new dual-use research and plutonium production reactor at the Bhabba Atomic Research Center, or BARC, has been formally proposed for consideration under India’s next economic plan, according to well-placed sources close to India’s Department of Atomic Energy, or DAE. According to these sources, Indian central planners will make a decision early next year whether to go ahead with the project.

Currently, BARC operates at its Trombay complex north of Mumbai two heavy water-cooled and moderated reactors for conducting nuclear research and producing weapons-grade plutonium for India’s defense needs. One is Cirus, a 40-MW (thermal) unit supplied by Canada in 1956. The other is Dhruva, a 100-MW (th) reactor of Indian design which began operating in 1985. Neither unit is subject to IAEA safeguards.

Jeffrey, BTW, wrote an “extensive post”: about this matter a little while back.

My understanding, which is consistent with Hibbs’ reporting, is that the US wanted India to put the Cirus reactor under IAEA safeguards. India resisted this idea, but said it would shut the reactor down in 2010.

This might seem like an example of successful compromise, but it may well be a lesson in how to have your cake and eat it too.

Hibbs continues:

According to diplomatic sources, however, the Indian decision was in fact a tactical master stroke, allowing India to obviate a potentially troublesome negotiation with the US and Canada over the safeguards status of the reactor under the cooperation arrangement, while leaving open the possibility of replacing Cirus with a new reactor and putting additional pressure on Canada to accept the result of US-Indian negotiations on nuclear trade without addressing Canada’s objection that Cirus was operated in violation of an Indian-Canadian agreement.

India’s plan would increase New Delhi’s plutonium production capability, according to Hibbs. The new reactor will, when operated with the old Dhruva reactor, enable India to produce around 40-50 kg of plutonium per year — 15 kg more than India could have produced with its two existing reactors.

Perhaps this belongs in the “Department of Dolphin Flogging”…

National Security Archive Rocks Your Lame Ass

The National Security Archive has released several more items of note during the past few weeks:

*1* A “collection of documents”: regarding the Nixon administration’s attempts to grapple with the Israeli nuclear weapons program.

*2* A series of “documents”: describing the controversy surrounding various interpretations of the Vela incident.

*3* “This series of documents”: detailing US intelligence regarding India’s nuclear weapons program.

*4* A very large number of “diplomatic cables”:, including then-Amb. Moynihan’s “thoughts regarding”: India’s 1974 nuclear test.


bq. It’s kind of like them changing the name of the movie. It’s stupid. “Oh we don’t want to give too much away.” Of course you do! You want people to know they’re coming to see people trapped on a plane with snakes.

–Samuel L. Jackson, “_Time_ interview.”:,8599,1186739,00.html

UNSC Iran Resolution

The “FT”: has the text of the draft UNSC resolution that -the US,- France and the UK introduced.

These are the most interesting portions, IMO. Note the blank.

Concerned by the proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear programme, mindful of the threat to international peace and security and its responsibilities in this regard, and determined to prevent an aggravation of the situation,

• Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

• Calls upon Iran without further delay to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to resolve outstanding questions,

• Decides, in this regard, that Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA, and suspend the construction of a reactor moderated by heavy water,

• Expresses the conviction that such suspension as well as full, verified Iranian compliance with the requirements set out by the IAEA Board of Governors, would contribute to a diplomatic, negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, and underlines the willingness of the international community to work positively for such a solution which will also benefit nuclear non-proliferation elsewhere,


• Requests in [blank] days a report from the Director General of the IAEA on the process of Iranian compliance with the steps required by the IAEA Board and the above decisions, to the IAEA Board of Governors and in parallel to the Security Council for its consideration,

• Expresses its intention to consider such further measures as may be necessary to ensure compliance with this resolution and decides that further examination will be required should such additional steps be necessary,

• Notes that full verified compliance by Iran, confirmed by the IAEA Board, would avoid the need for such additional steps,

I would simply note that, if the UNSC _means_ that it will leave Iran alone if Tehran complies, then the resolution should _actually say_ that. That last sentence seems kinda vague.

And “according to the FT”:, the Chinese aren’t fans:

bq. The move was backed by the US, but faced continued Russian and Chinese resistance to use of the UN’s tough chapter 7 enforcement powers, which determine a threat to international peace and security, and can be used to authorize sanctions or military force. “I don’t think this draft as it stands now will produce good results,” said Wang Gunagya, China’s UN ambassador.

More About Intelligence

A quick follow-up to “Jeffrey’s post”: about intelligence and political pressure. Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, said during a “7 March CFR appearence”:

MR. BASS: In your Foreign Affairs piece, you talk about a politicized and pressurized environment between the intelligence community and the Bush administration, which, you argue, generated a fair amount of ill will. And you said that this was all done quite subtly, in the piece.

