Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security & Nonproliferation, visited with undergraduate and graduate students on Oct. 26. Many of the students are taking a class about nuclear security in Russia, Iran and South Asia from Associate Professor Chris Jones.
Countryman said the Iran nuclear deal is unprecedented because it includes rigorous measures to keep Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Because it is based on verification – not trust – it is enforceable and long-term, he said. Countryman also stressed that, while the deal was adopted on Oct. 18, sanctions against Iran will not be lifted until it complies with the requirements outlined in the agreement. He said that could be during the first half of 2016. He added that any attempt by Iran to build a covert operation would not go undetected by the international community.
Another topic of interest for the State Department, as illustrated by a recent speech by Secretary of State John Kerry, is reviving the discussion on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1996, but was never ratified by the United States and other key countries. Countryman said computer modeling has made testing unnecessary and that a worldwide monitoring system now allows us to know where a nuclear explosion occurs. He also pointed to the long-term health effects of people who live near nuclear test sites. “It’s a human issue,” he said.
Countryman shared with students why he loves the Foreign Service. “I have never had a boring day,” he said. He also appreciates the focus on training. Countryman knows five foreign languages and he also received management and leadership training. He encouraged students to seek out internships as a way to get a foot in the door.