Press Release - Project on U.S. Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy

January 14, 2013

Press Release

Working Group Urges “De Facto Trade Embargo” to Stop Iran from Reaching “Critical Capability”; Calls for Tough Nonproliferation Standards in Middle East, Increased Support for Cooperative Nonproliferation Programs in Region, Designating China as a “Destination of Diversion Concern”

WASHINGTON, DC. Warning that time is running out as Iran accelerates its nuclear program, the non-partisan Project on U.S. Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy called on President Obama to use current U.S. sanctions laws to implement a “de facto international embargo on all investments in, and trade with, Iran (other than provision of humanitarian goods)” before Iran achieves “critical capability” – the point at which it could produce enough weapon-grade uranium (or separated plutonium) for one or more bombs so rapidly that neither the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nor Western intelligence agencies could be able to detect the move before it was too late to respond.

In their 154-page report issued today, the five senior nonproliferation specialists who co-chaired the Project detail how a set of recent U.S. laws, including the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law on January 2, 2013, “vigorously implemented, could provide the U.S. government with all the authority it needs to impose near-maximal” economic pressure on Iran in coming months, while permitting the humanitarian needs of the Iranian people to be met. The report declares that the possibility of a successful outcome in any negotiations with Iran depends on the immediate implementation of these sanctions, along with simultaneously reinforcing the credibility of President Obama’s threat to use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The report states that “the United States should offer nuclear sanctions relief to Iran only in response to meaningful concessions by the Iranians that are consistent with the multiple relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, and U.S. laws.”

The report urges that Washington reduce the threat of further proliferation in the changing Middle East by taking steps to reduce regional “demand” for weapons of mass destruction. The report also suggest ways to more effectively control the “supply” of sensitive nuclear technologies through enhanced International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and by conditioning U.S. commercial nuclear trade on regional recipients’ renouncing development of indigenous enrichment and reprocessing technologies that can be used to produce nuclear weapon material.

The report stresses that the U.S. should actively use the leverage of foreign aid and political support with new governments in Cairo and Damascus to check potential proliferation. Such an assertive policy is critical for Egypt where a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman before the party came to power called for Egyptian acquisition of nuclear weapons, and in Syria, where any new regime must be strongly pressed to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The Project co-chairs urge the U.S. to take various specific steps to enhance the capacity and will of regional states to control weapons of mass destruction and key materials to prevent their acquisition by additional state or non-state actors. The co-chairs also encourage Washington and its partners to promote improved detection and response capabilities in the region. In addition, the report calls on the U.S. to “encourage improved implementation of UN sanctions by China, including by designating China as a ‘Destination of Diversion Concern’” pursuant to U.S. law.

The report urges creation of a Middle East Nonproliferation Initiative to coordinate, and more nimbly and creatively advance, such cooperative nonproliferation work in the Middle East. Noting that the Department of Defense was recently granted authority to use its substantial “Cooperative Threat Reduction” funds for projects in the Middle East, the report details a number of key cooperative and collaborative projects that should receive immediate funding. These include projects to build bio-security and bio-safety capacity, track infectious diseases, and organize Track II dialogues with emerging leaders and ascendant groups on such issues as a regional weapon-of-mass-destruction free zone. Another priority project would foster the development of voluntary codes of conduct, for scientists and institutions in the region, on responsible management of legitimate chemical and biological research and materials.

The report contains dozens of specific recommendations arranged in chapters focused on Iran’s nuclear program, proliferation by state actors (other than Iran) in the changing Middle East, proliferation by non-state actors in the region, cooperative nonproliferation programs applicable to the Middle East, and enhanced partnership with Europe on nonproliferation in this volatile region.

The Project Co-Chairs – David Albright (President of the Institute for Science and International Security); Mark Dubowitz (Executive Director, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies); Orde Kittrie (Professor of Law, Arizona State University); Leonard S. Spector (Deputy Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies); and Michael Yaffe (Professor, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University) – prepared the report.

The Project convened five not-for-attribution roundtables at which leading experts from the U.S. government, think tanks, and academia discussed how to more effectively address Middle East nonproliferation challenges and opportunities in light of paradigm-shifting regional developments. This report includes the Project co-chairs’ analyses and recommendations, many of which were drawn from or inspired by the roundtable discussions. However, they are attributable only to the Project co-chairs, in their personal capacities. Institutional affiliations are included for identification purposes only.

Read the executive summary here.

Read the full report at: U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East

For further information please contact any of the following Project co-chairs:

David Albright, Mark Dubowitz, Orde Kittrie, Leonard “Sandy” Spector, Michael Yaffe,

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