Tag: nuclear proliferation (page 3 of 3)

Link roundup

If the US is going to win hearts and minds in Iraq, then it needs to avoid killing innocent civilians. So why are air bombings up fourfold in Iraq this year? Max Bergmann of Democracy Arsenal explores this question.

Eric Martin of American Footprints has a strong post on the (un)likelihood of Iran passing nuclear weapons along to terrorists. Moreover, if terrorists were serious about acquiring a bomb, wouldn’t they try harder to get them from former Soviet sources?

Despite new revelations about Syria’s “cleanup job,” Jeffrey Lewis over at Arms Control Wonk remains skeptical that Syria had a worrisome nuclear facility.

And finally, a baseball link. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post explains why brains counted more than bucks in 2007.


Bush on WW 3

Did President Bush, at his October 17, 2007, press conference, threaten the world with war?

You decide:

Q But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?

THE PRESIDENT: I think so long — until they suspend and/or make it clear that they — that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it’s in the world’s interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian — if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

But this — we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.

And we’ll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat. Plus we’ll continue working the financial measures that we’re in the process of doing. In other words, I think — the whole strategy is, is that at some point in time, leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say, this isn’t worth it. And to me, it’s worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government.

And secondly, it’s important for the Iranian people to know we harbor no resentment to them. We’re disappointed in the Iranian government’s actions, as should they be. Inflation is way too high; isolation is causing economic pain. This is a country that has got a much better future, people have got a much better — should have better hope inside Iran than this current government is providing them.

So it’s — look, it’s a complex issue, no question about it. But my intent is to continue to rally the world to send a focused signal to the Iranian government that we will continue to work to isolate you, in the hopes that at some point in time, somebody else shows up and says it’s not worth the isolation.

Surely Bush doesn’t think Iran would use a nuclear weapon against the US, does he?

If American and Israeli nuclear arms cannot deter feared threats from small new nuclear powers (like Iran would be), then these states should get rid of their nuclear weapons. They serve virtually no purpose other than deterrence against nuclear threats.


Securing Our Survival

The University of Pittsburgh’s Ridgway Center is hosting “Securing Our Survival,” a conference starting tomorrow that focuses on nuclear proliferation — and global climate change. You can watch the events on-line and ask questions of the speakers. The program begins Friday morning at 9 am ET and continues through the day and into Saturday.

Joseph Cirincione
talks at 9:30 am, Bill Hartung at 10:30, and Jon Wolfsthal at 1 pm.

If you wonder why the hosts are combining global warming and proliferation, consider that nuclear power is presented as an alternative to fossil fuels — but comes with the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

For some pre-conference press, listen here, watch this (continued here and here), or read this.

Note that Ridgway also started a new blog — Security Sweep. My friend Gordon Mitchell has a few new posts there now. He’s going to be live-blogging the conference and would be the one to contact with real-time questions.

Note: Please do not simply ask Gordon why he spent $73 (of a $260 budget; that’s nearly 30%) on Andy Marte, Ryan Shealy, J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley and Jeremy Sowers in our AL fantasy baseball auction earlier this year.

After all, those players helped produce a solid 9th place team.


The Plot Thickens…

The controversy over the Israeli raid into Syria rages on. The Sunday Times has peeled back another layer of the onion, one that only deepens the mystery as to what Israel actually bombed in northern Syria. This latest tidbit seems to support the notion that it was in fact a North Korean supplied nuclear site in Syria. If true, it is perhaps only the tip of a much larger iceberg, and per Landis:

“If this story is true,” a Syrian friend of mine just told me, “Asad should fire his top generals, instantly.”

The Times reports:

ISRAELI commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit – almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms – made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.

Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site.

Israel was determined not to take any chances with its neighbour. Following the example set by its raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak 1981, it drew up plans to bomb the Syrian compound.

But Washington was not satisfied. It demanded clear evidence of nuclear-related activities before giving the operation its blessing. The task of the commandos was to provide it.

Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.

Now that’s a bold move, to say the least. It also means that 1) There is much more, and more tangible, evidence behind this raid–evidence that could be revealed in the future with diligent reporting; 2) US involvement is much more significant than previously thought–it seems the US had to green-light the raid, it didn’t just get a courtesy notice; and 3) this maybe part of a much larger problem for both the US and Israel, namely much more aggressive North Korean nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

The extent of North Korea’s involvement remains unclear, but indirect evidence seems to be emerging that it was more than just cursory. The Times reported:

The growing assumption that North Korea suffered direct casualties in the raid appears to be based largely on the regime’s unusually strident propaganda on an issue far from home. But there were also indications of conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials and intelligence reports reaching Asian governments that supported the same conclusion, diplomats said.

How solid this is, who knows…. But, it appears more credible than former Bush Administration officials with an ax to grind. It also suggests that this is not a neo-con fantasy story to drive policy or launch a war. Rather, its indicative of a very very serious problem–not just for the US, but for Asia, the Middle East, and any other countries concerned about Nuclear Proliferation.

Still, as the Times report notes, there remain far more questions than answers.

But details of the raid are still tantalisingly incomplete. Some analysts in America are perplexed by photographs of a fuel tank said to have been dropped from an Israeli jet on its return journey over Turkey. It appears to be relatively undamaged. Could it have been planted to sow confusion about the route taken by the Israeli F-15I pilots?

More importantly, questions remain about the precise nature of the material seized and about Syria’s intentions. Was Syria hiding North Korean nuclear equipment while Pyongyang prepared for six-party talks aimed at securing an end to its nuclear weapons programme in return for security guarantees and aid? Did Syria want to arm its own Scuds with a nuclear device?

Or could the material have been destined for Iran as John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, has suggested? And just how deep is Syrian and North Korean nuclear cooperation anyway?

And, if it is actual proliferating, which crosses a clear Red Line the Bush Administration has put in place for North Korea, how does the US respond? Its a critical question of US credibility in this case–this kind of proliferation is the thing the US fears most from a North Korean nuclear program, the kind of thing the Agreed Framework, Six Party Talks, and recent nuclear deal are meant to avoid.

