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  • Author: Eva M. Lisowski
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was formed in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inspect civilian nuclear materials and activities to deter military diversions. To decide the frequency of inspections and inspection criteria, the IAEA set its safeguard standards with the objective of assuring “timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.” The two nuclear weapon designs developed and detonated during World War II were the “gun-type” and “implosion” designs. Because implosion device technology requires much less fissile material than guntype technology, the IAEA significant quantity6 (SQ) values were determined based on the fissile material requirements of nuclear implosion devices like the plutonium-based “Fat Man” detonated over Nagasaki in 1945. Utilizing implosion designs perfected in the late 1940s, however, the explosive yields achieved in 1945 can be produced with much less fissile material. Table 1 lists the fissile material requirements of contemporary nuclear weapon technology. “Low Technical Capability” in Table 1 refers to the Mark III implosion device set off at Nagasaki. “Medium Technical Capability” refers to implosion designs perfected in the late 1940s and “High Technical Capability” in Table 1 refers to the implosion technologies the United States perfected in the 1950s.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Nonproliferation, Nuclear Energy, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The year 2020 was characterized by the intensification of US-China confrontation and strategic competition, which had been pointed out in the Strategic Annual Report 2019, in all areas from military and security affairs as well as dominance in advanced technologies and supply chains to narratives on coronavirus responses. Amid this confrontation, the rules-based international order faced even more severe challenges; the multilateral framework established after World War II with the United Nations at its core lost its US leadership and fell into serious dysfunction. While the international community is struggling to cope with the rapidly expanding outbreak of the novel coronavirus, China has been moving to expand its influence through increasingly authoritarian and assertive domestic and international policies on the rule of law and territorial issues, as well as through economic initiatives such as the existing “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and its responses to the pandemic. The confrontation with the United States is becoming more and more pronounced, and the Indo-Pacific region is turning itself into divided and contested oceans. In this transforming strategic environment, expressions of support for the vision of a rulesbased “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) that Japan has been promoting for the past several years, or announcements of similar visions have followed one after the other. The year 2020 also saw significant strengthening of the cooperative framework among four countries – Japan, the United States, Australia, and India (QUAD) – together with the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between countries in this group. At the same time, progress was also made in a regional cooperation framework that includes China with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement in East Asia. The Strategic Annual Report 2020 looks back at major international developments since last year’s Report through the end of 2020, focusing on the transformation of the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region and the response of the international community.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, Multilateralism, COVID-19, Destabilization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Middle East, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Pat Shilo, Todd Rosenblum
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: President Biden has announced plans to re-engage with Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In this paper, we briefly outline the five most likely pathways ahead, each of which has strengths and challenges: Return to the JCPOA as it was. Return to the JCPOA plus new commitments that address other security concerns with Iran. Restore the JCPOA as it was plus a set of confidence-building measures to address other security concerns. Formally link a requirement for Iran to address our other concerns as a pre-condition for further talks. Return to the pre-JCPOA Middle East, where US and allies work to rollback Iran’s nuclear program and actively deter its regional actions by confrontation, punishment, and isolating measures. Each path carries risk and opportunity for restoring American leadership in the world, and congressional Democrats should remember the perfect deal does not exist. Members of Congress would be wise to measure the next deal against the status quo ante: an unconstrained, belligerent Iran again racing to a bomb.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Military Strategy, Denuclearization, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Keith A. Preble, Kolja Brockmann
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: Iran is one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world. The combination of sanctions on Iran imposed by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union (EU) in response to, among others, nuclear and ballistic missile activities and human rights violations provides for a sanctions environment that is highly complex and difficult to navigate for exporters, financial institutions and humanitarian actors. Particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is renewed attention to the humanitarian impact of sanctions, especially in the case of Iran which became one of the flashpoints of the pandemic. The focus of this paper is on the array of overlapping sanctions and the mitigation of humanitarian impact, with a particular focus on EU sanctions policy and instruments. The paper outlines key milestones and phases in the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the three main sanctioning actors, the USA, the UN and the EU, thus demonstrating the complexity and the at times coordinated or contradictory nature of the different sanctions. It then explores the humanitarian impact of sanctions on Iran by discussing several illustrative indicators and the impact of sanctions on the provision of international humanitarian aid. The paper reviews existing mechanisms to mitigate the humanitarian impact of sanctions and how they could be improved. In the context of the sanctions of Iran, but also beyond, the paper finds that there is a clear need to further strengthen compliance, enforcement and coordination of EU sanctions, including in the context of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It concludes by providing specific recommendations for the EU and its member states on improving the effective use of sanctions and reducing their humanitarian impact, including through strengthening key instruments and assessment processes, better coordination with the USA and more engagement with humanitarian actors.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Sanctions, European Union, Arms Trade, Disarmament, Exports
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: David Block
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: Nuclear weapons experts David Albright and Sarah Burkhard of the Institute for Science and International Security provide a meticulously researched analysis of Iran’s nuclear development activities in their new book, Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons. Based on their rare and extensive access to 300 tons of documents in Iran’s Atomic Archives, they reveal several previously unknown aspects of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, including a unique advanced indigenous design for a nuclear weapon just 55cm in diameter requiring less than 25kg of weapons grade uranium; a crash program designed to test and complete five ballistic capable nuclear weapons; as well a substantial site infrastructure for the enrichment, fabrication, manufacturing and testing of nuclear weapons cores and triggers. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chair Rafael Grossi, in a March 23 interview with Newsweek, said Iran must come clean about past undeclared nuclear activity, including recent findings of undeclared uranium, if there is any possibility to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, or JCPOA. Grossi added that “detailed and technical discussions” are needed to address the issue of Iran’s past undeclared work — including ascertaining the location of Iran’s undeclared stockpile of enriched uranium — which the world’s nuclear watchdog explained is “totally connected” to the future of the deal. Underscoring the urgency of Grossi’s point, following the IAEA Board of Governors June 10 meeting and reports on Iran’s NPT & JCPOA non-compliance, the Group of Seven nations (G7) issued a communique reiterating a joint commitment to “ensuring that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon…ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme…and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.” The statement was met with unusual outrage and defiance by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who warned that Iran can expand its nuclear program “on any day, at any hour” to increase uranium enrichment beyond the current level of 63 percent, which is already sufficiently enriched to fuel a nuclear weapon. Given the importance of Iran fully addressing its undeclared nuclear activity, this table identifies the locations of Amad and post-Amad facilities in various states, including razed, shut down, repurposed, or possibly still active, which is relevant to the IAEA’s efforts to determine the origin of undeclared nuclear materials, fate of undeclared facilities and activities, the completeness of Iran’s nuclear declaration, and whether nuclear weapons efforts have ended or in fact are ongoing. Such a determination requires IAEA visits to key sites in the Amad and post-Amad programs.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Tytti Erästö
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The erosion of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement poses a risk for both Middle East regional security and the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. At the same time, it highlights the need to build a more sustainable regional foundation for conflict resolution and arms control in the Middle East. This paper argues that the arms control– regional security nexus should be better reflected in European policy. While maintaining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and preventing further US–Iranian escalation should be the European Union’s (EU) first priority, the paper urges the EU to develop a more comprehensive approach in support of regional security, arms control and disarmament in the Middle East. In addition to resolving inconsistencies in current EU policies on regional security, arms control and arms exports to the Middle East, the EU should consider throwing its political weight behind two emerging processes that could provide a much-needed opening for regional cooperation: security dialogue in the Gulf and the annual Middle East weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-free zone conferences at the United Nations. If it involved regional non-proliferation cooperation, the former process could also help manage the negative consequences of the potential collapse of the Iran nuclear agreement.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, European Union, Disarmament
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Alistair Millar
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Fourth Freedom Forum
  • Abstract: The Trump administration was handed a resounding defeat in the United Nations Security Council at the end of last week when it offered a new resolution to indefinitely extend the UN arms embargo on Iran… Not only is the outcome of this vote embarrassing for the United States, it was the first salvo in a dangerous game of brinksmanship that is likely to be the biggest test of the Security Council’s resolve in the 75-year history of the United Nations.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, United Nations, UN Security Council, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Richard Nephew
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: For several months, it has seemed likely that the Trump administration would elect to pursue the reimposition, or snapback, of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against Iran. For those less steeped in the terminology, the concept of sanctions “snapback” is one developed as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It refers to the ability of the United States and other partners to quickly reimpose the sanctions that were suspended as part of the quid pro quo that saw Iran accept significant restrictions and transparency requirements for its nuclear program. Conceptually, this was necessary because Iran had the ability to restart its nuclear program if the United States or others were seen as cheating on the deal. The United States and its partners needed some assurance that, if Iran were found to be cheating, they could react just as swiftly. On August 20, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finally submitted the notification that, according to the US government, would trigger a 30-day timeline for the reimposition of these sanctions. In the US view there is now no stopping the return of the UNSC’s original Iran sanctions regime, though there may be some procedural wrangling over how and when the measures will be reimposed. It is not clear, however, whether this will be the case. A fair amount of analysis has gone into the fundamental question of whether the United States has the standing to trigger snapback, which is an issue I explored in 2019.[1] European, Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and other observers argue that the United States has no such standing, because, under the terms of the UN Security Council resolution that created the snapback mechanism (UNSCR 2231), it is no longer a “participant” of the JCPOA following its withdrawal in 2018. Even former National Security Advisor John Bolton—who was in large part responsible for the US withdrawal from the JCPOA—tends to agree with this reading.[2] The Trump administration obviously disagrees. It is an important question, and one that speaks to the underlying credibility and integrity of the US snapback decision as well as its results. But, ultimately, there is no way of finding a conclusive answer. International law being what it is, there are no authoritative arbiters available to determine whether the United States or its many critics are right. Snapback is happening and will have consequences, we now need to shift to considering what comes next. I see four main outcomes that are directly relevant to this decision and the future of US sanctions policy and negotiations.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, United Nations, Military Strategy, Sanctions, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Afrah Nasser
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: After Yemen’s 2011 uprising broke out, the country went through a series of political upheavals and cycles of violence that tore the country apart, including the start of a full-scale civil war in 2014 and the Saudi- and UAE-led intervention in 2015. In a context where civilians have been deliberately attacked by all sides, COVID-19 has added a new layer to the unspeakable suffering for millions of civilians in Yemen, whilst Europe has reacted with development aid but has thus far failed to support need for accountability in the conflict.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Health, War, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Tytti Erästö, Pieter D. Wezeman
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: This SIPRI Policy Brief contributes to the discussion on missile proliferation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by providing an overview of regional missile arsenals and by considering ways to address related risks. The paper makes policy recommendations, highlighting the need to move beyond the selective focus on certain types of missiles in the hands of certain states, towards a more comprehensive approach based on greater transparency, responsible arms exports and confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs). The proliferation of missiles in MENA is linked with intractable security dilemmas and conflicts, arms exports and the use of force by extra-regional states. Supply-side controls and other restrictions on missiles are necessary but likely insufficient if applied without consideration of the broader regional security dynamics. Particularly when limited to certain states alongside continued arms exports to others, measures against missile proliferation might end up contributing to the demand side of the problem by exacerbating overall military asymmetries. Hence the need for CSBMs and comprehensive risk assessment of arms export policies, which could help strengthen efforts to restrain both the further proliferation and use of missiles in MENA.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Weapons , Military Spending, Disarmament, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa