"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
Nuclear Nonproliferation

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) At a Glance

March 2022

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: March 2022

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a voluntary, multilateral effort initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush in May 2003 to strengthen the nonproliferation architecture. Specifically, PSI seeks to enhance interdiction capabilities and increase coordination between states to disrupt trade in weapons of mass destruction (WMD), delivery systems, and related materials.

Several factors motivated the Bush administration to create PSI. In the 2002 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation, the administration recognized the important role that interdicting technologies and materials plays in disrupting proliferation. The strategy concluded that “we must enhance the capabilities of our military, intelligence, technical, and law enforcement communities to prevent the movement of WMD materials, technology, and expertise to hostile states and terrorist organizations.”

The Bush administration also viewed PSI as responding to a gap made evident by the December 2002 So San incident. The So San was a North Korean ship carrying Scud missiles bound for Yemen when it was intercepted by Spanish authorities acting on intelligence provided by the United States. The United States and Spain, however, could not seize the missile parts because there was no legal basis to do so. The So Sanwas released and continued on to Yemen, after Yemenis authorities provided assurances that the country would not transfer the missiles to any third party.


PSI aims to disrupt and deter shipments of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, and the illicit transfer of dual-use goods that could be used to produce such weapons. It also seeks to enhance cooperation between states to promote intelligence and information sharing about suspected shipments of proliferation concern.

Then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton indicated in November 2003 that participants would be targeting shipments to non-state actors or states pursing WMDs in violation of international law.

The original PSI member states emphasized that the initiative is “an activity not an organization,” thus it has never had a formal implementing body or secretariat. PSI also does not receive dedicated funding from participating states. An informal 21-member body, known as the Operational Experts Group (OEG), serves a coordinating function and plans exercises and activities.

The list of states that comprise the OEG is available here.

Principles and Participation:

Ten countries—Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom—worked with the United States to shape the initiative and craft its interdiction principles.

In September 2003, the 11 original PSI participants released the Statement of Interdiction Principles, the non-binding document that lays out the mission of PSI and the expectations for membership. Any state can join PSI by endorsing the principles.

The principles call on PSI participants, as well as other countries, to not engage in WMD-related trade with countries of proliferation concern and to permit their own vessels and aircraft to be searched if suspected of transporting such goods.

The principles also include commitments to: 

  • develop measures to interdict transfers of WMDs, and related materials and technologies of proliferation concern,
  • strengthen national legal authorities and frameworks for interdictions,
  • adopt procedures for sharing information with other states about suspected proliferation activities, and
  • support interdiction efforts, including by negotiating ship boarding consent agreements and stopping and searching suspected shipments in territorial waters and airspaces.

As of 2019, 107 states have endorsed the Statement of Principles.

Legal Status: 

PSI does not create new law, but rather relies on existing international law to conduct interdictions in international waters or airspace. For example, a ship can be stopped in international waters if it is not flying a national flag or properly registered.

States can also conduct interdictions when directed to do so by UN Security Council resolutions adopted under Section VII of the UN Charter. For example, after the UN Security Council passed two resolutions on North Korea in 2017, a group of PSI participants issued a press releasein 2018 expressing support for the interdiction provisions in the resolutions. The press release also drew attention to the complimentary actions participating states are encouraged to take that support enforcement of the resolutions.

PSI participants are encouraged to develop their national laws and join international treaties that criminalize WMD related trafficking, such as the 2005 protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation(SUA Convention). The SUA convention’s 2005 protocol prohibits maritime shipment of WMDs and related technologies outside of legitimate trade under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The protocol allows ships to be boarded, with the consent of the flag state, if they are suspected of carrying illicit cargo, thus strengthening the legal basis for interdictions.

PSI member states also seek to expand their legal authority to interdict shipments by signing bilateral boarding agreements with select countries to secure expedited processes or pre-approval for stopping and searching their ships at sea.

Activities and Meetings:

To build capacity and best practices, participating states can participate in exercises and workshops convened by PSI members. Between 2003-2018 more than 85 workshops and exercises were hosted by PSI member states. Some groups of states have taken the initiative to hold more regular activities designed to counter regional threats, including:

  • The Mediterranean Initiative: During PSI’s high-level political meeting in 2013, France and Germany proposed creating a dedicated channel to focus on challenges in the Mediterranean region. The objectives of the initiative are to discuss risks specific to region, strengthen cooperation amongst PSI and non-PSI stakeholders, and increase capacity. Activities have included seminars to discuss counter-proliferation strategies for the region, table-top exercises, and live exercises that include interdiction best practices.
  • The Asia-Pacific Exercise Rotation: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and the United States committed to rotate hosting yearly exercises focused on the Asia-Pacific region.

