"I want to tell you that your fact sheet on the [Missile Technology Control Regime] is very well done and useful for me when I have to speak on MTCR issues."

– Amb. Thomas Hajnoczi
Chair, MTCR
May 19, 2021
Issue Briefs

Turning Iran Away From Nuclear Weapons

Daryl G. Kimball

Situated in a rough, nuclear-armed neighborhood, Iran has for more than two decades been on the short list of states with the potential capability and motivation to get the bomb. Troubling revelations make it clear that Iran is now within closer reach of a nuclear weapons-making capacity than previously thought.

With Iran nearing the nuclear weapons crossroads, the international community must redouble its efforts to persuade Tehran’s leaders to accept greater transparency and forego the nuclear weapons route. In the long run, success hinges on whether the United States can fashion a new and more sophisticated strategy to reduce Iran’s incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and increase the benefits of openness and compliance.

Over the years, U.S. policymakers have successfully used the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to conduct special inspections in Iran and further limit Iran’s access to sensitive nuclear technologies. But recent site inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prompted Iran to reveal that it is pursuing a very extensive array of nuclear projects, including uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz that could provide the ingredients for nuclear weapons.

The leaders of oil-rich Iran claim that the projects are strictly for “peaceful” uses and will remain under IAEA safeguards which guard against diversion for military purposes. But without Iranian acceptance of a more intrusive inspection protocol, the IAEA cannot determine whether additional, undeclared nuclear capabilities exist or whether Iran has already enriched uranium, a step that would violate its NPT obligations.

With increased attention focused on its intentions, Iran’s wisest course would be to promptly dispel doubts by signing up to the Additional Protocol and providing the IAEA with honest answers to its inquiries. Without such cooperation, the European Union should delay the establishment of closer economic ties and Russia should withhold further technical assistance on the current light-water reactor project at Bushehr.

U.S. efforts to gain Iran’s support for the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and for reducing Russia’s nuclear assistance are vital but insufficient. Even with greater transparency under the Additional Protocol and strict compliance with the NPT, Iran may still have the capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear material within the decade, and it might withdraw from the treaty and build nuclear weapons.

Ultimately, Iran’s leaders will decide whether to pursue the nuclear weapons path, but the United States can help affect that decision and avoid the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. To do so, Washington must finally address the factors that could encourage Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

To begin, the president and his aides must refrain from inflaming Iranian nationalism with bellicose threats and demands. Such statements, along with the inclusion of Iran in the administration’s “axis of evil,” only increase Iranian perceptions of insecurity. They reinforce arguments from hardline clerical leaders in Iran who wrongly believe that nuclear weapons enhance their national prestige, help counter Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and balance U.S. conventional forces deployed in the region.

The value of nuclear weapons for Iran is illusory. They would undermine rather than enhance Iran’s security by increasing the threat of pre-emptive attack from nuclear-armed Israel or the United States. Some Iranian leaders appear to recognize this reality. In 2002, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian defense minister, said, “The existence of nuclear weapons will turn us into a threat to others that could be exploited in a dangerous way to harm our relations with the countries of the region.”

As long as U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy in the region is solely trained on denying Iran nuclear weapons while overlooking NPT outliers such as Israel, Iranian leaders are likely to ensure that they are in a position to produce nuclear weapons relatively quickly, despite the costs. Instead, the United States should convey assurances rather than threats.

One important step would be to clarify to Iran that neither the United States nor Israel will initiate a military attack as long as it does not acquire nuclear weapons, support terrorism, or threaten Israel’s existence. Washington should also reaffirm its longstanding commitment to support a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free-zone.

Iran’s nuclear activities create difficult challenges that defy quick military solutions and will require steadfast and multifaceted diplomacy. The NPT’s safeguards have their limitations, but they provide the fundamental legal and technical basis for preventing proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. Not only must Iran abide by its commitments, but the United States must also adopt a more consistent nonproliferation policy that reinforces the view within Iran that it does not need and will not benefit from nuclear weapons.


The Case of Iraq's "Missing" Weapons

Daryl G. Kimball

The stated rationale for President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was intelligence indicating the presence of chemical and biological weapons and renewed nuclear weapons work. Turning its back on a UN arms inspections process it never fully supported, the administration embraced pre-emptive war as its preferred method of curtailing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

After scouring Iraq for more than two months, however, the Pentagon has thus far failed to uncover evidence backing up the administration’s prewar claims. The case of the “missing” Iraqi weapons requires that we re-examine the administration’s rush to war in Iraq, as well as the use of intelligence to justify pre-emptive action against other states. It also underscores the enduring technical and political value of international weapons inspections.

