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Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism

U.S. Levels Accusations Against Iranian Weapons Programs

Paul Kerr

The United States has been levying charges against Iran similar to those it made against Iraq prior to the March invasion of that country, including harboring the al Qaeda terrorist network and pursuing weapons of mass destruction programs.

In a May 27 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer repeated U.S. charges that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program and rejected Iranian claims that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes. “Our strong position is that Iran is preparing, instead, to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons. That is what we see,” he said.

Possible IAEA Safeguards Violation

Washington has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to state whether Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (See ACT, April 2003.) Apparently in response to this pressure, the IAEA has made the question of Iran’s compliance with its Safeguards Agreement an agenda item for its June 16 Board of Governors meeting, a State Department official said in a May 21 interview.

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill made a formal request during a March 17 Board of Governors meeting that IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report on the matter, the official said. Brill, as well as other governments, including the European Union, also made this request during a May 6 IAEA meeting. Safeguards agreements allow the IAEA to monitor the nuclear facilities belonging to an NPT member state.

Washington has long expressed the belief that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but the IAEA has never found any of Iran’s nuclear activities to be in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement.

The United States argues that recent disclosures about Tehran’s nuclear activities likely place it in violation of its safeguards agreement. Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated during a May 5 press conference in Russia that Iran is “in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its safeguards agreement with the IAEA,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Semmel was more measured during a May 2 speech at the meeting to prepare for the 2005 NPT Review Conference, stating that Washington “strongly suspect[s]” that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement.

If the IAEA Board of Governors finds that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement, it is required to report the matter to the UN Security Council, Bolton pointed out May 5. The IAEA presented such a report about North Korea’s nuclear activities to the council in February. (See ACT, March 2003.)

In a May 1 address during the NPT conference, Semmel called on Tehran to allow the IAEA “complete access” to its nuclear facilities and “fully disclose all information about its nuclear programs.” He also called on Iran to “answer the questions and concerns that have been raised, and take all measures necessary to restore confidence in its nuclear program.” (See ACT, June 2003.)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister G. Ali Khoshroo had already stated April 29 during the conference that Iran “is providing substantiated [sic] information in great detail and with complete transparency” to the agency.

Perhaps the most significant discovery about Iran’s nuclear program has been the revelation that Iran has made significant progress on its gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility located in a complex at Natanz. A State Department official told Arms Control Today in March that IAEA officials were surprised by the facility’s advanced state during a February visit. Uranium enrichment is one method for producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

Semmel stated May 2 during the NPT conference that Washington is “skeptical” that Tehran “could have developed…[the Natanz facility] without conducting pilot operations that were not reported to the IAEA.” A State Department official said in March that Iran might have introduced nuclear material into centrifuges at another location in order to test them.

An undeclared pilot program that has used nuclear material for testing purposes would be in violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement, an IAEA official confirmed in a March interview. The Natanz facility does not violate this agreement because Iran has not yet introduced nuclear material into it.

The State Department official provided new details about the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities during a May 20 interview, stating that the IAEA is checking a shipment of Chinese-supplied nuclear material, including uranium hexafluoride, to ensure that it is all accounted for. Uranium hexafluoride is the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel. If any of the material is missing, it “might suggest” that Iran has conducted activities in violation of its safeguards agreement, the official added. The official said China shipped the material in 1991.

A May 9 State Department statement detailing China’s nuclear cooperation with Iran indicates that China agreed in 1997 “not to undertake new nuclear cooperation with Iran and…[to] cancel cooperation on a uranium conversion facility.” Such a facility is used to convert uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride, an essential component of a gas-centrifuge-based nuclear program. China also agreed “to complete…two existing contracts for non-sensitive assistance”—a reference to a research reactor and a facility to produce cladding for nuclear fuel rods, according to a 2001 Department of Defense report. The statement does not mention the 1991 shipment.

The official added that the United States hopes the IAEA “requests access to all suspect sites” in Iran, including a site occupied by the Kala Electric company. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the Mujahideen-e Khalq resistance group that publicly revealed the existence of the Natanz facility in August 2002, referred to Kala Electric as a “front company” for the uranium-enrichment project.

Iran is involved in other nuclear activities, but none have yet been found in violation of its safeguards agreement.

Semmel’s May 2 speech addressed another U.S. concern about Iran’s nuclear program: its construction of a heavy-water plant near a town called Arak. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated May 9 that the heavy-water plant is part of a plan for Iran to develop an additional capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons via plutonium reprocessing. Iran has no such reactor at present and is currently constructing light-water reactors, which are less suited for plutonium production, Boucher said.

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said in a May 6 speech during the NPT conference that Iran will be building Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU)-type heavy-water nuclear reactors, but he said their construction would not be a proliferation concern because they would operate under IAEA safeguards.

A State Department official said in a May 28 interview that heavy-water reactors pose a greater proliferation risk than light-water reactors because it is easier to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium from the spent fuel. Additionally, CANDU reactors use natural uranium for nuclear fuel, which allows countries to bypass the uranium-enrichment stage and use indigenous uranium, the official said. The use of natural uranium can also potentially complicate efforts to monitor the diversion of nuclear fuel, he added.

The United States first expressed concern about the plant in December, but construction of the heavy-water plant does not itself violate Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Semmel also cited Iran’s “aggressive pursuit of a full nuclear fuel cycle capability” as evidence that the country is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced in February that it has started mining uranium and is developing the facilities necessary for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani announced in March that Iran would begin operating its uranium-conversion facility, completed by Iran after China pulled out of the project.

In addition, Russia is constructing a light-water nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran. Washington has long opposed the project out of concern Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program, although the reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished. Russia rejects the claim that its cooperation contributes to an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Russia has agreed to supply Iran with reactor fuel but only with the condition that Iran return the spent fuel. That agreement has still not been finalized, the State Department official said May 20, adding that Moscow’s condition remains in effect.

Russia also expressed some concern about Iran’s nuclear activities, although it has not stopped its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Referring to the IAEA’s investigation, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov said May 19 that Moscow has “questions” about Iran’s nuclear activities, although he did not say Moscow has any reason to believe Iran is violating its safeguards agreement. He also expressed hope that Iran would sign an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement, which is designed to provide for more rigorous inspections.

Tehran agreed in February to discuss concluding an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, but Iran placed conditions on this agreement in March.

Aghazadeh reiterated Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for generating electricity, arguing that the reduced use of fossil fuels for electricity will save Iran money and protect its environment. He also argued that Iran needs to produce its own nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on foreign suppliers. He added that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would not enhance its security and that all programs will operate under IAEA safeguards.

A January 2003 Congressional Research Service report states that “the consensus among U.S. experts appears to be that Iran is still about eight to ten years away from a nuclear weapons capability, although foreign help or Iranian procurement abroad of fissionable materials could shorten that timetable.” A February Defense Intelligence Agency estimate says Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material.

The United States has also had long-standing concerns about Iran’s missile program. Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch testified before Congress in March that Tehran could “flight test” a missile capable of reaching the United States “by mid-decade,” but a December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate places this date at 2015.

Chemical Weapons

Meanwhile, the Bush administration also reprimanded Iran for its suspected chemical weapons activities. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker accused Iran of violating its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention in an April 28 speech at the First Review Conference of the treaty—a claim the United States has repeatedly made in the past. (See ACT, June 2003.) Tehran has stated that it is not producing chemical weapons.




The United States has been levying charges against Iran similar to those it made against Iraq prior to the March invasion of that country...

IAEA ‘Taken Aback’ By Speed Of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials were “taken aback” by the advanced state of an Iranian gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility at a complex at Natanz during a February visit, according to a U.S. State Department official interviewed March 20. This revelation fueled concerns that Iran might be violating its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed in a March 17 report that he visited the site, which includes a nearly completed gas centrifuge “pilot plant” designed to enrich uranium, in February. (See ACT, March 2003.) The director-general had previously acknowledged the existence of the pilot plant shortly after his February visit, but details have emerged only in the last month indicating the advanced state of the facility.

The State Department official said ElBaradei observed approximately 164 centrifuges operating in a cascade at the pilot plant, along with parts to assemble approximately 1,000 more for a larger uranium-enrichment facility still under construction.

The State Department official also said that Washington and the IAEA believe Iran might have introduced nuclear material into centrifuges at another location in order to test them, because Tehran would not have invested in a large and sophisticated facility without sufficient testing. Such activity would violate Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA, an IAEA official confirmed in a March 25 interview. Safeguards agreements allow the IAEA to monitor the nuclear facilities belonging to a nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) member-state.

No nuclear material was in the centrifuges at the Natanz facility at the time of ElBaradei’s visit, the State Department official said.

The advanced state of the facility proves Iran has a “far more robust nuclear weapons development program” than has been publicly known, Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a March 9 appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

The State Department official said that Washington’s current policy is to allow the IAEA to continue its investigation, emphasizing that the “credibility of the safeguards regime is at risk.” ElBaradei said in his March 17 report that the agency is discussing with Tehran “a number of safeguards issues that need to be clarified, and actions that need to be taken.”

Iran first informed the IAEA of the uranium-enrichment facility in September 2002, ElBaradei said in his report. Powell revealed during the March 9 interview that the United States provided the IAEA with intelligence about the site, but he did not specify when.

Iran Accelerates Nuclear Activities

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami sparked additional concern about Iran’s nuclear capabilities when he announced shortly before ElBaradei’s visit that Iran has started mining uranium and is developing the facilities for a complete nuclear fuel cycle.

Earlier this month, Iran indicated that it is accelerating its nuclear activities. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported March 3 that Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani announced that Iran would begin operating a plant located near Isfahan that converts uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride, an essential component of the nuclear fuel cycle. Rowhani said March 3 that the facility is now complete, according to a March 14 Iranian state television broadcast.

Additionally, despite agreeing in February to discuss concluding an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, which is designed to provide for more rigorous inspections, Tehran now appears to have placed conditions on concluding a protocol. Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said in a March 13 interview with Le Monde that Tehran will not conclude a protocol unless the United States lifts economic sanctions on Iran.

Aghazadeh argued that the sanctions block Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear materials, although Tehran is allowed to acquire them under Article IV of the NPT, which states that states-parties “have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

Washington has repeatedly expressed concern that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material, according to a February Defense Intelligence Agency estimate. In addition, Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 18 that Tehran could “flight test” a missile capable of reaching the United States “by mid-decade.”

Iran continues to deny that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, arguing that its nuclear activities are transparent and consistent with IAEA safeguards.

Russian Cooperation Continues

Meanwhile, Russia signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran providing for “joint efforts” in several fields, including “peaceful” development of nuclear energy, according to a March 19 IRNA report. The precise contents of the memorandum are not yet known, according to a State Department official interviewed March 21.

Russia is constructing a nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran. Washington has long opposed the project out of concern Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program, although the reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished.

Russia has agreed to supply Iran with reactor fuel, but only with the condition that Iran return the spent fuel. According to a March 12 IRNA report, Assadollah Sabouri, deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Russia will deliver the fuel in May 2003. The State Department official, however, said March 20 that the deal to provide the fuel has not yet been signed and that Russia’s condition remains in effect.

In addition, the official said in a March 21 interview that Moscow has also given the United States “assurances” that it will not ship fuel until construction of a facility to store the fresh fuel from Russia is completed. The date of that facility’s completion is unknown, he added. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev had also said March 13 that fuel would not be shipped until the storage facility was completed, Interfax reported.

The State Department official said March 20 that Moscow might change its stance on nuclear cooperation with Iran if that country is found to be in violation of its safeguards agreement. Russia has long cited Iran’s compliance with IAEA safeguards as evidence that Tehran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials were “taken aback” by the advanced state of an Iranian gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility at a complex at Natanz during a February visit...

Iran Mining Uranium, Greatly Expanding Nuclear Facilities

Paul Kerr

In a televised speech, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced February 9 that Iran has started mining uranium near the city of Yazd and is developing the facilities necessary for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Khatami’s speech, in which he argued that Iran needs to be able to control the entire nuclear fuel cycle in order to generate electricity, rekindled fears that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Khatami enumerated the steps Iran is taking to develop a complete fuel cycle. He stated that a facility to produce uranium oxide—or “yellow cake”—is under construction in the same province as the uranium reserves. He added that a uranium conversion facility, which converts uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride, is near completion and located close to Isfahan. He also said that a uranium-enrichment facility, used to turn uranium hexafluouride into reactor-grade fuel, is under construction near Kashan and that a fuel fabrication plant is being built.

