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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Press Releases

After Long Delay, Energy Department Releases Weapons Advisory Committee Report

Gabrielle Kohlmeier


Succumbing to pressure from nongovernmental groups and members of Congress, the Department of Energy has finally turned over a closely held report by an internal advisory committee that critiques the department’s weapons and nonproliferation activities. Although generally favorable toward the “vision and scope” of the strategic plan of the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the report questions the prioritization of NNSA activities, as well as several Bush administration initiatives, including enhancing test-site readiness and researching advanced nuclear concepts.

The report, finalized March 1, 2002, is composed of two subcommittee reports of an NNSA advisory panel established to review science and technology programs related to the nuclear weapons stockpile and detection of nuclear weapons proliferation. The Defense Programs subcommittee reviewed science and technology in the Stockpile Stewardship Program, while the Nuclear Nonproliferation subcommittee assessed science and technology in the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The NNSA advisory group was created in 2001 by then-NNSA administrator John Gordon, who wanted the committee to reflect diverse scientific and philosophical viewpoints. Among the 15 members of the panel were subcommittee lead coordinators Jeremiah Sullivan and Raymond Jeanloz; James Schlesinger, who has served as secretary of energy and secretary of defense; and physicist and arms control specialist Sidney Drell. But the group was disbanded in mid-2003 by newly appointed NNSA administrator Linton Brooks. (See ACT, September 2003.) Requests for the committee’s reports from both nongovernmental groups and congressional officials remained unsuccessful until March when Global Security Newswire obtained a copy in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report offers a positive appraisal of various NNSA programs and operations, pronouncing that “there is a great deal that is progressing well.” It does, however, express concerns over certain operational inefficiencies and several individual programs. Particular criticism was leveled at management of the stockpile life extension program as well as at test readiness and advanced-concepts design initiatives, two areas for which the Bush administration has requested large budget increases the last few years. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The panel warned that NNSA’s stockpile life-extension program, which certifies and assesses the performance, safety, and reliability of aging or refurbished weapons, had modified its procedures in a way that risked introducing uncertainties into the reliability of the weapons.

The report also suggested that NNSA claims that the United States would require at least two to three years to restart nuclear testing are exaggerated. Indeed, the report asserts that the committee had been told that, even without additional preparations, the United States might be able to perform a test in as little as three to six months. The report elaborates that test readiness “cannot be further evaluated without considering specific scenarios.”

The NNSA’s advanced concepts initiative, which includes research on low-yield nuclear warheads and so-called nuclear bunker busters, also elicited concern. (See ACT, March 2003.) The report noted that the purported advanced concepts presented to the committee “did not involve any radical departures from previously considered (or even implemented) systems.” It also complained that “concepts that have been discussed quite forcefully in recent times have yet to be examined in sufficient technical depth to determine that their potential military benefits justify the costs involved.” Congressional budget appropriators expressed similar concerns last November when they cut administration budget requests and attached conditions on the release of funds for research for the current fiscal year. (See ACT, September and December 2003.) In its recommendations for improving efficiency, the NNSA advisory committee urged that all new design concepts be thoroughly reviewed.

The reasons for the protracted disclosure of the report to the public and members of Congress remain unclear. In an interview with Arms Control Today, Jeanloz, the lead coordinator of the stockpile stewardship subcommittee, said the panel had “no intent to find fault or to give a pat on the head, but to make a critical assessment.” Jeanloz speculated that the new NNSA leadership may have just wanted to be doubly sure that the report did not contain sensitive information.

On the other hand, Sullivan, the lead coordinator on the defense nuclear nonproliferation subcommittee, indicated that the failure to release the report was part of NNSA’s general discomfort with an outside advisory board. He told Arms Control Today that “NNSA just didn’t know what to do with an advisory committee. Much of what we wanted to do was to establish that [the Energy Department] had valuable resources and expertise that are important to present and future issues of nonproliferation—nuclear and chemical and biological.” Sullivan underscored the significance of the advisory committee’s termination, averring that “every organization of that size and importance needs an independent review.”

Some members have agreed, deploring the loss of a critical, independent review of NNSA programs. In a letter to Brooks, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) cited the disbanding of the advisory committee as an indication that the Energy Department “is seeking to close itself off from any independent outside expert advice regarding its nuclear weapons programs.” No comparable panel has been established to evaluate NNSA programs since the dissolution of the advisory committee last year.

 

 

 

 

 

Succumbing to pressure from nongovernmental groups and members of Congress, the Department of Energy has finally turned over a closely held report...

U.S., North Korea Jockey For China's Support as Working Group Nuclear Talks Approach

Paul Kerr


As North Korea and the United States prepare for a new round of multilateral talks concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear program, both sides are lobbying for the support of China in an effort to gain diplomatic leverage in future talks.