To be sure, Iraq has possessed chemical and biological weapons, used chemical weapons, and pursued nuclear weapons in the past. During the 1990s, the first group of UN inspectors destroyed the bulk of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons and dismantled its nuclear bomb program, but the Iraqi government failed to cooperate fully. For this very reason, arms control advocates pressed for the prompt return of the UN inspectors with expanded capabilities and authority. After three months of renewed inspections in 2002 and 2003, scant evidence of WMD was uncovered. Still, more time and cooperation was needed to resolve a number of serious questions about unaccounted-for nerve and mustard agents, as well as chemical and biological munitions.

Although the administration now cites several reasons for the war, its chief claim was that UN weapons inspections had failed and that Iraq’s WMD posed an imminent threat. In his February 5 presentation to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell asserted that “Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons.” A British government report suggested that such weapons could be ready for use within 45 minutes. Vice President Dick Cheney went even further, saying March 16 that Iraq had “reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Now it is the Bush administration urging patience, as the U.S. “military exploitation teams” that are searching Iraq come up empty-handed. Bush has even suggested that suspected WMD might have been destroyed before or during the invasion. Although it dismissed France’s prewar proposal to boost the number of UN inspectors, the Pentagon has belatedly decided to increase the number of U.S. specialists looking for Iraq’s banned weapons.

Should the absence of dramatic weapons finds be surprising? Not really, given the likelihood that UN inspections had effectively denied Iraq militarily significant WMD capabilities. Neither should it be surprising if the Pentagon finds dual-use technology and documentation about prohibited weapons work in the past—after all, Iraq did have active WMD programs at a time when Hussein was considered an ally by Washington.

What is shocking is the failure of U.S. and British forces to secure known Iraqi nuclear facilities in the final days of the war. The Department of Defense says only 200 personnel were assigned to the task. Reports indicate that widespread looting occurred at the Tuwaitha facility and six other sites in early April. As a result, dangerous nuclear materials might now be in unfriendly hands—one of the dangers Bush said the war would prevent. Not until late last month did the Pentagon agree to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to return to help secure the sites.

The lack of clear evidence of Iraqi WMD makes it all the more apparent that the latest round of tougher UN inspections were successful in stopping Iraq from assembling a militarily significant chemical or biological weapons arsenal and that they blocked further nuclear weapons activities. UN and IAEA inspectors should be allowed to return to Iraq to complete the task of long-term monitoring and disarmament. Unfortunately, the U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution on postwar arrangements effectively denies UN inspectors the opportunity to do so.

The case of Iraq also underscores the limitations of national intelligence as a basis for pre-emptive war. A good deal of the administration’s case against Iraq was built on information from groups with an interest in the overthrow of Hussein, such as the Iraqi National Congress. In a 2002 report, the CIA itself documented the unreliability of such sources.

If, over time, the dire prewar assessments of Iraq’s weapons prove false, it will be harder to win support for efforts to check the proliferation behavior of foes and even friends. In the long run, the United States can ill-afford to undermine international inspection efforts or injure its own credibility by invoking shaky assessments of weapons dangers to fit preconceived political or military objectives.


North Korea: What's Next?

Daryl G. Kimball

The North Korean nuclear crisis that has been simmering for months is getting closer to the boiling point, and it urgently requires a better-coordinated, more effective diplomatic effort to cool tensions and reach a deal to verifiably dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities. In late April, at the first such meeting in six months, North Korea’s representative reportedly told a senior U.S. official that Pyongyang already has nuclear weapons. Although the restart of talks was a positive step, and long overdue, the nuclear boast could polarize views, making a peaceful resolution of the conflict even more difficult.

As the Bush administration considers its next move, its first priority should be avoiding statements or actions that could worsen the situation. During the past two years, the administration’s “axis of evil” approach has clearly not halted North Korea’s nuclear programs. Instead, North Korea has undertaken a dangerous series of actions: it expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, withdrew from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and accelerated uranium-enrichment and plutonium work.

North Korea’s defiance must be met with firm, universal condemnation. At this stage, however, the pursuit of economic sanctions would do little to stop North Korea’s dangerous nuclear activities and could further escalate tensions. Nor should the administration talk publicly about military options, which would further stoke North Korean fears andbrinksmanship. South Korea would not support preemptive military action, in part, because it would likely lead to a major conventional war that could devastate Seoul.

Despite North Korea’s ominous and typically brash negotiating tactics, the United States cannot afford to rule out further talks or to lose focus on achieving prompt results. Doing so would only give the North the time it needs to produce plutonium and uranium for additional weapons, thus further undermining regional security. The late-April meetings in Beijing were only the second such exchange in more than two years. Each time, substantive proposals for resolving the crisis have been withheld or overshadowed as a result of dramatic accusations and threats.

