Monthly Archives: August 2021

Israel and Nukes, 1993 Edition

In this 1993 interview, Walker Smith, III, describes the embassy’s knowledge Israel’s nuclear weapons program in State

Q:…was it accepted at the time–was it the accepted wisdom within the Embassy–that the Israelis had a nuclear capability that could be used?

SMITH: The folk wisdom within the Embassy at that time was that the Israelis were within one to four weeks of assembling a nuclear weapon, if they decided to go that way. They had the know-how and the technology, but [it was believed within the embassy that] they had not done it. They did not have them [nuclear weapons] stored. I do not know whether that was true, but it was the folk wisdom within the Embassy at the time. That war lasted over three weeks, as I remember. They [the Israelis] may very well have assembled a bomb in the course of the war. It was not something which, during the first two or three days of the war, we thought could be just around the corner.


Zia, Enrichment, and a Mustache

This 2014 interview with Ambassador John Wolf has a great account about a meeting between then-Ambassador to Pakistan Deane Hinton and President Zia:

The meeting was just the President, Ambassador, the Foreign Secretary and me (as note takers). The ambassador was saying something like, “Mr. President…your enrichment is over the 8 percent redline we’ve discussed…you need to move back.”

Zia sat patiently quietly twisting his mustache like the villain (Snidely Whiplash) in the old Bullwinkle cartoons. At the end, still twisting his mustache, “Ambassador, there are some times when you just have to trust your friends, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh.” I got it all then went back to dictate the reporting cable. But the DCM had just remonstrated POL for too colorful writing (I think he termed it “dilettantism”), so I left out the mustache references.

Carter, Tarpur, and a Hot Mic

This interview with Ambassador Howard Schaffer describes a 1978 visit to India by President Carter:

The major issue between the U.S. and India at the time concerned
the delivery of fuel to Tarapur, a nuclear reactor. It was the Indian tail wagging the
American dog. On the first day during a break, Carter was huddled with Brzezinski and Cyrus Vance, then the Secretary of State. They were unaware that a microphone near them was open and transmitting their comments. I was in the room and heard Carter say something about sending a cold, hard note to the Indians about the fuel problem. The story subsequently got world headlines.

E3 and MTCR’s Relationship to Nuclear Weapons

In this document, the E3 included an explanation of the relationship between the MTCR Category I definition and nuclear weapons.

According to the MTCR Guidelines, Cat I items

include complete rocket systems (including ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles and sounding rockets) and unmanned air vehicle systems (including cruise missiles systems, target and reconnaissance drones) with capabilities exceeding a 300km/500kg range/payload threshold;

The August E3 letter to the UNSC explains that the 300/500 thresholds are “the recognized minima for the mass of a nuclear warhead and the distance required to ensure self-preservation after delivery.”

India UNGA Statement May 2021

In a May statement to the UNGA, India described its nuclear posture:

India is committed to its credible minimum deterrence policy, a posture of non-first use of nuclear weapons and non-use against non-nuclear weapons States. India believes that the goal of a nuclear-weapon- free world can be achieved through a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework that is global, verifiable and non-discriminatory.

India also stated its position on an FMCT:

India supports the immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a fissile material cut-off treaty on the basis of document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein

India and Thorium

DAE explained in a recent response to aa parliamentary question that the country’s thorium “is available in Monazite, a Prescribed Substance as per the Atomic Energy Act 1962. Monazite is found in association with suite of six other atomic minerals..”

The department provided more detail about the country’s Thorium program :

Development of technologies pertaining to utilisation of thorium has been a part of ongoing R & D activities in Department of Atomic Energy so that a mature technology is in place, well before the beginning of the large scale deployment of the thorium based reactors. With sustained efforts over the years, India has gained experience in different areas of thorium fuel cycle. Large scale thorium utilisation is contemplated after a few decades of large scale deployment of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs). In order to develop and demonstrate technologies for thorium based fuel, Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) has been designed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). It is also having advanced safety and passive engineered systems which enhance its safety. Efforts are currently on to enlarge the present thorium related R&D work and activities to a bigger scale and towards development of technologies for the third stage of our nuclear power programme.


India on India’s NSG Membership

Question: “Will the Minister of Atomic Energy be pleased to state…whether the Chinese are against Indian entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the position of the Government in this regard”?


India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continues to be under the consideration of the Group. India has received support from a large number of members of the NSG. As a non-member of NSG, India is not privy to its internal discussions. However, it is gathered that procedural issues have been raised in the NSG in regard to consideration of India’s application for the membership. The Government has continued to engage with members of the NSG, at the appropriate levels, for support for an early decision on India”s membership by the Group.

US on Chinese Nuclear Exports, 1977

This 1977 MEMCON describes a discussion between President Carter and Nigerian Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo regarding nuclear suppliers:

Nigerian Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo  What about China?

President Carter: They feel that nuclear power is their own business.
But they are not a major supplier, and they probably don’t wish to be.
They are facing the Soviet atomic threat. China wants an international conference, and wants that to lead to the elimination of nuclear explosives worldwide. But while they’re facing the USSR, they do not wish limitations to be placed on their capacity in this regard.

Zarif UNSG Letter

Here’s the text of a July letter from Foreign Minister Zarif to the UNSG. This paragraph stands out:

The US and E3 illusion that there can ever be a renegotiation of the timetable enshrined in the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 represents utter bad faith. The timetable for termination of voluntary restrictions accepted by Iran in the JCPOA—maliciously called “JCPOA sunset clauses,” in order to evoke fear— were the subject of the longest and most difficult negotiating process—which began from the very first day of the Muscat discussions in August 2012, and continued until the evening of July 13, 2015. Agreement on the current timetable required great flexibility and compromise on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and huge sacrifices by Iran on other significant issues.

The letter includes a useful annex containing a slew of public Iranian documents concerning the JCPOA. Nice to have them all in one place.