With juicy nuggets like the one reported by the Times, this story and its political and policy fall-out certainly aren’t going away any time soon.


Secret Strike (and the consequences of failure)

Something is brewing in the Middle East that merits close attention, because the more we learn about it, the more intriguing it becomes. It also brings home some chickens to roost, so to speak, for earlier Bush Administration foreign policy failures.

Last week, Israel launched a highly secret air-strike deep into Syria. Despite the fact that Israel and Syria share a border (the direct route), the squadron of Israeli F-15’s flew over the Med, through Turkey (a very close Israeli military ally), and dropped significant ordinance onto a Syrian target. The entire operation has been cloaked in secrecy–Syria didn’t denounce the attack for over 12 hours after it happened, and has been unusually quiet about the entire incident. Israel has said nothing, and the US is also tight-lipped. The loudest condemnations have come from North Korea, recently rumored to be cooperating with Syria on nuclear issues.

The current speculation, per the NYT, is that Israel hit a nascent North Korean supplied nuclear facility in Syria. This speculation is fueled by China’s abrupt cancellation of talks over North Korea’s nuclear program–a program they had just agreed (with the US) to give up.

So, what are we to make of all this? It was clearly a very aggressive move by Israel, but what is most interesting, to me, about it, is the muted response by Syria and the rest of the Arab world. Syria and Israel are taking this very seriously–there are reports that both are mobilizing their armed forces and reserves along the border. But the public statements have been muted–more so on the Israeli side (total silence) than on Syria (who did formally protest to the UN).

Its the North Korea connection that I find most fascinating. North Korea and Syria have a longstanding relationship buying and selling weapons. Its the nuclear aspect that is troubling–in part that Syria was taking steps to proliferate, and in part that North Korea was willing to facilitate that proliferation.

It also highlights the consequences of several years of failure of the Bush Administration’s North Korea policy. Coming into office back in 2001, there was an opportunity to re-engage North Korea and reach a nuclear deal. The Bush Administration opted for confrontation and containment, and while isolated, North Korea tested several new ballistic missiles and, most significantly, tested a nuclear device, entering the nuclear club. Only after all of this, did the Administration relent and re-engage in meaningful diplomacy, reaching a deal whereby North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program and subject itself to inspections.

And now this. Hard-liners such as John Bolten, a staunch opponent of any talks with North Korea both while at the State Department and while outside of government, will point to this as proof-positive that North Korea can’t be trusted, that any deal with them isn’t worth the paper its printed on, that North Korea is cheating.

But consider the alternative scenario–had the US engaged in meaningful nuclear diplomacy in 2002, giving Charles Prichard the same brief as Christopher Hill now has, its quite possible that a situation such as this could have been avoided. With nuclear inspectors in North Korea, there would have been a much better accounting of the DPRK nuclear program. Had this happened earlier, the recent breakthroughs that allowed North Korea to test a weapon would not have happened. And, in a functioning deal with the US, North Korea would probably have been less likely to risk upsetting that deal by working with the Syrians.

How much of this idle speculation looks at the situation with rose-colored glasses? Perhaps some. But not all. Indeed, had the Bush Administration placed nuclear proliferation and North Korea at the top of its national security priority list instead of, say, Iraq, back in 2002, most of the antecedent conditions that led to this raid could have been avoided.


Its About Time

Last Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill made a sudden and surprise visit to North Korea to talk directly with the North Korean government about their nuclear program.

All I can say is– its about (_______) time. And, it shows the power of good, pragmatic diplomacy.

From 2001 through 2004, the Bush Administration held a very tough line toward North Korea–axis of evil, no direct talks, CVID, etc. This tough line was very popular with the Administration’s base conservative philosophy about getting tough with the evil dictators around the world and not negotiating with untrustworthy regimes. Their rationale remains–North Korea is an evil regime that will eventually cheat on its agreements anyway, so don’t give them anything and make them take not just the first step, but absorb most of the risk as well. The result? North Korea backed out of the Agreed Framework nuclear deal the Clinton Administration had negotiated and reactivated its nuclear program. Eventually, the Bush Administration convened the 6-Party Talks, designed to be a multi-lateral format for all those in the region to pressure North Korea to move on its nuclear program, particularly China. This almost worked, in that several near-deals were negotiated, but, like the 2005 deal, fell apart soon thereafter. At the center of the 6-party talk policy was a position that the US would not directly negotiate with the DPRK, all meetings should be in the multi-lateral format. To be sure, there were some side meetings between US and DPRK people around the 6-party talk venue, but a side meeting is not the same as the recognition accorded by a formal bi-lateral meeting.

The problem with the get-tough approach was that North Korea got rather frustrated with its lack of progress, and in an attempt to signal the US, it re-started its nuclear program, tested a couple of missiles, and ultimately tested its first bomb. They were particularly annoyed with the US cutting off access to its funds through a Macao bank.

That alone stands as one of the greatest foreign policy failures of the Bush Administration– a new no-friendly nuclear state on its watch, when all the evidence points to the fact that some sort of continued engagement would have postponed, if not forestalled, the DPRK going nuclear.

Finally, after a number of years of get tough, the administration reverses course to a more engagement / negotiation approach, very similar to the approach taken (with modest success) by the Clinton Administration. They agreed to return North Korea’s money. And it seemed to work. It was telling that now-former administration officials such as John Bolton and Robert Joseph (both who served as Under-Secretary of State for International Security, a key office in these types of negotiations) heavily criticized the deal reached with North Korea.

But Hill, a very skilled diplomat and now the senior State Department North Korean negotiator, was persistent, and pressed for the ability to deal directly with the DPRK. When the invite was issued, he snapped it up and set up his trip.