A list of PSI activities from 2003-2018 is available here.

On May 28, 2013, representatives from seventy-two PSI member states held a High Level Political Meeting in Warsaw on the 10th anniversary of the PSI’s formation. Attending states affirmed four joint statements pledging to conduct “more regular and robust” PSI exercises; promote international treaties criminalizing WMD-related trafficking; share expertise and resources to enhance interdiction capabilities; and to expand “the influence of the PSI globally through outreach to new states and the public.”

A mid-level meeting took place in Washington, DC in January 2016 that included representatives from 71 countries. Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said that participants discussed topics such as trends in proliferation, tactics that networks use to ship sensitive materials and technologies, and options to control proliferation financing. Countryman also said that countries shared expertise and resources that should contribute to building countries’ ability to carry out interdictions.


It is difficult to assess how effective the initiative has been since its inception in 2003. Given that PSI utilizes shared intelligence and interdictions may be conducted based off of multiple streams of information, successes are rarely credited directly to the initiative.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that PSI played an important role in a number of successful interdictions, including seizing centrifuge components that the A.Q. Khan network was shipping to Libya in 2003. In a June 2006 speech, then-Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph claimed that between April 2005 and April 2006 the United States had cooperated with other PSI participants on “roughly two dozen” occasions to prevent transfers of concern. Ulrik Federspiel, Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, asserted at a May 2005 event that “the shipment of missiles has fallen significantly in the lifetime of PSI.”

At a 2008 conference for PSI participants, the United States provided a briefing paper outlining five interdictions where PSI played a significant role.

  • February 2005: A European government denied an export license for coolers U.S. intelligence assessed were intended for Iran’s nuclear program.
  • November 2006: A state stopped the transfer for chromium-nickel steel plates to Iran that could have been used for that country’s ballistic missile program and returned the materials to the country of origin.
  • February 2007: Shared intelligence led authorities in a state to interdict U.S. origin equipment bound for Syria that could have been used for ballistic missile development.
  • April 2007: An Asian country stopped a shipment of sodium perchlorate, which can be used for making solid rocket motors, that was en route to Iran.
  • June 2007: A country denied overflight to a Syrian aircraft making a trip to North Korea based on shared intelligence that the cargo was carrying ballistic missile related components.


Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Subject Resources:

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at a Glance

August 2019

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in March 1970, seeks to inhibit the spread of nuclear weapons. Its 190 (191 with North Korea*) states parties are classified into two categories: nuclear-weapon states (NWS)—consisting of the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom—and non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS). Under the treaty, the five NWS commit to pursuing general and complete disarmament, while the NNWS agree to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons.

With its near-universal membership, the NPT has the widest adherence to any arms control agreement, with only South Sudan, India, Israel, and Pakistan remaining outside the treaty. In order to accede to the treaty, these states must do so as NNWS, since the treaty restricts NWS status to nations that "manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices prior to 1 January 1967." For India, Israel, and Pakistan, all known to possess or suspected of having nuclear weapons, joining the treaty as NNWS would require that they dismantle their nuclear weapons and place their nuclear materials under international safeguards. South Africa followed this path to accession in 1991.

Select Treaty Articles

Under Articles I and II of the treaty, the NWS agree not to help NNWS develop or acquire nuclear weapons, and the NNWS permanently forswear the pursuit of such weapons. To verify these commitments and ensure that nuclear materials are not being diverted for weapons purposes, Article III tasks the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the inspection of the non-nuclear-weapon states' nuclear facilities. In addition, Article III establishes safeguards for the transfer of fissionable materials between NWS and NNWS.

Article IV acknowledges the "inalienable right" of states-parties to research, develop, and use nuclear energy for non-weapons purposes. It also supports the "fullest possible exchange" of such nuclear-related information and technology between NWS and NNWS.

Article V, now effectively obsolete, permits NNWS access to NWS research and development on the benefits of nuclear explosions conducted for peaceful purposes. As the perceived utility of peaceful nuclear explosions has diminished over time, the relevance of this clause has lost much of its practical value. It is now moot due to the restriction on all nuclear explosions mandated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—to which all five NWS are signatories.

Article VI commits states-parties to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Acknowledging the necessity of intermediate steps in the process of nuclear disarmament, Article VII allows for the establishment of regional nuclear-weapon-free-zones.

Article VIII requires a complex and lengthy process to amend the treaty, effectively blocking any changes absent clear consensus. Article X establishes the terms by which a state may withdraw from the treaty, requiring three months' advance notice should "extraordinary events" jeopardize its supreme national interests.

