"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004

UN Security Council Overhauls Iraqi Sanctions Regime

June 2002

By Alex Wagner

More than a year after it set out to revitalize the Iraqi sanctions regime, the United States won unanimous approval from the UN Security Council for a resolution that effectively lifts the international embargo on civilian trade with Iraq. The council’s 15-0 vote on May 14 came as the United Nations and Baghdad appear to be making progress on talks that would result in the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.

The adoption of what Secretary of State Colin Powell has touted as “smart sanctions” removes UN export controls on purely civilian goods, allowing Iraq to import any nonmilitary item through a streamlined UN review process. Under the old regime, Iraq could import food items and certain infrastructure, health, and agricultural materials but was effectively prevented from importing most other civilian cargo.

Contracts with military applications will still be barred, and items delineated on a “Goods Review List” that have both civilian and military uses will require additional scrutiny before Iraq can import them. Two inspection bodies, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are charged with examining all contracts that incorporate items on the Goods Review List.

Through the resolution, the Security Council also extended for another six months the oil-for-food program, under which Baghdad’s oil-sale revenues are placed into a UN-controlled escrow account that funds all of Iraq’s purchases.

The Bush administration began planning last year to revise the sanctions on Iraq, believing that the now-11-year-old regime was not effective and wanting to respond to international criticism that sanctions—not the policies of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein—were responsible for the humanitarian problems of the Iraqi people.

In May 2001, the United States and United Kingdom issued a draft proposal to reinvigorate the regime. In addition to lifting the civilian embargo and implementing a Goods Review List, the administration had wanted to tighten restrictions on Iraqi oil customers and designate permitted border crossings into Iraq to prevent Baghdad from illegally exporting oil to pay for imported, proscribed weapons and technology.

However, Washington and London apparently dropped their efforts to stem smuggling because of stiff opposition from Iraq’s neighbors, who profit from the illicit trade. As a result, the Security Council only approved a draft Goods Review List in late November 2001. Since then, U.S. and Russian diplomats have negotiated minor revisions to the list.

Because the new resolution eliminates nearly all the red tape that had held up Iraq’s import of some civilian goods, Washington views the new resolution as a public relations coup. During a May 14 interview with Washington File, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf said, “These changes will further highlight that the situation of the Iraqi people is due to the [Iraqi] regime’s subversion of the UN system intended to provide for their well being. With this simple process for civilian goods in place, there can be no excuse for evasion of the focused controls aimed at preventing the Iraqi regime’s rearmament.”

Speaking to reporters May 14, Powell called the vote “a major achievement.” That same day, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte noted that unanimous approval of the resolution was a “significant accomplishment, both politically and technically.”

Unsurprisingly, Iraq was critical of the Security Council’s action because it did not remove all sanctions, but Baghdad agreed on May 16 to accept the new arrangement. In a May 16 address carried over state-run television, Hussein blasted the move, saying it sought to forestall “Iraq’s awakening and effort to develop its scientific and technical resources.”

Although the United States remains committed to eventually disposing of the Hussein regime to neutralize the perceived Iraqi threat, the Bush administration continues to support an ongoing Iraq-UN dialogue to discuss the readmission of UN weapons inspectors into Iraq.

A second round of talks between the UN and Iraq concluded without agreement on May 3, but UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed hope that an upcoming third round would produce a deal.

Under the terms of the 1991 Persian Gulf War ceasefire, Iraq agreed to allow unfettered, comprehensive weapons inspections. Iraq’s subsequent resistance to inspections led to the removal of inspectors just prior to a U.S.-led bombing campaign in December 1998. For some time, senior Bush administration officials have expressed concern that Iraq has been actively rearming since inspectors left the country.

Speaking to the press May 3, Annan described the three days of talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri as “useful and frank,” emphasizing, “We did move forward.” Sabri echoed Annan’s characterization, saying the talks were “useful, frank, and focused.”

Annan also said that for the first time since inspectors left Iraq, the two sides held “thorough” disarmament discussions that focused on the technicalities of resuming inspections. UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix participated in the first round of talks in March and was joined by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei for the most recent session. (See ACT, April 2002.) At a May 3 press briefing, ElBaradei and Blix both estimated inspections would last about one year with full Iraqi cooperation.

