Call/text: (617) 682-9697 | e: [email protected] | f: 617-391-3067
Nuclear Weapons Daily Update

Nuclear Weapons Daily Update

Failure to disarm undermines the NPT

Pressenza International Press Agency, March 13, 2020, The Virus of Nuclear Proliferation, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/12/virus-nuclear-proliferation

In an avalanche of reporting we are now assaulted with information about how the world is urgently attempting to batten down the hatches to avoid the possibility of deathly consequences from the broadly publicized outbreak of the coronavirus, causing the possibility of postponing or perhaps downsizing the upcoming five year mandatory Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Ironically, it is not nearly so well-reported, that the 50-year old NPT is threatening the world with an even worse illness then the new terrifying coronavirus. The NPT’s critical requirement that the nuclear armed states, which signed the treaty in 1970, must make ‘good faith efforts’ for nuclear disarmament is virtually moribund as nations are developing new nuclear weapons, some characterized as more ‘usable’ and destroying treaties that contributed to a more stable environment. These include the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which the U.S. negotiated with USSR and walked out of in 2002, and its repeated rejections of offers from Russia and China to negotiate a treaty to keep weapons out of space, and from Russia to ban cyberwar, all of which would contribute to ‘strategic stability’ which would enable the fulfillment of the NPT’s nuclear disarmament promise. Further, this year the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement it made with Russia in 1987, left the nuclear deal it had negotiated with Iran as well, and just announced it would not meet with Russia to discuss a renewal of the Strategic Arms Control Treaty (START), due to expire this year, which limits nuclear warheads and missiles.

NPT facilitates proliferation by supporting the transfer of nuclear technology

Pressenza International Press Agency, March 13, 2020, The Virus of Nuclear Proliferation, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/12/virus-nuclear-proliferation

It cannot be denied that the NPT contributes to even more burgeoning nuclear proliferation by extending its misbegotten ‘inalienable right’ to ‘peaceful’ nuclear power, currently promoting this lethal technology to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Belarus, Bangladesh and Turkey which are all constructing their first nuclear power plants – expanding the keys to the bomb factory in more and more countries, while almost all of the current nuclear weapons states have new nuclear weapons under development.

Iran isn’t going nuclear now

Spacacan, April 11, 2020, John Spacapan is the Wohlstetter Public Affairs Fellow at Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Why America Should Believe Iran When It Says It Doesn’t Want Nuclear Weapons, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/why-america-should-believe-iran-when-it-says-it-doesnt-want-nuclear-weapons

If news reports are correct, then Iran wants to build a bomb. But in the two months since its muted response to the American strike that killed Iran’s Maj. Gen Qassim Suleimani and the country seems intent on signaling rather than proliferating. In January, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, threatened to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). But has made no further indication to do so since then. Last week, Tehran invited the IAEA to observe that it had tripled its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, an initial step toward restarting a nuclear weapons program but a move short of qualifying as a renewed weapons program.   At first glance, Iran’s hesitance flies in the face of conventional wisdom. North KoreaPutin, and American neo-realist scholars alike assert that enemies of the United States pursue nuclear weapons because it’s the obvious and rational choice to make. Just look at Muammar el-Qaddafi, they say. He gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003, and within a decade fell victim to a Western-backed revolution that left him at the mercy of his own people and to the wrong side of a gun. But Iran may understand the lessons of Libya and the Arab Spring far better than the Russians, the North Koreans, or many U.S. academics.  The last decade has taught Tehran that dictators in the Middle East are far more likely to be killed or overthrown by their own people than by the United States. In the last nine years, all three of Libya’s Arab neighbors have succumbed to regime change. In many ways these regimes were the lucky ones, they weren’t murdered like Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen or engaged in a decade of civil war-like Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In none of these cases would nuclear weapons have deterred uprising from within.  With this reality in mind, spending more resources on a nuclear weapons program may not seem any more attractive to Iran now than it did to Libya seventeen years ago. Nuclear arms proliferation experts have noted that financials weighed heavily on the mind of Qaddafi during the late 1990s and early 2000s. While Iran is much closer to acquiring a weapon today than Qaddafi was back then, to cross the finish line and then maintain a relevant nuclear arsenal requires Tehran to spend vital resources it needs to bolster its domestic economy.   Iran, like Qaddafi in the early 2000s, may fear a future under international isolation more than a future without nuclear weapons. Iran, like Libya, has an economy dependent on energy export and advanced technology and machinery import, making it particularly vulnerable to sanctions. With oil prices plummeting to a shocking $34 barrel for Brent Crude, the regime’s future will depend on the foreign investment put toward economic diversification. It also has a population hungry for change, just like Libyans and the broader Arab street in 2011. For Iran, further economic isolation would eventually make an already tenuous domestic situation explode. 

