Hans Blix for the last two years has served as chairman of the WMD Commission, an independent international body launched by the Swedish government to explore ways to reduce threats posed by biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Blix, who was formerly head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in Iraq, shared the commission's findings and recommendations during a June 6 interview with Arms Control Today.
ACT: In its report, the WMD Commission provided 60 recommendations for r educing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. If world leaders were to take one message or theme away from the study, what would it be?
Blix: The revival of disarmament. We are in a situation where there is a stagnation of multilateral, global efforts. It’s worse than that. There’s also the incipient beginning of arms races. In space there’s one. On new types of nuclear weapons, there’s a second one. On missiles, [there’s] certainly a third one. All these need to be addressed. There is some activity on the bilateral and regional [fronts], but you need global cooperation. “Cooperative disarmament” would be another term that we would use.
ACT: Many of the recommendations appear aimed at the countries that already have nuclear weapons, rather than measures to prevent new countries from getting these weapons. How would you explain to an American, British, or French citizen that their countries’ weapons are a problem just like North Korea’s or potentially Iran’s?
Blix: Actually, the report addresses both. In the chapter on nuclear weapons, we begin with proliferation because that’s the most acute. I don’t think we are by any means neglecting or putting proliferation in a second category. They’re on an equal basis. We address the two cases we think are absolutely acute for nonproliferation, namely Iran and North Korea. On the more general front, we address the problem of hair-trigger alerts, of launch on warning, on the need for r eduction of strategic weapons between the United States and Russia, and on the need to withdraw [U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear] weapons from the European front back to U.S. territory and into central storage in Russia. We also point to the obligation that we see certainly for the nuclear-weapon states under the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] NPT to undertake nuclear disarmament, which many non-nuclear-weapon states feel that [the nuclear-weapon states] have walked away from. We point to the difficulty of persuading and espousing nonproliferation by other states so long as the nuclear-weapon states are themselves not taking that obligation seriously.
ACT: But how do you persuade citizens in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom that their weapons are a concern to the developing world and other countries that don’t have these weapons? How do you make them realize that this is a problem?
Blix: We are saying that all nuclear weapons are dangerous in whosever hands. We also say that, yes, some [regimes] can be more ruthless and reckless than others. Regimes can change. But [all nuclear weapons] are dangerous. There are none that are in secure hands. We have hair-trigger alert, there can be misunderstandings, and there can be regime change.
ACT: As you know, the commission’s report is being released when much of the international community is concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. What would Iran need to do to prove to you that its nuclear program is not intended to produce weapons?
Blix: This is my view: I think it would be very difficult for Iran under current circumstances, even for a long period of time, to prove that they have no intentions [to pursue nuclear weapons]. How do you prove that you have no intentions? I don’t think any amount of [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA inspection will tell the world, “Ah, there’s nothing so they can go ahead with enrichment.” As in the case of Iraq, we saw that the Iraqis tried to assert [that they did not have weapons of mass destruction] and we said, “Well, there’s things unaccounted for. We can’t exclude it.” So that will be hard.
I’m somewhat critical about the tendency in many places to talk about the Iranian nuclear weapons program as if it were proven. Don’t we have sufficient experience in the Iraq affair to be a little cautious about that? But I don’t at all exclude it. Iran is much further ahead in its nuclear program than Iraq was. They have infrastructure, they have people, they have money, et cetera. Iraq was a scrapheap in 2003. Nevertheless, some of the circumstantial evidence [in Iran] is perhaps more suggestive. You talk about the many years in which they breached their obligations on the safeguards agreement. Well, that could be because they had an intention to go for nuclear weapons, but it could also be because they were worried about counterproliferation—that they would reveal where sites were, and they could be subject to sabotage. I don’t interpret, but I’m saying don’t jump to conclusions. In fact, when we put someone before a court, we like to have evidence before we give them a severe sentence. Shall we be more easygoing when it comes to sentencing states to bombardment or war? A little caution in this respect is desirable.