A UN official said that the talks yielded “no breakthroughs” but noted that the focus on disarmament was “a positive sign.” The Iraqi delegation had wanted to raise additional topics such as the no-fly zones over Iraq and the lifting of sanctions, but Annan refused to discuss these subjects, the official said.

Iraq’s delegation will now report back to Baghdad and confer with Iraq’s leadership, while the UN awaits an answer as to whether Iraq will permit a return of inspectors. The UN and Iraq are scheduled to resume discussions in early July. The UN official said that the two sides might hold the next meeting in Vienna and that Annan is unlikely to agree to any additional rounds of talks.

UN Security Council Overhauls Iraqi Sanctions Regime

Washington Levies Sanctions for WMD-Related Transfers to Iran

June 2002

Alex Wagner

The Bush administration imposed sanctions on 12 Chinese, Moldavian, and Armenian firms and individuals May 9 for transferring items to Iran that could assist Tehran with missile development or the production of chemical or biological weapons.

The administration levied the sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, which mandates penalties for entities that transfer to Iran equipment and technology controlled under multilateral export control regimes. These informal arrangements include the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, which seek to coordinate member states’ policies on chemical and biological weapons-related and missile-related exports, respectively.

The sanctions, which are effective for two years, specifically bar the U.S. government from providing assistance to or engaging in business with any of the sanctioned entities, and they effectively prevent U.S. companies from doing so. Several of the entities are already under U.S. sanctions, but at a May 16 press conference State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that imposing further penalties served to extend the time the entities remain under sanctions.

Little information about the transfers that triggered the sanctions is publicly available. According to a U.S. official, the State Department is “not in a position to describe the transfers or the roles of the entities in them.”

However, according to intelligence officials cited in a May 20 Washington Times article, some of the transfers by Chinese entities involved glass-lined equipment, which could be used while developing chemical weapons. The report also cited officials claiming that other Chinese entities were sanctioned for selling cruise missile components to Iran.

Of the eight penalized Chinese entities, Liyang Chemical Equipment Company, China National Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company, and Chinese citizen Q. C. Chen were sanctioned in January for transfers controlled by the Australia Group. At that time, the State Department said Chen had provided assistance to Iran’s chemical weapons program. (See ACT, March 2002.)

The administration is also sanctioning Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, most likely for chemical weapon-related transfers; Wha Cheong Tai Company; China Shipbuilding Trading Company; China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation; and China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation, which was sanctioned in June 1991 for transferring M-11 short-range missiles to Pakistan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the U.S. sanctions as “unreasonable” and emphasized Beijing’s strict adherence to its international export control obligations.

Although Chinese entities have been extensively penalized in the past for transfers of weapons of mass destruction-related technology to the Middle East, the new measures mark the first time that Moldavian and Armenian entities have been sanctioned.

A May 9 Reuters report quoted a senior administration official suggesting that the Armenian and Moldavian companies were fronts for Russian entities. However, in an interview another administration official denied the connection, stating that there is “no evidence that these entities are acting as fronts for other entities or any government.”

Citing Moldavian government sources, BASA-press, a Moldavian news agency, reported on May 17 that one of the newly sanctioned companies, Cuanta, SA no longer exists. The report described Cuanta as a military research facility that was once a manufacturer of sophisticated telecommunications systems for guided missiles. The Bush administration also sanctioned Cuanta’s former manager, Mikhail Pavlovich Vladov.

Armenia’s Lizen Open Joint Stock Company and Armenian national Armen Sargsian were also penalized. At a May 18 press conference, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian confirmed that Lizen sold certain materials to Iran but said the company did not intend “to assist the weapons of mass destruction production or research in other countries.” Oskanian said the company was “probably told at some point that it could lead to problems for them, but, nevertheless, they apparently chose to go ahead with the sale, and they are now included in that list.”

Washington Levies Sanctions for WMD-Related Transfers to Iran

Iran Conducts Fourth Shahab-3 Test

Iran successfully completed its fourth test of the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile in mid-May, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said May 26, according to an Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report.

With a range of 1,300 kilometers when equipped with a 700-kilogram payload, the liquid-fueled, road-mobile Shahab-3 can potentially target all of Israel with weapons of mass destruction. The missile is largely derived from the North Korean Nodong-1 and was built with significant technological assistance from Russia, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. (Russia’s nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran was a focal point of the recent U.S.-Russian presidential summit. See p. 27.)