In April, Vice President Dick Cheney and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited Beijing within a few days of one another. Both discussed the status of the six-party talks designed to resolve a nearly two-year-old nuclear crisis. China, which provides North Korea with vital supplies of fuel and food, is one of the six parties and the host of the talks.

Soon after the two visits, China announced that a long-stalled “working group” meeting of lower-level officials would take place May 12. The talks, which will be conducted in Beijing, are designed to set the stage for a meeting of higher-level officials before the end of June.

The recent nuclear crisis began in October 2002, when the United States reported that North Korea admitted to pursuing a covert uranium-enrichment program, which can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. As the crisis escalated, Pyongyang also restarted a plutonium-based nuclear program that had been frozen since 1994 by an agreement with the United States. Since then, the two countries have participated in three rounds of multilateral talks with China, including two rounds of six-party talks. The negotiations have made little apparent progress.

During the most recent round of six-party talks held in February, the parties— which also include South Korea, Japan, and Russia—agreed to meet again by the end of June and to form a “working group” of lower-level officials to prepare for the next round. (See ACT, April 2004.)

The visits by Cheney and Kim reflect the diplomatic importance Beijing has assumed since the crisis began. Pyongyang and Washington have both consulted with Beijing repeatedly, attempting to enlist its support for their positions. In an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today (see page 31), Department of State Director for Policy Planning Mitchell Reiss described China as a “mediator” in the dispute, adding that it has “the most influence on the North. And so to get [it] on board…gives us much more weight in these negotiations.”

In an April 15 speech at Fudan University in Shanghai, Cheney similarly argued that pressure from China and the other participants was important to “persuade” North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. Cheney also indicated that Pyongyang’s neighbors should demand that it yield to U.S. demands as a condition for improved economic relations with them, suggesting that “the sad state” of its economy will force the regime to comply.

U.S. officials have previously suggested that North Korea’s economic weakness provides other governments with a source of diplomatic leverage, but U.S. intelligence agencies have stated that North Korea shows no signs of imminent collapse. (See ACT, December 2003.)

Warning that a nuclear-armed North Korea could both provoke a regional arms race and supply nuclear weapons technology to terrorists or other governments, Cheney also implied that the United States might lose patience with its diplomatic efforts. “It is important that we make progress in this area. Time is not necessarily on our side,” he said. Undersecretary of State John Bolton underscored Cheney’s point April 27, declaring that “simply continuing to talk…is not progress.”

North Korea itself has said that delays in resolving the dispute will give it more time to build its nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Kim met with high-ranking Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao, during his April 19-21 visit. Washington did not become aware of the meeting until shortly before it began, a State Department official told ACT April 28.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported April 21 that the two leaders agreed to “jointly [push] forward the six-party talks process” and Kim promised North Korea “will continue to take a patient and flexible manner and actively participate in the six-party talks process, and make its own contributions to the progress of the talks.”

Kim noted that North Korea’s negotiating stance “remained unchanged,” according to an April 22 state-run Korean Central News Agency statement.

North Korea has said it will dismantle its nuclear weapons program, but only in a series of steps synchronized with significant U.S. concessions.

Pyongyang’s proposal has not swayed Washington, which says North Korea has failed to meet the U.S. bottom-line demand that any dismantlement agreement be “complete, verifiable, and irreversible.” Washington has said bilateral relations could improve if North Korea carries out such a disarmament program, but claims it will not “reward” Pyongyang for doing so, and refuses to specify how it will respond to such North Korean concessions.

Although Kim’s pledge may lend credence to South Korean press reports that Beijing pressured North Korea to soften its negotiating stance, two other recent Chinese decisions underscore Beijing’s reluctance to go along with a U.S. strategy to isolate Pyongyang. Instead, Beijing appears intent on retaining its role as an “honest broker” between North Korea and the United States.

Xinhua reported April 21 that the two countries agreed to “further develop bilateral economic and trade cooperation.” Additionally, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated April 22 that Beijing decided to increase its aid to Pyongyang.

Moreover, China joined South Korea and Russia during the last round of talks in pledging energy assistance to North Korea “on certain conditions.” Additionally, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official told reporters during the talks that the U.S. goal of North Korean nuclear dismantlement is “not enough” and that North Korea’s “concerns should be addressed.”

Indeed, despite Reiss’ insistence during the April 9 interview that the United States is able to form a “united front” against North Korea with the other four participants, China has consistently pressed for North Korea and the United States to show greater “flexibility” in the talks. The Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated April 15 that resolving the dispute requires “greater flexibility and pragmatism from the other five parties.”

 

 

 

 

As North Korea and the United States prepare for a new round of multilateral talks concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear program, both sides are lobbying for the support of China...

NATO Expands, Russia Grumbles

Wade Boese


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is calling upon the United States and NATO not to let relations with Russia slip into a “cold peace” following the March 29 addition of seven new members into the Western military alliance. In an April 6 speech in Washington, Ivanov struck the shrillest note among Russian leaders in a persistent yet resigned chorus opposing NATO’s growth.

