AQ Khan’s death confirms the threat of nuclear proliferation

AQ Khan’s death doesn’t stop the threat of nuclear proliferation

BY JOSEPH DETRANI, OPINION CONTRIBUTORThe views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

The recent death of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a national hero in Pakistan who was the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program, is an appropriate time to reflect on how an individual or network can provide nuclear technology and know-how to rogue states and terrorist organizations seeking nuclear weapons.

A.Q. Khan was trained in Europe as a metallurgical engineer and employed by the Anglo-Dutch-German nuclear engineering consortium Urenco, where he gained unique access to and expertise working with uranium centrifuges. He brought this knowledge, and documentation, to Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program.

A serial nuclear proliferator, Khan in the late 1980s and ’90s provided Iran with a few thousand P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, in addition to blueprints and components, for its facility in Natanz. He provided North Korea with centrifuges, training and manuals for its highly-enriched uranium program, which provided Pyongyang with another path, in addition to its plutonium program, to nuclear weapons. Libya also was the recipient of centrifuges and documentation for a uranium enrichment program.

Iraq and Syria were approached, but it was Iran, North Korea and Libya that aggressively pursued a relationship with Khan. Libya eventually abandoned its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in return for international legitimacy and normalized relations with the United States and United Kingdom. Iran and North Korea have persisted with their programs.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran – signed by Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., before Donald Trump withdrew our participation in May 2018 – requires Iran’s compliance with halting numerous nuclear programs for a certain period, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has breached the accord several times.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests and continues to reprocess spent fuel rods for plutonium for nuclear weapons. They are assessed to have between 40 to 60 nuclear weapons.  Although North Korea never has admitted to having a highly-enriched uranium program for weapons, it does have a declared modern uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon, reportedly with thousands of spinning centrifuges. 

North Korea reportedly provided Syria with training, materials and assistance in the construction of a plutonium nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar. Israel bombed this facility in September 2007, just prior to its going into operation. Al Qaeda reportedly also attempted to acquire nuclear weapons and fissile materials from North Korea for a dirty bomb. 

There is appropriate current concern that other nation-states will try to acquire nuclear weapons capability, usually for deterrence purposes. Indeed, if North Korea is permitted to retain its nuclear weapons, South Korea, Japan and others in the region may decide that, despite U.S. nuclear deterrence commitments, they need their own nuclear weapons.The same applies to Iran. If it pursues a nuclear weapons program, it’s likely that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will pursue their own nuclear weapons programs, despite U.S. nuclear deterrence commitments.It’s logical to assume that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations continue to seek nuclear and biological weapons to attack the U.S., its allies and partners. And the Taliban’s return to leadership in Afghanistan – and their complicity with 9/11 by permitting al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to reside in Afghanistan and plot against the U.S. – must be of immediate concern to the U.S. and its allies.nullKhan showed the world that one serial proliferator can provide the technology and know-how necessary to a few nation-states interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. Ensuring that Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon and that North Korea denuclearizes completely and verifiably is necessary if we want to ensure that other countries – especially in East Asia and the Middle East – do not pursue their own nuclear weapons programs.The proliferation of nuclear states, and the likelihood that a nuclear weapon or fissile material for a dirty bomb is acquired by a rogue state or terrorist organization, must be of the highest concern to the United States and our allies.Joseph R. DeTrani was the former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea and the former director of the National Counterproliferation Center. The views expressed in this publication are his and do not imply endorsement of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or any other U.S. government agency.

The China Horn’s tested nuclear-capable, hypersonic space weapon: Daniel 7

 Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)

China tested nuclear-capable, hypersonic space weapon – FT

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF, REUTERS   OCTOBER 17, 2021 17:44

Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019.(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)

The Chinese military’s hypersonic capabilities are “far more advanced than US officials realized.”

China made significant strides in space weapons capabilities in August as they secretly tested an advanced nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, The Financial Times reported on Saturday night.The report said the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising toward its target, which it missed by about 25 miles.

The new missile reportedly caught the US by surprise, with a source telling FT that China’s hypersonic capabilities are “far more advanced than US officials realized.”China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters on Sunday.

The hypersonic weapons, also tested by the US and Russia, include glide vehicles that fly at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) – approximately one mile per minute – and are launched into space on a rocket, orbiting the Earth under their own momentum.The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020.

According to an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, the newly tested weapon, armed with a nuclear warhead, will help China “negate US defense systems that are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles,” FT said.America’s defense systems, which are focused on the North Pole, could be completely disregarded as the new weapon could potentially fly over the South Pole, according to FT.Advertisementhttps://69d722ee720fb23f0d7ae54de0558193.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0“We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue: capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.The US and Russia are also developing hypersonic missiles, and North Korea said last month that it had test-fired a newly developed one.

At a 2019 parade, China showcased advancing weaponry including its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17.Ballistic missiles fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories at higher speeds. Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly toward targets at lower altitudes but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,850 mph).

Russia and China won’t get Iran to the table: Daniel 8

Nuclear deal: Tough talk aside, can Russia and China get Iran to the table?

Howard LaFranchiOctober 15, 2021, 10:38 am

When it comes to prospects for restarting talks with Tehran aimed at restoring the tattered 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the tone in Washington this week has been decidedly downbeat.

“With every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets short,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday as he met in Washington with foreign ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The top U.S. diplomat then delved into a little saber-rattling. “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course” – meaning if Iran doesn’t put a halt to continuing advances in its nuclear program and get back to the negotiating table.

But beneath the public pessimism and tough talk are a number of economic and regional political factors that suggest a resumption of diplomacy between two arch adversaries – and revival of the 2015 international agreement that temporarily closed Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon – is still more likely than not.

Those factors include big-ticket pressures like Iran’s need for relief from U.S.-imposed economic sanctions and President Joe Biden’s hopes of avoiding a nuclear crisis that could overtake his domestic agenda.

A range of factors

But other, more subtle factors favoring diplomacy include Iran’s growing relations with two big regional powers – Russia and China; Iran’s fraught but budding relations with its Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia; and Israel’s less strident opposition to a U.S. return to a deal former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Even the spike in global energy costs is contributing to mounting pressure on Iran to return to indirect talks with the United States on restoring the nuclear accord, some analysts argue.

How do oil prices fit into a list of glimmers favoring diplomacy?

Consider this: China, one of six powers that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, with Iran, finds its economy hampered by energy shortages and rising prices. Beijing would welcome the eased access to Iran’s oil that would accompany a revived deal.

At the same time, oil-producer Iran – its economy stuck in the doldrums despite recent modest growth – would very much like to reap the benefits from the rising prices that a return to licit oil sales would offer, some international analysts say.

