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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,
January 19, 2011
Press Releases

IAEA Condemns Iran—Again

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors has again adopted a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to cooperate fully with the agency’s investigation into its...

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors has again adopted a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to cooperate fully with the agency’s investigation into its suspected nuclear weapons program, raising the stakes in Tehran’s dealings with the United Nations’ nuclear arm and, indirectly, the United States. The resolution calls on Iran to intensify its cooperation with the agency but defers possible action against Tehran until the next board meeting in June.

Although the resolution, adopted March 13, acknowledges that Iran has recently been “actively cooperating” with the IAEA, it also notes that “Iran’s cooperation so far has fallen short of what is required [and] calls on Iran to continue and intensify its cooperation.” A February report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei detailed Tehran’s failure to disclose several nuclear activities, despite past promises to comply with IAEA resolutions requiring such disclosure. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The board reserved its harshest language for Iran’s failure to previously disclose a research and development program for an advanced type of gas centrifuge, known as the “P-2.” The IAEA learned about that program this winter, even though Iran had claimed in October to have given a complete accounting of its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Gas centrifuges are used to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for use in nuclear reactors, but they may also produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for use as the explosive material in a nuclear weapon. Iran had previously disclosed a large enrichment program which uses a simpler type of centrifuge, the “P-1.”

ElBaradei told the board March 8 that this failing was inconsistent with Iran’s October pledge to provide the IAEA with all information about its nuclear programs, terming it “a setback to Iran’s stated policy of transparency.” As part of that agreement, Iran also agreed to sign an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and suspend its uranium-enrichment program. (See ACT, November 2003.) Iran signed the protocol in December 2003 and has pledged to act as if the agreement were in force until it is ratified.

IAEA safeguards agreements are to ensure that states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) do not divert civilian nuclear activities to military purposes. Iran maintains that its program is solely for peaceful purposes. Additional protocols expand the IAEA’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs and increase the number of nuclear-related activities that member states must declare to the agency. The March resolution “urges” Tehran’s “prompt ratification” of the protocol.

Iran’s director-general for international political affairs, Amir Zamaninia, told the board March 13 that Iran omitted its advanced centrifuge program from its October report to the IAEA because the relevant “technical” personnel thought its pledge only required Tehran to report information about less-advanced centrifuges they had tested using nuclear material. Iran intended to report its more advanced program in accordance with its obligations under the additional protocol, he said.

The resolution also “calls on Iran to be pro-active in taking all necessary steps...to resolve all outstanding issues” outlined in ElBaradei’s February report. In addition to the advanced centrifuge program, these include Tehran’s experiments with polonium, a radioactive isotope that can be used to trigger a chain reaction in a nuclear weapon; the “nature and scope” of its laser-based uranium-enrichment program; and “LEU and HEU contamination” at two facilities associated with Iran’s centrifuge program.

Iran’s hesitant cooperation with the IAEA has caused concern since ElBaradei first visited Iran’s main uranium-enrichment facility in February 2003. For months, Iran lagged in providing information about its nuclear activities to the agency and in granting inspectors full access to facilities.

The resolution also “calls on” Tehran to maintain and expand its October commitment to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities. According to ElBaradei’s February report, Iran had suspended most of its enrichment-related activities but continued to assemble centrifuges and manufacture related components. Iran agreed in February to stop both of these activities.

Controversy

The days leading up to the resolution’s adoption were contentious, the final version being the product of a compromise between the United States and other board members. For example, a U.S. Department of State official told Arms Control Today March 18 that Washington wanted the resolution to condemn Iran’s actions in stronger terms and include the fact, discussed in ElBaradei’s February report, that “military industrial organizations” own “most” of the workshops associated with Iran’s centrifuge programs. Washington, however, is “satisfied” with the resolution, the official said.

In contrast to its lobbying efforts prior to the last IAEA resolution concerning Iran, the United States did not push for the board to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. Such a finding would have required the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. The State Department official said, however, that the board should do so “at the appropriate time.” The official did not specify what actions Washington hoped the Security Council might take, but argued that they could include issuing a Security Council President’s statement or imposing economic sanctions.