Trump is a fool – he’ll respond to what he thinks is a nuclear attack with total annihilation

Tom Collins, Defense One, April 1, 2020, The Coronavirus Teaches Us Not to Let Trump Press the Nuclear Button

Trump’s initial response to COVID-19 was to downplay the threat because, presumably, he didn’t understand it. By the same logic, his response to a possible nuclear attack could be the exact opposite: to overrespond by ordering a full-scale, immediate retaliation. Why? Because he is unlikely to understand the nuclear threat, either, and the less he knows the more likely he is to launch. It is a deeply troubling reality that if early warning systems show a massive nuclear attack on the way, the president might decide to launch an immediate retaliation and has the absolute authority to do so. This would be a catastrophically bad decision for a number of important reasons, none of which may be obvious to an uninformed president. First and foremost, the president might not know that the attack is probably a false alarm. There have been multiple false alarms like this in the United States and Russia, and the rise of sophisticated cyberattacks make this danger even worse. Meanwhile, both sides know that an actual strike would invite a massive retaliation from the other, and so would be suicidal. A U.S. launch in response to a false alarm would mean we had started nuclear war by mistake, the ultimate nightmare. Second, if the president is told he must launch U.S. weapons quickly to avoid losing vulnerable land-based missiles, he might not know that he does not need these weapons anyway; there would still be hundreds of nuclear weapons based on submarines safely hidden at sea. The U.S. could mount a devastating retaliation later, so there is no need to rush. Third, the president might think that a nuclear launch could be recalled. Not so. Unlike a premature decision to reopen the economy, once nuclear-armed missiles are fired there is no bringing them back. It would be the end of the world as we know it. As bad as things may get with the coronavirus, the situation pales in comparison to a nuclear conflict where hundreds of millions would die and civil society would cease to function. Forget about finding a hospital bed; there would be no hospitals, no respirators, no doctors. There would be no way to mitigate the consequences, no way to “flatten the curve.” When it comes to nuclear war, our only hope is prevention, and the only way to do that is to have the right policies in place to reduce the chances that nuclear weapons will ever be used. The good news is that maintaining an effective defense does not require us to rush into nuclear war; rather, we need to increase the decision time from minutes to hours or days, which-just like on COVID-19-would allow for consultation. Congress is already considering two ways to do this: a blanket prohibition on the first use of nuclear weapons and/or a requirement for          Congress to approve any decision to launch first. Both approaches should provide essential limits on the dangerously free reign the president has now.

US nuclear draw-down triggers allied proliferation, trigger nuclear war and nuclear terrorism

Pete McKenzie, March 25, 2020, Pete McKenzie is an independent journalist based in New Zealand. He co-hosts “The Un-Diplomatic Podcast” on international affairs and national security with Dr. Van Jackson. He has written about national security and politics for The Guardian and other outlets, and is a New Zealand correspondent, https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2020/03/americas-allies-are-becoming-nuclear-proliferation-threat/164057/, America’s Allies Are Becoming a Nuclear-Proliferation Threat