Lo and Behold, it seems to have paid off. North Korea agreed to shut down its Yongbyong reactor, ending its production of plutonium for bombs. The IAEA is set to enter North Korea this week for the first time since 2002 for inspections and to set up a plan to monitor this reactor shut-down. And there is (yet another) commitment to restart the 6-party talks. This is a big deal. First, it ends the production of plutonium, meaning that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal won’t grow as it continues to negotiate the future of its nuclear program. Its a pragmatic choice first made in 1994–the US doesn’t get a full accounting of or end to the nuclear program, only a promise to negotiate over it, but the nuclear arsenal stays put. This was obviously more important prior to the test, as it kept North Korea from being able to develop a bomb to test, but still, it contains the problem and keeps it from getting significantly worse. Second, it gets IAEA inspectors back into North Korea. This is very important because, as we’ve learned over the past decade of global non-proliferation, the IAEA is pretty good at its job. They had Iraq’s nuclear program pegged after ’91. Having that inspection regime in place is a tremendous asset in learning about the DPRK program– it keeps what they’ve got in check and gives the international community tremendous insight into the North Korean program. Moreover, it significantly increases the legitimacy of any future deal or hard line with North Korea. It places a UN-family organization in a critical seat and brings dedicated IAEA member-states into the process as stakeholders. The IAEA can legitimate an agreement, and non-cooperation with the IAEA is not the same as non-cooperation with the USA. There are many tired allies who might now be willing to look the other way when North Korea and the US get into a future shouting match. But, bringing the IAEA into the mix helps to legitimize the role of the international community, making this a global problem, not just a regional or bilateral one.

This is a move the US should have made a couple of years ago– its not that costly to send one Assistant Secretary of State to Pyongyang, and the payoff for the move (at this point) seems significant. Now, lets see State is able to follow up on its initial gains and implement this agreement. If it can, its a success for diplomacy enhancing the National Security of the USA.


Iran negotiations

Over the past two and a half years, I have been contacted periodically by an Iranian journalist for Fars News Agency who identifies himself (herself?) as Kia Kojouri (or maybe Kojoury).

Note that the “informational materials” exemption to the U.S. embargo on Iran makes these kinds of exchanges perfectly legal. A few years ago, scholars circulated warnings about government interpretations of the sanctions law that made some rather ordinary intellectual activites illegal when involving Iranians. Later, however, that narrow interpretation was reversed.

In any event, kia most recently asked for my take on the U.S.-Iranian negotiations. This is what I wrote:

The U.S. appears to be genuinely interested in working with Iran on the resolution of some common concerns, such as instability in Iraq. It is not yet clear if the two sides can arrive at any kind of meaningful accommodation, partly because so many issues are NOT on the table. The limited agenda drastically limits the possibility for resolving many issues and means that so-called “linkage” bargaining strategies cannot readily be employed.

That said, the parties could at any time decide to begin broader negotiations around a large set of issues: Iran’s nuclear program, trade (WTO admission), economic sanctions, regional stability, etc. The Bush administration has a history of bargaining by ultimatum: requiring other states to do something dramatic before the U.S. will seriously consider improved relations. For the most part, that sort of bargaining has not worked. The administration claims it was successful in the case of Libya.

However, the recent negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear program suggest that the Bush administration might be willing to bargain without ultimatums. I do not know how successful such negotiations would be with Iran, but it would be in the world’s interest if the parties pursued wide-ranging talks.

I have no idea whether any of this will appear on the Fars website.


Counter-Terrorism vs. Counter-Proliferation

National Security is all about prioritizing tough decisions. Often, an administration can get away with avoiding the really tough calls, but from time to time, issues arise that force policy makers into pragmatic trade-offs between vital values and interests. Those choices are very instructive and insightful as to how a President sees the world. The NY Times reports that the Bush Administration faced just such a choice between its key goals of counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation:

Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.

The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.

The NYT story is quite clear about the central issue:

But the arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.

The Administration has identified both counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation as vital national security interests. But when they happen to conflict, as in when fighting terrorists requires looking the other way on a major North Korean arms deal, we see where the Administration’s priorities lie. They would rather allow Ethiopia to purchase tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons from North Korea, providing North Korea with vital cash and circumventing UNSC sanctions limiting arms transfers out of North Korea in punishment for its nuclear test than not, so long as those weapons go to fight terrorists, and by terrorists we mean the Islamic militias in Somalia.

They had a clear choice–cut off one of North Korea’s few sources of cash on the international market or equip an allied government with weapons necessary to launch an attack on Islamist militias.

Its one of those tough choices that National Security policy-makers make that reveals their priorities and values. It is also one of those choices with real repercussions long into the future, many of which have real consequences for vital US national security interests.


Enabling proliferation

What do other states think of America’s nuclear arsenal and strategic posture?

Defense analyst Lewis Dunn, with coauthors Gregory Giles, Jeffrey Larsen, and Thomas Skypek, recently completed a project sponsored by the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office (ASCO) of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency that looked at this and related questions. Their report is available on the web: Foreign Perspectives on U.S. Nuclear Policy and Posture (warning: long pdf).

On March 20, Dunn presented the findings at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Through his interviews with foreign individuals, he found that many saw the U.S. shifting from a policy of nuclear deterrence towards a policy of nuclear use or preemption. Foreign perceptions following the U.S. articulation in 2001 of the “new nuclear triad” are that the U.S. is lowering its nuclear threshold.

Dunn characterized this as a foreign “misperception” of the US posture.

Is it?

Apparently, foreigners gathered this impression based on US development of “bunker buster” bombs and renewed emphasis on ballistic missile defenses. Oh, and they are not crazy about American development of “low-yield” weapons. Altogether, some respondents apparently told Dunn that US policy was undermining the Nonproliferation Treaty — and generally undercutting arms control.

Dunn notes that no senior US official has made a policy statement on nuclear weapons since 2002, which means that it would be a good time for the US to clarify its nuclear posture. Put differently, Dunn wants a clearer declaratory policy, which I would emphasize can be quite distinct from an operational deployment (and employment) policy.