Iran’s intention to control the nuclear fuel cycle added to the United States’ long-standing concern that Iran might reprocess spent fuel it obtains from a nuclear reactor—a step that could give it access to weapons-grade fissile material. Although Khatami’s speech does not explicitly mention reprocessing, U.S. officials interpret Khatami’s discussion of the complete fuel cycle and the need to “manage the nuclear fuel by-products” as evidence that Iran is planning to engage in reprocessing, a State Department official said in a February 21 interview.

Not surprisingly, the United States reacted negatively to Khatami’s announcement. The “plans for a complete fuel cycle clearly indicate Iran’s intention to build the infrastructure for a nuclear weapons capability,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said February 10.

Boucher added that any decision by Iran to reprocess spent fuel would “directly contradict” an agreement between Iran and Russia, which is building a nuclear reactor for Iran near the city of Bushehr. Under that agreement, Moscow will supply the fuel for the reactor, but Iran must return the spent fuel to Russia. Iran and Russia have agreed to the terms of the deal, but the agreement has not yet been signed, the State Department official said February 21.

Washington has long opposed the Bushehr project, because it believes Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program, although the unfinished reactor is to operate under international safeguards. Boucher said January 31 that Washington is “engaged intensively with Russia…to cease all such cooperation with Iran.” Boucher also noted, as incentive, a standing U.S. offer to arrange for states to transfer their spent nuclear fuel to Russia for storage or reprocessing—a deal that could be worth more than $10 billion to Russia, according to the State Department. (See ACT, November 2002.)

The Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that Iran “will have a nuclear weapon within the decade” if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material, the agency’s director, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on February 11.

Iran continues to assert that it does not seek nuclear weapons and that its nuclear program is for the production of electricity. Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said that Iran wants “nuclear know-how” but is “not interested in the proliferation of arms,” according to a February 10 report from the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

An official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) interviewed February 20 said that the “IAEA has been aware for several years of uranium exploration projects in Iran,” adding that in 1992 an IAEA official visited the mine Khatami discussed and that “the Iranian government has been informing [the agency] of some of its work there.” IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated that Iran informed the agency in September 2002 that it had “plans to develop an ambitious nuclear power program that would include the entire fuel cycle,” according to a February 10 Associated Press article.

On February 21-22, in a previously scheduled visit, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei toured several Iranian nuclear facilities whose existence had only recently been made public. ElBaradei was originally scheduled to visit Iran in December, but the visit was rescheduled at Iran’s request just before the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a nongovernmental organization in Washington, D.C., issued a report December 12 stating that Iran is building “secret nuclear fuel cycle facilities.” The United States said such facilities could be used to support a nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

During his visit, ElBaradei went to one of the sites named in the ISIS report—a uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. The facility includes a “gas centrifuge pilot plant,” according to a February 25 IAEA press release. Two other IAEA employees remained in Iran to conduct additional inspections, but the agency did not say where.

ElBaradei said February 25 that he had also met with members of the Iranian government, including Khatami, and that Iran provided the agency with “information on its plans for a nuclear fuel cycle.” ElBaradei indicated that Iran agreed to provide the agency with “early design information on any of its new nuclear facilities”—an obligation to which it had not previously agreed, according to the IAEA press release.

ElBaradei called on Iran to conclude an Additional Protocol to its existing Safeguards Agreement, which Tehran had to sign as a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The protocol would likely provide for more rigorous inspections, including inspections of undeclared nuclear facilities. A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry stated that the Additional Protocol would be “discussed and signed in the course of future negotiations,” according to a February 23 IRNA report.

In a televised speech, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced February 9 that Iran has started mining uranium near the city of Yazd and is developing the facilities necessary for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. 

Countering The 'Axis of Evil': Assessing Bush Administration Policies Toward Iran, Iraq, and North Korea



Monday, January 13, 2003
Panel Discussion
10:30 A.M. - 11:45 A.M.

At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC


The Arms Control Association's annual membership meeting and luncheon were held Monday, January 13, 2003 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC.

The Panelists:

Daryl Kimball: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. If you could find your seats, please, we are going to get started. For those of you who have coats to deal with, there is a coatroom in the back.

Thank you very much for coming this morning and for coming to this briefing on countering the so-called "axis of evil," assessing the Bush administration's policies toward Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

I'm Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. We're a private, nonpartisan organization that has, for the last three decades, dedicated itself to education about arms control, promotion of effective arms control policies to make America and the world safer.

We've organized this briefing this morning, I think, at a very, very interesting time. We are here to assess how the United States and the international community can most effectively address the urgent chemical, biological, and nuclear proliferation challenges in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, and how the actions of these three states are influenced by regional security issues and by United States policies.

Before I introduce our panel of experts who are going to address each of these states, let me begin by making a few remarks to frame our discussion and to raise some issues that I hope the panelists will cover.

As you will recall, 40 years ago the Cuban missile crisis and the prospect of dozens of nuclear weapon states drove U.S. leaders-Democratic and Republican-to pursue arms control strategies to manage the dangerous nuclear, chemical, and biological arms competition with the Soviet Union, and also to stop the dangerous spread of weapons of mass destruction to new states.

In the last decade, the bedrock of that effort that emerged out of that period-the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty-has been under tremendous stress as the recognized nuclear-weapon states have not fulfilled their nuclear disarmament commitments and as states such as India, Pakistan, and Israel have maintained and advanced their nuclear weapons programs with relative impunity.

At the same time, a new wave of nuclear proliferation and chemical and biological weapons proliferation has erupted, particularly concerning Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. How the United States and the United Nations respond to these immediate challenges will profoundly affect American credibility, the future of the nonproliferation regime, and the future security of millions of people in the United States and around the globe.

In many ways, the security debate surrounding these cases right now has been shaped by last year's State of the Union address by President Bush in which he prominently labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as part of an axis of evil that is supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. The president is to be commended for focusing attention on the ongoing threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological proliferation and missile proliferation from these dangerous states, but I would say that his administration's gratuitous name calling and its allergy to multilateral diplomatic and arms control strategies, and its strong rhetorical emphasis on coercive pre-emption, including the possible use of nuclear weapons to defeat chem and bio threats, has complicated the United States' task in addressing these proliferation problems, particularly in North Korea, where recently, as we all know, North Korea has unfrozen its plutonium facilities and declared that it will leave the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty-I would say a reflection of the failure of the administration's approach toward North Korea in the last couple of years.

And though the recent announcement by the United States that it will resume talks or is willing to talk with North Korea and Governor Bill Richardson's mediation efforts is a good sign that provides some hope, there are many, many obstacles that lie ahead.

With Iraq, of course, we are on the verge of a war to deal with its weapons of mass destruction capabilities. After leaning toward unilateral military action this summer, the president did respond to domestic and international opinion and criticism and sought a new and stronger UN Security Council resolution aimed at returning UN inspectors to Iraq under a stronger mandate, with better tools and greater cooperation. But as the process continues, it's not clear whether Iraq will continue to comply with Resolution 1441-if it is, some would say-whether inspectors will find positive evidence that Iraq maintains WMD, or whether the United States will or should pursue an invasion without such evidence and without Security Council backing.

In Iran, President Bush has all but given up on establishing a dialog with Iran's reformists and seems to be resting hopes on cutting off nuclear cooperation from Russia, which continues to this day, and we now have new, fresh news reports that suggest that Iran might be building secret nuclear facilities, facilities that the IAEA will soon be inspecting. So a year after the president's "axis of evil" speech, it's clear that blunt talk and practical accomplishments are not quite the same thing.

To help us explore how U.S. policy can better address these proliferation challenges, we have three expert panelists, and I'm going to briefly introduce each one, and then we're going to hear from them, and then we're going to take questions from the audience.

First we'll hear from Michael Eisenstadt. He's senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy where he specializes in Arab, Israeli, and Persian Gulf security affairs. He is going to provide us with his perspective on Iran's WMD capabilities and motivations, the impact of administration policies, and the challenges to address in the near future.

Following him, we will hear from Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a very active writer and commentator on a wide range of issues. Michael will provide his assessment of Iraq's nuclear ambitions, chemical and biological weapons capabilities, and the differing threats these weapons pose as well as whether military action against Iraq is justified under the current circumstances that we have.

Finally we'll hear from Joel Wit, who has been very busy in the last few days. We're happy to have him with us here today. He is senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served for 15 years in the Department of State in various positions; most recently and most relevant to our session today as the coordinator for the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework, and was responsible for implementation of that agreement. And Joel has also authored a comprehensive article on the current North Korean crisis in the most recent issue of Arms Control Today, and there will be copies of that article outside as you leave when the panel session is over.

So following their comments, we'll take questions. The floor is yours, Michael.

Michael Eisenstadt: Thank you, Daryl, and thanks to the Arms Control Association for inviting me here today to talk about Iran.

If Iraq is a crisis at our doorstep and North Korea is a crisis we keep kicking down the road, then Iran, I believe, could well turn out to be the crisis just around the bend in the road. This is not only because Iran is the example par excellence of a state that supports terrorist groups with global reach and it possesses weapons of mass destruction. To paraphrase from President Bush's last State of the Union address, it is also because Iran may, within just a few years, be standing at the nuclear threshold, either through its own clandestine efforts or as a result of the emergence of North Korea as a supplier of nuclear technology and, perhaps in the near future, nuclear weapons.

In the past 10 to 15 years, Iran's missile and WMD programs have been plagued by numerous problems and delays. These continue. As a result, progress in these programs has generally been slow and incremental, though in the nuclear arena, recent revelations about heretofore unknown nuclear facilities hint at greater progress than previously appreciated.

With regard to ballistic missiles, during the tenure of President Bush, Iran has continued to expand its family of strategic rockets, tested its first solid fuel short-range ballistic missile, the Fateh 110, in May 2001, and conducted its fifth test flight of the Shahab 3 medium-range ballistic missile in July of 2002. This last flight test was reportedly a failure, indicating that Iran is still encountering problems with the Shahab 3, and most of the speculation circles around the engines, and reportedly, Iran has acquired additional engines from North Korea to put in the indigenously produced airframes. Despite these problems, the Shahab 3 has probably been introduced into operational service in small numbers.

Iran's missile programs continue to benefit from assistance from Russia, China and North Korea. Iran is also involved in a Chinese-led consortium to produce a civilian earth-imagining satellite. This could eventually abet long-standing Iranian ambitions to build a military reconnaissance satellite of their own.

In the nuclear arena, the Bushehr 1 reactor may finally be completed in the next year or so. According to Russian press reports, Iran may take delivery of reactor fuel from Russia by the end of this year or early next year, so the status of efforts to conclude an agreement on the return of reactor fuel to Russia for reprocessing remains uncertain. And as an aside, I would say the Russians, under U.S. pressure, have stated that the fuel will not be shipped to Iran until such an agreement is signed.

Delays have, however, dogged the nuclear program from its inception, and additional delays during the final stages of construction or teething problems during the break-in period are likely to arise, further delaying start-up of the reactor.

On the other hand, the successful completion of Bushehr 1 could pave the way for the construction of additional reactors at Bushehr and Ahvaz and eventually result in the production of prodigious quantities of plutonium in the form of spent fuel sitting in cooling pools awaiting shipment back to Russia. In a protracted crisis or a war, the temptation to divert the spent fuel in order to separate the plutonium and use it for proscribed purposes could be overwhelming.

Iran is also apparently constructing a number of fuel-cycle-related facilities, including a heavy water production plant at Arak and a uranium-enrichment facility of some sort, and the speculation centers around the gas centrifuge plant at Natanz.

The existence of these facilities, which was first revealed publicly last August and confirmed by U.S. government officials last December, raises troubling questions. If there is a heavy-water-production plant, where is the heavy-water-moderated reactor, and if there is a gas-centrifuge plant, where is the uranium-conversion facility? And are there other such facilities in Iran, and what else do we not know about Iran's nuclear program?

Finally, Iran continues its cooperation with other proliferators. In the past, it has cooperated with Syria on its missile program, and there have been reports in the past year that Iran has been providing support for Libya's missile program, in particular, the production of Scud-type missiles in Libya. And according to a report by an authoritative Israeli journalist, this year North Korea has been engaged with Iran in building a gas-centrifuge-enrichment plant, though it's unclear what the article is referring to-whether this is a small lab or a pilot-scale plant, or perhaps the aforementioned plant at Natanz, which reportedly is very large.

Given past close cooperation between North Korea and Iran in the missile arena and recent reports of cooperation in the nuclear arena, one must seriously consider the possible transfer of nuclear material or weapons from North Korea to Iran following start-up of the reactor at Yongbyon, if it occurs.

