Month: June 2009

Iran: Looking forward

Iran: Looking forward

Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian regime had two choices when their blatant rigging of the election was met with massive street protests. They could stand aside, a la the decrepit regimes of Eastern Europe in 1989; or they could send out uniformed thugs to beat, kill, and intimidate the protesters until their movement buckled, a la China’s Tiananmen Square strategy.
They chose the latter, and we will all pay the price.

A post-launch examination of the Unha-2

A post-launch examination of the Unha-2

North Korea tested a launch vehicle called the Unha-2 from its Musudan-ri launch site in North Hamgyong province on April 5 local time (April 4, 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time). Using information that has become available since the test and information from previous tests, we have conducted a technical analysis that leads to a compelling description of the Unha-2 launcher. This analysis suggests both challenges and potential opportunities.

Marketing new chemical weapons

Marketing new chemical weapons

In April 2007, 26 people from the U.S. Justice Department, local law enforcement, the military, academia, and civil society came together at the behest of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Justice Department, to consider the issue of “nonlethal” weapons development.

Budgeting for national security

Budgeting for national security

When taking into account the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. defense budget has more than doubled since fiscal year 2001. And yet, despite this growth, the appetite for more defense funding has continued unabated, and our security dilemmas appear to grow.

Time for a missile test ban

Time for a missile test ban

For more than 60 years, missiles have been a symbol of international power. Influential nations have them, and others want them. As early as the 1950s, ballistic missiles served as a principal component of European security, with U.S.-made Thor and Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles deployed in NATO countries such as Britain, Italy, and West Germany. On the other side of the Iron Curtain, Soviet-made Scud, SS-21, SS-23, and FROG rockets were deployed to nearby Warsaw Pact countries.

Will the Senate support new nuclear arms reductions?

Will the Senate support new nuclear arms reductions?

President Barack Obama has an ambitious agenda on nuclear weapons issues that will take a long time to implement. For example, the earliest the Senate is likely to vote again on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is 2010. Likewise, a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty is at least three years away. Ditto for the president’s goal of safeguarding all vulnerable nuclear weapons and nuclear materials worldwide. And then there is his most ambitious goal of all–a nuclear-weapon-free world, which even he has suggested probably won’t take place in his lifetime.

The demise of the pebble bed modular reactor

The demise of the pebble bed modular reactor

In February, Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Ltd., an eponymously named South African company announced a major change of strategy. After 10 years of development it said it was abandoning plans to build a full-size 165-megawatt-electric demonstration plant. Furthermore, PBMR Ltd. said it will try to redirect its future plans for the reactor from electricity generation toward thermal applications, such as coal gasification and water desalination. With government funding set to run out next year, the company will have to close if new funding is not found.

Assessing North Korea’s uranium enrichment capabilities

Assessing North Korea’s uranium enrichment capabilities

As retaliation against tighter U.N. sanctions, on Saturday North Korea defiantly threatened to expand its nuclear arsenal and begin a program of uranium enrichment–a threat it first made in response to U.N. condemnation of its early April rocket launch. Compared to North Korea’s well-known plutonium production program, the nature of Pyongyang’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) program is less clear.

Locking down the NPT

Locking down the NPT

President Barack Obama recently spoke of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) importance, as has every president since Lyndon B. Johnson who signed the treaty in 1968. Yet they have all, to a lesser or greater degree, weakened the treaty, through lax enforcement, by carving out exceptions for certain countries, or by just ignoring it. We have come to the point now that North Korea, which signed the treaty in 1985, is now mocking it.

Disarmament lessons from the Chemical Weapons Convention

Disarmament lessons from the Chemical Weapons Convention

The recent joint declaration by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to negotiate a new treaty reducing their countries’ nuclear stockpiles as a first step toward “a nuclear-weapon-free world” has spurred hopes for renewed progress in global disarmament after a decade of gridlock. An excellent example of how nations can work together effectively within a multilateral framework to eliminate weapons of mass destruction is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Steven Weinberg joins Bulletin Sponsors

Steven Weinberg joins Bulletin Sponsors

Steven Weinberg, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 and holder of the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin, has been named to the Board of Sponsors of the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, according to Sponsors co-chairs Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University, and Leon Lederman, retired director of Fermilab and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988.

North Korea and the Clock

North Korea and the Clock

When the Bulletin last moved the hand of the Clock closer to midnight in January 2007, we noted our worries about what North Korea’s nuclear arsenal might portend for future arms races in Northeast Asia and for further unraveling of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The North Korean nuclear test: The South Korean reaction

The North Korean nuclear test: The South Korean reaction

In South Korea last week, not even North Korea’s nuclear test and its subsequent missile launches could overshadow the sad news of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s death. In fact, South Koreans spent most of last week grieving, not angry at Pyongyang for its latest provocation. Such a reaction is the product of a decade’s worth of reconciliation and cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang that has helped develop a perception in the South that the North is no longer the enemy.

Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

First, the bottom line: Pakistan will not break up; there will not be another military coup; the Taliban will not seize the presidency; Pakistan's nuclear weapons will not go astray; and the Islamic sharia will not become the law of the land.That's the good news. It conflicts with opinions in the mainstream U.S. press, as well as with some in the Obama administration. For example, in March, David Kilcullen, a top adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, declared that state collapse could occur within six months. This is highly improbable.

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