Further diplomacy, absent a realistic U.S. negotiating strategy, however, will not eliminate the North’s nuclear weapons potential either. For months, the Bush administration has been at war with itself over how to handle North Korea. Hard-liners resist further talks and want to use the Iraq war to pressure Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear programs or else to meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein’s regime. Other factions seek a diplomatic solution but have been undercut by North Korean missteps and unnecessarily tough talk from other administration officials.

As a result, the administration’s plan has amounted to little more than demonizing Pyongyang and demanding that it dismantle all of its nuclear capabilities before agreeing to substantive negotiations on achieving that very goal. Such an approach might play well on the television talk shows, but it leaves Pyongyang without a face-saving means to meet the United States’ bottom-line objectives and risks further escalation of the crisis.

Pyongyang’s claim that it already has nuclear weapons suggests it fears it is on the U.S. target list and believes that nuclear weapons can help avoid attack. In reality, North Korea’s sizeable conventional force already constitutes a powerful deterrent, and its pursuit of nuclear weapons increases, not decreases, the motivation of Washington to strike. The Bush administration should be willing to clarify that it bears no hostile intent and pledge not to attack the North so long as Pyongyang freezes current nuclear activities and allows the verifiable dismantlement of any nuclear weapons, along with its fissile material production facilities, to proceed according to a clear timetable.

Meanwhile, to reinforce its North Korea policy and preserve the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the United States must adopt a more consistent and balanced global strategy. If the lesson Pyongyang has drawn from the Iraq war is that it needs nuclear weapons, the lesson it has drawn from Pakistan and India is that there are only short-term penalties for violating nonproliferation norms. These two NPT holdouts, along with Israel, have maintained nuclear weapons programs with little or no U.S. criticism.

In the next few weeks, other Asian states must help press for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and urge North Korea and the United States to seek a comprehensive agreement. A new deal centered on security assurances and energy assistance in exchange for a verifiable end to the North’s nuclear and missile programs is still feasible. Such a result would not represent a reward for bad behavior as much as it would eliminate Pyongyang’s stated motive for going nuclear and help end a new Asian arms race before it starts.


At the Crossroads on Iraq

Daryl G. Kimball

Three months after the return of UN arms inspectors to Iraq, chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei have, not surprisingly, reported mixed results. While there is broad international agreement on the need for Iraqi compliance with UN Resolution 1441, the UN Security Council is once again divided about the next steps.

After providing needed leadership for renewed and tougher inspections last fall, the Bush administration now asserts that further inspections are futile and threatens to go to war even without broad international support. Is there a need to take further action? Yes. Does this mean that armed invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government is the advisable and necessary action at this juncture? No.

If ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is the real goal and war is truly the last resort, then the United States and the Security Council can and must reinforce the powers of the UN inspectors and increase diplomatic and military pressure on Baghdad. The current inspections regime need not last indefinitely, as some fear it might. Blix told Time magazine, “If [the Iraqis] cooperate fully and spontaneously, then the time should be short. If it’s a moderate amount of cooperation…it’s a question of months.”

Baghdad has cooperated more than it did in the 1990s but has yet to provide a complete explanation of past activities and evidence that it has ceased its pursuit of prohibited weapons. Perhaps of greatest concern are the suspected and unaccounted for nerve and mustard agents; chemical and biological munitions; and the presence of ballistic missiles with ranges beyond UN-imposed limits.

Even unobstructed weapons inspections will not guarantee that every prohibited Iraqi weapon has been eliminated. But tough inspections can provide the necessary confidence that Iraq cannot reconstitute militarily significant chemical, biological, and nuclear capabilities. Further inspections might also produce more definitive findings to help the Security Council members bridge their differences on the next steps.

Currently, there is no imminent threat that justifies a full-scale invasion of Iraq and the many risks and casualties such a course entails. The return of the inspectors and the presence of U.S. troops are, for now, effectively containing the potential threat posed by Iraq. The ability of the United States to maintain the diplomatic and military pressure needed to sustain this process over the next several months exceeds its ability to absorb the political, monetary, and human costs of a precipitous military invasion.

Inspectors have now conducted nearly 600 inspections of more than 425 sites but are just now beginning to use all the tools, such as U2 overflights, afforded to them under Resolution 1441. More can and must be done to make inspections more effective and to compel greater Iraqi cooperation. To start, U.S. intelligence agencies have not yet supplied the inspectors with their most useful data on suspected weapons-related activities and should do so immediately. The United States and other UN members should take steps to further limit Iraqi access to dual-use items.