Of Iran’s three previous Shahab-3 tests, only the second, conducted in July 2000, is believed to have been a success. (See ACT, September 2000.) Despite the previous failures, a December 2001 U.S. intelligence estimate characterized the missile as “in the late stages of development.”

The May 26 IRNA report quoted Shamkhani announcing that Iran will continue its missile program “in order to promote the power and precision of the Shahab-3 missile.” He said that the tests were carried out “to upgrade the missile and are not regarded as a new production or step toward increasing its range.”

Shamkhani added that despite the test’s success, Iran “is not intending to build new missiles under the names of Shahab-4 or Shahab-5, as claimed by the Americans.” However, Shamkhani has previously called for development of a Shahab-4 with space-launch potential and has mentioned plans for a longer-range Shahab-5 missile.

On May 16, a State Department spokesman said that the administration continues to have “serious concerns” about the Iranian missile program. The spokesman emphasized that the United States views “Iran’s efforts to further develop its missile capabilities, including flight testing of missiles, as a threat to the region and to U.S. interests” and said that Washington will “continue to actively pursue extensive efforts to stop the proliferation of missile technology and equipment to Iran.”

U.S. Presses Russia on Nuclear, Missile Cooperation With Iran

Alex Wagner

In two recent high-level meetings in Moscow, U.S. officials pressed Russia to stop nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran.

John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, met with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov on February 19. Although the talks focused on announced reductions in U.S. and Russian offensive nuclear forces, Bolton also raised the issue of Russian assistance to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Calling the issue “a very high priority” for the administration, Bolton acknowledged that the two sides “had a disagreement about the extent of [Russia’s] involvement” in those areas. He further questioned how “any Russian citizen [could] see any benefit whatever in a nuclear-equipped, ballistic missile-capable Iran.” In a February 11 interview with Arms Control Today, Bolton cited Russia’s proliferation behavior as one of the top priorities for the Bush administration, just after missile defenses and offensive nuclear reductions. (See interview.)

Earlier this year, Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf also met with Mamedov in Moscow to discuss the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles, as well as export control issues. The January 21-22 meetings represented the first round of formal U.S.-Russian nonproliferation consultations, a new biannual forum established during the November 2001 presidential summit in Crawford, Texas.

In the January discussions, the United States and Russia again locked horns on whether Russia’s continued assistance to Iran’s nuclear program and other “military technological cooperation” posed a proliferation risk. Russia is helping Iran build two civilian nuclear power reactors at Bushehr—assistance the United States says will help Iran build nuclear weapons—and the United States sanctioned several Russian entities in 1999 for providing ballistic-missile assistance to Iran.

According to a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press statement, Russian assistance is carried out “in strict compliance” with export controls and international nonproliferation accords. In a January 30 interview with the U.S. Information Agency, Wolf said that Washington “had good success with Russia” regarding export controls and noted the two sides are working to expand that success.

Given the fundamental disagreement between Washington and Moscow on the issue of Russia’s nuclear and missile proliferation to Iran, a Russian source stated that it was unlikely that the two sides would resolve the issue unless it is addressed at the presidential level. Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to hold a summit in St. Petersburg in May to discuss strategic stability issues.

Iran’s Nuclear Progress

The increased focus on Russian-Iranian proliferation follows Bush’s January 29 State of the Union address, in which he referred to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil” intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (See Bush Labels North Korea, Iran, Iraq an 'Axis of Evil'.) Lending urgency to the president’s warnings, senior officials from the United States and Israel recently expressed concern that Iran was only years away from being able to develop nuclear weapons.

On February 6, CIA Director George Tenet testified before the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence that Iran “may be able to indigenously produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by late this decade.” Tenet went on to add that acquisition of such material from foreign sources “could cut years from this estimate.”

In an address in the United States that same day, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer repeated Israel’s longstanding assessment that Israel expects Tehran to have a nuclear capability by 2005 and that it is receiving assistance in this endeavor from Russia and North Korea. Since 1997, the CIA has repeatedly warned that Iran is pursuing an indigenous nuclear weapons development capability, although it has never predicted a date by which Iran could potentially acquire a nuclear weapon.

Bush Labels North Korea, Iran, Iraq an 'Axis of Evil'

Alex Wagner

Apparently attempting to increase international pressure on “rogue states” that could use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or provide them to terrorists, President George W. Bush characterized North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as “an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world,” in his January 29 State of the Union address.

