Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk


I’m deviating from my original plan to blog primarily on open source resources to talk about an issue I usually shy away from. It’s easy to be pigeonholed as the WOMAN rather than the expert. I also like to compartmentalize my work and home life. In a venue where I’m teaching people to use open source analysis, I don’t want to invite attention to my family. Too many women get their lives ruined on the Internet these days.

Last, I hope nobody thinks these comments are meant to undermine friends and colleagues. There’s just a hot pink elephant in the room. Let’s talk about it.

5:30am: wake up and luxuriate in the fact that I have slept in. (Jeffrey knows what I am talking about). I’m a new mom. This quickly turns to guilt because my new twin boys are at home with my husband and I am not. I’m in DC on my first big trip away from them. I haven’t traveled until now because I am a clingy first time mom, and more pragmatically because I was breastfeeding. There’s no place to plug a cellphone in at a big conference, let alone a breast pump. That’s not to say I stopped breastfeeding to come to this conference, just that I couldn’t have attended until now when I naturally had to wean off.

6:45am: arrive at conference venue to start up computers on our table display. We’re promoting the 3D modeling work that I am a big part of. It’s great to show off the work, but I am disappointed that almost no other staff members have signed up to take a turn at the table during the breaks. I complained to a colleague a few days ago that I thought she would have at least signed up for a turn. We are close friends! She delicately explained that she didn’t want to sign up until at least one of the men attending the conference signed up.

7:30am: attend the Women of Mass Destruction session. Two years ago, I sat next to Cheryl Rofer and struck up what I hope will be a life long friendship. She was a chemist at Los Alamos, and in her “retirement” runs the  Nuclear Diner blog. We’re facebook friends now. Sometimes she gives me technical analysis and sometimes she mails hand knit caps for the babies.

Cheryl is now my ally, and I can talk to her about stuff that still can not be said out loud at the W(oman)MD session. Even though it’s a safe space, in the age of Twitter, it’s still on the record. Nobody, particularly the younger crowd, wants to be perceived as a “problem.” Problems are not very employable.

So predominately, the questions surround non specifics. How do I respond when men interrupt me? How do I find a job? How do I get access? How do I get taken seriously?

11:00am: get mistaken for an intern while standing behind the display table.

3:00pm: try standing in front of the display table with more success.

4:30pm: engage in a Twitter discussion about the gender of the speakers and moderators on the conference’s panels. #manels is a hot hashtag these days. It’s an easy metric to throw around and a hard one to do something about.

The conference has had a great deal more women on the stage this year, but as a percentage it’s still low. One colleague pointed out that it’s the highest its been at 30%, however others argue the number is really lower due to the fact that many of the female speakers are in the optional side meetings and some speak on more than one panel. There could be a lot of reasons for low participation. Perhaps women are still rising through the ranks, they don’t feel confident in their expertise, or they have a tough time leaving their second job as caretaker behind.

One of my colleagues thought the organizers should do more. She argued that even 30% representation was not enough for congratulations. The next day, I was approached in person and chastised by someone who thought her comments were offensive and inappropriate for Twitter. Also, he told me, three female speakers cancelled last week. I wish I had thought to tell him that there would probably be less tweeting if there was a better way to participate in the conference, but I didn’t. I passed on the message.

10:00pm: sing Baby Beluga into a cellphone.

Women are different — from each other and from men. This is a tough conversation to have, but without women’s opinions we are losing half the stakeholders, and half the potential solutions.


Catherine here.  For the past year, Jeffrey and I have been looking at China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in Xinjiang, which is where we believe China conducts test launches of its hit-to-kill interceptor.  Jeffrey put up a brief post about part of the site in August, after China conducted a missile defense test this summer on July 24, 2014. The US State Department characterized the event as an anti-satellite test, but Jeffrey likes to point out that it’s better to call it a hit-to-kill test.  What it kills isn’t so important.

In this test, as well as tests on January 11, 2010 and January 27, 2013, China has reportedly launched the HTK interceptor, usually called the SC-19 in the US press, from a site near Korla (库尔勒市), in Xinjiang province.  A possible test occurred on September 25, 2010, but was not officially acknowledged. In that past, China used a CSS-11 missile launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center as a target. (Side note, the US intelligence community calls Jiuquan “Shuangchengzi”, which is where the SC in in SC-19 comes from.)

We can now say with high confidence, based on some open-source research, many things about the Korla MTC including the location of many of its assets, that it is subordinate to the General Armaments Department (GAD) and the location of a number of previous missile defense tests.

The main base is located at 41°42’37.76″N 86°11’22.69″E. The hit-to-kill launch site is located at 41°32’14.18″N 86°21’11.82″E.


General Armaments Department in Korla

We were able to identify these bases—and link them to the GAD—with a little help from our colleague Iain Johnston, who sent us an email after the July post:

I enjoyed your Arms Control Work piece on tracking down the Korla test site. You mentioned in the post that you didn’t know if it was a GAD site. Perhaps you’ve already tracked this information down, but FWIW I found a website that lists GAD bases. There is one at Korla and it is identified as the 63618 unit. I also found a reference to this unit in a local government webpage for the Bayinguoleng Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, within which Korla is situated.  The unit is identified as being situated in the outskirts of Korla city. Here’s a video from the unit made in 2010 to celebrate soldiers leaving the force. The credits at the end note that the movie was made by unit 63618 in Korla. The webpage of the Korla city government also refers to this unit. Judging from the topics of articles on CKNI that are co-authored by scholars affiliated with unit 63618, its work appears to be related to satellites and missiles (e.g. “Location Model and Error Analysis of Space Target Location by Early Warning Satellite” in Aerospace Electronic Warfare; “Detecting Probability Calculation on Moving Space Target of Space Detector” in Electronic Information Warfare Technology; and “Research on the effectiveness of early warning satellites to detect early warning indicator system” in Aerodynamic Missile Journal.