The remainder of the treaty deals with its administration, providing for a review conference every five years and a decision after 25 years on whether the treaty should be extended. The 1995 review conference extended the treaty indefinitely and enhanced the review process by mandating that the five-year review conferences review past implementations and address ways to strengthen the treaty. Review conferences were held in 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015 respectively. The 2020 conference was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and held in August 2022 at the United Nations. 

For more on the history of the NPT and its review conferences, see the Timeline of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The treaty text can be found here.


*North Korea announced on January 10, 2003, that it was withdrawing from the treaty, effective the next day. Although Article X of the NPT requires that a country give three months' notice in advance of withdrawing, North Korea argued that it satisfied this requirement because it originally announced its decision to withdraw on March 12, 1993, and suspended the decision one day before it was to become legally binding. There is not yet a definitive legal opinion as to whether North Korea is still a party to the NPT.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Fact Sheet Categories:

Resource Page: The 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference

May 2010

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Online Resources and Documentation
ACA’s Recommendations and Analysis
U.S. Government Perspectives
Fact Sheets
Official Conference Documentation and Speeches
Support ACA’s Work/ Subscribe to Arms Control Today

Updated: May 2010


From May 3-28, leaders from the nearly 190 members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), along with hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, will gather at the United Nations in New York to discuss how one of the world’s most vital international security instruments can be strengthened to address both long-standing and emerging nuclear challenges.

Over the course of four decades, the NPT has established an indispensable yet imperfect set of interlocking nonproliferation and disarmament obligations and standards. Reinforced by nuclear export controls and the safeguards system, the NPT makes it far more difficult for non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire or build nuclear weapons and to do so without being detected. Equally important, NPT Article VI commits the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China to end the arms race, stop nuclear testing, and achieve nuclear disarmament.

Rather than the dozens of nuclear-armed states that were forecast before the NPT entered into force in 1970, only four additional countries (India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) have nuclear weapons today, and taboo against the use of nuclear weapons has grown stronger.

Yet, once again the nonproliferation system is facing a crisis of confidence. New measures to renew and update the NPT bargain are needed.

The May 2010 treaty review conference provides an important opportunity for the treaty’s 189 members to adopt a balanced action plan to improve nuclear safeguards, guard against treaty withdrawal, accelerate progress on disarmament, and address regional proliferation challenges.

There is widespread support for common-sense initiatives that would advance treaty implementation and compliance. U.S. President Barack Obama’s renewed commitment to the NPT, deeper nuclear reductions, and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has rejuvenated hopes for a successful conference.

But friction over Iran's controversial nuclear activities and pending action by the UN Security Council to further sanction Iran, as well as the lack of progress toward one NPT-related goal—the pursuit of a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone—threaten to overshadow the broad degree of support for the treaty and measures to strengthen it.

To succeed, all states have a responsibility to fulfill their part of the NPT bargain and support common sense measures to update and strengthen the nonproliferation and disarmament system.

Online Resources, Analysis, and Documentation from ACA

ACA offers the following resources related to the NPT Review Conference:

“Major Proposals to Strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: a Resource Guide,” March 2010, by Cole Harvey is available from http://www.armscontrol.org/reports. ACA’s 75-page guide outlines the major points of debate and governmental proposals for moving forward in key areas. It includes:

  • An overview of the recent history of the NPT;
  • A description of 14 key issues NPT members will address during the Review Conference along with positions and proposals;
  • Key NPT documentation, including the text of the treaty and decisions taken at past Review Conference;
  • A pictorial timeline of the history of the treaty.

ACA’s Recommendations and Analysis

Strengthen the Nonproliferation Bargain, Focus editorial by Daryl G. Kimball in Arms Control Today, May 2010: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010_05/Focus

“Challenges and Solution for the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 31, 2010: http://www.armscontrol.org/events/StrengtheningNPT

U.S. Government Perspectives

“Previewing the NPT Review Conference,” Remarks by Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Washington, D.C., April 29, 2010: http://www.state.gov/t/us/141029.htm

An interview with the U.S. Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Ambassador Susan Burk in Arms Control Today, March 2010: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010_03/Burk

Fact Sheets

“The NPT at a Glance,” an ACA Fact Sheet: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nptfact

“Who Has What at a Glance,” an ACA Fact Sheet tallying states’ nuclear weapons holdings: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat

“The IAEA Additional Protocol,” an ACA Fact Sheet outlining efforts to strengthen nuclear safeguards: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/IAEAProtoco

Official Conference Documentation and Speeches

Support ACA’s Work and Stay Informed

  • Become a member of the Arms Control Association
  • Subscribe to the leading journal in the field, Arms Control Today for only $25!
Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Fact Sheet Categories:

Chronology of Bush Administration Claim that Iraq Attempted to Obtain Uranium from Niger (2001-2003)

August 2017

Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

One of the chief arguments used by the Bush administration to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. For example, only three days before U.S.-led coalition forces invaded Iraq Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that Iraq had "reconstituted nuclear weapons." Central to the administration's argument were erroneous claims that Iraq had recently attempted to obtain lightly-processed uranium, or "yellowcake," from Africa and that it had attempted to acquire specialized aluminum tubes as part of a uranium enrichment program to produce fissile material, which is necessary for making nuclear weapons.