Ivanov depicted Moscow’s view of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joining NATO as “calm, but negative.” Ivanov, who attended a NATO-Russian meeting on combating terrorism the day before, said that a window of opportunity remained for a meaningful NATO-Russian partnership but warned that the West should not allow it to become a “small vent shaft” or close altogether by forsaking Russian interests.

NATO’s recent expansion marked the second time that states from the old Soviet military bloc joined their previous Cold War rivals and the first to include former Soviet republics, in the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. NATO welcomed Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into its ranks in 1999.

At the heart of NATO membership is a guarantee that an attack against one member will be considered an attack against all. In recent years, NATO has augmented its traditional role of defending its members’ territories with military action and deployments outside its members’ borders, such as in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

Russia objects to such activism. It also charges that the newest round of expansion will enable the alliance to deploy an unlimited amount of weaponry next to Russia’s borders in the three Baltic states, which are not bound by the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. The CFE Treaty balanced the number of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the now-defunct Warsaw Pact could deploy in Europe.

Four NATO fighter jets started patrolling the three Baltic states’ airspace following their formal accession to the alliance. NATO, which now numbers 26 members, described the overflights as “routine policing.”

Although NATO contends that its expansion is not aimed at Russia, Ivanov appeared unconvinced. He declared that the Kremlin has “no illusions about the reasons why the Baltic states were admitted into NATO and why NATO airplanes…are being deployed there.” Ivanov explained, “It has nothing to do with a fight against terrorism and proliferation.”

Russia is urging that the Baltic states accede as soon as possible to a 1999 adapted version of the CFE Treaty. However, the three states cannot do so yet because the updated treaty, which supplants the original treaty’s arms limits on the two former Cold War military blocs with national limits for each state-party, has not entered into force. The original CFE Treaty, which has no provision for nonmembers to join it, is still in force and will remain so until all 30 existing CFE Treaty states-parties formally approve the adapted version.

NATO members are refusing to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty until Russia fulfills military withdrawal commitments related to Georgia and Moldova. In conjunction with the 1999 overhaul of the CFE Treaty, Moscow pledged that it would withdraw all of its military forces from Moldova by the end of 2002 and conclude negotiations with Georgia to close Russian bases on its territory by the end of 2000. Russia has not fulfilled either pledge. (See ACT, December 2003.)

While pressing Moscow to complete these actions, NATO is seeking to reassure Russia that its fear about unrestrained armaments in the Baltic states is unwarranted. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have all promised to apply for CFE membership once the adapted agreement enters into force.

Moreover, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Russian President Vladimir Putin April 8 that “neither old nor new NATO members have any intention to station significant numbers of troops on their territories.”

Standing alongside Scheffer, Putin said Russia intends to “do all we can to ensure that relations between Russia and NATO develop positively.” Still, he labeled NATO expansion as a “problem” that did not address current security threats, such as terrorism.

Both Ivanov and Putin cautioned that any buildup of NATO military infrastructure near Russia’s borders would influence future Russian defense and security policies.

Secretary of State Colin Powell April 1 dismissed Moscow’s concerns that the West wants to hem Russia in. While noting the Pentagon’s interest in shifting U.S. bases around in Europe to respond better to troubled regions or terrorism, Powell said overall U.S. troop strength in Europe would decrease.

Nevertheless, Powell indicated NATO and the United States would remain vigilant against any Russian strong-arm tactics on its periphery. “Russia will try to exercise its influence and I think it’s something that we will have to watch and we’ll have to deal with,” Powell stated.

 

 

 

 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is calling upon the United States and NATO not to let relations with Russia slip into a “cold peace” following...

New Life for the MX Missile?

Wade Boese


A vestige of the Cold War, the mammoth, 10-warhead MX missile is on schedule to become history next fall just like the superpower conflict that spawned its creation. Yet, Pentagon planners are already contemplating the missile’s possible reincarnation.

Air Force Space Command has deactivated 26 MX intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), also known as “Peacekeepers,” and has 24 more to go, according to spokesperson Michael Kucharek. The last MX missile is supposed to be disassembled by September 2005.

The Bush administration is deactivating the entire MX force as part of its efforts to reduce the number of operationally deployed U.S. strategic nuclear warheads to comply with the terms of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty negotiated with Russia in 2002.

In decommissioning the MX group, the four-stage missile is taken apart in sections, beginning with its payload, and then the sections are shipped to Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, for storage. The Pentagon plans to maintain the MX missile silos, rather than blow them up, in order to keep them available to house future missiles.

A February 2004 report by a task force of the Defense Science Board, an independent advisory body to the secretary of defense, recommended redeploying MX missiles armed with conventional warheads so as to be able to hit targets around the globe in no more than 30 minutes.