Unit 63618 appears to be subordinate to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center from the list of GAD bases Iain provided. Even without the GAD listing in Chinese, one can infer that Korla falls under Jiuquan. The ever-useful Directory of PRC Military Personalities lists the Jiuquan SLC as Base 20 (63600). The next base is Base 21 (63650). The Korla unit—numbered 63618—falls logically under Jiuquan.

The available information confirms that Korla is subordinate to the General Armaments Department, which is responsible for developing things like hit-to-kill interceptors, and that personnel at Korla work on targeting things — missiles and satellites — in space.

The Unit 63618 alumni video, though, was the real goldmine and crucial in geo-locating the unit. Videos bidding farewell to rotating personnel or remembering the anniversary of a particular unit often appear in internet searches. This type of media can provide helpful context of the environment in which a military unit spends its time and the necessary daily tasks of life it undertakes.

Screenshot of the Unit 63618 alumni video title.

The Unit 63618 video contains ground-truth images of both the main base and the hit-to-kill launch site. The most prominent features of the main base to match to the available satellite imagery include the main gate, the back of the building, and the base’s basketball court. These images provide visual confirmation of the location of the KMTC.

The main gate of the KMTC.

Basketball courts at the KMTC.

Administrative building at the hit-to-kill launch site.

Construction at the hit-to-kill launch site.

The alumni video, made in 2010, clearly shows the hit-to-kill launch site under construction. This timeline also fits with the satellite images of the site, as well as the general development of the SC-19 interceptor program that began at the KMTC with the 2010 missile defense test.



One thing we wanted to check was whether an interceptor launched from the KMTC could hit a test missile launched from the Jiuquan SLC, which is how the press reported a previous intercept test. David Wright from the Union of Concerned Scientists kindly modeled the test for us and analyzed the trajectories of the target and the interceptor vehicles (You can read a more thorough analysis on the test from David here).

Two trajectories for both the interceptor (blue) and target (red) missiles. The dots show 30-second intervals, with the target missile launched at t = 0.

Based on known and assumed parameters of the CSS-X-11 and SC-19 vehicles, David is reasonably confident that the intercept is possible and matches known timelines of the test.

At this point, we’re probably polishing the cannonball, but we acquired satellite imagery of the KMTC on the day of a known missile defense test.  That image also confirms the base’s involvement in missile defense testing.

Through a generous imagery grant from the DigitalGlobe Foundation, we have a satellite image of the test facility on January 27, 2013. We weren’t lucky enough to capture the TEL on the launch pad, but there are many visible features that show preparations for an interceptor test.

The hit-to-kill launch site on January 27, 2013. Image © DigitalGlobe.

The launch pad has been cleared and there is significant vehicle activity at the facility, which is normally unused except during periods related to testing.  Most important, the instrumentation sites have trailers in them, something that only occurs for tests.

The administrative facilities and launchpad on the day of the January 27, 2013 test. Image © DigitalGlobe.

We checked with a few missile defense experts. Here is a summary of the signatures they found interesting:

  • Near launch-photo documentation
  • Short range radar tracking
  • Telemetry reception for pre-launch and early flight testing
  • Tracks caused by moving non-permanent generators and other instruments in support of data recording
  • Data reception and communications equipment
  • Cables for instrumentation and remote recording
  • Dishes 3-6m in diameter for telemetry
  • Radio antennas and radar
  • Mini-dines for sheltering optical equipment
  • Cameras

The available satellite imagery strongly suggests the facility is active in HTK vehicle testing activities.


LPAR near Korla

Last thing! There is also a Large Phased Array Radar (LPAR) facility between the main base and the test base. Sean O’Connor identified the LPAR in 2009, located at 41°38’30.46″N 86°14’15.27″E.  Obviously, an LPAR would be useful for looking at missile intercept tests.  As you can see from the image, it turns.  We weren’t able to get a picture of the LPAR on the day of the test — the picture cuts off — but that’s a signature for future use.

In the left image, taken shortly before the January 2013 test, the LPAR is angled differently than in the right image, taken in October 2013.



The satellite imagery, alumni videos, and listings of GAD units strongly indicate that the Korla Missile Test Complex is the test facility for HTK technology. The question of whether the tests at the KMTC are for missile defense purposes or ASAT development is far trickier to answer, as the HTK vehicle can be utilized for either purpose.

This geo-location exercise raises a larger issue to which to return in future posts—although China is not very transparent in releasing official information on military programs, this is not the case when it comes to the ubiquitous information available on Chinese social media information platforms. Much incidental information, most of it mundane and about ordinary life, exists and helps to inform a broader picture of Chinese military capabilities. Of course, analysis of Chinese social media information requires diligence and caution, and review of official releases requires considering whether information was released as a part of “selective transparency.” But at the very least, policy experts should consider helping government-to-government exchanges to catch up to the transparency present in social media. In the case of missile defense testing, a reasonable step might be for China and the United States to exchange notifications of upcoming tests.