The last resolution, adopted in November, employed language intended to avoid the requirement to send the matter to the Security Council, while conveying that Iran’s secret nuclear activities had violated its safeguards agreement. (See ACT, December 2003.)

The board referred North Korea to the Security Council last year in response to its refusal to cooperate with the agency, but the council has yet to take any action.

For its part, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported March 17 that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told reporters that Iran is “dissatisfied” with the resolution but will continue to cooperate with the IAEA. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA had suggested March 10 that Iran might review its cooperation with the agency if Tehran did not approve of the resolution, according to IRNA.

The ambassador caused additional friction March 12 when he announced Iran was postponing an upcoming IAEA inspection. Although the ambassador explained that the delay was necessary because of the approaching Iranian New Year, Khatami indicated March 17 that its decision was a reaction against the resolution. ElBaradei announced March 15 that Tehran would allow the inspectors to visit March 27.

The State Department official said that even this two-week delay was “regrettable” because Tehran could use the time to cover up evidence of nuclear activities. The official added that Washington believes Tehran is continuing to conceal part of a secret nuclear weapons program and observed that Tehran only changed its stance on the recent inspections “after some other countries intervened.” The United States has repeatedly changed Iran with having a nuclear weapons program.

Iran also raised eyebrows when Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stated that Iran will “definitely resume [uranium] enrichment when our relations with the agency become normal,” IRNA reported March 10. Iran has repeatedly emphasized the temporary nature of its suspension agreement, but Kharrazi’s statement was one of the strongest to date on the matter. Iran is legally allowed to enrich uranium under the NPT, but the United States wants a permanent halt to these activities because of concerns that Iran will be able to use its facilities to produce fissile material covertly.

Next Steps

The resolution requests ElBaradei to issue a report on Iran’s activities “before the end of May” and states that it will consider the agency’s “progress in verifying Iran’s declarations,” as well as a response to Iran’s “omissions.” The IAEA is also continuing to investigate Iran’s foreign suppliers, which includes a network headed by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The State Department official said that the United States will continue to allow the IAEA to take the lead on resolving concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. In a March 18 interview on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, ElBaradei said that he had suggested to U.S. officials during a March visit to the White House that they begin a direct “dialogue” with Tehran. The State Department official said Washington rejects this approach because the appropriate steps for Tehran to take are outlined in the IAEA resolutions and bilateral dialogue would undermine the IAEA process.

 

 

 

 

GAO Says Feds Lax in Countering Cruise Missile, UAV Threats

A congressional watchdog has charged key federal agencies with complacency in addressing the growing danger presented by the global spread of cruise missiles and...

Wade Boese


A congressional watchdog has charged key federal agencies with complacency in addressing the growing danger presented by the global spread of cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), provoking a round of dissent from the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and State.

At a March 9 congressional hearing, representatives of the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Congressional Research Service, the State and Commerce Departments, and the Pentagon offered conflicting views on the adequacy of measures to prevent cruise missiles and UAVs from ending up in the hands of terrorists or hostile states. The hearing before a House Committee on Government Reform subcommittee was convened to discuss a January 2004 GAO report that found U.S. and international trade controls on such weapon systems inadequate.

GAO, which conducts investigations for Congress, estimated that at least 70 states currently possess cruise missiles and some 40 states own UAVs. Most of the world’s roughly 75,000 cruise missiles are anti-ship models with short ranges and small payload capabilities. However, GAO reported that at least a dozen states, including six defined as “countries of concern,” are working on land-attack cruise missiles, which could be used to strike U.S. territory from forward launching areas, such as from the deck of a ship.

Cruise missiles and UAVs pose a different type of challenge for defenses than ballistic missiles, which are only powered during the first few minutes after launch as they ascend to high altitudes and then rely on gravity to reach their target. Cruise missiles and UAVs are powered throughout their entire flight and can fly and maneuver at low altitudes, making them hard to track and shoot down. The flight characteristics of cruise missiles and UAVs are also very similar to planes, making it hard for battlefield radars and defenses to determine whether an incoming object is an enemy projectile or a friendly aircraft.