As the Trump administration scrambles traditional foreign-policy practice, experts warn that some of America’s longest allies are increasingly considering what would previously have been unthinkable: the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Days after the 2016 American election, Reuters published an interview with Roderich Kiesewetter, foreign policy spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc. Reacting to President Trump’s victory, Kiesewetter declared, “Europe needs to think about developing its own nuclear deterrent.” It was shocking. Germany’s flirtations with nuclear weapons have been minimal since it committed to nonproliferation in the 1960s. But prominent academics and journalists joined Kiesewetter. The publisher of one influential conservative newspaper even suggested that Germany develop its own nuclear arsenal. “We initially thought this was going to go away because of how vociferous the opposition was; that it was a phantom debate among fringe elements,” said Tristan Volpe, fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s nuclear program. “But it’s come back at least four times with some serious people weighing in as proponents.”  Germany is not unique. Of all the Trump administration’s global impacts, one of the most worrying is a sudden increase in the risk of nuclear proliferation among American allies, many of whom are considering a nuclear path which America may be unable to control. This debate has been most intense in South Korea, which began pursuing a nuclear weapons program in the 1970s only to abandon it under intense pressure. The idea remained popular; upwards of 60 percent of South Koreans favor pursuing nuclear weapons. “South Korea has become much more serious,” said David Santoro, nuclear policy director at Pacific Forum, a Honolulu thinktank. “A number of politicians have been making the case that South Korea should develop a nuclear arsenal.” Former South Korean foreign minister Song Min-soon told an American audience last year that “the Republic of Korea taking its own measures to create a nuclear balance on the peninsula” was “widely touted.” The most significant steps by an American partner are being taken by Saudi Arabia. It is pursuing civil nuclear capabilities and, according to Carnegie’s Volpe, “have been quite reluctant to foreswear the option to enrich uranium down the road. They’ve been very coy around it. Well, working-level officials in Saudi Arabia have been very coy.” That reticence does not extend to Saudi leaders. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned in 2018 that if Iran “developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” These shifts are partly the product of long-term trends. Never since the Cold War has America’s global position seemed more fragile, making its commitments seem questionable. And North Korea’s success in acquiring long-range nuclear capabilities was guaranteed to spook nearby American allies. As Mira Rapp-Hooper, Senior Fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, has observed, “The trouble is, the United States has far less incentive to intervene on behalf of South Korea or Japan if North Korea can respond with a nuclear strike against the U.S. homeland.” Iran’s interest in nuclear weapons has similarly terrified regional rivals. But Trump’s behavior has accelerated those trends. Santoro noted that the nuclear discussion in South Korea is “taking off now because there’s a lot of discussions in Washington about whether or not the Trump administration is considering withdrawing troops.” Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at MIT, said, “You can really boil this down to Trump’s instincts and style. For the first time in a long time, the allies have had to fundamentally question the credibility of the U.S.[nuclear protection] guarantee.” This uncertainty is fed by moves like Trump’s demand, since rescinded, that South Korea quintuple its contribution to the cost of maintaining American troops there. “The concern is that it’s not a genuine negotiating position, that it’s demanded as an excuse to eventually pull out of South Korea,” Narang said. “There’s a deep enough thread in Trump’s thinking and rhetoric to suggest that he genuinely believes that American [nuclear] assurance and conventional deployments to these allies are a waste of money.” Experts emphasize that the risk of allies rapidly nuclearizing is low. “There’s a number of hurdles that [allies] would have to get very powerfully motivated to overcome,” said Michael Mazarr, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. But Volpe observed that “opening that box and having to ask those questions about the U.S. commitment is worrisome…The proliferation risk is low. The problem is that it’s increased. It was an almost 0 percent risk for a long time, and the reason there’s lots of interest is that that risk has gone up in a noticeable way.” Moreover, that risk will grow. According to Nicholas Miller, assistant professor of government at Dartmouth: “There are geopolitical trends that are making this happen, and are going to make it increasingly common…The shift towards multipolarity with the rise of China, the relative decline of the U.S, and Russia behaving increasingly assertively—that all makes a lot of our allies feel more insecure. That’s going to persist, so these conversations will continue.” Part of the Trump administration’s legacy will be the corrosion of America’s ability to control those risks. Previous administrations restrained proliferation by denying other governments access to technology, coercing them through threats, and reassuring them through commitments. But the rise of Russian and Chinese nuclear-technology providers has made the first option far less effective. And it would be counterproductive to coerce already-nervous allies with the type of confrontational strategies used against states like Iran and North Korea. The only useful tool the next president will have is reassurance, itself badly dulled by the current president. “From an allied perspective, you look at the U.S. and you think, ‘Well, for four years I’ll get assurance, but then the administration will change and the commitment might die again’,” Santoro said. “It’s going to be very hard for the next administration to recommit to U.S. obligations.” The consequences of proliferation among allies are dire. Miller explained that “the more countries with nuclear weapons, the more likely that a weapon gets used. That could be a deliberate attack, accident or nuclear terrorism.” Crucially, “the U.S. has adopted a strong stance against proliferation [because] we’re very worried about cascades or tipping points. If one [ally] gets nuclear weapons, it gives others incentives to do the same”. As the 2020 election looms, this issue will grow in importance. “I think most allies are willing to give American until 2020, but if Trump is reelected, then I think these concerns will be really exacerbated,” said Narang. “Because that’s enough time for Trump to implement a vision of reducing America’s footprint.” So as America negotiates its way through the Trump question, the answer it chooses may require it to confront a newly pressing nuclear challenge: holding back its own friends