The Air Force Space Command plans to review the proposal as part of a study beginning this month. That effort will examine what systems should be developed to replace hundreds of U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs whose service lives start to expire in 2018. The United States currently deploys 500 Minuteman IIIs armed with 1,200 nuclear warheads.

 

 

 

 

A vestige of the Cold War, the mammoth, 10-warhead MX missile is on schedule to become history next fall just like the superpower conflict that spawned its creation...

GAO: Deployment Looms, But Missile Defense Remains Unproven

Wade Boese


Some Pentagon projects to build missile defense systems are showing progress, but it remains uncertain whether key elements set for deployment this September will work as intended, according to an April 2004 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

“System effectiveness will be largely unproven when the initial capability goes on alert at the end of September 2004,” the GAO concluded in its latest critical review of U.S. missile defense programs. The congressional watchdog further charged that lawmakers and other policymakers might not be fully aware of the various defenses’ true capabilities because the programs are always in flux and lack criteria and benchmarks for measuring progress.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) oversees research and development of U.S. missile defenses. It is currently striving to field the initial elements of some of those systems by this September in accordance with a deployment goal set by President George W. Bush in December 2002.

A long-range ballistic missile launch by North Korea, which has not flight-tested such a missile, is postulated as the near-term threat driving the fall deployment. MDA Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish testified to senators April 21, “[W]e have very high odds of engaging and successfully destroying the threats that we think we’re going after right now.”

The GAO did report that construction of the new ground-based interceptor base at Fort Greely, Alaska, remains on track, but it said that the initial deployment would be scaled back during 2004 and 2005.

Current MDA plans comprise deploying up to 20 ground-based interceptors at two sites, putting nine sea-based interceptors aboard three ships, and upgrading two land-based radars and outfitting 10 ships to help track enemy ballistic missiles.

Earlier plans called for up to 20 sea-based interceptors and 15 ships with improved missile-tracking capabilities. The number of deployed ground-based interceptors is also likely to fall short of expectations because of interceptor test and production delays, GAO predicted.

Moreover, GAO questioned whether the interceptors that will be deployed would work as intended. The report pointed out that both the ground- and sea-based interceptors have had problems with their kill vehicles and that subsequent technical fixes have not been verified through flight testing. The kill vehicle is the component designed to seek out and collide with an enemy warhead in space.

More broadly, the interceptors have only been subjected to a modest number of “highly scripted” developmental tests that do not replicate realistic conditions—a limitation that GAO recommended should be remedied by subjecting the systems to more challenging experiments.

The Pentagon has heard such critiques in the past and replied as it has before that real-world testing of missile defenses is only possible after the systems are built and deployed.

Under its new spiral development approach, the Pentagon aims to field weapons systems earlier in their development cycle and improve them incrementally. Such an evolving system is more responsive to new or changing threats and provides some defensive capability sooner rather than later, the Pentagon argues.

Although acknowledging that such flexibility may be useful in helping defenses keep pace with threats, GAO reported it also diminishes program accountability.

GAO called upon MDA to establish future cost, schedule, and performance baselines for its programs, so Congress can exercise better oversight and the armed services can more accurately budget how much a particular defense will cost them to procure and operate.

Current MDA estimates place the cost of missile defense programs at $53 billion between fiscal year 2004 (which began Oct. 1, 2003) and fiscal year 2009, but GAO said the total does not include figures for buying, producing, operating, and maintaining future systems. The sum does include deploying the initial missile defense elements because those activities are categorized as research and development.

One system experiencing significant cost overruns and development delays is the Airborne Laser (ABL), which is a plane armed with a laser to destroy ballistic missiles soon after their launch. Earlier estimates put the system’s development cost at $2.5 billion and projected that the first aircraft might be available as early as 2003, but the program’s budget has doubled and its earliest deployment date has slipped by at least two years. GAO said the program’s difficulty was “substantially underestimated.”

GAO judged two other MDA programs more favorably. It assessed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles near the end of their flights as ahead of schedule and below budget and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS), designed to track ballistic missiles from orbit, as “on track for meeting performance requirements.” GAO cautioned that unforeseen problems could still arise.

Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense* Intercept Tests

DATE
RESULT
Oct. 2, 1999 Hit
Jan. 18, 2000 Miss
July 8, 2000 Miss
July 14, 2001 Hit
Dec. 3, 2001 Hit
Mar. 15, 2002 Hit
Oct. 14, 2002 Hit
Dec. 11, 2002 Miss

*Formerly known as National MIssile Defense.

 

 

 

 

Some Pentagon projects to build missile defense systems are showing progress, but it remains uncertain whether key elements set for deployment this September will work as intended...

U.S. Lifts More Sanctions on Libya

Paul Kerr


The White House announced April 23 that it is easing additional sanctions on Libya as a reward for Tripoli’s progress toward dismantling its chemical and nuclear weapons programs and eliminating its long-range missiles. Libya had pledged to end the programs in December 2003.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said President George W. Bush “terminated the application of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) with respect to Libya and the Department of the Treasury has modified sanctions imposed…under the authority of the International Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).” The decision will permit “the resumption of most commercial activities” between the two countries, McClellan added.