The claim regarding the uranium deal has become particularly contentious because President George W. Bush cited it in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address and because officials in the White House and the Office of Vice President Cheney waged a public campaign to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who publicly challenged the uranium claim in the summer of 2003. The administration's claims regarding Iraq's pre-war capabilities are the subject of the delayed, "second phase" of the investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Contrary to White House assertions that the "intelligence was all wrong," as early as a year before the invasion U.S. intelligence assessments and senior U.S. officials disagreed about the reliability of the information supporting the main nuclear weapons-related assertions. Furthermore, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors working on the ground in Iraq found no evidence that Baghdad had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

The chronology of events involving the internal intelligence assessments and international inspections clearly demonstrates that senior Bush officials overlooked intelligence assessments that cast doubt on the claim that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program.

The chronology also highlights that senior Bush administration officials also failed to take into consideration the findings and assessments of the IAEA inspectors working in Iraq from November 2002 to March 2003 that repudiated the nuclear program reconstitution allegation. The administration also gave short shrift to proposals from other UN Security Council members based on the inspectors' finding that called for a the continuation of the inspections, as well as the UN-mandated sanctions regime to contain and dismantle any remaining prohibited weapons activities in Iraq.


Following Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the international community discovered that Baghdad had a much more advanced nuclear weapons program than the United States or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had suspected. The IAEA was charged with undertaking inspections to ensure that Iraq complied with disarmament requirements mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 687, but the United Nations withdrew the inspectors in December 1998 shortly before "Operation Desert Fox," the U.S.-U.K. military operation to strike known Iraqi weapons facilities.

The IAEA, however, reported in 1999 that, based on the inspectors' work until that time, there was "no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material."

The IAEA also cautioned that this statement was "not the same as a statement of [the weapons] non-existence." A 2001 Department of Defense report added that Iraq "still retains sufficient skilled and experienced scientists and engineers as well as weapons design information that could allow it to restart a weapons program."

The absence of inspectors, combined with the remaining uncertainty regarding Iraq's nuclear program, created concern that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Long before President George W. Bush sought to do so, many arms control and nonproliferation advocates urged UN Security Council members to pursue steps that would lead to the reintroduction of weapons inspectors.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 in November 2002, requiring Iraq to comply fully with its disarmament requirements under relevant Security Council resolutions. Inspections resumed later that month. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the Security Council March 7 that the inspectors had found "no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq."

Prior to a vote on a resolution to authorize the possible use of force to enforce UN Security Council Resolutions, congressional Democrats requested an intelligence assessment on Iraq's weapons capabilities. The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated that that most agencies agreed that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

However, the State Department's Bureau for Intelligence and Research (INR) did not agree. Its dissenting views were included in the full NIE report but not in the unclassified executive summary. The INR dissent stated that "available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities" but that the evidence is "inadequate" to support the claim that "Iraq is currently pursuing an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."



February 20, 2001: Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that, although Iraq is pursuing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), "[c]ontainment has been a successful policy" in limiting Baghdad's ability to threaten other regional countries." "Containment" referred to such measures as UN-mandated sanctions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as well as no-fly zones.

Late 2001-early 2002: The United States gathers what Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet later terms "fragmentary intelligence" about Iraq's attempts to acquire uranium from Africa.

According to a July 2004 report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the CIA Directorate of Operations (DO) reports October15, 2001 that Niger had agreed to "ship several tons of uranium to Iraq." The DO issues a second report February 5, 2002 providing "more details" about the previously-reported agreement, including "what was said to be 'verbatim text' of the accord." Both reports are based on information from a foreign government service, widely reported to be Italian intelligence.

Based on the second report, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) produces its own report February 12 which states that Niger agreed to provide Iraq with 500 tons of yellowcake [lightly-processed uranium ore] to Baghdad, concluding that "Iraq probably is searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program."

