Editors Note: Art Keller is a former case officer in the CIA's Counter Proliferation Division. He currently is a writer on intelligence and national security issues and recently published his first novel, "Hollow Strength."
By Art Keller, special to Security Clearance
As a new round of nuclear negotiations with Iran is set to begin this month, it brings up the question: In the not-unlikely event that this round of diplomacy collapses, as all previous rounds have, where would that leave the West? Is bombingIran's nuclear facilities the unavoidable final recourse?
Despite an abundance of saber-rattling, Western leaders have yet to convincingly explain why policy toward Iran should differ from policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Did we start bombing the Soviets because they acquired nuclear capability in 1949? Even though the Soviets regularly claimed their objective was the defeat of the West? Even though Soviets gave arms and money to proxies around the world, including direct support to terrorists? Even though they posed a far greater threat than Iran ever could? Are we doing that with North Korea? Even though the North Koreans have "the bomb" and have often used rhetoric that is even harsher than the Soviets?
By Pam Benson
American officials are adamant. The U.S. will respond - possibly with military force - if Iran crosses a red line and decides to actually make nuclear weapons.
But will the U.S. know with an degree of certainty that a line has been crossed?
The decision itself to push ahead really comes down to one person, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper told a Senate hearing recently that any decision would be based on "the supreme leader's world view and the extent to which he thinks that would benefit the state of Iran or, conversely, not benefit."
Clapper was referring to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the supreme leader of Iran.
By Pam Benson
A Washington think tank says it has identified the building at an Iranian military base where international inspectors suspect Iran may have conducted explosives tests connected with a possible nuclear weapons program.
In an exclusive interview with Security Clearance, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said commercial satellite imagery shows a building on the sprawling Parchin military complex just south of Tehran that may be the location of a high-explosive test chamber.
By Adam Levine
There's no question, the U.S. is approaching the two most pressing nuclear threats differently.
One country, for the time being, seems ready to engage with the U.S. and others on changing its nuclear course. That's North Korea. That's at least for time being.
The other country, Iran, has suggested it would be willing to engage with the international community on its nuclear program to a degree but questions remain about how serious the offer is.
Which leads us to this little noticed question to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Friday. Speaking to reporters in Hawaii, Panetta was asked, basically, why is everyone so much crazier about Iran than North Korea. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
Two western diplomats tell CNN that satellite images reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the Iranian military site from which international inspectors have been denied access to. The description provides further clarity to IAEA concerns, first reported by CNN's Matthew Chance last week, that the Iranians were trying to clean up the Parchin facility. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
Never a regime to do something for nothing, North Korea took what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "modest first step" in agreeing to halt its nuclear and missile program in exchange for food aid.
But Clinton knows full well that 20 years of broken promises by North Korea to successive American administrations, both Democrat and Republican, give good reason to pause before celebrating.
The deal though is a promising sign, a first step that is conciliatory rather than belligerent, as North Korea agreed to stop nuclear activity at its main facility in Yongbyon and impose a moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile launched in exchange for 240,000 tons of food assistance.
It also promised to allow international inspectors into nuclear sites that have gone unexamined for close to five years.
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea has agreed to halt nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and enrichment activities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for food aid from the United States, the State Department said Wednesday.
The state-run North Korean news agency (KCNA) announced the agreement separately.
"Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction. We, of course, will be watching closely and judging North Korea's new leaders by their actions," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee.
By Jamie Crawford, CNN
Throughout the course of the past year Iran has been, if anything, consistent in its delivery of provocative acts and bellicose rhetoric.
An alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is uncovered. Threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz are followed by refusals to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors access to certain sites in the country.
Then there is the issue of alleged assassination attempts of Israeli diplomats at the hands of Iranian operatives in India, Georgia, Thailand and Azerbaijan. And let's also not forget the threats of pre-emptive military action against any country perceived as an imminent threat to the Iranian regime.
What is one to make of what of it all?
By Elise Labott
Last week the U.S. point man for talks on North Korea, Glyn Davies, met with his North Korean counterparts for the first time since the death of Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the subsequent transfer of power to his son Kim Jong Un.
The talks were aimed at reviving a proposal to exchange U.S. nutritional aid to North Korea for a halt to Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program.
The prospective deal was expected to lead to the resumption of disarmament talks between the two countries along with China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, and to more extensive quantities of food aid for North Korea. An announcement had been slated for the week Kim died, but was delayed to give the new regime a chance to regroup.
In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of "modest progress," but no breakthroughs.