January 31, 2019

Europe Protects Itself from Trump’s Caprice

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj | Bloomberg

It’s been a surprisingly short time in coming. It was only last September that Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, announced that the European parties to the Iranian nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—would establish an a special purpose vehicle to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran,” giving them a route around secondary sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Just four months later, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are ready to launch the much-anticipated SPV, a first-of-its-kind state-owned trade intermediary. It will initially facilitate what French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has described as trade in “essential goods”—mostly European exports of food and medicine to Iran. These, although not technically sanctioned by the U.S., have been restricted by the reluctance of European banks to facilitate payments for fear of American retribution.

U.S. Intelligence Chief Breaks with Trump on North Korea, Iran, ISIS

Rebecca Morin and Nahal Toosi | Politico

America's top intelligence official on Tuesday publicly broke with President Donald Trump on several critical foreign policy fronts, saying North Korea is not likely to give up its nuclear weapons, Iran is not yet seeking a nuclear weapon and the Islamic State terrorist group remains a forceful presence in Iraq and Syria. The remarks by Dan Coats, the U.S. director of national intelligence, underscored how out of step Trump's pronouncements on major national security issues often are with the rest of the government he leads, including intelligence agencies that he has long scorned.

Warren, Smith Introduce Bill to Bar U.S. from Using Nuclear Weapons First

Joe Gould | Defense News

Two key Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would ensure the U.S. does not fire nuclear weapons first in a potential future war. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential hopeful and Senate Armed Services Committee member, offered a bill — “The No First Use Act” — to establish in law that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. Though previous administrations have resisted such moves, and the GOP-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up the legislation, the players are notable. As chairman, Smith may elevate the issue by inserting the language into the annual defense policy bill, and Warren’s potential candidacy means the issue could reach the wider public on a future presidential debate stage.

INF Treaty Talks Between Russia and the U.S. Fail at Summit 

Alexander Smith | NBC News

The United States and Russia announced Thursday that they had failed to reconcile their differences over a Cold War-era nuclear pact, something some experts warn could spark a new arms race in Europe. The U.S. accuses Russia of violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty — or INF Treaty — which was signed in 1987 and bans all land-based missiles with a ranges between 310 and 3,400 miles. Moscow denies this and accuses Washington of violating the treaty. In December, the Trump administration warned Russia that it would walk away from the INF Treaty if it did not comply by Feb. 2 — this Saturday. Both sides have been meeting at a summit in Beijing, but Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday said the talks had failed.

China Scales Back Iran Nuclear Cooperation ‘Due to Fears of U.S. Sanctions’

Lee Jeong-ho | South China Morning Post

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), said on Wednesday that the Chinese were “reducing the speed of cooperation despite their commitment” to redesign the Arak heavy water reactor. Salehi told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency that China fears possible U.S. sanctions on its nuclear-related firms if it continues its cooperation with his country. He also urged China to re-engage with the project, but insisted that Iran had “alternative choices” if it continued to drag its feet.

Trump Administration Secretly Shipped Plutonium to Nevada

Timothy Cama | Hill

The Department of Energy (DOE) secretly shipped about a half-ton of weapons-grade radioactive plutonium to Nevada despite the state’s opposition.The Trump administration made the disclosure Wednesday as part of a federal court case in Nevada in which the state is trying to block the DOE from its publicly stated plans to ship radioactive materials from South Carolina.“Because sufficient time has now elapsed after conclusion of this campaign, DOE may now publicly state that it has completed all shipment of plutonium (approximately ½ metric ton) to Nevada,” Bruce Diamond, general counsel for the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, wrote in a court declaration, noting that the action was previously classified.