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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
WMD Terrorism

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.”

Anthrax Continues to Surface; Source Unknown

Government officials have not yet identified the source behind the bioterrorist attack that has left five people dead from anthrax, and spores of the bacterium continue to be found in new locations. (See ACT, November 2001.)

Since the beginning of October, anthrax-laden mail has contaminated news media buildings, postal facilities, and government offices. In all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has diagnosed 23 cases of anthrax: 11 (including the five who have died) with inhalation anthrax, and 12 (seven confirmed and five suspected) with cutaneous anthrax, which is more responsive to treatment than the inhaled form.

Of the 23 cases, all but two have involved news media or postal employees who apparently had either direct or indirect contact with the bacterium. However, the cause of anthrax exposure in the other two cases, in which a New York City hospital worker died October 31 and a 94-year-old Connecticut woman died November 21, remains a mystery.

Little new evidence has surfaced to assist investigators uncover the perpetrator behind the attacks. On November 7, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said, “We have not ruled out whether this was an act of an individual or a collective act, whether it was a domestic source or a foreign source.”

Investigators are examining whether an anthrax-filled letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that was discovered November 16 may contain forensics clues, such as fingerprints, to help identify the source. Previously discovered mail contaminated with anthrax spores yielded no such information. The Leahy letter, which has not yet been opened, was found after authorities sorted through congressional mail that had been quarantined following the October 15 discovery of an anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD). On NBC’s Meet the Press November 25, Leahy said preliminary tests showed there was enough anthrax in the letter addressed to him to kill 100,000 people.

In November, traces of anthrax continued to turn up in government buildings, including the offices of Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and at additional postal sites, such as a Kansas City, Missouri, facility that received cross-contaminated mail from a Washington postal facility.

U.S. Under Anthrax Attack; Bioterror Source Unknown

Rebecca Whitehair

As of October 29, a bioterrorist attack using anthrax has killed three people in the United States, and dozens more have been infected or exposed to the bacterium, many apparently from handling mail contaminated with anthrax spores.

Government officials have not yet determined the source of the anthrax, which has been delivered to media and government offices via the U.S. Postal Service, nor have they determined whether the anthrax attacks are related to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. On October 25, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, “We are not able to rule out an association with the terrorist acts of September 11, but neither are we able to draw a conclusive link at this time.”

The first case of anthrax was reported October 4, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that a photo editor at American Media, Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, was infected with inhalation anthrax, which is contracted by breathing airborne anthrax spores and is usually fatal if untreated. The man died the next day.

Initially, it was suspected that the case was isolated and that the man might have contracted the disease naturally, but there has been no known case of inhalation anthrax in the United States since 1976. Fears that the death was the result of a biological attack heightened after a second American Media employee was diagnosed October 5 with inhalation anthrax, which is not contagious, and after investigators subsequently found anthrax spores at the company.

The following week, anthrax cases began emerging in New York City. On October 12, the CDC reported that an NBC News employee who opened an anthrax-laden letter had cutaneous anthrax. Days later, the CDC confirmed that the infant son of an ABC News employee and a CBS employee also had tested positive for cutaneous anthrax. Cutaneous anthrax is contracted when anthrax spores come in contact with a broken area of the skin, such as a cut or sore. It is treatable with antibiotics and is less dangerous than the airborne form of the disease.

The case took a dramatic turn October 15, when an aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) opened an envelope containing anthrax spores. Daschle’s office was immediately shut down following the discovery, and mail service to House and Senate office buildings stopped temporarily. Hundreds of congressional members and staff lined up to be tested and to receive prophylactic antibiotics. Thus far, 28 have tested positive for exposure but are not infected.

The exposures prompted Senate and House offices to close for further investigations, and, in an unprecedented precautionary measure, the House adjourned for five days. Inspections of Capitol Hill buildings found anthrax spores in other Senate and House offices.

Another series of significant events took place October 19-22, when two postal workers in Washington died from inhalation anthrax, a letter containing anthrax spores was discovered at the offices of the New York Post, and postal workers working in facilities that processed contaminated letters in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey contracted anthrax.

As fears about the safety of the mail spread and the number of postal workers infected increased, facilities shut down, mail was rerouted, and medical tests and antibiotics—as well as masks and gloves—were offered to thousands of postal employees. The postal service also ordered equipment to irradiate and kill potential anthrax bacteria.

Between October 23 and 29, findings of anthrax spores continued to emerge in the Washington-area postal facilities that process mail for the White House, State Department, Supreme Court, Central Intelligence Agency, and Justice Department. Spores also appeared in more congressional offices; the building that houses the Food and Drug Administration and Voice of America; the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and its research institute; and the basement mail room of the Supreme Court, forcing the building to close and the justices to meet elsewhere.

As of October 29, 12 people have been confirmed as infected with anthrax, and another six cases are suspected. Three people have died, all from inhalation anthrax. More than 30 people have tested positive for exposure. The United States has placed more than 13,000 people on antibiotics and even negotiated with the pharmaceutical company Bayer to increase the production of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, one of the drugs approved to treat anthrax, in the event of further outbreaks.

No Known Source

Nearly a month after the first anthrax case was reported, no conclusive evidence has publicly surfaced pinpointing who is behind the anthrax attack, but there has been considerable debate as to whether an individual, terrorist group, or foreign government is responsible.

Investigators do know that the letters sent to NBC, Daschle’s office, and the New York Post were all postmarked Trenton, New Jersey, and contained anthrax from the same genetic strain.

Also, on October 25 Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said that, based on DNA testing, the anthrax samples from Florida, New York, and Washington are “indistinguishable,” identifying them as the “Ames strain” of anthrax. Distinguishing what strain of anthrax a particular sample is could help investigators identify the anthrax’s origin. Because the Ames strain has been distributed to research labs throughout the world, however, knowledge of the strain-type helps little in this case.

Questions of how sophisticated the anthrax samples are, a clue that could help narrow the list of suspects, have also been raised. According to Ridge, it is “clear that the terrorists responsible for the attacks intended to use this anthrax as a weapon.” He said that the spores found in the letter to Daschle were small and highly concentrated, making them more easily inhaled.

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported October 25 that, according to experts, the anthrax spores that contaminated the Daschle letter appear to have been coated with a chemical additive that would allow the anthrax spores to remain suspended in the air longer, thereby increasing their volatility. The experts claimed the coating was so sophisticated that only a government-sponsored laboratory in the United States, the former Soviet Union, or Iraq could have produced it.

In contrast, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said October 26, “While we cannot rule out that [the anthrax] may have been from a foreign nation or state sponsored, its sophistication also indicates it could be produced by a Ph.D. microbiologist—it could be produced in a lab of some sophistication.” He said that such a lab could exist in the United States or abroad.

Speculation has emerged that Iraq might be behind the anthrax attacks, but no proof indicating Baghdad’s involvement has surfaced. Iraq is known to have produced anthrax for use as a biological weapon, and Iraq’s claims that it has destroyed all of its biological weapons agents have not been verified.

However, in response to a question posed during an October 29 briefing, federal officials said that further testing revealed that the spore samples from the Daschle and New York Post letters did not contain the presence of bentonite, a mineral compound that would have made the anthrax more easily airborne. According to UN weapons inspectors who served in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War, Iraq used bentonite in its biological weapons program.

During an October 15 interview, Condoleezza Rice, the president’s national security adviser, told the Arab Al Jazeera satellite broadcast network that “the United States will act if Iraq threatens its interests.”

Legislation

As the government scrambles to respond to anthrax attacks and continues to investigate who sent the letters, it is also broadening its legal authority to address terrorism. On October 26, President George W. Bush signed legislation that significantly increases the government’s powers to track down suspected terrorists.

The new law, known as the USA Patriot Act of 2001, addresses the bioterrorist threat by, among other measures, expanding upon the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which outlaws the development or possession of biological weapons. The new legislation increases the prohibited range of activity from possessing a weapon to possessing biological agents or toxins for prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purposes.

The anti-terrorism law also prohibits the possession of biological agents and toxins by “restricted persons,” including fugitives, illegal aliens, and those convicted of or indicted for a crime that carries a prison sentence longer than one year. This restriction mirrors laws that ban the use of firearms by certain people, who now may not possess, ship, transport, or receive biological agents and toxins that have been cultivated, collected, or extracted from their natural source.

The law further calls upon the United States to make “a substantial new investment” to increase “international cooperation to secure dangerous biological agents, increase surveillance, and retrain biological warfare specialists,” among other measures.

International cooperation to address biological weapons is centered around the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty that outlaws development and possession of biological agents and weapons for offensive purposes but permits defensive activity.

In July, the United States rejected a draft protocol to strengthen compliance with the convention but promised at that time to put forward alternatives to the protocol. Washington plans to introduce these measures at a convention review conference scheduled to begin November 19 and is consulting with its allies abroad on the measures.

During an October 10 speech to the UN General Assembly First Committee, Avis Bohlen, assistant secretary of state for arms control, hinted at ideas to come, which she said would focus on stemming biological weapons use. Such measures could include national laws “criminalizing use and transfer” of biological weapons, she said, adding, “We must all agree that use and transfer are crimes to which our many mutual treaties of extradition would apply.”

Other measures discussed by Bohlen include the ability to “distinguish an outbreak of illness caused by [biological weapons] from a naturally occurring illness” and to cooperate internationally “to mitigate and respond” to biological weapons attacks. She said, “We must give ourselves the means to challenge in the event of suspected use,” possibly referring to inspections of some kind.

In July, the United States also said it would explore reinvigorating the Australia Group, an international export control regime, and pursue “codes of ethics” as alternatives to the protocol that it still does not support.

Protecting Nuclear Reactors From Terrorists: International Measures Sorely Needed, Say Experts

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For Immediate Release: October 24, 2001

Contacts: George Bunn, 650-725-2709; Fritz Steinhausler, 650-725-0936; or Daryl Kimball, ACA, 202-463-8270

(Washington, D.C.) In light of the September 11 attacks, nuclear power plants and associated infrastructure present a significant terrorism vulnerability in the United States and abroad. Directly attacking reactors with aircraft or truck bombs, sabotaging reactor control systems, or attacking nuclear material transports could all lead to a dangerous dispersal or theft of nuclear materials.

According to a new article by Ambassador George Bunn and Fritz Steinhausler in the October 2001 issue of Arms Control Today, "Many countries provide some form of physical protection for their nuclear material, but because there is no international standard or requirement for physical protection of civilian nuclear material, countries' physical protections for nuclear facilities vary widely and are often inadequate."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently endorsed efforts aimed at fortifying the physical protections of nuclear facilities, but efforts need to be pursued with greater urgency, according to Bunn and Steinhausler. There is one international treaty that provides for protection of civilian nuclear material, the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, but it only applies to the protection from theft of nuclear material in international transit. The authors argue that "Adoption of new physical protection standards … is essential, and the sooner the better. Unfortunately, revising the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material will take several years."

In the interim, they suggest, new principles and standards for improving physical protection of nuclear facilities worldwide, which have already been recommended by the IAEA, should be applied immediately by national governments. In addition, with adequate funding, "the IAEA can provide guidance, training, advisory services and technical assistance to help countries improve their protection practices," write Bunn and Steinhausler, who are with the Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

The authors are available for comments and analysis on this vital security issue. Their article, "Guarding Nuclear Reactors and Material From Terrorists and Thieves," can be accessed on-line at www.armscontrol.org/act/2001_10/bunnoct01.asp. For comprehensive news coverage and expert analysis of nuclear non-proliferation and related issues, visit www.armscontrol.org

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Non-Proliferation Policy and the War on Terrorism

John Parachini

On September 11, a small group of terrorists inflicted the level of death and destruction some feared might result from an attack by terrorists using sophisticated weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The skill of this group lay not in its ability to acquire exotic weapons materials but rather in its planning, organization, teamwork, and commitment to achieve a diabolic objective.

In the span of one hour, a group of 19 men, supported by others whose numbers are still not clear, fundamentally changed the national security landscape of the United States. The number of Americans killed on U.S. soil in these attacks raised a profound and frightening question about the defense of the country: are the suicide hijackings of September 11 just another step in an escalatory process that may lead radical anti-American terrorists to use nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons against American interests at home or abroad?

Since the 1995 attack by the Japanese cult group Aum Shinrikyo against the Tokyo subway with liquid sarin, the United States has had a heightened fear of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. One particular worry has been that Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network might exploit the chaos in Central Asia to seek to acquire WMD capabilities from former Soviet republics. The indictment of bin Laden for his alleged involvement in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania claims that he has tried to acquire nuclear and chemical weapons, and one of the prosecution’s witnesses in the bombing trial revealed that he had sought to acquire radioactive material on behalf of bin Laden and al Qaeda.

But turning radioactive material into a nuclear bomb is a hard task, even for a state with considerable industrial infrastructure and expertise, and the six years since the Tokyo subway attack have made that incident seem more like an aberration than a paradigm-breaking event that others copy. Aside from Aum Shinrikyo, open-source literature to date references no other significant terrorist organization that has used unconventional weapons repeatedly.1 Although attacks with weapons of mass destruction are possible, the historical record of states and terrorist groups using exotic unconventional weapons is quite limited.2 Terrorists appear more likely to use what they can readily acquire rather than to go through the difficult process of making weapons from scratch or stealing them from a state’s arsenal.

In the last 25 years, terrorist use of conventional explosives has consistently proved far more deadly than the few instances of terrorism involving unconventional weapons. Many more people died or were injured in the attacks on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the U.S. embassies in East Africa than in the Tokyo subway attack. Although there is some evidence that, in recent years, terrorists have shown an interest in unconventional weapons, thus far they have employed more readily available means in ever more dramatic and deadly ways.

Nevertheless, the consequences of a successful WMD attack on American soil could be so catastrophic that serious government attention is warranted. In recent years, much of the emphasis has been on responding to the consequences of such an attack rather than preventing terrorist use or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Given the relative cost of prevention versus response, this emphasis seems misplaced. In a climate in which officials will go to extraordinary lengths for counterterrorism, spending smart is more important than just spending big.

Non-proliferation measures, cooperative threat reduction, and other arms control initiatives can help limit the opportunities for terrorists to acquire or develop WMD. Although the ability of arms control measures to help in the fight against terrorism should not be oversold, it must not be ignored either.

At the most basic level, the non-proliferation treaties provide normative prohibitions that are valuable. Fundamentally, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention constitute declarations that the international community bans germ and chemical weapons as taboo instruments of war. The norm against nuclear weapons contained in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is more ambiguous because it allows some states to retain nuclear weapons while prohibiting others from acquiring them. Nevertheless, its prohibitions, combined with the strictures of the International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear-weapon-free-zones, and other agreements, have contributed to a worldwide belief that nuclear weapons are not acceptable tools of war.