Now with regard to U.S. policy toward Iran, thus far the Bush administration's nonproliferation policy toward Iran has been marked more by continuity than change over the policies of its predecessors. The U.S. continues to rely on policy instruments that have in the past yielded some notable successes, such as political pressure, export controls, interdiction operations and sanctions, to disrupt and delay Iranian proliferation efforts. Moreover, the U.S. continues to hold formal nonproliferation consultations with Russia regarding the latter's missile and nuclear-related technology transfers to Iran, though with no more success than past efforts by the Clinton administration.

There are, however, hints of possible changes in store, which can be found in the emphasis on pre-emption in the speeches of President Bush and in various U.S. government strategy documents published since September 11. More on that in a minute.

Be that as it may, there has been a dramatic, albeit largely unheralded change in overall U.S. policy toward Iran. At various times in the past, the U.S. has sought to bolster moderates or reformers against their conservative rivals and has sought to alter Iranian policy concerning various issues of concern to the U.S.

Today it is doing none of the above. Rather it is encouraging the Iranian people in their struggle to change the Iranian political system. The U.S. is pursuing regime change in both Iraq and in Iran, though the means to the end in each case are very different. And just to give you a flavor of how much has changed in about the past decade, what I'd like to do is read to you some passages from Martin Indyk's original dual containment speech, which was given in 1993; in particular, the sections having to do with Iran, and then I would like to read excerpts from a speech given by Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, who is a senior national security council official who is responsible for U.S. policy toward Iran, so you could see the contrast.

Now in Indyk's original speech, which was given as I said in 1993, and which in many ways was a template and really set the tone for U.S. policy for nearly a decade after that, he identified what he called a five-part challenge to the United States in terms of Iranian policy, which was problematic for us, and he talked about Iran being the formal state sponsor of terrorism and assassination, their efforts to thwart peace talks between Israel and the Arabs, Iran's efforts to subvert governments that are friendly to the U.S., their efforts to acquire offensive weapons-conventional weapons, that is, and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

He then goes on to say, and I quote, "I should emphasize that the Clinton administration is not opposed to Islamic government in Iran. Rather we are firmly opposed to these specific aspects of the Iranian regime's behavior as well as its abuse of the human rights of the Iranian people. We will not normalize relations with Iran until and unless Iran's policies change across the board. We are willing to listen to what Iran has to say, provided that it comes through authoritative channels."

Now the talk-Khalilzad's speech, which was given in August of this year. He starts off by saying that the United States is pursuing a dual-track policy toward Iran, based, quote, unquote, "on moral clarity." One, tell the world specifically what is destructive and unacceptable about Iran's behavior: sponsorship of terror and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and repression of the clearly expressed desires of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy; two, while laying out a positive vision of partnership and support for the Iranian people.

What's interesting is that the emphasis is not on changing the behavior, but I think policymakers have come to the conclusion, after a decade of trying, that there is probably not a lot we can do to change its behavior, and that's I think why-where we get to or why we are looking at regime change, in addition to the fact that I would also mention that conditions in Iran are considered by many specialists on the country to be ripe for-or may in the near future be ripe for change, and provide a congenial environment for U.S. efforts to encourage an evolution of the system there.

Further on, he states that U.S. policy is not to impose change on Iran, but to support the Iranian people in their quest to decide their own destiny. Our policy is not about Khatami or Khamenei, reform or hardline. It is about supporting those who want freedom, human rights, democracy, and economic and educational opportunity for themselves and their fellow countrymen and women.

The U.S. government's vision for a future of Iran, however, is unclear. Exactly what a post-clerical regime would look like is not spelled out in U.S. policy documents, nor are the implications of regime change for proliferation. As best we can tell, Iranian motivations to proliferate are not specific to the current regime. The Shah wanted the bomb, so do the mullahs, and whoever follows him is likely to follow suit. Moreover, support for these efforts, to the degree that these matters are discussed and debated in Iran-which for the most part they are not, as far as I could tell-comes from across the political spectrum. For many Iranians, the issues of WMD, the country's military power, is not a partisan political issue but a matter of national pride and national security. There is therefore no reason to believe that political change will necessarily lead to changes in Iran's proliferation policies.

That is not to say, however, that proliferation by Iran is inevitable or that a regime change will not create new opportunities to deal with Iran's proliferation. A deal with a new regime may be do-able if Iran's nuclear capabilities are still relatively immature and if the new regime can be convinced that by acquiring the bomb, it will pay a high price in terms of its other vital or key interests, such as its ability to attract foreign investment, to resuscitate the economy, and to improve its relations with the United States.

At the very least, even if a deal with the new regimes proves untenable or unworkable, a new regime that eschews the use of terrorism and the pursuit of an aggressively anti-Israel foreign policy would be easier for the United States to deal with, and in this way, the U.S. might at least be able to mitigate the consequences of a nuclear Iran if and when it happens.

That change in Iran will occur seems certain. When change will occur is unclear. Accordingly, the U.S. has to consider the possibility that the current regime may be around for a number of more years, that relations with Iran might get worse before they get better, and that Iran might acquire the bomb before it's increasing beleaguered, conservative clerical leadership can be removed from power.

Now where does this lead us in the future with regard to policy recommendations? First, because the current regime in Tehran might be around for awhile, the U.S. needs to continue with its policy of delaying Iran's efforts to acquire missiles and WMD through arm twisting, arms control, and sanctions in order to buy time for political change in Tehran and for the U.S. and its allies to strengthen their defense against missiles and WMD.

At the same time, Washington must continue seeking ways to curtail Russian assistance to Iran's missile and WMD programs and strengthen safeguards on ongoing activities, and the U.S. should continue to urge the IAEA and its allies to press Iran to adopt the additional protocol under the IAEA 93+2 program.

Second, the U.S. must seek to leverage regime change successes in Afghanistan and, perhaps in the near future, Iraq, by ensuring stability and successful political transitions in both countries in order to encourage and embolden those seeking political change in Iran. We should likewise use these military successes to bolster (unintelligible) capability vis a vis Iran.

Third, the U.S. government needs to seriously and systematically contemplate the risks and benefits of pre-emptive action against Iran's nuclear infrastructure, if it isn't doing so already.

Now again, this is not an imminent threat or imminent necessity, but it's something that might have to be considered down the road. In considering U.S. options regarding pre-emption, the United States will need to balance the imperative of preventing an Iranian nuclear breakout against the imperative not to squander the reservoir of pro-American goodwill among the Iranian people or to derail the positive evolutionary trajectory of the Iranian political by a reckless act that could discredit Westward-leaning Iranians and generate a popular backlash against the United States. Perhaps the only way to square the circle is through covert action so that the U.S. can preserve at least a thin veneer of deniability.

Finally, North Korea must be part of the solution. North Korea must not be allowed to become an exporter of nuclear technology, materials, or weapons, for then, should Tehran's own efforts to acquire nuclear weapons fail or be thwarted to the U.S., it might have the option of buying from the North Koreans. For these reasons, the coming year is likely to be a fateful year, a year of decisions that will influence the future of nuclear proliferation in East Asia and the Middle East for many years to come.

Thank you.


Kimball: We'll move on to our other Michael-Michael O'Hanlon.

Michael O'Hanlon: Thanks, Daryl. It's a treat to be here. I'm, I think, the least specialist on my assigned topic talking about the most over-analyzed issue of the three, so I'll try to make up for that by being brief, and the overall theme of my short remarks is that I'm becoming a reluctant supporter of the administration's apparent proclivity now to go to war to overthrow Saddam. I'm not a major proponent of this, but even given the evidence available now, I would not personally fall on my sword to oppose this war. I'm going to give you my reasons why in just a second. I hope there will be clearer evidence, however, that will allow those of us who are in my sort of shoes to feel more comfortable advocating one way or another whatever decision is made. We would like to have that final convincing piece of evidence if we have to go to war, and we'd like most of all to still figure out how not to go to war. I think there's some small chance of that, but the chance is pretty tiny. So let me explain how I get to this nuanced position of being willing to support the president's apparent decision to go to war without being a major proponent of it myself.

There's pro and con, clearly, for any decision about going to war to overthrow Saddam, and I'm going to focus primarily on the WMD aspect of this question. I'm not going to get into questions of estimating casualties in a war or this or that, but focusing primarily on the WMD issue.

If you want to argue against war, you can say that, listen, Saddam has chemical and biological weapons. He is denying that he does, but we all know he almost certainly does, but big deal. He's had them for a quarter century, he's generally been deterrable in his use of those weapons when we've made it clear that we care a lot about whether or not he does. He probably does not have smallpox; there is some worry that he might -- these longstanding ties to certain Soviet-era scientists, but there's, to my mind-and others in this room may know this question much better-to my mind, not a convincing enough stream of data or circumstantial reports to lend a lot of credence to this worry, so chances are he has sort of a garden variety arsenal of chemical and biological agents, and what's the big deal. Granted, it's a big deal in the 1980s if you're an Iranian or a Kurd, but at this point in time, Saddam is not going to be able to use those weapons, even against those populations, without almost certainly incurring a major international response, and he won't use them against us out of the blue based on the track record. So that's one argument that says let containment work, let sleeping dogs lie.

Another argument would be that even if you're worried that the nuclear question is a different sort of issue and that a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons might become emboldened to again attack his neighbors, or again become aggressive in the region, or again threaten Israel, believing that those weapons gave him some measure of protection or regime survival insurance because we would surely not dare go after him if he had a nuke, just as we apparently don't dare go after the North Koreans because-perhaps Saddam's thinking is that their nuclear program gives them some insurance. Even if that's your worry, that this possible Iraqi acquisition of a nuclear capability is something that would radically change the whole situation and make Saddam less deterrable, it appears that he's not making much progress toward nuclear weapons. The recent discussion about why he was trying to buy aluminum tubes last summer seems to suggest that, one, he didn't get them-which is the most important fact of all; and two, he may not have been trying to get them for a nuclear program in any case.

So if you look at the evidence of how far he's come, granted, as [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld says, we don't know what we don't know, but what we do know is actually a fair amount on the nuclear issue, and it tends to be pretty reassuring. Of course Saddam Hussein hasn't given up his desire for nuclear weapons. No one in his right mind is going to argue that Saddam has reformed himself in some fundamental way. The question is not his intention so much here as his capability or his progress toward a future capability, and there the evidence suggests there isn't much progress. And moreover, the evidence suggests that inspectors can actually do a fairly good job of keeping a nuclear program from getting started because, unlike chemical and biological programs, nuclear issues, nuclear programs, even if they are basement-bomb-style technologies, they're pretty elaborate, pretty sophisticated, and fixed technology. It's hard to put these things into an 18-wheeler and move them around the country or to somehow make it look like they are a hospital laboratory one day and producing illicit weaponry the next day.

So the kinds of worries we have about chemical and biological production in Iraq probably are not nearly as serious for the nuclear question. There is a very good chance that especially now, with inspectors inside of Iraq, we can be pretty confident Saddam is not making any progress toward a nuclear capability. So you put all this together and the WMD argument doesn't seem all that compelling for war, and it looks like deterrence and containment can continue to work here pretty well.

A couple more quick points sort of arguing against war and then I'll get to the case for why I'm not quite so confident as these considerations may sound or make me sound.

Saddam has generally been deterrable, as I mentioned earlier, and certainly when we have made it clear what we oppose and which actions of his we would take counteraction against, he has tended to be deterrable, and this is not just in regard to the last few years, but even in 1994 he thought about testing Bill Clinton, moving some brigades south toward Kuwait, and we responded with Operation Vigiliant Warrior, and he backed down. There are a number of other situations. He hasn't used WMD since the late 1980s, he didn't use WMD against us in Desert Storm, he hasn't attacked our allies in the region since Desert Storm, and so it looks like he is deterrable, that for the most part he values his own neck more than he does willy-nilly aggression or adventurism.

Another argument is that he doesn't seem to have any major ties to al Qaeda, and this is something where Donald Rumsfeld again has tried to make a mountain out of a molehill. There may be a tie we don't yet know about, and some of these occasional passings through Baghdad by one al Qaeda operative or another may really just be the tip of the iceberg, but from what we can tell, there has been no material Iraqi collaboration in any major anti-Western terrorism since the attempted assassination of President Bush in 1993. That's the bottom-line view of the U.S. intelligence community last I was able to ascertain, and that suggests that the links between Saddam and al Qaeda, if they exist at all, are very tenuous, very limited, and really have to do as much as anything with the fact that some of these terrorist organization do have joint and multiple memberships, and sometimes there may be sort of a-almost a circumstantial or accidental contact, but it doesn't seem to be advanced to the point of material collaboration. That could be false, but based on the evidence that I've seen, that's the best assessment.

