Monthly Archives: December 2007

Algiers Accords

Quick post from a cool little coffee shop/flower shop/art gallery in Littleton, NH.

Barbara Slavin argued at a “recent CAP event”: that people interested in Iran ought to take a look at the 1981 Algiers Accords.

I agree. “Here they are.”:


Link fixed. Also, per the recommendation of a reader, I should point out that Barbara Slavin emphasized the below portion of the agreement when she spoke. It’s interesting, given subsequent U.S. policies:

The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.

Late 60s U.S. Intel on Chinese Nukes

About a month ago, the Nixon Library declassified a bunch of documents. A “selection”: of them is available online.

Most of the attention was directed toward “this memo”: about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. But there are some other intriguing items.

For example, in the middle of a 1969 “Memorandum of Conversation”: regarding talks between Nixon and ROK President Pak, Nixon reveals a US intel assessment of China’s future nuclear arsenal:

bq. President Nixon: According to our intelligence, Communist
China will have *25 to 50 ICBM’s by 1976* which can hit targets in the U.S.

You may have noticed that this didn’t happen by 1976. Nor has it happened 31 years after 1976.

I’m not a Chinese nuke specialist, so I’m not sure how new this is. But a good illustration of the point.

Incidentally, Nixon also explained in the same conversation that China’s arsenal was motivating his decision to deploy a missile-defense network:

bq. Nixon:…without the ABM network a nuclear armed China might be able to use nuclear blackmail against non-nuclear countries in Asia and pose a danger to the U.S. That is why this subject is so important for the defense and security of the Free World.

Fortunately, the Free World is still here.

*Update:* Some related Israel documents can be found “here.”:

Miles P in WSJ

Miles tells me that the _WSJ_ published his response, first blogged “here,”: to J Schlesinger’s piece on Iran. Sub. Req., so no link as of yet.

And “vote for”: ACA Arms Control Person of the Year.

-“Here’s the link,”: courtesy of a loyal reader.-

Iran NIE and Time ‘Til a Nuke – A Correction

You can tell I have other things to do…

Anyhow, I said “in this post”: that

bq. …it looks as if the time frame for Iran to build a nuclear weapon in the new NIE is the same as the one in the 2005 NIE. But I think the new estimate might actually suggest that the time frame is slightly longer.

Well, the first glance was right; according to a transcript of a BG briefing about the NIE that was given by some senior intel officials, the time frame in the 07 estimate is the same as the one given two years before.

I don’t think I can post my copy of the transcript, but anyone is welcome to share if they have one.

Belated Iran NIE Commentary

An anonymous FoKerr sent this to me a little while back. S/he is, I hope, forgiving.

A handful of reactions.

The overall conclusions are plausible in light of the public record of events.

Unfortunately, the conclusions are confusingly stated at some points, and seem bound to mislead the casual reader. It is not as apparent as it ought to be that the major elements of Iran’s clandestine military nuclear program are identical to those of its overt civilian nuclear program. Nor were they willingly surfaced; they were “taken public” as a way of sustaining them only after others had made them public.

Skeptics can be forgiven for observing that the IC has just moved from one “high confidence” conclusion to another “high confidence”
conclusion opposed to the first, without explaining clearly what went amiss the first time, or why we readers should now have high
confidence ourselves. Despite some clear efforts at change in recent years, the IC appears (to this outsider, at least) to face cultural and methodological problems in the handling of confidence and uncertainty that threaten both the clarity and credibility of
important products. But, with the caveats given above, that does not necessarily make the broad conclusions of the document wrong.

The conclusions of the NIE have been embraced by many whom you’d think wouldn’t be so eager to credit the administration with a success (albeit one recognized only belatedly), let alone with having read Iranian intentions correctly at the time of the “Axis of Evil” speech. This reaction appears motivated by excessive fears of imminent armed conflict, influenced by an Iraq analogy. In practice, the main lines of U.S. policy on Iran actually have been to pursue a combination of broadly multilateral, unilateral, and “coalition” sanctions, while making an occasional show of force to reassure skittish allies.

It is very difficult for the IC to reverse itself on such sensitive
issues, so respect is due to those who did so regardless.

Nevertheless, by virtue of its subject matter, the NIE is a policy
statement as much as anything else. Its conclusions were such that it would have leaked had it not first been released. And its release has thrown a spanner into the works of the diplomatic process. By intention or by accident, the IC has asserted itself as an autonomous actor in the U.S. policy community, akin to the Federal Reserve Bank.

This NIE was ordered up by Congress in the last defense budget bill. The 2005 version — apparently a “memo to holders” (i.e., a partial update, not a full-blown NIE) — appears to have been initiated by the IC leadership itself. The administration seems never to have regarded the IC as a useful tool, and has effectively conceded its management to others. That may explain, in part, how we have come to the present circumstances.