Military action against Iran means Iran exits the JCPOA

Robert Goldstone, April 6, 2020, https://thebulletin.org/2020/04/coronavirus-and-the-iaea-reports-from-maximum-pressure-to-humanitarian-detente-with-iran/ Coronavirus and the IAEA reports: From maximum pressure to humanitarian détente with Iran

The United States should also refrain from any actions that take advantage of Iran’s weakness in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent press reports suggest that, following a rocket attack by a Shi’ite militia group against an American base in Iraq, some within President Trump’s cabinet advocated retaliating with a direct strike on Iran. Aggressive actions at this time might motivate Iran to exit the JCPOA, and so curtail the enhanced verification and monitoring procedures that give the outside world crucial visibility into Iran’s accumulating stockpile of enriched uranium.

Iranian proliferation triggers an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran 

Robert Farley, 1-23-2020, “Would Israel Use Nuclear Weapons To Finish Iran, Once And For All?,” National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/would-israel-use-nuclear-weapons-finish-iran-once-and-all-116636

If a hostile power (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) appeared to be on the verge of mating nuclear devices with the systems needed to deliver them, Israel might well consider a preventive nuclear attack. In the case of Iran, we can imagine scenarios in which Israeli planners would no longer deem a conventional attack sufficiently lethal to destroy or delay the Iranian program. In such a scenario, and absent direct intervention from the United States, Israel might well decide to undertake a limited nuclear attack against Iranian facilities Given that Iran lacks significant ballistic missile defenses, Israel would most likely deliver the nuclear weapons with its Jericho III intermediate range ballistic missiles. Israel would likely limit its attacks to targets specifically linked with the Iranian nuclear program, and sufficiently away from civilian areas. Conceivably, since it would be breaking the nuclear taboo anyway, Israel might target other military facilities and bases for attack, but it is likely that the Israeli government would want to limit the precedent for using nuclear weapons as much as possible. Would it work? Nuclear weapons would deal more damage than most imaginable conventional attacks, and would also convey a level of seriousness that might take even the Iranians aback. On the other hand, the active use of nuclear weapons by Israel would probably heighten the interest of everyone in the region (and potentially across the world) to develop their own nuclear arsenals. One of Israel’s biggest concerns is the idea that a nuclear power (Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea, presumably) might give or sell a nuclear weapon to a non-governmental organization (NGO). Hamas, Hezbollah, or some other terrorist group would be harder to deter than a traditional nation-state. Even if a terrorist organization did not immediately use the weapon against an Israeli target, it could potentially extract concessions that Israel would be unwilling to make. In such a scenario, Israel might well consider using nuclear weapons in order to forestall a transfer, or destroy the enemy nuclear device after delivery. This would depend on access to excellent intelligence about the transfer of the device, but it is hardly impossible that the highly professional and operationally competent Israeli intelligence services could provide such data. Why go nuclear? The biggest reason would be to ensure the success of the strike; both the device itself and the people handling the device would be important targets, and a nuclear attack would ensure their destruction more effectively than even a massive conventional strike (which might well accompany the nuclear attack). Moreover, committing to the most extreme use forms of the use of force might well deter both the NGO and the originating state (not to mention any states that facilitated transfer through their borders; hello, Syria!) from attempting another transfer. However, the active use of nuclear weapons against a non-state actor might look to the world like overkill, and could reaffirm the interest of the source of the nuclear device in causing more problems for Israel.

