By Jamie Crawford
The Pentagon is currently analyzing U.S. nuclear options under the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study - a process that could result in significant cuts in the number of warheads. And one senior Republican senator is sounding a warning.
"Obviously this is going to create a huge stir in Congress," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said during a keynote address Thursday at a nuclear deterrence summit in Arlington, Virginia. "We will have a battle royal in Congress if the president moves forward with these kinds of plans."
As recently as last month, the Defense Department did not discount the possibility of further cuts to its arsenal eventually.
By Elise Labott
Iran is offering to resume talks over the country's nuclear program as soon as possible, according to a letter the nation's nuclear negotiator sent to the European Union.
"We voice our readiness for dialogue on a spectrum of various issues, which can provide ground for constructive and forward-looking cooperation," Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote in a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
CNN obtained a copy of the translated letter as Iran announced new steps in its nuclear program.
Read the whole story here
By Elise Labott
Iran's announcement Wednesday about the status of its nuclear program may say more about the defiance of the regime in the face of escalating sanctions than signaling any significant nuclear advances.
Before Wednesday, the question foremost on people's minds was whether the announcement would signal Iran was moving closer toward getting a nuclear weapon, crossing a red line which could force Israel to take a preemptive military strike.
That question got a lot of eye-rolling post-announcement. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday expressed dismay at the Obama administration's consideration of a major reduction in America's nuclear arsenal.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee there are internal discussions under way about the number of nuclear weapons America will have in the future. The talks, Dempsey said in his testimony before the committee, were in preparation for upcoming meetings with Russia on the matter. FULL POST
By Suzanne Kelly, Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawford
It sounds more like an episode of the heart-pounding TV series "24'"than a research project by a nonproliferation think tank.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) released results of a yearlong study Wednesday - the first of its kind - that looks at just how closely countries are safeguarding their nuclear materials and what might happen if they don't do a better job of it.
"If terrorists succeeded in blowing up a large city somewhere in the world, the result would be catastrophic," NTI co-chair and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn told a group of journalists and nuclear experts in Washington before laying out just what that would look like. He described a "human toll of hundreds of thousands dead and injured, and disruptions to global commerce and global confidence, and long-term environmental and public health consequences."
Andrew Feinstein's new book "The Shadow World" uncovers the inner workings of the global arms trade. Written with an insider's tone, the book describes backroom weapons deals, including an arms deal between the British and Saudi governments and the guns-for-diamonds deals in Africa. Feinstein was a member of the African National Congress from 1997 to 2001, resigning when the ANC declined to investigate corruption claims regarding a major South African arms deal. Feinstein is an Open Society fellow and the founder of Corruption Watch in London.
Feinstein e-mailed with CNN.com about how the arms trade has mushroomed since World War II, its role in the Arab Spring uprisings, and what he thinks can be done about all those unchecked weapons in Libya.
CNN.com: What is the global arms trade?
Feinstein: It is the trade in conventional arms, so not (weapons of mass destruction), but everything from small and light weapons to aircraft carriers and jet fighters. It accounts for sales of about $60 billion a year on average, and is responsible for around 40 percent of all corruption in all world trade.
CNN.com: Why is it important to understand the distinction you make in your book between government to government trading and illicit weapons dealing? What is the "grey market?"
Feinstein: Governments and defense contractors argue that the government-to-government trade is "clean," whereas in fact it is riven with corruption, and also supports the illegal or black market trade. The grey market is where governments attempt to influence foreign policy covertly through the use of illegal dealers to undertake arms transactions on their behalf. A well-known example would be the Iran-Contra deal, perhaps the most cynical arms deal of all time.
CNN.com: Your book isn't an academic history, though you do explain how and why the military industrial complex grew after World War II. Your book is mostly packed with thriller-type stories about arms dealers and corrupt government officials, backroom wheeling and dealing. Much of that is based on top secret information you obtained. How did you manage to get that information?