Greetings ACW readers! I’m Catherine Dill, the newest contributor around here.

I am a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. I dabble in research and training related to all sorts of things, but I spend most of my time looking at nonproliferation and arms control in East Asia, open source analysis for nonproliferation, and strategic trade controls.

I’m very pleased to be able to share some of my work with ACW’s readers. To begin my blogging tenure, I’ll give a short geoquiz à la Melissa Hanham.

I heard a rumor that Melissa’s geoquizzes haven’t been hard enough for some readers, so let’s see what I might be able to do about that. Post your answers in the comments section.

I recently went on a three-country trip. Over on twitter I gave two mini geoquizzes from the first two countries I visited (here and here, if you’re interested, #geolocatecatherine), but I didn’t have time to do one from the third. I’ll remedy that now.

Part I: Give coordinates of the tourist attraction seen in the below pictures.

Part II (for the enthusiastic participant): Based on the order of the pictures, give my walking route around this location.






One of the best parts of my job at CNS is working with students. They come from all over the world, speak multiple languages, and are passionate about arms control. They are also digital natives who like problem solving, and will often chase a lead with Jeffrey and me just for the love of the work.

A few weeks ago Iran posted a Notice to Airmen for the area surrounding the Imam Khomeini Space Centre. NOTAMs are cumbersome to find and decode, so I was pleased when Alex Kynerd, a first year MA candidate, took it upon himself to write an explainer and map it out on Google Earth.

NOTAM Decoding

Alex Kynerd

On February 2, 2015, Iran launched its fourth satellite, named Farj, into orbit aboard a two-stage Safir rocket from its Semnan Launch Site, according to Al-Alam News Network. The launch coincided with the 36th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and is the first successful satellite launch after two failed launches in 2012.

On Iran Military Forum, user “Websorber” posted about a 4-month NOTAM issued for a desert area east of Tehran near the city of Semnan. A NOTAM, or NOTice to AirMen, is a notice issued by an aviation authority alerting aircraft pilots of potential hazards over a certain location. The Imam Khomeini Space Center, the site of Iran’s test launch of the Kavoshgar-1 rocket, is located near the region covered by NOTAM A3947 issued on 28 December 2014.

Official NOTAMs are listed on Iran’s Aeronautical Information Management website. The site is updated regularly, and old NOTAM summaries are removed and replaced with newer ones.

The following is a screenshot of the cover page of the 28 December 2014 NOTAM (now replaced with more recent NOTAMs):

The same NOTAM identifier posted on Iran Military Forum is listed in the 28 December NOTAM document.

A3947 141228 1412280330/1504280830/EST



Using the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Procedures for Air Navigation Services Abbreviations and Code handbook, it is possible to decode the NOTAM from its condensed format.

The first series of characters is the NOTAM identification number. The second set of numbers is the initial effective date. The third set of numbers is the effective date range of the NOTAM, starting with the initial date YY/MM/DD/Time. After the slash is the estimated ending date for the NOTAM, YY/MM/DD/Time. The EST indicates an estimated date/time.

The second line is a reference to Reference Aeronautical Information Publication ENR (En-route) 5.1.3-9, a document available at Iran’s Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) website. The first three numbers refer to the chapters/sections of the AIP, while -9 represents the page number.

OID 90 Activated is a reference to the specific identification name and lateral limits of the location of the NOTAM. OID is a designation for a “danger area.” Here is a snip of the explanatory document:

The following image shows a screenshot of Iran’s AIP ENR5.1.3 Danger Areas Document found at Iran’s AIS website.

Under the Remarks column are several lines of more ICAO code. According to the ICAO publication, H24 indicates a 24-hour restriction over the zone. FL (or flight level) 230 corresponds to 7000 meters/23,000 feet from the ground, according to the Wikipedia page on flight level.

The code HJ may indicate from dusk to dawn or a launch is planned. Both explanations of the code HJ are given in the ICAO document. The fourth line is self-explanatory, and specifies a ground-to-air firing. Finally, IRIDIO, according to the Remarks column, may refer to the risk of interception. This acronym was not explained in the ICAO document. However, IRI also stands for Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the Civil Aviation Directives AIS and Aerodromes Service Level of Agreement (SLA). DIO may be an abbreviation of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization. The DIO is controlled by Iran’s Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics, and has significantly contributed to Iran’s missile program. The DIO is a target of both US and UN sanctions.

Plotting the NOTAM Coordinates in Google Earth

The left-hand column of the AIP ENR5.1.3 Danger Areas Document indicates OID90 refers to the Semnan area. The following image from Google Earth shows the OID area, using the coordinates listed as pin locations with a polygon overlay.

Overlaying the Islamic Republic of Iran En-route Map

The Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) website also contains a map/en-route chart that shows the various airways, OID areas, and other information on Iran’s flight paths. The airway mentioned in the NOTAM above) is AWY R794, which according to the en-route chart, passes through OID90.

Zooming into OID90 gives the following image:

The positions of the VOR locations plotted in Google Earth closely match the locations on the superimposed AIP map.

On 26 January 2015, Iran’s AIS put out a new NOTAM list. The following NOTAMs were issued for the area around the Semnan facility.