Finally, Richard Betts just wrote a very good article in Foreign Affairs talking about the risk to the homeland of possible Iraqi response to any American invasion, and that suggests that-it's sort of a different sort of argument against war, but it suggests that to the extent Saddam does have WMD today, chemical and biological agents in particular, the overall logic of the situation suggests that leaving him alone is the better course of action and the one that's more likely to produce our best security because going after him changes the whole logic of deterrence. He no longer has reasons to hold back; he has reasons to threaten, certainly, and perhaps even carry out terrorist action against Western or American targets, and that, too, argues against war.

That's the overall argument. It's mostly an argument about containment and deterrence, but it has also got that little asterisk at the end, the Richards Betts argument about how we maybe should be a little bit nervous that if we upset the apple cart, Saddam will no longer be deterred the way he has been.

Moving now quickly-in a talk that I promised would be brief-to arguments for using force, let me go quickly down the list because these are all familiar to everyone in this room.

First of all, Saddam may have only limited links to al Qaeda, if any, but he has enough links to other terrorist organizations, and there are enough sort of occasional contacts with al Qaeda that you have to be a little bit worried. And you combine that with the attempted assassination of former President Bush in 1993, and you recognize in Saddam a certain over-developed sense of vengeance and a certain willingness, perhaps, to go after people if he thinks he can get away with it. If he can convince himself there's a chance he'll get away with a vengeance attack against the United States, his own personal track record, specifically the '93 attempted assassination, suggests that we'd better be a little more worried than some proponents of containment and deterrence are.

And here I think that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer went a little too far in their Foreign Policy article of recent times suggesting that deterrence was relatively airtight. I think you have to take the '93 attempted assassination into serious account when you're trying to understand Saddam's mentality, and granted, maybe it was just one aberrant example, but can you imagine if it had succeeded? What if he had actually carried out that attack successfully? And there is little doubt any more about the fact that Iraqi intelligence was behind that attempt and their real clear goal was to kill the former president. What does that tell us about Saddam's deterrability?

We also have to be a little bit nervous that Saddam passed up $150 to $200 billion in oil revenue in order to hang on to weapons that he probably could have manufactured again in the future if he had just let us come in, inspect, eliminate them, set up some long-term monitoring, and then found a way to produce a little bit on the side here and there. He probably could have had his cake and eat it too. Somehow his desire or attachment to these WMD capabilities was so great that he was willing to forego perhaps $200 billion now in oil revenue to thwart the international community's efforts and his own obligations to disarm. That has to make you a little bit worried, too, about where he is coming from.

Finally, his own track record-he has used WMD in the past, so there is clearly a stronger argument for going after someone who has already done this than just the average person who is holding WMD as sort of a deterrent of last resort. For Saddam it's clearly not a weapon of last resort. It's also not a weapon of first resort, and so he's not in the category, perhaps, of al Qaeda. He would clearly recognize that there are different qualities to these weapons, and if he uses them, he's running risks above and beyond the use of other weapons, but he has used them before.

And the whole integrity of the UN system, to some extent, is at stake here, and I think on this point President Bush is correct, that the idea that Saddam could be required to give up his WMD and not do it for a decade should be of concern to all of us who care about nonproliferation, not just because it's one more country keeping it's WMD stocks, but because it suggests the international community, even in this extreme case, was unable or unwilling to back up its demands with enough action to produce the results that were required.

And the December 7 declaration by Saddam in this regard has to be seen for what it is. [Secretary of State] Colin Powell-who many of us in this room, I suspect, see as the most pragmatic, moderate, reasonable, thoughtful member of this administration's senior foreign policy team-nonetheless was scathing in his assessment of the December 7 declaration. The polite way to describe it is incomplete. The blunt way to describe it is a bunch of lies, and I subscribe to the latter more than the former.

Right now that declaration is not a sufficient basis for doing inspections in Iraq. He told us nothing about weapons of mass destruction that he almost certainly has, and people in this room, again, are familiar with the evidence, but it's not just U.S. evidence; it's a whole body of UN-accumulated evidence throughout the 1990s about precursor chemicals and growth media and all sorts of things that Saddam imported and never could account for.

Now you can believe if you want to that they spilled them off in some hole in the ground near Baghdad and just forgot to write it down. That's the sort of thing you have to believe multiple times over to believe that Saddam really has no weapons of mass destruction today, and if we let him get away with small lies right now, even as we have nearly 100,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf, what's going to happen in a year or two once that troop presence can no longer be maintained at that level, and perhaps George Bush is no longer president, and the whole international consensus in favor of action has eroded? What's going to happen to the WMD elimination and inspection process at that time?

So I come reluctantly to believing that something has to give. It's not good enough to just sort of play this process out indefinitely, and therefore, while I still hope for more clear evidence before we have to make a decision on war, I would be prepared to support the administration even today should it make that decision-let's say after the January 27 report by the UN inspection teams to the UN Security Council.

My overall preference-and I'll finish on this point-is still that we can convince Saddam, with the threat now of 100,000 American forces soon to be in the region and pushing 150,000 by February, that under those circumstances he will finally see the light-that we are serious, that he'd better not try to split the international community too much because at some point we'll do it with a small coalition, if necessary, and without a second resolution, if necessary-and he'll see the light and realize he's got to take some action to come clean on his WMD holdings.

If that is finally his decision, I think he has to take irreversible action at that time-not simply admit to a few little holdings here and there, but actually produce and come clean on most of the weaponry we know he had and allow us to destroy it quickly-the chemical and biological stocks and production capabilities. If we can still produce that outcome this winter and eliminate these stocks, then I think as an arms controller and as a believer in trying to resolve this problem, if possible, without force, that we could be satisfied. But otherwise, my bottom line is we're in a tough position here, and the overall ledger is pretty mixed, but given the UN demands on Saddam, given the history of 12 years of resolutions, and given his blatant lies on December 7, I am in the reluctant position of having a hard time seeing how we can avoid war unless we get a fundamental change in his behavior from this point on.

Thanks a lot.

Kimball: Thank you, Michael.


Kimball: Joel Wit, the floor is yours. Are you going to stay there?

Joel Wit: Yes, I think I'll just stay here and talk a little. Thanks, Daryl.

Michael mentioned that Iraq is over-analyzed, and I think North Korea is rapidly overtaking Iraq as being over-analyzed, so I'm not sure if I'm going to have a lot new to say, particularly since I see in the audience there are some of our Korean colleagues from the embassy who have heard a lot of this before, and people like John Steinbruner, who participated in discussion groups on this. But let me just try to give you kind of a brief overview of the situation today in terms of North Korea's programs, the U.S. administration's policies, and maybe what we should be doing next.

I think it's fair to say that we stand now at the threshold of North Korea becoming a growing nuclear power for everyone to see. And let me just briefly go through what their programs are just so you have a sense of where they are at the moment.

There are three components to North Korea's nuclear program. The first is, as everyone knows, it has a very well developed plutonium production program that was frozen by the 1994 agreement and now probably will restart within the next month or two. Initially that program will churn out small amounts of plutonium, at least until the end of 2004, but at that point, if North Korea resumes construction of two larger reactors, their production may start ramping up to a point where they will be able to produce about 250 kilograms of plutonium a year, and depending on how much they use for a bomb, that could be as much as 35 to 40 nuclear weapons a year.

The second component of their program is the one we've heard a lot about recently, and that's this secret uranium-enrichment program they've had. It's much smaller, as far as we know; the information is very sketchy about it. It's not clear where it's located, although I'm sure that there are some sites that are suspected. The best we can tell, this program started in the late 1990s as a research and development effort. If you go back to that time period, there are press reports of North Korea looking to acquire equipment for uranium-enrichment overseas, and there were also press reports about contacts with Pakistan.

According to more recent information, this program took off in 2001, the first year of the Bush administration, when Pyongyang started to buy large amounts of material to build a production facility. And as best as I can tell from the press, the estimates are that it will be completed in one to three years, which is a pretty broad range of uncertainty, and when it is done, it will be able to produce enough enriched uranium for one to two bombs by mid-decade.

The third component of the program is the weaponization effort. Once again, as far as we can tell, North Korea has been trying to produce a weapons design for at least 15 years, if not longer, and the reason I say that is we know that in the late 1980s North Korea conducted high explosives tests at its nuclear facilities, and there are also press reports more recently, in the late 1990s, of more high-explosive tests-maybe not at those facilities, but at other places.

Still, it's not clear whether North Korea can actually build a bomb, although some of us would probably give them the benefit of the doubt after all this time. The 1993 intelligence estimate, which is cited in the press so often, said that there was a better-than-even chance that North Korea had one to two nuclear weapons, but there were no smoking guns that led the intelligence community to that conclusion, and it was the most controversial part of the estimate.

The nonproliferation and security implications are, of course, quite clear. On the first count, having a hostile North Korea in the middle of Northeast Asia with a growing nuclear weapons arsenal right next door to two major U.S. allies-Japan and South Korea-and also with 37,000 American troops across the DMZ [demilitarized zone] is not a good situation, and it's really amazing that the administration could say publicly that this really doesn't matter, it's not a big deal.

I'm not sure whether this development would trigger South Korea and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons, but it would certainly set off a new political dynamic in the region, and, at the very least, it would trigger a debate in both of those countries about whether they should re-evaluate their defense posture, and I'm almost certain there will be other military countermeasures that will follow, including possibly a stepped-up effort for theater missile defense.

On the second count, the proliferation risks-once again they are fairly obvious. Aside from the negative impact on the nonproliferation treaty, it's quite possible that North Korea could send plutonium to other countries or even sell it to terrorists, although I think that is still something of a stretch for the North Koreans. But this link between North Korea and countries like Iran, I think, is very interesting, and North Korea would be the only game in town in terms of being able to supply technology and material to these other countries.

Michael is taking his watch away, so I need to see how much-(audio break, tape change)-policy been and why? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear. The administration's policy has been not only ineffective, but I would say very ineffective. The fact is the Bush administration has never had a policy toward North Korea. There have always been deep splits in the administration about how to deal with the North, and those splits have never been resolved. And those deep splits are between what my colleague, Bob Einhorn, has called the far right, the near right, and the center.

The far right in the administration wants North Korea to go away. They want them to collapse. So they see North Korea building nuclear weapons as an avenue to getting what they want. And the theory is that if North Korea builds nuclear weapons, everyone will band against them, isolate them, and then they will collapse. Well, it's a nice idea, and it has a certain logic to it, but I think it's pretty risky, particularly if North Korea doesn't collapse. And in the past, North Korea has, of course, confounded many predictions that it was about to go away. The near right-extremely leery about talking to North Korea under any circumstances, and particularly the current circumstances where we would seem to be succumbing to blackmail-I'm not sure if they really know what to do about the situation. The center, well, it's an endangered species in this administration, and I think that the center at least realizes that at this point we have no choice but to sit down and talk to North Korea and maybe even cut a deal with them.

These splits have been manifested in a number of different ways, if you look back over the past two years of U.S. policy, and I'll just briefly mention a few of them.

The initial policy review that was conducted during the first half of 2000 never resolved anything. It just papered over the differences and actually came to a conclusion only because the South Korean foreign minister was about to visit the United States in June 2001. The second manifestation has been the administration's inability to engage North Korea over the next year, in spite of statements that it would meet anywhere, anytime, and in spite of periodic feelers from Pyongyang that it would like to talk to the United States. The third manifestation has been periodic hostile statements about North Korea by administration officials and the president himself. The fourth one, [Assistant Secretary of State James] Kelly's visit to North Korea in October, which essentially threw the gauntlet on the table in terms of dealing with North Korea's uranium-enrichment program; it was not a problem-solving approach, and I think that is the reason why the meeting ended so badly. And finally, and most obviously, these splits are reflected in the administration's current approach, which, as far as I can tell, consists of no negotiations, no economic sanctions, and no military measures, but we would be willing to talk, not negotiate, and provide incentives to Pyongyang after it unilaterally quickly dismantles its uranium-enrichment program.

The other, I think, really major manifestation of this mismanagement has been the deterioration of relations with South Korea, which in the past has been our closest ally in dealing with the North. Now, to be fair, South Korea is undergoing a number of dynamic domestic changes that would make it difficult for any administration to deal with Seoul. But nevertheless, I think the administration's track record in U.S.-South Korean relations is particularly bad. It got off on the wrong foot from the very beginning with [South Korean] President Kim's visit to Washington in 2001, and it really hasn't recovered since then. It's made no secret of its distaste for his policies-his Sunshine Policy toward the North-and it's made no secret of its hope that a more conservative candidate would be elected president. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.