Now, on the Iranian side, I think it’s a weak argument when they say they need to have self-reliance, they have the right, and must use that right. No, you can have rights without making use of them. There’s also no economic interest in it for them. They have two nuclear power plants. My country, Sweden, has 10, and we are importing uranium. The [Iranian nuclear] establishment will work on a 40 megawatt heavy-water reactor—that’s an excellent plutonium producer. Now, that may suggest there is an intention behind it, but there are other countries in the world that have heavy-water reactors, so it is not conclusive. Yet, the commission comes to the conclusion that it would be desirable that Iran suspend or renounce enrichment for a prolonged period of time because [enrichment] will increase tension. We come to that conclusion and then we suggest that if you want to take a country away from its potential interest in nuclear weapons, you have to look at its incentives [to acquire nuclear weapons]. We think that security is one of them, as in the case of North Korea. Security has been missing from the packages that have been put on the table [to Iran] so far.
We have put forward another suggestion that we haven’t seen elsewhere, which was inspired by the Korean case. We suggest that you might have a region that renounces or suspends the use of enrichment or reprocessing. In the Korean case it is established in the 1992 declaration. In the Middle East case, what we are suggesting is, as a confidence-building measure, Iran and other countries in the Middle East renounce this. That would mean in the case of Israel that it would do away with or renounce reprocessing. It doesn’t affect their weapons program; that would not be at all plausible. But you could imagine having commitments from all the countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, et cetera to not go for any enrichment or reprocessing.
ACT: Given what we know about the current proposals from the EU 3, the United States and other countries about how to resolve the situation, do you think that that proposal and approach are sufficient? It does not contain that recommendation that you just mentioned. What should be done to make it more effective?
Blix: I doubt it is sufficient. I think that on the question of assurance of supply there are relatively good answers. The Russian proposal is a relatively good one, although the Iranians might say, “Look what happened to the Ukraine. Can we trust this thing?” But there could be assurances from others as well, not only from Russia, but from China as well. I think the latest proposal about the offer of light-water reactors is good because it demonstrates that these states are not saying “no” to Iran going into the nuclear age. But the way in which the offer has been made, namely to say that, “Hey, we are taking a huge step forward. We are offering to sit down with you about your suspending or renouncing enrichment, but before we sit down you better suspend enrichment.” They are making a condition for discussion the outcome they seek from the negotiation. The Iranians did suspend under [Iranian President Mohammad] Khatami for a period of negotiations, and thereafter they expected a good bid, and what they got was something they did not consider a good bid, and, therefore, they resumed [enrichment]. They say we’re back to square one, and that’s where they remain.
There is a great deal of prestige, frankly, on both sides. If Iran were today to suspend and say, “Fine, we will sit down and talk,” that would be taken as an accomplishment on the side of the Europeans. Any step back into enrichment, they would say was another act of defiance, that [ Iran was] breaching something they saw as a commitment. But it was not the result of the agreement at the time, so there needs to be fairness in judging the situation. We, the commissioners, [would like to see Iran] decide to suspend enrichment. The ways of getting there one can address in different ways.
ACT: Going to the other side of the globe for a moment, North Korea. Between December 2002 and January 2003, North Korea ejected IAEA inspectors and announced its withdrawal from the NPT. Although the matter has been referred to the Security Council, North Korea has suffered no Security Council penalties for its action. Does this case undermine the legitimacy of the NPT as well as the international community’s ability to deal with arms control noncompliance?
Blix: I think the United States would probably be among the states that first affirmed the right of withdrawal in accordance with [treaty] clauses. It did so with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. There are specific [withdrawal] clauses in other treaties. Of course, withdrawal from the NPT by non-nuclear-weapon states is a worrisome thing. It may be a sign. We recommend that the Security Council automatically grapple with any such case. Whether the council wished to take an action immediately or common resolution or whatever, this I think one has to leave up to them. They must be seized with the issue, but what they do will depend upon political circumstances.
ACT: Are there any potential legal consequences on ruling on such a matter? I don’t think the Security Council has said one way or the other on whether North Korea is officially part to the treaty or not.
Blix: No, I think it is very hard to know how they view that, whether it was legally done or not, but that may land us in legal niceties. The substance of the matter after all is that [ North Korea] claims it has nuclear weapons. I think, and I think the commission also feels, that the negotiation about North Korea is going in a fairly good direction. Whether it is successful is another matter. In particular, I think the latest things we have read about [that are welcome are] the U.S. suggestion that there could be some kind of assurance against aggression and there could be also diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan and the public discussion about the possibility of a peace treaty. All of these things are geared to assure North Korea that they will not be subject to a military attack, any regime change efforts, and intervention to that effect. Since the commission takes the view that security concerns are basic, this is what one can do. The opposite, of course, is waving the stick all the time, that if you don’t behave, we will attack you, or if you don’t behave, we will try to instigate a regime change as they did in Iran in 1953 when [Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed] Mossadegh, an elected leader, was thrown out with the help of the CIA.