The ILSA allowed the United States to punish foreign companies for certain investments in Libya’s oil and gas industries, as well as for providing goods or services contributing to Libya’s ability to acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. President Ronald Reagan imposed sanctions against Libya under the IEEPA in January 1986 after its involvement in terrorist attacks in Europe the previous month.

Despite Washington’s decision, Libya remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Countries on that list are subject to several sanctions, including prohibitions on arms exports, economic assistance from the United States, and Department of Defense contracts. The United States is also required to oppose loans to such countries from international financial institutions and impose export controls on dual-use items.

McClellan said that “the necessity of ending any tie to terrorist groups or activities will continue to be a central issue in relations with Libya.” Tripoli agreed to terminate its support for terrorism as part of its December agreement.

Libya also remains subject to some other sanctions. Direct flights are still prohibited, and Libyan assets in the United States remain frozen.

Still, McClellan stated that Libya “has taken significant steps [toward] eliminating weapons of mass destruction programs,” praising Tripoli’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and adoption of an additional protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement. The latter gives the IAEA additional authority to check for clandestine nuclear activities.

The United States has removed all of Libya’s longest-range missiles and most elements of its nuclear weapons program. Libya has destroyed its chemical weapons-capable munitions and agreed to destroy the remaining chemical agents. (See ACT, April 2004.)

Washington’s decision, which Libya’s official JANA news agency called a “victory” the same day it was announced, follows a February announcement that the United States was removing all travel restrictions to Tripoli and allowing “U.S. companies with pre-sanctions holdings in Libya...to negotiate the terms of their re-entry into operations” there.

The possibility of ending sanctions has provided leverage to U.S. diplomacy with Tripoli. Former State Department official Flynt Leverett wrote in January that the United States offered to lift sanctions as “an explicit quid pro quo” for Libya’s dismantling its weapons, although a senior administration official denied in December that “specific discussion[s] about lifting sanctions” took place. Additionally, Secretary of State Colin Powell implied during a February congressional hearing that U.S. officials explicitly held out lifting sanctions as a reward for Tripoli’s continued implementation of its December commitments.

The United Nations permanently lifted its sanctions on Libya in September 2003 after Libya complied with its remaining obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions. (See ACT, October 2003.)

McClellan also announced other U.S. diplomatic efforts. Specifically, the United States will “drop [its] objection” to Tripoli’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization, and the Department of State “intends to establish a U.S. liaison office in Tripoli, pending congressional notification.”

The United States closed its embassy in Tripoli in 1980 but currently has an interests section in the Belgian Embassy there. An interests section is a small diplomatic mission housed in another country’s embassy, used for contacts between countries that do not have full diplomatic relations. A liaison office flies the U.S. flag and is an intermediate step to full diplomatic relations.

McClellan added that Libya’s disarmament efforts have “set a standard that we hope other nations will emulate.” U.S. officials have repeatedly held up Libya’s “strategic decision” to eliminate its weapons programs as a model for other countries, such as Iran and North Korea, to follow. (See ACT, April 2004.)

UN Security Council Praises Libya

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council issued a statement April 22 welcoming Libya’s disarmament efforts and taking “note” of a March resolution adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors. That resolution found that Libya’s past clandestine nuclear activities “constituted non-compliance” with its IAEA safeguards agreement but also praised Libya’s subsequent cooperation with the agency, as well as its dismantlement efforts. (See ACT, April 2004.) IAEA safeguards agreements are designed to provide assurance that states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes.

Because of Libya’s cooperation, the resolution requested that IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei report Libya’s noncompliance to the Security Council “for information purposes only.” The IAEA is required to report findings of noncompliance to the Security Council, which then has the option of taking action against the offending government. The Security Council did not do so, instead “commending” Libya for its cooperation in its recent statement.

Washington has been trying to involve the Security Council in condemning two other countries’ nuclear programs. The United States wants the IAEA board to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement but has not yet been able to persuade the board to do so (see page 26). The IAEA referred North Korea to the council in February 2003, but no action has been taken. (See ACT, April 2003.)

 

 

 

 

The White House announced April 23 that it is easing additional sanctions on Libya as a reward for Tripoli’s progress toward dismantling its chemical and nuclear weapons programs...

Libya to Keep Limited Missile Force

Paul Kerr


The United States and United Kingdom have agreed “in principle” to allow Libya to keep at least some of its medium-range Scud B missiles, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 21. However, Libya must modify the missiles to conform with range and payload limitations it agreed to in December 2003, and the United States is “not sure” the plan is feasible, the official added.