Shortly after, Vice President Dick Cheney reads the report and requests the CIA's assessment. The Director of Central Intelligence's (DCI) Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) sends a report to Cheney which includes doubts as to whether the two countries had concluded a uranium deal. It also notes that the relevant intelligence "comes exclusively from a foreign government service report that lacks crucial details." The report adds that the CIA is "working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated."

The CIA's DO later issues a third report March 25 which is also based on Italian government intelligence reports. This report does not appear to provide any significant new information.

These reports ultimately prove to be inaccurate. The U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group - the task force later charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi prohibited weapons - finds no evidence that Iraq tried to procure uranium from other countries, according to 2004 and 2005 reports from the group's top CIA adviser. And the CIA concludes in March 2003 that all of the original intelligence reporting was "unreliable" because it was based on forged documents, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction reports March 31, 2005.

Late February 2002: The CIA's DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD)
sends former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate reports about Iraq's attempts to acquire uranium from that country. Wilson later writes in The New York Times July 6, 2003, that "it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had taken place" because Niger's uranium industry is closely regulated by its government and is controlled by a consortium of foreign companies monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Wilson briefs this conclusion to the CIA when he returns in March 2002.

According to a March 8 report from CIA's DO, Wilson also tells the agency that former Nigerien Prime Minster Ibrahim Mayaki described a 1999 meeting with an Iraqi delegation. Prior to the meeting, an intermediary told Mayaki that the Iraqis wanted to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between the two countries - an overture Mayaki described to Wilson as an attempt to discuss yellowcake sales, the CIA report says. But Mayaki told Wilson that the two sides did not discuss uranium. Wilson tells Arms Control Today August 18, 2003 that Mayaki mentioned as an afterthought the possibility that the Iraqis wanted to discuss a uranium deal.

March 1, 2002: The State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) distributes a report stating that claims regarding Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger are not credible. The analyst who drafted the assessment later tells Senate Intelligence Committee staff that "he had been told that the piece was in response to interest from" Cheney's office in the suspected deal.

March 5, 2002: Responding to a request from Cheney earlier in the month, WINPAC analysts send an "analytic update" regarding the Niger issue to Cheney's morning briefer. According to this report, Italian intelligence has been "unable to provide new information [to the United States], but continues to assess that its source is reliable."

The report also mentions that agency officials will be debriefing Wilson later that day, though apparently does not mention him by name.

March 8, 2002: The CIA's DO "widely distributes" a summary of Wilson's report to intelligence community entities. The CIA does not brief Cheney directly about Wilson's report, according the to the Senate Intelligence Committee, because agency analysts do not "believe that the report added any new information to clarify the issue."

Previous reports from U.S. Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick and Deputy Commander in Chief, United States European Command, General Carlton Fulford provided no information that Niger planned to sell uranium to Iraq.

May 2002-October 2002: The intelligence community appears to produce inconsistent reporting about the suspected uranium deal, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

August 26, 2002: Cheney declares that "we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons…. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

September 2002: The CIA expresses "reservations" to British intelligence about information regarding Iraqi efforts to acquire African uranium after the United Kingdom informs the agency about its plans to include the allegation in a forthcoming report about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, according to a July 11, 2003 statement from Tenet.

However, according to a July 2004 UK report regarding British intelligence on Iraq, the "CIA advised caution about any suggestion that Iraq had succeeded in acquiring uranium from Africa, but agreed that there was evidence that it had been sought."

September 24, 2002: The United Kingdom issues a report on Iraq's WMD program, stating that "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants, and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium."

According to three UK reports issued in 2003 and 2004, some British foreign ministry and intelligence officials continue to say that London had independent, reliable intelligence indicating that Iraq was indeed attempting to obtain uranium from Niger. But the United Kingdom has not disclosed this intelligence and the available public evidence suggests that it would not prove the uranium claim true.

October 1, 2002: A classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a portion of which is later made public July 18, 2003, states, "A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons" of uranium to Iraq, adding that "Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake."

The NIE also says that "reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources."

The NIE also contains a State Department INR dissent that characterizes "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa" as "highly dubious." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice does not read the INR dissent, a senior administration official says July 18, 2003.

October 1-2, 2002: U.S. intelligence officials tell the Senate Intelligence Committee about the U.S. intelligence community's differences with the British report containing the Iraq uranium claim

October 5-7, 2002: Tenet calls Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to request that a line referring to Iraqi attempts to obtain "substantial amounts of uranium oxide" be removed from a draft of a speech President George W. Bush is scheduled to give October 7.

The CIA's Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence sends a memorandum to Hadley and White House speechwriter Michael Gerson October 5, asking them to remove a similar line referring to Iraq's attempted acquisition of "500 metric tons of uranium oxide from…Africa."