First, OID51 is activated from 23-31 Jan 2015 from the hours of 3:30AM to 2:30PM between the Dehnamak VOR and Gibab as well as Airway R794 between the Dehnamak VOR and the Tabas VOR from ground to 25,000 feet above mean sea level.

Second, the lateral limits of OID41 are permanently extended over the area of the coordinates 351200N 0533500E, 350942N 0533500E, 344000N 0550000E, 351800N 0543500E.

This extends OID41 over a much larger area, including areas previously covered by OID51 and OID90. It also includes a previously uncovered triangular area northeast of OID90.

Third, the OID90 area was activated from 21 January 2015 to 1 February 2015, from the ground to an unlimited height.

This gives us a new area, larger area covered by the NOTAMs, shown below in purple. 


Alex went on to map out the Shahrud missile facility, but I’m going to save that post for a later date. Alex rightly argues that NOTAMs are useful for predicting missile activity. Restricted danger areas can also give us a hint about “other” facilities where you might not want civilian aircraft wandering.


A little how-to guide to measure the height of any most structures on Google Earth. 

As you click through the Twittersphere or even click through TV channels (remember those?), you may hear claims like “North Korea is building a scary big missile” or “Iran’s building a scary big elevator shaft.” Ok, I made that last one up.

But how do we know?  Well, they haven’t shown off their new missiles. Yet. But, they are building some mighty big gantry towers. How big you say? Let me show you. Better yet, let me show you how to do it yourself.

First, there is of course the fun MATH way, but there is also the fun visual way:

Step 1: 

Download (FREE) SketchUp Make, and (FREE) Google Earth Pro.

Step 2:

Set up SketchUp, preferably using a template in meters (because they are better). Activate the Large Tool Set and Google tool bars under the View menu.

Step 3: 

Click Add Location on the Google tool bar. Type in the coordinates: 35.236390° 53.950016° and click Select Region on the top right.

Step 4:

Drag the pins to select the territory around the gantry tower. Make sure you include the entire shadow. When ready, hit Grab and give your computer a second to import the image into SketchUp.

 Step 5:

Now you have an image along your red and green axes and the blue represents the vertical space. First, reset your axes to the corner of the tower, and then draw a rectangle around the base. This is might hurt your eyes a bit. Zoom in and out until you can see where the shadow joins the structure.

 Step 6: 

Now use the Push Pull tool to make your 2D rectangle into a 3D tower (my favorite part). For now, just make a guess at how tall the tower is. Next, go to the View menu and click shadows. Very obviously, the shadow generated by SketchUp does not match the one in the imagery.

Step 7: 

How to rectify? Well, go back to Google Earth and see when the image was taken. SketchUp is just pulling the API from Google. It’s on the bottom right of the window.

Step 8:

Now go back to SketchUp and select Shadows from the Windows menu. Enter 09/21. The shadows most likely still don’t line up, because we don’t have the right time of day yet. Unfortunately, Google Earth doesn’t tell you what time the image was taken. You can (and I have, ugh) looked through the DigitalGlobe catalog until you find it, but we can get pretty close without it.

Grab the slider bar and adjust it until the SketchUp-generated shadow lines up with the imagery shadow. It doesn’t have to be the right height, but your SketchUp shadow should be the same shape and the “width” of the shadow on the satellite image. If not, you might have to check your work in Step 5.

Step 9:

Ok, so now we adjust the height of our tower to make sure that the shadows line up. And, Voila! Grab a tape measure and see how tall that baby is. In this case, our measurement shows ~45 meters.

Keep in mind that the tower is on top of a pad which is also elevated (see its shadow?), so to be more accurate you should build it too.

BEFORE the haters show up — a couple of notes: crowded structures, uneven terrain, and poor resolution will make your job harder and introduce error. So, maybe don’t try to build a model of something right next to a cliff. You can play with the terrain function on the Google toolbar, sometimes it helps, sometimes it’s FUBAR. You can also build all the other structure which will receive and generate their own shadows.

Step ∞:

Have at it! You can make it as realistic as you want. See that crane in the shadow? You can build it too.

Special thanks to Frank Pabian who showed me this neat trick!



Greetings fellow Wonks. My name is Melissa Hanham, and I’m the new ACW contributor on the block. I work for Jeffrey and a lot of my day-to-day involves applying technology to policy problems. If its got a map, a model, big data, little data, software, hardware, or satellite imagery, I’m probably into it. And, excited about it. And, I want to tell you about it.

I taught myself, often the hard way, often in the field, and so I’m hoping to use this space to write explainers, how-tos, and do a bit of myth busting. Oh, and geo quizes! That’s right, Wonks, we’re into participatory learning here. So take your feet off the sofa and roll up your sleeves.

A few weeks ago Jeffrey and I taught an AWESOME workshop on geospatial analysis at UC Berkeley. Turns out, I’m a bit of a sadist, and I tortured some grad students… and some undergrads… and some members of the national labs :/

Most of them figured out at least one of these in the 30 minutes allotted. See if you can too!


  • Post the coordinates in the comments
  • EXPLAIN how you got your answer
  • Don’t peek!

Where were these photos taken? (Double click and double click again, to see them bigger)





What follows is a post I originally wrote for my personal blog, Turkey Wonk. The article touches on a lot of the issues Jeffrey and I have talked about in recent podcasts, so I thought I would share it with the Arms Conrol Wonk crowd. Enjoy.


