83 senators, 394 representatives sign letters to Obama calling for sanctions if negotiations fails
Rebecca Shabad, The Hill – March 18, 2014
Overwhelming majorities of senators and House members sent separate letters to President Obama yesterday, calling for the enactment of further crippling sanctions on Iran if it fails to make a deal through the P5 + 1 negotiations. Each letter attempted to spell out the desired terms of a final deal, with the Senate letter notably mentioning that Iran has no inherent right to enrich uranium–though it did not specifically say that a final deal should preclude any enrichment. The letters come after a push for additional sanctions stalled in the face of opposition from the Obama administration, which has urged lawmakers to allow time for diplomacy.
Ukraine crisis is not endangering talks with Iran
Alissa J. Rubin and Rick Gladstone, The New York Times – March 18, 2014
Iran’s negotiations with the P5 + 1, a group comprised of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany, have apparently not been affected by the crisis in Ukraine. Despite fears that the other members might clash with Russia or that Iran might be able to exploit tensions among the other negotiators, a new round of negotiations in Vienna is going smoothly. US officials believe the reason for this to be Russia’s shared interest in preventing Iran from going nuclear and getting the bomb.
P5 + 1, Iran still at loggerheads over Arak reactor modifications
Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi, Reuters – March 19, 2014
One of the most contentious issues in the negotiations with Iran is the status of the reactor at Arak, a facility that Western powers fear could be used to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon. One of the demands of the P5 + 1 is thus that Iran shutter the reactor or modify it to such an extent that it ameliorates any concerns of the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation. Iran has hinted that it could make minor changes to the reactor, but it has stopped short of accepting Western demands in relation to the Arak reactor. It is unlikely that the final status of the Arak facility will be decided during the current round of negotiations, but both sides seem optimistic that they could come to an agreement by the time the interim agreement expires on July 20th.
NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT
Administration looks toward 2016 summit as the 2014 summit approaches
Douglas P. Guarino, March 18, 2014 – Global Security Newswire
With the next Nuclear Security Summit starting this weekend, administration officials are already looking forward to the next (and possibly final) summit in 2016. At each of the two summits, the administration hopes to make progress regarding the civilian use of highly enriched uranium and the security of military nuclear materials. While some progress is being made on these two key components of nuclear security, the administration intends to press for more comprehensive efforts to address the dangers posed by insecure nuclear materials.
Pentagon begins looking for a replacement for the Littoral Combat Ship
Kris Osborn, Military.com – March 18, 2014
The Navy, under orders from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, has initiated a Small Surface Combatant Task Force that will look for options to replace and/or upgrade the littoral combat ship, a platform that has come under increasing criticism for issues of combat durability and cost. Indeed, affordability is stressed in guidelines provided to the task force.
South Carolina sues DOE over MOX facility freeze
Harriet McLeod, Reuters – March 18, 2014
Accusing the federal government of violating non-proliferation agreements with Russia, the state of South Carolina is suing the Department of Energy for freezing the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX). The Department of Energy cited cost overruns–a projected cost of up to $30 billion–when it announced the freeze and its efforts to find a more affordable option to convert weapons-grade plutonium to nuclear reactor fuel. The state’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, is likely motivated by the 1,800 jobs sustained by the plant.