And as Tehran’s recent accession to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation suggests, the Iranians have been putting more of their economic eggs into the China basket and are aiming for bilateral economic ties to flourish.

The alternative serves no one

Yet even with all those factors contributing, the key driver of a return to talks is going to be a decision from the two main protagonists – the U.S. and especially Iran – that the alternative to dialogue serves no one.

“The bottom line is that restoring the deal serves the best interests of both Iran and the United States,” says Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington.

“If the talks to restore the JCPOA fail, the likelihood of a nuclear crisis, the likelihood of a return to a coercive sanctions strategy, the likelihood of military strikes, all of it goes up,” she adds. “But those likelihoods don’t benefit [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi, and they don’t benefit Biden.”

President Biden entered the White House pledging to restore the JCPOA, and earlier this year it appeared that a U.S. return to the deal – and returning Iran to compliance with the deal’s nuclear limitations – was imminent. (Once the U.S. pulled out in 2018, Iran questioned the deal’s validity and eventually returned to prohibited activities. Those include spinning increasingly sophisticated centrifuges delivering a higher purity of highly enriched uranium, a key step on the road to building a nuclear weapon).

But the sixth round of talks ended in April without an agreement, and then the hard-liner Mr. Raisi was elected president in June.

Speculation over a return to Vienna for a seventh round of talks has since followed the path of a roller coaster, with sudden ascents of optimism followed by chutes of despair.

The last two weeks are a case in point. Last week Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said in Moscow that Iran was finalizing diplomatic consultations and “will soon restore our negotiations in Vienna.” But that was followed this week by plummeting hopes and warnings from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then Secretary Blinken, that the diplomatic window is closing.

U.S. actions vs. words

For some U.S.-Iran analysts, the Biden administration has largely itself to blame for the stalled diplomacy and the failure to coax Iran back to the Vienna table, since the U.S. has never backed up its warnings with any actions.

“The Americans keep talking about how hopes for diplomacy are growing dim, opportunities are diminishing, a window is shutting, but ultimately their rhetoric doesn’t sync with their behavior, and what their behavior says is that they really are trying very hard to keep the door open,” says Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow specializing in Iranian security and political issues at Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In response, he adds, Iran’s new class of hard-liners is finding a “certain glee” in “turning the superpower into the supplicant” and “trying to tempt Washington into premature sanctions relief.” Those in power in Tehran now are “more risk tolerant and escalation friendly, and more keen to drive a harder bargain.”

This does not mean Tehran won’t eventually return to the Vienna talks and even the JCPOA, Mr. Ben Taleblu says. But he says Iran is demonstrating the objective it intends to pursue if it does return to the negotiating table: “Get more but offer less.”

Still, not all Iranians are on board with the Raisi government’s maximalist approach to nuclear diplomacy.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the former foreign minister who was former Secretary of State John Kerry’s Iranian counterpart in negotiating the JCPOA, said in a public online chat last week that Iran had an “opportunity” to return to the deal “while keeping its dignity intact,” according to the Amwaj.media website.

Mr. Zarif also quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin telling him that, “If, when the U.S. declares that it wishes to return to the JCPOA, Iran takes a hard line, then the whole world will turn against” Iran – something Mr. Putin added was already happening.

Iran’s “Eastern orientation”

The role of Russia and China in getting Tehran to “yes” may be crucial. Mr. Ben Taleblu notes that the Iranians have long talked about an “Eastern orientation” of their foreign policy as a way to offset Western influence. And while that reorientation may be a long-term goal, he says it points to where Iran is headed – and suggests that Tehran may prefer not to alienate either Moscow or Beijing by precipitating a regional crisis.

“Politically Moscow matters to Iran, but economically Beijing matters much more, and the Iranians can’t easily disregard that right now” given their weak economy, he says.

Ms. Davenport of the Arms Control Association adds that even if China is unwilling to exert Moscow’s style of overt pressure on Tehran, Beijing clearly prefers a return of the JCPOA.

“The greater access to the Iranian oil market that would accompany a deal would clearly benefit China in a variety of ways,” she says, adding that “from the big-picture perspective, Chinese interests suffer if there’s an escalation of tensions and conflict in the region.”

Just how much that kind of external factor matters to Tehran remains to be seen.

For Mr. Ben Taleblu, the U.S. needs to move beyond rhetoric and show some teeth if it wants to get Iran back to Vienna. And he’s not alone in thinking something has to happen soon.

For now, Ms. Davenport says she sees Iran’s nuclear advances as aimed primarily at “increasing Iran’s leverage” in eventual talks. But she worries that some of the advances Iran is making are getting to a point of no return.

“My concern is that the advances Iran is making will become more difficult to reverse over the next few months,” she says. And if over that period Iran’s hard-liners continue to play hard to get and meet the Americans with new demands, she says, “that delay could be fatal.”

Staff writer Scott Peterson in London contributed to this report.

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The agonizing problem of the Pakistani Nuclear Horn: Revelation 8

The agonizing problem of Pakistan’s nukes

Marvin KalbTuesday, September 28, 2021

“This is a new world,” President Joe Biden declared, when justifying his pullout from Afghanistan and explaining his administration’s war on global terrorism in an August 31 speech. It will go “well beyond Afghanistan,” he alerted the world, focusing on “the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”

The president will not have to look too far. Bordering Afghanistan, now again under Taliban rule, is Pakistan, one of America’s oddest “allies.” Governed by a shaky coalition of ineffective politicians and trained military leaders trying desperately to contain the challenge of domestic terrorism, Pakistan may be the best definition yet of a highly combustible threat that, if left unchecked, might lead to the nightmare of nightmares: jihadis taking control of a nuclear weapons arsenal of something in the neighborhood of 200 warheads.

Ever since May 1998, when Pakistan first began testing nuclear weapons, claiming its national security demanded it, American presidents have been haunted by the fear that Pakistan’s stockpile of nukes would fall into the wrong hands. That fear now includes the possibility that jihadis in Pakistan, freshly inspired by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, might try to seize power at home.

Trying, of course, is not the same as succeeding. If history is a reliable guide, Pakistan’s professional military would almost certainly respond, and in time probably succeed; but only after the floodgates of a new round of domestic warfare between the government and extremist gangs has been opened, leaving Pakistan again shaken by political and economic uncertainty. And when Pakistan is shaken, so too is India, its less than neighborly rival and nuclear competitor.

Pakistani jihadis come in many different shapes and sizes, but no matter: The possibility of a nuclear-armed terrorist regime in Pakistan has now grown from a fear into a strategic challenge that no American president can afford to ignore.

Former President Barack Obama translated this challenge into carefully chosen words: “The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term,” he asserted, “would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” (Author’s italics).