I am confused. This morning, Anadolu Agency reported that Turkey’s Defense Minster, Ismet Yilmaz, wrote in response to a parliamentary question about Turkey’s missile defense tender that Turkey’s future system will “not be integrated” with NATO’s missile defense system.

Here is the tweet:

Reuters picked up on the story and wrote the following:

Turkey will go ahead with plans to order a $3.4-billion missile defense system from China, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said, despite U.S. and NATO concerns over security and compatibility of weaponry. Yilmaz said in a written response to a parliamentary question published on Thursday that Ankara will use the long-range system without integrating it with NATO’s system.  Turkey originally awarded the tender to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp in 2013, prompting U.S. and NATO officials to say the deal could raise questions over security. Turkey later said it was in talks with France on the issue, but Yilmaz said no new bids had been received. ”The project will be financed with foreign financing. Work on assessing the bids has been completed and no new official bid was received,” the minister said.

As of January 2015, Turkey was reported to have decided to put-off “making a hasty ‘final-final’ decision” on the long-delayed T-LORAMIDS tender. The Turkish leadership, according to Burak Bekdil, was continuing discussions with the United States’ Lockheed Martin/Raytheon for the PATRIOT system and MBDA for the SAMP/T, but were watching how both countries’ governments handled the events surrounding the 100 year anniversary of the “Armenian Genocide.” According to Burak Bekdil’s report:

The procurement official did not comment directly on whether Congress’ decision would be a parameter in selecting a winner in the contract, or whether the US contender would be blacklisted for political reasons. But he said: “Our procurement decisions are not free of deliberations on foreign policy.” Both the procurement and defense officials said that although all three bidders are in the picture, they admitted that talks with CPMIEC have not been productive.” I cannot say negotiations with the Chinese contender have evolved as we expected,” the procurement official said. The defense official said: “[CPMIEC is] still in the game. But they don’t stand where they stood when we selected them. We expect all bidders to improve their offers in line with four criteria: better technological know-how, local participation, quick delivery and price.”Turkish procurement officials earlier admitted that technical negotiations with CPMIEC had dragged into several problematic areas and “this option now looks much less attractive than it did [in 2013].”

To add more fuel to the linkage between missile defense decision-making and the Armenian Genocide issue, Daily Sabah – a newspaper that, lets say, has strong ideological sympathies for the AKP – wrote the following:


Was this a Freudian slip, or did Yilmaz gaffe? Here is where the caveats have to come in: Yilmaz is not, lets say, a very strong Defense Minister. He is not exactly a known commodity in Turkey. I suspect that these types of decisions are above his pay-grade and the buck for these politically sensitive decisions stops at a rather large office inside Ak Saray.

In any case, one can tease out three plausible explanations for Yilmaz’s comments. First, he gaffed and Reuters jumped the gun (likely). Second, he is trying to indirectly pressure the Europeans (the U.S. has little hope of winning this, unless Turkey changes its tender terms.) Third, it was a Freudian slip and Turkey has decided to purchase the HQ-9.

Option 1 may be the most plausible:

But that still leaves two issues: The tender itself and the Armenian issue. On the technical side, the issue connecting explanations 2 and 3 is simple: Turkey, as a matter of state policy, has prioritized the development of an indigenous defense sector. To do so, Ankara conditions its purchase of foreign military equipment on offsets. According to the U.S. government, offsets can come in many forms. For example:

  • Offsets: Industrial compensation practices required as a condition of purchase in either government-to-government or commercial sales of defense articles and/or defense services as defined by the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
  • Military Export Sales: Exports that are either Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or commercial (direct) sales of defense articles and/or defense services as defined by the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
  • Direct Offsets: Contractual arrangements that involve defense articles and services referenced in the sales agreement for military exports.
  • Indirect Offsets: Contractual arrangements that involve goods and services unrelated to the exports referenced in the sales agreement.
  • Co-production: Overseas production based upon government-to-government agreement that permits a foreign government(s) or producer(s) to acquire the technical information to manufacture all or part of a U.S. origin defense article. It includes government-to-government licensed production. It excludes licensed production based upon direct commercial arrangements by U.S. manufacturers.
  • Licensed Production: Overseas production of a U.S. origin defense article based upon transfer of technical information under direct commercial arrangements between a U.S. manufacturer and a foreign government or producer.
  • Subcontractor Production: Overseas production of a part or component of a U.S. origin defense article. The subcontract does not necessarily involve license of technical information and is usually a direct commercial arrangement between the U.S. manufacturer and a foreign producer.
  • Overseas Investment: Investment arising from the offset agreement, taking the form of capital invested to establish or expand a subsidiary or joint venture in the foreign country.
  • Technology Transfer: Transfer of technology that occurs as a result of an offset agreement and that may take the form of: research and development conducted abroad; technical assistance provided to the subsidiary or joint venture of overseas investment; or other activities under direct commercial arrangement between the U.S. manufacturer and a foreign entity.


Turkey’s emphasis on this strategy has long transcended politics. During the 1990s, for example, Ankara’s defense relationship with Israel was based – at least in part – on Tel Aviv’s willingness to play ball with Turkey’s defense industry (and overlook human rights concerns while doing so).