For their part, Blix and ElBaradei must test Iraq’s commitment to allow its weapons scientists and engineers to be interviewed without interference. They should also substantially beef up their contingent of just over 100 inspectors. This would enable them to maintain an ongoing presence at the most worrisome sites. The inspectors should also exercise their authority to prohibit the movement of vehicles and aircraft around suspected sites in order to prevent the movement of banned weapons materials.

It is also crucial that Blix and ElBaradei establish a timetable to compel greater Iraqi cooperation. Such milestones would clarify for council members whether Iraq is meeting its obligations and help restore much needed unanimity on how to respond if Iraq complies and if it does not. Blix has wisely established a March 1 deadline to begin destruction of Baghdad’s prohibited al Samoud 2 missiles.

It is certainly past time for Iraq to account for and verifiably destroy the rest of its proscribed weapons. But if President George W. Bush abandons tougher inspections and invades Iraq without support from the Security Council and greater evidence of an imminent threat, he may well undermine the very institutions and mechanisms needed to preserve international law and order. An undertaking so complex, serious, and deadly as invasion must have broader international approval and legitimacy.

Unless Blix and ElBaradei report that their efforts have become futile because of blatant Iraqi noncooperation, it remains in the United States’ vital interests to vigorously pursue the inspections process. The prudent course for the Security Council is to further strengthen the inspections regime, maintain pressure on Iraq, and restore consensus on how best to achieve its disarmament.


Beyond the 'Axis of Evil'

Daryl G. Kimball

In response to the rapidly worsening crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the George W. Bush administration has quietly reversed itself and agreed to restart direct talks with Pyongyang—and none too soon. Recently, North Korea has said it would unfreeze its plutonium facilities and withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The shift in the administration’s strategy, along with South Korea’s mediation offer, provides a stronger basis for a peaceful solution to end North Korea’s defiant and dangerous bid to become the world’s ninth nuclear-weapon state.

The Bush policy adjustment follows the failure of the administration’s attempts to coerce Pyongyang to implement its denuclearization commitments and threatening punitive economic measures if it does not. Upon its arrival in office, the Bush administration abandoned its predecessor’s policy of engagement, which had produced important, if limited, success in freezing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile activities. In early 2002, Bush also stoked North Korean security fears by naming it as one of three “axis of evil” states subject to the administration’s policy of pre-emption.

Following the Bush administration’s announcement that North Korea admitted it was pursuing prohibited uranium-enrichment capabilities in October, the White House organized a strong response, including cutting off heavy-fuel oil shipments. But the situation worsened as the United States stubbornly refused to talk with the North until it verifiably ended the uranium work. Not surprisingly, Pyongyang has reopened its more advanced plutonium-based nuclear weapons facilities and expelled international inspectors.

As of now, it is estimated that North Korea could—in less than six months—separate enough plutonium for six bombs. If North Korea builds nuclear weapons, a dangerous nuclear action-reaction cycle involving Japan, South Korea, and China would likely ensue. In addition, given Pyongyang’s propensity to proliferate dangerous weapons technology, that nuclear material could very well be sold to terrorists or other states seeking nuclear weapons.

Caught between North Korea’s brinksmanship and the absence of effective U.S. leadership, South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has launched an important initiative to restart direct talks with Pyongyang and to develop a formula for a new agreement to end the crisis. Seoul is reportedly suggesting that if Pyongyang ends its nuclear weapons work and readmits international inspectors, Washington should offer a formal pledge of nonaggression and resume heavy-fuel oil supplies.

The initiative, and growing bipartisan congressional pressure for talks with the North, might help the White House move beyond its failed “axis of evil” policy and give North Korea a face-saving opportunity to cease its reckless defiance of international nuclear nonproliferation norms.

In line with this approach, Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul issued a strong yet positive joint communiqué on January 7. It forcefully calls upon North Korea to eliminate its nuclear weapons program and fully comply with its nonproliferation commitments. It also endorses direct dialogue with the North. In contrast to the U.S. stance on Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction, the statement also says the United States “poses no threat and has no intention of invading North Korea.”

Although the White House is now willing to talk to North Korea, it has wisely stressed that it will not give way on the bottom line: the North must end its nuclear weapons work and comply with international nonproliferation norms. To compel North Korean compliance, however, Washington must also fulfill its earlier promises. As the South Korean formula suggests, Bush should formally reaffirm earlier U.S. security pledges and resume support for oil and economic assistance pledged under the 1994 Agreed Framework, which defused a similar nuclear showdown a decade ago.