China won’t reciprocate nuclear reductions unless those reductions include restrictions on conventional forces and all of Asia’s militaries

Weitz, January 23, 2020, Richard Weitz is senior fellow and director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, Sino-Russian Ties Imperil Strategic Arms Control, Yale Global, https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/sino-russian-ties-imperil-strategic-arms-control

This is a make or break year for strategic arms control. The last remaining treaty limiting Russian-US nuclear weapons, the New START Treaty, expires in February. The Trump administration wants a more comprehensive agreement that covers additional types of strategic weapons – such as Moscow’s new nuclear delivery systems. New START, like its earlier iterations, restricts only long-range Russian and US nuclear missiles and bombers. The Trump administration seeks to encompass additional countries, especially China, in future treaties. In December, the State Department formally invited Beijing to join Moscow and Washington in comprehensive nuclear reduction talks. Yet, securing Chinese involvement in nuclear arms limitations will be challenging considering Beijing naturally wants to free ride on Russian and US reductions. At November’s Moscow Non-Proliferation Conference, the director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control said that Russia and the United States must cut their nuclear forces much deeper before China or other countries would consider joining the reduction process. Fu Cong accused Washington of trying to shift the blame for the arms-control deadlock to Beijing while pursuing “overwhelming military superiority over Russia and China in all fields and with all means imaginable.” While currently maintaining a smaller nuclear arsenal than Russia and the United States, China is unlikely to join an arms-control treaty that would formalize its inferior position. Meanwhile, the PRC Foreign Ministry recognizes the improbability that Washington or Moscow would accept a common trilateral ceiling. A spokesperson for the PRC Foreign Ministry questioned, “whether the US wants to have China’s nuclear arsenal increased to its level or reduce its own nuclear arms to China’s level?” Even so, Fu expressed interest in an enhanced dialogue on nuclear weapons doctrines “so as to avoid accidents and crises triggered by strategic misjudgment or miscalculation” as well as norms and rules for military applications of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and cyber and outer space security. Western experts have similarly called for expanded strategic stability talks on these unconventional threats. Interestingly, Russian experts have often assessed China’s nuclear potential as substantially greater than what US assessments typically suggest. Some anticipate that China’s nuclear arsenal will continue to improve, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and approach those of Russia and the United States – with a greater number and variety of delivery systems on permanent alert status. In their view, Beijing has not deliberately sought a minimal nuclear arsenal, but rather faced technical and resource limitations, which are now eroding. The assessment of Russian analysts is that only after China acquires as roughly as large a nuclear arsenal as Russia and the United States will Beijing consider negotiating strategic limitations. Even then, they anticipate that Beijing will likely insist that any limits apply to conventional as well as nuclear forces of all Asia’s major military powers.

The idea of damage limitation in a nuclear war is false. A negative feedback loop exists that will override the concerns of damage limitation

Purcell, Richard. 1-23-2020, “A History of Damage Limitation in U.S. Nuclear War Planning,” Global Security Review, https://globalsecurityreview.com/history-damage-limitation-us-nuclear-war-planning/

The question of what role damage limitation should play in U.S. nuclear planning and the form it should take was—and still is—the subject of considerable debate within the national security community.  Some policymakers prioritized it more than others during the Cold War.  However, because the U.S. strategic arsenal always could strike an opponent’s nuclear forces, there has never been a time over the last seven decades when the United States has not had some damage limiting capability, even if public officials have not always referred to it as such. Yet damage limitation turned out to be a very complicated concept.  One issue stemmed from the realization that no damage limitation system could be 100 percent effective.  If a strategic nuclear conflict with the USSR arose, a certain number of Soviet bombs would inevitably reach U.S. soil no matter what.  The resulting death toll would likely number in the tens of millions.