The key difference in this regard is twofold: First, the AKP has adopted anti-western rhetoric to bolster its populist appeal. The rhetoric, while based on genuine political disagreements, is nonetheless an election tactic designed to reinforce the AKP’s post-Gezi/17 December political narrative. Second, missile defense, since 2010, is now a central part of the Alliance’s commitment to burden sharing and collective defense.

Offsets are one thing. The Alliance is another. If Yilmaz’s statement is accurate, than we have a problem. Turkey’s standard argument is that other NATO states – and in particular Greece and the Baltics – have Russian/Soviet systems that are outside of NATO’s emerging missile defense network. Turkey therefore will not be the only member with an independent missile defense system. True. But those systems predate the inclusion of missile defense as a key component of the Alliance’s updated approach to collective security. (And the Cyprus S-300 issue has its roots in Turkey’s objection to the system. Greece has also purchased Patriot, even using them to paint Turkish F-4s during the annual summer dog fights over the Aegean that cost both countries millions in wasted dollars.)

Ankara also argues, albeit indirectly, that they worry about the use of their systems for an “out of area conflict.” Thus, during a conflict with a  neighboring country in the Middle East, Turkey wants the flexibility to use the system as it pleases, rather than face potential restraints should it go to war with an adversary that the West has no appetite to fight. (Syria is a good example of this, but there is another, smaller, state that comes to mind that shall remain nameless.)

These arguments have their merits, but they miss the point. Ankara’s pursuit of offsets and its concerns about fire control are political – and thereby can be addressed via other means within the Alliance itself. If Ankara does opt to go outside of the Alliance structure, it will undermine the concept of collective security at a time when it relies on NATO PATRIOT batteries forward deployed in Turkey for defense against Syrian Scud attacks.

The timing of Yilmaz’s statement could not have come at a worse time. In the past few months, Russia has invaded a sovereign country, increased the number of (presumably nuclear armed) bomber flights around various NATO states, got caught running subs through Sweden’s archipelago, and is developing a new cruise missile. (Hint: At least one is aimed at a target in Turkey. Bank on that.)

As Jeffrey and I have spoken about on our weekly podcast, Russian policy vis-a-vis NATO is to try and split the alliance, which thereby weakens the collective response to issues like, say, the blatant invasion of a neighboring country under entirely false pretenses. This is why Turkey’s decision-making matters. Neither the PATRIOT or SAMP/T would be used to defend Europe proper: the systems are battle field systems, designed primarily to target shorter range ballistic missiles (think Syria, not Russia. The HQ-9 is sold as an AWACS killer and not a missile defense system per se, but I digress). But that is not the point.

The point is that Turkey is a member of NATO. NATO is a collective defense organization. And in 2010, Turkey and its NATO allies agreed to a Strategic Concept that identified missile defense as a key component of its approach to collective security – which Turkey currently relies on for ballistic missile defense. The European system is a smarter choice for a whole host of technical reasons; not the least of which is that they can plug it into the U.S. funded command and control system, which then would allow for the system to access cueing data from the TPY/2 down the road in Kürecik. (I would pick PATRIOT, but I’m trying to think like a Turkish politician.)

This decision, regardless of the technical merits of the systems under consideration, is political. Ankara will, in all likelihood, never be able to export a viable missile defense system, which means it will probably never get a good return on its investment. The intention is different: develop an industrial base to support a defense sector, rather than missiles in particular. Political.

As for Turkish defense policy, that decision too is political. NATO asks that missile defense be part of a collective approach to security issues. NATO guarantees Turkish security. Turkey’s faith in that guarantee is, at its core, political. So this decision will give us all a good sense of which way the political winds in Ankara now blow.


The Iranian nuclear negotiations are among the most volatile arms control and international affairs topics in the news today, with commentators predicting success or failure in equal measure.  Additionally, the current sanctions fight in Congress could have far-reaching implications regardless of whether or not Iran and the P5+1 reach a solution.  Therefore, the event The Endgame: Success or Failure in Iran Nuclear Talks (hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in mid-January) was particularly informative.  Ambassador Barbara Bodine moderated a panel consisting of Robin Wright, Paul Pillar, and Ambassador Bill Luers.  Luers and Pillar are on the board of directors of The Iran Project (one can find their reports here).

American and Iranian political concerns make the coming weeks particularly important, regardless of the status of a deal.  All three speakers brought up the political bind the Iranian regime is currently in, and emphasized the divisions within it.  Negotiation breakdown would undermine Rouhani and the moderates by allowing the conservatives to prove that the West has no interest in diplomacy.  Success, however, carries multiple risks for the regime as a whole.  Rouhani’s returning home with a legitimate deal would solidify Persian public opinion on the side of the moderates, and give the President a large degree of political power with his newfound popularity.  Rouhani could channel that power into a liberalization campaign that could undermine the revolution.  A deal would force the Ayatollah to choose between the diplomatic future of Iran (as negotiation success would open up the regime to a host of other positive relationships), and the continuity of the revolution.  The role of the IRGC in such a situation is unclear at best in such a struggle between Shia sentiment, liberalism, and Persian nationalism.  The goals of the (as Fouad Ajami termed them) “turbaned savior[s] from Qom” are unclear at best.