Although the U.S. policy adjustment offers hope, many obstacles lie ahead. North Korea might continue to miscalculate and accelerate work to separate plutonium for weapons. Even as Washington focuses on the search for suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it cannot afford to wait to begin talks to halt North Korea’s known and more advanced nuclear bomb program. At risk is East Asian security, U.S. credibility, and the future of global nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

Tough rhetoric and finger pointing will seldom produce nonproliferation results, especially if the United States itself wields the nuclear-weapons stick. With a little help from our allies, the administration may have finally hit upon a strategy that can end the current crisis, or at least avoid making it worse.

National Insecurity Strategy

Daryl G. Kimball

Two years after taking office, the Bush administration has embraced a “new” National Security Strategy that relies heavily on counterproliferation and pre-emptive action to “deter, dissuade, and defeat” adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To a greater extent than ever, the policy sets the United States above and apart from the rules other states are expected to follow.

In the long run, this approach is unsustainable and self-defeating. The strategy minimizes the role of diplomacy and arms control and seeks to maintain and even expand U.S. nuclear capabilities. This combination threatens to erode the credibility of the laws and norms against WMD upon which our security and the security of our allies depend.

The emphasis on pre-emption rests on the belief that diplomacy and nonproliferation cannot halt the weapons programs of outlaw states. Consequently, the Bush team wants to free the United States from entangling treaties and agreements that limit new military capabilities intended to counter emerging threats. To the extent that it does rely on arms control, the Bush policy supports only those treaties that limit the capabilities of other states.

For instance, the National Security Strategy appropriately calls for enhanced compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) through additional safeguards. However, the administration boldly rejects key U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament commitments under Article VI of the treaty—most notably the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which restricts the development of new nuclear weapons.

Instead, the Bush strategy calls for improving U.S. nuclear warhead capabilities intended for pre-emptive strikes on underground facilities suspected of producing chemical or biological weapons. Congress has just approved funding for new research on a “robust nuclear earth penetrator” warhead. Using nuclear bombs for pre-emptive attacks on such targets is militarily impractical and morally wrong. The very pursuit of such weapons undermines norms against WMD and might prompt other states to follow our lead.

In defense of its NPT credentials, the administration claims that the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty helps meet U.S. disarmament commitments. But in contrast to U.S. policy goals prior to 2000, this treaty does not mandate the dismantlement of a single warhead or missile, provide for adequate verification measures, or reduce the readiness posture of U.S. weapons deployed against Russia and other states.

As a result, the United States will retain the flexibility to field at least 4,200 strategic warheads through the next decade. Some Bush officials are calling for reductions of Russia’s nonstrategic warheads, but the strategy document fails to list this or any further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions as an objective.
The Bush plan does acknowledge the value of continued efforts to assist Russia dismantle and secure its Cold War WMD stockpiles. President Bush’s tepid support for this vital endeavor, however, leaves funding for these vital programs at the mercy of annual congressional wrangling and executive branch infighting.

The Bush strategy correctly identifies biological weapons as a growing danger and professes support for Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) compliance. Unfortunately, the administration has blocked global consensus on a comprehensive verification protocol for the treaty. Instead, the national security plan calls for expanded U.S. biodefense research. Without the investigations the protocol would have authorized, BWC noncompliant states continue to escape scrutiny.

In the case of North Korea, key U.S. objectives—a verifiable freeze of Pyongyang’s missile program and an end to its uranium and plutonium weapons work—are only possible if leaders from Washington and Pyongyang meet. But for now, the administration refuses to negotiate until North Korea verifiably eliminates all nuclear weapons activity. This may be morally satisfying but will not likely produce good results.

In South Asia, the center of an ongoing missile race, the Bush administration has been inconsistent in the application of its own WMD principles. Washington has downplayed the urgent need for further Indian and Pakistani nuclear and missile restraints. Recently, the administration has turned a blind eye toward recent reports of illicit missile transfers to Pakistan from North Korea in exchange for uranium enrichment technology.

Diplomacy and arms control measures obviously cannot address every security threat, but today’s WMD challenges cannot be successfully met without consistent U.S. support for multilateral arms control. If the White House continues to underutilize diplomacy and arms control and to claim special exemptions, it denies the United States and its allies the tools essential for preventing, reducing, and eliminating chemical, biological, and nuclear dangers.

Prevention, Not Pre-emption

Daryl G. Kimball

Yielding to pressure from members of Congress and major U.S. allies, President George W. Bush made the common sense decision to appeal to the United Nations to address the chronic problem of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. As a result of the renewed international focus on its unfulfilled obligations to comply with UN Security Council disarmament resolutions, Baghdad agreed to allow UN inspectors back in the country “without conditions.”

But this is only the beginning of a difficult process. Now, all the key players must give the weapons inspectors the time, authority, and support necessary to allow them to freely operate in a manner that can eliminate and prevent the re-emergence of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs. Over the course of the next few weeks, the sincerity of Bush’s appeal to the United Nations, the will of the Security Council to uphold nonproliferation norms, and Iraq’s willingness to cooperate will be tested.

