Iran rebukes Obama's nuclear overture.1:00 AM, Apr 27, 2010 • By MASEH ZARIF
President Obama noted at the beginning of April that the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)—along with the recent nuclear security summit, next month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and the pursuit of additional UNSC sanctions—is part of a message that “the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn’t change its behavior.” The updated NPR, among other things, limits the scenarios under which the U.S. would use nuclear weapons; violators of the NPT are viewed as exceptional cases and receive no immunity from U.S. nuclear strikes meant to deter conventional or chemical and biological attacks. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: “if there is a message for Iran and North Korea [in the NPR], it is that if you're going to play by the rules, if you're going to join the international community, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that's covered in the NPR. But if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.” It is unlikely that these messages—intended to “allow Iran to make a different kind of calculation,” according to President Obama—have thus far made the regime feel isolated or persuaded it to change its behavior, based on the responses and actions of the regime.
Hugs for thugs, and a blind eye to allies.1:24 PM, Apr 14, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
As if President Obama's foreign policy hasn't come under enough fire for its warm embrace of the world's misfits and shabby treatment of allies, Jackson Diehl reports:
Forty-seven world leaders are Barack Obama’s guests in Washington Tuesday at the nuclear security summit. Obama is holding bilateral meetings with just 12 of them. That’s led to some awkward exclusions -- and some unfortunate appearances, as well.
3:06 PM, Apr 9, 2010 • By JAMIE FLY and JOHN NOONAN
With healthcare reform behind him, President Obama has turned his attention to what is perhaps his number one foreign policy priority: nuclear disarmament. On April 6, the Obama administration released a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report, outlining U.S. nuclear weapons strategy. The NPR is not the dramatic document that some on the left had hoped for, but in a sop to Obama's base, does revise U.S. declaratory policy to limit the instances in which the United States will use nuclear weapons. The NPR also fails to outline a clear path to warhead modernization, something that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said is essential to ensuring the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the coming decades.
No nukes makes no sense.1:19 PM, Mar 24, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
One of the most dangerous aspects of today's nuclear debate is the deeply skewed ratio of fact versus opinion. Disarmament advocates, many with a poor understanding of nuclear game theory, operational concepts, even basic weapon capabilities, too often posture themselves as experts in a debate that's clearly over their heads.
But the phrase should be buried deep down in one of the big holes at the Nevada Test Site.3:48 PM, Mar 19, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Everything is going according to plan. Well, almost everything.
Buried in Vol. 2 (of 3) of the Air Force’s FY 2011 R&D budget (the entire budget encompasses 33 documents, some of them are more than 1,000 pages long) is an item referring to the “reliable replacement warhead.” This is the controversial Bush administration proposal (once, and perhaps still, supported by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) to design a less complex nuclear warhead that is less prone to decay and dysfunction over time. This is important because every weapon in our current arsenal is at least 20 years old (and some are much older) and many of them are incredibly complex and thus, potentially, don’t work any more—but we don’t know it. Former nuclear weapons designer Thomas Reed analogizes a nuclear weapon to highly complex sports car: You can’t leave a Ferrari in the garage for 20 years, and then decide one day you want to take it for a spin, and count on it starting just like that.
And Laura Rozen's folly. 8:43 PM, Feb 22, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Laura Rozen of Politico has written an assessment of Vice President Biden’s nuclear policy speech from last week that the White House is sure to love. But that’s because she appears to have bought their line of argument a little too uncritically and has mistaken symbolism for substance. No doubt this is exactly the response that administration salesmanship has been calibrated to create, but it misses the deeper problems— problems which, the White House knows all too well, still loom.
The centrifuges continue to spin.9:08 AM, Feb 19, 2010 • By JAMIE FLY
In the days preceding the thirty first anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei threatened that Iran would deliver a “punch” to the West. Most observers assumed that this meant that Iran would launch several missiles, perhaps photoshopping in a few more for added effect, and call it a day. But February 11, 2010 may go down in history as the day Iran made its real intentions for its nuclear program known publicly, while the rest of the world exerted a collective yawn.