All of these norms have, of course, been violated at times by certain states that had pledged to uphold them, but they still matter. Norms do not shape the behavior of all states or individuals, but they shape that of some. In a struggle to limit the spread of WMD, every tool available must be used. Stigmatizing state acquisition, production, stockpiling, or use of chemical and biological weapons helps stigmatize them for individuals as well.3

The central limitation of using the current arms control regime to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction is that treaties proscribe and prohibit the activities of states, not subnational groups. They focus on thwarting proliferation between states and provide only limited value for preventing proliferation of weapons and weapons materials to terrorists and other substate entities.4 The most effective treaties are those that require signatories to pass national implementing legislation, but even those agreements are hampered by the variances across countries in such legislation and states’ failures to provide the financial and political support to law enforcement authorities that is critical for effective implementation.

It remains to be seen whether the Bush administration will make use of arms control agreements and programs in its fight against terrorism. During the first eight months of his presidency, George W. Bush was decidedly less than enthusiastic about many arms control measures, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the protocol to strengthen the BWC, and even cooperative threat reduction. But it is possible to take a preliminary look at how certain existing arms control regimes can be used or may have been impacted.

Strategic Policy and Missile Defense: The impact of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will probably not change the Bush administration’s approach to broad strategic issues related to missile defenses and nuclear weapons. In fact, Bush’s ballistic missile defense plans may have been given a boost. Less than two weeks after the attacks, Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, dropped his effort to reduce missile defense funding and restrict testing. Instead, he restored the funding the administration had requested and removed the testing restrictions in order to underscore bipartisan support for the president during this period of national crisis.

However, the political context in which the administration pursues its strategic agenda is likely to change. The administration may expend valuable political capital on the war on terrorism and find itself politically indebted to other nations—and therefore needing to make concessions on elements of its national security agenda. Alternatively, the tremendous level of cooperation could spill over to areas, like missile defense, that have been the source of some international consternation. A combination of both scenarios is probably the most likely outcome: the unique cooperation developing between the United States and Russia could, for example, give both countries a sense of how to collaborate on devising a new strategic framework.

The Biological Weapons Convention: The great concern over the possibility of bioterrorism suggests the Bush administration will take new initiatives to fight the proliferation of germ weapons. Recent negotiations on a protocol for the BWC, which lacks any enforcement mechanisms, aimed to strengthen the accord with a variety of implementation tools. The United States rejected the text that resulted from these negotiations as inadequate for preventing the proliferation of biological weapons and has called for new tools that are appropriate to the challenge.5 States trying to strengthen the BWC will meet in November. Even though the Bush administration has rejected the current draft text of the protocol, it will need to describe alternative measures to counter the biological weapons proliferation problem.

In lieu of an alternative treaty, the administration will probably describe a number of initiatives. Although the administration is still working on its approach, it will probably fashion a package of measures that include some traditional arms control measures and, given the nature of biological weapons, some measures from the health arena. When the Bush administration rejected the draft protocol for the BWC, it indicated that strengthened export control, increased global disease surveillance, and criminalizing possession and use of biological weapons were ideas warranting further examination.

The administration could salvage some components of the draft protocol that it endorsed and launch them as part of an alternative approach. One component of the protocol that merits attention is the provision for inspections of suspicious outbreaks of disease.6 Enhanced global disease surveillance and internationally agreed-upon rules for investigating suspicious outbreaks are initiatives that would complement one another. Additionally, regulations on international commerce in pathogens must be improved to prevent theft or diversion. This objective must be balanced with the need to permit legitimate scientific and commercial research. Achieving the maximum benefit from this collection of measures will probably require a multilateral approach of some sort.

Cooperative Threat Reduction: One arms control initiative that has helped and will continue to help combat terrorism is the U.S.-Russian cooperative threat reduction effort. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, there has been tremendous concern about unconventional weapons materials or know-how proliferating to terrorists or states that support terrorism. The United States has undertaken a major effort with the states of the former Soviet Union to increase security at weapons-storage and -production facilities, destroy weapons, convert military facilities, and keep scientists from selling their expertise to states or subnational groups.

After a review of the overall cooperative threat reduction efforts for the republics of the former Soviet Union, the Bush administration endorsed the fundamental character of the effort, but ordered portions of the program cancelled.7 The administration’s 2002 funding request cut $100 million from Energy Department programs and diminished support slightly for the Pentagon’s programs.

Every year, Congress and the executive branch struggle over the funding for cooperative threat reduction. Given increasing budget pressures that loomed prior to September 11 and the additional costs of the new war on terrorism, the struggle over funding levels for these programs will probably continue regardless of their worthiness. The fiscal year 2003 budget is an opportunity for the Bush administration and Congress to sustain and to augment particular programs in the overall effort. The entire program for the republics of the former Soviet Union should be re-examined to determine how to enhance safeguards against proliferation of materials and know-how to terrorists.

Additionally, given the heightened concern with the threat of chemical and biological weapons proliferation to terrorists, more emphasis needs to be placed on destroying and safeguarding the former Soviet Union’s chemical and biological weapons capabilities. Tremendous improvements in threat reduction can be achieved in the chemical and biological weapons area for a fraction of the cost involved in the nuclear weapons area. Many of the scientists in the chemical and biological weapons programs have skills relevant for non-weapons work and could transition to jobs in the commercial sector. Although programs exist to address these dangers, they receive a small fraction of the overall funding.8 A better balance between the various weapons material is needed.

Non-Proliferation in South Asia: How the United States manages the search for the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks and the nations that support terrorism may have implications for states that harbor ambitions to develop unconventional weapons capabilities. The implications for the integrity of U.S. non-proliferation policy will be particularly tested in Pakistan and India.

The Bush administration’s decision to lift sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan following their tests of nuclear devices in 1998 is a significant change in U.S. non-proliferation efforts. Many in the administration have long had a dim view of sanctions as a policy tool, and prior to the terrorist attacks, a top policy priority for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton was to repeal the sanctions against India. However, the administration struggled with how to drop sanctions against India and not those against Pakistan until recent events made it easy to lift restrictions against both in order to encourage them to assist with U.S. efforts to destroy al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan. Additionally, the administration has encouraged multilateral lending institutions to provide loans to Pakistan, which provide some much-needed economic relief.

From one perspective, the lifting of sanctions is a setback for non-proliferation policy because it reinforces the perception that countries can get away with violating international non-proliferation norms. Yet, the sanctions against India and Pakistan were not dissuading either country from pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities. Moreover, given the magnitude of the attack against the U.S. homeland, this trade-off is justified.

But the Bush administration will need to manage any military operations in the region so that counterterrorism objectives are accomplished without abandoning U.S. non-proliferation goals or contributing to the nuclear danger by undermining the Pakistani government. The Bush administration would face an even more difficult situation if Pakistan collapsed into a failed state, unable to provide safe and secure control over its nuclear capabilities. Fears of nuclear weapons and materials leaking out of a collapsed Pakistan would present a twist on the security dilemma that the United States has faced in Russia and the other former Soviet republics. Although the United States may make progress on the anti-terrorism front in the short run, it must guard against longer-term proliferation dangers.

Two major conflicts in the last 20 years that provided impetus for enhancing preventive security measures provide some perspective on what may be possible. Following Iraqi use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War in the mid-1980s, a number of countries with major chemical industries formed the Australia Group to enhance coordination of export control policies on chemicals and chemical-production equipment that could be used to produce chemical weapons.

The experience of the Persian Gulf War and revelations about the Iraqi nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs provide a second major boost to the development of the non-proliferation regime. The international community successfully concluded negotiations on the Chemical Weapons Convention shortly after the conflict. The attacks of September 11 may also spur the development of new non-proliferation tools, but it is not yet clear what impact the attacks will have on the Bush administration’s non-proliferation policy.

President Bush is marshalling all the tools available to the commander-in-chief to demonstrate the resolve of the nation to respond to the attackers and to defend the freedom of Americans to live without fear of attack. The implications for a range of policy tools important to the country’s security are difficult to discern at this juncture. Over the longer term, however, the United States should re-examine the contribution that non-proliferation, cooperative threat reduction, and arms control can make to its counterterrorism goals. Improvement of existing preventive tools and the addition of others can help limit the opportunities of terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction.


NOTES
1. For a survey of the main open-source databases on terrorism on this point, see Milton Leitenberg, “An Assessment of the Biological Weapons Threat to the United States,” presentation to the Conference on Emerging Threats Assessment: Biological Terrorism, Institute for Security Technology Studies, Dartmouth College, July 7-9, 2000, www.fas.org/bwc/papers/dartmthb.htm.
2. For an insightful historical discussion of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, see David Rapoport, “Terrorism and Weapons of the Apocalypse,” National Security Studies Quarterly, Summer 1999.
3. For a discussion of the relevance of normative policy for bolstering taboos around chemical and biological weapons, see Leonard A. Cole, “The Poison Weapons Taboo: Biology, Culture and Policy,” Politics and the Life Sciences, September 1998, p. 119-132.
4. For a discussion of the legal tools for addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, see Barry Kellman, “WMD Proliferation: An International Crime?” The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2001.
5. Statement by Ambassador Donald Mahley to the Ad Hoc Group of Biological Weapons Convention States-Parties, July 25, 2001.
6. Michael Moodie, The BWC Protocol: A Critique, Special Report 1 (Washington: Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute), June 2001.
7. Judith Miller with Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Review on Russia Urges Keeping Most Arms Controls,” The New York Times, July 16, 2001, p. A1.
8. For a detailed and reasoned articulation of this argument, see Amy E. Smithson, Toxic Archipelago: Preventing Proliferation From the Former Soviet Chemical and Biological Weapons Complexes (Washington: Henry L. Stimson Center), September 1999.


John Parachini is a policy analyst in the Washington office of RAND. The views expressed here are his own.

 

The End of Unilateralism? Arms Control After September 11

October 2001

By Lawrence J. Korb and Alex Tiersky

Until a few weeks ago, the actions of George W. Bush’s administration in the international arena had demonstrated a marked disdain for multilateralism, particularly in the area of arms control. During his first eight months in office, Bush’s penchant for go-it-alone policies, particularly on ballistic missile defense, had alienated our allies and provoked our potential adversaries. The implicit message to the rest of the world was that we could do as we pleased; other states needed us more than we needed them.

And then came the morning of September 11, 2001, the day the United States as a nation awoke to the dangers of terrorism on its soil. Causing a death toll higher than the number of Americans killed at Pearl Harbor or at Omaha Beach on D-Day, the attacks signaled that the United States could no longer rest comfortably in its supposed security, isolated by vast oceans and docile neighbors from those who would do it harm. As Bush stated in his September 20 address to Congress, “Our nation has been put on notice: we are not immune from attack.”

What he might have said was, “We cannot be immune from attack.” The tragic events of “Black Tuesday” should be a wake-up call about the dangers of a unilateralist foreign policy. The best course for a safer, more secure United States lies in the president returning to multilateral treaties and other forms of action taken in concert with the rest of the world. International regimes are essential to Bush’s “war on terror,” if his objective is to diminish the threat and lethality of potential terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. Terrorism, by its very nature, is a transnational threat that cannot be dealt with by one country alone, superpower though that country may be.

Bush’s best bet to combat proliferation and thereby keep nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons out of the hands of those who would do grave harm to the United States lies in becoming a party to the established norms and agreements that the president has heretofore snubbed.

Entangling Alliances?

The allies and friends of the United States have been stunned by the apparent contempt of the Bush administration for treaty commitments during its first eight months. Torpedoing five treaties on everything from global warming to the international criminal court to the global small arms trade in just a few months, the new administration seemed to be making a point: the United States will do what it wishes, and those who wish to come along are welcome but not needed.

The list of damaged initiatives put aside, blocked, or undermined by the Bush administration in the arms control and disarmament field is well known to supporters of arms control:

  • The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty: The Bush administration’s single-minded pursuit of a robust ballistic missile defense system—less relevant now that the terrorist threat has been shown to be decidedly “low-tech”—has alienated our allies; irritated states such as Russia and China; and threatened to undermine the ABM Treaty of 1972, a cornerstone of the international arms control regime. Additionally, there is now growing anxiety that Bush’s plans for a robust missile defense will have space-based components, violating the norm against placing weapons in space. If, as some defense planners have suggested, space-based nuclear weapons were used to thwart incoming missiles, the United States would be in direct violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.1
  • The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): The CTBT was already in trouble when Bush took office, U.S. ratification having been rejected in a partisan vote in the Senate in October 1999. The current administration has expressed opposition to the treaty, maintaining that it will not ask the Senate to consider ratification again, and it will not commit itself categorically not to conduct future nuclear tests, which are banned by the accord. The administration has also decided not to fund on-site inspections by the organization responsible for implementing the treaty.
  • The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC): The 1972 convention was dealt a serious blow in late July when its enforcement protocol—and any efforts to negotiate it—was rejected by the United States, primarily out of concerns for domestic commercial interests.
  • Cooperative threat reduction initiatives: These programs, fashioned to help deal with the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) materials and expertise from the former Soviet Union’s decaying defense industry, have been slated for cuts in the Bush administration’s proposed budgets; this in spite of the fact that Bush had pledged during the campaign to “ask the Congress to increase substantially our assistance to dismantle as many of Russia’s weapons as possible, as quickly as possible.”2
  • North Korea: The Bush administration’s early policy toward Pyongyang abruptly turned from the Clinton administration’s endorsement of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s “sunshine policy” of engagement with the North. Bush placed missile negotiations with North Korea on hold, pending the outcome of a policy review, and said he was “skeptical” of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, declaring him an unfit negotiating partner. The president also questioned whether Pyongyang was abiding by all of its international agreements. The administration has since backtracked, seeking to return to a policy of engagement, but as Morton Abramowitz has noted, “It remains unclear what we are prepared to discuss and what deals if any we want to do.”3

Because of our immense economic and military power, these steps, indicators of a distrust of multilateral cooperation and treaty obligations, had no immediate impact on U.S. security. But the long-term consequences could be severe, particularly since the administration has not yet proposed any meaningful alternatives to the agreements they rejected. Though it has talked about a new strategic framework encompassing a reduction in strategic offensive weapons in addition to missile defenses, the Bush administration has not yet put forward any details.

In the long run, Bush’s undermining of the arms control regime is a sure-fire recipe for a world in which weapons of mass destruction will spread to more countries and more non-state actors, such as al Qaeda and others. It will also result in other countries being less willing to cooperate with the United States to implement solutions to other international crises.

Out of the Ashes?

It is too early to judge for certain what effects the terrorist attacks will have on Bush’s foreign policy, but in the immediate aftermath, signs from the Bush administration indicate efforts to build a broad coalition to respond. The administration’s sudden, urgent need of allies to participate or at least acquiesce to a retaliatory strike and provide intelligence sent a crystal-clear message about the dangers of unilateralism in its dealings with friends and foes alike, as some potential members of the coalition pressed the United States for concessions for participating. China, for example, implied that criticism of its own “separatist” problem might diminish, while Russia gained leverage for its policy in Chechnya.

The anti-terror coalition being assembled by the administration is a perfect opportunity to regain the trust of those who feared American disengagement from the world. Bush should take this occasion to lead our allies and others into deeper and more consistent cooperation on security issues, thus providing for a safer world and a more secure homeland. It is also vital that the United States use this opportunity to consult as broadly as possible and not be perceived as “going it alone.”