The agency also sends a memorandum to the White House October 6 providing additional detail about the Iraq uranium claim and noting the U.S. intelligence community's differences with the United Kingdom over the intelligence. The memorandum is passed to both Hadley and Rice.
No reference to Iraqi uranium procurement attempts appears in Bush's October 7 speech.

Hadley and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett reveal these details in a July 22, 2003, press briefing.

October 8, 2002: After several weeks of debate, the House of Representatives passes a resolution providing Bush with the authority to use military force against Iraq to enforce UN Security Council resolutions. The Senate follows suit October 11 and Bush signs the resolution October 16.

October 9, 2002: An Italian journalist provides the U.S. Embassy in Rome with "copies of documents pertaining" to the suspected uranium deal, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The embassy gives copies of the documents to both the State Department and CIA.

INR subsequently distributes copies of the documents to the relevant U.S. intelligence agencies, alerting them that it has "serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents," according to the 2005 WMD Commission report. Nevertheless, the agency continues to reference the suspected uranium transaction in several later assessments. WINPAC does not learn until mid-January 2003 that other intelligence agencies received the documents, the CIA later tells the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

October 16, 2002: Bush signs the congressional resolution authorizing him to use military force against Iraq.

The resolution authorizes Bush to use military force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

It also requires Bush to submit to Congress his "determination" that reliance on "further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone" will either be insufficient to protect U.S. national security "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" or "not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

November 22, 2002: A French foreign ministry official tells State Department officials that Paris has "information on an Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger" which it regards as "true," according to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The forged documents also formed the basis for this intelligence, France later informs the United States.

December 17, 2002: WINPAC produces an analysis of Iraq's December 7 declaration to UN weapons inspectors. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted November 8, 2002, required Iraq to submit a declaration "of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes." The declaration is supposed to provide information about any prohibited weapons activity since UN inspectors left the country in 1998 and to resolve outstanding questions about Iraq's WMD programs that had not been answered by 1998.

The analysis omits INR's dissenting viewpoints and states that Baghdad's declaration "does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger."

The next day, the Department of State's Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs Richard Boucher asks Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton for assistance in drafting a response to Iraq's declaration. Bolton assigns the task to the State Department's Nonproliferation Bureau, who prepares a fact sheet based on a draft of a December 20, 2002 speech by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte.

December 19, 2002: The State Department fact sheet charges Iraq with omitting its "efforts to procure uranium from Niger" from its declaration. INR does not clear the fact sheet, according to knowledgeable sources. INR requests that the fact sheet be modified to say the uranium procurement effort is "repeated" and notes its assessment that the validity of the allegation is "dubious," but the final fact sheet does not contain INR's suggested language. WINPAC approves the Niger language when it reviews the fact sheet, but later asks that Negroponte's final speech use "Africa" instead.

The IAEA requests information from the United States regarding the uranium claim "immediately after" the fact sheet's release, according to a June 20, 2003, letter from the IAEA to U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). This information is not supplied until February 4, 2003, according to a July 1, 2003, State Department letter to Waxman.


January 20, 2003: Bush submits a report to Congress stating that Iraq omitted "attempts to acquire uranium" from its December 7 declaration to the United Nations.

January 23, 2003: Rice writes in The New York Times that Iraq's declaration "fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad." A White House report issued the same day asserts that Iraq's weapons declaration "ignores efforts to procure uranium from abroad."

January 26, 2003: Powell asks, "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?" during a speech in Switzerland.

January 27, 2003: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei tells the Security Council that IAEA inspectors "have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s."

January 28, 2003: Bush asserts that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" during his State of the Union address.

January 29, 2003: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld states during a press briefing that Iraq "recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

February 4, 2003: State Department officials give the IAEA the information the agency requested about Iraq's attempts to obtain uranium from Niger, telling the agency that it "cannot confirm these reports and [has] questions regarding some specific claims."

February 5, 2003: Powell presents evidence, based on U.S. intelligence, about Iraq's prohibited weapons programs to the Security Council. He does not mention Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa.

February 14, 2003: ElBaradei reports to the Security Council that "we have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq," adding that "a number of issues are still under investigation and we are not yet in a position to reach a conclusion about them."

February 16, 2003: Hadley writes in The Chicago Tribune that "[a]ccording to British intelligence, the [Iraqi] regime has tried to acquire natural uranium from abroad."

February 24, 2003: Russia and France submit a memorandum to the Security Council stating that military force should not yet be used because there is "no evidence" that Iraq possesses illicit weapons. The resolution suggests several measures to strengthen the UN weapons inspections, noting that they have already "produced results." China also supports the resolution.