The nation that has both nuclear weapons and a dangerous mix of terrorists was — and remains — Pakistan.

No problem, really, Pakistan’s political and military leaders have quickly assured a succession of anxious presidents. Whether it be Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehreek-e-Labaik, al-Qaida, or the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura — these terrorist organizations have always been under our constant surveillance, checked and rechecked. We keep a close eye on everything, even the Islamic madrassas, where more than 2 million students are more likely studying sharia law than economics or history. We know who these terrorists are and what they’re doing, and we’re ready to take immediate action.

These official assurances have fallen largely on deaf ears at the White House, principally because one president after another has learned from American intelligence that these same Pakistani leaders have often been working surreptitiously with the terrorists to achieve common goals. One such goal was the recent defeat of the Kabul regime, which had been supported by the U.S. for 20 years. During this time, the victorious Taliban secretly received political and military support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Shortly after 9/11, for example, the terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden, escaped U.S. capture, in part because sympathetic of ISI colleagues. Bin Laden fled to the one place where his security could be assured — Pakistan. In 2011, when the U.S. finally caught up with bin Laden and killed him, Obama chose not to inform Pakistani leaders of the super-secret operation, even though the target was down the street from a Pakistani military academy, fearful that once again bin Laden would be tipped off and escape.

The U.S. has learned over the years not to trust Pakistan, realizing that a lie here and there might be part of the diplomatic game but that this level of continuing deception was beyond acceptable bounds. That Pakistan was also known to have helped North Korea and Iran develop their nuclear programs has only deepened the distrust.

Indeed, since the shock of 9/11, Pakistan has come to represent such an exasperating problem that the U.S. has reportedly developed a secret plan to arbitrarily seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if a terrorist group in Pakistan seemed on the edge of capturing some or all of its nuclear warheads. When repeatedly questioned about the plan, U.S. officials have strung together an artful, if unpersuasive, collection of “no comments.”

Even though U.S. economic and military aid has continued to flow into Pakistan — reaching $4.5 billion in fiscal 2010, though on other occasions capriciously cut — America’s concerns about Pakistan’s stability and reliability have only worsened. Since the debacle in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s barely disguised role in it, serious questions have been raised about America’s embarrassing predisposition to look the other way whenever Pakistan has been caught with its hand in a terrorist’s cookie jar. How long can America look the other way?

The anguishing problem for the Biden administration is now coming into sharper focus: Even if the president decided to challenge Pakistan’s dangerous flirtation with domestic and regional terrorism, what specific policies could he adopt that would satisfy America’s obvious desire to disengage from Afghan-like civil wars without at the same time getting itself involved in another nation’s domestic struggles with terrorists?  Disengagement has become the name of the game in Washington.

One approach, already widely discussed, is that the U.S. can contain the spread of terrorism in South Asia by relying on its “over-the-horizon” capabilities. Though almost every senior official, including Biden, has embraced this approach, it’s doubtful they really believe it’s a viable substitute for “boots on the ground.”

Another possibility would be the Central Intelligence Agency striking a new under-the-table deal with the ISI that would set new goals and guidelines for both services to cooperate more aggressively in the war against domestic and regional terrorism. Unfortunately, prospects for such expanded cooperation, though rhetorically appealing, are actually quite slim. Veterans of both services shake their heads, reluctantly admitting it is unrealistic, given the degree of distrust on both sides.

But even if Biden, despite knowing better, decided to continue to look the other way, hoping against hope that Pakistan would be able to contain the terrorists and keep them from acquiring nuclear warheads, he will find that Prime Minister Imran Khan is not a ready and eager ally, if he ever was one. Lately he’s been painting the Biden administration as damaged goods after its hurried exit from Afghanistan. And he has been rearranging Pakistan’s regional relationships by strengthening his ties with China and extending a welcoming hand to Russia. Also Khan may soon discover that his pro-Taliban policy runs the risk of backfiring and inspiring Pakistani terrorists to turn against him. To whom would he then turn for help?

Khan, who won his mandate in 2018, surely knows by now that he runs a decidedly unhappy country, beset by major economic and political problems, waves of societal corruption and the no-nonsense challenge coming from domestic terrorists eager to impose a severe Islamic code of conduct on the Pakistani people. Sixty-four percent of the population are under the age of 30 and more desirous of iPhones and apps than of religious zealotry.

Pakistan is a looming problem with no satisfactory solutions. For Biden, no matter what policies he pursues, it remains a recurring nightmare, the stuff of a paperback thriller: a scary mix of terrorists who may one day be able to seize power and, with it, control over the nation’s stockpile of nuclear warheads — all of this happening in a shaky, strategically-located country that was once an ally.

Since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, geostrategic relationships on the Asian subcontinent have been undergoing important changes. Pakistan has tilted its future towards a closer relationship with China, while its principal adversary, India, has tightened its ties to the United States, both of them sharing an already deep distrust of China. In this increasingly uneasy atmosphere, the U.S. remains concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile falling into terrorist hands. If this seemed to be happening, the U.S. would feel the need to intervene militarily to stop it. Pakistan would likely turn to China for help, setting the stage for the U.S. and China, because of Pakistan’s nukes, to head towards a direct and possibly deadly confrontation which neither superpower wants or needs

The new hypersonic nuclear arms race: Daniel

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Hypersonic Arms Race

Written by Syed Alyaan Kazmi• October 15, 2021• 11:47 am•

The Hypersonic Arms Race Between the US, China & Russia

The development of hypersonic weapons has made it difficult to distinguish between nuclear weapons and non-nuclear strategic weapons. Yet, it has made it clear that hypersonic weapons cannot be taken lightly. The strategic instability created by these weapons has triggered a hypersonic arms race between the US, China, and Russia. The author, Syed Alyaan Kazmi, notes that each state views the other two with suspicion and fears a pre-emptive strike, thus triggering a security dilemma. The existence of hypersonic weapons greatly influences the decision-making process due to their unpredictability. Fearing the destabilization of the arms race between the nuclear states, the author suggests the establishment of new multilateral agreements to limit the development and proliferation of hypersonic weapons.

Syed Alyaan Kazmi 

Syed Alyaan Kazmi is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in strategic and nuclear studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His areas of interest include the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region and South Asia.

Introduction

Despite disagreements, the majority of the experts from the US, China, Russia, and Europe agree that the advancements in military technology have the potential to exacerbate the complexity of deterrence and strategic stability, and intensifying the hypersonic arms race. Until the end of the Cold War, the entire construct of deterrence rested upon the presumption of survivability of credible nuclear forces to launch a counter nuclear strike, in retaliation to the first strike.