In short, the United States, in this administration, has maneuvered itself into a position that every U.S. government official in the past has realized must be avoided at all costs when dealing with South Korea, and that is that it looks like we are sacrificing South Korean interests for our own interests. That creates an enormous amount of tension between our two countries.

This close relationship, and the deterioration of it, I think in part accounts for why we're in such a bind now, because in order to take tough measures against North Korea, such as seeking sanctions or even considering some military steps, we need South Korean support. We don't have that now, and indeed, what we have is a South Korean effort to mediate between the United States and North Korea, and that's something that most of us thought we would never see in our lifetime.

For the moment, I'll just skip over the other regional players, but needless to say, the others are not going to pull our bacon out of the fire. In spite of what the administration says publicly, China, Russia, and others are not going to support the current U.S. approach. So the third question I was asked to answer is, what should the U.S. and allies now do to curb proliferation dangers? Someone told me-I haven't read the Wall Street Journal today-but someone said that there was an op-ed or an article or an editorial that's in there that said the best way to deal with the North is to deal with Iraq first, and that will send a message to the North Koreans. Well, you know, I would submit that's probably one of the worst ways to deal with North Korea. It's not quite as bad as some of the other trial balloons I've seen floated, like encouraging Japan to become a nuclear-weapon state or withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea, but it probably ranks third behind those two.

The fact is there are a couple of problems with that approach. First of all, we can't wait that long. We are not determining the pace of events here. I think it's very clear to most of us-and maybe not to some in the administration-but to most of us that North Korea is determining the pace of events. And the next event will be when North Korea actually restarts some of the nuclear facilities that it has said it will restart, particularly its reprocessing plant. That could come in February or March. So time is not on our side. But secondly, there is no substitute for a real policy here. You know, we're not going to find a magic bullet by waiting until after we deal with Iraq, or by doing these other crazy things. We need a real policy for dealing with North Korea, and unfortunately we've dug a very deep hole for ourselves.

As far as I can tell, the only way to recover our footing at this point is to sit down with North Korea and hold a true dialogue with them on what it will take to stop the current crisis. And I'm not advocating that we should sit down and negotiate and, you know, that's all we should be doing, but negotiations, sitting down with Pyongyang, are key to being able to regenerate our ability to take some of these tougher measures. We can't move forward very far in the United Nations without the support of other countries like South Korea, China, and Russia, and yet we are not going to get that support without starting some sort of dialogue with North Korea and demonstrating that it may be them, not us, who are intransigent. We can't get support for maybe taking military steps-and I'm not talking about pre-emptive strikes; I'm talking about other steps short of that-we can't get support for that from South Korea unless we demonstrate that we've tried to negotiate. So it's key that we move into this negotiations phase and also start to regenerate these other two tracks that I'm talking about.

Immediately I think what we need to do is to seek a freeze on the current situation on both sides; no more steps that will make it get worse until we can sit down and talk. The other thing we need to do-and this is purely from the U.S. angle-is I think the U.S. seriously needs to consider appointing a Korea czar. We've heard this idea before, and indeed the Clinton administration did it at the end of the administration when it appointed [former Defense Secretary William] Perry. I think this administration is desperately in need of someone, some senior American, with enough prestige and influence to pull our policy together.

And it's not only to deal with the current crisis, but the fact is-and this will be my last point-the fact is that I think there is a 50-50 chance that even if we take this approach we can't resolve the situation. It may be-and none of us know for sure-but it may be that North Korea has already decided that it's going to move forward no matter what, and that its public statements that it's interested in negotiating may just be a smokescreen for moving forward with their nuclear weapons program. If that's the case, I think the czar is still important because in the aftermath of that, when it becomes apparent to everyone that North Korea is moving forward no matter what, there's going to be a lot of serious work that needs to be done between the United States-certainly first and foremost between the United States and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan.

So I'll stop there. I think my 15 minutes are up.

Mr. Kimball: Thank you very much for your presentation. We'll move to the questions. Actually, before we do, if someone has a large SUV outside illegally parked, it's going to soon be pre-empted by the D.C. police.

So let's move to the floor and questions. Miles Pomper, and then we'll go to John and others.

Question: You mentioned military measures other than pre-emption. Can you give us some examples of that?

Wit: I see all my South Korean colleagues are poised to write this down (chuckles), but the fact is this is no mystery. During the 1994 crisis, in fact, the United States took a number of military steps to prepare for whatever contingencies might take place if the crisis deteriorated. A lot of those steps had to do with ensuring the readiness of U.S. forces on the peninsula and in the region, as well as moving some additional forces to the Korean Peninsula in the guise of modernization programs, which in fact were supposed to happen but which were accelerated at that time.

So there is a broad range of steps that you can take without provoking a North Korean response, and that was very critical. The North Koreans knew that we were taking these steps, yet they were not major enough to provoke some sort of military response on their part. And it's just a way of communicating to them that we're serious. Right now, I can't see how they would think we were serious about anything. We've said no sanctions, we've said no military measures; we're not going to negotiate. I mean, if I was sitting in Pyongyang I would [think] that, you know, the United States is pretty confused about what it's going to do, and I may use this opportunity to kind of run for the door and start building more weapons.

Question: Do you think it was a mistake to take the military option off the table?

Wit: I don't want to be too unfair here. I think the fact is that without South Korean support, it's very difficult to take some of these steps. And unfortunately we've mismanaged our relationship with South Korea so much that it's going to be very hard to regenerate these possibilities.

Kimball: John Rhinelander.

Question: Let me ask a question for each of these sequentially, and that's on what I would call the U.S. decision-making process, or absence of it.

I'd like to hear your views in terms of the involvement of the president and the involvement of the vice president in each area, kind of from inauguration date forward, because I see in some cases there has been, at least recently, I think, a well-coordinated one (off mike)-a total absence of what we used think as a process. But I would like to get the views of each of you in the areas you've addressed today.

Kimball: Gentlemen, if you can try to answer that-it may not be possible. (Chuckles.)

Eisenstadt: Sitting where I sit, the process is rather opaque, so it's really hard for me to make a judgment. All I'll say is this though: I think in the Middle East, the administration has been heavily preoccupied with planning for Iraq, and recently-well, it's receding into the past now, the efforts to manage the Arab-Israeli-the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Despite that, I think it's interesting to see that the administration did unveil a new policy toward Iran, despite its preoccupation with these other issues. And this was, as I read to you before, a dramatic departure from past policy. But, again, I think our ability to get there will have to be deferred until after a war with Iraq, although I think for a lot of people in this administration, war in Iraq is seen as a facilitator for achievement of our policy objectives in Iran-if you will, a necessary condition-or at least successful regime change in Iraq and the creation of a transition toward a broad-based representative government and eventual democratization there for many people in this administration is seen as a facilitator for achieving our policy objectives in Iran.

I can't talk about the process, but I can say that-I'll just throw out this prediction: just as after the 1991 Gulf War, the profile of Iran grew dramatically after the defeat of Iraq in Desert Storm. I believe that after, barring a quagmire in Iraq, we'll see Iran's profile rise dramatically, and that will be quite possibly the next major issue in the Middle East after Iraq. But I can't really speak to the process and the role of the president and V.P.-I'm sorry.

O'Hanlon: This is just a guess, but I think in short the story on Iraq is that after September 11, the hardliners in the administration succeeded in putting Iraq on the policy agenda on a very high position, right after al Qaeda. And, clearly, during the summer of 2002, you heard [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney all very clear in their desire to go to war promptly at a time when the president, you know, was subjecting himself to parody by saying things like, my Iraq policy is they've got to get serious-now watch this drive. And we all remember that golf course episode; he didn't quite seem to have his mind on the issue. Meanwhile, Cheney is out giving speeches about how inspections can't work, and Rumsfeld is alleging major ties between al Qaeda and Saddam.

And so in the summer, the hardliners had not only won in elevating Iraq high as the policy issue, they seemed to be foreshadowing an eventual decision to go quickly to war. And then I think, in a very historically important situation and set of events, Powell and Bush put the hardliners in their place. And I think the hardliners flat-out lost, at least on the tactics of how to address the Iraq situation, and created the entire U.S. process ultimately leading up to UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam a way out of this if he had been smart enough to choose it. And unfortunately, from my point of view, he didn't choose it. The way to choose it was to 'fess up on the chemical and biological stuff in his December 7 declaration. And maybe Saddam thought this administration was going to find a way to go to war against him no matter what he said and decided to do, so you might as well not admit to previous crimes, but I think he made a fundamentally incorrect decision.

Nonetheless, I think Powell and Bush told Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld, we're doing this through the UN, which means focusing on the WMD and giving Saddam the final, clear chance to avoid war, should he want it. Now, again, at this point I don't know what Cheney's role will be because now we're into sort of act four. If act one was getting the issue high on the agenda, act two was the summer set of speeches, act three was Powell and Bush going through the UN, now we're into act four. We're in this murky area where Saddam did not come clean the way he should have, and yet there is no smoking gun and the inspections are working sort of visibly on the surface okay. We're back in a tough position from a policy point of view, and maybe Cheney will now win act four the way he won, or seemed to win, act one and then lost his momentum by act three.

That's the way I would sum it up. It's obviously all speculative, and I can't do nearly as good of a job as Bob Woodward, so I probably should just pass, but that's how I would sum it up.

Kimball: Who's in charge, Joel?

Wit: Oh, boy. You know, it's very interesting. I think we've all read periodic public blurbs from the president about how he feels about [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il, and I can't quite figure out where these have come from, but he seems occasionally to blurt out how much he hates Kim Jong Il. I mean, he called him a pygmy once and, you know, other statements like that, which, you know, I think we could all agree that North Korea is an awful place, but I'm not sure how that plays into the decision-making process, except I think it gives you a flavor for, you know, what it might be like sitting in a principals committee meeting talking about North Korea.

I have friends in the State Department who have told me that the interagency papers are really fascinating because, you know, they of course read the North Korean party newspaper, and you've heard about it in the press recently; all the shrill statements about the United States. And my friends say, well, you know, the administration's interagency papers sound like the North Korean party newspaper, except from the opposite vantage point.

I mean, what we're talking about here, I think, is a decision-making process that is colored, to a large degree, by these very ideological thoughts, and at times is dragged back into reality, it seems to me, not just by the current crisis but also by our need to deal with South Korea and our alliance relationship with South Korea. And I'm pretty sure that centrists in the administration use that as a way of banging the right and the far right over the head about how the U.S. needs to change its position. I'm not sure whether ultimately that will work or not, but it seems to be the only lifeline that the center people have at the moment.

Kimball: All right. We'll take a couple more questions. Greg, please.

Question: I've been especially struck lately that using the term "weapons of mass destruction" will ultimately lead to confusion rather than clarity, and I'm afraid Michael Eisenstadt has given me another example in a statement he made about Iran, and I want to deconstruct a little bit.

For Iran, developing WMD is a matter of pride and national security. If I'm not mistaken, Ayatollah Khomeini said that nuclear weapons were immoral. The Iranians developed chemical weapons very reluctantly in response to continual usage by Iraq against them. So I would assume that for CW and BW-and I'm not knowledgeable about what kind of BW Iran has-it is a matter of national security and not national pride. And I assume from your statement that you're really talking about nuclear weapons, but I wonder if you could break that down, without asking you to publish a matrix, which WMD are you talking about, and (off mike)?

Eisenstadt: Yeah, I think you raise some valid points there, but I would say I think nuclear weapons most of all, you know, have the greatest psychological cache. And clearly this is what separates the big boys-or the men from the boys internationally. So I think, from the point of view of national pride at least, nuclear weapons are probably the most important, but the fact is those are not capabilities that they have right now. And right now their capabilities are limited, at least as far as we know, and their capabilities are limited to chemical and biological weapons.

The idea, though, you know, the reason I use the term WMD, it's because I'm not sure that people in Iran-there isn't, as far as I can tell, a sophisticated public debate on these issues. You know, people tend to be focused more on the issues of day-to-day survival and the economy and social and political conditions in the country. I think in general, you know, the category of WMD can be subsumed under the larger category of national strength, and most Iranians want to have a strong country in order to preserve their independence, in order to ensure that Iranian national interests are preserved, and to the degree that chem and bio, or in the future, nuclear weapons, are seen as key to ensuring the country's national security, Iranians, I think, of all political stripes will support the country's pursuit of WMD even though they are also signatories to every major arms control agreement.

