Nuclear Issues

1332 Items

Posters of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack on Jan. 3, 2020, are seen in front of Qiam, background left, Zolfaghar, top right, and Dezful missiles displayed in a missile capabilities exhibition by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini grand mosque in Tehran on Jan. 7, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

America Has No Good Options on Iran

| Jan. 17, 2022

The hard truth is that the United States now has few good options for containing Iran’s nuclear program. It can persist with the no-deal status quo, allowing Iran to continue inching closer to a bomb while suffering under sanctions. It can pursue a return to the 2015 agreement and then attempt to get Iran to agree to a “longer and stronger” pact, as the Biden team has suggested. It can try for various other deals, either more or less stringent than the 2015 agreement. Or it can attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure with a military strike, possibly setting Tehran’s progress toward a bomb back by a few years but almost certainly provoking retaliation and possibly a sprint toward the nuclear finish line.

Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gather in Geneva for NPT Prepcom 2018.

JWB/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Contemporary Security Policy

Durable Institution Under Fire? The NPT Confronts Emerging Multipolarity

| Nov. 07, 2021

The regime built around the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has helped curtail the spread of nuclear arms for fifty years. In hindsight, it is remarkable only nine states possess the world’s most powerful weapon. The NPT achieved much success during Cold War bipolarity and U.S. unipolarity in its aftermath. But today, China’s rise and Russia’s resurgence have ushered in a new era of emerging multipolarity. Can the treaty withstand the potential challenges of this dynamic environment? There is a real risk that multipolarity may shake the scaffolding of the nonproliferation regime, presenting a significant test to the NPT’s durability. This article identifies four essential elements of the nonproliferation regime: widespread membership, adaptability, enforcement, and fairness. History suggests bipolarity and unipolarity in the international system largely sustained and promoted these NPT features. When international regimes lack such elements, it sharply curtails their long-term efficacy.

Ambassador Ivor Richard, left, of the United Kingdom, and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, right, raise their arms during vote, Friday, Nov. 4, 1977 at the United Nations Security Council.

(AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Caught Red-Handed: How States Wield Proof to Coerce Wrongdoers

| Fall 2021

States frequently acquire proof that other states have violated norms. Yet, existing theories do not fully explain how states wield such proof to coerce wrongdoers. Four case studies of nuclear proliferation probe a novel theory of how states coerce norm violators by concealing, sharing privately, or publicizing proof of guilt.

Signing of the SALT treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. is observed by officials as U.S. President Richard Nixon, left and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, right, sign document in Moscow, May 26, 1972. (AP Photo)

AP Photo

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Arms Control as Wedge Strategy: How Arms Limitation Deals Divide Alliances

| Fall 2021

Wedge strategy theory explains how states use strategic arms control to divide adversaries by affecting their trust, threat perceptions, and beliefs about a commitment’s trade-offs. Examining three landmark arms control negotiations shows how the wedge motive was a key component to these negotiations.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2017.

khamenei.ir/Wikimedia Commons

Book Chapter - Springer/T.M.C. Asser Press

Backchannel Non-Proliferation: Militarily Non-Aligned States and Nuclear Diplomacy

| July 27, 2021

What roles can small militarily non-aligned States play in nuclear non-proliferation diplomacy with actual or suspected proliferators? And how might international law shape such contributions? Current literature identifying effective approaches to nuclear non-proliferation and rollback is somewhat one-dimensional, emphasising the behaviour of great powers and international organisations. By contrast, this chapter analyses activities militarily non-aligned States may undertake supporting negotiations in accordance with international legal norms and institutions. More specifically, it explores Swedish and Swiss initiatives in the early 2000s, a period of growing tensions over the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes. Drawing upon resources including unpublished elite interviews, the chapter offers new insights into theoretical backchannel non-proliferation mechanisms. It complements existing literature on nuclear proliferation by offering a fuller account of diplomatic negotiations. Ongoing crises suggest many future challenges to the non-proliferation regime will emerge, and militarily non-aligned States may hold one of the few keys to facilitating dialogue. International law can both compel these States to act and provide them with influential—but often-overlooked—non-proliferation roles. Indeed, reconsidering dominant narratives about ‘players’ involved in nuclear diplomacy may provide new avenues for policy-making and theorising aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Missile Launch

Iranian Revolutionary Guard/Sepahnews via AP, File

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

How to Make the Iranian Nuclear Deal Durable

| Feb. 28, 2021

Abolghasem Bayyenat and Sayed Hossein Mousavian advise the United States and Iran to aim for reaching a modus vivendi that keeps their political conflict within manageable limits. Otherwise, another round of dangerous mutual escalation in the illusory hope of building leverage and extracting more concessions from each other is inevitable.     

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran on Feb. 10, 2021 (Iranian Presidency Office via AP).

Iranian Presidency Office via AP

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Reviving the Nuclear Deal Gives the U.S. More Leverage Over Iran

| Feb. 15, 2021

While U.S. sanctions have caused Iran’s economy major challenges and limited Iran’s access to financial resources, they have not succeeded in changing Tehran’s behavior regarding its nuclear program. Indeed, Iran has not offered additional concessions. Instead, it has engaged in its own leverage-building strategy by ramping up its nuclear activities, missile program, and regional activities. Iran is not only closer to having the capacity to build a bomb, but even the political discourse of key officials on whether to cross that threshold has been shifting.

Soldiers assigned to the New York National Guard's 24th Civil Support Team based at Ft. Hamilton, search for a simulated weapon of mass destruction based on elevated radioactivity levels they found in a warehouse during an exercise in Brooklyn, N.Y., Oct. 22, 2019. The 22 person team made up of Airmen and Soliders of the NYNG respond to incidents of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive, and every 18 months have to go through an evaluation where the unit is certified in their mission.

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Ryan Campbell

Analysis & Opinions - European Leadership Network

It’s Time to Prohibit Radiological Weapons

    Authors:
  • Sarah Bidgood
  • Samuel Meyer
  • William C. Potter
| Feb. 01, 2021

Today, the origins of the concept of RW have largely been forgotten.  Indeed, since 9/11, radiological weapons have been associated mainly with non-state actors, who may not have the means or motivations to acquire and use far more lethal nuclear explosives.  A fixation on the very real dangers posed by nuclear terrorism, however, should not obscure the risks that states also may again pursue radiological weapons.

The main hall for the IAEA’s Talks on Supplying Nuclear Fuel for Iranian Research Reactor, Vienna, Austria, 19 October 2009. 

Dean Calma/IAEA

Paper

The Deal That Got Away: The 2009 Nuclear Fuel Swap with Iran

| January 2021

With concerns and uncertainties regarding Iran’s nuclear future persisting to this day, this paper seeks to review the TRR negotiations and the context in which they unfolded in order to capture some of the lessons of negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program, primarily from the viewpoint of senior U.S. officials involved at the time. The paper is also informed by the personal perspective of one of the authors (Poneman) who led the U.S. delegation in the 2009 Vienna talks, and who, prior to this publication, had not publicly elaborated on his experience. The other author (Nowrouzzadeh), who supported the TRR talks in an analytical capacity within the U.S. Department of Defense, also conducted an extensive interview with Poneman as part of their collaboration on this paper. By drawing on existing literature and recent interviews with several senior U.S. officials involved in the negotiations now that over ten years have passed, the authors seek to draw useful lessons from this episode that can assist policymakers in understanding Iran’s nuclear decision-making and in their continued efforts to shape the future trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program.