In recent years, advances in military technology—predominantly, the development of hypersonic weapons—have obscured the distinction between nuclear weapons and non-nuclear strategic weapons. Since hypersonic missiles can carry both nuclear and non-nuclear warheads at intercontinental ranges, their incredible speed and maneuverability enable them to incapacitate the adversary’s strategic forces like the nuclear command, control, and communication facilities without even crossing the nuclear threshold of the opponent.

Consequently, this warhead ambiguity might encourage a pre-emptive counterforce strike to limit the damage inflicted by the first strike. Hence, triggering an unstable hypersonic arms race leading to uncontrollable escalation, threatening the global strategic stability.

Hypersonic missiles, touted by many experts as the demolishers of anti-missile systems, travel at a speed faster than Mach 5 (about 5000-25000 km/hr) which makes them invulnerable to any missile defense system in the world. Presently, there are two main well-tested types of hypersonic missiles: hypersonic boost-glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs). Both have different working principles from traditional ballistic missiles.

HGVs are unpowered vehicles that glide at hypersonic speed in the upper atmosphere at an altitude above 50 km. Being equipped with propulsion systems, an HGV travels with greater maneuverability, having greater self-orientation and directional control.

The glide vehicle upon reaching about 100 km of altitude (depending upon the target location) separates from the booster and skims through the atmosphere by the momentum gained due to its aerodynamic shape. Moreover, an HGV follows an unpredicted non-ballistic trajectory, maneuvering at the hypersonic speed which makes it invulnerable to any missile defense system.

The second type, hypersonic cruise missile, uses a Supersonic Combustion Ramjet Engine (SCRAMJET engine) which generates supersonic airflow thrust. An HCM needs to gain a supersonic speed of about 4 to 5 Mach before the engine starts working and for this purpose, booster rockets are used. 

Furthermore, land, aircraft, and ship-based launchers are used to launch an HCM, traveling at a low altitude of 12 to 30 miles, above the earth’s surface. Due to its high speed and unpredictable trajectory, an HCM poses a serious threat to most defense systems. Depending upon its speed, weight, and material stiffness, a hypersonic cruise missile possesses the capability to destroy any underground facility, solely through its kinetic energy, with high precision.

Currently, the US, China, and Russia are the major countries actively pursuing research and development programs in the arena of hypersonic missile technology. Some other countries including France, India, and Australia are also pursuing hypersonic weapons for military use, however, they are still far behind the big three in this race.Also Read:  Sino-Russian Relations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: The Tides of Power

Russia is the only country having hypersonic missiles developed and fully operationalized in its arsenal, while some are reaching operational status. At present, three main hypersonic missiles in the Russian arsenal pose serious threats to the US missile defenses. Firstly, the Avangard, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-launched hypersonic glide vehicle that can travel at a velocity of more than 20 Mach—20 times faster than the speed of sound.

Avangard is fitted to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads capable of delivering a yield of 2 megatons. The defense minister of Russia, Sergei Shoigu, in a press release on December 27, 2019, confirmed the entry of Avangard HGV into the service of Russian rocket forces.

Another missile, the Kinzhal Kh47-M2is an air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile that can travel at the velocity of 10 Mach, capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads at the distant ranges of 2,000 km. A TU-22M3, a maritime strike fighter, and MIG-31K interceptor aircraft provide a reliable platform for its possible launch. Kinzhal, because of its maneuverability, is highly valuable to strike naval targets such as aircraft carriers. In December 2017, it entered into the Russian rocket force service.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal in 2018

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal. 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade” by The Presidential Press and Information Office is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Lastly, Tsirkon 3M22 (Zircon) is a ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile that can fly at the speed of up to Mach 9 with a range of 1000 km. In July 2021, Russia successfully tested Zircon HCM from Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate on the Barents sea coast, which President Vladimir Putin described as a great event for Russia. Moreover, Russia is also pursuing a submarine version of Tsirkon HCM, which will further enable it to strike key US command and control centers with a slight warning.

For the United States, the development of hypersonic weapons remains the highest technical priority. At first, the US actively pursued the hypersonic missiles development program for its conventional use, however, the Pentagon had to drop the plans fearing their possible perception as nuclear warheads, triggering a nuclear response.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unsuccessfully tested two Hypersonic Test Vehicles (HTVs) in 2010 and 2011 but failed due to vehicle destruction. Nevertheless, the other US military services continued testing their hypersonic weapons. For instance, In 2013, the US Air Force tested the X-51A Waverider hypersonic glide vehicle reaching the speed of Mach 5.1. In June 2021, the US defense department announced a defense budget of $3.8 billion for the hypersonic weapons initiative in the fiscal year 2022.

X-51A Waverider during its final mission in 2013

X-51A Waverider during its fourth and final mission on May 1st, 2013

Similarly, in China, hypersonic technology has become the focus of aeronautical research. To counter the US technological monopoly, China is also pursuing hypersonic weapons for military use. Since 2014, China has conducted several successful tests of DF-17 HGV, which can achieve a velocity of Mach 5-10 with a range of 1600-2400 km. Currently, China is also considering the development of hypersonic cruise missiles, which can be deployed by the mid of 2023. For Instance, DF-21D—an intermediate-range missile also known as “carrier killer”—can penetrate the deck of the US aircraft carriers at the range of more than 1,500-2,600 km.

In the second nuclear age, the emerging competition in hypersonics poses grave challenges to strategic stability. Security professionals largely view strategic stability as the absence of incentives between nuclear powers to use nuclear weapons first to initiate a conflict. During the Cold War, strategic stability had two specific meanings: crisis stability and arms race stability.Also Read:  U.S. and China’s Balance of Power on the Asia-Pacific Chessboard

Crisis stability is the situation between two nuclear states when both sides consider their nuclear forces as invulnerable, breaching any missile defense system an enemy may develop. Moreover, both sides assure that they are fully capable of massive retaliation if one side decides to launch the first nuclear strike.

In contrast, crisis instability, according to Thomas C. Schelling, is the fear of a pre-emptive counter-force strike by any side in a crisis. For crisis instability, two weapons are implicated— counter-force weapons and ballistic missile defense systems (BMDs). The former include ballistic missiles, MIRVs (multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles), and hypersonic missiles. In the 21st century, hypersonic missiles possess such prevailing capabilities having the potential to severely impact crisis stability between global nuclear powers.

The US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 and the development of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) strategy gave incentive to Russia and China to develop hypersonic weapons. Russia’s intentions to develop hypersonic weapons are the product of a historical fear of the vulnerability of its strategic nuclear forces.