Now, this poses a dilemma for some people of a certain political stripe in Iran. For the conservatives, who are not so much interested in relations with the Western world and Iran's integration into the international community and who see the Islamic world as more Iran's natural milieu, they're not so concerned about the impact of the violation of arms control treaties, although I think they recognize it's important to go forward with these programs in a certain way in order to minimize unnecessary costs to Iran.

But for those Iranians who do want Iran to be integrated into the community of nations, who want to improve the economy and want to attract foreign investment, they have a dilemma, because on the one hand they want Iran to be strong, and WMD writ large, nuclear weapons in particular, are the fastest way to that route for them, given their economic circumstances. On the other hand, they realize if they go down that route and violate their arms control obligations, it could be at the price of attracting foreign investment and fixing the economy and improving relations with the outside world.

Again, you know, I gave kind of a wave-top assessment here. If you go down one level further, things are more complicated. I would say that, you know, the differences among Iranians on these issues provide policy opportunities for us in the future. But, you know, the bottom line is I think national pride is extremely important in the context of Iran, and the power of Iranian nationalism cannot and should not be underrated. I subscribe to a number of Iranian news groups, and it comes through on the e-mails-you know, when you have debates about, you know, the Persian versus Arab Gulf, and you know on any number of issues you could raise you could see how it's a factor.

So I would not underrate the importance of national pride with regard to the full range of WMD, especially nukes, but they don't have nukes now, so CBW is important in that context.

Kimball: Admiral Turner-and we'll take one more question.

Question: Michael O'Hanlon, I wonder if we're being realistic with expecting Saddam Hussein to comply completely with 1441 right off the bat. In our culture, we make an agreement, and we try to live up to it exactly. This (unintelligible) a Middle Eastern desire. Isn't this a negotiation in which the UN made the first move-1441? Saddam Hussein made the second move with much greater compliance than he did in 1991 in terms of letting the inspectors in and so on. The third move comes on January 20 when Blix goes back to Iraq-and who knows what Saddam may put on the table? And then the fourth move will be the UN response to that.

I mean, are we not asking too much from a Middle Eastern mentality to say, I'm going to come totally clean in one sweep here? You bargain this thing down the line. Don't we have a chance of getting a reasonable deal out of this in the long term?

Kimball: That's a good question. If I could just add one question to that, which is that in your case for possible military action you cited the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UN system, the international rule of law. What would it do to the UN system, the international rule of law, if the United States decides to take military action, absent positive evidence from the inspectors that there has been a violation of 1441?

O'Hanlon: Well, two good questions. Admiral Turner, it seems to me that we do have to force this issue within roughly, say, a year. I think Rumsfeld, again, is up to his ways, and he's trying to force the issue this winter by making troop deployment at such a high level that we can't sustain them very long. And I question just how much internal dialogue led to that consensus decision; of how much really Powell has to understand that too, as do you, as do other people who know the military well. But somehow this seems to be getting a little bit ahead of the game. I'd rather keep the numbers in sort of the 50,000 to 75,000 range until we've made a decision. But if you were to do that, and walk back a little from what Rumsfeld's doing in the way of a buildup, I think you have maybe a year.

I'm not sure you have a lot more than that-maybe you wouldn't disagree, I don't know-but it seems to me you do have to take advantage of the fact that we have forced this to the top of the policy agenda, and it won't stay there naturally unless we do something about this, and once we do something about it, it's fairly short order.

I'm not sure Saddam is behaving fundamentally better than he did in 1991. In the early years, it seems to me, he did not impede inspectors very much; he just hoped we wouldn't find anything. And for a while that strategy worked. Then we did start to find things, and he let us find whatever we found-it didn't help-and then his son-in-law defected-you know the history better than I.

But, in any case, all he's doing now is letting us walk around in places that have no illicit weaponry inside of them. That's not a great concession on his part. My real worry is over time, if we seem uncommitted to resolving this, at some point he'll start to thwart the inspectors, put conditions on their movement, and that will give his nuclear scientists more confidence they can begin a nuclear program. That's my real worry. If he keeps the few chemical and biological agents for a long time, I don't really care that much-you can live with that and deter that-but to the extent he can weaken the inspection process over time and then ultimately start a nuclear program, that is worse. So I think we have to push this within the next year and a half or so-maybe not this winter.

In terms of international law, again, here I'll take the point that right now our case is-I think the case is convincing. But it's convincing to me; it's not convincing to most of the world. And part of what international law is is a body of well-accepted judgments and principles. And, so to the extent that you can make the case in sort of a lawyerly point-by-point manner-and I think you can-international law should not be seriously impeded. And I don't believe 1441 really requires a second resolution. It certainly requires a second debate, but I think we can again argue that we don't have to have a second resolution to go to war.

On the other hand, international law is partly about politics and partly about consensus and partly about international public opinion. And in that sense, if we have to go to war based on current evidence, we are in a bit of a pickle. So it's going to be-there will be some strengthening elements and some weakening elements if we have to go to war under current circumstances.

Kimball: All right. One last question, sir, and if the panelists can keep their answers brief, that would be helpful.

Question: James Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers. There has been talk on and off for the last six to eight months about the timing of a war in Iraq, with all sorts of constraints that are mentioned. Some of them, Mr. O'Hanlon, you just mentioned-(off mike) and so forth. People talk a lot about climate and weapons.

The question for either you or any of the panelists is, do you believe that there are absolute constraints of any sort on the timing of a war happening late winter, early spring? In other words, is there an absolute last deadline, beyond which if it doesn't happen, then we're into a waiting period? And if so, what do you think the constraints are?

O'Hanlon: I'll give a quick start, and anybody else can follow-up. First of all, if you could fight at night, you could fight any time. The desert cools enough at night that-at least in Iraq and Baghdad-it's in the 70s even in July, at night. So if you wear chemical protective gear and you can fight at night, you'd be okay. The problem is, of course, that we can't always dictate the length of tactical engagements. And if you want to make sure that most of your fighting occurs when the temperature is in the 70s because you think you have to be in chemical protective gear, you really have to finish this thing by sometime in April. By mid-April, average daily highs in Baghdad are 85; by early May they're 90; by mid-May they're 95. And I think you have to work under the assumption that we're going to have to wear chemical protective gear and that we're sometimes going to have to fight in the heat of the day.

So based on that set of arguments, I would say you want to either have this war, if you have to have it at all, in March-primarily in March of 2003, or wait until next fall and winter and do it in 2004. But I personally would say that even though we certainly can win the war anytime of year, the difficulty of fighting with chemical protective suits will go up astronomically. We may have to make that terrible choice of whether we want to fight without chemical protective gear or wear our troops down in the space of 15 to 20 or 30 minutes while they are wearing it during the summer.

Kimball: All right. Thank you.

Yes, Stanley? Please.

Question: Just one more question. On the inspection, we apparently haven't given Blix much of our classified information. From today's Times, I gathered that the French and the Russians are indicating that they want to have some of our (off mike) before they act. How do you see that playing out? Have we really hard data? Will we produce it? And if we don't appear to, then what do you see at the result?

O'Hanlon: It's a tough question, and maybe I want to, again, invite others who may want to comment on this as well. My sense is we don't have a smoking gun at any site because if we did we would have already either bombed it or produced that evidence in the course of making our case for war earlier. So I think what we have is places we're highly suspicious about that you might want to send inspectors to, but even there it's going to take some luck, good or bad, depending on your perspective, to find anything. And I think all we have, again, is the set of-we've watched a lot going on there; we know where trucks are coming in and out at different hours, we know where there is more electricity usage than there probably would otherwise be, based on certain data about those facilities. We have reasons to be suspicious about a number of places. We have some defector reports that the Iraqis moved things around, so whatever the defectors knew a year ago may no longer be true.

My guess is we don't have hard data, and I think it's not going to provide a clear answer in the end unless we get awfully lucky.

Kimball: We're going to have to stop there. This conversation is obviously incomplete, and there are more developments that we will see in the days and weeks ahead. I want to thank everyone for coming. Please thank our panelists for their presentations. (Applause.) And for those of you who are joining us upstairs for the luncheon with Congressman John Spratt, please move upstairs, either the elevators or the stairs, register outside, and we'll look forward to seeing you there in a few minutes.

(End of panel discussion.)

ACA Panel Discussion

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Russia, Iran Finalize Spent Fuel Agreement

Christine Kucia

Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev concluded but did not sign an agreement with Iranian officials in late December stipulating that Russia will import the spent nuclear fuel generated over the next 10 years by Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Russia agreed in 1995 to help Iran construct the reactor and to provide the required nuclear fuel, drawing opposition from the United States, which believes Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons. Russia promised the United States that it would import and reprocess spent fuel from the reactor, rather than leave it in Iran, in order to decrease proliferation concerns. But the provisions for returning the spent fuel to Russia have never been formally finalized, and Russia has refused to send nuclear fuel to Iran until they are.

Rumyantsev was expected to sign the agreement December 25 at the conclusion of a visit to Iran, according to a December 16 report by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran’s official news service. Speaking to reporters December 27 in Moscow, Rumyantsev said that other Russian ministries and agencies must first review and approve the accord, but he said, “We hope that such an additional agreement will be signed with Iran within a month.”

Meanwhile, Moscow remains engaged with Tehran in discussions on building as many as six other reactors in Iran. A joint study on whether to construct a second reactor at Bushehr will commence “in the next few months,” Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said at a December 25 press briefing. Rumyantsev indicated at the same briefing that proposals Russia made in July 2002 for constructing reactors at other sites in Iran were already being discussed with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials. (See ACT, September 2002.)

Addressing Washington’s vehement objections to Russia’s cooperation with Iran, Rumyantsev stressed in a press conference December 27, “Our cooperation is in full accordance with all the international commitments of the countries which possess nuclear technologies.” He added, “Before making a decision on building the second unit it is necessary to additionally discuss technical and economic issues.”

Iran is a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and the Bushehr reactor will be subject to inspections by the IAEA. When operational, the unit will produce around 1,000 megawatts of electricity for Iran. IRNA reported December 25 that during Rumyantsev’s visit Russia and Iran had agreed to expedite work on the Bushehr reactor, which has fallen behind schedule. It is slated to be operational by the end of 2003.

Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev concluded but did not sign an agreement with Iranian officials in late December stipulating that Russia...

IAEA to Visit Two 'Secret' Nuclear Sites in Iran

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has postponed its first visit to two Iranian nuclear sites until February after Tehran asked it to delay a previously scheduled December visit. According to a nongovernmental report released December 12, Iran has been developing the sites in secret, possibly as part of a nuclear weapons program.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is scheduled to visit the sites with a team of technical experts February 25-26, an IAEA official said January 3. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said that the scope of ElBaradei’s visit is still to be determined and that it is possible he might visit other facilities as well, Agence France-Presse reported December 18.

ElBaradei was originally scheduled to visit the two sites in December, but Iran asked that his trip be rescheduled, according to a December 12 IAEA statement. An IAEA official interviewed January 2 said Tehran did not give a reason for its request. In its statement, the IAEA said that Iran informed the agency in September 2002 that “it was building new facilities as part of its programme to develop a nuclear fuel cycle.” It is unclear when the IAEA first decided to visit the sites.

The rescheduling of the IAEA visit came just before the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a Washington organization promoting nonproliferation, issued a report December 12 stating that Iran is building “secret nuclear fuel cycle facilities” at the two sites the IAEA plans to visit.

The ISIS report raised alarm in media reports that Iran is using the sites to develop nuclear weapons. One of the sites, located near a town called Arak, “appears to be a heavy water plant under construction,” the report said. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said December 13 that the plant “could support a reactor for producing weapons-grade plutonium.” The ISIS report, however, states that it does not have evidence that Iran has or is building such a reactor.

The other site, called Natanz, “possibly has a uranium enrichment plant,” according to ISIS. Boucher said that such a plant “could be used to produce highly enriched uranium for weapons.”

The report states that ISIS acquired commercial satellite images of the two sites after the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an Iranian opposition group, publicly declared the sites’ existence in August 2002. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said August 14 that he could not comment on the group’s accusations because they involved intelligence matters.

ISIS said in its December 12 report that it based its conclusions about the Arak site on “photo interpretation.” Its conclusions about Natanz were based on the satellite images and “other sources,” the report said.

