The Nuke Review: April 25 – May 7

posted by Bryan Gold on May 8, 2012 at 10:23 am

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April 25

In retaliation for India’s test firing of a new type of long-range missile capable last week, Pakistan test fired a new type of nuclear-capable IRBM with a range of 1500km and capable of reaching targets in India called the Shaheen-1A.

Iran is considering a proposal by Russia to halt the expansion of its nuclear program in order to avert new sanctions.  “We need to study this proposal and to establish on what basis it has been made,” Iranian Ambassador to Russia, Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi said.  However, Mr. Sajjadi was dismissed by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, saying the Iranian is “not a central player” in international talks over Iran’s nuclear program. Under this proposal, Iran would stop building centrifuges and mothball the ones that have not yet been installed.  However this does not halt Iranian enrichment, a key demand of the United States and the EU, and only stops the expansion of the program.

Iran and major nations have a “historic opportunity” to settle their decade-old nuclear dispute, but requiring the Islamic state to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment would be discriminatory, Tehran’s former chief nuclear negotiator said.  Mousavian suggested a “win-win solution” for both sides by which Iran would get recognition of its NPT “rights” and a removal of sanctions and it would in return “accept the maximum level of transparency” over its nuclear program. However, this may be viewed skeptically by Western diplomats who say Iran keeps stonewalling a U.N. nuclear watchdog request for access to a military site where inspectors believe nuclear weapons-relevant research may have taken place.

 

April 26

The Israeli military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz the IDF Chief of Staff, told Haaretz that he believes that not only is Iran rational but has not decided to make a nuclear weapon.  This view is consistent with the US and Israeli military and intelligence services that Iran has not yet made a decision to build a bomb.

The odds makers at intrade.com had dropped the odds that the U.S. will strike Iran by the end of the year from 33% at the end of March to 28% today.  The odds reached as high as 62% in February.

 

April 27

The Obama Administration has signaled a major shift in its position on Iranian uranium enrichment.  Rather than demanding Iran halt all of its enrichment, the US may allow Iran to enrich up to 5% purity, the upper end for most civilian uses, in return for unrestricted inspections and strict oversight.  Gary Samore, the president’s Special Assistant for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism, said in an interview that the United States recognizes “that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear energy program, once it has addressed concerns about its nuclear activities.”

 

April 30

US and South Korean intelligence sources believe that North Korea will attempt to detonate a uranium-fueled nuclear weapon soon. While there is continued excavation at the Pyunnge-ri test site, there is no indication that the equipment and cabling needed for testing are in place, pushing back the timeline for a test.

 

May 1

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and discussed how Israel and the U.S. are working together to understand the threat and timelines with the Iranian nuclear program.

 

May 2

Iran hopes to achieve sanctions reductions at the next round of P5+1-Iran talks in Baghdad said Iranian officials.  However, this will run into Western resistance to easing sanctions before concrete steps have been taken by Iran to halt their nuclear program and build confidence.  Yet Iranian negotiators are striking an optimistic tone for the next round of talks, “We continue to be optimistic about upcoming negotiations,” said Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Mohammad Mahdi Akhondzadeh.

 

May 3

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council called on North Korea to “refrain from further actions which may cause grave security concerns in the region, including any nuclear tests.”

 

May 4

Non-nuclear state urged nuclear states to disarm faster at the preparatory meeting for the 2015 Non-proliferation Treaty review conference. The members of the New Agenda Coalition, Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden issued a joint statement saying, “Whereas the non-proliferation measures have been strengthened over the years, the nuclear disarmament side of the NPT bargain has yet to be realized.”

The Government Accountability Office released a report detailing the feasibility of increasing air transportation of nuclear weapons, components, and materials.  The GAO found that the current mix of ground and air transportation was recommended, particularly because of the risk involved in air transportation stemming from a crash.

 

May 7

Secretary of State Clinton pressed India to deepen its cuts of Iranian oil imports and said that the United States will not make a decision on whether or not to exempt India from sanctions for two months.  Clinton told a town hall style meeting that “We do not believe Iran will peacefully resolve this unless the pressure continues. We need India to be part of the international effort.” India has publicly resisted calls to cut its Iranian oil imports but has privately begun reducing its imports while relying more on Saudi Arabia for its oil needs.  Clinton said that the United Sates’ believes “there is adequate supply and that there are ways for India to continue to meet their energy requirements.”

In his address to the NPT preparatory committee the acting representative to the IAEA, Robert Wood, called on Iran to take urgent steps to build confidence ahead of the May 23rd P5+1-Iran summit in Baghdad. “We seek a sustained process that produces concrete results, and call on Iran to take urgent practical steps to build confidence and lead to compliance with all its international obligations.” In the same meeting the EU declared Iran “must suspend” its enrichment activities.

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