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In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends a ruling party congress in Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un resurfaced last week at the eighth Congress of his ruling Workers’ Party, where he admitted “almost all sectors” of his country’s economy had fallen short of their goals. Speaking for nine hours, Mr. Kim also said North Korea should bring its “arch-enemy” — the United States — “to its knees.”

Mr. Kim’s weapons of mass destruction program, which has long denied North Korea a path to economic prosperity because of punitive sanctions, reflects the internal contradiction of his policy of “byngjin” — developing the economy while simultaneously expanding its nuclear weapons deterrent. Mr. Kim has embraced his family’s tradition of seeking to hoodwink the world into lifting economic sanctions in return for empty denuclearization promises.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every recent US administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into office. All have agreed to undermine US law by signing secret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Part of the reason for this is to stop people focusing on Israel’s capacity to turn dozens of cities to dust. This failure to face up to the threat posed by Israel’s horrific arsenal gives its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a sense of power and impunity, allowing Israel to dictate terms to others.

But one other effect of the US administration’s ostrich approach is that it avoids invoking the US’s own laws, which call for an end to taxpayer largesse for nuclear weapons proliferators.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hacking group Red Hacker Alliance use website monitoring global cyberattacks in Dongguan, China. Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP.

The recently reported compromise of the US Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), whose mission is to maintain safety, security and effectiveness of the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, poses serious questions around securing the nuclear enterprise from cyberattacks.

And, as a Chatham House survey on nuclear deterrence shows, there are mixed messages and conflicting views on how best to deter an adversary from conducting cyber operations against nuclear weapons systems.

In the survey of more than 80 experts, including government officials, representatives of international organizations, civil society, academia and retired officials, most indicate the need to establish a code of conduct whereby states agree not to attack each other's nuclear assets.…  Seguir leyendo »

Image fournie par l’AIEA de centrifugeuses sur le site nucléaire de Natanz, le 4 novembre 2019. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/archives AFP

On peut soutenir qu’en dépit de tous ses errements, le président Trump n’a pas commis, sur le plan international, d’erreurs stratégiques équivalentes à celles de George Bush envahissant l’Irak ou Barak Obama renonçant à faire respecter ses lignes rouges en Syrie. La question se pose cependant pour sa gestion du dossier iranien : en mettant à mal l’accord nucléaire de 1995 (dit JCPOA), Trump a peut-être opéré un fait accompli irréversible, dont l’une des conséquences serait de projeter un pays essentiel pour les équilibres au Proche-Orient – l’Iran – dans l’orbite de la Chine.

Quoi qu’il en soit, à la suite de l’élection présidentielle américaine, la question iranienne est désormais entrée dans une phase nouvelle.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of Iranian forces carry the coffin of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a funeral ceremony in Tehran on Nov. 30. (Iranian Defense Ministry/WANA/Reuters)

On Nov. 27, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated on a road outside of Tehran. An Iranian nuclear scientist who reportedly led the Islamic Republic of Iran’s alleged covert nuclear weapons program in the early 2000s, Fakhrizadeh most recently served as a brigadier general in Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, as head of the ministry’s Defensive Research and Innovation Organization (DRIO). He also taught physics at Imam Hossein University, an institution associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp.

Iran’s leadership has blamed Israel for the attack, but Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any involvement. Some analysts voiced concern that the killing was meant to provoke an Iranian retaliation — a move that might then trigger U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran's leading nuclear weapons scientist, could set off a tinder box of violence between Iran, Israel and the United States -- and put the incoming Biden administration in a tight spot when it comes to resetting relations with Tehran.

In the wake of Fakhrizadeh's death Friday, Iran's foreign minister, in a tweet, called the death "cowardice -- with serious indications of Israeli role," while the Iranian Armed Forces chief of staff warned of "severe revenge" against the scientist's killers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no immediate comment, though it's likely he, along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, discussed how to work against Iran in a meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia, last Sunday, where Mossad head Yossi Cohen was also present.…  Seguir leyendo »

The scene of the attack that killed prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh outside Tehran on Saturday. (Wana News Agency via Reuters)

It’s been nearly a year since a U.S. airstrike killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force in Baghdad. The fallout — or lack thereof — from that strike should make us cautious in assessing the impact of Friday’s killing east of Tehran of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading Iranian nuclear weapons scientist.