Such a scenario raised a difficult question for policymakers: How much damage limitation capability should the U.S. seek?  If a given U.S. damage limiting capability were sufficient to limit U.S. fatalities in an all-out war to, say, 80 million, would it make sense to pay the high costs associated with enhancing that capability further to reduce the expected death toll to 50 million?  For those who viewed nuclear war as a real possibility, and who therefore believed that the U.S. should possess the ability to win if one occurred, saving 30 million Americans seemed like a worthwhile goal no matter what the cost. To those who viewed nuclear war as unthinkable, and who therefore rejected nuclear warfighting as a concept, enhancing U.S. damage limiting capabilities seemed pointless since it did little to strengthen the country’s nuclear credibility.  In a crisis in which critical U.S. interests were at stake, would a U.S. president really feel freer to act to protect those interests if he knew that “only” 50 million American lives were at risk rather than 80 million? Would the Soviets actually be more deterred if that were the case?

The two primary forms of damage limitation available to the United States during the Cold War, counterforce and missile defense, each presented their own set of challenges.  The ability of the U.S. to use its strategic offensive forces to limit damage to the American homeland depended on its ability to destroy Soviet nuclear weapons before they could be launched.  If the Soviets were able to attack first, U.S. missiles and bombers would be unable to limit the initial damage. A damage-limiting counterforce strike by the U.S. would, therefore, be vastly more effective if the U.S. struck first.  However, launching a first strike meant initiating strategic nuclear war, the very thing that U.S. nuclear forces were ostensibly intended to prevent.  Indeed, U.S. declaratory policy in the later years of the Cold War seemed to rule out this option.  The Pentagon’s 1983 annual report to Congress stated that U.S. strategy “excludes the possibility that the United States would initiate a war or launch a pre-emptive strike against the forces or territories of other nations.”

If the U.S. was attacked first, it could launch a retaliatory counterforce attack.  The conventional wisdom was that if the Soviets did launch a first strike, they would likely do so with only a part of their arsenal, keeping many of their strategic weapons in reserve.  If so, the U.S. could hit the residual Soviet nuclear forces in a second strike in an attempt to reduce any further damage that could be inflicted on the United States. This option, however, would hardly be straightforward. If the Soviet first strike were a counterforce attack, it would leave the U.S. with a diminished ability to retaliate against hardened targets (such as ICBM silos).  If it were a counter value strike against American cities, U.S. strategic forces would remain intact, but damage to the United States in terms of casualties and economic destruction would be enormous.  The U.S. president would then have to decide whether to retaliate against Soviet cities or the USSR’s remaining strategic arsenal.

The possibility of achieving damage limitation through anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense also received a great deal of attention during the Cold War, just as it does today.  Unlike counterforce, it offered a way to actively defend the U.S. homeland from a Soviet attack after it had been launched. Nevertheless, missile defense had its downsides. For one, many strategic planners had severe doubts as to how well such a system would work.  It was generally recognized that even an elaborate missile defense system could only be partially effective against a major Soviet attack. Moreover, the tracking radars needed to guide ABM interceptors to their targets would themselves be vulnerable to a Soviet attack.  If the Soviets were able to destroy U.S. radar installations in advance of the main attack on the United States, the ABM system would be crippled. Additionally, developing and deploying a missile defense system was a costly proposition.  A 1965 Pentagon study determined that a system capable of protecting 75 percent of the U.S. population in an all-out nuclear war would cost $35 billion, or more than two-thirds of the defense budget at the time.  Furthermore, even if such a system were able to protect three-quarters of the U.S. population in an all-out nuclear war, American fatalities would number close to 50 million. Opponents of missile defense also pointed out that the USSR would almost certainly respond to a U.S. ABM deployment by expanding the size of its strategic arsenal or by implementing relatively inexpensive countermeasures such as equipping its existing ICBMs with decoy warheads or multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). The most compelling argument against emphasizing damage limitation in nuclear planning was that it made war more likely. As noted, each side possessed enough survivable nuclear weapons that it would be able to inflict great devastation on its adversary in retaliation for a first strike.  Under normal peacetime conditions, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had the option of either starting a nuclear war by launching a “bolt-from-the-blue” surprise attack on its opponent or maintaining the status quo.  However, even if the attacking country believed that launching a sudden first strike would enable it to emerge from the conflict stronger than its adversary, the opposing state’s assured destruction capability would ensure that the attacking state suffered catastrophic damage, leaving it worse off than before the war.  Inaction would, therefore, be the wiser choice.

