372 Items

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran on June 24.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Deescalation Wanted: How Trump Can Steer Clear of a War

| June 26, 2019

The United States and Iran have engaged in a constant raising of the stakes as a means of securing leverage ahead of possible nuclear negotiations. This is a classic bargaining pattern but in the current context, such an approach is particularly risky due to the potential for misperceptions. The complexities of domestic and regional dynamics are also a factor. In such a situation, absent clear understanding of the other’s motivations and tactics, raising the stakes—rather than securing leverage for effective negotiations—could steer the United States and Iran towards a path toward war.

A water desalination plant near an Abu Dhabi beach in 1980.

AP Photo/Randy Taylor

Analysis & Opinions - LobeLog

Gulf Escalation Threatens Drinking Water

| June 26, 2019

The Persian Gulf is one of the most populous and environmentally-sensitive regions in the world. Consequently, it is no surprise that Gulf states are increasingly dependent on desalination for their drinking water. But that dependence carries severe risks in a region as volatile as the Gulf has been, especially in light of recent tensions between the United States and Iran. Any accident or military conflict in the Gulf could cause massive spills of long-lasting contaminants such as crude oil or radioactive material into its waters, which could seriously threaten the lives and well-being of millions of people in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, walks with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Steve Bondy, left, and United Arab Emirates Minister of State Ahmed al-Sayegh, right, upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on June 24.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press, Pool

Analysis & Opinions - The Hill

How to Defuse Gulf Tensions and Avoid War with Iran

| June 24, 2019

The Trump administration has spent over a year attempting to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table to get a “better deal” than the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That strategy has failed. Iran has demonstrated that it is willing to risk war rather than endure the humiliation of negotiating “withsomebodywho hasaknife inhishand.” And PresidentTrump has indicated he doesn’t want to go to war in the Middle East.

The nuclear archive warehouse outside Tehran (Satellite image via Google).

Satellite image via Google

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications

In mid-January, a team of scholars from the Belfer Center’s Intelligence and Managing the Atom Projects traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to examine samples of, and receive briefings on, an archive of documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The large cache includes some 55,000 pages of documents and a further 55,000 files on CDs that included photos and videos. A clandestine Israeli intelligence operation spirited the materials out of Iran in early 2018.

The documents that the Belfer group were shown confirm that senior Iranian officials had decided in the late 1990s to actually manufacture nuclear weapons and carry out an underground nuclear test; that Iran’s program to do so made more technical progress than had previously been understood; and that Iran had help from quite a number of foreign scientists, and access to several foreign nuclear weapon designs. The archive also leaves open a wide range of questions, including what plan, if any, Iran has had with respect to nuclear weapons in the nearly 16 years since Iran’s government ordered a halt to most of the program in late 2003. 

This brief report summarizes the group’s conclusions about what the archive reveals about Iran’s program and questions that remain open.

Stan Osserman, director of the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies, speaks in front of a new waste to energy facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

AP/Audrey McAvoy

Journal Article - Journal of Cleaner Production

Stochastic Cost-benefit Analysis of Urban Waste-to-Energy Systems

Municipal solid waste generation is a rapidly increasing challenge that is leading to severe pollution and environmental degradation in many urban areas of developing countries. This study presents the Waste to Energy Recovery Assessment (WERA) framework, a new quantitative decision support model for initial evaluation and alternative comparisons of different thermochemical treatments of municipal wastes. The framework is used to study waste-to-energy (WtE) systems for Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Tokyo, and New York. The results show that WtE systems can fulfill only 1.4–3.6% of 2014 electricity demand in the analyzed cases.

A U.S. Trident II missile launches (Wikimedia Commons).

Wikimedia Commons

Analysis & Opinions - War on the Rocks

Can This New Approach to Nuclear Disarmament Work?

| Jan. 23, 2019

An estimated 14,485 nuclear weapons exist on earth today — most are far more powerful than those that twisted railway ties, leveled buildings, and crushed, poisoned, and burned human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The majority of these weapons belong to the United States and Russia. For some in the U.S. government, including Chris Ford, assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, this number represents significant disarmament progress since Cold War highs of over 70,000 nuclear weapons. They argue the current security environment means that further reductions are not possible at this time. In contrast, for many disarmament advocates and officials from non-nuclear weapons states, this number is still far too high. They are now clamoring to ban all nuclear weapons. Because of this divide, according to Ford, we currently face a “disarmament crisis.”

A North Korean military parade (Stefan Krasowski via Flickr).

Stefan Krasowski via Flickr

Journal Article - Defense and Security Analysis

An Evolving State of Play? Exploring Competitive Advantages of State Assets in Proliferation Networks

| Jan. 17, 2019

Illicit procurement networks often target industry in developed economies to acquire materials and components of use in WMD and military programs. These procurement networks are ultimately directed by elements of the proliferating state and utilize state resources to undertake their activities: diplomats and missions, state intelligence networks, and state-connected logistical assets. These state assets have also been utilized to facilitate the export of WMD and military technologies in breach of sanctions. While used in most historic proliferation cases, their role has seen limited consideration in the scholarly literature. This article seeks to systematically contextualize state resources in proliferation networks, arguing that their use lies between state criminality and routine activity in support of national security. Considering the competitive advantages of these assets compared to similar resources available in the private sector, the article argues that nonproliferation efforts have caused states to change how they use these resources through an ongoing process of competitive adaptation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow

AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

How the Next Nuclear Arms Race Will Be Different from the Last One

| 2019

All the world's nuclear-armed states (except for North Korea) have begun modernizing and upgrading their arsenals, leading many observers to predict that the world is entering a new nuclear arms race. While that outcome is not yet inevitable, it is likely, and if it happens, the new nuclear arms race will be different and more dangerous than the one we remember. More nuclear-armed countries in total, and three competing great powers rather than two, will make the competition more complex. Meanwhile, new non-nuclear weapon technologies — such as ballistic missile defense, anti-satellite weapons, and precision-strike missile technology — will make nuclear deterrence relationships that were once somewhat stable less so.