Beyond general cooperation on security issues, it is critical that the Bush administration take the lead in using all tools at its disposal to make sure that biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorist networks or states that would supply such terrorist groups with them. The most powerful of these tools available to Bush, should he choose to use them, are treaties such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). If it is really serious about winning this new kind of war and diminishing the potential for mass casualties on U.S. soil, the Bush administration should take the following steps:

Re-Evaluate Missile Defense and the Weaponization of Space: Despite claims by missile-defense enthusiasts that the September 11 attacks prove that there is a threat to the U.S. homeland and that deterrence doesn’t work against terror groups, the “low-tech” nature of the attacks has severely undermined Bush’s argument that ballistic missile defense should be the single most important priority for U.S. homeland defense. Even if the missile defense system worked perfectly, it would have been useless against the attacks America suffered on September 11. It has become absolutely clear that those who wish to inflict destruction and death on the United States can do so without the use of expensive ballistic missiles.

Keeping his missile defense program in research and development (as opposed to deployment) and reaffirming the importance of the ABM Treaty would be a important first step in recommitting to arms control and could lead to a more cooperative stance by Russia and China on a variety of foreign policy issues. Support for the ABM Treaty would certainly generate goodwill in Moscow and Beijing, whose assistance and cooperation is vital to Bush’s plans to fight an international “war on terror.”

Bush should take some of the billions of dollars budgeted for accelerating the missile defense program and instead invest it in more common-sense measures that would do a great deal to upgrade our homeland defense. As Stephen Flynn of the Coast Guard has argued, our primary line of defense has always been the front-line inspectors and agents working for the Federal Aviation Administration, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Agriculture, and Coast Guard.

The inspectors and officers of these agencies were unable to protect us from the attacks of September 11, but the blame for this lies in no small part with our elected representatives in Washington who have starved them of resources to man their posts, communicate effectively with one another, and collect and share information. Although the work of these people is not as sexy as missile defense efforts, it is now abundantly clear that it would be prudent to invest in it.4 This strategy will help to hold down the size of the emergency spending package needed to deal with the current tragedy.

Reaffirm the Importance of the NPT: The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of nuclear disarmament. The NPT is the only binding commitment to full disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states, the United States included.

The norms of the NPT should be promoted—no new states should be allowed to “go nuclear,” and the nuclear powers should reduce the number of offensive weapons in their arsenals. These efforts would not only be more likely to secure nuclear materials and prevent their proliferation to non-state groups such as Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda but they would also prevent other states from acquiring nuclear capabilities.

The NPT has always been the best means for preventing states from joining the “nuclear club,” and the nuclear-weapon states’ commitment to disarmament is an essential component of persuading other states from developing nuclear weapons. Had major nuclear-weapon states such as the United States adhered to the spirit of the NPT by reducing their nuclear arsenals significantly over the last decade, it would have enhanced its moral standing to put pressure on India and Pakistan, and the current situation might be different.

One of the most frightening prospects the United States must face as it considers its strategy of retaliation for the terrorist attacks is its potential effect on Pakistan. Analysts fear that U.S. actions in the region in the coming months could lead to an uprising in Pakistan, potentially leading to the exit of Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf in favor of a more pro-bin Laden government. What then of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons? It is such worst-case scenarios that most clearly indicate the need to prevent more states from acquiring nuclear weapons and that demonstrate that Washington’s interests are best served by adhering to and investing in the norms and commitments of the NPT Treaty.

One step the Bush administration can take immediately to address its NPT commitments is to speed up the Pentagon’s review of how much we can reduce our strategic offensive arsenal. A significant reduction in these weapons would show we mean to keep our part of the NPT bargain. Equally important, a dramatic reduction in our nuclear arsenal could lead to substantial savings on the billions of dollars spent maintaining these weapons. These savings could go directly to funding other steps necessary to dealing with the terrorist threat.

Re-Evaluate CTBT Policy: The United States should be leading the way toward a world where the danger that a nuclear weapon falls into the wrong hands is dramatically reduced. Instead, Washington has been signaling to other states that it reserves the right to continue to test new nuclear weapons designs, and it has had high-ranking officials publicly imply that it would not oppose a resumption of nuclear testing by China if Beijing drops its objections to missile defense. As an important step toward reinforcing the NPT and demonstrating its commitment to arms control, the Bush administration should back away from such policies. It should reconsider its position on the CTBT and push for Senate approval with the safeguards suggested by General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his January 2001 report to the president.

A global halt to nuclear weapons test explosions will help to limit the number of states that could acquire nuclear weapons and therefore limit the potential sources of proliferation of nuclear weapons to non-state or terrorist groups. It would also prevent states such as India, Pakistan, and China from improving their rudimentary nuclear capabilities. U.S. ratification of the CTBT is also an important step in upholding what analysts Daryl Kimball and Rebecca Johnson have called “a vital part of a network of treaties, agreements and norms that underpin international efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and codify bilateral and multilateral arms control and disarmament.”5

The conference on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT (originally scheduled for September 25-27 and to be rescheduled for a later date) will be a first opportunity to see whether the Bush administration is ready to re-engage in this critical non-proliferation effort. The administration should send high-level representation to the conference, fully fund the CTBT Organization Preparatory Commission and the treaty’s international monitoring system, signal its intention to pursue ratification, and continue its adherence to the de facto global test moratorium.

Expand Threat Reduction Programs and Emphasize Biological Weapons: The single most likely source of potential proliferation of WMD materials and expertise is the massive decaying arsenal of the former Soviet Union, including more than 22,000 nuclear weapons, 1,000 metric tons of highly enriched uranium, and 150 metric tons of plutonium, as well as 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agent. The materials are stored in low-security facilities and are susceptible to theft or diversion. Thousands of experts and specialists, no longer gainfully employed, are in dire economic hardship, and analysts warn that they may well sell their expertise to the highest bidder.

The cooperative threat reduction programs, originally launched in 1991 by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, have had considerable success in securing, reducing, and eliminating weapons materials that could proliferate and eventually threaten the United States. However, despite campaign promises by Bush to ask Congress to “increase substantially” U.S. assistance for these programs, the administration’s 2002 budget request cut $100 million from the Department of Energy’s non-proliferation programs and $40 million from the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program. The administration may also indefinitely delay a plan to dispose of 100 metric tons of U.S. and Russian plutonium that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Fully funding these programs could not be more important to U.S. security. They are the best option the United States has for dealing with stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. Equally important is that cooperative threat reduction activities be re-emphasized to deal appropriately with the biological weapons legacy of the Soviet Union: funding for these programs was increased in the administration’s fiscal year 2002 budget and should be further boosted. This program continues to help plug the leak of biological warfare knowledge and technology to objectionable parties and thus would be a major contribution to Bush’s anti-terrorism efforts.

Reinstitute Weapons Inspections in Iraq: Since the December 1998 expulsion of UNSCOM inspectors from Iraq, analysts have been concerned that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has reconstituted his country’s capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, particularly biological weapons. The UN Security Council has not since been able to unite to impose inspections under UN auspices, and a U.S. effort to refocus the sanctions regime earlier this year failed.

Now is the time for the United States to lead once again: Bush should take the opportunity afforded by Russian and Chinese readiness to cooperate on terrorism to lead a diplomatic effort at the UN to reinstate inspections in return for revamping the sanctions regime. This is particularly important to anti-terrorism efforts, as Iraq is known to be a supporter of international terrorism; the potential for the sharing of its WMD capabilities with terrorist clients exists.6 China and Russia have typically been obstacles to action against Iraq, but the current situation might prompt them to subordinate their specific interests in Iraq to demonstrate their commitment to the larger effort against terrorism.

Bolster the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention: Nuclear weapons have threatened the United States for the last 50 years, but biological weapons, which are far more easily and cheaply produced, may well have supplanted the nuclear danger as the most menacing to the American population in the new century. The fact that a manual on the operation of crop-dusting equipment was found by U.S. law enforcement officials while searching suspected terrorist hideouts was only one indication of how close a biological terrorist attack may be.

The BWC bans the development, production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of biological weapons by all signatories and requires the destruction of all biological weapons and biological weapons production facilities. However, the BWC has no formal verification regime to monitor compliance. When a verification protocol was drafted after six years of work in 2001, the Bush administration rejected it, arguing that it “will not enhance our confidence in compliance and will do little to deter those countries seeking to develop biological weapons.” Moreover, the administration argued the protocol would put U.S. national security and confidential business information at risk. If the administration really feels these arguments have validity, they should develop alternative approaches to inspections that would be useful without undermining American business interests.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has been successful in many respects. Hundreds of inspections have been conducted by the accord’s implementing agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. However, the treaty faces important challenges, including budgetary shortfalls for implementation; Russia’s difficulty in destroying its chemical weapons stockpile because of a severe lack of funds; and the refusal of several known and suspected chemical proliferators to join the treaty, including North Korea, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Libya, and Syria.7 The Bush administration should make sure this critical initiative is appropriately supported, both politically and financially.

Conclusion

The non-proliferation measures described above are necessary components of Bush’s war on terrorism. Perhaps September 11 will have started a reversal of the current administration’s track record on “going it alone” instead of working through established and effective multilateral agreements. Depriving other states of weapons of mass destruction through potentially verifiable agreements such as the CTBT, the BWC, and the CWC may well be our best hope to prevent those weapons from being transferred to transnational groups such as al Qaeda and other trans-national terrorist organizations. If the Bush administration does not do its part to bolster international non-proliferation norms and regimes, which have had a significant impact in shaping the behavior of potential proliferant states, an international trade in WMD materials may very well result, with potentially disastrous consequences for the United States and its allies.

There is no question that the tragedy of September 11 will shape U.S. security policy for years to come. The question is whether the United States will seize the opportunity, now that almost the entire world has rallied to its cause, to lead a reinvigoration of cooperative security arrangements that could lead to a safer world for all. Or will Washington fall back on what Richard Haass, director of policy planning at the State Department, has called “à la carte multilateralism”?

Two days after the attacks, the elder George Bush said, “Just as Pearl Harbor awakened this country from the notion that we could somehow avoid the call to duty and defend freedom in Europe and Asia in World War II, so too should this most recent surprise attack erase the concept in some quarters that America can somehow go it alone in the fight against terrorism or in anything else for that matter.” Statements of support from virtually every country in the world have shown that the rest of the world is ready to stand with the United States. This Bush administration must now demonstrate that it is ready to stand with the world, even if it means accepting some limited constraints on America’s freedom to do as it pleases.


NOTES
1. For more on the weaponization of space, see Rebecca Johnson, “Multilateral Approaches to Preventing the Weaponisation of Space,” Disarmament Diplomacy, April 2001.
2. “Presidential Election Forum: The Candidates on Arms Control,” Arms Control Today, September 2000, p. 6.
3. Morton Abramowitz, “So Quiet at the Top,” The Washington Post, September 11, 2001, p. A37.
4. Stephen E. Flynn, The Morning After the Millennium’s Pearl Harbor, Council on Foreign Relations, September 13, 2001.
5. Rebecca Johnson and Daryl Kimball, “Who Needs the Nuclear Test Ban?” Disarmament Diplomacy, July-August 2001.
6. Leonard S. Spector and Jonathan B. Tucker, “Reinstitute Iraq Weapons Inspections,” The Boston Globe, September 21, 2001.
7. Jonathan B. Tucker, ed., The Chemical Weapons Convention: Implementation Challenges and Solutions, Monterey Institute of International Studies’ Center for Nonproliferation Studies, April 2001.


Lawrence J. Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, is vice president, Maurice R. Greenberg chair, and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Alex Tiersky is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations

 

The End of Unilateralism? Arms Control After September 11

Guarding Nuclear Reactors and Material From Terrorists and Thieves

George Bunn and Fritz Steinhausler

For decades the United States has sought international standards to ensure that nuclear facilities and materials are physically protected against theft and sabotage. On September 11, the need for such an initiative became strikingly apparent as analysts pondered the other possible targets of a terrorist attack. What would have been the loss of life if, for example, a hijacker had crashed a fuel-laden jetliner into a nuclear reactor, causing a meltdown and dispersing radioactive material?

Indeed, just days after the attacks, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made it clear that the attack had dramatic implications for the nuclear industry and for non-proliferation: “The tragic terrorist attacks on the United States were a wake-up call to us all. We cannot be complacent. We have to and will increase our efforts on all fronts—from combating illicit trafficking to ensuring the protection of nuclear materials—from nuclear installation design to withstand attacks to improving how we respond to nuclear emergencies.”

Spencer Abraham, the U.S. secretary of energy, appeared before the IAEA to urge “maintaining the highest levels of security over nuclear materials.” “We need to strengthen international commitments and cooperation on the physical protection of nuclear materials, particularly those that can readily be converted to weapons use,” he said.

If terrorists were willing to kill thousands of innocent people in suicidal attacks against buildings symbolizing America’s economic and military power, they would probably not hesitate to use truck bombs made of conventional explosives to attack nuclear reactors in order to create clouds of radioactivity like those produced by the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl. They would have little trouble acquiring anti-tank weapons that could blow up the heavy canisters in which radioactive spent fuel from nuclear reactors is transported through populated areas. It is even possible that they could acquire fissile material from one of the poorly guarded nuclear facilities around the world and find scientists willing to make nuclear weapons.

Current international agreements do not require that nuclear material and facilities in domestic use be guarded against thieves or saboteurs, including terrorists. This is a dangerous gap in the global barrier against proliferation. The IAEA has taken the first steps toward requiring measures to physically protect nuclear materials, but it is essential that this effort be pursued expeditiously and that countries take all reasonable steps to ensure that nuclear material is not part of the next terrorist attack.

Safeguards Do Not Protect

The 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear-weapon states to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA on all their nuclear activities. But, when the NPT was drafted, nuclear terrorism was not perceived as a significant threat, and the safeguards consist of monitoring and accounting measures designed to prevent non-nuclear-weapon states from diverting nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to weapons programs. The safeguards are not intended to prevent theft of nuclear material by outsiders or the bombing of reactors and spent fuel by terrorists.

Today there are threats not foreseen in 1968 that are unlikely to be deterred by NPT requirements: terrorists who want to blow up nuclear reactors with high explosives to kill civilians and create chaos, thieves who want to steal weapons-usable nuclear material to sell to states or terrorists seeking nuclear weapons, and disgruntled employees who want to steal material and sell it on the black market.1

The threat that a terrorist might try to blow up a U.S. nuclear facility is frighteningly plausible. Even before the September 11 attacks, conventional high-explosive bombs delivered by car, truck, or boat had been used in numerous terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities: a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996, two American embassies in Africa in 1998, and a U.S. naval vessel in a port in Yemen in 2000.