Despite Iraq’s past history of deceit and obstruction, in 1999 the United Nations assessed that “the bulk of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated” by the previous inspections regime. But Iraq’s past behavior makes it clear that the Security Council should deliver a new resolution outlining more effective conditions for Iraqi compliance.

The Security Council should insist that Iraq provide, in a timely manner, a full and accurate declaration of its current and past weapons activities, that inspections rules should be changed to allow for a freer exchange of intelligence on prohibited weapons, and that interviews with Iraqi scientists be free of intimidation. UN inspectors must be also allowed to conduct inspections anytime and anywhere, including “presidential sites.”

In addition, the Security Council should clarify that the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—not Washington—should determine whether and when Iraq fails to meet the requirements of a strengthened inspections regime. If Iraq repeats its past pattern of blatant noncooperation, the council should authorize the use of force only to ensure the safety of the inspectors and the completion of their mission. Furthermore, because the work of the inspectors will take time to complete properly, the Security Council (and Iraq) must not set arbitrary deadlines for the inspection process.

Quick action is needed, but the evidence presented thus far does not suggest that Iraqi weapons capabilities pose an imminent threat that warrants immediate military action. Though Iraq apparently possesses dangerous chemical and biological weapons capabilities, the British government estimates that even if Iraq could obtain fissile material and other essential components from foreign sources, it would still need at least 1-2 years to build a nuclear device. Clearly, there is the time and the need to commence inspections.

Because Russia, France, and China eroded vital support for earlier UN inspections, they now have a special responsibility to help craft a resolution calling for inspections under new and more effective rules. In light of recent Bush administration statements, however, they are right to be concerned that Washington is seeking a resolution that is cynically designed to trigger and justify a pre-emptive invasion aimed at “regime change” in Baghdad.

Since the president’s UN speech, administration officials have said that disarming Iraq is only a part of their aim, which is ultimately to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The White House initially asked Congress to give the president authorization “to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force,” to enforce UN resolutions and “restore international peace and security in the region.”

Such language would amount to a blank check for US military adventurism well beyond the core issue of getting rid of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs. In light of Bush administration nuclear-use policy, it could also leave the door open to US nuclear strikes in retaliation for Iraqi chemical or biological attack or to the preemptive destruction of suspected weapons caches. Two weapons of mass destruction wrongs do not make a right.

Given the likely human toll of an all-out war and the current status of Iraq’s weapons programs, for now the most prudent and feasible means to deny Saddam Hussein access to weapons of mass destruction is a strategy of multilateral prevention through effective UN weapons inspections. If, on the other hand, President Bush is really seeking UN approval for regime change through a preemptive unilateral attack, he will have undermined the very institutions and the norms against weapons of mass destruction he seeks to enforce. In the long run, such an approach will increase, not decrease, global weapons threats.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Daryl G. Kimball

As tensions mounted in recent months between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, massive troop deployments, cross-border shelling, and tough talk in New Delhi and Islamabad brought the two nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war. Though leaders in both countries had professed confidence that neither side would deliberately resort to nuclear weapons, they have said in recent days that they were prepared to wage nuclear war.

The international community, including the United States, realized the danger of a deliberate or accidental nuclear exchange between the rival states and sought to remind both sides of the grave consequences of such a war. Mindful of the possibility that Pakistan might be tempted to use nuclear weapons to counter India’s overwhelming conventional forces, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he told the leaders of both states, “I can see very little military, political, or any other kind of justification for the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons in this day and age may serve some deterrent effect, and so be it. But to think of using them as just another weapon in what might start out as a conventional conflict in this day and age seems…to be something that no side should be contemplating.”

Despite the wisdom of Powell’ s words, the Bush administration apparently subscribes to a different set of rules for its own nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon’s recent nuclear posture review asserts that nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and large-scale conventional military force.” The review calls for contingency plans for nuclear strikes against non-nuclear weapon states or in conflicts that may begin as conventional wars. It calls for new nuclear weapons capabilities to destroy targets, such as deeply buried bunkers.

Worse still, in a speech this June President George W. Bush said that the United States will take the battle “to the enemy…and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” This implies that President Bush may be willing to use nuclear weapons not only in retaliation for a WMD attack but also to pre-empt possible WMD attacks. These attempts to reinforce the believability of U.S. threats send mixed and dangerous signals to allies, adversaries, and would-be proliferators.

