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Iran Will Not Hinder Plans for a Nuclear-Free World

Author: Thomas E. Donilon, Distinguished Fellow
April 17, 2011
Financial Times


Two years ago this month in Prague, President Barack Obama proposed steps to advance the goal of "a world without nuclear weapons". In the 24 months since, we have laid the foundation for these next steps in arms control. But now new action is needed.

The record so far is strong. The new Start treaty with Russia will see the lowest level of deployed nuclear weapons since the 1950s. The UN Security Council has imposed unprecedented sanctions on Iran and North Korea for failing to meet their obligations. And enough nuclear materials for hundreds of weapons have been removed, secured or eliminated around the world.

Now, to end illegal nuclear programmes and stop proliferation, we will maintain pressure on both Iran and North Korea. Iran, in particular, is trying to exploit the changes sweeping across the Middle East. But the hypocrisy of claiming to support reform in other countries while suppressing it at home is obvious for all the world to see. Some believe that the changes in the region will increase Iran's influence. In fact the opposite will happen: in a Middle East where more citizens determine their own destiny, Iran will be increasingly isolated by its actions.

Elsewhere, we will work to secure the world's vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, and use a new international fuel bank to ensure that the use of nuclear energy does not lead to proliferation. We will also seek to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban treatyinto force, while pursuing a further treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Significant political hurdles must be overcome to make progress on these last two aims. In the case of the CTBT, we must build support in the US Senate by showing that the treaty will advance American interests, especially by limiting the current nuclear build-up in Asia. Meanwhile if a deal to proceed with negotiations for the Fissile Material Cutoff treaty proves illusive, we will move to create a new forum of like-minded states to move forward.

As we implement the new Start treaty, the next round of nuclear weapons reductionsmust also begin. A review, under President Obama's direction, will develop options for new reductions in the US stockpile. Once complete, this will shape our approach to a new agreement with Russia. Past agree­ments have only dealt with some categories of nuclear weapons, but we believe the next round must be as wide as possible, including both non-deployed and tactical nuclear weapons.

We must address the issue of Russia's tactical nuclear weapons, which have never been subject to numerical limits. To do this we seek to reduce the role and number of US tactical nuclear weapons, as Russia takes reciprocal measures to reduce its own tactical forces, and also to relocate these away from Nato's borders. We would also like increased transparency concerning the numbers, locations and types of these tactical forces in Europe.

These new reductions will not be easy. While protecting national security information both sides will need to be able to monitor nuclear weapons in storage and weapons awaiting destruction. This means more demanding verification, to confirm that any future agreements will actually be implemented – and we plan to begin discussions on this with Russia in the near future.

Finally, the US remains committed to an effective missile defence system to defend against emerging missile threats, such as from Iran and North Korea. In Europe our approach was embraced by Nato at the Lisbon summit, and it paves the way for missile defence co-operation between Russia and the US, enhancing the security of both nations, and Europe.

Standing in Prague two years ago, President Obama said some believe "we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction". But he also warned that "such fatalism is a deadly adversary". Two years on, it is clear that, when the international community works together to meet a shared threat, progress is possible. We remain confident that if this momentum is sustained, a world where fewer nations possess these ultimate tools of destruction is within our grasp.

The writer is national security adviser to President Barack Obama

This article appears in full on CFR.org by permission of its original publisher. It was originally available here.

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