ACT: Speaking of the North Korea talks, they have been stalled for some time now. What do you think could get diplomacy moving again?
Blix: I’m not privy to all the details. It started by U.S. criticism that North Korea was participating in counterfeiting dollars. That may well be true. I haven’t seen the evidence of it, but North Korea certainly has not lived in accordance with accepted and required international rules. I’m not putting it into question nor do I endorse that it was justified, but I would think the United States would not be very keen to put the North Koreans in a position where they would be justified to withdraw. North Korea has had a long history of dragging [negotiations] out, and they are gaining somewhat by it because they may be reprocessing more and adding more plutonium. They are not weakening their position. But for the longer run, nevertheless, it would seem to me that North Korea, [facing] the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, that there would be strong things especially if they are assured that they will not be attacked. After all, at one time they had both Russia and China as friends. Now, they must feel somewhat alone in the world. I think that security assurances are an intelligent way of approaching it. I don’t see that the military way is really doable with Seoul in artillery range from North Korea.
ACT: On security issues, Iran hasn’t publicly suggested that it wants security assurances from the United States, so how do we know that that will lead it to engage in negotiations?
Blix: As far as I know, there were plans among the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to have a separate committee dealing with security issues, and it never met. It may well be that the Iranians may not want to ask for such things that might be seen as a sign of weakness. But the issue of security has surfaced. I would hazard [a guess] that there is an interest, especially if you have 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq and American bases in Afghanistan and an increased number in the north. I think it’s a relevant issue.
ACT: In the commission’s report, there’s two issues that were singled out as being of the highest importance for renewing momentum on nonproliferation and disarmament: bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). On the first, can there be progress on a CTBT as long as Washington doesn’t ratify. For instance, why can’t China go ahead and ratify it?
Blix: There can be some progress. There is a special ambassador who is touring the world to try to persuade various states like Indonesia and Colombia that have not ratified it. There are some cases where I think it would happen. I would be pleasantly surprised if the Chinese went ahead and ratified it before Washington. We think that no other act in the global system would inject more renewed optimism than the CTBT entering into force. We think if the United States does it, then we’re pretty sure that the Chinese would. If the Chinese would, the Indians would; if the Indians did, the Pakistanis would. It would be a good domino effect. Whereas, if the treaty continues in limbo as it does, there are risks. Fortunately, the moratorium is still holding. If the United States were to test, I’m pretty sure that others would test again, and we would go into a new arms race. The motivation, justification, or the rationale for the treaty remains what they were, namely, that it will impede qualitative development—not altogether, because the United States and others can do quite a lot by computers. It would also strengthen nonproliferation, making it more difficult for states at the lower level to do so. But the signal would be tremendous. I don’t think we are going to say anything about the prospect of it. Evidently, the current administration in Washington is not at all geared to doing it. But our whole report is put on the table with the thought that there will be some shelf-life; that these will be proposals which are falling to the ground, which will be studied by governments and [nongovernmental organizations] NGOs, may germinate. I feel pretty sure that the CTBT will remain high on that agenda.
The other one you mention, the FMCT, is already on the table. The United States has advanced a proposal in Geneva. I think that’s welcome. The commission’s position is that we should have no confusion about [starting negotiations on an FMCT], without any preconditions, whether relating to verification or [existing] stocks. However, the commission takes clearly the view that such a treaty is verifiable, which is in contrast to what the U.S. administration has been saying. The reason why we say so is that we have two non-nuclear-weapon states that have their enrichment and reprocessing plants already verified: Brazil and Japan. You have three nuclear-weapon states with verification: the United Kingdom and France have EURATOM [The European Atomic Energy Community] verification, and China has a plant which was supplied by Russia under the condition of IAEA verification. So if it is the contention of those who say that we should not have verification because it’s unverifiable, do they consider that what we have now is meaningless? I don’t think so. I think it is verifiable. I think the contrary views have a certain disdain vis-à-vis international verification, which is not justified. The United States referred in Geneva to “national verification,” national means of verification. Can anyone after the Iraq affair say that national verification is so superior to international verification? My view is that both are needed. The international groups can go in on the ground, and nations can go in and listen to our cell phones and many other things. The governments are the recipients of the reports from both, and they eventually decide. It’s not the IAEA that eventually judges and decides. I agree with the [Bush] administration on that.