After the American withdrawal from the ABM treaty, Russia believed that the United States would develop conventional counter-force weapons to launch a first strike on Russia, and then, through advanced missile defenses, the US will circumvent the damage of Russian retaliatory strikes. Therefore, hypersonic missiles, armed with nuclear warheads, having rapid speed and maneuverability might assist in restoring the Russian logic of strategic stability.

For Russia, the strategic rationale behind hypersonic missiles development was to evade the US missile defense systems to secure second-strike capability. In February 2019, the Trump administration announced the decision to suspend US obligations under the landmark 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The treaty led to the elimination of cruise missiles and ground-launched ballistic missiles of range 500 – 5000 kilometers.

Russia views NATO enlargement as an existential threat to its national security. To address the advanced conventional capabilities of NATO, Russia is developing a land-based intermediate-range version of the Tsirkon-3M22 hypersonic cruise missile. Due to the unpredictable trajectory, high speed, and low altitude, the intermediate-range Zircon HCM can even circumvent the US Aegis-class system. Also, Russian theater-range hypersonic missiles as an essential part of the anti-access/area-denial strategy is a major threat to the forward-deployed US forces in the European theater.

Chinese experts argue that the US’ CPGS strategy can undermine the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrent. China maintains a “minimum credible deterrence” nuclear posture and has a no-first-use nuclear policy. Therefore, China believes that the US hypersonic weapons as a part of its CPGS tactic can decapitate its small strategic forces in a pre-emptive decapitation strike, ultimately weakening China’s counter-strike capability.

For that reason, China, like Russia, is also pursuing hypersonic weapons as a part of its anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) strategy to counter the US weapons. The US decision to deploy BMDs and advanced radar systems in the Asia-Pacific region produces incentives for China to shift on a policy of launch-on-warning and deploy intermediate-range hypersonic missiles as a part of the A2AD strategy.

The utility of hypersonic weapons in a crisis involves many implications for the crisis stability because the hypersonic weapons possess some exceptional features which enable them to create security dilemmas between the hostile nuclear states. The hypersonic speed of these missiles severely impacts the decision-making timelines.

Decision-makers, after a hypersonic weapon has been detected, would have to act in a very short time after receiving initial intel from detection radars. The whole chain of command would be under greater pressure under the tainted environment of compressed timelines. For instance, a hypersonic missile like Avangard, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, approaching at the speed of more than 25 Mach, would give little time to US decision-makers to detect and analyze the intelligence received from the radars.Also Read:  Civil War in Myanmar and Human Rights Violations

Consequently, the warhead ambiguity could encourage a nuclear response to a conventional strike due to inefficient decision-making in a degraded decision-making environment, triggering a nuclear crisis. Similarly, target ambiguity is another challenge for the decision-makers because the hypersonic weapons can maneuver even before the point of contact with the target. It makes it impossible for the radars to track the trajectory of an incoming hypersonic missile.

As a consequence, decision-makers will be facing a “use-it or lose-it dilemma” because a delay of a minute in decision-making can result in the decapitation of the entire command and control center. Hence, the increased degree of unpredictability could result in miscalculated pre-emptive nuclear response which will ultimately start a nuclear conflict.

Nevertheless, this inefficient decision-making will have other serious implications on the organization of strategic forces. For instance, regional commanders of strategic forces might be given full authority to make independent decisions in a state of crisis. This decentralization of command and control might result in miscalculated nuclear launches resulting in uncontrollable nuclear escalation.

The advent of hypersonic weapons is most likely to be destabilizing for the arms race behavior of nuclear states. The contemporary world is entering into an age of great uncertainty because the advent of hypersonic weapons is further intensifying the offense-defense dynamic of the arms race. For instance, in this arms race, China and Russia are developing new offensive strategic hypersonic missiles to evade the US missile defense systems.

At the same time, the US is investing heavily in the means to counter this new hypersonic threat. For this purpose, the US has awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman and L3Harris to develop prototypes of hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensors (HBTSS). To avoid this new hypersonic arms race there is a need to negotiate new multilateral agreements limiting the development and proliferation of hypersonic weapons. However, major world powers, unfortunately, are less likely to negotiate any new treaty limiting the use of hypersonic weapons.

In this age of great power competition and a hypersonic arms race between the US, China, and Russia, it seems impossible that any treaty or an agreement could limit the development of these disruptive technologies. However, the establishment of a mechanism to prevent conflicts and ensure confidence-building measures to limit the incentives for the first use of hypersonic weapons could be the first step towards negotiating a new multilateral agreement between the world powers and maintaining global strategic stability

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The Chinese nuclear Horn still has hydrogen bombs: Daniel 7

The hydrogen bombs all over the world have been scrapped. Only China has 30 preserved?It’s time to refute the rumors

In the 1940s, the emergence of the atomic bomb allowed the world to find a new path for the development of strategic deterrence, so military powers frantically launched research on nuclear weapons, striving to obtain a talisman in the chaotic international situation.

In this way, the Soviet Union tested the first atomic bomb “Pumpkin” in 1949, Britain tested the first atomic bomb “alloy tube” in1952 , and France and China tested their first bombs in 1962 and 1964. The atomic bomb, so far, Wuchang has become a nuclear country.

At that time, everyone saw the traces of the atomic bomb in Japan and thought it was the strongest weapon, but who knew the next moment the United States developed a more powerful hydrogen bomb. This kind of thermonuclear bomb successfully refreshed people’s understanding of nuclear weapons. , So far, a new wave of nuclear bomb competition has begun again .

Then the United States and the Soviet Union signed a strategic arms reduction treaty on the international situation. At this time, both sides reduced a large number of nuclear weapons, including hydrogen bombs. China did not participate because it had too few nuclear weapons.

It may be for this reason. Nowadays, there are rumors on the Internet that “the hydrogen bombs in the world have been scrapped, and only China has kept 30” . Although it has increased China’s deterrence, it has also affected some people’s strategy towards China. Nuclear assessment. So is this rumor true? Actually, it’s time to refute the rumors.

Since the hydrogen bomb was developed, the atomic bomb has obviously been divided into some attention. Countries have begun to give a large amount of research and development resources to the hydrogen bomb, and even have a number of competitions. Earlier there was a statement that the United States has eliminated pure fission atomic bombs, so that the number of hydrogen bombs once reached nearly 7,000. We don’t care how reliable this statement is, but it is obvious that the hydrogen bomb is more favored than the atomic bomb.

