Monthly Archives: December 2019

Obama NSC and South Asia

This document from the Post’s Afghanistan Papers clearly explains something I heard a while back and, I imagine, explains a fair amount about US policy RE: India and Pakistan.

The document describes the NSC South Asia Office thusly:

Originally, under Bush the NSC carved out a South Asia directorate that included Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the other smaller states. In 2008 there was a decision to take India out of the South Asia bureau and to treat Afghanistan and Pakistan separately. It was like a donut hole in the middle of the whole policy for South Asia bureau…

CBC in 1974 on Indian Test

Here’s a CBC broadcast about India’s 1974 “PNE.” It includes an interview with the President of Canada’s Atomic Energy Control Board, as well as India’s PermRep to the UN. The latter, after claiming that the test “had nothing to do with the bomb,” added that the tested device “could be used as a bomb.”

William Burr on B-29s in Europe

A few months ago, the NYRB published a letter from William Burr of the National Security Archives regarding the lack of nuclear weapons on B-29s in Europe:

John Banville’s absorbing review of books about the Cambridge Five [NYR, March 7] replicates errors made in Roland Philipp’s book A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean. First, during the Berlin Crisis, President Harry Truman never made public statements about sending B-29 bombers to Western Europe. Second, the B-29s sent to Europe were not nuclear-armed or even atomic capable. Instead, as Ken Young shows in The American Bomb in Britain, the US Air Force bought from the British 1,000 tons of high explosives for the B-29s. Although it was widely believed at the time that the bombers were nuclear-armed, they were a “hollow threat.

Citing Philipps, Mr. Banville notes that Maclean picked up enough intelligence to alert Stalin that the United States had a small stockpile of atomic weapons and not much capability to deliver them from US soil. That was accurate, but Maclean may not have known that early in the crisis Truman refused to turn the Bomb over to the military, declaring that “I don’t think we ought to use this thing unless we have to…. You have got to understand that this is not a military weapon. It is used to wipe out women, children and unarmed people.” Truman’s thinking suggests that atomic war was even less likely than Maclean realized.

Blix on Safeguards and Intel

In this interview which I previously mentioned, Hans Blix had a lot to say about the role of intelligence in implementing IAEA safeguards:

Intel and Argentina:

The Israelis, of course, suspected the Iraqis in 1981, but I don’t—we had no tips from them that it was acute at that time. And I remember another occasion in Argentina, when I was there (inaudible) the Argentineans were building an enrichment plant in Pilcaniyeu, and I was invited to go to Argentina. And they—a day before I left, they phoned me and they told me about this plant. The U.S. had not discovered it.

Intel and Iraq:

I think many people also doubt that really Saddam—and there’s been written about this—that doubt that Saddam was—had taken a decision to go for nuclear weapons at that time, but he came to that conclusion. Of course, the Israelis and others didn’t do very much (inaudible) the IAEA did manage very much, because we were then operating under the old safeguard system, and under that system, we went to installations which were declared.In fact, we wouldn’t have known where to go elsewhere, because we had no satellite images, we had no intelligence coming from anybody. So we only could go to what was declared.

Intel and Pre-93+2 Safeguards System:

Now, there was this attitude that meant that the whole system of safeguards inspection by the IAEA did not—were not given much teeth. They were to check—focus—upon the nuclear fissionable material and they were in practice confined to going to sites that were declared.

And as I said, they wouldn’t even have known where to go elsewhere, because we had no intelligence, we had no spies, we had no satellites at that time. And we didn’t get any intelligence from anybody else. So it was a weakness—weak system. And I think in most cases, in our reports, we said that we had not detected any diversion in the sites declared, but it may—I also found cases which they went a little too far and said there weren’t any, because that’s two different things, say, that we haven’t seen anything in there and haven’t detected anything

 Intel and Safeguards, in General:

When I asked about intelligence in the context of our work in Iraq, I say, well, they are different things. The intelligence people, they listen to our telephone conversations, including mine and ElBaradei’s, but others, that may be (inaudible) do so. They have spies on the ground. They look at what kind of instruments, equipment are sold to countries, what type they buy directly or indirectly, so they have a lot of sources of information that inspectors don’t have. But inspectors can go anywhere. They can talk to people. So they have a very direct input.And so I don’t despise the intelligence, though I know there some talks went very, very bad, very wrong. But I think that those who receive the information, the government receives the information from the intelligence and from the inspectors, they should see if they’re telling. And if they do tell, well, that’s—if they don’t, well, then should be a little cautious.

Russia, MTCR, and Norms

A number of UNSCRs, such as 2231 and 1929, use the MTCR Annex as a standard for determining legitimate missile-related transfers concerning Iran.

But a November letter from Russia to the UNSG makes clear Moscow’s view of the MTCR’s appropriate role in UNSCRs:

We continue to view with regret the ongoing attempts by certain Member States to distort the nature and scope of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which is obviously viewed by them not as an informal political understanding between 35 States on export control issues, but as a kind of “universal legally binding instrument” that somehow prohibits all countries in the world, apart from themselves, to develop any space capabilities at all. Moreover, by making such flawed logic, these Member States are accusing by extension all other non-nuclear weapons States that are developing their own missile and space programmes of effectively designing delivery systems capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

In this context we would like to reiterate that the category I parameters of the MTCR annex are nothing but a reference tool for exporting States and were never intended to be used in the context of resolution 2231 (2015) to ascertain whether or not certain ballistic missiles are designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Weapons in Central America

This is an interesting historical tidbit. In 1986, a gentleman named John Dolan, who, according to the NYT, was a “co-founder of the National Conservative Political Action Committee” proposed a lobbying strategy to “educate the public on the dangers of a communist takeover in Central America…and To lobby Congress to pass continuing aid to Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters.” Part of this educational effort involved informing the public about “the possible use of Central America to launch a nuclear attack against America.” One proposed persuasive vehicle was a “commercial [which] could emphasize the increased threat of nuclear war if we do not stop the Sandinistas.”

Read it here (pages 513 and 518).

Blix on LWRs

Yet another observation from the same Blix 2014 appearance. It is consistent with my understanding, though I’ve neither safeguarded nor attempted to divert plutonium from an LWR.

The question on nonproliferation (inaudible) light-water reactors, not worried very much. Theoretically, you can reprocess the spent fuel that comes out, but in practice, it is not really a—it’s not a practical way. You don’t get very good plutonium that way. And, secondly, it will also be picked up and discovered immediately.