ACT: Why do you think there is disdain toward international verification?
Blix: That’s hard to say. Clearly, it is true that in the 1980s when I was the head of the IAEA, we failed to see what was going on in Iraq. It was due to an inspection system that was formulated in the 1970s when inspection was directed at countries like Germany and Sweden, democratic states that were fairly open. On-site inspections [in the 1980s] were something new, and they were not used to it. We have come a long way since then. In 1991 when we discovered what happened in Iraq, I went to the [IAEA Board of Governors] and said that we need access to more sites, more access to information, and we need access to the Security Council. Then, a number of years went by and we had the Additional Protocol adopted eventually in 1997, the last year I was director-general. It is now ratified by many [states], but not yet [ratified] by Iran. So the world learned something. The commission endorses that all non-nuclear-weapon states should accept the Additional Protocol. The negative attitude you refer to—this is my personal impression—there is something doctrinaire about it. There is also, of course, a somewhat doctrinaire, skeptical attitude vis-à-vis international organizations. My view is that the oil-for-food business is vastly exaggerated by the critics here. It was not so much a case of corruption in the UN, but rather a case of defrauding the UN by those who sold food and by those who bought oil from Iraq. I think it enters into that more general, philosophical attitude toward global instruments and institutions.
ACT: Negotiations on an FMCT have been stalled, in part, because of the inability of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to agree on a work program. Given that the commission attached so much importance to concluding an FMCT, would you support the U.S. position that the CD should focus exclusively on an FMCT?
Blix: No. I think that there are a number of other items that are valid for discussion. One of our other proposals is that the CD should be allowed to adopt its work program by [two-thirds] majority. The General Assembly of the UN can put any item on its agenda with a simple majority. We are simply saying that the consensus that’s required in the CD is a relic from the Cold War. It should be possible for the world community to use its chief negotiating organ to take up items for discussion with a qualified majority. I think that would be a difficult thing to get adopted. We’re not saying how we should go about it, but we are venturing that it would be a reasonable arrangement.
ACT: Because the commission put so much stock in concluding an FMCT and the importance of bringing the CTBT into force, should India be required to cease fissile material production for weapons and at least sign the CTBT before being allowed to participate in increased civil nuclear trade with the world as proposed by the United States?
Blix: We discuss the case of the proposed India agreement between the United States and India. We say in a rather short form that it has many aspects, including energy. We aren’t going into that, but that is an important part of it. I myself would attach a lot of importance to enabling countries with huge populations to r educe or restrain the pressure on the use of oil and gas. However, we also recognize that proliferation concerns have been raised, and we do take the view that the NPT does not per se prohibit nuclear cooperation between the nuclear-weapon states and nonparties to the NPT. What the treaty says is that [nuclear-weapon] states should facilitate cooperation with states that adhere to the treaty. However, such cooperation must not conflict with the duty of states-parties to the NPT to work for nonproliferation. The objections raised that India might import uranium under this agreement and thereby enable itself to use more of its own uranium for enrichment for weapons purposes, these are valid concerns. There are two things that could be done in order to allay such concerns and one would be a verified FMCT and the other would be the CTBT. It would seem to me that the United States is handicapped in its wishes so long as it does not itself accept the verified FMCT and the CTBT. I think it is an additional illustration of the desirability that the United States move [forward] with both the verified FMCT and the CTBT. The CTBT is already verified. There is nothing that is better verified in this world.
ACT: Given that the CTBT and FMCT appear a ways off though because of the U.S. position, should India unilaterally halt fissile material production for weapons?
Blix: I don’t think anything is a given, the U.S. or Israeli stance et cetera. No, it’s open for negotiations. If they see a great advantage, if they feel that they must have an FMCT with India, if Congress will demand it, well, then [the Bush administration] may reconsider. The [ U.S. decision not to ratify the] test ban is also not written in stone. There are some in the administration against it but that is something the United States can still do. At one stage, most of the military and others were in favor of it, but then it fell by the wayside for a while.
ACT: The commission did not call for India and Pakistan and Israel to join the NPT. Why not?
Blix: I don’t think we even discuss it. We termed them countries that have nuclear weapons, but we know that there seems a very slim chance that you would get there. If there was any chance of getting them to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states as South Africa did, fine. But we have deemed it futile to have a direct recommendation that they should do so.