Although he provided no new information about the activities of these countries, Bush stated that his administration would act to prevent “regimes that sponsor terror” from threatening the United States and its allies with WMD. Bush told the nation that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq “pose a grave and growing danger” and could provide WMD and missiles “to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.”

Bush did not give specifics on what plan of action might be in store or when the United States might act, but he noted that he “will not wait on events while dangers gather,” warning that his administration “will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

During a January 31 speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice elaborated on the threat posed by the named rogue states, saying Bush’s speech put state sponsors of terrorism “on notice” and enunciated the “growing danger” posed by North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.

She cited North Korea as “the world’s number-one merchant for ballistic missiles, open for business with anyone, no matter how malign the buyer’s intentions,” called Iraq “determined to acquire” WMD, and said Iran’s “direct support of regional and global terrorism” and “aggressive efforts” to develop WMD “belie any good intentions it displayed” after September 11.

Analysts have voiced concern that Bush’s speech was setting the stage for military actions against one or all of these states in the next iteration of the administration’s war on terrorism. Senior administration officials have acknowledged that a full range of options are being developed for Iraq, but while visiting Seoul February 20 Bush said he had “no intention of invading North Korea.” At a February 12 hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell also said that there is no plan to begin a conflict with Iran. Rather, the administration is likely to try to apply pressure on both Russia and China to end all nuclear and missile cooperation with Tehran. (See U.S. Presses Russia on Nuclear, Missile Cooperation With Iran.)

Unsurprisingly, Pyongyang, Tehran, and Baghdad all dismissed Bush’s accusations. North Korea’s state-run television called Bush a “nuclear maniac” and characterized his remarks as “reckless” and “tantamount to a declaration of war.” In a statement carried by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Bush’s rhetoric was “intervening, warmongering, [and] insulting.” Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan rejected Bush’s charges as well, calling them “stupid” and “inappropriate.”

Some of Washington’s closest allies were also highly critical of Bush’s rhetoric. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw speculated that Bush’s remarks were intended to appease domestic political constituencies rather than warn of a credible threat. In Washington on February 1, Straw reasoned that the State of the Union address “was best understood by the fact that there are midterm congressional elections in November.” In a February 6 interview on Inter Radio, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine called Bush’s terrorism-based approach to foreign affairs “simplistic” and said that the Bush administration dealt with “international issues in a unilateral manner.”

Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Chris Patten, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. In an interview published in the February 9 Guardian, Patten said that Bush’s address was “more rhetoric than substance.” He also called the speech “unhelpful” and said that it is “hard to believe” that Bush’s axis of evil comment was a “well thought-through policy.”

Powell rejected characterizations like those of Vedrine in testimony before the House International Relations Committee on February 6, stating, “The suggestion that…the United States is acting unilaterally and not consulting with our European partners…simply couldn’t be further from the truth.” However, Powell added, “When it is a matter of principle, and when the multilateral community does not agree with us, we do not shrink from doing that which we think is right, which is in our interests, even if some of our friends disagree with us.”

Intelligence Estimate Upgrades Chinese, Iranian Missile Threats

Alex Wagner

On January 9, the intelligence community released an unclassified summary of its 2001 report on foreign ballistic missile developments through 2015.

In general, the report differs little from the last public National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), issued in 1999, but the new estimate upgrades the threat posed by the Chinese and Iranian missile programs and indicates that terrorists with weapons of mass destruction pose a greater threat to the United States than ballistic missiles.

The estimate emphasizes that the United States is “more likely” to be attacked by weapons of mass destruction delivered by “nonmissile” means rather than by ballistic missiles and that a terrorist is the “most likely” actor to carry out such an attack. The report is the first intelligence estimate to reach such a conclusion, although Robert Walpole, the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, made the same assessment during February 2000 testimony to Congress on the 1999 estimate.

The new report says China’s nuclear-armed ICBM arsenal will increasingly threaten the United States, judging that by 2015, Beijing could have between “75-100 long-range warheads deployed primarily against the United States.” The 1999 estimate said that China is likely to have tens of [single-warhead] missiles capable of targeting the United States” by 2015.