The Patriot missile defense system’s record in Iraq last year underscored the difficulty that militaries face in trying to defend against cruise missiles. Although Patriot systems destroyed nine Iraqi missiles, no Iraqi cruise missiles were successfully intercepted. Moreover, Patriot systems mistakenly blew up two friendly fighter aircraft and targeted a third. A September 2003 Army report assessing the Patriot’s record stated, “[T]he ability of these older cruise missiles to penetrate friendly airspace and reach their targets should serve as a warning to joint and Army leaders that the emerging cruise missile threat must be addressed.”

The ability of cruise missiles and UAVs to fly at specific altitudes and speeds makes them suitable for dispersing chemical or biological weapons. Because of their relatively smaller size, cruise missiles and UAVs are not ideal for carrying nuclear warheads. The United States and Russia are the only two states known to have nuclear cruise missiles. China is also believed to be developing a nuclear-capable cruise missile.

In its report, GAO warned that federal agencies are not conducting enough checks on U.S. exports of cruise missiles, UAVs, and related technologies to make sure that they are not falling into the wrong hands. Reviewing exports between fiscal years 1998 and 2002, GAO reported that the State Department followed up on only four of 786 licenses that it issued for cruise missile and UAV technologies and the Pentagon did not do a single check on more than 500 cruise missiles shipped to other states. The Commerce Department had a similar record, conducting end-use visits for only 1 percent of the nearly 2,500 missile-related export licenses it approved.

Although officials from the three departments all agreed with a GAO recommendation that more post-export checks be carried out, they defended past practices at the March 9 hearing. They observed that GAO did not report any evidence indicating that previous U.S. exports had contributed to or abetted proliferation.

Yet, Joseph Christoff, the director of GAO’s international affairs and trade office that conducted the study, stated that response misses the point. “While the departments contend that there is no evidence of wrongdoing, their conclusion is based on the small [number of] (33) post-shipment verifications they conducted over a four-year period,” Christoff wrote in a March 13 response to questions from Arms Control Today.

General Tome Walters Jr., who directs the Pentagon agency overseeing arms sales to foreign governments, claimed the United States only sells weapons to friends and that U.S. exports are not the problem. Walters, who said his agency has not exported any UAVs, asserted that the Pentagon has exported or agreed to export almost 200 fewer cruise missiles during the reviewed period than GAO claimed. Past cruise missile deliveries went to the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Taiwan, according to Walters. He said there are pending deliveries to Oman, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Among others, GAO identified Egypt, Kuwait, and Israel as additional U.S. cruise missile recipients.

The managing director of the State Department’s office of defense trade controls, Robert Maggi, faulted the GAO review for not taking into account other processes, such as pre-license checks, to vet potential buyers. However, GAO pointed out that the State Department only carried out six such inquiries for its 786 approved cruise missile- and UAV-related licenses.

GAO further charged in its report that it discovered a loophole in U.S. export controls that could enable proliferators to acquire cruise missile and UAV technologies surreptitiously. The U.S. government does not explicitly control all technologies related to cruise missiles and UAVs because they are so widely available and have legitimate commercial uses. However, a “catch-all” requires that even items not appearing on export control lists be restricted if destined for specific states or programs. The U.S. catch-all currently applies to requests from 20 states and 12 foreign missile projects.

Citing the fact that a New Zealand man was able to purchase uncontrolled items to build a cruise missile, GAO concluded that the catch-all is too narrow.

Matthew Borman, the deputy assistant secretary for export administration at the Commerce Department, said the catch-all is currently under review but questioned GAO’s New Zealand example. “Our engineers…are skeptical that a functioning cruise missile could be constructed out of uncontrolled parts and components,” Borman stated.

In a written response to the GAO report, the Commerce Department, which is responsible for promoting American business exports, also responded, “Any modifications to the catch-all policy should be carefully considered in order to ensure that the controls protect U.S. national security, but avoid unnecessary burdens on U.S. trade.”

GAO did not confine its criticisms to just U.S. export controls. It also looked at cruise missile and UAV control efforts by the 33-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the 33-member Wassenaar Arrangement—both of which the United States belongs to. MTCR calls on its members to restrict exports of missiles and UAVs capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, while the Wassenaar Arrangement specifies missile, aerospace, and dual-use items that its members are expected to control. Both MTCR and Wassenaar are voluntary and operate by consensus.

