Armas nucleares

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun with his wife Ri Sol Ju in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 9. (Str/AFP/Getty Images)

We are stuck in a rut on North Korea. The absence of any forward progress on denuclearization diplomacy is the result of a unique intersection of American distraction and North Korean disinterest. Now, by test-firing two short-range ballistic missiles and a long-range cruise missile, the North Koreans have signaled that they aim to shake things up, confronting President Biden with a predicament he’s so far been able to dodge. There are two paths out of it — one that the United States and its allies can control and another that they cannot.

The Biden administration has kept its North Korea policy deliberately low-key.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Pakistani army post on the border with Afghanistan in the Khyber district of Pakistan on Aug. 3. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Many profound ramifications of America’s exodus from Afghanistan are competing for attention. Among the top challenges, Pakistan’s future stands out. For decades, Islamabad has recklessly pursued nuclear weapons and aided Islamist terrorism — threats that U.S. policymakers have consistently underestimated or mishandled. With Kabul’s fall, the time for neglect or equivocation is over.

The Taliban’s takeover next door immediately poses the sharply higher risk that Pakistani extremists will increase their already sizable influence in Islamabad, threatening at some point to seize full control.

A description once applied to Prussia — where some states possess an army, the Prussian army possesses a state — is equally apt for Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

This undated satellite image obtained July 29 courtesy of Planet Labs shows what researchers say are missile silos under construction in the Chinese desert. (AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, researchers at the Federation of American Scientists usedsatellite imagery to uncover more than 100 suspected nuclear missile silos under construction in western China. Days later, private analysts identified new underground facilities at a Chinese nuclear test site using similar satellite images.

These revelations, coming after the discovery of another Chinese missile field in June, leveraged satellite imagery to disclose some of Beijing’s most closely guarded secrets about its nuclear program.

But these images didn’t come from government intelligence agencies. Instead, they were collected using privately operated commercial satellites and analyzed at think tanks — no high-level security clearances required.…  Seguir leyendo »

Commercial satellite photos show work underway at what experts describe as construction sites for missile silos for China’s most advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 119 construction sites have been spotted in a desert plain west of the Chinese city of Yumen. (Planet and the James C. Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies)

Wednesday morning, new evidence emerged that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal. Specifically, researchers at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies have identified the construction of about 119 new silos, most likely for China’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile, known as the DF-41. Previously, only 16 silos at a different site had been identified.

The news is likely to fuel the narrative that China is expanding its nuclear capabilities dramatically. But worst-case assumptions have usually been wrong when it comes to China’s nuclear weapons program. There are good reasons to suppose that they’ll also be off-the-mark in this case.

Here’s why you shouldn’t panic — especially since the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian President Rouhani in April visiting the exhibition of nuclear achievements. Credit: Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. https://president.ir/en/120598.

On July 6, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was moving ahead with manufacturing “uranium metal enriched to 20 percent U-235 [uranium’s most fissile isotope],” the latest in a series of steps violating Iran’s commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While Tehran maintains that there is little for the international community to be concerned about—its ambassador to the IAEA pointed to benefits for producing radiopharmaceutical treatments—European and US officials are not convinced. The production of enriched uranium metal, which can be used in the core of nuclear weapons, could have serious nonproliferation implications and adds a complication to already-laborious negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the JCPOA.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman holds her hand to her chest next to a pin bearing the image of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s newly elected president, at a rally June 19 in Tehran celebrating his victory. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has been voted Iran’s next president in an election that had historically low turnout. Raisi is a hard-liner, closely aligned with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s anti-Western views.

When Raisi takes office in August, he will chart a different course in foreign and domestic policy than President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who aimed to expand Iran’s engagement with the world.