Iran acknowledges that the two sites in the report are being developed for nuclear activities but says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes. Iran is also building a light-water nuclear reactor, which is less suitable for producing weapons-grade plutonium, near the city of Bushehr. That reactor is being built with Russian assistance and is subject to IAEA safeguards. (See ACT, Jan/Feb 2003.) Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi stated December 14 that Iranian nuclear activities are for “peaceful ends” and are needed to generate electricity.

According to Boucher, Iran’s nuclear program “is not peaceful and is certainly not transparent…. We have reached the conclusion that Iran is actively working to develop nuclear weapons capability.” Boucher added that Tehran has been attempting to conceal nuclear activities at the sites in Arak and Natanz by hardening and burying portions of the facilities. He also rebutted Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for electricity generation, arguing that its fossil fuel reserves are such that there would be no economic benefit to a nuclear program.

Washington also criticized Iran’s failure to disclose the existence of its nuclear facilities earlier. In 1992, the IAEA Board of Governors “asked all states to provide information about the design of new facilities as soon as the decision to construct, or to authorize construction was taken,” according to the agency’s December 12 statement. Boucher added in his December 13 statement that “all other [IAEA] states,” with the exception of Iran, “have accepted this obligation to provide complete design information on new facilities no later than 180 days before the start of construction.”

Although Iran is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, it has not concluded an Additional Protocol to its agreement. The Additional Protocol would provide for more rigorous inspections, including inspections of undeclared nuclear facilities. On December 13, ElBaradei called upon Iran to conclude such a protocol. Iran, however, is not required to allow visits to the Arak and Natanz sites under its current agreements with the IAEA.

Boucher indicated that Washington will wait for the IAEA to visit the two sites and issue its report before deciding on future action. He also said that the United States will continue its efforts to “get agreement from all countries to refrain from nuclear cooperation with Iran and to thwart Iran’s covert efforts to buy or acquire sensitive nuclear equipment and expertise.” John Wolf, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, asserted that Iran is acquiring its fuel cycle program “through false trading companies” and other means, according to a November 20 Newsday article. He did not name any countries as suppliers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has postponed its first visit to two Iranian nuclear sites until February after Tehran asked it to delay a previously scheduled December visit.

Confusing Ends and Means: The Doctrine of Coercive Pre-emption

John Steinbruner

In a speech at West Point last June, in a more formal statement of national security strategy submitted to Congress in September, and in a White House document published in December, President George W. Bush has proclaimed what appears to be a new security doctrine. Reduced to its essentials, the doctrine suggests that the United States will henceforth attack adversaries to prevent them not only from using but also from acquiring the technologies associated with weapons of mass destruction. If it were systematically implemented, this doctrine would represent a major redirection of policy and a radical revision of established international security rules.

The Bush administration evidently intends to make Iraq the first test case, but the doctrine also has direct implications for the two other countries—North Korea and Iran—that the president has named as members of an “axis of evil.” The doctrine is backed by the unprecedented degree of military superiority the United States has acquired. It has also been accompanied by repudiation of prominent agreements that have long been pillars of international regulation—most notably the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In that context, the announced doctrine projects an assertive form of American nationalism that is sure to inspire considerable animosity—and not just among potential adversaries. Signs of an international backlash are already evident to those who are willing to look for them—in the recent elections in South Korea and in Germany, for example.

In attempting to understand the significance of this development, it is important to remember that blunt talk and practical accomplishment are not the same thing. The president’s inherently provocative pronouncements will force deliberation and reaction throughout the world. The eventual consequences of Bush’s declared doctrine will be shaped by compelling interests and competing principles that his pronouncements only dimly acknowledged. When those are considered, as eventually they must be, the importance of cooperatively establishing greater control over mass destruction technologies will overpower the impulse to attack alleged rogues pre-emptively. The idea of using decisive force against implacable evil may be emotionally satisfying, but it is hardly the basis for responsible policy against today’s most likely threats. Pre-emptive actions are the result of policy failures, not the triumph of superior virtue or strategic reason.

The Vital Importance of Legitimacy

The central problem with the Bush administration’s doctrine is that it fundamentally confuses ends and means. Obviously, the aspiration to prevent warfare is intrinsically legitimate and increasingly important. It is also much better to pre-empt the conditions that generate violence than to prevail in a process of countervailing destruction. The question has to do with the methods that are used to accomplish these purposes. The Bush doctrine of pre-emption apparently proposes to rely primarily on coercive power, that is, to initiate violence in order to prevent it, and it appears to neglect and indeed to disdain international legal restraint. In the judgment of much of the world, that formula is more likely to generate violence than to contain it. Civilized security policy is primarily a matter of establishing and preserving a viable rule of law, and the use of coercive power is subordinate to that objective for very practical reasons. Coercion alone is too inefficient and too ineffective to provide adequate protection. Most of normal life depends on consensual rules, so they are necessarily the foundation of security.

A related problem with the Bush administration’s doctrine concerns the scale and character of threat. Before and during the Cold War, security policy was primarily concerned with territorial aggression on a continental scale and with massive destruction by remote bombardment. Preparations for missions of that magnitude would have to be very extensive, readily observable, and centrally organized. Now, threats of primary concern are smaller in scale; much more readily concealed; and, potentially at least, more widely distributed and more diffusely organized. The legitimacy and effectiveness of pre-emptive action depends a great deal on the type of threat to which it is applied.

The most broadly accepted form of pre-emption would be directed against an observably imminent threat of conventional invasion. The prohibition on territorial aggression and the right to defend against it are the most solidly established international legal standards. It is plausible to believe that World War II and the 1991 Persian Gulf War could both have been prevented had timely pre-emption been undertaken. In October 1994, the United States and the United Kingdom successfully reversed a second Iraqi mobilization against Kuwait by credibly threatening a pre-emptive attack, and their actions were backed by a UN Security Council resolution. In any currently foreseeable situation of that sort in which the United States is seriously engaged, the doctrine is likely to be successfully applied. The Bush administration documents cite this established application but attempt to extend it to circumstances where the perceived threat is neither large nor imminent. They do not explain how they will determine aggressive intent before it is demonstrated in deeds or how they will prevent errors of judgment that would make the enacted punishment outweigh the anticipated threat.

Pre-emption against the threat of massive nuclear attack was seriously considered when U.S. and Russian forces were first being formed. Indeed, today U.S. and Russian nuclear forces remain configured to attack enemy nuclear forces in the hopes of destroying them before they can be launched—an operational inclination that could be extremely dangerous during a crisis. It is so difficult, however, to execute a first strike that destroys all enemy weapons—and to be certain that you have that capability—that pre-emption has never been a responsible option for nuclear self-defense. It has also been recognized that a systematic effort to acquire that level of military ability and psychological confidence would lead to destructive competition between potential adversaries (i.e., an arms race). The ABM Treaty and associated offensive force limitation treaties were devised to prevent that from happening.

Bush’s new strategic pronouncements reopen this issue with a new twist. They assert the right to use coercive force against the acquisition of mass destruction weapons and imply that mass destruction weapons might themselves be used for this purpose. That form of pre-emption, traditionally termed preventive war, might well succeed if practiced against a smaller adversary early enough in the cycle of weapons development. It sets an inherently discriminatory and implicitly imperial standard, however, that has no chance of ever being broadly accepted, and in forfeiting legitimacy it promises to incite an interminable process of clandestine retribution. When resistance is widely considered justified, even socially mandatory, coercive pre-emption against all forms of clandestine retribution becomes infeasible, as is evident in the many current instances of active civil conflict.

Over the past decade, the United States and the international community have been repeatedly entangled in instances of civil conflict that could not be resolved by the direct combatants and the nominally responsible sovereign authority. There is as yet no settled interpretation of this experience, but the outlines of an intervention doctrine with pre-emptive implications are nonetheless visible. Interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo generated a reluctant and belated but ultimately acknowledged understanding that sustained violence in those areas would pose an intolerably dangerous threat to the surrounding region. UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which authorizes an indefinite international occupation of Kosovo, asserts an international interest in basic standards of legal order that overrides the traditional prerogatives of sovereignty. In retrospect, it is apparent that these interventions could have been more successful and less costly had they been undertaken earlier than they were. Similarly, it is now widely believed that a forceful intervention could have and should have halted the 1994 genocide in Rwanda well before more than half a million people had been slaughtered and millions more driven from their homes.

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it has been widely recognized that a sustained breakdown of legal order anywhere in the world would provide an organizational base for global terrorism and that forceful intervention to establish basic civil order is justified. The U.S. assault on Afghanistan was generally accepted under that understanding. The implication is that situations of that sort demand pre-emptive correction, but repeated instances would have to be authorized by the international community as a whole for reasons of general interest. Despite September 11, the United States will not be conceded exclusive responsibility for determining the circumstances under which pre-emptive intervention is required to restore civil order, and it does not have the capacity to assert that prerogative against widespread resistance.

Coercive pre-emption against terrorists and terrorist organizations is presumed to be legitimate, as dramatically demonstrated by an incident in Yemen on November 3. On that day, the CIA used an unmanned aerial vehicle to fire a missile at a car traveling in a remote area of the country, killing all five of the vehicle’s occupants. One of them was said to be a key al Qaeda figure, and that assertion was generally accepted as valid justification for the attack. There was no public protest from the Yemeni government, which was apparently consulted in advance but not otherwise involved in the operation. The precedent is nonetheless inherently contentious. The Yemeni operation was in effect a summary execution with no semblance of legal due process—no disputable presentation of evidence, no equivalent of an impartial judge or jury. If repeated often enough, that type of action will assuredly generate incidents that exceed the bounds of accepted justification and will incite recrimination. One cannot defend legal order by violating its central principles. One cannot fight terrorism by actions that are themselves terrorist in character. In fact, terrorism’s strategic purpose is to exploit the target’s natural impulse to respond in kind—to provoke a decisively stronger opponent into reactions that damage and discredit it.

Practical Judgments

Whether ultimately wise or not, coercive pre-emption against Iraq is obviously an imminent possibility. Saddam Hussein’s regime has so indicted itself that due process concerns are not likely to be a significant restraint. The legitimacy of denying Iraq access to mass destruction technology is established in UN resolutions, and a substantial part of the world would apparently acquiesce to a U.S. military campaign dedicated to that purpose. No one doubts the United States’ ability to undertake such a campaign. The major question is whether an attack perceived to be designed for the broader notion of “regime change” would trigger a cascading political reaction sufficiently adverse to discredit pre-emption as a doctrine. If so, that might take some time to recognize.

Even a decisive and enduring success in Iraq would not establish coercive pre-emption against programs to build weapons of mass destruction as a general principle. The international community cannot categorically deny the right of North Korea, Iran, or any other country to nuclear weapons. As non-nuclear-weapon states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, both North Korea and Iran committed themselves not to exercise their inherent right, but that did not take away the right itself or the associated right to acquire fissile material. North Korea can legally withdraw from the treaty as it stated it did January 10. In the current diplomatic crisis concerning its uranium-enrichment program, North Korea has cited that right, and in its evident reluctance to apply the doctrine of coercive pre-emption the Bush administration has so far implicitly conceded it.

The categorical prohibition on the offensive application of biotechnology formulated in the 1925 Geneva Protocol and in the Biological Weapons Convention is more plausibly considered a inviolable standard. Although the United States has accused some 13 countries, including North Korea and Iran, of having illegal offensive programs, none of them admits to that allegation, and no country currently claims either the right to biological weapons or the possession of them. All countries, however, assertively and legitimately proclaim the right to conduct biomedical research, and most of them actively do it. The United States cannot restrict that right by simplistically labeling a country “evil.”

In addition to having to concede that states have the right to pursue nuclear and biological technology—an admission that undermines the justification for coercive pre-emption—the United States will have to acknowledge that its capability to pre-emptively attack North Korea and Iran is more questionable than its ability to attack Iraq. Since the U.S. military operates within a network of foreign basing rights and access agreements that require consent from the host governments, it would be difficult to organize a pre-emptive attack that did not enjoy general approval. The bottom line is that the United States needs not merely permissive acquiescence but active collaboration of most major countries in order to deal with emerging security problems that cannot be addressed by military force of any sort.

The most urgent of these problems is the management of biotechnology. Fundamental understanding of basic life processes emerging out of a global biomedical research community is enabling extremely powerful applications, both therapeutic and destructive. The eradication of some devastating diseases is becoming feasible as is the deliberate creation of yet more devastating ones. In general, the prospective benefits and the potential dangers are both greater than is the case for any of the other technologies that carry the “mass destruction” label.