If such an attack against a nuclear plant were successful, the number of casualties could be extremely high because of the resulting spread of radioactive material. In 1981, an environmental impact statement prepared by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimated that a large truck bomb used against a nuclear reactor in a highly populated area could produce 130,000 fatalities.2 In effect, a simple conventional explosive used against a nuclear facility would serve as a large radiological weapon. The possibility of terrorist attacks on nuclear reactors is, of course, not limited to those in the United States. Attempts to blow up or penetrate nuclear reactors have been reported in Western Europe, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, and South Korea.3

Despite the danger, no multilateral treaty requires that nuclear material and facilities be protected from such attacks. The IAEA recommends, but does not require, general provisions to protect reactors against sabotage, and IAEA inspectors do not check whether these recommendations are observed. The Nuclear Suppliers Group asks that the recipients of nuclear exports take into account IAEA recommendations, but it does not make them mandatory.4

The NRC’s rules do contain explicit requirements for protection of licensed civilian reactors, and in 1993—after the World Trade Center bombing and after a car that could have contained a bomb crashed through the fences around Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island reactor—the commission adopted new standards for protecting U.S. civilian power reactors from truck bombers. However, even before the attacks of September 11, those standards were criticized as being too weak,5 and on September 19 an IAEA statement acknowledged that most nuclear power plants are not strong enough to withstand attack by “a large jumbo jet full of fuel” without dispersion of large amounts of radioactive material.6

It is also difficult to ascertain whether the U.S. departments of Defense and Energy require similar standards for comparable government facilities because many of their rules on protection are classified. Some Department of Energy nuclear facilities appear vulnerable to terrorist attack. A 1999 Energy report states, “Recent tests have shown that barriers and vault systems used by the U.S. Department of Energy are not as robust as once thought…. Although many approaches have been investigated, a promising technological alternative has not yet been identified.”7

Although the danger that hostile states or terrorists will acquire and use nuclear weapons seems smaller than the threat that terrorists will use conventional explosives to destroy nuclear facilities, the consequences could be far greater.

There is clearly a market for weapons-usable nuclear material, and inadequately protected nuclear material threatens everyone. It is not just states like Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea that may be seeking nuclear weapons; the Aum Shinrikyo sect and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda group have also tried to acquire nuclear material for weapons.8 If hostile states or terrorists were to obtain enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) from civilian facilities, the manufacture of a simple Hiroshima-type bomb would be within their ability.9

The IAEA safeguards required by the NPT would eventually detect the absence of the stolen material from safeguarded facilities, but thieves, who intend to steal material and disappear, would not likely be deterred by the fact that the theft would be discovered after they had departed. If significant quantities of weapons-usable material became readily available on the nuclear black market, the other actions taken to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons (such as IAEA inspections, export controls, and NPT conferences) would be futile.

A great deal of fissile material exists in civilian facilities around the world, and experience has shown that some of it is vulnerable to theft. According to August 2000 IAEA estimates, a total of more than 1,306 kilograms of highly enriched uranium exists in research reactors in 27 countries, sometimes in quantities large enough to make a bomb.10 Twenty percent of these reactors are in Asia and the Middle East. Plutonium is often better protected than HEU, but 12 countries possess a total of 180,000 kilograms of civilian plutonium, and the amount is growing rapidly.

As of September 1999, the IAEA had recorded 139 reports of illicit trafficking of nuclear material,11 most of which have come from Europe—although it is unclear whether this is the result of more trafficking there or simply more effective police work. Much of the nuclear material in these cases has probably come from Russia or other former Soviet republics. For example, several kilograms of HEU from Russia were seized in Prague from a gang with members in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Russia. European security authorities are currently investigating alleged arrangements for the sale of Russian radioactive material by a prominent member of a Russian crime organization to representatives of al Qaeda. But Russia’s troubled nuclear infrastructure is not the only source of at-risk fissile material: HEU stolen from a research reactor in the Congo was apprehended by police in Italy and Belgium in 1998.12 Earlier this year, 600 grams of HEU of unknown origin was seized in Colombia.13

Addressing the Gap

The IAEA refers to securing nuclear facilities against thieves and saboteurs as “physical protection” to distinguish it from the monitoring and accounting “safeguards” required by the NPT. “Physical protection” means providing walls, fences, human guards, sensors, and alarm systems that will detect, warn against, and ultimately help prevent the unauthorized movement of humans, vehicles, or radioactive substances within a protected area.

Many countries provide some form of physical protection for their nuclear material, but because there is no international standard or requirement for physical protection of civilian nuclear material (as there is for safeguards), countries’ protections vary widely and are often inadequate. For example, of 19 countries with nuclear facilities covered by a 1997 survey, only 11 reported that they had designed their physical protection facilities to deal with terrorism.14

Just as the NPT’s requirement that non-nuclear-weapon states have safeguards is essential to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, so is the requirement that all countries with nuclear material have physical protection for nuclear material. If terrorists can crash large planes into the Pentagon, they can certainly find a way to attack nuclear reactors. And if thieves can steal weapons-usable material in Russia, the Congo, Colombia, or elsewhere, they can use it to make nuclear weapons or sell it to someone who will.

There is one treaty that provides for physical protection of civilian nuclear material: the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. But it only applies to the protection from theft of material in international transit—for example, reprocessed plutonium being shipped from England back to Japan. The original draft of the treaty, proposed by the United States, was designed to cover both international transport and domestic transport, use, and storage. However, during the negotiations, important potential parties objected to domestic requirements, and in the end the treaty protected civilian nuclear material only against theft in international transport. It now has 69 parties, including most countries with major nuclear programs.

The convention divides nuclear materials into categories, which receive different levels of protection depending on the amount of material in question and how useful that material would be in making weapons. For example, more than two kilograms of unirradiated plutonium and more than five kilograms of unirradiated uranium (containing more than 20 percent of the isotope U235) are in Category I, which receives the highest protection. The convention requires that Category I material in storage related to international transport be located within a “protected area” with access restricted to “persons whose trustworthiness has been determined,” and it requires surveillance of the material by guards in close communication with response forces.

In 1997, the United States and the IAEA began to consider amending the convention to make it applicable to nuclear material in domestic use, and in 1999 the director-general of the IAEA convened a group of experts to recommend a course of action.15

Experts in the IAEA working group did not have a lot of information on current country practices for domestic protection because there is no treaty that requires providing that information, which most countries regard as confidential. To compensate, the experts relied in part on a few general observations.

First, they noted that all of the nuclear material involved in the many incidents of illicit trafficking known to the IAEA seemed to have come from domestic use, storage, and transport—not from the international transport covered by the convention. Therefore, they concluded that amending the convention to require domestic protection could help reduce illicit trafficking.

Second, experts in the working group from developing countries reported that they had difficulty persuading their legislatures and other authorities to adopt physical protection statutes and regulations because there was no multilateral treaty requiring standards for domestic protection. This meant that passing legislation and appropriations at home for adequate physical protection was often difficult.

Finally, the experts saw that the amount of nuclear material in peaceful nuclear programs under IAEA safeguards was rapidly increasing—six-fold since the convention was negotiated in the late 1970s. This meant that, without major efforts to provide new funds for physical protection in each country needing improvements—funds that legislatures were reluctant to provide without an international requirement—the risks of theft and sabotage of nuclear material were likely to increase.16

The experts concluded that the IAEA director-general should convene a group to draw up the text of an amendment to the convention. They specifically recommended that the amendment make the existing convention applicable to domestic use, storage, and transport of nuclear material. They further recommended that the convention be expanded to require protection against sabotage, not just theft; that the convention clearly state the objectives of physical protection; and that information about how a particular facility is protected be kept confidential.

However, the experts opposed amendments that would mandate any international oversight, reporting requirements, or peer review of how states implemented physical protection measures. Instead, the experts explicitly placed the onus of ensuring physical protection on the national governments. In a set of 12 fundamental principles that they approved in addition to their recommendations for amendments, the experts said that the country with nuclear material should be “responsible for establishing and maintaining a legislative and regulatory framework to govern physical protection” and that that country should provide inspections of physical protection under its authority. Clearly, the experts wanted to avoid international verification of how states would implement the amended convention’s requirements.

The experts also opposed amendments that would permit more changes in protection standards at a later date without once again going through the arduous amendment process, apparently not wanting to make it too easy to raise standards again.

It may seem surprising that some experts opposed principles or amendments that would support some sort of international verification, which would help ensure that agreed-upon measures were actually being implemented. Perhaps the nuclear industries in important developed countries were resistant to changes that would cost them more money. Perhaps some of the European Union countries, which had earlier contributed to improvements in safeguards and physical protection in Russia, could not believe that nuclear material stolen in the Congo or Colombia could threaten them. Perhaps China and Russia feared inspections or a requirement that reports on their physical protection practices be submitted to other countries.

In the end, U.S. experts, who supported verification provisions, could not overcome opposition to any measure requiring any type of international oversight over national protection practices. If the experts’ recommendations are the basis for the negotiation of a treaty amendment, there will be no required international verification and no required reports from parties providing significant information on physical protection practices. This weakens the convention and makes it more difficult to standardize protection procedures internationally.

What Next?

The IAEA’s Board of Governors and the IAEA’s General Conference welcomed the experts’ report on amending the convention, the Board meeting just before and the Conference meeting just after the September 11 attacks. The General Conference accepted the Board’s approval of the experts’ fundamental principles, which state that responsibility for regulation of a system for physical protection “rests entirely within” the state having the system. It commended the IAEA’s programs of training, guidance, and technical assistance to assist states in establishing or improving systems of physical protection. Finally, it requested the IAEA to strengthen all of its work “relevant to preventing acts of terrorism involving nuclear materials and other radioactive materials,” and it urged IAEA members to support all of these programs.

Most importantly, the General Conference unanimously supported the decision by Director-General ElBaradei to convene a meeting of experts to draft an amendment to the convention on physical protection. That meeting is scheduled for December 2001. Given the new concerns about physical protection after September 11, there could be a new effort in the drafting meetings to add some sort of international verification or reporting requirement. Or perhaps an amendment could simply require that each country’s national implementing legislation be reported to the IAEA. This would allow the IAEA to verify whether states-parties had in fact adopted national standards and whether their application is subject to national inspection.

However, even if it does not include provisions for international verification, an amendment to the convention making its requirements for physical protection applicable domestically and adding provisions on sabotage is essential. Physical protection practices vary a great deal from country to country, and the threat from terrorists, thieves, and saboteurs is all too real.

Adoption of stronger physical protection standards against these threats is essential, and the sooner the better. Unfortunately, putting an amendment into effect will probably take several years. In the meantime, the Board-approved principles for physical protection and the IAEA-recommended standards for physical protection, both of which deal with sabotage as well as theft, should be applied immediately.

If adequately funded, the IAEA can provide guidance, training, advisory services, and technical assistance to help countries improve their protection practices and to implement the new principles and recommendations. For countries that accept an IAEA advisory team and cannot afford the protection that that team recommends, financial assistance could be provided as it already has been to Russia, some former Soviet republics, and a few East and Central European countries. This could be an inducement to the states given assistance not only to provide the protections but to join the convention if they have not yet done so.

The United States and the international community can no longer postpone taking stronger measures to ensure the physical protection of nuclear facilities and nuclear material. Weapons-usable material must be kept out of the hands of states and terrorists trying to make nuclear weapons, and nuclear reactors and spent fuel must be protected from sabotage, lest an attack spread radioactive debris over a large area, killing many and injuring more. Now is the time for the United States and the IAEA to take the lead in securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear infrastructure.


NOTES
1. A survey for Gosatomnadzor, the Russian nuclear regulatory agency, showed that every nuclear theft from the Russian facilities it regulated during 1990-95 involved an insider (though outsiders were often involved) and none were detected by the existing Russian safeguards and protection systems then in effect. I. Koupriyanova, “Russian Perspectives on Insider Threats,” Proceedings of the 40th Annual Meeting of the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management, July 1999.
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “Supplement to Draft Environmental Statement Related to the Operation of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Units 2 & 3,” NUREG-0490, January 1981. See also Sandia National Laboratories, “An Analysis of Truck Bomb Threats to Nuclear Facilities,” 1984; Sandia National Laboratories, “Summary Report of Workshop on Sabotage Protection in Nuclear Power Plant Design,” February 1977.
3. Oleg Bukharin, “Problems of Nuclear Terrorism,” The Monitor: Nonproliferation, Demilitarization and Arms Control, Spring 1997, p. 8; Oleg Bukharin, “Upgrading Security at Nuclear Power Plants in the Newly Independent States,” The Nonproliferation Review, Winter 1997, p. 28; Three Mile Island Alert Security Committee, www.tmia.com/sabter.html.
4. The IAEA recommendations are in IAEA Information Circular 225, Rev.4 (1999). The suggestion from the suppliers that these recommendations “are a useful basis” for physical protection practices appears in Annex C to Nuclear Suppliers’ Guidelines, IAEA Information Circular 254 (1999).
5. Testimony of Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, May 5, 1999.
6. See William J. Cole, “Global Atomic Agency Confesses Little Can Be Done to Safeguard Nuclear Plants,” Associated Press, September 19, 2001.
7. U.S. Department of Energy, DOE Research and Development Portfolio: National Security, 1999, p. 87.
8. George J. Tenet, testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 2, 2000; “U.S. Indictment: ‘Detonated and Explosive Device,’” The New York Times, November 5, 1998; Gavin Cameron, “Multi-Track Micro-Proliferation: Lessons from Aum Shinrikyo,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, October-December 1999.
9. J. Carson Mark, Theodore Taylor, Eugene Eyster, William Maraman, and Jacob Wechsler, “Can Terrorists Build Nuclear Weapons?” in Paul Leventhal and Yonah Alexander, eds. Preventing Nuclear Terrorism, (Lexington Books, 1987), pp. 55-65; U.S. Department of Energy, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons-Usable Material Storage and Excess Plutonium Alternatives, 1997, p. 35-39.
10. IAEA, “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World,” IAEA-RDS-3, September 2000.
11. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, statement to the General Conference, September 1999.
12. See Fritz Steinhausler and Lyudmila Zaitseva, Database on Nuclear Smuggling, Diversion and Orphan Radiation Sources, Stanford Institute for International Studies, 2001.
13. Ibid.
14. Kevin J. Harrington, Physical Protection of Nuclear Material: National Comparisons, Sandia National Laboratories in cooperation with Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation, 1999.
15. See George Bunn, “Raising International Standards for Protecting Nuclear Materials from Theft and Sabotage,” The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, p. 146, 152.
16. M. Gregoric, “Ongoing Efforts to Strengthen the International Physical Protection Regime,” IAEA International Conference on Security of Material, Stockholm, May 7-11, 2001, Paper IAEA-CN-86. (Gregoric was the chairman of the experts working group, and he gave a report on its work at this Stockholm Meeting.)


George Bunn, who served on the U.S. delegation that negotiated the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is a consulting professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Fritz Steinhausler is a professor at the Salzburg Institute in Austria and a visiting professor at the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

 

Iraq Meets With UN Secretary-General

At the request of the Iraqi government, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Iraqi Vice President Ezzat Ibrahim on the sidelines of a November 13 conference in Qatar. Although Annan would not reveal the details of his discussions, he described the meeting as "frank and useful" and confirmed that discussions included "ways and means to break the current deadlock." Baghdad has refused to allow UN-mandated weapons inspectors into the country since the December 1998 U.S.-British airstrikes against Iraq and remains subject to stringent sanctions put in place after the Persian Gulf War.