Along with its December pledge to eliminate its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, Libya agreed to eliminate ballistic missiles that do not conform to guidelines set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The 33-member MTCR is an export control regime that is designed to restrict missile suppliers’ exports of missiles capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

The official said Washington and London are waiting to hear details about Tripoli’s proposal, which they must approve, to modify the missiles. Two modification methods under consideration include removing portions of the missiles’ fuel tanks and adding weight to the nonpayload portions of the missile, the official said.

A British embassy official told Arms Control Today April 21 that the United States “has the lead” in the modification efforts but added that London will initially monitor Tripoli’s compliance because it has a closer relationship with Libya, including diplomatic relations. The United States will eventually “be involved,” the official said.

The two governments have been overseeing much of Libya’s disarmament activities. Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter told Congress in March that the United States has removed Libya’s longest-range Scud C missiles. (See ACT, April 2004.) A State Department official interviewed April 19 would not say how many missiles Libya will be allowed to retain.

A 2001 Department of Defense report estimated the range of Libya’s Scud B missiles to be 300 kilometers, but the British official said the missiles that would be modified can fly farther than that. A senior intelligence official said in December that, in addition to showing U.S. and British inspection teams a North Korean Scud C missile with an 800-kilometer range, Tripoli disclosed its attempts to develop long-range Scud-type missiles with North Korean assistance. Libya has privately agreed to end its military trade with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, the State Department official said on April 21, adding that the United States is waiting for Libya to make a “public declaration” that it has done so.


 

 

 

 

The United States and United Kingdom have agreed “in principle” to allow Libya to keep at least some of its medium-range Scud B missiles, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 21...

U.S. Shifts Focus in Iraq WMD Hunt

Paul Kerr


Charles Duelfer, the head advisor to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), provided some new details about the still-fruitless search efforts for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) during a recent Senate hearing but presented little new evidence regarding prohibited Iraqi weapons programs.

Duelfer testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 30 during a closed hearing. According to a public version of his testimony, Duelfer said the ISG—the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi WMDs—is continuing to search for weapons, but is also beginning to focus on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s related “intentions.”

Defending their failure to locate stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons more than a year after the United States invaded Iraq, Bush administration officials have continued to insist that Iraq had “programs” to produce prohibited weapons. However, the ISG’s findings to date have produced only evidence of low-level, dual-use biological, chemical, and nuclear research efforts. Additionally, Duelfer’s predecessor, David Kay, told The Boston Globe in February that Iraq did not have the ability to produce weapons on a large scale. (See ACT, November 2003 and March 2004.)

Kay has indicated that Iraq had programs to develop missiles exceeding the 150-kilometer range permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. However, he presented no evidence Iraq was producing such missiles, apart from noting that Iraq had modified 10 cruise missiles as of the recent invasion whose range may have exceeded that permitted by the UN.

Emphasizing that he was providing the committee a “status report” rather than an assessment of the ISG’s findings, Duelfer provided little new information about Iraq’s weapons efforts. He did reveal that Iraq had “plans” to construct facilities to produce large supplies of some dual-use chemicals. Additionally, the ISG has found “documents” indicating that Iraq was working on a conventional weapons project that included “research applicable for nuclear weapons development,” Duelfer said.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), stated after the hearing that Duelfer’s public statement was misleading because it selectively chose intelligence from a supporting classified report submitted to the committee the same day. Duelfer suggested “that Iraq had an active…WMD program while leaving out information that would lead one to doubt that it did,” Levin said. The charge is reminiscent of one of the most controversial aspects of the invasion: administration officials’ unequivocal prewar statements about the existence of such weapons on the basis of often dubious intelligence.

Duelfer also identified several “challenges” facing the ISG, placing special emphasis on the “extreme reluctance” of relevant Iraqi personnel to cooperate. Consequently, he said, the ISG remains ignorant of several aspects of Iraq’s WMD efforts, including whether Iraq concealed prohibited weapons or was planning to resume production of them in the future. Additionally, the ISG has “yet to identify the most critical people in any programmatic effort” because many have not been located or refuse to cooperate fully.

Duelfer pointed to the postwar destruction of many key documents and the lack of experienced ISG personnel as additional impediments to the ISG’s work. Kay told Congress in January that the destruction of important documents and other evidence would likely render the ISG’s final conclusions ambiguous.

Duelfer did not say how long the ISG’s investigation would take or make any predictions about the prospect for future weapons finds. This stands in contrast to Kay’s January assessment that “85 percent” of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs “are probably known” and that the ISG’s search is unlikely to turn up any significant stock piles of prohibited weapons.

 

 

 

 

Charles Duelfer, the head advisor to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), provided some new details about the still-fruitless search efforts for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD)...

