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Context of 'January 23, 2009: Obama Names ‘Nonproliferation Czar’'

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The White House convenes a small team of senior officials to look behind the nuclear program of North Korea, which appears to be attempting to start a uranium enrichment program, and focuses on Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan travels to Pyongyang several times a month and, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, he is the “most visible common denominator” in Pakistan’s proliferation network and “a flag to be followed.” Levy and Scott-Clark point out that, although the US has been aware of Khan’s activities for over two decades (see November 1975), this is the “first serious attempt at interdicting the Pakistani operation.”
Experienced Officials Head Team - The officials include Robert Gallucci, President Clinton’s special envoy on ballistic weapons and WMD, who has been monitoring Pakistan’s nuclear program for 20 years and had helped negotiate an agreement with North Korea in 1994. Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, and Gary Samore, a senior director for non-proliferation at the National Security Council, are also on the team.
Problems - However, there are some initial problems. For example, the officials already have so much work that one will characterize it as a “five minute [info] dump on Khan.” Levy and Scott-Clark will comment: “There was a surfeit of material, much of it higgledy-piggledy, since over the years no organized overview had been taken of Pakistan’s illicit trade. Instead, a multiplicity of agencies in intelligence, defense, and foreign affairs had all assigned analysts to work on the Khan conundrum, stovepiping what they discovered, so no one agency knew everything.”
More than Missiles - The group soon receives evidence showing that the dealings between North Korea and Pakistan do not involve just missiles, but also uranium enrichment technology (see 1997, 1998, (1998 and Possibly After), February 1998, February 1998 or Shortly After, Early June 1998, and Mid-June 1998). Einhorn will later say: “In 1998 we began to get some information of North Korean-Pakistani deals that went way beyond missiles. There was a nuclear dimension to this arrangement. There were Pakistani and North Korean weapons specialists getting together, including people from KRL [Khan Research Laboratories]. There was a pattern to the interactions.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 278-280]

Entity Tags: Robert Gallucci, Karl Inderfurth, Catherine Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy, Gary Samore, Robert Einhorn

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The Obama administration names Gary Samore, a former National Security Council non-proliferation expert in the Clinton administration, as its coordinator for the prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism, or its “nonproliferation czar.” Samore’s is a new position, recommended by Congressional legislation passed in 2007 but never created or filled under former President George W. Bush. The post does not require Senate confirmation. [Foreign Policy, 1/23/2009]

Entity Tags: Obama administration, Gary Samore

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

White House officials give the press a broad outline of President Obama’s ambitious arms-control agenda. Obama’s plan calls for dramatic cuts in both US and Russian nuclear arsenals, an end to a Bush administration plan for a more advanced nuclear warhead, the ratification of a global treaty banning underground nuclear testing, and a worldwide ban on the production of nuclear weapons material. The long-term goal, officials say, is “a world without nuclear weapons” in which the US leads by example. Obama’s plans are striking departures from the Bush administration agenda, which had little use for arms-control treaties (see May 24, 2002 and Late May 2005) and pulled out entirely from the anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia (see December 13, 2001). Obama has said his plans are based in part on the work of the bipartisan Nuclear Security Project, headed by former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Republican Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.
Criticism - Some conservative organizations and members of the national security community warn that Obama’s proposals could weaken US security. Henry Sokolski, a member of the bipartisan US Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism and an advocate of limited arms reduction, says: “This brave new, nuclear world may be anything but peaceful. As the qualitative and quantitative differences between nuclear weapons states become smaller, rivalries are likely to become much more dangerous.” The Heritage Foundation’s Baker Strang says of the Obama administration: “The problem is that they are betting the physical survival of the US on nothing more than the hope that other nuclear-armed states and any states or non-state actors that join the nuclear club will follow suit by disarming. This gamble involves the highest possible stakes and has an exceedingly low likelihood of success.” And neoconservative Frank Gaffney, a Defense Department official during the Reagan administration and president of the Center for Security Policy, says, “Every other declared nuclear weapon state is modernizing its stockpile and the most dangerous wannabes—North Korea and Iran—are building up their offensive missile capabilities and acquiring as quickly as possible the arms to go atop them.” Obama may also face opposition from within his Cabinet; Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, wants to implement the Reliable Replacement Warhead program (see January 26, 2009), a nuclear warhead replacement program that Obama opposes.
Support - Obama’s plan has strong support among Congressional Democrats: Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who heads the House subcommittee overseeing US nuclear forces, says that reducing US and Russian arsenals, negotiating a treaty to end production of new nuclear weapons material, and ratifying the test ban pact “are all achievable goals. The debate is at a point where it is a question about when we achieve these goals, not if,” she says. Ultimately, achieving Obama’s goals will be difficult, says nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “It is going to require a herculean effort,” he says. “It is completely doable, but it will require the sustained attention of the president himself.” [Boston Globe, 2/22/2009]

Entity Tags: Joseph Cirincione, Frank Gaffney, Ellen Tauscher, Barack Obama, Baker Strang, George Shultz, Henry Sokolski, Robert M. Gates, Sam Nunn, US Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, William Perry, Nuclear Security Project, Obama administration, Henry A. Kissinger

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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