Hawks such as former Trump national security adviser John Bolton expressed hope in January that Soleimani’s death would force Iran to scale back its regional aggression and could even set in motion “regime change in Tehran.” Many critics of the Trump administration, on the other hand, expressed fear that his death could drag the entire region into war.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester holds a picture of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a demonstration against the nuclear scientist’s killing in Tehran on Saturday. Credit Wana/Reuters

When Israel engineered the assassinations of a half-dozen Iranian nuclear scientists from 2010 to 2012, supporters of these killings argued that they would help slow a nuclear program at a time when multilateral diplomacy was showing little progress.

The killing on Friday of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, comes in a very different context.

Iran is again producing a large amount of uranium, but it is not close to the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon. Its actions are largely driven by the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which was intended to put a lid on Iran’s ability to amass enough highly enriched uranium for a single weapon until January 2031.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks by a street mural in Tehran on Nov. 8. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

After Jan. 20, what will happen to U.S. policy on Iran? On the campaign trail, Joe Biden said he would return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran so long as Tehran does the same. Iran has made a mirror-image pledge to roll back its nuclear program and return to compliance once Washington lifts sanctions.

In theory, then, returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by China, France, Germany, Iran, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia — should be straightforward. Biden could make that decision on his first day in office.…  Seguir leyendo »

Honduras just became the 50th nation to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on Saturday. The accord has now met the required threshold to enter into force in 90 days -- on January 22.

This event marks the first time since Hiroshima that the simple possession of nuclear weapons will be deemed a crime under international law -- though it is not binding on nations who do not sign it. The treaty's entry into force could not be timelier.

The President of the United States has the ability to launch a nuclear attack on his own authority, without requiring the authorization of Congress, the Cabinet, the vice president or the Joint Chiefs.…  Seguir leyendo »

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (centre) speaks to reporters following a meeting on Iran at the UN Security Council, 20 August 2020 in New York (Mike Segar/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the institution’s authority.

They are not alone in this analysis. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, a vocal critic of the US sanctions drive, has accused Washington of risking “a very serious scandal and rift” at the UN.

But these dire predictions may prove to be exaggerated.

The argument pivots on the US claim that, acting on the UN resolution that endorsed the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), it can demand the reactivation of UN sanctions resolutions on Iran that were terminated as part of the bargain.…  Seguir leyendo »

Living in the shadow of the Bomb-1

A traveler heading northward from El Paso eventually enters a stretch of New Mexico desert so remote and hostile that the Spanish conquistadors dubbed it Jornada del Muerto — a phrase not easily translated. A jornada is a day of hard labor. Muerto means dead man. The dead man’s toil, perhaps. Or maybe: a long day’s journey toward death.

In the depths of that empty land, in the early darkness of a midsummer Monday in 1945, some 425 people, including some of the world’s most brilliant scientists and engineers, prepared to detonate the first nuclear explosive device. They called it “the Gadget.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, the United States ushered in the nuclear age by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, Japan. Over 100,000 Japanese residents, and possibly up to double that number, died of the blast, fire and radiation. Since then, many survivors — known as the hibakusha — have advocated for global nuclear disarmament. Our research finds strong public support for nuclear disarmament in both the United States and Japan.

Here are four things to know about efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

1. What’s the status of existing nuclear treaties?

A total of 191 governments have joined the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.…  Seguir leyendo »

Military vehicles carrying DF-41 intercontinental nuclear missiles during a parade in Beijing last October. China plans to soon introduce an air-launched ballistic missile delivered by heavy bombers. Credit Wu Hong/EPA, via Shutterstock

Nuclear arms control is at a crossroads — not because we are approaching the deadline on an extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but because China’s nuclear expansion threatens to upend decades of relative nuclear stability between the United States and Russia.

