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35 A New Nuclear Bargain: Atoms for Peace 2.0?* Mitchell B. Reiss Mitchell B. Reiss is Vice Provost for International Affairs, College of William & Mary. He is the author of Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (1995) and Without the Bomb: The Politics of Nuclear Nonproliferation (1995) and co-editor and contributing author of The Nuclear Tipping Point (2004) and Nuclear Proliferation after the Cold War (1994). * This essay is a revised version of a paper presented at the “Asian Proliferation 2015: North Korea, Iran, and Consequences for the Global Nonproliferation Regime” workshop, sponsored by The National Bureau of Asian Research, Washington, D.C., December 14, 2006. The author would like to thank Brad Potter for his research assistance with this paper. [This page intentionally left blank.] 37 reiss T his essay addresses two sets of questions. The first is how U.S. nonproliferation strategies might need to adapt in the face of challenges posed by North Korea and Iran. The second asks how U.S. policies regarding our own nuclear programs might change in light of the North Korean and Iranian challenges. A key assumption underlying both questions is that North Korea and Iran each will have demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities by 2015. While there is no doubt that North Korea has already done so, there is the chance that North Korea may, under the joint agreement reached at the six-party talks in February 2007, engage in a process that will lead to the eventual dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program. Also possible—and this may be more than merely theoretical—is that North Korea may cease to exist, at least in its current form, by 2015, a development that may resolve the North Korean nuclear challenge but would likely create a new set of challenges for the nonproliferation regime. I also harbor some doubt that Iran may have demonstrated a nuclear weapons capability by 2015, although this may be better characterized as more a hope than a policy. Although it currently looks unlikely that Iran will enter into a negotiated solution to this issue, there is always the additional policy option of military strikes against Iran’s known nuclear facilities. Both because Iran is still thought to be some years away from having nuclear weapons capability, according to public testimony earlier this year by the Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell,1 and because of the ongoing U.S. focus on stabilizing Iraq, this option has received only episodic attention among policymakers and commentators. This option will become more actively debated and may become increasingly attractive over the next few years, however, due to the confluence of four developments: (1) the further maturation of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, accentuated by periodic proclamations by Iran’s leadership of having met nuclear “benchmarks”; (2) the inability of the EU–3+3 diplomatic track, including the possibility of effective sanctions by the UN Security Council, to achieve a diplomatic resolution of this issue; (3) the continued aggressive rhetoric and belligerent behavior of the Iranian regime, including its opposition to the Middle East peace process, interference in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and support for terrorism; and (4) the U.S. exit from Iraq and the gradual revitalization of U.S. military forces, including replenishment of its inventory of precision-guided 1 “The earliest they could produce a nuclear weapon would be early next decade, more likely mid-next decade.” Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, as quoted in “Annual Threat Assessment,” hearing of the Senate committee on Armed Services, February 27, 2007. nbr analysis 38 and other munitions, which will enhance the operational effectiveness of any military strike. The point behind mentioning the above is that nuclear proliferation is far from inevitable. We all can cite by heart many of the doomsday scenarios painted by earlier commentators, most famously captured by President Kennedy’s “nightmare vision” of a world with dozens of nuclear weapon states by the mid-1970s. Yet we also know that many nuclear-capable states have renounced nuclear weapons. We know as well that when proliferation did occur it was at a much slower rate than previously predicted. All this is reason for avoiding what Scott Sagan has recently termed “proliferation fatalism.”2 The international nonproliferation regime has proven far more resilient than is usually recognized. The regime has nevertheless failed on occasion and may yet fail with respect to both North Korea and Iran. If such failure proves to be the case by 2015...


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