No issue will be more important or sensitive than the 2015 nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Since April, the United States, Iran and other parties have been negotiating a path to reviving the deal, which imposed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranians drive past a missile during a rally marking the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at Azadi (Freedom) Square in Tehran, on Feb. 10. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

There is a common misperception that those of us who opposed the Iran nuclear deal are simply opposed to diplomacy with Iran.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In more than 25 years in Congress, we have consistently supported diplomacy backed by sanctions, with the objective of ending Iran’s dangerous nuclear plans and curbing its regional aggression. That is why we believe there is an opportunity for President Biden to think beyond the mere restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal that the Obama administration, its European partners, China and Russia reached with Iran in 2015.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers stand guard outside the Grand Hotel in Vienna on Tuesday as Iran nuclear talks resumed there this week. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

President Biden and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both have clear reasons for wanting to return to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal as quickly as possible. But the one that should matter most to the world — the fact that it was working — is currently moot.

Iran’s internal dynamics are shifting rapidly, and that must be taken into consideration as the Biden administration attempts to revive the agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. As someone who has believed, and continues to believe, in the value of diplomatic engagement to resolve the complex geopolitical issues with Iran, in this instance, I think it’s time to slow down.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Biden administration has pledged to pursue "calibrated" diplomacy to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to halt his mad dash toward a deliverable nuclear weapon. But that is a vain hope. Instead, the world and especially the United States must find a way to live with a North Korea armed with The Bomb. And keep Kim from using -- or selling -- it.

Discussions with a number of individuals who have dealt with the North Korean government or monitored the actions of its ruling family have convinced me that no Kim -- neither Kim Jong Un, nor his father nor his grandfather -- ever has or will give up a quest for a deliverable nuclear weapon.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando la política exterior de un país se deja arrastrar por corrientes emotivas y sucumbe a tentaciones efectistas, la diplomacia suele quedar relegada a un segundo plano. Ocurrió en EE. UU. tras los atentados del 11-S y, más recientemente, durante el estridente mandato de Donald Trump. El mejor ejemplo tal vez sea el acuerdo nuclear con Irán, que se gestó en 2015 tras años de arduas negociaciones, solo para que Trump lo desechase entre aspavientos como parte de su estrategia de “presión máxima” contra Teherán. Dicha estrategia, arrogante y miope, se ha saldado con un rotundo fracaso, que ahora debemos reconducir contra reloj en las conversaciones que se han puesto en marcha en Viena.…  Seguir leyendo »

European Union Delegation members from the parties to the Iran nuclear deal. (AFP/Getty Images)

A week after an explosion destroyed the power system in Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, Iranian officials identified an Iranian suspect in an attack widely attributed to Israel. Iranian TV footage appeared to show centrifuges in operation, amid claims that “work that had been disrupted will be back on track.”

The true extent of the damage remains unclear — a midweek report by one Iranian official noted “several thousand” affected centrifuges. U.S. intelligence sources estimated repairs could take Iran nine months.

How will this attack affect Iran’s commitment and capacity to expand its nuclear program? And how will the attack influence the likelihood that the United States and Iran can reach an agreement on resuscitating the Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — or JCPOA, for short?…  Seguir leyendo »

The Clock Is Ticking for Biden on Iran

Since early April, Iranian officials have been meeting in Vienna with British, Chinese, French, German and Russian counterparts, the remaining members of the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States abandoned in 2018. The United States is participating indirectly, with European diplomats going back and forth between the Iranians and the U.S. diplomats, led by President Biden’s special envoy, Robert Malley.

On Thursday these negotiations resumed, despite the uncertainty caused by Sunday’s sabotage of Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, which Iran blamed on Israel. Publicly, Israel denied being behind the attack. But American and Israeli intelligence officials have described it as “a classified Israeli operation,” and Tehran has retaliated by increasing its nuclear enrichment levels threefold.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, 155 miles south of Tehran, in a satellite image taken last week. (Maxar Technologies via Reuters)

Congratulations — presumably — are due to Israeli intelligence for a devastating fire at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility over the weekend. Details are scarce, with the New York Times reporting that the site was hit by an apparent explosion and The Post citing an Israeli media report that it was a cyberattack.

So it goes in Israel’s shadow war against Iran’s nuclear program. Recent attacks attributed to Israel included the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last fall and a mysterious series of explosions that struck various sites in Iran, including a major missile facility, last summer. The most successful attack of all was the Stuxnet virus — part of a joint U.S.-Israeli…  Seguir leyendo »

With America joining the renewed talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear agreement shunned by Donald Trump, the United States has taken a giant step back into the global community of nations. Sadly, we are now reduced to playing a sharply weakened hand.