The pattern of development is also distinctive. Biotechnology is the product of a worldwide research enterprise operating through open literature primarily for public health purposes. Dedicated weapons projects are a small part of the whole picture and are not the major source of scientific development. The momentum and diffusion of the research base makes it infeasible for any country to appropriate this technology for its exclusive use or to control the flow of information. Current attempts to impose such controls in the hopes of frustrating bioterrorists are unlikely to succeed. Moreover, since biomedical facilities need not be large and do not have inherently identifying features—unlike nuclear facilities—it is more difficult to fathom their activities through satellite imagery and other means.

The relentless implication is that the deliberately destructive use of biotechnology is a threat to all human societies of a scope and magnitude greater than any other. That threat could be developed and delivered by clandestine means, and current national security methods cannot provide adequate protection no matter how they might be elaborated. Under prevailing circumstances of access, it would be impossible to identify and disable all dedicated terrorists and rogues before they have accomplished nefarious deeds, and it would be foolish to attempt to do so by national military operations. A campaign of that sort conducted by the United States under the doctrine of coercive pre-emption is more likely to stimulate the destructive application of biotechnology than to prevent it.

The only reasonable hope is to establish comprehensive oversight procedures within the scientific community robust enough to make dangerous research far more difficult to conceal and simultaneously to organize the research process so that protective applications of biotechnology outpace any destructive ones that might evade oversight. An arrangement of that sort would require intimate, equitable collaboration on a global basis without exception. Impossible as that kind of cooperation might seem given current attitudes, it will be considered, and probably attempted, as the nature of the threat from biotechnology is absorbed. The process of deliberation will impose a major amendment on the doctrine of coercive pre-emption.

The management of fissile material presents a similar imperative in somewhat weaker form. It is technically feasible for terrorists or rogues to use nuclear explosives to wreck devastating havoc with small operations that could be successfully concealed and would therefore evade coercive pre-emption. Doing so is inherently more difficult than using biotechnology to cause damage because the scale of activity required to produce fissile material is far more difficult to conceal and access controls over material already produced are far more developed. Current national standards of accounting and physical security for fissile material are not impermeable, however, and they could be substantially improved by establishing a common international arrangement. The problems involved are more political than technical in character. If the confrontational policies forged during the Cold War were transcended in fact as well as in rhetoric, more robust protection of fissile material could be achieved, but that would assuredly require very convincing restriction on the doctrine of coercive pre-emption. No country will subject its fissile material to international accounting if it believes that coercive pre-emption is a serious possibility.


In the end, the Bush administration’s doctrinal pronouncements may prove to be a transient political exercise of little enduring significance or possibly a useful threat with exclusive application to the Iraq situation. They also might spark major international disputes and eventual adjustment. However it turns out, the central contention—that pre-emptive attack can prevent the acquisition of mass destruction technology—is not realistic and does not provide a responsible basis for protecting the United States or anyone else. Preventive action against potentially unmanageable threats is indeed an increasingly vital security interest, but that cannot be accomplished by coercive methods. It will require the systematic exchange of sensitive monitoring information for mutual protection, and arrangements of that sort cannot be established while one party is wielding a confrontational threat against the others. If coercive pre-emption is to be done at all, it must be done by the international community as a whole for common benefit, not by the United States alone for its own exclusive purposes. The confusion of ends and means presented in the Bush administration’s documents will have to be corrected. That is a direct responsibility of the U.S. political system in which the rest of the world has a very substantial stake.

John Steinbruner is director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.


U.S. Reportedly Offers Russia Deal on Bushehr

November 2002

By Paul Kerr

The United States has reportedly offered Russia access to spent nuclear fuel if it ends its role in constructing a nuclear reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr. The State Department would not directly confirm that the lucrative offer had been made but said October 23 that the United States would be willing to offer the transfer “of spent reactor fuel currently held by third countries” to Russia as incentive to halt nuclear cooperation with Iran.

Russian Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Yuri Bespalko expressed doubts about the sincerity of Washington’s proposal, however, citing Washington’s failure to fulfill a promise of removing trade restrictions imposed by the 1974

Jackson-Vannick Amendment, according to the October 22 Washington Post article that first reported the deal. A Bush administration official interviewed October 30 differed with the Post’s account, saying that a spent fuel deal has been discussed for several years and that Russia was more receptive to it than the spokesman’s statement suggests.

The official said that several countries are seeking ways to dispose of their nuclear waste and would be interested in paying Russia to take it from them. Washington would have to approve the transfer of most of the material because the United States originally supplied it and has agreements with recipient countries requiring Washington’s permission for shipment to third parties, the official explained. (See ACT, July/August 2001.) The official said that a decision has not yet been made as to whether Russia would store or reprocess the fuel, but said that the United States prefers storage.

The State Department placed the deal’s value at “potentially…over $10 billion”—significantly more than the Bushehr project, which is widely reported to be worth about $800 million.

The offer was reported while John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was traveling in Moscow October 20-22. Bolton acknowledged that he had discussed Russia’s assistance to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs with Russian officials, but he denied that the United States had offered any incentive to halt this assistance. “The idea of that kind of quid pro quo trade-off is simply an inaccurate representation of the nature of the relationship between Russia and America today. We wouldn’t offer such an arrangement, and the Russian government wouldn’t accept it,” he said during an October 22 press conference in Moscow.

Russia’s assistance on the Bushehr project has long concerned the United States. The State Department asserted that such assistance could aid Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, according to an October 23 statement. Moscow raised Washington’s ire when it released a draft document July 26 that called for the construction of additional nuclear reactors in Iran. (See ACT, September 2002.)


The United States has reportedly offered Russia access to spent nuclear fuel if it ends its role in constructing a nuclear reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr. 

U.S. Irked by Potential Growth in Russian Nuclear Aid to Iran

September 2002

By Paul Kerr

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a draft document July 26 that includes plans to build five nuclear reactors in Iran in addition to the reactor currently under construction near the Iranian city of Bushehr, according to U.S. and Russian sources. The document created friction between Moscow and Washington, which has opposed Russian nuclear assistance to Iran.

The draft document was released shortly before Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, arrived in Moscow for a series of meetings with Russian officials concerning nonproliferation issues. Abraham and Bolton expressed opposition to the proposal to expand nuclear cooperation at a July 31 meeting, arguing that building the reactors might help Iran develop nuclear weapons, according to a Bush administration official. “We will continue to urge the Russian government to take a clear position against any plan to build additional nuclear reactors in Iran,” the official said.

The reactors proposal was particularly controversial because of its timing and approval by high-level government officials. The announcement “that Russia intended to pursue additional nuclear cooperation with Iran was inconsistent with the assurance that Putin gave Bush,” an administration official said August 15, referring to a pledge to combat proliferation that the U.S. and Russian presidents made at the G-8 summit in June.

However, presidents Bush and Putin had acknowledged their disagreement about Russian nuclear aid to Iran at the May 24 signing ceremony for the new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction treaty. Putin stated during May meetings with Bush that Russia would continue with the Bushehr project, but no plans for additional reactors were discussed. (See ACT, June 2002).

Russian officials downplayed the proposal for additional reactors after meeting with Bolton and Abraham. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Alexander Yakovenko stated July 31 that “the prospects of cooperation with Iran in the field of peaceful uses of the atom, [speak] only of the available potentialities, the realization of which depends on many factors, including, of course, political.”

The First Deputy Atomic Energy Minister, Lev Ryabev, said August 13 that “no concrete agreements have been achieved…. No contracts have been signed,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax. “I would not like to say that we will build only one reactor. But I also would not like to say that we will certainly build six or any other number of reactors, since any such statements would be premature,” he added.

Although there is no formal agreement, Iran stated its belief that Russia will follow through on the terms of the draft proposal. The plan also calls for expanding trade and industrial and technical cooperation between Moscow and Tehran. According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, Iranian ambassador to Russia Gholamreza Shafei stated August 9 that “the Russian government has approved of the plan, and it has no intention of backtracking on the issue of cooperation with Iran.”

Russia’s cooperation with Iran on nuclear power projects has long been a source of concern for the United States. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Marshall Billingslea testified before the Senate July 29 that “Iran is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons, and we are concerned that the Bushehr nuclear power project is, in reality, a pretext for the creation of an infrastructure designed to help Tehran acquire atomic weapons.” The CIA has argued that cooperation on civilian nuclear projects with Russia could provide Iran with knowledge that could be used to build nuclear weapons. These concerns have been magnified by Iran’s advancing missile program and its inclusion on the State Department’s list of states sponsoring terrorism.

Iran and Russia argue that the Bushehr reactor project poses no proliferation threat. “This cooperation bears an entirely peaceful and mutually beneficial character and is fully consistent with all the international obligations of Russia, primarily in the domain of nuclear nonproliferation,” Yakovenko said. Iran is a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and the reactors are subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

The IAEA has stated that it “has not found any evidence of diversion of nuclear material placed under safeguards in Iran.” The agency noted, however, that Iran has not concluded an Additional Protocol designed to strengthen the IAEA’s ability to discover clandestine nuclear weapons programs. The Additional Protocol provides for more rigorous inspections, including inspections of undeclared nuclear facilities.

Moscow has said that it will take steps to ensure that spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor would not be used for nuclear weapons. Russia announced August 21 that it had signed an agreement with Iran to take back spent fuel from the reactor, Agence France-Presse reported. Russian Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Andrei Malyshev said August 5 that the reactor would be operational in June 2004, according to Interfax.

U.S. Irked by Potential Growth in Russian Nuclear Aid to Iran

Bush, Putin Disagree on Russia-Iran Nuclear, Missile Cooperation

June 2002

By Alex Wagner

Although Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed a new nuclear arms reductions treaty and a joint declaration on May 24 in Moscow, the two leaders could not resolve longstanding U.S. concerns about Russian nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran. Instead, the two sides discussed the possibility of sending nuclear inspectors to Iran and agreed to establish a ministerial-level committee to examine the unresolved issues.

Speaking at the treaty signing with Putin, Bush told reporters that it is “in both our countries’ mutual interest that we solve this problem.” Bush said that he and Putin “spoke very frankly and honestly about the need to make sure that a nontransparent government run by radical clerics doesn’t get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.”

Russia’s construction of a nuclear power plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr has been a highly contentious issue since the early 1990s. Washington has been worried that Iran will covertly use the reactor to produce material for nuclear weapons. The United States has also alleged that Russia has been providing Tehran with technological assistance that could enhance Iran’s missile program.

During a May 26 interview on CNN’s Late Edition, Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that differences between the two sides remain, saying, “The Russians say that they are not providing that kind of technology or equipment to the Iranians, and we have some evidence that they are.” To continue consulting on these issues, the two leaders decided to establish a regular consultative committee consisting of U.S. and Russian foreign and defense ministers, Powell said.

The leaders said that during their meeting Bush had pressed Putin on the Bushehr project, but at the treaty signing the Russian president insisted that Russian-Iranian cooperation does not undercut nonproliferation efforts but rather “focuses on problems of economic nature.” Putin went as far as comparing his country’s involvement with Bushehr to a U.S.-led effort to construct a civilian nuclear power plant in North Korea. “I’d like to point out also that the U.S. has taken a commitment upon themselves to build a similar nuclear power plant in North Korea, similar to Russia,” Putin said.

At a press conference in Paris on May 26, Bush said he believes Putin “is convinced” that construction of the power plant “will not lead to the spread of technologies that will enable Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction.” But Bush said that Putin was “willing to allow for international inspection teams to determine whether that’s true or not.” A senior administration official later clarified that Putin’s offer to allow inspections at Bushehr is still “a work in progress.”

Russia and Iran have long agreed that the Bushehr reactor would be constructed and operated in full accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear accounting procedures and monitoring. The head of Iran’s parliamentary commission for energy, Hossein Afarideh, confirmed Iran’s intention to observe IAEA rules May 28, according to Iran’s state-run news agency. An IAEA team has already visited the Bushehr construction site, and regular inspections of the facility will occur four to six times a year after Russia supplies key nuclear materials, according to an IAEA spokesperson.

At the treaty signing ceremony, Putin also disputed U.S. charges that his country supports Iranian missile development efforts and said that he had told Bush that Iran and other countries have missile and nuclear programs largely built with Western support.

Washington considers Russian transfers of missile technology to Iran an offense violating both U.S. law and Russia’s international commitments and has sanctioned several Russian entities for providing such assistance, most recently in 1999. According to a January 2002 U.S. intelligence report, Russia provided Iran with ballistic missile-related goods and technical “know-how” throughout 2001. “Russian assistance likely supports Iranian efforts to develop new missiles and increase Tehran’s self-sufficiency in missile production,” the report said.

Bush, Putin Disagree on Russia-Iran Nuclear, Missile Cooperation


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