The estimate notes that a Chinese decision to deploy multiple warheads and missile defense countermeasures on its ICBMs “would be factors in the ultimate size of the force.” Citing China’s attempt to develop “a modern, more survivable strategic deterrent,” the report also states that Beijing is currently developing an 8,000-kilometer road-mobile DF-31, a longer-range DF-31, and a JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

By 2015, Beijing could have “about two dozen shorter range DF-31 and DF-4 ICBMs that could reach parts of the United States,” according to the NIE, although the DF-4’s 5,500-kilometer range would only allow it to target remote parts of Alaska. At present, China deploys approximately 20 single-warhead DF-5A ICBMs, which have a range of 13,000 kilometers and are the only Chinese missiles currently capable of reaching the United States.

The intelligence community has also upgraded the potential threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles. While the previous estimate said that the United States will “probably” face an ICBM threat from Iran by 2015, the new report says that the United States is “most likely” to encounter such a threat by that time. However, one agency, reportedly the State Department, deems it “unlikely” that Iran will successfully test an ICBM by 2015.

According to the report, Iran’s 1,300-kilometer Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) is “in the late stages of development,” despite the fact that Tehran’s most recent flight test of the Shahab-3 in September 2000 is believed to have failed. (See ACT, October 2000.)

The NIE includes new sections on India and Pakistan, augmenting the scant details provided in the 1999 report. While saying that India has made “progress toward its aim of achieving self-sufficiency for its missile programs,” the report notes that New Delhi continues to rely “heavily” on foreign assistance.

The estimate states that India will “probably” deploy the 2,000-kilometer Agni-2 missile before 2010 and that New Delhi is also developing the Sagarika, an SLBM that the intelligence community does not believe will be deployed before 2010. The report notes that the 150-kilometer Prithvi-1 continues to be New Delhi’s only currently deployed ballistic missile.

Notably, India “could convert its polar space launch vehicle into an ICBM within a year or two of a decision to do so” because “most components needed for an ICBM are available from India’s indigenous space program,” according to the report.

Regarding Pakistan, the report estimates that Islamabad will continue to make progress toward developing a “survivable, flexible [medium-range missile] force,” but it does not mention any Pakistani pursuit of an ICBM capability. The report characterizes Pakistan’s Ghauri-1 missile simply as a Nodong acquired from North Korea, whereas a January 2001 Defense Department report said that the 1,300-kilometer Ghauri was “based on” the Nodong.

Despite North Korea’s continued moratorium on missile tests and stated willingness to end its indigenous missile program and missile exports, there was no change in the intelligence community’s view of the North Korean missile threat from the last report. But the new estimate says that North Korea continues to develop the nuclear-capable Taepo Dong-2, which may be ready for flight testing and would be capable of reaching any target in the United States.

Although United Nations inspectors have not been in Iraq since December 1998, the intelligence community’s estimate of Baghdad’s missile capabilities is nearly unchanged from 1999. The report states that “most” of the agencies tasked with creating the new estimate “believe that Iraq is unlikely to test before 2015 any ICBMs that would threaten the United States, even if UN prohibitions were eliminated or significantly reduced in the next few years.” (Emphasis in original.) The current Iraq sanctions regime, in place since the Persian Gulf War, prohibits Baghdad from possessing or developing missiles with ranges over 150 kilometers.

The new NIE adds details to the 1999 estimate about Iraq’s potential development of MRBMs, saying that with “substantial foreign assistance, Baghdad could flight-test a domestic MRBM by mid-decade.” (Emphasis is original.) However, if coupled with “rapid erosion of UN prohibitions” and a “willingness to risk detection of developmental steps,” the report says that an Iraqi MRBM test by 2010 is likely.

Like the 1999 National Intelligence Estimate, the new report predicts missile developments independent of “significant political and economic changes,” a practice that generated much criticism by experts when the 1999 estimate was released. (Emphasis in original.)

China Sanctioned for Chem, Bio Transfers to Iran

Seth Brugger

On January 16, the United States sanctioned two Chinese companies and an individual for transferring to Iran sensitive equipment and technology used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

According to the State Department, the transfers have taken place since January 1999 and involved goods restricted by the Australia Group, an informal body of 33 countries that coordinate their controls on biological and chemical weapons-related exports. The United States last sanctioned a Chinese entity for chemical or biological weapons-related transfers in June 2001, according to an administration official.

Levied under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 and effective for two years, the latest sanctions prohibit the U.S. government from conducting business with or providing assistance to the Chinese entities: Liyang Chemical Equipment, China Machinery and Electric Import and Export Company, and Q. C. Chen. The sanctions also bar certain weapons and defense-related sales to the entities, as well as sales of goods requiring particular export licenses.