Russia and China are particularly leary of BMD, which is sold as a US reaction to nuclear proliferation. Other states are apparently becoming more accepting of US missile defense plans. Dunn made a point about the Chinese and Russian reactions that should be obvious to anyone who has thought about nuclear deterrence — and knows anything about the security dilemma: “these countries’ strategic modernization plans are influenced by U.S. policy decisions.”

Dunn concluded by calling for greater efforts at dialogue with China and Russia, as well as with the rest of the world:

[T]he U.S. needs to expand its nuclear debate and agenda and engage in international dialogue to discuss issues such as the relevance of nuclear disarmament and how to define an environment that is needed for the elimination of nuclear weapons to occur.

Do you think he really means “irrelevance“?


The North Korean Deal

I’m still reading reports of the North Korea nuclear deal, and I should have more to say as things develop. A few quick thoughts:

1. The terms of the deal, at least as currently reported, seem reasonable. North Korea looks to get most of what it wants, but the benefits of a non-nuclear North Korea mitigate against that. The administration should ignore the howls of protest already emanating from hardliners. The US, Japan, and South Korea don’t have any other good options. Military strikes are too costly, and the Chinese will only pressure North Korea so far in the current environment. As I argued in one of my earliest posts on the Duck of Minerva, bribery has its places in international politics, and bribing the North Koreans is a price we’re likely going to have to pay for our policy objectives in Northeast Asia.

2. The deal may still fall through, either in the short-term or the long-term. A failed deal, however, may be better than the status quo so long as North Korea, rather than the US, shoulders the blame for the breakdown of the proposed process. In such a scenario, the US may have an easier time pressuring the Chinese to take an even harder line on the North Koreans.

3. I’m not convinced that the US will likely suffer “reputational” costs that hinder negotiations with the Iranians. Not only has the US already made clear that it won’t punish other proliferators–such as India and Pakistan–but the deal at stake is conditioned on eventual North Korean denuclearization. If the Iranians want some aid and a future normalization of relations with the US in exchange for giving up their program, that seems like a pretty good deal for the US as well.

4. The Bush administration has basically embraced the Clinton policy for dealing with North Korea, so it isn’t surprising that hardliners feel betrayed. My advice to them is to get over it. Rob Farley has more on the subject.


Robert Farley and Jacques Chirac, ils sont d’accord

I share Daniel Drezner’s puzzlement concerning Jacques Chirac’s retraction of pretty reasonable claims about the implications of Iranian nuclear proliferation for the Middle East. Example:

Mr. Chirac said it would be an act of self-destruction for Iran to use a nuclear weapon against another country.

“Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?” Mr. Chirac asked. “It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed.”


In the Monday interview, Mr. Chirac argued that Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon was less important than the arms race that would ensue.

“It is really very tempting for other countries in the region that have large financial resources to say: ‘Well, we too are going to do that; we’re going to help others do it,’ ” he said. “Why wouldn’t Saudi Arabia do it? Why wouldn’t it help Egypt to do so as well? That is the real danger.”

In fact, Robert Farley makes similar points in his article in The American Prospect

Iranian nuclear weapons are indeed a threat to Israel, but not for the reasons that Oren and Halevi cite. Iran is extraordinarily unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, and likely won’t enjoy much diplomatic benefit from their possession. The threat the Iranian nuclear program presents is on the same order as the threats posed by the Russian and Pakistani programs. As a new nuclear state, Iran is unlikely to have strong protocols regarding the handling, transfer, and upkeep of both weapons and material. Loose Iranian nukes, rather than purposefully delivered ones, represent the real threat to Israel and to Iran’s other neighbors. Instead of considering this difficult problem, which offers no compelling military solution, Oren and Halevi prefer to write fantastic accounts of supercharged Hezbollah terrorists and a diplomatically dominant Iran. They’re not helping.

I think Rob–and pre-retraction Chirac–are mostly right. But Rob downplays some of the risks of Iranian nuclear weapons for the region.

First, if Iran does achieve an effective nuclear deterrent–and this is, admittedly, a long way off–that might, in fact, make it easier for Iran to pursue certain kinds of aggressive actions. This risk reflects B. H. Liddell Hart’s stability-instability paradox (PDF): mutual strategic deterrence might make it easier for states like Iran to contemplate small-scale actions–directly or via proxy–against their neighbors. There’s a robust debate about whether Indian and Pakistani nuclear capabilities have de-escalated conflicts between them or led to (1) greater Pakastani willingness to support insurgent and terrorist groups against India and (2) greater willingness by India to engage in limited conventional operations that would have once risked full-scale Indian-Pakistani warfare.

Second, expanding Iranian nuclear capabilities may, in fact, undermine the ability of the US to project power into the Middle East. Even though Iranian nuclear weapons are unlikely to create much of a threat to the United States (the US can retaliate overwhelmingly against Iranian use) they might be sufficiently threatening to undermine public support for American confrontations with Iran. How many Americans would support action in defense of, say, a rump Iraqi state if they feared that a single American city might be destroyed? And we do have reasons to believe that Iranian policymakers would be less constrained, such as the fact that extended nuclear deterrence is inherently less credible than homeland nuclear deterrence. To paraphrase Schelling, everyone believes that the Iranians would, if they had them, use nuclear weapons to defend Tehran. But would the United States use nuclear weapons to defend Baghdad or Tel Aviv? The answer is less clear.