The United States and Russia have been reducing their strategic nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War. The 1991 Start Treaty allowed each side 6,000 deployable strategic nuclear warheads; the 2010 treaty, known as New Start, lowered that limit to 1,550 operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads.

But stability at these lower force levels will be challenged by China’s nuclear ambitions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Esta semana se cumplen cinco años desde que Irán y el Grupo E3/EU+3 (compuesto por Alemania, China, Estados Unidos, la Federación de Rusia, Francia y Reino Unido, junto con la Alta Representante de la Unión Europea para Asuntos Exteriores y Política de Seguridad) acordaran en Viena el Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC). En la conmemoración de su quinto aniversario, debemos ser conscientes de que, sin el Plan de Acción, Irán podría haber desarrollado ya armas nucleares, añadiendo otra fuente de inestabilidad a una región de por sí volátil.

A día de hoy, el PAIC está siendo sometido a una gran presión desde múltiples frentes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Painted stairs in Tehran, Iran symbolizing hope. Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Despite face-to-face diplomatic meetings being increasingly rare during the current disruption, COVID-19 will ultimately force a redefinition of national security and defence spending priorities, and this could provide the possibility of an improved political climate at RevCon when it happens in 2021.

With US presidential elections due in November and a gradual engagement growing between the EU and Iran, there could be a new context for more cooperation between states by 2021. Two key areas of focus over the coming months will be the arms control talks between the United States and Russia, and Iran’s compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando Irán anunció en enero que “reduciría” aún más sus compromisos con el acuerdo de 2015 que limita sus actividades nucleares, no fue en respuesta al asesinato por parte de Estados Unidos del líder de las Fuerzas Quds iraníes, el general Qassem Suleimani, unos días antes. Pero ambos acontecimientos reflejan la escalada de la confrontación entre Irán y Estados Unidos desde el verano de 2019. Cualquier esfuerzo por salvaguardar la sustancia del acuerdo de 2015 (formalmente conocido como Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto o PAIC) debe tener en cuenta este contexto.

El régimen iraní declaró que con esta fase “quinta y final” de reducción de sus compromisos con el PAIC, ya no se sentiría atado a los límites superiores acordados del trato en cuanto a las centrífugas y al enriquecimiento de uranio.…  Seguir leyendo »

A heavy water secondary circuit at a nuclear plant near Arak, Iran, last month.Credit...Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, via Associated Press

The costs of the United States’ targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, are mounting beyond the already significant risks of Iranian retaliation and subsequent military confrontation.

On Sunday, Tehran announced that it will cease to honor all “operational restrictions” imposed by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which aimed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

While Iran has not announced what, if any, specific nuclear activities it intends to resume, its decision to remove the restrictions on its uranium enrichment, production and research could soon pose a challenge for the Trump administration at least as great as retaliation against the assassination.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, meeting on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone in June.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Time

Is anyone surprised? On the last day of 2019, after months of threatening the United States to ease its nuclear standoff with “a bold decision” by year’s end — or else — the leader of North Korea darkly announced that the country would unveil a new strategic weapon “in the near future.” Kim Jong-un also declared an end to a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile tests. On the first day of 2020, he did not deliver his customary, often fiery, New Year’s address. In other words, he interrupted his regularly scheduled program to bring us his latest threat.

The false calm is over; the old North Korean nuclear crisis is back on — only, it has just entered a deadly serious phase.…  Seguir leyendo »

What is North Korea doing and what does it mean?

North Korea has taken a series of escalatory steps by conducting 13 missile tests (short-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles) since May and lodging threats including an unwelcome “Christmas gift” it will present if the U.S. fails to propose a new deal by the end of the year. Pyongyang upped the ante again on 8 December, by claiming to have conducted a “very important” test at the Sohae satellite launching ground – likely of a rocket engine; five days later, it carried out another such test at the same facility to strengthen its “strategic nuclear deterrent”, another way of describing capabilities relevant for a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).…  Seguir leyendo »