I wonder if you could explain to us, perhaps with some examples, what this looked like in the real world, what this looked like in your day to day job? How did you feel that sort of subtle pressure on a day-to-day basis, memo to memo, meeting to meeting, e-mail to e-mail?

MR. PILLAR: Well, probably the main thing day to day — and this is something that the Silberman and Robb commission mentioned as a phenomenon they observed, although they didn’t carry the casual linkage as far as I’m carrying it — differential treatment that different draft intelligence assessments get as they go through the procedure of being coordinated and approved. And you have to remember, anything that sees light of day as a published — published in the sense of a classified paper — intelligence assessment goes through usually multiple levels of review, various supervisors, branch chiefs and so on, weighing in, approving or disapproving, remanding, forcing changes. That can be a speedy process or it can be a long, very torturous process.

And one of the things the commission observed was that assessments that tended to support or conform with the case being made for war had an easier time making it through that gauntlet than those that did not. And the only thing I’m adding to what the commission found was to pose the question, what is the most important reason why that was the case? And I think the most important reason, besides the overall mind-set that turned out to be erroneous, was the desire to avoid the unpleasantness of putting unwelcome assessments on the desks of policymakers.

MR. BASS: So how does this actually work? Because some of the gauntlet that — you’ve described there is a gauntlet that’s within the bureaucracy of the intelligence community, not directly in the purview of the policymakers —

MR. PILLAR: Well, it’s all within the intelligence community — what I’m talking about — yeah.

MR. BASS: So you feel that the pressure from the policy side to give us answer A rather answer B has sort of permeated down through the bureaucracy?

MR. PILLAR: Through every level, yes. From the most senior levels through, you know, levels like my own to the level of the working analysts. I mean, it was quite apparent from — certainly from, I would say, early 2002 — if not that, mid-2002 — that we were going to war, that the decision had been made, and there is other reporting to this effect that supports that. And you know, intelligence analysts, they get paid to try to make sense of, you know, government decisions. Usually it’s foreign governments, but — (laughter). But you know, it would be a pretty obtuse intelligence analyst who couldn’t have discerned by fairly early in 2002 where the U.S. government was going and what the preferences of our own government were. So it was all too apparent.

MR. BASS: Who’s putting the screws on in this process? Who’s sending this pressure going through? The pressure isn’t done amorphously; it has to be done individually and —

MR. PILLAR: No, but it’s not — it’s not a matter of screws, Warren. That’s where —

MR. BASS: That’s too harsh a way of phrasing it.

MR. PILLAR: That’s where the inquiries of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Silberman-Robb commission, which overall did an excellent job, fall a little bit short. The question was posed, basically, to analysts: Were your arms twisted? And the answer that came back, unsurprisingly, was no. Unsurprising for two reasons.

One, it’s particularly damning for any analysts to admit foursquare that his or her analysis has been politicized. I mean, that’s an even more damning admission than to say you’ve made a more mundane kind of analytic error because it gets right to your analytic and professional integrity.

Also unsurprising because, certainly in my experience, the great majority of cases of actual politicization — successful politicization — are unvariably subtle. If you get someone trying to twist arms and be blatant about it, it’s almost always unsuccessful if for no other reason than you get a bunch of analysts’ dander up and in more of a resistance mode rather than a conforming mode. So it’s not turning screws, it’s not twisting arms.

I thought this next part was quite interesting, and it says a lot about how ‘wingers tend to view the world – the real problems are uncooperative bureaucrats and insufficiently righteous individuals opposing their policies.

As opposed to, say, facts.

For example, the IC said that Iraq wasn’t procuring uranium from Niger because the IC opposed the invasion of Iraq. It was not because Iraq was not procuring uranium from Niger.

Pillar said:

You know, one of the reasons I think that this issue of politicization has tended to be reduced to the question of turning screws and twisting arms is it’s almost looked at as some kind of game. You know, you have the intelligence team against the policy team, and the question is, was there a foul that the refs didn’t see? And if the intelligence team didn’t score points when they were supposed to score points, was it because they were fouled by the policy team?

Well, it’s not a game. The intelligence people and the policy people are supposed to be on the same team on behalf of the same national interests. And we ought to be concerned, you know, even if there are no flagrant fouls, there’s no place where the ref is going to pull out his handkerchief and throw it on the ground. We ought to be concerned any time that there is an environment created that discourages, rather than encourages, intelligence analysts from producing their best, most objective product. And even if it falls short of a flagrant foul, that’s an issue of importance.

Also, note “Josh Marshall’s follow-up”: to the CBS Drumheller piece. He talks about what the Robb-Silberman Commission did – or didn’t do – with the information he gave them.

BTW, not only has this great country produced “Snakes On A Plane”:, but it has also given us the “urban combat skateboard”: Oh yeah.