Hydrogen bombs are nuclear weapons based on deuterium and tritium fusion reactions as their explosive principle. Compared with atomic bombs that use heavy nuclear elements to undergo fission chain reaction explosions, the materials produced after the explosion can be said to be cleaner, and the half-life of the attacked land is also shorter. . Moreover, the power of hydrogen bomb explosion is more powerful in the same cost environment. As long as a small equivalent atomic bomb is used to detonate, a certain amount of neutrons can be generated, and then the nuclear materials required for hydrogen bomb explosion can be generated. Its utilization rate and strategic value are significantly greater. high.

As for why it is said that “the global hydrogen bomb has been scrapped”, most people have concluded that although the hydrogen bomb is powerful, there are many unstable factors, and its cost and maintenance cost are extremely high, and it is difficult to preserve, so all countries cannot be long-term. Store a large number of hydrogen bombs and destroy them all.

In fact, how is the shelf life of the hydrogen bomb calculated? According to this weapon structure, we can narrow the scope of discussion to nuclear materials.

The half-lives of uranium-235 and plutonium-239 are much longer than the time when humans discovered them, and lithium-6 does not even have a half-life. Therefore, except for the peripheral safeguard system, their nuclear charges require little maintenance. In modern technology Under the environment, the shelf life of hydrogen bombs is the same as other nuclear weapons, and they can be stored for a long time.

Then there is the difference between the Yu Min configuration in China and the TU configuration in the West. There is no official explanation yet, but it is worth affirming that the Yu Min configuration and the TU configuration are actually equivalent to two molds. The quality of the inner material should not have much to do with the type of mold. As for the data of “30”, it is completely speculation by netizens. It can be said that at present, apart from China, other major countries must also have hydrogen bombs, but they have not put the data on the table.

Although China has now risen, our nuclear weapons are still far inferior to the US and Russia. No matter how many hydrogen bombs we have, our nuclear deterrence is still under that of the US and Russia. Therefore, China can only maintain peace in the world. Truly invincible

Taiwan Will Not Get Nuclear Weapons To Deter China

Does Taiwan Need Nuclear Weapons To Deter China?

ByJames Holmes

Back in August in the Washington Examiner, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Michael Rubin (and a 1945 Contributing Editor) contended that Taiwan must go nuclear in the wake of the disastrous American withdrawal from Afghanistan. It can no longer count on a mercurial United States to keep its security commitments to the island. To survive it should obey the most primal, bareknuckles law of world politics: self-help.

Set aside Rubin’s claim that the Afghan denouement wrought irreparable harm to America’s standing vis-à-vis allies. He could be right, but I personally doubt it. The United States gave Afghanistan—a secondary cause by any standard—twenty years, substantial resources, and many military lives. That’s a commitment of serious heft, and one that gave Afghans a chance to come together as a society. That they failed reflects more on them than the United States. I suspect Taiwan would be grateful for a commitment of that magnitude and duration.

Yet Rubin’s larger point stands. One nation depends on another for salvation at its peril. Wise statesmen welcome allies . . . without betting everything on them. Taiwan should found its diplomacy and military strategy on deterring Chinese aggression if possible—alone if need be—and on stymieing a cross-strait assault if forced to it. This is bleak advice to be sure, but who will stand by Taiwan if the United States fails to? Japan or Australia might intercede alongside America, but not without it. Nor can Taipei look for succor to the UN Security Council or any other international body where Beijing wields serious clout. These are feeble bulwarks against aggression.

Deterrence, then, is elemental. But does a deterrent strategy demand atomicdeterrence? Not necessarily. It’s far from clear that nuclear weapons deter much apart from nuclear bombardment—the type of aggression least likely to befall Taiwan. After all, the mainland longs to possess the island, with all the strategic value it commands. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has little use for a radioactive wasteland.

CCP overseers are vastly more likely to resort to military measures short of nuclear arms. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could launch a naval blockade or a conventional air campaign against Taiwan in a bid to starve out the populace or bludgeon them into submission. And even a direct cross-strait amphibious offensive—the PLA’s surest way to seize prime real estate on a tight timetable—would preserve most of Taiwan’s value to China.

So, it seems, a nonnuclear onslaught is what Taipei mainly needs to deter. History has shown that nuclear weapons stand little chance of deterring nonnuclear aggression. A threat to visit a Hiroshima or Nagasaki on, say, Shanghai in retaliation for low-level aggression would be implausible. Breaching the nuclear threshold would do little good strategically while painting the islanders as amoral—and hurting their prospects of winning international support in a cross-strait war.

An implausible threat stands little chance of deterring. Think about Henry Kissinger’s classic formula for deterrence, namely that it’s a product of multiplying three variables: capability, resolve, and belief. Capability and resolve are the components of strength. Capability means physical power, chiefly usable military might. Resolve means the willpower to use the capabilities on hand to carry out a deterrent threat. A deterrent threat generally involves denying a hostile contender what it wants or meting out punishment afterward should the contender defy the threat.

Statesmen essaying deterrence are in charge of capability and resolution. They can amass formidable martial power and steel themselves to use it. That doesn’t mean their efforts at deterrence will automatically succeed, though. Belief is Kissinger’s other crucial determinant. It’s up to the antagonist whether it believes in their combined capability and willpower.

Taiwan could field a nuclear arsenal, that is, and its leadership could summon the determination to use the arsenal under specific circumstances such as a nuclear or conventional attack on the island. In other words, it could accumulate the capacity to thwart acts the leadership deems unacceptable or punish them should they occur. But would Chinese Communist magnates find the island’s atomic arsenal and displays of willpower convincing?

Against a nuclear attack, maybe. If Taipei maintained an armory that could inflict damage on China that CCP leaders found unbearable, then Beijing ought to desist from a nuclear attack under the familiar Cold War logic of mutual assured destruction. The two opponents would reach a nuclear impasse.

Kissinger appends a coda to his formula for deterrence, namely that deterrence is a product of multiplication, not a sum. If any one variable is zero, so is deterrence. What that means is that Taiwan could muster all the military might and fortitude in the world and fail anyway if China disbelieved in its capability, resolve, or both. And it might: Chinese Communist leaders have a history of making statements breezily disparaging the impact of the ultimate weapon if used against China. Founding CCP chairman Mao Zedong once derided nukes as a “paper tiger.” A quarter-century ago a PLA general (apparently) joked that Washington would never trade Los Angeles for Taipei.

The gist of such statements: nuclear threats cannot dissuade China from undertaking actions that serve the vital interest as the CCP leadership construes it.

Again, though, nuclear deterrence ought to be a peripheral concern for Taipei. Beijing is unlikely to order doomsday strikes against real estate it prizes, regardless of whether the occupants of that real estate brandish nuclear arms or not. Far better for the island’s leadership to refuse to pay the opportunity costs of going nuclear and instead concentrate finite militarily relevant resources to girding for more probable contingencies.

Contingencies such as repulsing a conventional cross-strait assault.