Although the two regimes have increased attention and controls on cruise missile and UAV sales over the past few years, GAO said their effectiveness is limited by the fact that not all exporters of these types of arms are regime members. For instance, China and Israel do not currently belong to either regime, although China is exploring MTCR membership and Israel has committed itself to abide by that regime’s guidelines. Iran, India, and Taiwan are also nonmember states that manufacture cruise missiles and may soon be looking to export them.

Moreover, GAO pointed out that not even members always agree on what constitutes an appropriate deal. France is a member of both regimes, but it went ahead with a sale of its Black Shaheen cruise missile to the UAE despite U.S. protests. Similarly, Russian assistance to India in developing the Brahmos cruise missile has raised concerns among some of Moscow’s fellow MTCR members.

GAO also knocked the regimes for not facilitating timely and efficient exchanges of information between members on their potential deals and export denials. Delays in sharing such information could prevent a member from raising concerns it may have about another’s transactions.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Points to Libya as Disarmament Model: An interview with Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter

Since December, Paula DeSutter, a top Department of State official, has been working long hours to ensure that Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi fulfills his pledge to abandon irrefutably all...

Wade Boese

Since December, Paula DeSutter, a top Department of State official, has been working long hours to ensure that Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi fulfills his pledge to abandon irrefutably all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) ambitions and programs. Based on that experience, she has a simple message for the leaders in Iran and North Korea: follow Gaddafi’s lead if you want better relations with the United States.

In a March 12 interview with Arms Control Today, DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, described as “breathtaking” Libya’s Dec. 19 vow to end its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and subsequent steps to make good on that pledge. A former four-year professional staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, DeSutter said the United States wants “Libya to be a model for other countries” and that North Korea and Iran stand to reap greater benefits and security from ending their weapons programs than continuing them.

The United States has long charged North Korea and Iran with covertly pursuing nuclear weapons. North Korea, which kicked out international arms inspectors in December 2002, has admitted as much, while Iran staunchly denies the allegations despite a growing list of illegal nuclear activities exposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is responsible for deterring and detecting attempts by states to use their peaceful nuclear programs as a cover to build atomic arms illicitly.

The Bush administration has made clear that neither Iran nor North Korea can hope for improved relations with the United States unless each unambiguously abandons their nuclear weapons programs, or make what DeSutter deems a “strategic commitment.”

According to DeSutter, Libya made such a strategic commitment. It invited U.S., British, and international inspectors into the country; gave inspectors full access to all the facilities they wanted to see; and turned over weapons and related equipment for removal and destruction. In sum, states genuinely intent on disarming “volunteer information,” DeSutter stated.

For example, DeSutter said that Libyan officials on one occasion voluntarily took inspectors to a turkey farm where some chemical munitions were secretly stored. If they had not done so, she asserted, “we almost certainly would not have been able to identify [the farm as an arms storage area] independently.”

Since making its decision to disarm, Libya has destroyed 3,200 unfilled chemical bombs and allowed the United States to remove more than 1,000 tons of WMD-related equipment, including centrifuge components, and five Scud-C ballistic missiles. Tripoli has also agreed to stop using highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, to fuel its reactor at Tajoura.

If Iran and North Korea chose to copy Libya, DeSutter gushed about the possibilities. “I can imagine tremendous movement in terms of how close the United States would want to be to Iran,” DeSutter said. She added, “I can see an awful lot of national needs that [North Korea] has that would be best served by making a strategic commitment to give up its weapons of mass destruction.”

Yet, the Bush administration, which also condemns the two states for their poor human rights records and undemocratic systems, has never specified what kind of benefits the regimes could derive from disarming.

DeSutter implied both states would be safer if they gave up their suspected weapons programs because there would be less reason for other states to be concerned about them militarily. “It’s still a little hard for me to say this out loud, but Gaddafi got it right when he said that their WMD programs made them less secure not more secure,” she stated.

North Korean public statements suggest Pyongyang believes the opposite. They extol the North Korean nuclear weapons program as the only viable protection against attacks by more powerful states, in particular the United States.

