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Security Foreign policy Conflict

Iran in 2013: the Year of Not Living so Dangerously?

President of Iran Addresses General Assembly
President of Iran addresses UNGA. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr.

Despite eight months of negotiations with the E3+3, Iran remains committed to its highly-controversial nuclear program. Talks over the past year followed a similar pattern to previous discussions, with the E3+3 failing in its attempts to establish the true nature of Tehran’s ambitions. Negotiations were also conducted against the backdrop of growing political unrest across the Middle East and the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Yet despite continued frustration and the growing threat of conflict, 2013 might turn out to be the year in which negotiations take a turn for the better.

In terms of improving dialogue with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran appears determined to pick up where it left off in December 2012. Despite failing to agree upon a framework for the future inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities, both sides will resume talks on February 12th. Back in August, the IAEA also reported that Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium had remained unchanged since May, when Tehran converted supplies for medical purposes.

Another source of inspiration may come from the re-election of Barack Obama. In remarks made shortly after his victory, the U.S. President reiterated the importance of negotiating with Iran. Along with promises to push for the resumption of direct dialogue with Tehran, Obama also openly suggested that Iran might be able to maintain a low-scale nuclear program on condition that it provides credible evidence that it is being used for peaceful purposes.

Categories
International Relations Security Foreign policy

Global Zero at Ground Zero

Nuclear bomb explosion (montage)
Nuclear bomb explosion (montage). Image: Madison Guy/flicker.

MADRID – Since its launch in December 2008, Global Zero, the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, has run up against some formidable challenges. One is related to the readiness of the two major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, to move from the stockpile reductions to which they agreed in the New START treaty to complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Others concern smaller nuclear powers’ willingness to go along, and whether reliable inspection, verification, and enforcement systems can be put in place.

But these issues are not the real problem. Although Russia and the US possess roughly 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, their nuclear capabilities are less of a threat than is the danger of proliferation. It is this fear of a fast-growing number of nuclear-armed states, not the fine balancing of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals, that the case for Global Zero must address. Indeed, addressing the underlying security concerns that fuel nuclear competition in regional trouble spots is more important to the credibility of Global Zero’s goal of “a world without nuclear weapons” than is encouraging exemplary behavior by the two major nuclear powers.

After all, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel might not be particularly impressed by a reduction in the US and Russian nuclear-weapons stockpiles from gross overkill to merely mild overkill. There is a stark lack of synchrony between the (admittedly qualified) improvement in the two major nuclear powers’ bilateral relations and conditions in volatile regions around the world.

Categories
Government Foreign policy CSS News

Change in US Nuclear Policy?

CSS Analysis no 74: "Obama's Nuclear Policy: Limited Change"
CSS Analysis no 74: “Obama’s Nuclear Policy: Limited Change”

One year after Obama’s Prague speech, has the announced change in nuclear policy actually taken place?

In a newly published policy brief, CSS senior researcher Daniel Möckli assesses the practical results achieved by the Obama administration so far.

On the plus side, he argues, Obama has succeeded in reintroducing nuclear disarmament to the international agenda. But domestic factors, alliance policy, and strategic considerations limit the scope for major turns in US policy.

According to Möckli, neither a sustainable reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime nor substantial progress in multilateral arms control are in the offing.

The publication can be downloaded here.

Categories
International Relations Security

Resetting the Nuclear Disarmament Agenda

Mikhail Gorbachev / Photo: European Parliament,flickr
Mikhail Gorbachev / Flickr - European Parliament

I’m on my way to the 3rd Geneva Lecture Series, which is hosting Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union.

The Series gathers high-level panelists to discuss contemporary topics. This afternoon, Gorbachev will talk about nuclear disarmament. His venue is highly symbolic.  At a time when the world is deeply concerned about Iran’s motives and North Korea’s arsenal, they could not have chosen a better speaker.

Categories
International Relations Security

The Ambiguities of Nuclear Power

The New Appeal of Nuclear Energy and the Dangers of Proliferation
The New Appeal of Nuclear Energy and the Dangers of Proliferation

Every country has a right to the peaceful use of nuclear power. Some even argue that this ‘clean-burning’ fuel could be the CO2 emissions cure-all.

But how to keep states from using these plants to disguise weapons programs?

And how to tackle the risk of nuclear terrorism?

In a new CSS Analysis, Olivier Thränert provides an overview of current efforts and debates to address this nuclear power conundrum.

 

 

Dr Thränert is an expert on the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.

You can download his paper here.