Intel Report: Iran’s Decision Can be Influenced

On the radar: DNI threat assessment; Debate on South Korea and the bomb; Sec. Shultz endorses CTBT; History of Pakistan’s nukes; For savings, cut nukes; No real alternatives to talks; and Hosing off an Operations Crossroads ship.

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March 12, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Alyssa Demus

DNI Report - The Director of National Intelligence submitted the annual report on the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.” Nuclear highlights below, full report here. (pdf)

--On Iran: “We assess Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

--“We judge Iran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran...In this context, we judge that Iran is trying to balance conflicting objectives. It wants to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and avoid severe repercussions—such as a military strike or regime threatening sanctions.”

--While Iran has enhanced its uranium production capabilities, “we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered.”

--On North Korea: “We do not know Pyongyang’s nuclear doctrine or employment concepts. Although we assess with low confidence that the North would only attempt to use nuclear weapons against US forces or allies to preserve the Kim regime, we do not know what would constitute, from the North’s perspective, crossing that threshold.”

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South Korea and the bomb - “Will North Korea’s threats and continued testing cause more proliferation in the region?” asks The New York Times. A roundtable of experts offers answers.

--Hecker & Sagan: “North Korean threats must be countered by Washington and Seoul, but not by the U.S. deploying tactical nuclear weapons, nor by Seoul developing its own nuclear arsenal.” The authors say that South Korea would be better off if it continued to trust the U.S. extended deterrent than to risk isolation by seeking the bomb.

--Duyeon Kim: “South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons is not realistic,” given its relationship with the U.S., reliance on international trade, and lack of technological infrastructure.

The least naïve option - “The premises on which the logic of the military option [against Iran] rest are much more naïve than those underlying the dual approach of sanctions and negotiations,” write James Acton and Pierre Goldschmidt in their article “No Alternatives to Negotiations” in The National Interest.

Proponent for ratification - “We should ratify the [Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty]... Why? Because...its now not just an idea that we can detect tests. There is a network that has built out now and has been demonstrated that we can detect all, even small tests,” former Secretary of State George Shultz said in support of the CTBT. Daryl Kimball at Arms Control Now reports on the Secretary’s comments here.

Tweet - @nytimes: North Korea Says It Has Nullified 1953 Armistice

Threats - “What in the world does North Korea still have left to threaten?” asks John Hudson at Foreign Policy. Included in Pyongyang’s options for belligerence short of war: threatening internal instability, sharing nukes, demonstrating that the armistice is over, and committing acts of terrorism.

Letter to legislators - House Republicans have said they want to cut the deficit without raising taxes. Translation: lower government spending. The nuclear weapons budget is the place to start cutting writes Lawrence Wittner in an open letter to House Republicans at Huntington News. Why? Nuclear weapons spending - $640 billion over the next decade - “is quite a hefty sum” to spend on “a Cold War dinosaur” says Wittner.

--”Every Republican president since the advent of nuclear weapons has publicly championed nuclear arms control and disarmament. It was not Barack Obama but Ronald Reagan -- who [...] said: ‘My dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the earth,” writes Wittner. Full letter here.

Subcritical testing - “U.S. Completes Two Nonexplosive Plutonium Trials.” Story from Global Security Newswire.

Review - Feroz Khan’s new book Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb fills a critical gap in the literature on South Asia’s nuclear past, writes Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz in a review of the book.

--Looking toward Pakistan’s future, “it is worth asking whether the national-security benefits gained from having a bomb were commensurate with the cost incurred in building it,” notes Klotz. “For unless and until [Pakistan’s] nuclear ambitions are tempered by a more circumscribed approach to ‘minimum deterrence’ and actual progress in adopting both conventional and nuclear confidence-building measures with India, Pakistan’s nuclear-weapon program will consume precious resources for years to come.” Full review in The National Interest.


--”Deterrence and Stability in South Asia.” Vipin Narang and Christopher Clary. March 12th 1:00-2:30 p.m. @ 1111 19th St. N.W. 12th Floor. RSVP here.

-- Hearing: ”DOE Management and Oversight of Its Nuclear Weapons Complex: Lessons of the Y-12 Security Failure.” Hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. March 13 @ 10:00 a.m. in Rayburn 2322.

--"Renewing the U.S.-South Korea Civil Nuclear Agreement: What it Means for Future Relations.” Duyeon Kim, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; and Fred McGoldrick, Bengelsdorf, McGoldrick, and Associates. March 13th 10:00-11:30 a.m. @ Korea Economic Institute. Details and RSVP here.

--”Strategic Stability: The Solution, the Problem, or the Cause of Confusion?” James Acton, Matthew Rojansky and Christopher Ford. March 14th 9:30-11:00 a.m. @ Carnegie Endowment. RSVP here.

--”Strategy, Not Math: The Emerging Consensus on National Security in an Era of Austerity.” Barry Blechman, Steve Ellis, and Nora Bensahel. March 14th 12:00 p.m. @ Cato Institute. Details and RSVP here.

--”Stability and Deterrence in South Asia.” Paul Kapur, Naval Postgraduate School. March 14, 12:30-2:00 p.m. @ National Defense University, 300 Fifth Ave., Lincoln Hall, Room 1107, Fort McNair. Register by email:

--”Sustaining U.S. Nuclear Forces on a Tight Budget.” Barry Blechman, Russell Rumbaugh, Tom Collina and Daryl Kimball. March 19th from 9:30-11:00 a.m. @ Carnegie. Details and RSVP.


Summer vacation - “Rodman: I'm going on vacation with Kim in August.” Story from CNN.

Tweet - @wellerstein: Attempted decontamination of a radioactive ship from Operation Crossroads. Hunters Point, San Francisco, 1947.


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