Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

The United States wants to pivot to Asia, but the Middle East keeps getting in the way. Likewise, India wants to pivot to China, but Pakistan keeps getting in the way. Pakistan matters to India for two primary, interconnected reasons: its home-grown terrorists and its nuclear-weapon programs. The pathway to crisis and war on the Subcontinent begin with the actions of violent extremist groups based in Pakistan. As long as this pathway remains open, deterrence stability does not improve with nuclear modernization programs. Instead, stability is dependent on Indian restraint after severe provocation.

The nuclear competition between Pakistan and India now qualifies as a serious arms race. Since the 1998 tests, when both expressed fealty to credible, minimum deterrence, they have flight-tested fourteen types of nuclear-capable missiles. Both countries have embraced cruise missiles and sea-based capabilities. Pakistan advertises its short-range Nasr missile as being nuclear-capable. If Pakistan’s military leaders have established a requirement for a nuclear-tipped Nasr, they could employ the same logic to produce other types of battlefield nuclear weapons as well.

Both countries have recently flight-tested longer- as well as shorter-range ballistic missiles. India can now reach targets throughout China. Pakistan can reach targets in all of India – and the Middle East. India and China have the means to place multiple warheads atop some of their missiles and to deploy limited ballistic missile defenses. The flight-testing and induction of MIRVs, even on a small scale, would have ripple effects in Pakistan, as would the deployment by India of limited ballistic missile defenses.

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It’s not easy to make nuclear weapons, build missiles to carry them long distances, and to produce highly enriched uranium or plutonium. It’s even harder to keep nuclear weapons safe so they do not detonate except under orders from a National Command Authority. If a single mushroom cloud appears at a time of crisis or warfare because of an accident, inadvertent or unauthorized use, escalation control will be extremely difficult and all of the presumed benefits of nuclear deterrence can be lost.

Nuclear safety and security techniques and practices are designed to prevent these eventualities. Gates and guards and personnel reliability programs help with nuclear security. All states with nuclear weapons employ these practices. Nuclear weapon design features and other safety techniques help provide insurance against accidental, inadvertent, or unauthorized detonations. Nuclear safety and security reinforce each other. Sometimes these categories merge. For example, authorization codes required to arm and use a nuclear weapon — permissive action links — can be considered as essential for both nuclear safety and security. Additional design features, including the use of insensitive high explosives, are required besides PALs to prevent unwanted mushroom clouds.

The United States has a “one-point safety” standard for all of its nuclear weapons. This standard means that the probability of achieving a nuclear yield greater than four pounds of TNT must not exceed one in a million for any event involving the initiation of the warhead’s high explosive at a single point on its periphery. The United States achieved this exacting safety standard after decades of effort, significant investment, and a learning curve derived from nuclear testing.

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A bill to have both Houses of Congress vote on any deal between Iran and the E3/EU+3 to limit Tehran’s nuclear program is winding its way through the United States Senate. Some people are worried that the measure known as Corker-Cardin – or even just the freakshow that is debate within the self-proclaimed world’s greatest deliberative body – will kill off negotiations. Aaron and Jeffrey discuss the substance and politics of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.

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One of the easiest and most useful methods for an open source analyst is to extract metadata from imagery.

Metadata is data that is often included with an image, such as the time it was taken, the type of camera that was used, and yes, if you are lucky — GPS coordinates. This data is useful for photographers, those who like to stalk cats, and people like us: geolocators and myth-busters. Read Full Story →

 
 

I was in New Delhi when I first felt the lump in my chest. At that moment, in 2007, the slow, progressive decline in my health could no longer be wished away – not when I had a tumor the size of an orange growing through my sternum. I learned subsequently that my cancer was at Stage 4 and that there were other tumors. (Oncologists are notoriously chary with information that isn’t helpful to recovery.) This past weekend I learned that my wife’s friend has the same adversary – Large B-Cell Lymphoma — in the same place.

During chemotherapy, I was editing Better Safe than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb. The subtitle was in place before the chemo but took on greater meaning during my illness and recovery. As a young congressional staffer, I helped my boss to delete funding for binary nerve gas munitions that the Army’s Chemical Corps then wanted to produce. Thirty years later, I joined the legions of those whose lives have been extended by chemical warfare.

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But what are nuclear scientists in Turkey actually doing?

Not for the first time, when Barack Obama declared April 2 that the greater Middle East has no real alternative to a nuclear accommodation with Iran, advocates of the “cascade of proliferation” theory warned us that Turkey’s future would be nuclear-armed.

In fact, kibitzers on both sides of the Iran divide routinely include Turkey in their quiver of arrows on the basis of a common assumption. Neocons claim that Turkey would “not be far behind” Saudi Arabia in a Middle East nuclear arms race if there’s an Iran deal. Some who instead favor diplomacy likewise fret that, without a deal, Saudi Arabia will get nuclear weapons first, and then will come Egypt and Turkey.  Not only in Israel, where the proliferation domino theory is mainstream, has the view become commonplace that Turkey is heading toward nuclear latency.

Away from the op-ed pages, during the 2015 Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference last month I had conversations in which serious people with government intelligence backgrounds asserted that Turkey’s military is all about keeping open or even exercising an option to make nuclear weapons. During a track-1.5 meeting in Moscow three months before, someone who has been in and out of the United States government also put Turkey on the short list of usual suspects.

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Back by popular demand: a geo quiz! This is a teaser for a how-to I will write next week.

Q1: Where is the photographer standing?

Q2: What is the address of the nearest building shown in the picture?

 

Put your answers in the comments below, and NO PEEKING!

 
 

“Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism.” — Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, April 9, 2015

“If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.” – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a Joint Session of Congress, March 2, 2015

Critics are trying to have it both ways: The Obama administration’s framework agreement is bad because it fanaticizes improved Iranian behavior. Or the agreement is bad because it won’t change Iranian behavior. Both critiques are wide of the mark. This agreement has a narrow but essential purpose: it seeks verifiable limits on Iran’s capabilities to make nuclear weapons. U.S. observers will probably be the last to recognize improved Iranian behavior, should it occur. Few U.S. analysts predicted that Iran’s leaders would accept limits this constraining three years ago, and Americans know far too little about Iran to make confident predictions about its behavior over the next decade and longer. Whether Iran’s external policies remain bad or change for the better, a verifiable deal to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities makes good sense.

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The United Kingdom is having an election in May. Inexplicably, the issue of whether London can afford to replace its fleet of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines is shaping up to be a major issue, especially if there is a hung parliament. Actually, the debate is getting downright nasty. The Tory defense secretary has already warned the Labour’s Ed Milliband would “barter away our nuclear deterrent in a backroom deal with the SNP,” adding that Milliband “stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister.”

Jeffrey and Aaron are joined by Toby Fenwick (@Tobbes73), a Middlebury College alum who has written a monograph entitled Retiring Trident: An Alternative Proposal for UK Nuclear Deterrence. We were also joined, briefly, by Toby’s neighbor. That was weird. But very polite.

Toby Fenwick, Retiring Trident: An Alternative Proposal for UK Nuclear
Deterrence
, CentreForum, 2015. (PDF)

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Chemical Weapons Dumped at Sea Google Map

Many people ask where they can get satellite imagery. Working at a nonprofit, my preferences tend towards the free, but there are some great resources on the cheap too. Why check more than one map? Because: Volkel.

Here’s a list of my favorites: Read Full Story →