IAEA Concerned About Iraqi Nuclear Facilities Security

Paul Kerr


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has told the UN Security Council that some declared Iraqi nuclear facilities may not be sufficiently secured and that Iraqi nuclear material may have leaked out of the country.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in an April 11 letter to the Security Council that the IAEA “is concerned” that commercial satellite imagery has revealed “extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances…entire buildings” from Iraqi nuclear sites since last year’s U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. ElBaradei also said that the IAEA has discovered that large quantities of scrap metal from Iraqi nuclear facilities, including some contaminated with nuclear material, have been discovered in other countries.

ElBaradei’s letter expressed concern about “the proliferation risk associated with dual-use material and equipment disappearing to unknown destinations.” The IAEA did not name any specific countries, but the Associated Press reported in January that a Dutch company believed a small amount of lightly refined uranium ore found in a shipment of scrap metal it received originated in Iraq.

A Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 22 that the United States has notified the IAEA that it is “looking into this matter.”

The IAEA was tasked with monitoring Iraq’s nuclear-related sites under Security Council resolutions adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The agency believes these resolutions “remain valid,” the letter states. The IAEA also monitors countries’ nuclear facilities to ensure governments comply with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

IAEA inspectors have not been able to carry out their mission since leaving Iraq just before the March 2003 invasion, although a team of inspectors did visit the country in June of last year to secure nuclear material stored at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center following reports of looting. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

In a March interview with Arms Control Today, David Kay, former head advisor to postwar U.S.-led efforts to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said that prewar planning for securing Iraq’s declared nuclear sites was “practically useless,” citing the fact that the Tuwaitha facility “was essentially left unprotected.”

“There was vast looting of radioactivity material and sources,” Kay stated during the interview.

 

 

 

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has told the UN Security Council that some declared Iraqi nuclear facilities may not be sufficiently secured and that Iraqi nuclear material...

Iran and IAEA Agree on Action Plan; U.S., Europeans Not Satisfied

Paul Kerr


Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached agreement in early April on an action plan to complete the agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear program. As a critical IAEA meeting approaches, however, Tehran’s simultaneous decision to move forward with two nuclear projects seems likely to perpetuate international suspicions that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

After meeting with senior Iranian officials in Tehran April 6, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reached an “agreement on a joint action plan with a timetable to deal with outstanding issues regarding the verification of Iran’s nuclear program,” according to an IAEA press release. ElBaradei suggested April 6 that the plan “will hopefully pave the way for progress.” Among other steps, the plan calls for Iran to provide the IAEA with information about its centrifuge program by the end of April.

In May, ElBaradei is to present a report on Iran’s progress. The IAEA Board of Governors will consider the results in June during what is widely seen as a crucial meeting.

The agreement marked the latest attempt to put a satisfactory end to a nearly two-year-old investigation into Iran’s effort to acquire a nuclear fuel cycle. Last October, after months of hesitant cooperation, Iran struck a deal with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom in which it promised to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation, sign an additional protocol to its existing safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and suspend uranium-enrichment work. That same month, Iran provided the agency with what was supposed to be a complete declaration of all its nuclear activities.

Both Iran’s declaration and the agency’s investigation provided enough information for the board to adopt a resolution the following month condemning Iran’s pursuit of undeclared nuclear activities in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement. Such agreements commit states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to provide sufficient transparency in their nuclear activities to assure other member states that they are not diverting civilian nuclear activities to military purposes.

Moreover, a February report from ElBaradei said Iran omitted several nuclear activities from its October declaration. Prodded by this report, the board’s March resolution called on Iran “to resolve all outstanding [nuclear] issues.”

In particular, the resolution called on Iran to answer questions regarding traces of uranium found at two facilities associated with Iran’s gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program; Iran’s experiments with a possible nuclear-weapon trigger; and the scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment programs. (See ACT, March 2004.)

As part of the April action plan, Iran has agreed to provide the agency with “detailed information regarding aspects of its centrifuge program” by the end of April. Gas centrifuges can be used to produce highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons, as well as low-enriched uranium for use in civilian nuclear reactors. NPT states-parties are permitted to own uranium-enrichment facilities without restraint, but they are only supposed to operate these facilities under a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which monitors the use of the equipment. The board already condemned Iran in November 2003 for secretly testing centrifuges with nuclear material—a violation of its safeguards agreement.

In a step designed to ease these concerns, Iran agreed in April to further comply with a key provision in its October pledge to the Europeans: suspending its uranium-enrichment activities. Mohammad Saeedi, an official from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told Reuters April 12 that Iran had stopped making centrifuge components 3 days before, thereby fulfilling a February pledge to the IAEA. ElBaradei’s February report stated that Iran had suspended work on its centrifuge facilities but had continued to assemble some individual centrifuges and manufacture related components.