In a January 25 written statement, the State Department said, “For many years we have made known to the Chinese Government our concerns about specific Chinese entities providing assistance to Iran’s chemical weapons program. Q. C. Chen has been among the entities we have raised on multiple occasions.”

Chen is already subject to U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 for assisting Iran’s chemical weapons program; the other two entities were not already under sanctions. When asked, the State Department could not say whether the United States currently conducts business with the three entities.

The sanctions could have been waived, but Washington “did not believe it was appropriate” to do so, the State Department said in its statement. More information on the nature of the transfers was not publicly available, but the fact that the sanctions were levied about a month before President George W. Bush traveled to China could indicate their seriousness.

China’s Foreign Ministry rebutted the U.S. charges in a January 25 statement, saying the sanctions are “unreasonable” and “should be cancelled,” Agence France-Presse reported. “China is opposed to any country developing chemical weapons, and furthermore does not help any country develop chemical weapons,” the statement said.

Name-Calling or Nonproliferation?

Daryl G. Kimball

In a potent political one-liner delivered in January, President George W. Bush prominently labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil” that is supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. While the threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction is real, the problems of terrorism and proliferation are not identical and cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach.

The president is to be commended for focusing attention on the ongoing threat of nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile proliferation in dangerous regions. But his gratuitous name-calling in the absence of practical, country-specific nonproliferation strategies has complicated the task of addressing proliferation problems, particularly in North Korea.

Bush’s statement puts North Korea and Iran in the same category as Iraq and has raised concerns about military action against all three. Our friends and allies may eventually agree to collective military action to enforce Security Council mandates for UN weapons inspections in Iraq, but leaders in South Korea, Japan, and Europe correctly understand that the most effective approach to Pyongyang is resuming the North-South-U.S. dialogue.

While in Seoul for a February state visit, Bush had to clarify that the United States “has no intention of invading North Korea,” and he reiterated his administration’s willingness to talk “anytime, anywhere” with Pyongyang on a range of security issues. Yet, in the same speech, he repeated harsh recriminations that substantially undermine the possibility that the North will re-engage. The president’s tough talk may play well in Washington’s conservative political circles, but it has plunged the United States and North Korea into another cycle of mistrust and missed opportunity.

Rather than launching verbal jabs and waiting for the North to resume the security dialogue, the United States should take concrete steps on the most significant issues: averting a looming crisis on the implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and resuming negotiations on a verifiable freeze of the North’s ballistic missile enterprise. To start, Bush should appoint a new, high-level coordinator for North Korea policy. The coordinator’s first task would be to bring some practical ideas and proposals—not harsh recriminations—to the bargaining table.

The Agreed Framework is a good, but imperfect, deal that both parties must honor. Under the agreement, the United States is facilitating construction of two safeguarded light-water nuclear power reactors, and, in exchange, North Korea is to verifiably abandon its nuclear weapons program. So far, this deal has effectively frozen Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but difficulties lie ahead.

North Korea will soon be obligated to comply with all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which prohibit military nuclear activities. It must do so when a “significant portion” of the two light-water nuclear power reactors are completed but before delivery of their nuclear components. Due to construction delays, a significant portion of the reactors will not be built until approximately 2005. IAEA inspection of declared and undeclared nuclear facilities in North Korea could take two to three years. Further slippage could set off a new high-stakes confrontation.

Prompt initiation of inspections is important, even though the Agreed Framework does not yet require North Korea to admit the IAEA. If the Bush administration is interested in results, it should re-affirm its support for the Agreed Framework, not threaten to stop implementation as some in Congress have suggested. Working with South Korea and Japan, Bush should, if necessary, be prepared to offer incentives—including in-kind food and electricity aid—for North Korean cooperation on early inspections. Such an arrangement could simultaneously improve the likelihood of completing the inspections and address shortcomings in the Agreed Framework’s implementation.

Through dialogue, not diatribes, Bush also has an opportunity to halt North Korea’s ballistic missile program—a prime source of global missile proliferation. In the final days of the Clinton administration, negotiators reportedly came “tantalizingly close” to an agreement. Sadly, the Bush administration has failed to pursue this possibility, though it is clearly in U.S. security interests. Given the North’s pledge to halt missile testing through 2003, there is still a window of opportunity to secure a sufficiently verifiable agreement that bans further missile exports, production, and testing and that bars further missile deployments.