Third, will mutual deterrence dynamics really emerge in the Middle East? The evidence for nuclear weapons deterring aggression is, I think, more ambiguous that one would hope. From Warner D. Farr’s historical sketch of the Israeli nuclear weapons program:

Egypt attempted unsuccessfully to obtain nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union both before and after the Six-Day War. President Nasser received from the Soviet Union a questionable nuclear guarantee instead and declared that Egypt would develop its own nuclear program.[43 ] His rhetoric of 1965 and 1966 about preventive war and Israeli nuclear weapons coupled with overflights of the Dimona rector contributed to the tensions that led to war. The Egyptian Air Force claims to have first overflown Dimona and recognized the existence of a nuclear reactor in 1965.[44 ] Of the 50 American HAWK antiaircraft missiles in Israeli hands, half ringed Dimona by 1965.[45] Israel considered the Egyptian overflights of May 16, 1967 as possible pre-strike reconnaissance. One source lists such Egyptian overflights, along with United Nations peacekeeper withdrawal and Egyptian troop movements into the Sinai, as one of the three “tripwires” which would drive Israel to war.[46] There was an Egyptian military plan to attack Dimona at the start of any war but Nasser vetoed it.[47] He believed Israel would have the bomb in 1968.[48] Israel assembled two nuclear bombs and ten days later went to war.[49] Nasser’s plan, if he had one, may have been to gain and consolidate territorial gains before Israel had a nuclear option.[50] He was two weeks too late.

The Israelis aggressively pursued an aircraft delivery system from the United States. President Johnson was less emphatic about nonproliferation than President Kennedy-or perhaps had more pressing concerns, such as Vietnam. He had a long history of both Jewish friends and pressing political contributors coupled with some first hand experience of the Holocaust, having toured concentration camps at the end of World War II.[51] Israel pressed him hard for aircraft (A-4E Skyhawks initially and F-4E Phantoms later) and obtained agreement in 1966 under the condition that the aircraft would not be used to deliver nuclear weapons. The State Department attempted to link the aircraft purchases to continued inspection visits. President Johnson overruled the State Department concerning Dimona inspections.[52] Although denied at the time, America delivered the F-4Es, on September 5, 1969, with nuclear capable hardware intact.[53]

The Samson Option states that Moshe Dayan gave the go-ahead for starting weapon production in early 1968, putting the plutonium separation plant into full operation. Israel began producing three to five bombs a year. The book Critical Mass asserts that Israel had two bombs in 1967, and that Prime Minister Eshkol ordered them armed in Israel’s first nuclear alert during the Six-Day War.[54] Avner Cohen in his recent book, Israel and the Bomb, agrees that Israel had a deliverable nuclear capability in the 1967 war. He quotes Munya Mardor, leader of Rafael, the Armament Development Authority, and other unnamed sources, that Israel “cobbled together” two deliverable devices.[55]

Having the bomb meant articulating, even if secretly, a use doctrine. In addition to the “Samson Option” of last resort, other triggers for nuclear use may have included successful Arab penetration of populated areas, destruction of the Israeli Air Force, massive air strikes or chemical/biological strikes on Israeli cities, and Arab use of nuclear weapons.[56]

In 1971, Israel began purchasing krytrons, ultra high-speed electronic switching tubes that are “dual-use,” having both industrial and nuclear weapons applications as detonators. In the 1980s, the United States charged an American, Richard Smith (or Smyth), with smuggling 810 krytrons to Israel.[57] He vanished before trial and reportedly lives outside Tel Aviv. The Israelis apologized for the action saying that the krytrons were for medical research.[58] Israel returned 469 of the krytrons but the rest, they declared, had been destroyed in testing conventional weapons. Some believe they went to South Africa.[59] Smyth has also been reported to have been involved in a 1972 smuggling operation to obtain solid rocket fuel binder compounds for the Jericho II missile and guidance component hardware.[60] Observers point to the Jericho missile itself as proof of a nuclear capability as it is not suited to the delivery of conventional munitions.[61]

On the afternoon of 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in a coordinated surprise attack, beginning the Yom Kippur War. Caught with only regular forces on duty, augmented by reservists with a low readiness level, Israeli front lines crumbled. By early afternoon on 7 October, no effective forces were in the southern Golan Heights and Syrian forces had reached the edge of the plateau, overlooking the Jordan River. This crisis brought Israel to its second nuclear alert.

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, obviously not at his best at a press briefing, was, according to Time magazine, rattled enough to later tell the prime minister that “this is the end of the third temple,” referring to an impending collapse of the state of Israel. “Temple” was also the code word for nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet” made the decision on the night of 8 October. The Israelis assembled 13 twenty-kiloton atomic bombs. The number and in fact the entire story was later leaked by the Israelis as a great psychological warfare tool. Although most probably plutonium devices, one source reports they were enriched uranium bombs. The Jericho missiles at Hirbat Zachariah and the nuclear strike F-4s at Tel Nof were armed and prepared for action against Syrian and Egyptian targets. They also targeted Damascus with nuclear capable long-range artillery although it is not certain they had nuclear artillery shells.[62]


The ho-hum catastrophe?

Yesterday, October 10, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked a number of questions about the apparent North Korean nuclear test. Here’s my favorite:

Q …when you have a President who draws a red line three years ago and says, we will not tolerate nuclear weapons, and now you have a country that just tested a nuclear weapon — you don’t think it’s fair to ask for some accountability as to what happened, or that there were mistakes made?

MR. SNOW: David, the accountability lies in North Korea, not in Washington.

Snow made many remarkable comments at that press conference, including this series about US leverage:

So rather than having something going wrong, what you really have is the emergence of a process now in which the people who have the most leverage over the North Koreans — and let’s face it, the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Japanese, they all have more direct leverage over the North Koreans than we do — the people who have the greatest ability to influence behavior are now fully invested as equal partners in a process to deal with the government of North Korea.

…What is new is that you do have, I think, a much more effective mechanism, or at least a more promising mechanism for dealing with them, because the people who have direct leverage, the people who can turn the spigots economically and politically, are now fully engaged and invested in this.

…Point of fact is, if we’re going to deal one-on-one, we’d be playing a weaker hand, and the President is not going to play a weaker hand…Let me emphasize again, we do not have extensive ties of trade or anything else with North Korea. We have less leverage than these guys do.

In addition to the remarkable words Snow voiced, notice what he didn’t say?

Snow ignored military power as a lever! In fact, the entire press conference was surreal, as the Press Secretary virtually refused to take very seriously either the danger of a North Korean bomb or the ability of the US to do anything about it.