Current U.S. efforts to enhance the credibility and range of options for the use of nuclear weapons blur the bright line that has separated nuclear and conventional warfare since the bombing of Nagasaki. Coming from the United States, the world’s pre-eminent military and political power, such policies only undermine nonproliferation efforts by suggesting to other states that nuclear weapons are legitimate and necessary tools that can achieve military or political objectives.

To date, no nuclear-weapon state has declared as a matter of national policy that it would respond to or pre-empt the use of chemical or biological weapons with nuclear weapons. It is one thing to threaten a “devastating response” to a biological or chemical weapons attack. It is quite another to say explicitly that the United States is prepared to counter or attempt to pre-empt such attacks by striking with nuclear weapons.

When preventive diplomacy and arms control fail to head off proliferation (and from time to time they will), military force backed with the rule of law and supported by the international community can be the option of last resort. But force should not become the sole or even the primary policy option, and in no case should nuclear weapons be employed. As a primary solution, all nations must work to strengthen, effectively implement, and universally adhere to the nonproliferation norms established by the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

If the Bush administration fails to follow through on U.S. NPT disarmament commitments, and if it renounces its longstanding pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in good standing with the NPT, some states may see that the rule of law is breaking down and conclude that they too need nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons to ward off attack. And if the United States asserts that pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against terrorist-related WMD threats is justified, a state such as India might assert the same right and consider launching its own pre-emptive strike against Pakistan.

Rather than explore new roles for U.S. nuclear weapons—even in the name of WMD counter-proliferation—American leaders have a practical and moral responsibility to practice what they preach. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said last month, “These are not just larger weapons, they are distinctively different weapons.” Consequently, the role of nuclear weapons, until they are eliminated, must be strictly limited to deterring a nuclear attack by other nuclear-weapon states.

A Beginning, Not an End

Daryl G. Kimball

The May 24 signing of the new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin is a welcome, though incomplete, step toward reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear dangers. In their zealous pursuit to maintain strategic nuclear flexibility well into the next decade, U.S. negotiators have spurned a historic opportunity to verifiably eliminate excess nuclear weaponry, leaving behind numerous dangers that demand further action.

The new agreement is short. It requires each side to reduce its number of deployed strategic warheads to no more than 2,200 by 2012. It places no restrictions on strategic missiles and bombers and allows each side to determine the composition of its deployed nuclear forces. The treaty does not spell out what is to be done with warheads removed from service.

The White House asserts that this formulation suits the more amicable U.S.-Russian relationship. But the treaty’s limited scope and lack of detail reflect the fact that negotiators simply could not agree on core issues, including how to count deployed warheads. On the whole, the new treaty does not significantly alter the number of existing nuclear delivery systems and therefore only marginally affects the residual nuclear potential of the United States and Russia. The allowance for storage of thousands of reserve warheads undercuts the treaty’s verifiability and makes it more difficult to forecast future force levels. The agreement’s emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship.

As the Senate reviews the treaty in the coming weeks, it will surely applaud the treaty’s mandate for deployed nuclear force reductions. But the Senate should also press the administration to explain the gaps left in the treaty text and seek action from Bush on a more comprehensive and effective nuclear risk reduction strategy vis-à-vis Russia.

First, the Senate should examine why the old premises of Cold War nuclear targeting continue to dictate the size of the U.S. arsenal. Clearly, the United States and Russia are no longer enemies and have no reason to go to war, but the Bush administration’s proposed nuclear force size and posture are still very much based on deterring and defeating Russia’s nuclear and conventional military forces. As a result, the condition of mutual assured destruction persists. Absent such requirements, there is no plausible threat scenario that requires the deployment of more than a few hundred nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200, with thousands more available for rapid redeployment.

If Putin follows Bush’s policy of warehousing, rather than eliminating, excess warheads, the long-term burden of safeguarding Russia’s already vast and insecure nuclear weapons complex will only grow. The United States should pursue a policy of minimizing reserve forces and offering Russia more assistance to safeguard and demilitarize their excess warheads and nuclear materials.

The treaty promises to remove some but not all strategic warheads from ready launch status. Consequently, the Senate should press the administration to seek further operational changes in the alert status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces to guard against the risk of accidental launch or miscalculation.

Though verification provisions from the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will remain in effect until 2009, the new treaty provides no additional verification or transparency measures. Proposals to expand data sharing and improve monitoring of treaty compliance were on the table, but the two sides failed to close a deal. Senators should task U.S. negotiators to work with Russia on new mechanisms to enhance transparency and establish a better baseline on weapons holdings through the Bilateral Implementation Commission established by the new treaty.

