The Cable

Clinton rolls back Bolton-era arms control shakeup

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday announced plans to reorganize the "T" bureau at the State Department, seeking to roll back changes made by former Under Secretary John Bolton during George W. Bush's presidency.

"We are undertaking a focused reorganization of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation," Clinton wrote in a letter to T bureau staff. "The goals of this reorganization are to realign the missions of the VCI and ISN bureaus to better leverage their support for key national security objectives and to create dedicated organizational advocates for arms control and verification and compliance, and nonproliferation."

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher, who leads the T bureau, explained the rationale in a town-hall meeting with about 200 staffers Wednesday morning.

"Arms control, verification, compliance, and nonproliferation will no longer be starved for resources; quite the contrary, these missions along with our political-military efforts will be adequately resourced and well-staffed with first rate professionals," she told her personnel. "The proven and time-tested tools of arms control have been seriously underutilized, if not neglected, by the United States, and nonproliferation efforts have at times lacked focus and follow-through. This dysfunctional approach culminated in the 2005 reorganization."

Within T, the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation (VCI) will be renamed the "Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance."  Adding arms control to the bureau's portfolio will help consolidate and strengthen that effort within T, a State Department official told The Cable.

The International Security and Non-proliferation Bureau (ISN) will now be left to focus solely on nonproliferation work. T's third bureau, the Political-Military Affairs shop, will go on unchanged.

Confused yet?

None of the plans are final, the official explained, and today begins a long process of consulting with T employees and Hill staffers alike. Small personnel shifts are expected from ISN to VCI.

"This is really the beginning of a conversation with the VCI and ISN staff to reorganize and strengthen both of these bureaus," the official said. "This is an effort to restore both bureaus to their previous prominence ... you now have a president who cares about nonproliferation."

The 2005 reorganization consolidated three bureaus into two, joining arms control and nonproliferation together into the ISN bureau, in what was then touted as a streamlining measure. A 2009 GAO report said that State was never able to demonstrate that the changes produced any benefits. Current officials saw the move as a way to marginalize both efforts.

ISN is currently without a permanent leader and being run by acting Assistant Secretary Vann Van Diepen. The State Department forwarded the name of Steve Mull, sources said, but the White House has yet to respond.

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The Cable

Choose your own Iran sanctions adventure at the U.N.?

The discussions over Iran sanctions at the U.N. Security Council are taking shape, as member countries converge around a plan to put forth a resolution that may not have the teeth some advocates want, but could be used as a vehicle for other entities to pursue more biting sanctions.

The idea is to the keep the actual penalties in the U.N. resolution, currently being negotiated in New York, vague enough to bring the Russians on board while allowing the United States and the European Union to move forward with tougher measures on their own, according to two European diplomats familiar with the discussions.

The U.N. resolution would ideally contain several "buzzwords" that would provide justification for the tougher measures, opening doors to expanded sanctions on Iranian banks, for example, the diplomats said. Pro-sanctions countries are looking to delink the measures aimed at Iranian financial institutions from their suspected activities related to proliferation, so that proving such activities would not be necessary to punish the organizations.

The pro-sanctions forces on the Security Council feel bolstered by the latest IAEA report on Iran, which alluded to work on nuclear warheads, and by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent warning that Iran is "moving towards a military dictatorship."

The Russian side is working relatively well with the other Security Council members, these diplomats report, although resisting the harder-line items that are likely not to be included in the new resolution. China's current position is that now is not the time for new sanctions, but the other actors are hoping that the Chinese will eventually be forced to choose between siding with the international community or siding with Iran, and will feel enough pressure to at least abstain from the final vote.

There is still a lot of concern about other U.N. Security Council members, especially Turkey and Brazil, who are poised to resist a new sanctions resolution.  "It's not as good a Security Council as we've had in previous rounds," one diplomat lamented.

The end of February is still technically the deadline for the negotiations, but that is likely to slip a couple of weeks, the diplomats said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and the EU are already moving forward with increased pressure on the Iranian government. The Washington Times' Eli Lake reported today that the Obama administration is likely to declare Iran's central bank as a terrorist-supporting entity, in addition to the more than one dozen Iranian banks already targeted by the Treasury Department.

EU foreign ministers have reportedly prepared a list of new sanctions they plan to unveil. Insurer Lloyd's of London said it will abide by the new sanctions currently making their way through the U.S. Congress, and Germany's Munich Re said it will not renew its contracts in Iran.

There are also increased signs of close coordination between the U.S. and Israel on the Iran issue. In addition to the trip this week by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, there have been a flurry of high-level visits back and forth in recent weeks.

CIA Director Leon Panetta was there at the end of January, National Security Advisor Jim Jones was in Israel in February, Chairman of Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew were there last week, Vice President Joe Biden is expected there March 4. From the Israeli side, Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be in Washington this week and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in town March 21, and then back again for the nuclear security conference in April.

"You are seeing a very steady, and even stepped-up level, of strategic coordination between the U.S. and Israel at the moment," said one Washington-based Middle East hand. "And given the meaningful shift in tone in public and policy in private that we are seeing from the administration, not to mention the IAEA seeing signs of warhead work in Iran, those talks are sure to be very, very sensitive."