Feinstein: The book is intended as an accessible, narrative account of the trade that is hopefully entertaining to read. But it is also backed by extensive research – there are between 2,500 and 3,000 endnotes in the book for anyone who wants to check where any piece of information was sourced. This information came from a wide variety of sources: interviews with arms dealers who have never been reported on or interviewed before, massive investigation archives that have not been in the public domain, whistle-blowers and publicly available sources.
CNN.com: You joined the African National Congress during Nelson Mandela's administration when you were a student and you resigned in 2001 when the ANC wouldn't investigate a major arms dealer. Was this your first up-close introduction to the world of arms dealing? What was that experience like?
Feinstein: That's correct. I was committed to the ANC from the mid-1980s when it was still a banned organization in South Africa. After working as a facilitator in the negotiations that led to our first democratic elections in 1994, I became a Member of Parliament for the party in those elections. It was an extraordinary experience to serve under Mandela but it was disappointing how quickly his successor adopted the tawdry norms of global politics. The point at which the ANC lost its moral compass was when they decided to spend $10 billion on weapons the country didn't need, and barely use today, with $300 million in bribes being paid to senior politicians, officials and the ANC itself. My financial oversight committee was stopped by President Thabo Mbeki from investigating this corruption, which led to my resignation, and the writing of a book on the deal and its devastating impact on South Africa's young democracy. It was a sad time for me personally and politically, as I saw at first hand how an extraordinary liberation movement was prepared to undermine the democracy it had created to protect its leaders from the consequences of their corrupt behavior. It was also the first of myriad grand corruption scandals in the country and the demise of the early years of hope.
The International Atomic Energy Agency issued a critical report Tuesday saying that it has "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear program and has obtained "credible" information that the Islamic republic may be developing nuclear weapons.
The IAEA report, the most detailed to date on the Iranian program's military scope, found no evidence that Iran has made a strategic decision to actually build a bomb. But its nuclear program is more ambitious and structured, and more progress has been made than previously known.
"The agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," the report said. "After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the report had just arrived and refrained from commenting on details at an afternoon briefing. But a senior U.S. official called the report "a big deal."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the report a sham.
"The Americans have fabricated a stack of papers and he keeps speaking about them," he said on state-run Press TV.
By Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott
In the 1970s thriller “The China Syndrome,” Michael Douglas plays a maverick cameraman who helps discover safety cover-ups at a nuclear plant. In doing so, he comes face to face with the worst-case scenario: a nuclear meltdown where components of a nuclear reactor melt through to the core of the earth "all the way to China."
Though it was a work of fiction, the story gave rise to a decades-long passion for disarmament. As a United Nations Messenger for Peace since 1988, Douglas has used his star power to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons and nonproliferation of small arms.
For the past nine years Douglas has been on the board of the Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based think tank working on behalf of a world without nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, he stopped by the State Department to what he called "get the lay of the land" on nuclear issues and to voice concern about new drumbeats about military action against Iran over its nuclear program. FULL POST
By Mick B. Krever
It's no surprise that a movie, "Lord of War," has already been made based on the story of Viktor Bout, the alleged Russian arms trafficker currently on trial in Manhattan federal court.
On Monday and Tuesday, a confidential informant known as "Carlos" - who in the past was paid $7 million dollars by the State Department for a single job - took the stand. He had posed as a Colombian rebel trying to buy rocket launchers and AK-47s from Bout.
Wednesday, a decades-long Bout confidant testified against his (presumably) former friend, in an attempt to reduce the charges leveled against him.
The world's biggest nuclear weapon - the infamous minivan-sized megaton B53 - died Tuesday, of old age. The five-ton bomb was about 50 years old. The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced its passing at the Pantex nuclear plant outside Amarillo, Texas.
Mark Thompson at Battleland blog notes the dismantling is being hailed by the Obama administration as proof of commitment to arms control.
Read the story on Time's Battleland blog.