Remember, as a point of contrast, President Bush’s bold claims about Libya abandoning its weapons programs? From a speech on July 12, 2004, when the President inspected Libyan nuclear parts stored at the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge National Laboratory:

Libya is dismantling its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile programs. This progress came about through quiet diplomacy between America, Britain and the Libyan government. This progress was set in motion, however, by policies declared in public to all the world. The United States, Great Britain, and many other nations are determined to expose the threats of terrorism and proliferation — and to oppose those threats with all our power. (Applause.) We have sent this message in the strongest diplomatic terms, and we have acted where action was required.

Every potential adversary now knows that terrorism and proliferation carry serious consequences, and that the wise course is to abandon those pursuits.

Moreover, Bush credited the Libyan surrender to the lesson of the Iraq invasion. And he bragged that it was American leadership — not deference to other states — that caused Libya to give up its plans to proliferate:

America is leading a broad coalition of nations to disrupt proliferation. We’re working with the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other international organizations to take action in our common security. The global threat of terrorism requires a global response. To be effective, that global response requires leadership — and America will lead.

Remember the way the 2002 National Security Strategy phrased this? “The United States possesses unprecedented— and unequaled—strength and influence in the world.”

This was another interesting and bold declaration from that pre-Iraq war NSS:

Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed….History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action….

Throughout history, freedom has been threatened by war and terror; it has been challenged by the clashing wills of powerful states and the evil designs of tyrants; and it has been tested by widespread poverty and disease. Today, humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to further freedom’s triumph over all these foes. The United States welcomes our responsibility to lead in this great mission.

That statement, by the way, was in a cover letter signed by George W. Bush. He had placed North Korea firmly in an “axis of evil” with Iran and Iraq in his January 2002 State of the Union address.

Allow me to return to that speech:

North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror….States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

…all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.

We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.

Don’t you love history?

Speaking of history, Press Secretary Snow pointed out yesterday that North Korea is different from Iraq:

Because in the case of Iraq we had exhausted all diplomatic possibilities. We’re just exploring them now in the case of North Korea.

Just exploring them now? He said this a bit later:

Keep in mind, the agreed framework — as early as 1992, North Korea was being brought to the table to talk about nuclear weapons proliferation.

Hmmm, mutually exclusive statements in the scope of just minutes. Impressive.

Off-handedly, Snow also said yesterday that “the old policy of appeasing these guys apparently isn’t going to work anymore.” When asked directly if that meant that the Clinton administration had appeased North Korea, he said “No.” However, he said their approach, which “was worth trying” emphasized carrots, whereas now the policy is both “carrots and sticks.”

However, again, the administration isn’t emphasizing any sort of military leverage:

The sticks would be economic pressure on the government of North Korea, but the carrots are even more important, because you’ve got millions of people there who are starving, who are in agony, who have been living under an oppressive regime, who deserve better. And what the United States and the allies have been offering are ways in which those people can enjoy a better quality of life, North Korea can enjoy more security, and the region generally will be able to enjoy security.

Ah, how times change.

Tony Snow, yesterday:

I think the biggest leverage they have is their own self-interest. This is important for them. If North Korea were to have a nuke, it certainly would have a lot more impact in the capitals — in Seoul and Beijing and Tokyo and even Moscow than it would here in Washington. Here’s what the Chinese said just a little bit ago: said, North Korea must face “some punitive actions for testing a nuclear device.” This from the U.N. Ambassador.

The point is that there is agreement that there needs to be punitive action, and I’m sure that there’s going to continue to be debate. It is natural to ask yourself what is the least punitive action we can take. That’s always going to be the natural tendency. And so people are going to look for what is the very least you need to do to be effective. And I’m sure there’s going to be a debate about that. And there will eventually come, I assume, some set of punitive actions. One hopes they work.

Again, it is amazing what they are not saying.

Read the transcript of the entire session.

Q Tony, in 2003, the President said very clearly that we will not tolerate North Korea with nuclear weapons.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q And here we are in 2006 operating on the assumption, as the government is, that, in fact, they tested a nuclear devise. So what went wrong?

MR. SNOW: I’m not sure anything went wrong. The failed diplomacy is on the part of the North Koreans because what they have done so far is turn down a series of diplomatic initiatives that would have given them everything they have said they wanted…

What are those carrots again? And what are the sticks?

More importantly, just how serious is this administration about various US security interests? What does it think about the danger of proliferation — specifically from North Korea?

Perhaps this is the better question: Will this administration say anything, or the opposite of anything, at any time, or even at the same time, to justify whatever it is doing?


The Virtues of Bribery

I swear that I had no idea what Bill’s next post was going to be about when I started this one, but I think they compliment one another nicely.

There has been a lot of attention lately to the Iranian nuclear program, but there’s even less hope for optimism about North Korea’s stated, and likely growing, nuclear arsenal. As of now, there don’t seem to be any good choices. The military option faces two enormous hurdles: inadequate intelligence about the location of North Korea’s nuclear components and the risk of escalation. Even if the US could be confident that a military strike would actually seriously damage North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, it would have to weigh that gain against the strong possibility of open warfare on the penninsula. Experts fully expect the US would win a second Korean War, but millions of South Koreans would likely die once North Korea started pounding Seoul.

A lot of critics belittle the 1994 Agreed Framework – which, among other steps, pledged US aid in exchange for Pyongyang’s commitment to freeze and then dismantle its graphite-moderated nuclear reactions. For them, the Agreed Framework was nothing more than a “bribe” (for similar criticisms of the Agreed Framework and other proposed deals, see here, here, and here) that “rewarded” North Korea’s “nuclear blackmail.” US officials have used similar language, stating that they won’t “reward” North Korea for breaking its agreements. Dick Cheney is also on record that the US won’t give in to North Korean nuclear “blackmail.”1

I wonder, though, if bribery is getting a bum rap. After all, it has a long and storied history as a tool of great-power politics. The Han bribed the Xiong Nu (or Hsiung-Nu) and, if Thomas Barfield is correct, that bribery not only helped maintain the Xiong Nu but also was, in the main, a good deal for the Han. The Romans bribed a great many barbarian tribes and rulers, even if the policy was not always successful. Sufficient generosity probably would have prevented the Vandals from making a mess of Rome. The Germans paid the Ottoman Empire a lot of cash to get it to enter the First World War. The US and the USSR “bribed” foreign leaders all the time during the Cold War.