Absent a strategic commitment to disarm, DeSutter indicated the United States would have little confidence in verification measures to provide assurances that Iran or North Korea had truly shelved their weapons programs because of their past records of cheating on agreements.

The presence of international arms inspectors would do little to ease her concerns. “No number of inspectors is an adequate substitute for a firm commitment on the part of the government to yield its weapons programs,” DeSutter declared.

Inspections can be of limited utility if items with both civilian and military uses are being scrutinized, DeSutter explained. She said, “As things get smaller, as things become more dual-use, then the verification challenge is going to grow.”

Still, DeSutter said she favors making greater use of the right of states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to conduct challenge inspections to settle suspicions on whether fellow members are truly complying with that treaty. The CWC has been in force since April 1997, and there have been charges of cheating, but no challenge inspections have yet been carried out. DeSutter observed, “Because [the challenge inspection right] has not been used in the past, it becomes increasingly difficult to use it.”

Although very keen about shedding more light on the weapons programs of states hostile to the United States, DeSutter showed little interest in the same for governments friendly to Washington, such as Pakistan, which has nuclear arms and was recently exposed as the home base for an extensive proliferation network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb. (See ACT, March 2004.) Claiming Khan acted in his own interests and worked outside of Pakistan, DeSutter said, “Access to the Pakistani program wouldn’t have necessarily given us insight into what was being produced in Malaysia.”

For a complete transcript of this interview please click here

 

 

 

 

Congress Critical of Bush Nuclear Weapons Budget

As they make their annual rounds on Capitol Hill on behalf of the president’s proposed budget, Bush administration officials are finding themselves...

Karen Yourish Roston


As they make their annual rounds on Capitol Hill on behalf of the president’s proposed budget, Bush administration officials are finding themselves in the hot seat defending President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2005 request for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP). Lawmakers are also peeved that they have yet to receive the administration’s overdue nuclear stockpile report.

Arms Control Today reported last month that the president’s 2005 budget proposal lays out a five-year schedule for RNEP that foresees production of the new weapon by the end of fiscal year 2009. (See ACT, March 2004.) Administration officials maintain the program is still in the study phase and that no decision has been made to develop or produce the weapon, but they have not convinced key members of Congress.

“I find it really hard to conceive of any circumstances under which this country would even use a nuclear weapon again,” Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, told Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham at a March 11 hearing. “Despite those constraints, [the Department of Energy] seems to think they should spend another half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ dollars to explore and test the concept of Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator.”

During a March 23 hearing, Hobson’s Senate counterpart, Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), traditionally a staunch supporter of the Energy Department, told Linton Brooks, head of the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), that he was “surprised” to see nearly $500 million provided for the RNEP in out-year funding.

Moreover, both lawmakers expressed frustration at the administration’s failure to deliver a nuclear stockpile plan to Congress.

“This kind of, quote, Money is no object, unquote, thinking might have been the norm for the nuclear weapons complex during the Cold War years, but I think it’s completely out of touch with the political and fiscal realities that we face today,” Hobson said. “[U]ntil we receive a revised stockpile plan from [the Department of Defense] that shows real change in the size and the composition of the stockpile, and until [the Energy Department] re-calibrates its planning, workforce facilities, and budget to support the smaller stockpile, I do not believe that we should spend our limited budget resources on expansion of NNSA’s nuclear weapons activities.”

Facing similar prodding from Domenici, Brooks responded that the report “is being worked on, literally, as we speak, but because of the importance, I think this will have to be personally approved by the president and I can’t predict how long that will take.”

Still, Brooks did clarify at a March 24 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces that, although the United States plans to "substantially" reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads as called for by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), it will retain a significant number of additional warheads in storage. He said “sufficient warheads” need to be retained “to augment the operationally deployed force in the event that world events require a more robust deterrent posture.”

Signed May 24, 2002, by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, SORT requires the United States and Russia each to reduce its number of deployed strategic warheads from today’s 5,000-6,000 to no more than 2,200 by the end of 2012, when the treaty will expire. The agreement requires that the warheads be removed from their delivery systems but does not require their destruction, permitting each side to keep as many warheads and delivery vehicles as they want for future use. Washington intends to store enough so it could field up to 4,600 warheads in as little as three years after the treaty ends. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged in Senate testimony in July 2002 that the accord does not limit the amount of warheads either country can possess. “The treaty will allow you to have as many warheads as you want,” Powell stated. (See ACT, September 2002.)