Given the pursuit of nuclear weapons by terrorist organizations, it is troubling that Russia retains thousands of poorly accounted-for tactical warheads, which are relatively more vulnerable to theft or diversion than strategic warheads. For now, tactical nuclear weapons are not a top Bush administration priority. Meanwhile, the administration is contemplating the development of new types of—and new uses for—tactical nuclear weapons, a policy that only makes the control of such weapons more challenging. Negotiations leading to the verifiable elimination of tactical nuclear weapons should be high on the U.S.-Russian agenda.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has said that the new treaty is “a transitional measure to a day when arms control will play a very minor role in U.S.-Russian relations, if a role at all.” But because this treaty fails to lock in strategic nuclear reductions and does not address the vast array of other Cold War-era dangers, that day remains far too distant. The task now is for the United States and Russia to pursue the much-needed next steps with a more comprehensive and lasting nuclear risk reduction strategy.

The Test Moratorium's Uncertain Future

Daryl G. Kimball

It has been nearly 10 years since the United States has conducted a nuclear test explosion. After 1,030 U.S. nuclear detonations, Congress, following the Soviet Union’s lead, legislated a halt to nuclear testing in the fall of 1992. This test moratorium has served U.S. and international security interests well. But now, a decade after the moratorium helped defuse the U.S.-Soviet nuclear rivalry, the Bush administration is pursuing new policies that put at risk the moratorium and the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The moratorium and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) it helped produce created an important obstacle to the induction of new warhead types by nuclear-weapon states. At the same time, the United States has been able to continue maintaining its remaining nuclear weapons stockpile through robust non-nuclear testing and evaluation programs. The United States’ test halt and its commitment to finalize the CTBT also provided the diplomatic leverage needed in 1995 to extend the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty indefinitely. Furthermore, the moratorium and the CTBT helped convince India and Pakistan to exercise nuclear restraint following their 1998 test explosions.

Despite these accomplishments, senior Bush officials announced shortly after taking office that they would not ask the Senate to reconsider the CTBT, which was rejected in October 1999 after a hasty and highly partisan debate. The administration has tried to deflect domestic and international criticism of this policy by insisting that there are no immediate plans to resume testing. But the White House has condoned a series of moves that further undercut the test ban treaty, call into question the permanence of the U.S. moratorium, and undermine efforts to detect and deter nuclear testing by other states.

Last year, the administration unilaterally decided to end its technical and financial support for short-notice, on-site inspections that will only be available under the test ban treaty. The White House then decided to boycott an international conference to promote the treaty’s entry into force, which was supported by all major U.S. allies.

In recent weeks, it has become clearer that the Bush administration’s test ban unilateralism is, in part, motivated by the misguided belief that new types of nuclear weapons are useful and necessary. The Pentagon’s latest nuclear posture review calls for the development of new nuclear weapons capabilities to provide a wider range of options to defeat “hardened and deeply buried targets.” The president asked Congress for $15.5 million for fiscal year 2003 for research on modifying existing warheads for this purpose. In addition, the posture review calls for reducing the time necessary to resume nuclear testing from the current 24- to 36-month requirement, and the administration has requested $15 million more to improve Nevada Test Site readiness.

Despite administration assurances that there are no plans for new weapon types that require testing, the Bush policies seek to establish a stronger rationale and technical capability for future U.S. testing. Pro-testers in the Pentagon want to go even further and have been pressing the White House to repudiate formally the CTBT and end U.S. funding for all international test ban treaty organization activities. Their aim is to free the United States of its international legal obligations as a signatory to the treaty, which prohibits actions contrary to its basic purpose—to ban nuclear weapons test explosions.

Repudiation of the CTBT would have far-reaching, adverse effects on U.S. relations with allies and rivals as well as on U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals. Cutting off U.S. support for the treaty’s international monitoring system would also hamper U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities, which depend on the unique capabilities of international stations placed in sensitive regions, including China and Central Asia.
If the United States continues to undermine the moratorium and stiff-arm the test ban treaty, it will only increase the risk that some other state will resume testing. A U.S. decision actually to resume testing would provide no real U.S. security benefit and would lead only to other nuclear-weapon states following suit, setting off a dangerous global action-reaction cycle.

If President George W. Bush is truly concerned about nuclear proliferation—including weapons development that would be facilitated by further Chinese or Russian nuclear detonations—he should direct his advisers to reconsider, not repudiate, the CTBT. Regardless of his stance on the treaty, the U.S. nuclear test moratorium must be reinforced, not rejected.

Toward this end, President Bush should reaffirm his father’s 1992 policy decision not to conduct nuclear tests for new nuclear warhead development, provide full U.S. support for international test ban monitoring and inspections, and immediately pursue Russian proposals for bilateral transparency measures to clarify concerns about ongoing test site activities. To do otherwise moves the United States back toward, not beyond, obsolete Cold War thinking.


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