American political concerns also play a significant role in the fate of the negotiations.  Although Congressional Democrats have pulled their support for a new sanctions bill, diminishing the probability of a veto-proof majority, legislation remains uncertain, and the differences between Democrats and Republicans on this issue are narrowing.  Republicans will almost certainly oppose a successful deal, which will allow the President to enact it as an executive agreement until he leaves office, giving the US an 18-month period to test-drive the new relationship with Iran.  Pillar observed that any American actions undermining the deal would lead to the dissolution of international pressure on Iran, since the U.S. would be the belligerent party.  This indicates that the most dangerous phase of the process could be post-deal, with Republicans attempting to pass sanctions legislation that could eliminate diplomatic options and lead to a military confrontation.

Robin Wright made several observations on Iranian youth liberalization.  Sustained population-control rhetoric from the regime along with a comprehensive public education system has created a generation that had educational support, and as such, is currently politically aware and engaged.  This engagement has driven Persian youths to connect with the West, both via social media and other outlets (including Tehran’s underground music culture).  The political awareness of Persian youth makes negotiation success even more important for a regime attempting to demonstrate it can liberalize.

Pillar also remarked upon the United States’ need for a strategic adversary, especially following the fall of the USSR.  U.S. citizens and policymakers have therefore demonized Iran to ensure the existence of a direct enemy.  This view will undermine the ability of the U.S. to accept a deal on the nuclear issue, although, as Amb. Luers observed, the aforementioned “test-drive” period could help legislators and civilians acclimate to the new (old) relationship.  In addition, although a deal could ease tensions, it would not normalize relations, allowing the U.S. and Iran to engage in a U.S./Russia-style tense peace, which could make a deal more palatable.  Finally, other actors could become the new “enemy,” namely the Islamic State (IS) (or Russia, depending on developments in Ukraine).

One set of overlooked parties in these discussions has been America’s Middle Eastern partners outside of Israel.  The current political noise over PM Netanyahu’s upcoming speech has drawn more attention to Israel, and away from Arab nations.  Like Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States fear an Iranian nuclear program, particularly because of religious tensions between the Sunni Saudis and the Shia Iranians.  Partners that do not particularly object to the nuclear program, such as Jordan, may be wary of increasing Iranian power (considering the view that the Islamic State is a reaction to Persian expansionism, and that Sunni infighting obfuscates the true strategic goal).  Increasing Iranian influence could pose a threat to multiple Arab allies.  Luers contended that these misgivings could further impede a deal, whereas Pillar asserted that the reliance of the aforementioned states on the United States for security would ensure their cooperation, despite public protest.

All these observations indicate one simple fact: the coming weeks will be critical to shaping U.S. regional, and arguably global, policy.


Aaron and Jeffrey talk with Theresa Hitchens, the Director of UNIDIR, about life in Geneva, space, and emerging technologies. The podcast begins with some useful tips for cheese lovers and Jeffrey’s advice for finding the perfect sausage, before moving on to a discussion about difficulties in defining a “space weapon,” the Russian and Chinese approaches to space issues, cyber threats, and the need for the US to craft a more comprehensive policy to address future proliferation threats.


Scrivener – a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.


It has been a while since I wrote here. Since I am too busy, or perhaps too lazy, to write my own updates, I thought it would be nice to forward something Hugh Chalmers wrote on the recent adoption, by consensus, of the safeguards resolution.

Some of you will know that the last year was difficult for those working in the safeguards community. The so-called State-Level Concept (SLC) was under attack.

Now, ever since the Agency adopted the Additional Protocol, it has worked to streamline safeguards implementation and make it more cost-effective. One way in which the secretariat has aspired to do so is by introducing “integrated safeguards.” This work started in 1998. As the Agency itself puts it, the “term refers to the optimum combination of all safeguards measures available to the Agency, including those from the Additional Protocol, to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency within the available resources.” The state level concept is part of this overall effort.

So the state level concept is not news. One can find references to it dating back to the mid-2000s. Despite this, the concept was challenged by a minority of member states over the last year. The principal concern for some states appears to have been that the SLC risked introducing additional rights or obligations for the member states or the Agency, going beyond already adopted regulations (in particular the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and its Additional Protocol). The IAEA Secretariat has made it clear that it does not, and the General Conference has welcomed this in their annual resolution.

Anyway, this is what Hugh Chalmers will put up on the VERTIC website tomorrow:

The 58th General Conference (GC) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded last week having successfully passed a safeguards resolution that may have secured the future of a previously contentious element of the Agency’s safeguards system, namely the so-called state level concept. The Conference also avoided a controversial resolution over Israel’s nuclear capabilities. Some IAEA member states have argued that the resolution, if passed, could have jeopardised Israel’s engagement with a conference on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free-Zone (MEWMDFZ). This conference has been viewed as a key step towards a successful review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2015.

Israel’s Nuclear Capabilities
With the 2015 NPT Review Conference looming over the horizon, and with the November deadline for P5+1 talks with Iran fast approaching, delegates may have been keen to establish constructive and convivial atmosphere. After three years of stalled progress towards a conference on a MEWMDFZ, a series of meetings between Israel and Arab states held at the Hotel Victoria in the mountain resort of Glion, Switzerland, had generated an air of almost cautious optimism. Sustained momentum and continued dialogue could lead to an agreed agenda, and perhaps even a conference itself—which Middle Eastern states would then find diplomatically difficult to avoid. Punishing Israel’s actions in Gaza by singling out their nuclear capabilities at the GC would, as Israel made it clear in its statement to the plenary, have ‘serious implications’ for this burgeoning dialogue. Fifty-eight states were unwilling to take this risk, compared to 45 who were, and the resolution on ‘Israeli Nuclear Capabilities’ was rejected. The last time a version of this resolution passed was on 17 September 2009, with 49 votes in favour, 45 against and 16 abstentions. It has been defeated every year since.