The resolution, however, cautions that Baghdad's cooperation, although improving, is not "yet fully satisfactory." Additionally, the memorandum does not rule out the use of military force as a "last resort" and states that "inspections…cannot continue indefinitely."

March 3, 2003: The IAEA notifies the U.S. Mission in Vienna that, based on its analysis of the relevant documents, as well as interviews with Iraqi officials, the agency has concluded that the documents are forgeries.

March 4, 2003: The United States learns that the French had based their intelligence assessments regarding the suspected uranium sale on the same forged documents.

March 7, 2003: ElBaradei tells the Security Council that the documents allegedly detailing uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are "not authentic," adding that "these specific allegations are unfounded."

March 9, 2003: Powell acknowledges that the documents concerning the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal might be fake.

March 11, 2003: WINPAC issues an assessment which does "not dispute" the IAEA's conclusions regarding the documents. Although the report states "we are concerned that these reports may indicate Baghdad has attempted to secure an unreported source of uranium yellowcake for a nuclear weapons program," it describes the intelligence as "fragmentary and unconfirmed."

March 16, 2003: Cheney states on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the IAEA's March 7 assessment that there is no evidence of an active Iraqi nuclear weapons program is "wrong."

March 19, 2003: U.S.-led coalition military forces invade Iraq.

April 5, 2003: The National Intelligence Council states that the intelligence community agrees that the documents in question are forgeries. The report adds that "other reports from 2002-one alleging warehousing of yellowcake for shipment to Iraq, a second alleging a 1999 visit by an Iraqi delegation to Niamey [Niger]-do not constitute credible evidence of a recent or impending sale."

June 8, 2003: Rice acknowledges on "Meet the Press" that the intelligence underlying the Niger claim "was mistaken," but also states that "no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."

June 17, 2003: The CIA produces a memorandum for Tenet stating that "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad." The memorandum is not distributed outside the agency, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

July 6, 2003: The New York Times publishes Ambassador Wilson's op-ed.

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Disarming Saddam-A Chronology of Iraq and UN Weapons Inspections From 2002-2003

August 2017

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Prior to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 in November 2002 giving Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply with its disarmament requirements under previous Security Council resolutions. At issue was Iraq’s failure to provide an adequate accounting of its prohibited weapons programs or to convince UN inspectors that its weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed as Baghdad claimed.

UN weapons inspectors worked in Iraq from November 27, 2002 until March 18, 2003. During that time, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) conducted more than 900 inspections at more than 500 sites. The inspectors did not find that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons or that it had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Although Iraq was cooperative on what inspectors called “process”—allowing inspectors access to suspected weapons sites, for example—it was only marginally cooperative in answering the questions surrounding its weapons programs. Unable to resolve its differences with Security Council members who favored strengthening and continuing weapons inspections, the United States abandoned the inspections process and initiated the invasion of Iraq on March 19.

Following is a summary of the major events of the decision to pursue, then abandon, UN weapons inspections in Iraq.

Skip to: 2002, 2003


January 29, 2002: In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush labels Iraq a member of an "axis of evil," along with Iran and North Korea. The president's speech is the first of many statements by top U.S. officials on the dangers posed by Iraq. Several of these officials question the ultimate worth of arms inspections and advocate the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the only way to guarantee that Iraq will not develop weapons of mass destruction in the future.

March 7, 2002: Iraqi officials meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix to discuss arms inspections for the first time since 1998. UN officials fail to win the return of inspectors at this meeting or two subsequent ones that occur in May and July.

September 12, 2002: Amid increasing speculation that the United States is preparing to invade Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Bush delivers a speech to the United Nations calling on the organization to enforce its resolutions on disarming Iraq. Bush strongly implies that if the United Nations does not act, the United States will-a message that U.S. officials make more explicit the following week.

September 16, 2002: Baghdad announces that it will allow arms inspectors to return "without conditions." Iraqi and UN officials meet September 17 to discuss the logistical arrangements for the return of inspectors and announce that final arrangements will be made at a meeting scheduled for the end of the month. The United States contends that there is nothing to talk about and warns that the Iraqis are simply stalling. The Bush administration continues to press the Security Council to approve a new UN resolution calling for Iraq to give weapons inspectors unfettered access and authorizing the use of force if Iraq does not comply.