Ibrahim's meeting with Annan, however, comes as the sanctions regime appears to be weakening. Over the past few months, Iraq has tested the limits of the postwar settlement by resuming foreign airline passenger service to Baghdad and domestic commercial flights through the so-called no-fly-zones. It has also re-established diplomatic relations with several countries, most notably with Egypt on November 7.

Annan has little latitude to negotiate with Iraq, as he is limited to serving as an intermediary between the UN Security Council and Baghdad. Only the Security Council can reach an agreement with Iraq altering Resolution 1284, which lays out the terms for easing sanctions on Iraq. Annan called the current situation "unhealthy" but said he confidently believed that Iraq and the UN would "find ways of discussing things."

Though some observers have warned that Iraq is "breaking out of the box," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said November 6 that the "basic sanctions regime" remains in place and continues to work. "The only way to get any kind of serious suspension of sanctions is to go through Resolution 1284…. That continues to work and continues to have the support of the international community," Boucher remarked. At a November 22 briefing, he added, "We are not interested in negotiating 1284."

Iraq Meets With UN Secretary-General

Anticipating Inspections: UNMOVIC Readies Itself for Iraq

In January, Hans Blix was appointed executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), an inspectorate established to replace the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and assume its task of verifying that Iraq was disarmed of all weapons of mass destruction and missiles with a range exceeding 150 kilometers.

Following UNSCOM's withdrawal from Iraq in December 1998 and amid increasing pressure to ease the sanctions that had been in place since the end of the Persian Gulf War, the UN Security Council heatedly debated how to address Baghdad's continuing noncompliance with its disarmament obligations, originally laid out in Resolution 687. In March 1999, a UN panel headed by Brazilian Ambassador Celso Amorim released a report concluding that while the bulk of Iraq's weapons programs had been dismantled by UNSCOM, a "reinforced, ongoing monitoring and verification" system was needed.

In December 1999, Security Council Resolution 1284 set up UNMOVIC and charged it with monitoring Iraq's weapons programs and identifying any "key remaining disarmament tasks." It stipulated that once Baghdad had "cooperated in all respects," sanctions would be suspended. The resolution also created the College of Commissioners, a group of diplomats and disarmament experts charged with providing "professional advice and guidance" to the executive chairman.

UNMOVIC began operation in March. To date, it has submitted an organizational plan to the Security Council, which was approved, and has met once with the College of Commissioners. The first training session for UNMOVIC staff is set to begin in New York in July, but Iraq has so far given no sign that it will allow inspectors into the country.

Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Blix pursued a distinguished career in the Swedish foreign service, culminating in his appointment as minister of foreign affairs in 1978. In 1981, he assumed the post of director-general at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he served until 1997. Under Blix's leadership, the IAEA, working with UNSCOM, played a crucial role in dismantling and monitoring Iraq's nuclear weapons program after the Persian Gulf War.

On June 12, Arms Control Today Editor J. Peter Scoblic and Research Analyst Matthew Rice met with Blix at UN headquarters in New York to discuss UNMOVIC's mandate, its preparations for inspections, and the prospects for beginning work in Iraq. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

 

ACT: Former UNSCOM executive chairmen Richard Butler and Rolf Ekeus have expressed concern as to what could have happened since inspectors left Iraq in December 1998. On the other hand, former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has said that 18 months is too short a time to rebuild programs that took 20 years to set up. What could Iraq have done in this time? How worried should the international community be?

Blix: Well, I do not have any preconceived notions as to what Iraq could have done. But if I take the nuclear area, which I know best, there is no way that they could have built up an enrichment capacity in that period. Of course, it is possible that they could try to buy a nuclear weapon, but the Iraqi path in the past was one of going after enrichment, and that requires a considerable infrastructure that would be seen from satellites. We have no indications of that happening.

An area in which Iraq could have conceivably done more would be the missile program because they are permitted missiles with a range of 150 kilometers and under; so factories producing them are also permissible. A number of missile factories were apparently hit in December 1998 during the airstrikes by U.S. and British forces, but there are reports that they have been rebuilt since then. Now, what has taken place inside, under those roofs, that is not seen by the satellites. I would have to rely upon the people that know much more about missiles to make a determination, but prima facie, missiles would be an area in which Iraq could have done something. It is certainly an area that will require monitoring in the future.

Concerning chemical and biological weapons, I think that is something the weapons experts will have to determine, and we will have a lot of quite competent experts.

ACT: Are you receiving any information on the current status of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs?

Blix: We should try to learn as much as possible, even without having inspections on the ground. Therefore, we have expressed gratitude to the United States for continuing to show us overhead pictures from satellites. That goes on. And of course, we are grazing the fertile ground of the media and collecting what comes from there.

We have no intelligence data, and I don't want to have any until we have our own intelligence expert on board. I've had some contact with national intelligence agencies and have had some discussions, but there has been nothing significant in this regard. What we are also focusing on is for our current staff to work on the substantial dossiers and inspection reports that we already have here. There is a lot to analyze. Clearly, however, work is not at full speed.

ACT: Is there any indication that Iraq is trying to rearm?

Blix: No, I don't think you can say that. Sometimes there are reports in the media from intelligence organizations that they are watching the procurement efforts here and there, but we have nothing to substantiate that.

ACT: Once they are in Iraq, what will be the first task for the UNMOVIC inspectors?

Blix: The first inspections will have to establish new baselines. The weapons-related facilities and weapons-capable facilities have stood there one-and-a-half years now. UNSCOM inspectors had knowledge of what they looked like in December 1998, and UNMOVIC will now go in and see if there have been any changes and, if so, what those changes suggest.

After that, we will develop a work program. Resolution 1284 demands that we come up with a work program to deal with the key outstanding disarmament issues 60 days after we have started work in Iraq. Indeed, the College of Commissioners made the point that UNMOVIC cannot very well come up with a full work program telling the Security Council what it intends to do before it has established new baselines. We need to see that rebaselining. So, work in Iraq cannot mean the moment when you send in the first inspector.

ACT: If the situation in Iraq now were the same as in December 1998, what tasks would remain in order for Iraq to be disarmed? What are the key disarmament tasks that Resolution 1284 asks you to define?

Blix: We don't know yet which particular disarmament points remain to be cleared up. It is generally believed that the biological-weapons sector has the largest number of question marks. Among the others, missiles is the most advanced in terms of being cleared up, and the nuclear is considered to have the fewest question marks. But it will be a sensitive task for us to zero in and say what the important key disarmament tasks are, as we must do under 1284.

We will also use another broader concept contained in Resolution 1284: "unresolved disarmament issues." I have already asked the current staff here what they see as unresolved disarmament issues. It is not the first time this has been done. The Amorim report listed a number of things in a condensed chapter and, in early 1999, Richard Butler issued a large report setting out what UNSCOM had achieved and what remained.

However, I do not think that I will have a final paper on the unresolved disarmament issues until the new staff is on board because the Security Council wants us to look at the issue with fresh minds. I value the experience that is here, but I also want to have new people take a look at what remains to be done. The new staff will define what they consider to be the unresolved issues. Out of those, there will be a distillation process to pick out those that are important—the key disarmament tasks. As to which issues those will be, I have no preconceived ideas.

I am sure that Iraq will be very interested to know where we are going on this matter even before they invite inspections, but as the resolution is written, they cannot. They certainly cannot have the final list. Because the report has to go to the Security Council for approval, what we say could theoretically be modified by the council. But I would imagine that our professional judgment will carry some weight with the council. At least I hope so.

ACT: The unresolved questions that are not deemed key disarmament tasks, will they fall off the work program?

Blix: No, I don't think so. Resolution 687 and its mandate of complete WMD disarmament remain in effect. But all the unresolved questions will not be relevant for the council's determination as to whether they should suspend the economic restrictions, because that only requires testimony from us about "cooperation" and "progress" on key disarmament duties.

If I take an example from the IAEA, which I still know better than the UNMOVIC area, there was a question of whether there was some foreign input into Iraq's design of a weapon. That question, I think, was never cleared up, and it was an outstanding issue for a long time. Now, you can discuss—and I'm not taking a stand on it—whether it was important to know who this foreign entity was even if you have come to the conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear infrastructure, no nuclear capacity, et cetera. Does the question of who helped them still remain a key disarmament issue? You could say that the "full, final and complete disclosure" demand of Resolution 707 is not satisfied if such an issue is still unresolved. But is it a key disarmament issue? I don't know. So, I think that's going to be an illustration of where judgment will have to be exercised.

ACT: Have former UNSCOM professionals applied for positions in UNMOVIC?

Blix: By far, the majority—two-thirds, probably more—have left. After the Baghdad operation collapsed at the end of 1998, most people left. So, a relatively small group remains here. I have said that there will be no automatic transfer of UNSCOM staff to UNMOVIC. They will have to indicate an interest to stay, and then I will have to compare their credentials with those who apply from the outside. Clearly, having been here and being knowledgeable on Iraq's weapons programs is an important factor. But it is not the only one. Some people in some governments have taken the view that we should have fresh minds all over the place, that there should be a clean slate. I have said no, there should be both innovation and institutional memory. This is what we are getting. Overall there will be a good many more people from the outside than those who remain from UNSCOM. One should remember that most of UNSCOM left earlier.

ACT: Does the fact that there could be a long wait before work begins in Iraq make recruitment any more difficult?

Blix: I haven't seen any one candidate so far in New York who has seemed worried about that. If they are sitting here for six months, then maybe it could become a problem. But that is not my hypothesis.

ACT: You have said that you intend to make full use of short-notice inspections without harassing or coercing Iraq. What did you mean by that?

Blix: We do not intend to provoke, to harass, or to humiliate Iraq with our inspections. The word "intend" is important, because I am not leaving it to Iraq to say that we cannot do something because of how they feel about it. It is UNMOVIC that will judge whether an action is provocative or humiliating in the judgment of a reasonable person. And I think I am a reasonable person.

Another adjective I will use is "correct." We don't want to have cozy relations with Iraq. We are an inspectorate, and we have the task given to us by the Security Council to solve the key disarmament questions, in addition to monitoring. This we shall do. In doing so, I would like the organization to be knowledgeable and correct.

I think we will need institutional memories. It will delay things if we were to have an all together new staff, but I want those who go in to display correct UN conduct. I'm not saying anything about the past. I am just saying that for the future, I want effective and correct inspections.

ACT: Concerning the espionage issue, you have placed a premium on maintaining what you have described as a "one-way street" of the flow of intelligence to UNMOVIC. What will you do differently than UNSCOM?

Blix: Well, I am not sure that I can tell you. I'm not exactly sure what UNSCOM did. I am following the pattern that I established myself at the IAEA. Of course, I read many allegations about what went on with UNSCOM, but I have not undertaken any investigation of UNSCOM's practices, and I don't think that I need to. I have the impression that there were many inlets for intelligence and that there were different groups handling what came in.

In our organizational diagram, which UNSCOM did not have, intelligence falls under "outside information sources." That covers both media, anything open, and other outside sources that are not so open. I will try to be firm about keeping intelligence in this area.

I have publicly taken the view that intelligence is valuable. Defectors do not come knocking at UNMOVIC headquarters. They go to governments, and it is valuable to have much of that. It can give you ideas as to where it might be useful to go or about questions that you should ask. But we also know that there is almost as much disinformation around the world as there is valid information, and I would like to have a professional in this area who would be able to assess with a critical eye what is coming in. He may have to have assistance from someone on the biological or chemical side to assess the veracity of something, but we have to be able to give assurances to those who supply us with intelligence that this is the only person who gets it, and that the providers have to decide how much further it will go. I have reserved the right to see it myself, and this person who is in charge of outside information sources should also see it all.

If we want to make use of intelligence for an inspection or for questions during an inspection, then I think the supplier should judge if such use is permissible or if it will jeopardize their source. In part, this is in order to keep the confidence of providers that their information is not going to float around freely. We are being very firm that it stays here. The providers will have to give their permission for any further dissemination. I practiced this in the IAEA, and it worked. We had intelligence from various sources. I don't think where the intelligence comes from really matters—it is the critical examination to which it is subjected that counts.

Another important point is that we are not in the intelligence-trading business. We are not an intelligence organization. We are not giving anything to suppliers in return. We are not an espionage organization, whatever Iraq has said. Now, it is conceivable, of course, that some UNSCOM staff were in double emploi, that they had two positions. That is unacceptable. All I can say is that if I find individuals working for other agencies, I will throw them out, and I think they will understand why.

However, I must also be clear that in order for us to get information that is relevant, it may well be that we will have to describe to intelligence providers what we are interested in. It is not that we are mute and governments come and offer us information. It is not that extreme.

There is an important difference between UNMOVIC and the IAEA in that the IAEA safeguards agreements specify that information that countries give shall be confidential. UNMOVIC doesn't have safeguards agreements with Iraq; we go to the Security Council and report to its members. Nevertheless, our mandate is to look for weapons of mass destruction. It is not to look for where Saddam Hussein is or where Iraq's anti-aircraft artillery is, et cetera. We should not do anything that is outside the parameters of our mandate.

ACT: What does "cooperation" mean in terms of Resolution 1284?

Blix: This may be an issue that we need to discuss with the College of Commissioners because Resolution 1284 simply says that the Security Council shall suspend economic restrictions provided that Iraq has cooperated in all respects for 120 days, and one part of that cooperation is progress with respect to the key disarmament issues. Whether UNMOVIC's judgment on such progress is the final word is a matter still for discussion.

Under Resolution 687, it is true that there was a difference between my view when I headed the IAEA and that taken by UNSCOM. I took the view, interpreting paragraph 22 of Resolution 687, that our determination on Iraq's disarmament did not automatically translate into a lifting of the sanctions, whereas the tendency in UNSCOM was to say that its determination was decisive. I was skeptical of such an attitude. It is for the Security Council to make the determination as to whether Iraq has complied with its obligations.

There will always be a residue of uncertainty, and that was a concept that eventually was accepted by the Amorim report and by the Security Council and I think by most people. There may be computer programs, engineers, scientists, and maybe even a prototype centrifuge lying around. You can never guarantee that such things do not exist. We tell the members of the council how far we have come, and it is then for them to decide whether that satisfies the resolution's articles about neutralizing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Because there will always be that residue of uncertainty concerning Iraq's WMD programs, I do not think it is fair, nor was it supported by the resolution, for the IAEA or for UNSCOM to determine what level of uncertainty should be tolerated. That is for the Security Council to do. I think I am inclined to feel the same way about UNMOVIC, but there I would like to defer until there has been some discussion, because these are matters that could very well be politically sensitive.

ACT: Along those lines, Scott Ritter recently argued that UNSCOM's perceived need to account for all WMD material was partially responsible for its downfall. (See ACT, June 2000.) Are you saying that you are going to move away from that—to not needing to account for every last scrap of material and documentation?