That calculus could easily change in a crisis, however.  During a period of acute tension in which both sides possessed a significant damage-limiting counterforce capability, each nation would have some incentive to strike preemptively to limit the amount of damage that could be inflicted on it.  The risk that one side would act preemptively under such circumstances would correspond to the perceived likelihood of war. If nuclear war seemed inevitable—or even highly likely—the apparent choice for each side would then be between launching a preemptive attack that would destroy a large number of its opponent’s strategic forces, thereby limiting (but not eliminating) the adversary’s ability to inflict harm on the attacking state, or permitting the opponent to act first and do the same thing.

Furthermore, worst-case assumptions could lead to a negative feedback loop, further undermining crisis stability.  The U.S., for instance, would be aware that the Soviet leadership might believe that Soviet fatalities could be dramatically reduced by launching a first strike against the United States. Soviet leadership would know that the U.S. was aware of the Soviet leadership’s belief that a first strike would significantly reduce Soviet fatalities. The U.S, in turn, would then know that the Soviet Union knew that the United States was aware that the Soviets could launch a first strike to reduce its fatalities. In this way, decision making in a nuclear crisis would resemble a hall of mirrors.  A war could easily occur under such circumstances even if both sides preferred to avoid one.

Iran won’t seek nuclear weapons. No deterrence is needed

Reuters News Agency, 1-23-2020, “Iran will never seek nuclear arms, with or without nuclear deal,” No Publication, https://www.yahoo.com/news/iran-never-seek-nuclear-arms-112720947.html

Iran will never seek nuclear weapons, with or without nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, calling on the European powers to avoid Washington’s mistake of violating Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

“We have never sought nuclear weapons … With or without the nuclear deal we will never seek nuclear weapon … The European powers will be responsible for the consequences of violating the pact,” said Rouhani, according to his website President.Ir.

In reaction to Washington withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions, Iran has gradually rolled back on its commitments. Rouhani said Iran remained committed to the deal and could reverse its steps away from compliance if other parties fulfilled their obligations.

Multiple US actions have already weakened the NPT, treaties fail to avoid the actual impacts

Collado De Giovannini, Gonzalo, 1-22-2020, “The NPT – nuclear development for the few,” United World International, https://uwidata.com/7318-the-npt-nuclear-development-for-the-few/

Over the years and after each review, the effectiveness of the treaty was questioned in regards to its purpose of promoting effective atomic disarmament. This argument is largely due to the increase of nuclear weapons since it was signed, reaching its peak in 1986 with over 64,000 nuclear warheads. The subsequent quantitative increase was very important, especially after US-Russian agreements in 1991. The fact is that, although the nuclear arsenal was greatly reduced, it’s destructive power was not actually reduced. It’s important to mention that the NPT was weakened as a result of a controversial agreement approved by the IAEA in which one of the largest nuclear powers, the United States, signed a treaty with India – a non-signatory of the NPT – in 2006 on civil nuclear cooperation, thus failing to comply with the policies required by the NPT. Despite the fact that the agreement between India and the US sought to guarantee the requirements of the IAEA and the NPT, it was considered to be a profound failure in the fight against nuclear proliferation, which shows us, once again, that international treaties are only fulfilled when there are no great interests at stake.