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The Iranian nuclear negotiations are among the most volatile arms control and international affairs topics in the news today, with commentators predicting success or failure in equal measure.  Additionally, the current sanctions fight in Congress could have far-reaching implications regardless of whether or not Iran and the P5+1 reach a solution.  Therefore, the event The Endgame: Success or Failure in Iran Nuclear Talks (hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in mid-January) was particularly informative.  Ambassador Barbara Bodine moderated a panel consisting of Robin Wright, Paul Pillar, and Ambassador Bill Luers.  Luers and Pillar are on the board of directors of The Iran Project (one can find their reports here).

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I’ve been trying to keep track of the really impressive rate of missile testing in the DPRK over the past year plus now — not least because I was the only weirdo for a long time arguing that North Korea was testing an extended-range Toksa. (You have no idea how much crap I got for this blog post  and column that in retrospect were correct, FYI. )

The pace of testing has been really high.  After a US official talked about “turning up the volume” on the message to Pyongyang to return to Six Party Talks, I suggested making sure it was loud enough for Kim to hear over all the rocket and artillery fire.

I ended up geolocating the Wonsan test site, which helped sort out some of the rocket types. I’ve noticed that Kim Jong Un has started appearing with a green backdrop that makes “over the shoulder” geolocation a bit more difficult. Perhaps a coincidence.

Anyway, below is my best guess at a running list of tests since the beginning of 2014. It’s not perfect, but I’d love to crowd-review it in the comments.  And, in case you like really, really loud music, I’ve stuck a little earcandy at the end for you.

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U.S. National Security Strategy reports, like the one issued by President Barack Obama on February 6th, are quickly forgotten. They do, however, provide useful temperature-taking devices. Compare, for example, the National Security Strategy report released by the George W. Bush administration in 2002 with the Obama administration’s 2015 report.

There are many common themes in these two reports, built around values, alliances, and the like. U.S. national security strategy is, after all, built around core interests that don’t change from one administration to the next. New administrations do, however, change emphasis. They undertake course corrections, triggered by external events and the temper of the electorate.

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After a series of scandals, incoming Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has some tough choices to make about US nuclear weapons and the future of the so-called “triad” of nuclear delivery system.

Jeffrey and Aaron discuss Carter’s confirmation hearing, Jeffrey’s article in Foreign Policy (The Nuclear Trials of Ashton Carter, Foreign Policy, February 5, 2015), and Janne Nolan’s account of Carter’s role in the Clinton Administration’s 1994 Nuclear Posture Review (see below).

Jeffrey also interviewed Geoff Brumfiel, a science correspondent at National Public Radio, about his reporting on the future of the US ICBM force. Geoff visited the 90th missile wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base and reported a three-part series for All Things Considered:

Geoff also wrote a pair of very funny blog posts:

After outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel received a pair of reviews of the nuclear enterprise, Geoff revisited his reporting for All Things Considered:

Reading recommendations:

 
 

On Monday, February 9 and Wednesday, February 11, the Australian parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will take up Australia’s nuclear cooperation agreement with India. According to a National Interest Statement from the Australian government, the agreement will enter into force after the JSCOT hearing and after parliament finds that the agreement meets Australia’s legal requirements for EIF.

Before lawmakers sign off on the agreement, however, it is possible that on a few points the text will have to be re-negotiated with India and amended.

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Trend lines on the subcontinent have become more pronounced after President Obama’s visit as chief guest at the Republic Day parade and reports of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit for Republic Day celebrations in Pakistan. The juxtaposition of Obama’s visit in New Delhi with a near-total power blackout in Pakistan was brutally stark. While Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were signing up to a new ten-year defense framework agreement, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif was visiting Beijing.

China and Pakistan will remain “all-weather friends,” with Beijing picking up some of the slack of a contracting U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Chinese help with arms co-production and development – presumably a subject of discussion between Gen. Sharif and his hosts – will grow as Washington gravitates more toward New Delhi. None of the joint ventures in defense production announced during Obama’s visit were eye-popping, but this trend is unmistakable and will be given further impetus by incoming Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

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We love open source. We talk about it all of the time. But it went wrong – like really wrong – in two different instances in recent weeks. Today, Aaron and Jeffrey talk about the dark side of open source and the need for analysts and journalists to be rigorous in how they approach open source work.

Links:

 
 

The most important post-Cold War initiative to reduce nuclear dangers undertaken by the United States has come to a quiet, unceremonious end. Cooperative threat reduction programs to secure loose nukes and reduce surplus force structure in the remnants of the former Soviet Union were the crowning achievements of the distinguished legislative careers of Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. These programs became necessary and possible only when Moscow was a supplicant and when Washington was generous to a battered rival. Think of a Marshall Plan narrowly tailored to weapons of mass destruction and disruption, and think of recovery in terms of preventing proliferation and nuclear terrorism – and you have the essence of the Nunn-Lugar initiatives.

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No, it’s not a rocket.

An Israeli television station has published a number of satellite images of a launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center near Semnan in Iran that purport to show a new Iranian missile.

One problem: It’s not a rocket.

A simple understanding of how the launch pad works quickly demonstrates that the object in the image cannot be a missile.  It is an architectural element on the gantry, possibly an elevator.

I love satellite photographs, but you have to interpret them in context. It’s important to model the whole facility and understand how it operates. Otherwise, you make big mistakes.

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Some time ago, I came across a funny story — did you know Taiwan tried to disguise cruise missile deployments as delivery trucks?  Guess how well it worked?  Well, you’re reading about it here, aren’t you?

The story was actually reported in near real time in Taiwan.  But I’ve never see a full write up of the cruise missile and the deployment fiasco.  So, I thought I’d write the rare blog post and do a podcast.

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