November 8, 2002: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1441. The resolution declares that Iraq "remains in material breach" of past resolutions and gives Iraq a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" set out by Security Council resolutions stretching back to the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It also strengthens UNMOVIC's and the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) powers to conduct inspections throughout Iraq, specifying that Iraq must allow "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to "facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect." UN inspectors are given the authority to prohibit the movement of vehicles and aircraft around sites to be inspected and have the right to interview anyone they choose, without Iraqi officials present, in any location they wish. Additionally, the resolution overrides a 1998 memorandum of understanding between Baghdad and UN Secretary-General Annan that had placed special conditions on inspections of presidential sites to which Iraq had previously denied the inspectors access.

The resolution also warns that Iraq will face "serious consequences" if it fails to comply with its disarmament obligations.

November 13, 2002: Iraq accepts Resolution 1441 in a letter to Annan from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabr.

November 27, 2002: UNMOVIC and IAEA inspections begin.

December 7, 2002: Iraq submits its declaration "of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes" as required by Resolution 1441. The declaration is supposed to provide information about any prohibited weapons activity since UN inspectors left the country in 1998 and resolve outstanding questions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs that had not been answered by 1998.

The resolution requires the declaration to be "currently accurate, full, and complete," but UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors tell the UN Security Council on December 19 that the declaration contains little new information.

December 19, 2002: Following IAEA and UNMOVIC briefings to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell states that the Iraqi declaration contains a "pattern of systematic…gaps" that constitute "another material breach" of Iraq's disarmament obligations.


February 5, 2003: Powell briefs the Security Council in an effort to persuade members that Iraq is subverting the inspections process. He publicly presents intelligence for the first time to support Washington's claim that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction and interfering with inspections. France, China, and Russia are not persuaded and support continued inspections.

February 24, 2003: The United States, United Kingdom, and Spain co-sponsor a new Security Council resolution saying "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by Resolution 1441."

The same day, Russia and France submit a memorandum stating that military force should be a "last resort" and that force should not yet be used because there is "no evidence" that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. The memorandum also says, however, that "inspections…cannot continue indefinitely. Iraq must disarm." It further adds that Baghdad's cooperation, although improving, is not "yet fully satisfactory."

The memorandum proposes that the inspectors submit a program of work that lists and clearly defines specific disarmament tasks. Such a report is already required under Resolution 1284, which created UNMOVIC in 1999.

The memorandum also suggests "further measures to strengthen inspections," including increasing staff and bolstering technical capabilities. Additionally, it proposes a new timeline mandating regular reporting to the Security Council about inspectors' progress, as well as a progress report to be submitted 120 days after the program of work is adopted.

Neither measure is adopted.

March 7, 2003: UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix tells the Security Council that Iraq's cooperation with the inspectors in providing information about past weapons activities has improved, although Baghdad has not yet complied with its disarmament obligations. UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors had stated during briefings to the Security Council on January 27 and February 14 that Iraq was gradually increasing its cooperation with the United Nations. Yet, both deemed the cooperation insufficient.

The United States, United Kingdom, and Spain co-sponsor another resolution stating that Iraq "will have failed" to comply with Resolution 1441 unless Baghdad cooperates with its disarmament obligations by March 17. The draft resolution implies that the council members would take military action if Iraq failed to meet the deadline.

March 17, 2003: After U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to build support for the new resolution fail, the United States decides not to seek a vote on it-a reversal of Bush's March 6 statement that the United States would push for a Security Council vote on the resolution, regardless of whether it was expected to pass.

Annan announces that UN weapons inspectors will be withdrawn from the country.

Bush announces that Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq or the United States will initiate military action.

March 18, 2003: UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors leave Iraq.

March 19, 2003: The United States commences military action. The United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland provide troops to the U.S.-led invasion.

May 1, 2003: Bush declares an end to "major combat operations." U.S. forces had not discovered any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction since entering the country.

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1999 CTBT Safeguards

Contact: Daryl KimballExecutive Director, (202) 463-7280 x107


The safeguards of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) consist of measures in line with the treaty that the United States could unilaterally take to offset any of the perceived disadvantages and risks of signing the treaty. Established in August 1995, these safeguards were debated in the context of the ratification vote in the U.S. Senate in 1999.

Safeguards were first proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the debate over the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty in order to garner support from treaty skeptics.

See the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at a Glance for more information about the treaty itself. 

According to the September 22, 1997, White House letter of transmittal, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is conditioned on:

A. The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs.

B. The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs on which continued progress in nuclear technology depends.

C. The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound to adhere to this treaty.

D. Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.

E. The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons development programs, and related nuclear programs.

F. The understanding that if the president is informed by the secretaries of Defense and Energy—advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the directors of the DOE’s nuclear weapons laboratories, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command—that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the president, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard “supreme national interest” clause in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.

Nuclear Testing


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