Monthly Archives: February 2020

C Ford on S Asia

I was re-reading this speech from Christopher Ford when I realized that I had missed this excellent summary of the current India-Pakistan nuclear dynamics:

Indeed, the N5 process conspicuously leaves out two major nuclear weapons possessors — India and Pakistan — who find themselves today in a dangerous arms race that presents perhaps the single most likely scenario for nuclear warfare in the world today.  Both are developing an ever-wider and more diverse range of potential delivery systems in ways that are likely to be notably destabilizing.  They have not applied the hard-won lessons of our Cold War mistakes, instead following paths that shrewd observers now understand to be dangerous and destabilizing — for instance, Pakistan’s development of short-range, forward-deployed nuclear weapons of the very sort that NATO by the early 1980s had come to understand were more likely to lead to uncontrollable escalation or loss of control than they were to contribute to stable deterrence.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s nuclear build-up continues to catalyze expansion of New Delhi’s delivery systems — and these dynamics, coupled with cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, are creating destabilizing ripple effects through the subcontinent.  (This points, by the way, to yet another benefit of trilateral arms control between the United States, Russia, and China: it has the potential to help reduce arms race pressures in the South Asian context, too.) We have also watched with concern as Pakistan and India engaged in military confrontation under the “nuclear umbrella” of their mutual deterrence, seemingly overconfident in both governments’ ability to manage escalation and avoid catastrophe.  Nothing about the South Asian nuclear situation is reassuring at the moment.

T Drumheller on U.S. Iran Intel, Part II

In this post, I wrote that, according to Tyler Drumheller, “the Bush administration diverted intel resources from Iran’s nuclear program to Iraq’s nuclear program in February 2001” (my words).

This comment from Robert Kelley (used with his permission) actually caused me to re-examine Drumheller’s words:

February 18, 2020 at 8:48 amInformation provided to IAEA in 2001 on Iraq was largely recycled from 1991. If they diverted resources to Iraq no wonder they got Iran wrong! US information in the 2002 inspections was very thin and usually wrong. They were getting it from Judy Miller.

I considered correcting that post, but I’m not sure it’s wrong, though it may be ambiguous. Here’s what he said:

In the late Clinton administration, in the middle ’90s, there was a large push on Iraq. Then in the late ’90s, as they became more concerned about the nuclear proliferation in Iran, there was a movement of resources from Iraq to Iran. I was in the field then, so I saw that. It was seen as [compared to] Iraq, with the inspectors and with the sanctions and all, that Iran presented a much more dangerous threat than Iraq. Right after the Bush administration came in in February of 2001, we got the word to start gearing up on Iraq, start gearing up [intelligence] collection on Iraq, resources back to Iraq, that these guys were focused on Iraq.

Drumheller did not specify the aspects of Iraq about which the IC began/increased its collection efforts. So maybe the IC wanted extra bodies to focus on non-WMD Iraq issues.

UNSCR 487 on Osirak

The international legal regime governing attacks on nuclear facilities is a subject beyond my expertise. But here’s an excerpt from the 1981 UNSCR adopted in response to Israel’s attack on the Osirak reactor (I am using the Osirak spelling because the CIA does):

3. Further considers that the said attack constitutes a serious threat to the entire IAEA safeguards regime which is the foundation of the non-proliferation Treaty;

4. Fully recognises the inalienable sovereign right of Iraq, and all other States, especially the developing countries, to establish programmes of technological and nuclear development to develop their economy and industry for peaceful purposes in accordance with their present and future needs and consistent with the internationally accepted objectives of preventing nuclear-weapons proliferation;

5. Calls upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards;

6. Considers that Iraq is entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it has suffered, responsibility for which has been acknowledged by Israel;

UNSCRs and Iran-Iraq War and Chemical Weapons Use

Here’s a list, drawn from this list, of the 1980s UNSCRs which refer, directly or indirectly, to CW use during the Iran-Iraq war. I say “indirectly,” because at least one doesn’t mention CW by name, but does refer to UNSCR 598, which contains preambular language deploring the use of CW.

UNSCR 642(1989)

UNSCR 631 (1989)

UNSCR 620 (1988)

UNSCR 612 (1988)

UNSCR 598 (1987)

UNSCR 582 (1986)

I won’t swear that this is comprehensive, but there you go.

Einhorn and Nephew on Attack on Iran

Late to the party on this, but Robert Einhorn and Richard Nephew published a piece last year in which they discussed the Obama administration’s consideration of a military attack on Iran, as well as Israel’s support for said attack:

The Obama administration considered a military strike, but believed there was time to address the issue diplomatically, notwithstanding some pressure from Israel to the contrary. Among the reasons for Obama’s decision to set aside the military option in deference to sanctions-enabled diplomacy was that, at the time, an attack would have been directed at civil nuclear activities in compliance with IAEA safeguards; there were no indications of preparations to break out toward nuclear weapons; and consequently there was still an opportunity to address the threat of Iran’s nuclear program peacefully. Many Obama administration officials are confident that, in different circumstances—in particular, if there was clear-cut evidence that the Iranians were moving precipitately toward nuclear weapons—the president would not have hesitated to authorize the use of force to stop them. 

None of this surprises me, but good to have it on record.

ISPR, Pakistan, and NESCOM

I haven’t flogged this horse enough, I guess.

I recently mentioned that a subsidiary of Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) is “responsible” for the country’s cruise missile programs.

Now an ISPR press release from 18 February links NESCOM with a recent Ra’ad II test:

 Pakistan conducted successful flight test of Air Launched Cruise Missile “Ra’ad-II”. Ra’ad-II, with a range of 600 Km, which significantly enhances air delivered strategic standoff capability on land and at sea. The weapon system is equipped with state of the art guidance and navigation systems ensuring engagement of targets with high precision.

The successful flight test was witnessed by Lieutenant General Nadeem Zaki Manj, Director General Strategic Plans Division, Dr. Nabeel Hayat Malik, Chairman NESCOM, senior officers from Strategic Plans Division, Strategic Forces and Strategic Organizations.

W Burns on India 123

William Burns recently published a piece in the Atlantic about his role in the India 123 agreement negotiations.

Selling the agreement in international forums was mostly an exercise in blunt-force diplomacy with little of the practiced finesse that so often consumes the profession. I have sheepish memories of waking senior European officials in the middle of the night to obtain an exception for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. I didn’t belabor the technical arguments, nor did I really try to do much convincing. This was about power, and we were exercising it—hardly endearing ourselves to groggy partners, but impressing our Indian counterparts with the strength of America’s commitment to get this done.

The whole initiative was not an easy call—not for foreign capitals and not for the U.S. Congress. Questions remained about just how aligned India would be with us, how significant the costs of the India exception would be to nuclear diplomacy and the broader nuclear-nonproliferation regime, and whether the economic benefits for the American nuclear industry would ever live up to the hype. Proponents of the civil-nuclear deal tended to overstate the promise and understate the risk. Critics did the opposite, and were then lambasted by Indian officials as “nuclear ayatollahs” whose nonproliferation zeal blinded them to wider possibilities. Bush’s decision, nevertheless, was bold and smart.

I distinctly remember telling a commenter on ACW (IIRC) that they ought not use phrases like “nuclear ayatollahs.” .

Anyway, Burns’ account is consistent with a 2008 memorandum that he wrote for then-Sec State Rice. Here’s an excerpt:

CCW – Trying to Win

The contest for longest int’l agreement title.

I once observed that ISIS might be the Nile of nonproliferation think tanks. I based this claim on the names of both organization’s products.

ISIS, 2012: ISIS Analysis of IAEA Iran Safeguards Report: Production of 3.5% Enriched Uranium Increases Significantly; Iran Continues to Increase its Stock of 19.75% LEU; Rapid Installation of Large Numbers of IR-1 Centrifuge Outer Casings Not a Prelude to Dramatically Increased Centrifuge Deployment at Natanz or Fordow; Advanced Centrifuge Program Still Troubled But Makes Some Progress.

Nile, 2005: Chapter of Obeisance Before Giving Breath to the Inert One in the Presence of the Crescent Shaped Horns.

I have belatedly realized that the agreement known as CCW Amended Protocol II has a formal title with similar characteristics:

Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended on 3 May 1996(ProtocolII as amended on 3 May 1996) annexed to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, 3 May 1996

Come to think of it, there must be a list of long int’l agreement titles somewhere.