So what’s wrong with bribing the North Koreans? One objection is that it won’t work. After all, the argument goes, look what happened with the Agreed Framework. But, it turns out, the question of whether or not North Korea violated the agreement is actually quite murky. It might also be the case that the North Koreans just want more aid and concessions; this could be the equivalent of an old-style cross-border raid to get more money out of the empire.

At least some opposition to bribery is normative. Giving lots of aid to a saber-rattling, agreement-breaking, starve-our-own people regime is really unseemly. Righteous nations, like the United States, simply shouldn’t reward oath breaking. But what’s the better alternative, really? And international politics almost always involves choosing between unpleasant options.

In my view, the strongest argument against bribing the North Koreans is a rough variation on the “moral hazard” problem: if the US gives into the North Koreans, it might encourage other regimes to build nukes with the aim of wresting concessions from us. James D. Miller, writing at Tech Central Station, argues in favor of bribery on strict cost-benefit cost grounds: “giving in to North Korean blackmail would encourage other nations to start producing atomics so that we would bribe them, too, to behave. The U.S. is so rich compared to rogue nations, however, that it might not be too expensive for us to bribe our way to peace.”2

But how convincing is the causal logic of this objection in the first place? As Bill discusses below, embarking on a nuclear-weapons program is both costly and risky. Not only does it require a significant commitment of resources, but building the bomb has a lot of potential negative externalities in terms of security, reputation, and so forth. I don’t find it very credible that a precedent of US aid for North Korea would have very much of an impact on the calculations of other states. Moreover, the conditions that make North Korean proliferation so difficult to deal with – proximity to Seoul, an enormous conventional military, lots of tunnels and caves – are specific enough that not many foreign leaders are likely to think they can copy results from the US-North Korean standoff.

Perhaps the North Koreans are simply the barbarians of our present age. If so, the US can learn from past superpowers, many of which discovered that paying off the barbarians was ultimately cheaper and more effective than standing on principle. Over at the new – and unsurprisingly excellent – “America Abroad” section of TPMCafe, Ivo Daalder puts in as plainly as possible: “sometimes, when you don’t negotiate, evil wins.”

On the other hand, perhaps not. For a great debate over the issue, see David Kang’s and Victor Cha’s book, Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies.

1Although this may simply mean that the US wants North Korea to make significant concessions before it gets more foreign assistance. Ironically, North Korea is one of the few places in which the Bush administration made a strong commitment to multilateralism in security affairs, a policy one of the my colleagues worries amounts to “delegating” US national interests to the Chinese. Now, as Bill points out, the administration appears to be caving. Ultimately, I expect the relevant question won’t be “to bribe, or not to bribe,” but how much and under what conditions.
2I doubt I will ever agree with a TCS editorial again, but I found this one while searching for references….

Filed as:


Conceding vs. Standing Firm: A new trend in US proliferation policy?

Cross posted at Discord and Elaboration:

Last week I (sort of) complained about the recent move by the US to allow Iran to begin the membership ascension process to the WTO in exchange for a further (not permanent) freeze on uranium enrichment until August, when presumably the EU3 can hammer out a more permanent deal with the Persian power. The US has refused to directly take part in the negotiations, but has worked with the EU3 in order to deploy a number of carrots and sticks. Agreeing to not veto Iranian ascension to the WTO (which has been a perennial event) seems to me to be an awfully big carrot, one that Iran has coveted for a while and which allows them to pontificate on the previous injustice of not allowing them to join (quote or link here), considering that all the US/EU got in return was an extension of the temporary freeze until August. (For a different, yet equally critical take on the recent agreement on the grounds that the US still lacks a coherent approach towards Iran check out this editorial in the FT today.)

Thursday, the Financial Times reported that the US may be signaling to the North Koreans that it would consider parallel bilateral talks with Pyongyang‚–something the North Koreans covet and the US has vigorously denied them since the crisis broke out. Again, this can be viewed as an example of the US giving in to a key demand in order to simply extend the bargaining game rather than extract any crucial concessions that further its interests. Both scenarios possibly illustrate the decrease in the US’s bargaining position (or, more appropriately, the actual reality of this position all along) vis-a-vis these two potential nuclear powers (let’s assume for the moment North Korea doesn’t have a workable weapon, which is a big assumption).

In both cases these states have had to give up nothing essentially in return for concrete concessions that they highly value. In each case the US has reversed its previous stance on issues of high salience (granted, in terms of the WTO we have our reasons for wanting Iran in, see Peter Howard’s take on this which I largely agree with‚—but the US certainly has not wanted to deal with North Korea bilaterally, that much is clear). These moves make me wonder whether or not the US has come to the realization that their bargaining position is not as strong as they previously thought. In the case of North Korea they have not managed to make any kind of progress, with the North Korean’s continuing with enrichment as well as potentially gearing up for an underground test explosion. China refuses to play a decisive role, something that many agree is necessary in order to force North Korea to cease development. Iran does not seem to be scared of a US invasion/regime change given that the situation in Iraq has, if anything, signaled to potential adversaries the severe limitations of the US military to invade, occupy, and secure foreign lands—especially to manage two of these operations at the same time. Furthermore, Iran continuously threatened to accelerate its program if the US submitted them to the Security Council for economic sanctions. Economics seems to be of more concern to the Iranians than invasion, yet yesterday’s move essentially rewards Iran economically for a simply extension and not a permanent deal. In both cases the targets of US compellance have stood firm and essentially won concessions while the US has given in.