It will take some deft management and out-of-the-box thinking on the part of America and Iran to snatch success from the jaws of what could still be catastrophic failure. And it is on the cusp of just such failure where the world is now suspended -- with the clock ticking loudly.

At the end of the first day of the Vienna meetings on Tuesday, the chief Iranian representative, Abbas Araqchi, told Press TV of Tehran that talks "are on the right track," but added that Iran still expected the US to lift all sanctions before Iran would agree to resume compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the 2015 agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

A change in U.S. administrations brought with it something rare in the often-acrimonious relationship between Washington and Tehran: a point of agreement. Nearly three years after President Donald Trump unilaterally exited the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), both sides concur on the need to restore core elements of the deal that have been sorely tested since: strict restrictions on and rigorous monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Yet, the shared strategic imperative of full mutual compliance remains out of reach so long as a tactical deadlock continues on how to achieve it.

An explanation of the convergence of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks past a television screen at Suseo railway station in Seoul on March 26 showing news footage of North Korea's latest tactical guided missile test. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast, calling these a “new type of tactical guided missile.” This latest provocation, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans Pyongyang from conducting ballistic missile tests, follows combative rhetoric and actions in recent weeks.

North Korean officials issued a statement criticizing U.S.-ROK military exercises this month, warning the Biden administration not to “cause a stink” as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Japan for their first official trip to Asia. And North Korea fired two short-range cruise missiles last weekend — a move the United States and South Korea downplayed in an apparent effort not to overhype the tests.…  Seguir leyendo »

Resolver el dilema de Irán

La campaña de “máxima presión” del ex presidente norteamericano Donald Trump contra Irán claramente no logró mejorar la seguridad regional o global. Su sucesor, Joe Biden, no debe cometer el mismo error.

La pieza central de la política de Trump hacia Irán fue su retiro unilateral de Estados Unidos del Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto de 2015 –ampliamente conocido como el acuerdo nuclear iraní- en 2018. Esta medida, promovida de manera directa y agresiva por el primer ministro israelí, Benjamin Netanyahu, permitió que Estados Unidos volviera a imponer sanciones severas a Irán.

En aquel momento, Irán cumplía plenamente con las condiciones del PAIC, cosa que siguió haciendo durante un año completo después de que la decisión de Trump entrara en vigor, para darle a Europa la posibilidad de respetar su promesa de eludir las sanciones de Estados Unidos.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iranian woman passes by a wall painting of the Iranian national flag in Tehran on Feb. 23. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Iran and the United States each say they want to revive the 2015 nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — but are waiting for the other to make the next move. Since President Biden’s inauguration, diplomats and analysts have focused on the details of how to get the two sides to sit down together to chart a path forward. But there has been comparatively little discussion about the issues they would need to resolve in negotiations.

Contrary to what Iranian officials have suggested, it’s not possible to turn the JCPOA back on with the flip of a switch.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Trump administration ended U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018, and proceeded to launch a “maximum pressure” campaign defined by the sweeping use of unilateral sanctions against Iran. The strategy was ostensibly intended to persuade Tehran to agree to a “better deal” that would include additional restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and an expansion of the accord’s scope to cover Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional power projection.

But the Trump administration’s approach erred in two crucial assumptions. The first was that Iran would not respond to U.S. sanctions by expanding its nuclear activity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Tehran, Iran on August 26, 2020. Iran's Presidency / Handout / Anadolu Agency via AFP

The Biden administration is facing formidable challenges in delivering on one of its campaign promises: returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Domestic politics are a significant obstacle. The agreement remains highly contentious among members of Congress. Many Republicans but also key Senate Democrats, who could hold up confirming senior administration officials, are opposed to lifting Trump-era sanctions on Iran. The Biden administration’s lagging pace now threatens to undo an agreement that was already faltering as a result of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign.

et Iran’s nuclear program is growing by the day, as the time it would take to enrich enough uranium for a single nuclear weapon shrinks.…  Seguir leyendo »