This month, Iran is also set to provide the IAEA with a fuller declaration of its nuclear-related activities. This declaration will be Tehran’s first under its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. The protocol requires Iran to declare significantly more nuclear-related activities than it would under its original safeguards agreement and provides the IAEA with more freedom to investigate any questions or inconsistencies. Since agreeing to conclude the protocol as part of its October deal with the Europeans, Iran has signed the agreement and has pledged to act as if it were in force until it is approved by the Majlis, Iran’s parliament. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

Upcoming Controversy Likely


Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters April 6 that “Iran strongly expects” its outstanding issues with the IAEA to be settled at the June board meeting. However, several recent Iranian actions seem likely to perpetuate controversy over its nuclear programs.

In particular, Iran’s March decision to postpone for about two weeks an IAEA inspection scheduled for that month may impede the board’s ability to render a definitive judgment about Iran’s programs. A Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 20 that the postponement not only led to a two-week delay in agency inspections of civilian nuclear-related sites but also caused a significant delay in inspections of military facilities. As a consequence, the official said, samples taken from these sites may not be ready in time for the June board meeting. IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming confirmed the next day that samples “taken during recent inspections might not be available” in time for the report.

Inspecting military sites is important to the IAEA’s investigation because seven of the 13 Iranian “workshops” involved in producing centrifuge components are located on military sites, according to a March 30 agency document. IAEA inspectors visited one military facility in January, agency officials said.

Two other decisions from Tehran also seem certain to raise questions about its nuclear intentions. The State Department official said that Iran announced it will start construction on a heavy-water nuclear reactor in June, terming the decision a “deeply troubling move.” Tehran had previously announced its plans to construct the reactor sometime in 2004 at Arak. (See ACT, December 2003.) U.S. officials fear the reactor might be part of a nuclear weapons program because it is too small to contribute significantly to a civilian energy program but could generate plutonium for reprocessing into fissile material. Iran claims the reactor is for producing isotopes for civilian purposes and that its size is appropriate for that purpose.

Tehran also caused a stir when, according to Agence France Presse, Aghazadeh announced March 28 on state television that Iran would begin “experimental production” in April at its uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. The facility can convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride—the feedstock for centrifuges. Iran announced the facility’s completion in March 2003.

This is not the first time that the Isfahan facility has been the subject of controversy. The IAEA board said in its November resolution that Iran violated its safeguards agreement by failing to report nuclear experiments at the facility, in much the same way it failed to report similar activity related to its uranium-enrichment program.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters April 5 that Tehran only intends to produce uranium tetrafluoride—an intermediate step for producing uranium hexafluoride—at the facility, which IAEA inspectors visited in March. IAEA officials said that Iran had given prior notice to the agency that it would begin uranium conversion in March, adding that these “conversion activities” do not violate Iran’s October agreement to suspend its enrichment activities.

The State Department official said, however, that Washington believes Iran should be proscribed from conducting any conversion activities related to uranium hexafluoride production, including producing uranium tetrafluoride.

Iran’s European interlocutors also expressed their irritation at Tehran’s decision. On March 31, the British, French, and German governments stated that the “announcement sends the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities.”

According to Agence France Presse, French President Jacques Chirac emphasized during an April 21 meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi that Tehran should continue to cooperate with the IAEA. A French Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed April 20 that Iran needs to provide “confidence” that it is complying with its NPT obligations in order to receive cooperation on civilian nuclear power—another component of the October agreement.

U.S. officials have been dismissive of Tehran’s claims of cooperation and have argued that Iran is likely trying to hide aspects of its centrifuge and other nuclear programs, a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.

“The delay in allowing inspectors into the country, the announcement about Isfahan, I think are further indications that Iran has still not made a strategic determination to surrender its nuclear program,” said Mitchell Reiss, State Department director of policy planning, in an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today. “What we appear to be seeing are tactical maneuvers to do as little as possible to avoid censure.”

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton went so far as to say that “Iran is lying” at an annual meeting of NPT states-parties in New York.

“It is clear that the primary role of Iran’s ‘nuclear power’ program is to serve as a cover and a pretext for the import of nuclear technology and expertise that can be used to support nuclear weapons development,” Bolton said April 27.

Still, the June meeting appears unlikely to produce either Washington’s or Tehran’s preferred outcomes. Although Iran may not get the clean bill of health it desires, the United States may also be unable to provide sufficient proof to convince other countries to find Iran in noncompliance with its obligations under the NPT. Such a finding requires the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

A State Department official argued June 20 that the lack of full sampling results from the military sites will make it more difficult for Washington to push the board to take “the strongest possible response” at the June meeting, adding that U.S. leverage will largely depend on the “tone and substance” of ElBaradei’s report. Washington may encourage the IAEA board to say it “cannot verify” Iran’s suspension of its centrifuge program because of the country’s demonstrated ability to manufacture relevant components at various locations throughout the country, the official said.

Whether Washington will push for the board to find Iran in noncompliance is unclear. The United States not only failed to persuade the board to adopt such a stance in its November resolution, it did not even attempt to do so during the debate over the March resolution.

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.

 

 

 

 

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached agreement in early April on an action plan to complete the agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear program. As a critical...

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