Blix: As I said, it is for the Security Council to determine how much uncertainty they will tolerate. I often draw a comparison between Iraq and South Africa. The IAEA was in South Africa and asked to verify that they had done away with their nuclear weapons. We came in and the South Africans said, "Here is a bunch of documents. And we think they are relevant to you. If you want any other documents, just tell us, and we will give them to you. And here are the sites that we think you should visit, and if you want to go to any other sites, military or whatever, just tell us and we will take you there."

That was, of course, evidence of an attitude of cooperation. They saw inspection as an opportunity to demonstrate and convince the world that they had nothing. I am trying to suggest to Iraq: "You say that you have nothing. Here is an opportunity. Convince us by what you do, and convince us by what you give us that there is nothing left. You do not have credibility." If we are firm, we have credibility. If we are cosmetic, we too have no credibility. So, we will say if we think Iraq has cooperated. But the ultimate judge, I am inclined to think, is the Security Council.

And, of course, I still maintain that we will never come to the last nut and bolt, and I think that is accepted now. But how many missing nuts and bolts are acceptable will be determined by the Security Council. We will describe in as accurate terms as we can what we have done, where we are, and then leave final judgment to the council.

ACT: How would you describe UNMOVIC's relationship with the secretary-general and the Security Council?

Blix: In formal terms, of course, the reports of UNMOVIC are channeled to the Security Council through the secretary-general. He submits them. He can add something. In doing so, he can put his gloss on it if he likes, which was the same with UNSCOM. In addition, I trust that I can continue to look to the secretary-general for advice and discussion. I don't formally have to do that. We have a mandate of our own. However, I personally appreciate [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan's judgment very much, and I have an excellent relationship with him. Jayantha Dhanapala [UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs] and I are also old colleagues, and I appreciate his judgment too. So, I look on these relationships in practical terms more than in formal terms.

UNMOVIC is a subordinate organ of the Security Council. Therefore, all of our allegiance is to the council; we take our instructions from it. Resolution 1284 is the absolute guideline for me, and nothing else. If any one member of the Security Council wants me to do something other than what is called for in Resolution 1284, I would say that I am not obliged to do so. At the same time, I think there is a clear attitude in the council that they do not want us to come running to them for help and instruction all the time. They have other things to do. I also think that we should have informal contacts with the president of the Security Council. So far, I have met with every monthly president of the Security Council, so we have a channel in that direction. What our relationship with the council will be like if the situation with Iraq gets hot, I don't know.

ACT: Does the Security Council have the political will to push this issue with Iraq, to get UNMOVIC into the country?

Blix: It is more a question that there are different wills in the council. My overall impression has been that when the Security Council stands united, the power and influence it has is considerable, but where they have divided views, even though they might only be expressed in abstentions, the influence is much more limited. This leads me to the conclusion that UNMOVIC should act in such a way as, at the very least, to avoid widening the differing views that exist there and, if possible, to help them converge.

Once again, I refer to Resolution 1284 for absolute guidance. That is a valid resolution. It was accepted—though weakened somewhat by the four abstentions—and we can see how some of the reservations of those who abstained continue to guide their attitudes. The resolution would have been stronger if there had been unanimity. On the other hand, it is still a valid resolution, and it is binding not only on Iraq, but on all of the members of the Security Council as well. So that is what we have to go by.

But for us, there is a great advantage if the members of the Security Council are agreed. I think that the College of Commissioners may be able to help because it has individuals from the permanent five members of the Security Council and other professionals, and it will permit a freer discussion then you can have in the Security Council.

ACT: Describe your interactions with the Russians, French, and Chinese over the past few months. Are they accepting Resolution 1284 as valid, and are you receiving their full support?

Blix: I have no doubt that on two principal points they are united and there is no dissent in the Security Council. One is the wish that Iraq retain no weapons of mass destruction and that it not revive any WMD programs. The other is a view that UNMOVIC shall have all of the rights of inspection that the prior organizations had—that is, immediate, unrestricted, and unconditional access. I don't think they waver on that.

But there are clearly other differences among them on Iraq policy, some not relating to Resolution 1284. There is the view among some that the current bombing [in the no-fly zones] is not sanctioned by the Security Council and should not take place. There is the view of some that the no-fly zones do not have a basis in Security Council resolutions and should not exist. Council members have not yet defined what kind of financial control regime they should have once they determine to suspend the economic restrictions; so there are unresolved matters relating to the full implementation of the resolution.

Resolution 1284 resolved a number of things, but not all, and we should try, if possible, to reduce the number of differences rather than exacerbate them. So far, we have done reasonably well. The organizational plan was successfully approved by the Security Council, with some reservations by the Russians. Nevertheless, they accepted that the plan was in line with the resolution. At this point, the Russians have said that they do not want to pass any judgment until they have seen how UNMOVIC develops and implements the plan. They will hold their card until they have seen that. And there were somewhat softer but similar attitudes by a few of the others.

The Russians also had some reservations because they wanted to have a special group dealing with potential frictions with Iraq, a group of political advisers within UNMOVIC. I have not included such a group in the organizational structure. I have said that I will have a group of senior advisers and that it will include staff that know something about the positions of Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and other places. I will listen to them, but if they are not agreed, clearly I will have to fall back on my own judgment. UNMOVIC is not operating by voting. The same applies to the College of Commissioners. If they seek and come out with some consensus and thereby facilitate consensus in the Security Council, that is fine. But there is no guarantee that they can do this. In the end, I have to do what the resolution puts me in this position to do.

So, there were some reservations over the organizational plan. Some would say that the organizational plan was the design of the ship and that now we are recruiting the sailors and developing the navigational charts. We are now in the process of hiring the crew, and the resolution talks about broad geographical recruitment, and so it shall be. It will be very broad. Of course, there are a number of areas of the world that do not have expertise in weapons of mass destruction, notably Africa. It will be much more difficult to find people from there. But there will be a broad geographical recruitment. The Security Council knows pretty well who the senior officials will be, and I have had no criticism of that. UNMOVIC's top echelon has been accepted, and I hope that we can continue with that and get a crew with good credentials and good geographic representation.

The third step will be defining the operational rules—how we will go about the inspections. We are in the beginning of that process, and we had early input from the College of Commissioners. I hope that in the summer we can go further, and that at the next meeting of the college, which will be in August, we will be able to define that even more and get their advice. Sometime later, we will see if Iraq is favorable at all.

ACT: Let's talk about that for a minute. Iraq has given no indication that they intend to cooperate. Have you seen anything different? Do you expect them to cooperate?

Blix: No, I have not seen anything different, and yes, I expect them to cooperate.

ACT: How does one move them from their present position to one that allows you and your inspectors to begin work?

Blix: I think the Iraqis should move themselves. I think that the most important thing for them is to study and assess what is in Resolution 1284 for them. Resolution 687 is still there, which speaks about lifting sanctions when there has been neutralization of all WMD and ongoing monitoring is in place. Resolution 1284 is an additional path for them to follow. Here, the criteria are different. They can have a suspension of the economic restrictions provided that there is cooperation and resolution of some key disarmament issues. I guess that they are assessing how valuable it would be for them to have a suspension of the restrictions, and exactly what suspension means. I cannot tell them; it is for members of the Security Council to decide, and I am sure that they have had preliminary discussions about that already.

Although Iraq is now rejecting Resolution 1284 and the commission, I am sure they are watching what the architecture of it is. I am sure they are watching to see whether UNMOVIC will be a true international body or if it will be a group of seconded state representatives, which is how they tended to regard UNSCOM. And they are probably interested to see how we will define the inspection procedures. Lastly, they will be interested in what things we consider unresolved disarmament issues and key disarmament tasks.

I think this will take some time. People ask me sometimes if I am trying to initiate any contact with Iraq. The answer is no. My door is open to all ambassadors, including the Iraqis, but why should they make contact at a time when their position is that the commission is irrelevant and they reject Resolution 1284? Discussion with me would not be consistent with that position.

ACT: Iraq has flat-out refused to cooperate, but you seem to be suggesting that Baghdad is considering the ramifications and potential benefits of Resolution 1284. Do you think that their public refusal is simply a ploy and that they are seriously weighing their options and considering cooperation?

Blix: No, I think they probably say to the world what they mean—that they would like to see a termination of the bombing, that they would like to see a termination of the no-fly zones, and that they would like to see a termination of the sanctions. That is their bid to the Security Council. They also seem to say that they could accept some inspections should these things happen. That is their position. What their position will be in two or four months time, I don't know. I am the servant of the Security Council. If the council assumes that UNMOVIC will go in, then who am I to depart from that assessment? I was hired on the assumption that Iraq will allow inspectors into the country, and therefore I assume that myself.

I may add that in my personal view it would be in Iraq's interest to accept 1284. I am sure that they are looking around the horizon. They have one very firm view now, but the waters under this ship will be moving, not standing still.

ACT: You are optimistic. Do you have any sort of time frame?

Blix: We have a time frame. We are moving as fast as we can to do what the Security Council has instructed us to do with the organization, the recruitment, the training, et cetera. We could not possibly do any inspections until the end of August. Toward the end of autumn, we will be up and running, as they say. I hope by that time the government of Iraq will have warmed to the idea that this commission is one with which they are ready to cooperate and they will have found that the economic restrictions will not be lifted except in fulfillment of Resolution 1284.

ACT: Do you think there is any flexibility in the Security Council about amending the sanctions sections of Resolution 1284 to induce Iraqi cooperation?

Blix: I don't see any indication in that direction. I think every comma will remain.

ACT: Do you think you can demonstrate, in the process of assembling and training the UNMOVIC team, that UNMOVIC will be a different organization from UNSCOM and thereby gain the further support of the Security Council and the cooperation of Iraq? Or will that not be apparent until your inspectors begin work in Iraq?

Blix: Well, it's not just organization and recruitment and training. It's also the other two elements we have talked about: the definition of our inspection procedures and of the remaining outstanding disarmament issues. I don't know whether those elements will be enough. I think these are part of what Iraq is going to look at. But I think that Iraq is perhaps even more interested in the paragraphs about suspension of sanctions and the financial provisions, as well as the bombing. They will look at all these things, and then we'll see.

I think it is important that they know in advance what inspection procedures we will want to follow. I don't think that there is any room for negotiation about that because the procedures are laid down by the Security Council. Those are the parameters under which we operate—neither expanding them nor reducing them. We do not expand them to cover anything but the weapons of mass destruction. We are not looking at their anti-aircraft artillery; we are looking for missiles.

But nor are we entitled to reduce and surrender anything that the Security Council has laid down. I've been saying that it is the Security Council's role to implement the resolution, and we are a part of that. It is not my task to persuade the Iraqis in any sense. It is my personal view that it would be advantageous for them, but I have not been asked by the Security Council to sell the resolution, nor am I entitled to give any discount on it. That leaves very little wiggle room to meet them. We will have to tell them how we intend to go about the inspections. The more that they know about that in advance, the better. It might encourage cooperation if they can say, "Well, fair enough, we know what you intend to do." I think that will hopefully be a way to reduce potential frictions.

But clearly, on some minor points, Iraq can suggest that it might be more practical to do something this way or another way—where the Iraqi escorts meet you in Baghdad, what time do you give them a telephone call, et cetera. There are minor points within what the Security Council has laid down, but I do not foresee myself sitting in long discussions with Iraq about how inspections are to be run. The Security Council has laid down our responsibility, and I feel no freedom to deviate from that. And I hope the Iraqis do not feel that I have that freedom.

ACT: The Iraqis have said that the burden of proof is on the international community to demonstrate that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction. How do you respond?

Blix: This reasoning is misplaced. The argument comes from criminal procedure, where the prosecutor has to prove the guilt of the accused, and if the prosecutor doesn't do that, then there is a presumption of not guilty. However, we are not interested in that here. We are in a situation where the world wants to have confidence that Iraq does not retain or rebuild the capacity for weapons of mass destruction. You do not build confidence by presumptions. You build it by demonstrating cooperation.

It is true that the IAEA, UNMOVIC, and Iraq cannot prove the absence of the smallest pieces of things. But it is less difficult for Iraq, who sits on all of the documentation and all of the personnel, to come up and demonstrate something than it is for UNMOVIC or the IAEA to do so. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to ask them that they do that. And if, unlike in the case of South Africa, you get to a site in Iraq and you see them running out of the site with briefcases of documents, that is not likely to lead to increased confidence.

Iraq cannot prove—no one can prove—that a big country is free of everything that could be relevant. I would agree that this is not feasible. But the name of the game is to re-establish confidence. To do that, Iraq needs to do precisely what Resolution 1284 mandates: namely, cooperate.

Anticipating Inspections: UNMOVIC Readies Itself for Iraq

The Case for Iraq's Qualitative Disarmament

June 2000

By Scott Ritter

Efforts to resume weapons inspections in Iraq have long been at an impasse.It has been 18 months since inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) were withdrawn from Iraq and six months since the Security Council created a successor organization to assume UNSCOM's mantle. Resolution 1284 established the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in December 1999 and tasked it with verifying Iraq's elimination of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers.

Resolution 687, which had originally spelled out this obligation, was viewed by many in the Security Council (including Russia, France, and China) as no longer viable given UNSCOM's untidy link to Operation Desert Fox, the 72-hour aerial bombardment of Iraq conducted in December 1998. At that time, the United States and the United Kingdom had used an UNSCOM report to the Security Council that laid out the record of Iraqi non-compliance with inspections as justification for the bombing—before the Security Council had any chance to deliberate on the report and without any authorization from that body. The unfortunate fallout from this military action was that Iraq not only refused to allow the UNSCOM inspectors to return, but also rejected any future cooperation with the organization. The inspection process was dead.

In April 2000, the Security Council approved the organizational plan for the new inspectorate, in theory setting the stage for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. However, Iraq refuses to cooperate with either UNMOVIC or its executive chairman, Hans Blix, on the grounds that this new inspection regime is merely a repackaged version of UNSCOM. Furthermore, Resolution 1284 reduced Iraq's incentive to cooperate, stating that the Security Council would only suspend sanctions once Baghdad had complied with inspections, rather than lift them as agreed in Resolution 687. Iraq has made clear that it will never agree to anything less than the lifting of sanctions.

As the situation stands today, Iraq and the Security Council are deadlocked. There is no hope for the return of inspectors to Iraq anytime soon. With each passing day, concern increases over the status of Iraq's WMD programs because there are no inspectors in place to monitor them. Unless the Security Council can come up with a compromise, the situation will only continue to deteriorate.

What is often overlooked in the debate over how to proceed with Iraq's disarmament is the fact that from 1994 to 1998 Iraq was subjected to a strenuous program of ongoing monitoring of industrial and research facilities that could be used to reconstitute proscribed activities. This monitoring provided weapons inspectors with detailed insight into the capabilities, both present and future, of Iraq's industrial infrastructure. It allowed UNSCOM to ascertain, with a high level of confidence, that Iraq was not rebuilding its prohibited weapons programs and that it lacked the means to do so without an infusion of advanced technology and a significant investment of time and money.

Given the comprehensive nature of the monitoring regime put in place by UNSCOM, which included a strict export-import control regime, it was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed. Iraq no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent, if it possessed any at all, and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring. The same was true of Iraq's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. As long as monitoring inspections remained in place, Iraq presented a WMD-based threat to no one.