7:58 AM, Feb 19, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Vice President Biden’s long-awaited and snow-delayed speech on nuclear posture was delivered yesterday and there wasn’t much news in it. He mostly said what one would expect him to say and what the Obama administration has been saying for more than a year now: America should take the lead in an effort to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth but, in the meantime, we must keep our own deterrent strong.
The rhetorical posture (so to speak) of the speech was to portray the administration as the sensible center between peaceniks who seek heedless disarmament and paranoid hawks who see dangers lurking around every corner. The peaceniks, Biden argued, are right about the endgame but wrong about the near-term means for getting there. The hawks are wrong to think that nukes must be with us forever but right that so long as they are we must have good ones.
Key START players could be undercutting national security to achieve President Obama's dream of a nuclear free world3:36 PM, Feb 18, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
Yesterday Senators Lieberman, Kyl, and McCain delivered a sternly worded letter to General James Jones, urging the president's national security advisor to resist pressure from Moscow to tie conventional missile defense systems into the new START follow-on. The letter came after Ambassador John Beyrle indicated on his U.S. Embassy Moscow blog that, despite claims to the contrary by senior administration officials, missile defense could be included in negotiations to reduce nuclear warheads.
Consider that with this unusual statement by senior arms control wonk Ellen Tauscher, who recently said: "We have to move from a time of mutually assured destruction to a time of mutually assured stability."
7:00 AM, Feb 9, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Last week was a big one for nuclear news. First, the Obama administration submitted its proposed budget for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (that’s the agency that, among other things, maintains our warheads). Second, an unnamed administration official announced an “agreement in principle” with the Russians for the START follow-on treaty.
These two things are connected beyond the obvious point of contact. The former is meant to be a down payment on the latter. The administration has been put on notice that it faces substantial opposition in the Senate, not only to the ratification of this new treaty (whatever it ends up being called), but to its other arms control priorities as well. The price, say a coalition of 41 mostly (but not entirely) Republican senators, is a serious commitment to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Forget sanctions, Obama should go for the jugular.1:13 PM, Feb 8, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
This week in Tehran, it's déjà vu all over again:
Iran has formally informed the UN nuclear agency that it will start on February 9 to further enrich uranium stockpiles to a level of 20 percent, further fueling Western concerns that Tehran is secretly seeking a nuclear bomb-making capacity.
"We wrote a letter to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] that we shall start making 20-percent enriched fuel," the head of the Iranian Atomic Organization, Ali-Akbar Salehi, told Iran's Arabic-language state television channel, Al-Alam late on February 7. "We will hand over this official letter to the IAEA on [February 8] and shall start enrichment on [February 9] in the presence of IAEA monitors."
Big win for Russia -- no European Missile Defense, no restrictions on Moscow's tactical nuclear weapons, and still no word from Putin on Iranian sanctions.12:18 PM, Feb 3, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
Word on the wires is that U.S.-Russian negotiators have reached an agreement in principle on a drastic reduction to nuclear forces. The cuts, part of the new START agreement, are projected to sharply cut nuclear delivery systems like subs, bombers, and ICBMs, as well as nuclear inventories. It will not address Moscow's massive inventory of tactical nuclear weapons.
The vice president's opening gambit.10:35 PM, Jan 29, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
The vice president published an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal. At first glance, it appears to be a more or less typical example of SOTU follow-up, in which administration officials blanket every available inch of print space and second of airtime pushing this or that component of the “message.” Communications 101. Moreover, it appears to take a large step toward the various critics of the Obama administration's national security policies. Triangulation 101.
But this op-ed is something more. It addresses, head-on, a touchy topic that the administration prefers either to avoid or to speak about in platitudes: The maintenance of America’s nuclear forces in the face of the president’s nuclear free world agenda.
Kissinger, Nunn, Perry, and Shultz weigh in.5:41 PM, Jan 21, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
When two former Secretaries of State, a former Secretary of Defense, and one of the leading Senate experts on defense issues during the latter half of the 20th century join their voices to speak as one on an issue, one’s instinct is to pay attention. When two of them happen to be Democrats and two Republicans, the credibility of what they have to say is only enhanced.