ACT: While it might appear futile,as you know, the five nuclear-weapon states through the NPT are committed to disarm, while India, Israel, and Pakistan are not. How do you remedy that?
Blix: We are taking a stand on that. We are saying that we think that all states with nuclear weapons have a duty to participate and to walk away from nuclear weapons. We are saying that those who have the most, Russia and the United States, should take the lead. France and the United Kingdom will have to consider how they continue. The United Kingdom faces a decision very soon. In the United Kingdom, they have to ask themselves what is the utility of nuclear weapons, which were acquired for an enemy that no longer exists and may be useless against terrorists? We are not letting anyone off the hook. We see [disarmament] as an obligation of all to do so.
ACT: The commission recommends phasing out all production of highly enriched uranium, regardless of whether it is for weapons, but it does not take a similarly strict position on plutonium and reprocessing. Why not?
Blix: That’s right. For highly enriched uranium, there is already rather limited use. In the United States, it is being used as fuel for submarines. The French do not; they use low-enriched uranium for submarines. There may be some research reactors that still have it, but by and large I think there is at least a growing consensus on this issue that highly enriched uranium is something that you can phase out, although not overnight. When it comes to plutonium, we discuss it at length. We are aware of the production of MOX fuel and reprocessing in the United Kingdom, France, Russia, et cetera. It’s not really the economic proposition that it once was meant to be because uranium prices have been kept low. However, we do have some breeder reactors and there will be more of those. They run on plutonium. I don’t think our view was that it was desirable that they should be considering when to phase them out. When you see the latest U.S. proposal, the GNEP [Global Nuclear Energy Partnership], well, I think that is based upon the same consideration: mainly, breeder reactors will be needed in the future because of the energy situation. The GNEP talks about a new type of reactor which would work on enriched uranium and plutonium and neptunium, and it would not be possible to use this material for a weapons purpose. Fine, but the technology is far away. One uses the energy contents of the uranium something like 80 times more if you have reprocessing. In a world where the energy problem is a big one, it’s a significant factor. So, that’s the background why we are more cautious and less far-reaching, less categorical on plutonium.
ACT: Looking into the future, if plutonium reprocessing technology through the GNEP proposal and other initiatives is pursued vigorously, would that not create a situation of “haves” and “have-nots,” those with the technology and those without, leading to difficulties? Or if that technology spreads to the current “have-nots,” doesn’t that create an additional proliferation risk?
Blix: Your question is really about the future of how you handle reprocessing if you want to have it. We discussed that in the context of the fuel cycle and referred to the two main proposals on the table: one by [IAEA Director-General Mohamed] ElBaradei and one by the United States. On the U.S. proposal, GNEP, the big question mark there is that it may appear like a cartel; that is to say something for a few “haves.” That will clearly pose a problem. Now, ElBaradei’s [proposal] is not a cartel or unequal in this respect. He says that we will have a fuel bank to which you would contribute the fuel, and anyone can apply. You don’t prevent anybody, you don’t prohibit anybody. In the U.S. proposal under GNEP, there would be conditions for entering. In the ElBaradei proposal it is simply felt that you can make it sufficiently attractive. But there is the question that we point to: who decides in the bank if you have credentials enough to buy or not? Is it Mr. ElBaradei or is it the board? Is it the committee? Does the United States have a veto? Et cetera, et cetera. Now, another point we make in both these regards is that both are problems that are somewhat distant. We have time to discuss it. O ur conclusion is to simply take it up within the IAEA and discuss it within the IAEA. When the proposals came, I think there was almost a sort of panic. Here we have Iran enriching, and here we have a nuclear spring, and we will get a lot of new enrichment plants. Actually, in my knowledge, the only one that is planning a new enrichment plant is in the U.S. private sector. I haven’t heard of any others. So there is time to discuss this. There is a problem, yes, if you have reprocessing in many places. We recognize that this could pose the risk of leakages and perhaps misuse.
ACT: As you know, there are treaties outlawing biological and chemical weapons and severely limiting the possession of nuclear weapons with the long-term goal of their complete elimination. Why shouldn’t a similar ban be pursued on ballistic missiles?
Blix: The world is in a very difficult situation when it comes to ballistic missiles. There have been, as we note, two working parties in the UN which examine the issue at length. They said it was very dangerous but could not come to any agreement on what to do about it. We have no formula that is particularly good either. I discussed it at length but without much success. What we say on the missile shield is that before any country establishes a missile shield, they should first examine whether they can remove the threat that moves them toward a missile shield. If they can’t do that, then at least they should work toward confidence-building measures to r educe the tension that will arise. We haven’t found a path. No one else has, and that’s regrettable because it is a very dangerous area.