Though Kim Jong-Il’s regime is difficult, undemocratic, and uninterested in its people’s welfare, history shows that pragmatic, principled engagement with such states can produce results that enhance U.S. security. Unless he is willing to seriously pursue such a course, Bush may fumble one of the United States’ better opportunities to solve one of the world’s thorniest nuclear and missile proliferation challenges.

U.S. Names Countries Thought to Be Violating BWC

Seth Brugger

During a November 19 speech, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton accused Iraq and North Korea of breaching the terms of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and warned of possible violations by other countries.

Bolton spoke to delegations from BWC member states on the opening day of a conference that is convened in Geneva every five years to review and improve upon the treaty’s implementation. The accord outlaws biological weapons but contains no verification measures.

Bolton told the conference that Washington is “extremely concerned” that some states are engaging in treaty-prohibited activities and is “concerned” about potential use of biological weapons by terrorist groups. Specifically, the undersecretary said that Washington is worried about accused terrorist Osama bin Laden’s “stated intention to use biological weapons against the United States…. We are concerned that he could have been trying to acquire a rudimentary biological weapons capability, possibly with support from a state.”

Beyond this threat, Bolton said that “the most serious concern” is Iraq. “The United States strongly suspects that Iraq has taken advantage of three years of no UN inspections to improve all phases of its offensive BW program. The existence of Iraq’s program is beyond dispute, in complete contravention of the BWC,” Bolton contended.

Washington also believes that North Korea “has a dedicated, national-level effort to achieve a BW [biological weapons] capability and that it has developed and produced, and may have weaponized, BW agents in violation of the convention,” Bolton asserted. “North Korea likely has the capability to produce sufficient quantities of biological agents for military purposes within weeks of a decision to do so.”

Bolton added that the Bush administration is “quite concerned about Iran, which the United States believes probably has produced and weaponized BW agents in violation of the convention.” Other countries of concern included Libya, Syria, and Sudan, the latter of which is is neither a party to nor a signatory of the BWC. Bolton also said that he could name other states that are pursuing offensive biological weapons programs but that Washington plans to contact them privately.

Bolton’s speech marked a change from past U.S. practice. At previous review conferences, the United States did not name specific countries it believed were violating the convention, except Iraq. Explaining the shift in U.S. tactics, Bolton said, “Prior to September 11, some would have avoided this approach. The world has changed, however, and so must our business-as-usual approach.”

Iran, Iraq, and Libya denied the U.S. charges. According to a source in Geneva, other delegations did not officially comment on the U.S. accusations, believing that “there are already enough substantive problems that we have to deal with here without trying to sidetrack it and begin another debate, arguing whether the United States was correct to do what it did.”

Russia, Iran Discuss Arms Deal

During an October 1-5 visit to Russia, Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani signed a military cooperation agreement that will reportedly result in hundreds of millions of dollars of new arms deals between the two countries.

Shamkhani, who had postponed an earlier visit in order not to overlap his stay with one by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, visited Russian arms manufacturing plants, met with top Kremlin officials, and signed a framework agreement for future cooperation on military-technical issues.

Neither Russian nor Iranian government officials gave details of the October 2 framework document, but press reports and analysts from both countries said it paved the way for future Russian sales of fighter jets, tanks, missiles, and naval ships to Iran that could be worth $300 million annually.

Russia made an agreement with the United States in June 1995 not to sign new weapons deals with Iran and to complete delivery of all previously sold arms by the end of 1999, but Moscow told Washington in November 2000 that it no longer planned to abide by the agreement. The United States objected, but Russia began serious discussions about reviving arms sales to Tehran during a visit to Russia by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in March.

Although Russia claims it is ready and has a right to sell “defensive” arms to Iran, it has also hinted that future deals might not be guaranteed. During a September 19 interview with a German television station, Russian President Vladimir Putin volunteered, “If our Western partners can offer to compensate us for the possible losses if we stopped our activities in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, we can think about it.”

State Department officials had no comment on Putin’s remarks, and it is unclear whether the Russian president was floating a proposal or simply trying to deflect criticism of Russian policy.

If Russia follows through with arms shipments to Iran, it could face U.S. sanctions. U.S. law calls for sanctions on countries that provide “lethal military equipment” to states sponsoring terrorism and for countries that sell “destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons” to either Iran or Iraq. The United States considers Iran a sponsor of terrorism.


Subscribe to RSS - Iran