The success of the UNSCOM monitoring regime may hold the key to unlocking the current stalemate between Iraq and the Security Council. The absolute nature of the disarmament obligation set forth in Resolution 687 meant that anything less than 100 percent disarmament precluded a finding of compliance. There was no latitude for qualitative judgments. As such, the world found itself in a situation where the considerable accomplishments of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors—the elimination of entire categories of WMD and their means of production—were ignored in light of UNSCOM's inability to verify that every aspect of these programs was fully accounted for. Quantitative disarmament (the accounting of every last weapon, component, or bit of related material) took precedence over qualitative disarmament (the elimination of a meaningful, viable capability to produce or employ weapons of mass destruction).

If the Security Council redefines Iraq's disarmament obligation along more meaningful—and politically and technically viable—qualitative standards, UNMOVIC should be able to reconstitute UNSCOM's monitoring program and rapidly come to closure on all outstanding disarmament issues. If such a disarmament program is linked with the lifting of economic sanctions upon a finding of compliance, Iraq will almost certainly agree to cooperate.1

 

Disarming Iraq: 1991-1998

Verifying Iraq's complete disarmament was complicated by the fact that in the summer of 1991 Iraq, disregarding its obligation to submit a complete declaration of its WMD programs, undertook a systematic program of "unilateral destruction," disposing of munitions, components, and production equipment related to all categories of WMD. When Iraq admitted this to UNSCOM, it claimed it had no documentation to prove its professed destruction.

While UNSCOM was able to verify that Iraq had in fact destroyed significant quantities of WMD-related material, without any documents or other hard evidence, it was impossible to confirm Iraq's assertions that it had disposed of all its weapons. UNSCOM's quantitative mandate had become a trap. However, through its extensive investigations, UNSCOM was able to ensure that the vast majority of Iraq's WMD arsenal, along with the means to produce such weaponry, was eliminated. Through monitoring, UNSCOM was able to guarantee that Iraq was not reconstituting that capability in any meaningful way.

Ballistic Missiles

UNSCOM achieved its most dramatic success in the field of ballistic missiles. In his December 1992 report to the Security Council, then-Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus noted,

All ballistic missiles and items related to their production and development, identified as requiring destruction...have been destroyed...considerable progress has been made in obtaining information from Iraq about its operational use of missiles since 1980 and the importation of missile components, and hence in establishing a material balance for these missiles. If analysis of this data does not reveal inconsistencies and if the information provided is not refuted by new evidence from reliable sources, the Commission would appear to have a practically complete picture of Iraq's past SCUD-derivative missile programs.

Over the next six years, UNSCOM continued to investigate Iraq's proscribed missile programs, and while much new information was obtained, nothing ever altered the final conclusion of Ekeus' report.

Because of its success in tracking down Iraq's proscribed missile program, UNSCOM was able to turn its attention toward monitoring Iraq's indigenous missile research, development, and manufacturing capabilities a full year before any of the other weapons disciplines. As a direct result of this early foray into monitoring, UNSCOM was able to fully assess Iraq's capabilities in the field. The March 1993 inspection report of the first monitoring team spelled out the true extent of Iraq's capabilities:

There is no capability to mass produce missiles at the Centre2 and very little capability to produce prototypes...lack of missile design and testing experience, qualified personnel, raw materials and equipment will significantly delay the near-term development of an Iraqi produced missile system. The Team predicts that even under conditions in which they would have sufficient amount of raw material and necessary equipment it will take several years for the Centre to successfully design, produce and test a prototype missile system (solid-unguided rocket) in preparation for mass production.3

Over the years, Iraq made several efforts to acquire the additional technology needed to improve its ballistic missile capabilities. Secret deals with Russia on guidance and control equipment, with Ukraine on rocket-propulsion technology, and with Romania on guidance and control and rocket-propulsion technology were all uncovered by UNSCOM before reaching fruition. All of these covert procurement efforts, although illegal, were in support of a permitted missile system, the 150-kilometer-range Al Samoud, rather than a reconstitution of Iraq's prohibited long-range missile programs.4 UNSCOM's ability to detect and interdict these transactions only underscores the viability of its monitoring regime. Of note is the fact that once sanctions were lifted, such transactions would be legal as long as they were declared under the provisions of the export-import control regime set forth in Security Council Resolution 1051. Iraq would then have no reason to continue to pursue such covert (and illegal) procurement routes.

Chemical Weapons

Through its inspection activities, UNSCOM obtained reasonable information concerning Iraq's chemical weapons (CW) activities from 1981 to 1987, with the exception of data on the use of CW against Iran. Iraq consistently refused to provide details to UNSCOM regarding such use, probably because of the political fallout that such an admission would cause. While this refusal prevented a full accounting of Iraqi CW, Iraq could not still have viable CW from that period because the chemical agent would have long since deteriorated. As an internal UNSCOM working paper noted, an Iraqi declaration of CW use during the war with Iran was not required for any meaningful verification: "Taking into consideration the conditions and the quality of CW-agents and munitions produced by Iraq at that time, there is no possibility of weapons remaining from the mid-1980's."5

The same level of confidence did not exist concerning Iraq's CW activities during the final three years of its chemical weapons program, 1988-1991. The Iraqi leadership took a strategic decision in 1988 to improve its CW capabilities, resulting in the reorganization of the CW program. Iraq transferred precursor-chemical and CW-agent production capability from its premier production site, the Muthanna State Establishment, to alternative civilian sites in an effort to conceal its continued CW activities within Iraq's legitimate civilian chemical industry.

At the inception of the UNSCOM weapons inspection regime, Iraq put forward inaccurate and misleading declarations concerning this latter phase of CW activity. These false declarations were designed to understate the actual level of CW activity that transpired in Iraq from 1988 to 1991 and enable Iraq to retain a significant CW production capability regardless of its disarmament obligation.

UNSCOM inspectors were eventually able to uncover Iraq's incomplete declarations and track down much of the missing information regarding this critical period of Iraq's CW program. However, according to an UNSCOM presentation to the Security Council in early June 1998, there remained several priority issues that needed to be addressed before UNSCOM could issue a judgment on Iraqi compliance:

• the accounting for CW warheads for the Scud missile;

• the material balance for other Iraqi CW munitions;

• a full accounting of Iraq's attempt to produce VX nerve agent; and

• the material balance for equipment used to produce CW agent.6

These were technically valid issues that needed to be addressed in order to declare a full, quantitative disarmament. But given the Iraqi record of half-truths and outright false statements, UNSCOM had difficulty accepting any declaration by Iraq that was not backed up with documents or other verifiable evidence. The fact that Iraq maintained it did not have such documents meant that UNSCOM was faced with trying to prove a negative, which in and of itself is an almost impossible task.

What was overlooked in 1998 was the extent to which UNSCOM had actually eliminated Iraq's CW capability. The Muthanna State Establishment and most of Iraq's associated production equipment had been destroyed, either through aerial bombardment during Operation Desert Storm or under the supervision of UNSCOM inspectors. Iraq's stockpiles of CW agent had either been destroyed in the same manner or could be assumed to have deteriorated.

The two potential exceptions were VX nerve agent and mustard agent that had been loaded into 155 mm artillery shells. Iraq lied to UNSCOM about having a VX program until confronted in 1995 with irrefutable evidence that it had developed a capability to produce VX. In 1996, Iraq turned over specialized glass-lined production equipment associated with its VX program, which UNSCOM then destroyed.

The remaining question over Iraq's VX program hinges on the discovery of chemical traces unique to stabilized VX on several destroyed Scud warhead fragments that were excavated by UNSCOM in early 1998. Iraq disputes this finding, admitting that while it did succeed in producing stabilized VX on a laboratory scale, it never weaponized stabilized VX. The Iraqi argument appears to be valid. Producing significant stocks of VX for use on weapons that would still be viable today would have required an advance in CW technology that Iraq did not demonstrate.

Indeed, the glass-lined production equipment turned over to UNSCOM by Iraq in 1996 was intended for large-scale VX production, but it had never been used. In addition, the fact that UNSCOM conducted numerous inspections of ammunition depots, chemical production plants, and potential storage areas, using some of the most sensitive chemical detection technology available, and found no trace of CW agent minimizes the likelihood that Iraq maintains any significant stockpile of VX weapons.

The other issue is the mustard-filled artillery shells. Iraq declared to UNSCOM that it had a stockpile of 13,500 such shells on the eve of the Persian Gulf War. UNSCOM supervised the destruction of 12,747 of these shells, and Iraq declared that the remaining shells had been destroyed by aerial bombardment of two storage sites during Desert Storm. UNSCOM could find no evidence of any destroyed 155 mm shells at the main storage area, but it did discover four intact artillery shells lying on the ground in one of the storage sites. The mustard was tested and found to be 94-97 percent pure—a viable weapon. Given the purity of the mustard, UNSCOM made finding the remaining shells a priority.

Iraq denies having retained these shells; but regardless, a few hundred 155 mm mustard shells have little military value on the modern battlefield. A meaningful CW attack using artillery requires thousands of rounds. Retention of such a limited number of shells makes no sense and cannot be viewed as a serious threat.

Far more important to assuring Iraq's qualitative disarmament is disabling its production capability—a task that at first glance seems almost impossible. A 1998 UNSCOM document laid out all the possible ways Iraq could conceal a CW production capability.7 The document noted that Iraq could either bury precursor chemicals or distribute them throughout its commercial chemical industry to disguise their true use. Likewise, it could distribute empty dual-use munitions to depots under the cover of legitimate use, bury them, or continuously move them around in trucks. The documents required to resume CW activity could, if microfilmed, be stored in a single briefcase.

Even more disturbing, the 1998 UNSCOM document noted that Iraq could readily distribute the main pieces of equipment needed for CW production throughout its commercial facilities, meaning that equipment that had a legitimate use in commercial chemical-related activity could also be used for CW manufacture. As long as this equipment was maintained at legitimate facilities, any hidden intent by Iraq to use it for illicit purposes would go undetected. "There is no single-use CW equipment, all pieces are dual use and could be justified at different locations," the document noted.

There was absolutely no evidence that Iraq was trying to hide CW production equipment. In its monitoring capacity, UNSCOM carried out extensive inspections of all of Iraq's civilian chemical manufacturing infrastructure and found no evidence of illicit stores of CW precursor chemicals. Precursor chemicals are difficult to hide from inspectors because the minimum amount required for any viable CW-agent production run is several hundred tons. Inspections of dozens of Iraqi munitions depots by UNSCOM also failed to turn up any illicit unfilled munitions.

However, the key to the qualitative argument is that individual pieces of CW production equipment are worthless unless they are assembled in a specific configuration, a unique combination that would be readily discernible to weapons inspectors. "Only the proper combination of different pieces of equipment in a particular configuration gives to...these pieces of equipment the status of a CW production facility," the UNSCOM document noted. The point is that all of UNSCOM's speculative fears concerning reconstitution of an Iraqi CW capability can be laid to rest as long as a viable monitoring inspection regime, one that would detect any specialized configuration of dual-use equipment, is in place—the kind of regime that existed prior to the withdrawal of inspectors in December 1998.

Biological Weapons

Perhaps the most misunderstood member of Iraq's WMD family, the biological weapons (BW) program has been described by Richard Butler, UNSCOM's executive chairman from July 1997 to June 1999, as "a black hole."8 One of the principal reasons for such a bleak assessment is the prevailing atmosphere of mistrust that has clouded the issue from the start. Iraq denied having a BW program until June 1995, when UNSCOM confronted Baghdad with evidence of massive procurement of growth media that could not otherwise be explained. Even so, Iraq refused to admit it had an offensive BW program until after the 1995 defection of Hussein Kamal, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and former head of Iraq's WMD programs. At that time, Iraq admitted to having weaponized 25 Scud warheads and 157 bombs.

Despite the fact that UNSCOM destroyed the totality of Iraq's declared production facilities, equipment, and raw material associated with BW in 1996, UNSCOM experts, backed up by panels of qualified scientists from around the world, found Iraq's declarations regarding BW to be inadequate "scientifically, technically, militarily, and managerially."9 The primary point of contention was the inability of the experts to verify, based upon the available documentation, most of the declarations made by Iraq concerning both the scope of the Iraqi BW program and what the Iraqis maintained they unilaterally destroyed in 1991. Inspectors could not account for the material balance for supplies, equipment, and material for the BW program, the production of BW agent, and the production of munitions (i.e., the filling of empty munitions with BW agent). The most frustrating aspect of this issue was that unlike the CW inspectors, who had hard facts contradicting the Iraqi position on VX, the BW inspectors had no evidence of Iraqi non-compliance; they simply refused to accept the Iraqi declaration as valid without records, documents, and physical evidence.

Because of this lack of substantive information, the BW inspection group implemented the most intensive of all UNSCOM's monitoring regimes, drawing in dozens of sites ranging from those involved in vaccine and pharmaceutical work to university-level research laboratories to beer-brewing factories and animal-feed production plants (which could conceivably be converted to mass-produce BW agent). Detailed protocols for each site were developed, and teams of highly trained biologists combed these sites repeatedly for any sign of wrongdoing by Iraq. But while UNSCOM and Iraq faced off over the inadequacies of the Iraqi BW declaration, the biologists responsible for monitoring Iraqi compliance found exactly that—compliance. In all of their inspections, the monitors could find no meaningful evidence of Iraqi circumvention of its commitment not to reconstitute its BW program.

Even "spectacular" finds, such as the widely publicized surprise inspection of the National Food and Drug Examination Laboratory in September 1998, which resulted in exposing the existence of "Staff 7" (also known as the Biological Activities Staff) of the Special Security Organization, turned out to be more ordinary than originally thought. "Staff 7" was responsible for testing the food and other material brought in contact with Saddam Hussein and other senior government officials, nothing more.

One of the conclusions drawn from the extensive monitoring of Iraq's biological capabilities carried out by UNSCOM was that the overall level of Iraq's biological capability, in terms of available infrastructure, was very low. Vaccine and pharmaceutical development and manufacture had deteriorated dramatically because of the continued economic sanctions, and without a massive infusion of money and technology, they would continue to do so. The reality of the situation was that, regardless of UNSCOM's ability to verify Iraq's declarations regarding its past BW programs, the major BW production facility at Al Hakum had been destroyed, together with its associated equipment, and extensive monitoring of Iraq's biological infrastructure could find no evidence of continued proscribed activity. If weapons inspectors were once again allowed back into Iraq to resume monitoring along the lines carried out by UNSCOM, there is no reason to doubt that similar findings would be had, with the same level of confidence.

Nuclear Weapons

Under the arrangements set forth in Resolution 687, responsibility for overseeing the disarmament of Iraq's nuclear weapons capability was given to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Often overlooked in the debate about Iraq's nuclear capabilities is just how effective the IAEA was at destroying, dismantling, or rendering harmless Iraq's nuclear weapons capability. Despite every attempt by Iraq to retain some level of nuclear weapons capability, the massive infrastructure Baghdad had assembled by 1991 to produce a nuclear bomb had been eliminated by 1995. Al Atheer, the nuclear weaponization facility, had been destroyed—blown up under IAEA supervision—and all other major facilities related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program had either been dismantled or were subjected to one of the most stringent forms of ongoing monitoring and verification inspections ever implemented under a disarmament accord.