ACT: Why do you think it’s so difficult?
Blix: So long as the big countries are pursuing [missiles] with vigor, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get a response from the other side. If you were to have a CTBT, if you were to begin the new path toward disarmament, then you will have a [new] dynamic.
ACT: For several years, countries were working together on a verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention, but that effort was aborted in 2001. Why didn’t the commission call for a revival of that process and goal?
Blix: We are not averse to that. We’re saying that the Biological Weapons Convention remains the principal document and that it must be strengthened. We are calling for setting up a mechanism under which you would be able to transmit proposals and administer the services and so forth. We are in favor of the convention. It must not be abandoned. But we know also at the same time that there have been tremendous clashes and that we will not look exclusively at the convention as the vehicle. We are advocating a multifaceted approach to it. One will need to get to the scientific and industrial communities and seek codes of conduct and ethical codes. The main means that we are pointing to is a better system nationally and internationally of rapid identification of threats and epidemics and to try to find out then through cooperation whether [a particular incident] was a natural phenomenon or whether it was a man-made one. In addition, a strengthening of the health services [is necessary] so that there can be an immediate grappling with this. It’s not only from the point of view of biowarfare. It is also to protect the world against epidemics that turn up.
ACT: The report puts a lot of emphasis on resolving weapons dangers though cooperative, rule-based approaches and is quite critical of the Bush administration’s general approach to dealing with WMD threats. Are you concerned that the commission’s report might be dismissed by some as just another swipe in the perceived bout between Hans Blix and the Bush administration?
Blix: I think there is an effort by the commission to be evenhanded. We are discussing the [Proliferation Security Initiative] PSI, both pros and cons. The PSI was a U.S. initiative, and the commission takes the view that the control and enforcement of export restrictions is a good one. It also points to the concerns about the laws of the sea being respected. We also raise the question, “How often has [PSI] been useful?” We have heard about cases, but they are not substantiated. It would be interesting to know just how useful [it has been]. We, the commission, think that the closer cooperation between intelligence is a useful feature of it. This is a U.S. initiative in which we see some advantage, but at the same time also warning that [its success] should not be exaggerated.
Security Council Resolution 1540 is another initiative the commission looks favorably upon and sees as something institutionally and constitutionally rather new. The Security Council has the power and the duty to determine whether a situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security under Article 39, so they’re the judge. It has also executive power in Article 41 and 42 in the designing of sanctions by obligatory members. Now, it has added in 1540 a legislative power in telling member states that they must—under Chapter VII—enact the following type of legislation. How effective will that be? Well, that’s another matter.
What the commission says on counterproliferation is that here has been an emphasis on military force and not on cooperative security. We are of the view that the vast majority of countries in the world rejected the justification given for the use of force in the case of Iraq. Today, we are faced with a similar thing. We can see vividly in the world that no one is accepting the thought of using military force against Iran. Maybe many will accept economic pressures but not military force. The United States is saying itself that it is not on the agenda or the plan, but that is not exactly the same thing as rejecting it.
ACT: Aside from an overarching recommendation to eventually eliminate its nuclear arsenal, what would be the most important single arms control step that you would urge the United States to take?
Blix: I think that the CTBT is on the top of the agenda.
ACT: What about Russia?
Blix: Perhaps not to allow itself to be drawn into an arms race.
ACT: What about China?
Blix: The same thing: not to allow itself to be drawn into an arms race.
ACT: What about France?
Blix: France, like the United Kingdom and the others, should consider whether it is useful for them to retain a nuclear weapons capability. Is it to retain a ticket to the high table? Is that the purpose of it? They should have a public discussion. We are urging that parliament should get into these questions and discuss it. There is not much discussion.
ACT: What about the United Kingdom?
Blix: In the United Kingdom we raise the question whether it is useful to retain a capability that was designed for a totally different purpose and that may not have a great purpose today.
ACT: How important do you think the Trident decision is for the rest of world?
Blix: I think it is quite important. It would be a tremendous sign in the world if the United Kingdom decided to walk away from nuclear weapons. South Africa was a big thing, but the United Kingdom would be a much bigger thing. They are costly. I am also told by military people that they don’t like nuclear weapons very much because they are of uncertain use.