New BW Threat in PA

I just noticed that “Agoraphobic Nosebleed”: have a ditty on their Altered States

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of America CD entitled “Relapse Refusing UN Weapons Inspectors.”

Here are the lyrics:

bq. We have a deadly biological weapon.
Send us money courtesy of Relapse Records
Upper Darby, Philadelphia, PA

Happy Holidays.

M Pomper on J Schlesinger on Iran

A few days ago, James Schlesinger had a “piece”: in the _WSJ_ about the Iran NIE. I particularly liked this part:

Exclusive reliance on hard evidence not infrequently results in deliberately blinding oneself to the most obvious explanation of what has occurred. The classic example of this failing occurred during the Vietnam War, when intelligence analysts stubbornly refused to accept that enemy supplies were pouring through Sihanoukville ostensibly on the grounds that there was no hard evidence. (Actually, there was an agent’s report that revealed the activity, but it was dismissed as insufficient.) Intelligence based on hard evidence requires supplementation by other forms of intelligence.

“Failures of imagination,” to which the 9-11 Commission referred, can come in a variety of modes.

Personally, I can’t think of anything bad that could happen from the IC engaging in speculation about another country’s nuclear program.

My babbling aside, _ACT_ editor Miles Pomper composed a more thoughtful response, which you can read below. I plan to feature more of Miles’ work in the near future.

I agree with much of the thrust of what James Schlesinger wrote in his column (“Stupid Intelligence on Iran,” Dec. 19). The recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear programs—and even more so the press coverage of that assessment— did not give sufficient weight to the danger posed by Iran’s uranium enrichment program (nor its missile programs I would add) in its narrow emphasis on an apparent 2003 halt in Iran’s weaponization activities.

However, Secretary Schlesinger is inaccurate and misleading in his analysis of the factors that may have led to Iran’s 2003 decision.

First of all, it is highly unlikely that Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s decision to abandon Libya’s nuclear program would have affected a 2003 Iranian decision to halt weaponization activities. The Libyan decision was not announced until late December 2003. Even less credible is the possibility that Iran’s decision could have been affected by the exposure of A.Q. Khan’s nuclear technology network and his subsequent confession. After all, Khan’s confession occurred in February 2004.

At the same time, Schlesinger ignores a crucial factor that likely proved more important to the 2003 Iranian decision—international inspections of Iran’s previously secret enrichment facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been informed of Iran’s fuel cycle intentions in September 2002 and their existence was first publicly disclosed by a U.S. non-governmental organization in December 2002. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaredei first toured those facilities in February 2003 and the subsequent agency inspections led to a torrent of damaging disclosures about Iran’s program and to Iran’s reluctant agreement to grant the agency the power to conduct broader inspections beyond declared nuclear facilities.

Under these circumstances, it would have been surprising if Iran had not taken steps to hide its nuclear weapons activities most uniquely suited to weapons production. After all, discovering such activities—unlike the continuation of the dual-use enrichment program—would have represented a clear and unambiguous violation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and required a swift referral to the UN Security Council.

Therefore, rather than attributing the Iranian decision solely to “the successes of American policy and arms” during that period, Schlesinger might have considered giving at least some credit to the international agency that may, in fact, have been more influential.

Arms Control Person of the Year

ACA is “soliciting votes”: for the 2007 “Arms Control Person of the Year.”

Here are the nominees:

*Jonas Gahr Støre, Foreign Minister of Norway* for spearheading his government’s initiative to negotiate a treaty banning cluster munitions after the failure of states to agree to such talks at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in 2006.

*Representatives Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio)* for leading the House of Representatives and Congress to zero out funding for the controversial Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

*Prakash Karat, General Secretary of India’s Communist Party and his left parties allies* for slowing progress on the implementation of the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation deal.

*Former Secretaries of State George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn* for their catalytic January 2007 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling for renewed U.S. leadership on practical steps “toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

*Christopher Hill, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs,* for negotiating and keeping on track the plan to implement the six-party agreement on the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

*Margaret Beckett, former U.K. Sec. of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,* for her June 2007 speech calling for renewed action on key nuclear disarmament steps, including the CTBT, deeper nuclear reductions, and more, as a means to strengthen global nonproliferation efforts.

*Jan Neoral, the mayor of the Czech village of Trokavec,* whose residents voted 71 – 1 against deployment of a U.S. strategic missile defense radar in their town.

*Phil Goff, New Zealand’s Disarmament and Arms Control Minister,* for his leadership on a nonbinding UN resolution calling on nuclear-armed states to lessen the alert level of their deployed weapons, which won the support of 124 countries despite U.S., British, and French opposition.

*Lulzim Basha, Albanian Foreign Minister,* for helping his country become the first to verifiably destroy its chemical weapons stockpile as part of its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

*The Scottish Parliament* for their June 14 vote in opposition of the U.K. government’s replacement of the existent Trident nuclear-armed submarine system.

My ballot is secret.