The State Level Concept
The Agency’s efforts over the past year to clarify the ‘state level concept’ at the heart of its safeguards system also paid off. The term was first introduced to the Board of Governors in 2004, but came under unexpected scrutiny in 2012 when Russia led a number of states in expressing concern over its implications. The Agency published two reports; ‘The Conceptualization and Development of Safeguards Implementation at the State Level‘ in 2013, and the 61-page Supplementary Document to the 2013 report in August this year in response to lingering concerns in the Board. This latter report is the result of an intense consultation process between the Agency and its members, which included six technical meetings throughout 2014, and gives a highly detailed account of the state level concept and its implementation.

The state level concept aims to give consideration to the state as a whole. As highlighted by Director General Yukiya Amano in his introductory statement to the Board of Governors on 9 September 2013, it ‘does not change, or go beyond, the existing legal framework for safeguards. It does not alter any State’s legal obligations with respect to safeguards.’ He noted that it ‘enables [the IAEA] to concentrate [its] in-field verification efforts in a State on areas of greater safeguards significance and results in better use of Agency resources.’

After the shortcomings of the Agency’s traditional approach to safeguards were laid bare in the 1990s by the revelations of Iraq’s clandestine nuclear program, the Agency adopted a more holistic approach to planning its safeguards activities. The state level concept allows the Agency to use state-specific factors (such as total nuclear fuel cycle, technical capabilities, and the safeguards agreement itself) to plan safeguards activities, with the aim of improving both their effectiveness and efficiency.

Importantly, the extent to which the Agency can ‘tweak’ its safeguards activities depends upon the range of activities made available to it through individual safeguards agreements with its members. Those with only a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) in force would find that very little changes are made to verification efforts in their state from one year to the next, with the original safeguards criteria still providing the primary basis for determining these efforts. In the case of states whose CSA is augmented by an Additional Protocol (AP), the Agency may be able to draw a broader conclusion ‘that all nuclear material in a State has remained in peaceful activities’, and subsequently streamline the implementation of the many activities afforded to it by this augmented agreement.

Trust in the Agency
While the exact nature and origins of the concerns raised in 2012 and 2013 are unclear — state level approaches have been discussed by the General Conference since 2006 without giving rise to similar concerns — the safeguards resolution adopted last week can shed some light. As various drafts of the resolution were released it was clear that while the conference generally welcomed the Agency’s work in clarifying the concept, states felt it necessary to highlight five aspects of this clarification as particularly noteworthy. By emphasising that the Agency is not abusing the concept to acquire the same rights and powers offered by the Additional Protocol, nor is it using information on state level factors for any purpose other than safeguards, the resolution reveals the surprisingly deep level of mistrust held by a vocal minority of member states.

In some cases, this mistrust may have emerged from genuine concern over the manner in which the state level concept was developed and communicated to member states. The Agency’s consultation process seems to have addressed these, and while the conference welcomed continued engagement with the Agency on this issue, it is unlikely that the IAEA will have to make such a concerted outreach on this topic again. In other cases, this mistrust may have emerged from a more general fear over the future direction of safeguards. A former section head of the Agency’s Office of Legal Affairs highlighted this when she associated disputes over the state level concept with a challenge to the Agency’s obligation to verify both the correctness and completeness of a state’s declarations, no matter what agreement they are reported through.

The resolution adopted last week gives little opportunity for such a challenge to take hold within the General Conference. Preambular language stresses the importance of verifying both the correctness and completeness of state declarations, and notes that the Agency’s ability to do this should be increased. Any attempt to mount a challenge to this by objecting to ambiguities or uncertainties in the state level concept will be very hard now that most of these ambiguities and uncertainties are explicitly addressed in the resolution. Nevertheless, the acceptance of the Agency’s approach to safeguards may be tested more at the coalface than in the conference hall. The Agency’s long-running investigation into Iran’s nuclear programme will continue to be a very visible test of the IAEA’s safeguards system. If this system fails to resolve this investigation in a manner that neither compromises a potential diplomatic solution nor tarnishes the Agency’s apolitical status, more questions may be raised in the future as to its suitability.

Disarming Language
The safeguards resolution adopted at the General Conference also goes a long way to cementing the importance of maintaining the Agency’s capabilities to verify any disarmament or arms control agreement it is asked to monitor. While language related to this capability has long been supported by many member states, it has either been rejected for expediency or relegated to the preambular paragraphs. By ‘noting that the Agency must remain ready to assist […] with verification tasks under nuclear disarmament or arms control agreements’, this issue will remain worthy of detailed consideration in many conferences to come.

What happens now remains to be seen. The best outcome would be that member states now feel that they have the assurance that they desired. This would enable the Agency to continue to develop this important safeguards measure in a way that is efficient and adaptive to changes in technology, but above all in a way that effectively builds assurance that member states have comprehensively declared their stockpiles of source and special fissionable material.