Wiser investment will go to armaments that make the island a prickly “porcupine” bristling with  “quills” in the form of shore-based anti-ship and anti-air missiles along with sea-based systems such as minefields, surface patrol craft armed to the teeth with missiles, and, once Taiwan’s shipbuilding industry gears up, silent diesel-electric submarines prowling the island’s environs. These are armaments that could make Taiwan indigestible for the PLA. And Beijing could harbor little doubt Taipei would use them.

Capability, resolve, belief. Deterrence through denial.

So Michael Rubin is correct to urge Taiwan not to entrust its national survival to outsiders. But it can take a pass on nuclear weapons—and husband defenses better suited to the strategic surroundings.

Dr. James Holmes, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and a Nonresident Fellow at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. The views voiced here are his alone

South Korea WILL build its own nuclear bomb: Daniel 7

Should South Korea build its own nuclear bomb?

The once-strong alliance between South Korea and the U.S. is weakening.

October 7, 2021 at 1:45 p.m. EDT

In fact, the alliance is in trouble — pulled apart by powerful geopolitical forces. The only way to save it might be for South Korea to move in a direction that much of Washington considers unthinkable: to develop an independent nuclear arsenal.

The Trump years certainly damaged the relationship; President Donald Trump made clear that he thought South Korea was taking advantage of the United States. But the true root of the problem lies in two long-term trends. First, the rise of China is creating a rift between American and South Korean foreign policy priorities. Managing the growth of China’s power has become America’s primary national security goal. As the costs and dangers of countering China rise, Washington increasingly expects its allies to join in this effort.

But the South Koreans never signed up for that deal. Their alliance with the United States has always been about North Korea. A counterbalancing effort against China would poison South Korea’s relations with its No. 1 trading partner — which is also the most powerful country in the region. Fear of offending China partly explains South Korea’s reluctance to join “the Quad,” a U.S.-led alignment that includes India, Australia and Japan. The United States is an important player in East Asia right now; China, Koreans know, will be their neighbor forever.

The situation is made worse by a second trend: the growing sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang has made major strides toward developing high-yield thermonuclear weapons and missiles that can carry them to the continental United States. This development fundamentally changes the alliance’s risk-reward calculus. For decades, American leaders accepted that defending South Korea could be very costly, possibly claiming the lives of thousands of U.♠S. soldiers. But now the costs of a conflict in Korea could be truly catastrophic for the United States.

In the event of war, leaders in Pyongyang would have powerful incentives to use nuclear weapons to stalemate South Korea’s conventional military superiority. Should the United States retaliate, the American homeland would become a target. War on the Korean Peninsula could thus lead to the destruction of multiple American cities — and the political, economic and social chaos that would follow. The American people never signed up for that deal.

As a result the alliance faces credibility problems. South Korea can’t be sure it can depend on its U.S. ally for protection. At the very moment that the two countries’ strategic priorities are diverging, the risks that the United States must bear to defend South Korea are growing a thousand-fold. North Korea, too, may question whether Washington would rush to Seoul’s aid during a war when doing so would threaten the survival of the United States.

Washington and its allies faced a similar credibility problem during the Cold War. In the early 1950s, NATO members wondered whether the emerging Soviet nuclear threat to the U.S. homeland meant they could no longer rely on the United States. Would the Americans really sacrifice Boston to protect Bonn? The allies addressed this credibility problem with three partial solutions. Britain and France acquired their own nuclear arsenals. For others, NATO implemented nuclear sharing: storing some U.S. weapons on allied bases in Europe, to be transferred to the allies if war erupted. And the U.S. military stationed large ground and air forces on the continent, deploying troops with their families, to intertwine the United States in any major war from the outset. 

The United States has shown no interest in creating a Korean nuclear sharing agreement — for good reason. An agreement premised on plans to give nuclear weapons in a time of war to nonnuclear allies is legally questionable, given that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prohibits their transfer. (Indeed, NATO’s nuclear sharing exists in a legal gray area.)

Additionally, with modern locks, such weapons would still be firmly in the control of American leaders, and hence no more credible than other elements of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nor does the United States seem likely to increase the size of its conventional deployments on the Korean Peninsula or intertwine them with the Korean forces on the border. In fact, the number of American troops there has declined, with the forces positioned farther from the demilitarized zone.

That leaves the first option, however distasteful it may seem: South Korea may choose to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. Such a move would protect South Korea against the North Korean threat — more securely than today’s arrangement — and help the country manage its other long-term security problem: how to retain political independence in a region where China wields ever-greater power and influence

Some analysts see nuclearization as a nonstarter, fearing it would make South Korea — an NPT member — a pariah like the North. But North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons was illegal, violating multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. South Korea’s would be legal and justified. The NPT’s Article X was written for precisely the circumstances that South Korea faces today. It offers a withdrawal option if a member faces “extraordinary events” that “have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.” North Korea’s illegal development of nuclear weapons and its threats against the South certainly qualify as extraordinary circumstances. South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons would be a proportional response to North Korea’s actions.

Seoul may already be heading in this direction. Former foreign minister Song Min-soon has said that South Korea “taking its own measures to create a nuclear balance on the peninsula” is an idea “widely touted” by leaders and analysts. Seventy percent of the South Korean public endorses the move. And Seoul’s new fleet of ballistic missile submarines is an unusual acquisition: a vastly expensive way to deliver a handful of conventional missiles. Those subs, however, would make an ideal platform for a future nuclear deterrent.

A South Korean nuclear arsenal is not what Washington prefers — indeed, it goes against a core U.S. policy of preventing nuclear spread. But it might be the best course given the weakened foundation of the alliance. If Seoul decides to take this step, the United States should focus blame where it belongs — on Pyongyang’s illegal nuclear program — and render political support to a valued ally.

Trying to prevent the inevitable nuclear war: Revelation 16

Preventing an accidental nuclear crisis in Iran and beyond

By Samuel M. Hickey | October 11, 2021

There has been no sign as to when nuclear talks with Iran may recommence. But after weeks of consultations, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have reached a deal on “the way and the timing” for UN nuclear inspectors to service cameras installed at Iran’s nuclear facilities. This patchwork agreement has kept alive the possibility of recovering a complete picture of Iran’s nuclear program and of reviving the Iran nuclear deal since Iran cut inspector access in February. It is also the first real sign of cooperative engagement by Iran since President Ebrahim Raisi came to power in August.

The Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the latest experiment in how much UN nuclear inspector access states will tolerate. However, it is under exceptional stress from those who believe military coercion is more effective than systems of denial in stemming proliferation. Days after the least competitive presidential election in the Islamic Republic’s history, a drone attack at a centrifuge production facility on June 23 damaged the IAEA’s monitoring and surveillance equipment. While the Israeli government did not comment on the attack, the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, located in the city of Karaj, was reportedly“on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration early last year.” Now, Iran has allowed the IAEA to service cameras in every location but the Karaj site.

Acts of sabotage are diametrically opposed to the global nuclear verification regime because states need to believe that punishment will cease if they comply with the agreed-to framework. Further, failure to revive the nuclear deal could remove the possibility of applying the verification tools gained to other proliferation challenges like North Korea or the next nuclear threshold state. The loss of these techniques would undermine efforts to improve the global nonproliferation regime. As the United States’ experiences in leaving Afghanistan make clear, accurate intelligence is critical to making informed decisions and avoiding a crisis. The wrong assumptions can have dire consequences.

Verification evolution: Iraq and the old gold standard. The current nuclear verification protocols are the strongest in history and prioritize the non-diversion of nuclear materials over sovereign jurisdiction; however, many of these legal instruments were born out of crisis and remain voluntary, not mandatory. For instance, the investigative powers of the IAEA were substantially expanded by the creation of the Additional Protocol in 1997 to ensure that states’ declarations are both correct and complete.

This protocol has its origin in the Middle East. In the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the IAEA realized it could not detect if nuclear material used in a civilian nuclear program was diverted to a covert nuclear weapons program. International inspectors were stunned to find Iraq’s nuclear program, under Saddam Hussein, could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in 12-18 months, instead of the previous prediction of four to five years. This revelation was the impetus to create the Model Additional Protocol in May 1997, which substantially increased the IAEA’s oversight of a comprehensive safeguards agreement.s

The United States used unsubstantiated and incorrect intelligence claims to back its assertion that Iraq had resurrected its nuclear weapons program despite the assessment of the IAEA. The 2003 invasion would prove that Iraq had not, in fact, reconstructed its weapons program.Today, 137 states have brought an Additional Protocol into force, but for those countries that have not accepted the protocol—like Argentina, Brazil, Egypt and Saudi Arabia—no one can be sure whether their civilian nuclear programs divert materials for weapons use. In the case of Iran, the Additional Protocol was implemented in 2015 on a provisional basis as outlined in the Iran nuclear deal and planned to be fully adopted in 2023. It has not been fully implemented since late February.The additions of the Iran nuclear deal. The consistent revision and evolution of the global nuclear order is arguably its greatest success. The adoption of the comprehensive safeguards agreement, Additional Protocol, and the numerous multilateral institutions to protect, restrict, and monitor all nuclear commerce have strengthened the confidence in IAEA assessment. But those mechanisms were not enough to satisfy concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. Despite its politicization in Congress, the Iran nuclear deal represents the next-generation nuclear verification design to prevent any country from cheating its way to a nuclear weapon in a hurry.Specifically, the Iran nuclear deal caps the quantity and level of enrichment of uranium as well as the number and sophistication of the centrifuges that are operating and limits heavy water production. It also provides continuous monitoring of centrifuges and centrifuge rotor tubes, continuous access to Natanz, the monitoring of the production or acquisition of any uranium ore concentrate and enhanced managed access, meaning the IAEA can inspect a suspected violation.RELATED: US courts say Iran owes terrorism victims billions. That’s an obstacle to a new Iran nuclear deal.The deal also instilled two key principles that should be universalized. First, a civilian nuclear program should be commensurate to its energy or related needs. Second, the IAEA has the right to monitor a ban on “weaponization” activities, which are activities related to developing or procuring equipment for developing nuclear weapons. This is the first agreement ever that defines a set of prohibited activities associated with weaponization, and it set up a procurement channel to monitor the materials and technologies Iran seeks to acquire that could be diverted to a secret program. These blocking efforts and verification tools are the most robust in the world, but extending the timeline for these activities, known as the sunset clauses, or applying them to other countries will require reviving the nuclear deal and preventing further acts of nuclear sabotage.These measures, at least until the deal expires, will provide a high degree of confidence that weapons-related activity is not occurring. They could also be promoted as a model for other countries wanting to give confidence in the peaceful nature of their own nuclear facilities. Presently, the IAEA is investigating several locations for the presence of nuclear particles of “anthropogenic” origin, meaning materials that have been processed beyond their natural state, but this should not be sufficient grounds for losing monitoring altogether. Iran could assuage such concerns in the future through voluntary transparency, if it is sincere in its contention that it has halted progress toward nuclear weapons. It is in Iran’s national self-interest to assure the world they have no secret nuclear agenda.Politicization of technical assurances. Imagine if every country in the world were subject to continuous monitoring of sensitive nuclear facilities and provided access upstream in the fuel cycle to activities such as mining, milling and conversion. Such access would demonstrably reduce the likelihood that materials gained for ostensibly civilian purposes could be siphoned off to a clandestine program. However, failure to revive the deal risks relegating these additional measures to history.If the politics of the Iranian nuclear program are too challenging, then the new verification tools will not be useful to solve a real crisis if one crops up in Iran or elsewhere. The great arms control theorist and developer of game theory Thomas Schelling opened his book Arms and Influence with the reflection: “One of the lamentable principles of human productivity is that it is easier to destroy than to create.” Let’s hope the groundbreaking verification and monitoring tools of the Iran nuclear deal are not a casualty of human initiative.

The Growing Iranian Nuclear Horn

Iran Has 120 Kg of 20% Enriched Uranium: Atomic Agency

The Iran nuclear program’s Arak heavy water reactor. Photo: Nanking2012 via Wikimedia Commons.

i24 News – Iran has enriched more than 120 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium, the head of the country’s atomic energy agency said on state television Saturday evening.

“We have passed 120 kilograms. We have more than that figure,” said Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

“Our people know well that they (Western powers) were meant to give us the enriched fuel at 20% to use in the Tehran reactor, but they haven’t done so,” he added

“If our colleagues do not do it, we would naturally have problems with the lack of fuel for the Tehran reactor.”

In September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had boosted its stocks enriched above the percentage allowed in the 2015 deal with world powers.

It estimated that Iran had 84.3 kilos of uranium enriched to 20% (up from 62.8 kilos when the IAEA last reported in May).

Under the deal, Iran was not meant to enrich uranium above 3.67%, well below the 90% threshold needed for use in a nuclear weapon.

Under the 2015 agreement China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States had agreed to lift some sanctions against Iran if Tehran cut back its nuclear program.

US president Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, and Tehran has progressively abandoned its commitments under the agreement, while the United States has imposed fresh sanctions in response.

On Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he was optimistic that talks on reviving the 2015 deal would make progress, provided Washington fully resumed its commitments.