ACT: With respect to how countries move forward on the agenda that the WMD Commission has laid out, one of the recommendations is that there should be a summit at the United Nations to move forward on this. But in light of the failures at the NPT Review Conference in 2005 and the UN Millennium +5 Summit in September, how could such a summit break the deadlock? How do we move ahead?
Blix: We think that there should be thorough preparations. Those would certainly take a couple of years. We are not alone in making these recommendations. We think that governments around the world, NGOs, and think tanks need to study the situation. We feel a little like [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan that the world is sort of sleep walking into new arms races, as he said in Tokyo recently. After the end of the Cold War, when people felt that the risk of mutual obliteration was gone, it was as if we feel asleep. Our daily dose of anguish was turned to other sources like global warming, which are good reasons, but nevertheless, arms control and disarmament fell a bit by the wayside. We think that is wrong.
I understand some of the U.S. skepticism against global conventions in the failure of the NPT to stop Iraq and North Korea. At the same time, it seems to me that the Iraq war has demonstrated the difficulties of achieving arms control by counterproliferation and military force. No one can contend that the Iraq war was successful. Now, we’re discussing the case of Iran, and it’s taken for granted as in the case of Iraq that, yes, [prohibited weapons programs] are there. The evidence doesn’t have to be examined any further and they are talking loudly in many quarters about the use of armed force. Clearly, when you listen to the European leaders, they will not endorse the use of armed force. There is plenty of time.
We are saying in the final chapter about the Security Council that the council should make use of its power to adopt binding decisions designed under Article 39, but it should be its power acting in accordance with the UN Charter. Chapter VII speaks about situations where the council has determined that it is a threat to international peace and security, and Chapter VI, which no one talks about, is about situations which, if they continue, may come to constitute threats to international peace and security. I think it would be useful for the council to focus upon where they are. I’ve said that the framers of the charter were not pacifists, nor are we, [I think this could go] but they were also not trigger-happy.
ACT: Thank you.
1. Iran currently has no operating nuclear power plants. Russia is constructing a nuclear power reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr. Iran plans to construct another reactor on the same site.
2. The 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula forbids North Korea and South Korea from possessing uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation facilities.
3. Russia briefly cut off natural gas shipments to Ukraine during this past January. Russia has proposed giving Iran part-ownership of a gas centrifuge plant located in Russia.
4. The United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty on June 13, 2002.
5. Wade Boese, “ U.S. Unveils Draft Fissile Material Treaty,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 38-39.
6. Brazil has a uranium-enrichment facility at its Resende nuclear facility. Japan has a planned plutonium reprocessing facility in Rokkasho-mura. See David Fite and Sharon Squassoni, “Brazil as Litmus Test: Resende and Restrictions on Uranium Enrichment,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, pp. 13-19; Shinichi Ogawa and Michael Schiffer, “Japan’s Plutonium Reprocessing Dilemma,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, pp. 20-24.
7. France and the United Kingdom both have IAEA safeguards agreements and additional protocols with both EURATOM and the IAEA. Established in 1958, EURATOM is a multilateral organization that manages and promotes European nuclear industries.
8. The additional protocol is a voluntary agreement that countries can conclude with the IAEA to give the agency greater inspection and oversight authority to verify that civilian nuclear technologies are not misused to build bombs.
9. Many of the 65 members of the CD favor holding negotiations or at least talks on nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The United States has opposed a work program that includes these items.
10. See Rebecca Johnson, “ End of a Nuclear Weapons Era: Can Britain Make History?” Arms Control Today, April 2006, pp. 6-12.
11. Wade Boese, “Bush Promotes New Nuclear Plan,” Arms Control Today, March 2006, pp. 36-37.
12. President George W. Bush announced May 31, 2003, that the United States would lead a new effort, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related goods to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern. Although the use of interdictions to thwart the WMD trade is not new, the PSI seeks to use multilateral cooperation to strengthen such efforts. There are approximately 70 countries reportedly supporting the initiative, including the core group of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
13. Wade Boese, “Key U.S. Interdiction Initiative Claim Misrepresented,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, pp. 26-27.
14. The Security Council approved Resolution 1540 in April 2004. It requires governments to adopt laws and measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring unconventional weapons. On April 27, 2006, the Security Council extended the committee monitoring the resolution’s implementation for two additional years, through April 2008. See Wade Boese, “UN Extends Committee on Terrorists and Arms,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 39-40.