It will be interesting to see what each target—Iran and North Korea—learns from these recent moves. What conclusions will they draw from recent US behavior? Will further concessions in the case of Iran reassure the North Koreans that the US can be bargained with? Will Iran now expect direct negotiations with the US if they take place with North Korea? Certainly one could view US moves in this way, as a deliberate strategy to get these two states to trust the US more and to believe that their cooperation will be rewarded in kind by the US. However, the US should be aware of the fact that such signals cannot be counted on to objectively convey that they are trustworthy or credible partners. Both North Korea and Iran must interpret US actions through their own lenses that are influenced by previous encounters and the images they already have of the US. Additionally, the realm of international politics doesn’t lend itself easily to trust given the high stakes and the incentives others have to misrepresent their intentions.

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Nuclear Proliferation: Understanding Motivations and Assigning Blame

Dan’s post on the recent collapse of the NPT conference raises some interesting points. The recent negotiations, as well as the continuing stand-off between Iran, North Korea, and the US, leads to some very interesting questions regarding motivations, blame, and policy. I have been blogging about this issue as it pertains to Iran and North Korea over the past week, so some of this post will be based on my discussion there. Additionally, I will limit my discussion to these two states and the notion that US policy is to blame for a shift away from the NPT by non-nuclear powers. (While Iran was a party to the talks I do not believe North Korea was–still, the issue of proliferation and the incentive for non-nuclear states to committ to such a treaty is directly related to the actions of these two states IMO.)

Asssigning blame for the recent collapse of negitations requires an examination of state motivations. Iran and North Korea seek nuclear weapons for the same reasons that any other state would–to provide what is viewed by many as a full-proof device which prevents military threats to one’s territory and regime. Nuclear weapons are viewed as incredibly valuable for states as a failsafe against foreign intervention (with many taking Iraq as an example of what not to do–he who hesitates ends up in a hole–and on the cover of a tabloid in his tidy whities). Iran certainly does not feel overly secure given their perception of the US, Israel and their desire to be a regional power. So there are great incentives for Iran to acquire even a minimal nuclear deterrent (MAD is not necessary to achieve deterrence–for anyone interested see Avery Goldstein’s Deterrence and Security in the 21st Century: China, Britain, France, and the Enduring Legacy of the Nuclear Revolution). Iran’s desire to go nuclear predates recent US/Russian alterations to their declarative nuclear policy. The first target of Iran’s concern was Iraq. As Iraq became hemmed in by US no-flys and economic sanctions the target of their (not yet existent) nuclear deterrent became Israel. Iran’s nuclear ambitions seem to have been motivated more for reasons of regional security than reactions to current US policy (although being essentially surrounded by states–Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq–that both cooperate and house US forces has certainly increased their desire to go nuclear).

North Korea has been working towards the development of a workable nuclear device for a few decades now. Their acquisition program did not start after shifts in US/Russion policy, but rather predates both. Additionally, the idea that they have accelarated only in reaction to these shifts is also suspect since they never really suspended their program in 1994 in the deal with the Clinton Adminstration, but rather shifted from the production of plutonium to uranium. This tells me that North Korea’s motivation for acquiring nukes predates any shifts in US policy and has more to do with their rapidly deteriorating position in their region as well as the world after the Cold War.

In essence I do not see any realistic way to prevent nuclear proliferation in either of these countries (delays, yes–but I believe they will both be nuclear powers in the future)–regardless of whether the NPT is reasserted and revamped or if US policy shifts. If the incentives for acquiring nukes predated shifts in US policy as well as the perception of the Bush administration as potentially aggressive and capable of launching a preventive war against either regime than simply returning to the status quo will not work.


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The collapse of the most recent NPT conference is already gone from the headlines. The general tenor of the reporting has gone, more or less, like this:

When the conference began on May 2, countries had hoped to agree on a plan to plug loopholes in the treaty that enable countries to acquire sensitive atomic technology and to hear from Washington and the four other NPT members with nuclear weapons that they remained committed to disarming.

But it quickly descended into procedural bickering, led by the United States, Iran and Egypt, and ended after approving only a document that listed the agenda and participants.

In a clear swipe at Washington, which angered developing countries by refusing to reaffirm previous pledges to scrap its own nuclear arsenal, Canada’s chief delegate blasted countries that tossed aside earlier commitments.

“If governments simply ignore or discard commitments whenever they prove inconvenient, we will never be able to build an edifice of international cooperation and confidence in the security realm,” Ambassador Paul Meyer, the head of Canada’s delegation, said in a speech to the conference.

The United States has denied undermining the conference. Privately, U.S. officials blamed Iran and Egypt, who they said hijacked the block of non-aligned nations in an attempt to focus criticism on the United States and Israel.

NPR carried a particularly good report on the broader issues at stake in the conference, including the question of why states “go nuclear” in the first place. Among those interviewed was Scott Sagan, one of the foremost scholars of nuclear proliferation. Scott argued, as he has in print, that signals from the current nuclear powers play an important role in nuclear proliferation and nuclear strategy. From this vantage point, recent high-profile changes in US (and Russian) nuclear doctrine – away from policies of “no first use” against non-nuclear powers – undermine the normative and institutional components of the non-proliferation regime.

The big question, of course, is how much blame for these developments can be laid at the feet of the US. Are we witnessing the mounting costs of anti-Americanism engendered by the Bush administration, or the more or less inevitable consequences of unipolarity, the spread of weapons technology, and other factors? The answer is probably both. At the very least, the growing antipathy towards US foreign policy, combined with the fact that the nuclear powers – including the US – aren’t exactly taking their NPT obligations seriously, provides rhetorical cover for states like Iran.1

All of this assumes, of course, that the spread of nuclear weapons is dangerous. Not all scholars agree. Kenneth Waltz, in particular, argues that more nuclear powers will be a net positive for peace and stability.2 Another line of thinking is that a focus on counter-proliferation undermines US interests. It may be, for example, that the US ought to drop the nuclear issue and try to reestablish a strategic relationship with Iran.

1See Articles IV-VI.
2The best guide to the debate over the desirability of nuclear proliferation is The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed, by Sagan and Waltz.

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