By 1996, the IAEA had established a seamless monitoring-based inspection regime that provided absolute certainty Iraq would not be able to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program short of acquiring a complete nuclear weapon abroad. While black-market transactions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons material is a serious issue, it is well beyond the mandate of IAEA inspections inside Iraq. There has been no evidence provided of any attempt by Iraq to acquire a nuclear weapon or major related components since 1991. (Iraq has attempted to acquire some dual-use items, fueling speculation about its intent, but all items were minor and would not have had any meaningful impact on a full-scale nuclear weapons effort.) Furthermore, given the high quality of the IAEA monitoring approach in Iraq, any such items, if not detected outright by IAEA inspectors, would have to be hidden by the Iraqis in a fashion that would preclude their use in any covert rearmament activity because any attempt at rearmament would be discovered by the monitoring inspections.

Despite the effectiveness of the IAEA at eliminating Iraq's nuclear capabilities, rumors of Iraq possessing a nuclear device persist. The main cause of such speculation is information provided by an Iraqi defector from the security services who fled Iraq in 1995 and came to the attention of UNSCOM in early 1997. The defector, to whom UNSCOM gained access through cooperation with supporting governments, possessed information pertaining to the methods and units used by Iraq to conceal its retained proscribed weapons from UNSCOM and the IAEA.

This information, especially as pertaining to the Military Industrial Commission Security Service, proved to be unerringly accurate and established the defector as a valid and potentially valuable source.10 Based upon the defector's proven credibility, when he later provided UNSCOM with secondhand information about Iraq's continued possession of "a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb," UNSCOM had no choice but to take the allegation seriously. According to the defector, Iraqi security forces maintained a fleet of some 150 Mercedes trucks that were dedicated to transporting material associated with the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. These trucks were maintained in at least five depots around the Baghdad area. The defector provided detailed descriptions of the vehicles, including color schemes and license plate numbers, as well as information on convoy movement and the vehicle makeup of convoys associated with the movement of the "bomb."

Rolf Ekeus decided the defector's report should be thoroughly investigated. At the same time, the IAEA was involved in ongoing technical discussions with their Iraqi counterparts about gaps in the information provided by Iraq concerning its nuclear program. It was thought that the defector's report might also help answer some of the IAEA's remaining questions.

Of particular concern was incomplete information on the status of the final Iraqi design for a nuclear bomb and the disposition of design drawings and molds for the manufacture of the high-explosive lenses needed for an implosion device. The IAEA noted that several critical drawings were missing and that there was an inconsistency in the Iraqi story about the lens program. Iraqi authorities at first stated that, because their final nuclear weapon design called for the outer dimensions of the device to be reduced from 120 centimeters to less than 80 centimeters (in order to fit in the warhead of a Scud-type missile), the effort never went beyond the design stage as Iraqi engineers struggled to shrink the weapon. The Iraqis then conceded that they had in fact cast some lenses for testing purposes, and the IAEA and UNSCOM speculated that it was possible Iraq had manufactured three or four sets of high-explosive lenses.

Coordination between UNSCOM and the IAEA on this issue during the summer of 1997 resulted in the dismissal of the basic premise that Iraq had a "20-kiloton nuclear bomb." All evidence, including testimony from Hussein Kamal, clearly established that Iraq had not manufactured a nuclear weapon by the time of the Gulf War. In response to a question from the IAEA as to whether Iraq had tried to produce a bomb and whether such efforts were ongoing, Hussein Kamal replied,

Yes, but not now, before the Gulf War. First they studied 12 ton, then 9 ton and then 5 ton. These are weights of a device which they would make suitable for delivery. These were only studies…. All the time they worked to make it smaller but had never reached a point close to testing.11

Nevertheless, continued inconsistencies in the Iraqi story, combined with the refusal of the Iraqi side to provide the IAEA with an overall design concept of the nuclear device, made it prudent to examine every report that hinted at continued concealment activities on the part of Iraq. However, both UNSCOM and the IAEA were in agreement that for the defector's report to be credible, the material in question could only be components of a 20-kiloton device, not an actual bomb. Since 1998, the IAEA has gained access to additional documentation, in the form of log books pertaining to the production of high-explosive lenses, that further clarifies the issue of high-explosive lens manufacture by Iraq, thus eliminating one of the main concerns fueling ongoing speculation that Iraq continues to possess major nuclear weapon components.12

In conclusion, it is highly unlikely that the defector's claims concerning an Iraqi nuclear bomb are accurate. Unfortunately, speculation that Iraq has retained some nuclear capability simply will not go away. It is conceivable that Iraq could have retained certain components of a nuclear device. However, there is no credible evidence of this, and even if such material were retained, it would be of no use to Iraq, given the extent to which Iraq's nuclear program was dismantled by the IAEA. The best way to ensure that Iraq does not reconstitute its nuclear weapons program is to get IAEA inspectors back into Iraq, where they can resume their task of monitoring Iraqi compliance.

 

Iraq Today

The absence of weapons inspectors in Iraq since December 1998 has created a vacuum of available data on which to base an assessment of Iraq's current activities. Rushing to fill this void have been a series of speculative reports that have attributed certain capabilities to Iraq that are incompatible with what UNSCOM learned from eight years of experience with Iraq's WMD programs. The truth of the matter is, devoid of weapons inspections, no one knows for sure what has transpired in Iraq since the last inspectors were withdrawn. Conjecture aside, however, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Iraq could have meaningfully reconstituted any element of its WMD capabilities in the past 18 months.

From a WMD perspective, Iraq today is not the Iraq of 1991. What took Iraq decades to build through the expenditure of billions of dollars could not, under any rational analysis, have been reconstituted since December 1998. Iraq's nuclear enrichment infrastructure has been reduced to zero, and Iraq lacks the funding, technology, and time required to reconstitute it. In theory, some practical work could have been carried out in the field of high-explosive lens development, but any serious effort would require the diversion of controlled stocks of specialized explosives that had been used for manufacturing the lenses, something that would be readily discerned once IAEA inspectors return to work.

In addition to the fact that UNSCOM was thoroughly monitoring all activity related to the Al Samoud missile project, the major facilities related to the development efforts of this permitted missile system were bombed and either destroyed or heavily damaged during Operation Desert Fox. When, in the summer of 1999, the CIA detected signs of reconstruction at these facilities, the Clinton administration immediately warned of an imminent threat. However, such assessments were not shared by the scientists and technicians of UNSCOM, who knew Iraq's capabilities better than anyone. One study, prepared in July 1996 by a British missile expert, set the tone for all reports that followed:

Even given a relaxation of the sanctions program, if there are no quantum jumps in the level of technology available to [Iraq], it should be many years before an indigenously designed, 150 kilometer range, Iraqi missile has the integrated range/payload/accuracy to militarily threaten even the immediate region.13

Nothing has transpired since 1996 that could remotely be construed as a "quantum jump" in Iraq's ballistic missiles capabilities.

Some U.S. government officials, media pundits, and former UNSCOM staff (including Rolf Ekeus and Richard Butler) fear that Iraq, if it indeed retained all the material that some in UNSCOM believe possible, could readily reconstitute its chemical- and biological-agent production capabilities. However, manufacturing CW would require assembling production equipment into a single integrated facility, creating an infrastructure readily detectable by the strategic intelligence capabilities of the United States. The CIA has clearly stated on several occasions since the termination of inspections in December 1998 that no such activity has been detected. The Iraqis do have enough equipment to carry out laboratory-scale production of BW agent. However, without an infusion of money and technology, expanding such a capability into a viable weapons program is a virtual impossibility. Contrary to popular belief, BW cannot simply be cooked up in the basement; it requires a large and sophisticated infrastructure, especially if the agent is to be filled into munitions. As with CW, the CIA has not detected any such activity concerning BW since UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq.

CIA assessments alone cannot certify that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction; national intelligence systems have failed to detect WMD efforts in Iraq in the past. But because of the work carried out by UNSCOM, it can be fairly stated that Iraq was qualitatively disarmed at the time inspectors were withdrawn. While no one can say for certain what has transpired inside Iraq since then, the resumption of monitoring-based inspections would easily determine if Iraq had made any effort to reconstitute its WMD programs.

 

Moving Forward

Iraq has not fully complied with the provisions of Security Council Resolution 687. On this there is no debate. However, this failure to comply does not automatically translate into a finding that Iraq continues to possess weapons of mass destruction and the means to produce them. Resolution 687 demanded far more than the dismantling of viable weapons and weapons-production capabilities. Most of UNSCOM's findings of Iraqi non-compliance concerned either the inability to verify an Iraqi declaration or peripheral matters, such as components and documentation, which by and of themselves do not constitute a weapon or program. By the end of 1998, Iraq had, in fact, been disarmed to a level unprecedented in modern history, but UNSCOM and the Security Council were unable—and in some instances unwilling—to acknowledge this accomplishment.

Unfortunately, the quantitative standards for Iraqi compliance set forth in Resolution 687 are still in place today in the form of Resolution 1284, which emphasizes verifying material balance over resuming viable monitoring activities. This is a formula for disaster, perpetuating the cycle of conflict with Iraq that led to the discrediting of UNSCOM. UNMOVIC will meet the same fate unless the Security Council takes measures to refocus the inspection regime on disarmament issues related to viable weapons and weapons-production capability, instead of engaging in a never-ending effort to account for every last vestige of Iraq's former WMD programs. UNMOVIC should move rapidly to the more important task of monitoring Iraq to ensure that its dismantled weapons programs are not reconstituted.

In this vein, Hans Blix should target his inspections carefully. Blix has made clear his desire to continue the same inspection tactics employed by UNSCOM, including no-notice inspections and aerial surveillance. While such rights are at the core of any credible on-site inspection regime, UNMOVIC's no-notice inspections should focus on facilities that have a legitimate bearing on WMD research, development, and manufacture. Blix should avoid pressure to continue aggressive inspections aimed at Iraqi presidential and security sites. Such inspections have historically produced little to do with disarmament, and given the misuse of sensitive information gathered by UNSCOM from such sites in the past, they would be viewed with mistrust not only by Iraq, but also by many members of the Security Council.14

One serious obstacle to the reformulation of Iraq's disarmament obligation by the Security Council is the current U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power, codified in the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998. That law has so far failed to threaten Saddam Hussein in any meaningful way, but it has succeeded in precluding any significant diplomatic initiative by locking the United States into a unilateral policy that makes cooperation with Iraq impossible. If the United States is serious about disarming Iraq, it should repeal the Iraqi Liberation Act and work within the framework of the Security Council to formulate a policy that results in the rapid reintroduction of meaningful, monitoring-based weapons inspections into Iraq.

That will require the lifting, not simply the suspension, of sanctions. While it is true that the sanctions have retarded Iraq's ability to acquire technology that could aid any WMD reconstitution effort, Resolution 687 stated that a finding of compliance would trigger the lifting of sanctions. Sanctions are thus not an open-ended option. At some point, they will need to be lifted, and if a finding of qualitative disarmament, backed with the implementation of viable monitoring-based inspections, can be achieved, then there is no reason to keep sanctions in place.

The Security Council must also follow through on the promise it made in paragraph 14 of Resolution 687, which speaks of regional disarmament. While monitoring-based inspections in Iraq must be expected to last indefinitely, they cannot be expected to last in a vacuum. Unless arrangements are made to address WMD programs in Iran and Israel, as well as the regional proliferation of advanced conventional weaponry, Iraq will never accept perpetual disarmament.

What is needed is a Security Council resolution that concludes Resolution 687, supersedes Resolution 1284, and redefines the disarmament obligations of Iraq to meet more realistic qualitative benchmarks. In addition to verifying Iraqi compliance with these new benchmarks, the resulting inspectorate, whether a revamped UNMOVIC or a new agency, would be tasked with implementing a monitoring regime similar to the one UNSCOM had in place prior to its withdrawal from Iraq. Once Iraq's disarmament along clearly defined qualitative standards had been verified by weapons inspectors, and after a viable monitoring regime was in place to detect and deter any attempt at reconstituting its WMD programs, the Security Council would lift, not suspend, economic sanctions.

Refocusing inspection goals and objectives would not only capitalize on UNSCOM's many accomplishments in rooting out and disposing of Iraq's prohibited weapons, it would also help the Security Council regain some of its lost credibility and resume its role as a viable overseer of international peace and security. It also meets the original intent of the Security Council to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, not its leadership. Such a policy, built on the precepts of diplomatic engagement, would promote peace and security more than any other alternative policy currently being considered. And that, of course, is what arms control and disarmament are all about.

NOTES

1. Author conversations with Iraqi government officials in 1999 and 2000.

2. The Ibn Al Haytham Missile Research and Design Center, which took over responsibility for Iraq's permitted ballistic missile programs in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

3. Azad Vekilov, "Ibn Al Haytham Missile Research and Development Center MT-1 (UNSCOM 49) Report on Interim Monitoring," March 22, 1992. UNSCOM document.

4. Resolution 687 permits Iraq to possess ballistic missiles with a range of 150 kilometers or less, as well as the means to produce them.

5. Igor Mitrokhin, "Concealment Aspect—Chemical Weapons," January 20, 1998. UNSCOM document.Igor Mitrokhin, "Concealment Aspect—Chemical Weapons," January 20, 1998. UNSCOM document.

6. Presentation by UNSCOM to the Security Council, June 3, 1998.

7. Mitrokhin, op. cit.Mitrokhin, op. cit.

8. Richard Butler, The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Growing Crisis in Global Security, Public Affairs: New York, 2000, p. 81.

9. Richard Spertzel, "Presentation of Biological Weapons Related Issues to the Security Council," June 3, 1998.

10.The Military Industrial Commission Security Service, also known as the Amn al Tasnia, is responsible for military-industrial facility and personnel security.

11."Conversation tete-a-tete with Lieutenant General Hussein Kamal Hassan al-Majid, 22 August 1995, 1:00-3:00 p.m., Amman, Jordan," UNSCOM document.

12.A separate investigation concerning the existence of a hide site near the Iraqi city of Najaf used to store materials relating to Iraq's dismantled centrifuge enrichment program was carried out by the IAEA and UNSCOM using information from the same defector—information that was, if anything, more detailed than that of the truck convoys. This investigation refuted the defector's information, casting a shadow over the viability of his other information.

13. UNSCOM ballistic missile team, "A Note on the Capabilities of Iraqi Machine Tools and Production Processes," July 8, 1996. UNSCOM document.

14. Operation Desert Fox made extensive use of information gleaned from UNSCOM inspections in targeting presidential palaces and security and military facilities throughout Iraq.


Scott Ritter, former weapons inspector and chief of the concealment unit for UNSCOM, is the author of Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem—Once and for All.

The Case for Iraq's Qualitative Disarmament

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