Iran’s New Dual Track: A Challenge to Negotiations?

by Ivanka Barzashka and Thomas M. Rickers

Coaxed by Turkey and Brazil, Iran seems to be actively pursuing fuel talks. France, Russia and the U.S. (also known as the Vienna Group) claim that they, too, are interested in a deal, even as the U.S. and EU passed their own tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic as part of a dual-track approach. Now Tehran may even be willing to address what was once the major hindrance to a deal: its 20 percent enrichment. Yesterday, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s atomic energy head, said his country “will not need to enrich to 20 percent if [their] needs are met.”  And yet on July 18, the Majlis passed a law requiring the government to continue 20 percent enrichment and manufacture own fuel, which is an apparent contradiction to negotiations for foreign fuel supply. Clearly, Iran is sending mixed messages. But does this mean there is an internal disagreement about nuclear policy? Or is Iran not serious about a fuel deal? Continue reading

Extending Global Science Engagement: FAS Travels to Yemen

Consider this city:  climate models predict that its annual precipitation over the next fifty years will dramatically decrease, in some years disappearing altogether; the summers are likely to get hotter; the population is steadily growing and with it, electricity demand; as the population increases, the city is expanding outward and demand for transportation infrastructure, private automobiles, and vehicle fuels increasing.  But where is this city?  It could be Phoenix, Las Vegas or Los Angeles.  It could also be Sydney, Mexico City or Madrid, or even Tehran, Damascas or Sana’a.  Over the next 50 years, all these cities must confront the reality described above. Continue reading

FAS confronts global earth and environmental systems challenges

29 July 2010

The Earth Systems Program at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) was developed to seek solutions to environment and resource security challenges by developing and promoting sustainable, scientifically sound, and transparent policies, practices, and technological developments.

To meet this goal the Earth Systems Program works in the following  areas:

  1. Transparency. Improve dialogue and deliberation over and understanding of key environmental issues and challenges by transparency in environmental research, policy decisions, and building trust and communication between scientists, policy makers, and the public.
  2. Technology. Create tools to aid researchers, scientists, and policymakers in analyzing and visualizing complex issues and systems.
  3. Inquiry. Better scientific and public understanding of key socio-environmental and earth systems issues through undertaking and supporting systemic, multidisciplinary research that utilizes principles of scientific inquiry.
  4. Policy. Promote policy to further national and international environmental and energy sustainability and security and advocate for political processes that engage key stakeholders and scientists in deliberations.
  5. Partnership. Develop long term, multidisciplinary collaborations and partnerships between U.S. and foreign scientists and engineers to solve key environmental and technical issues.

Nuclear Commanders Endorse New START

The men behind a decade and a half of U.S. strategic nuclear planning say the New START treaty will enhance American national security.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Seven former commanders of U.S. nuclear strategic planning have endorsed the New START treaty and recommended early ratification by the U.S. Senate.

In a letter sent to Senator Carl Levin and John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the retired nuclear commanders conclude that the treaty “will enhance American national security in several important ways.”

The list includes four former commanders of U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) and four former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) – one served both as SAC and STRATCOM commander – who were responsible for U.S. strategic nuclear war planning and for executing the strategic war plan during the last phases of the Cold War and until as recently as 2004.

In doing so, the nuclear commanders – who certainly can’t be accused of being peaceniks – effectively pull the rug under the feet of the small number of conservative Senators who have held the treaty and U.S. nuclear policy hostage with a barrage of nitpicking and frivolous questions and claims about weakening U.S. national security interests.

The endorsement by the former nuclear commanders adds to the extensive list of current and former military and civilian leaders who have recommended ratification of the New START treaty. In fact, it is hard to find any credible leader who does not support ratification.

It’s time to end the show and do what’s right: ratify the New START treaty! Continue reading

New START and Missile Defense

I have not written here on the New START treaty, in part because everything that can be said has been said, well, almost everything…see below.  The treaty is in no way revolutionary.  I don’t think Reagan would bat an eyelash at it.  Yet, while there is widespread bipartisan support for the treaty, including almost all the leading defense specialists from former Republican administrations, there is also some opposition to the treaty, with the Heritage Foundation having taken it on as a cause.  Some of the critiques are truly bizarre, such as the treaty does not address Russian tactical nuclear weapons or North Korea.  (On that last point, would one of the critics please sketch out how we would have included North Korea in the negotiation?)  Of course, no past arms control treaty has ever covered every type of weapon and if New START is not ratified then any chance of negotiating limits on tactical nuclear weapons is off the table completely.  (The treaty does not cure world hunger either, another good cause.)

The one issue that opponents consistently latch onto is the supposed limits on missile defense.  There is language in the preamble drawing attention to the connection between offensive and defensive missiles and in the text there is a limit on converting offensive missile launchers to be able to launch defensive missiles.  Administration spokesmen have addressed these criticisms by saying the preamble language is not binding.  I find it very strange that advocates of missile defense would like to argue that there is no connection between offensive and defensive missiles. Of course there is a connection between the two of them.  Isn’t one supposed to shoot down the other?  Isn’t that a connection? It is like arguing there is no connection between ships and torpedoes.  (I think the connection is actually quite weak because defensive missiles probably cannot shoot much down, but that is a different story.)  Simply saying that doesn’t seem to change much. Continue reading