Even as he battled over the stockpile plan, Brooks characterized RNEP as “the single most contentious issue in our budget.” He said the out-year projections are included in the budget request only “to preserve the president’s option,” should he decide to move beyond the study stage.

“[T]here is a clear military utility to this weapon,” Brooks stated. “[D]espite this obvious utility…we will move beyond the study stage only if the president approves and if funds are authorized and appropriated by Congress.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service noted in a March 8 report that the president’s 2005 budget plan casts “serious doubt” on administration claims that the RNEP is just a study.

Nuclear earth penetrator weapons, sometimes called “bunker busters,” burrow deeply into the ground before detonating, increasing their ability to destroy hardened underground targets. In May 2003, the Air Force began studying modifications to convert existing B61 or B83 nuclear bombs to an earth penetrator configuration.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, argued in a March 8 letter to Brooks that “the planning and budgeting for further steps in the…process in the next five years speaks to a clear intent to develop these modified nuclear weapons at a time when the feasibility study has not been completed and the Department of Defense has not submitted a request for this weapon.”

Some in Congress are more forgiving. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said during the March 24 hearing that the administration is “kind of caught between the rock and a hard spot.…[I]f you don’t put in the money, then somehow or the other they think you’re hiding it. If you do put in and you save for it, then you can be accused of trying” to move ahead with the program without congressional approval.

“I’ve looked at this figure, too, and that, obviously, sticks out there,” Allard continued. “But, on the other hand, I think we need to have some estimate in case we decide to move ahead with [RNEP] about where those future costs will be.”

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Creates Advisory Board for Biosecurity

Heeding the advice of the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a board to advise federal departments or agencies on biological research...

Kerry Boyd-Anderson


Heeding the advice of the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a board to advise federal departments or agencies on biological research that could pose a threat to national security. The new National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), announced by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson March 4, will advise the government on developing guidelines for overseeing “dual-use” research, which has potential for both civilian and military applications.

HHS views the board’s creation as the first step in a broader effort to enhance biosecurity—measures designed to minimize the chance that biological research for civilian purposes could be also used to create biological weapons. As the development of biological sciences have rapidly advanced, concern has increased about the possibility that research intended to improve life might instead be used for its destruction. HHS created the board partly in response to an October 2003 report by the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council.

One of the NSABB’s primary tasks is to provide the government with advice on ways to identify dual-use research and to help develop guidelines for judging the risks and benefits of such research. The board, which will include up to 25 voting members from the scientific and security communities, will also work with scientific journal editors to develop guidelines to prevent the publication of research that is too dangerous for public dissemination while maintaining the free flow of ideas among the scientific and security communities. Other tasks include advising on the development of guidelines for programs to educate scientists on biosecurity issues, providing assistance to develop a code of conduct for scientists, and working to advance biosecurity measures and education internationally. In addition, the board may review specific proposed experiments but has no authority to deny or approve them. The National Institutes of Health will manage the NSABB.

There are important limits on the NSABB’s mandate, most importantly that it is confined to an advisory role. Moreover, the board will make suggestions only to government institutions or scientists receiving federal funding, not to independent commercial laboratories. Classified government research also falls outside the board’s scope. In addition, the board lacks any enforcement capability; it cannot enforce any of its recommendations or approve or deny experiment proposals.

In deciding to create the NSABB, officials chose the middle-of-the-road option in the debate over how best to strengthen biosecurity without limiting the free exchange of scientific ideas. Some scientists oppose government oversight, especially any possibility of restrictions on scientific publications. Others believe the board will help improve biosecurity without hampering scientists with bureaucratic red tape. At best, say some biosecurity advocates, the board is a first step. At worst, they say, it provides nothing more than a false sense of security.

 

 

 

 

Israel, India Sign Major Arms Deal

With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.

Wade Boese


With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.

Under the contract inked March 5, Israel will install its Phalcon system on three Russian-supplied aircraft for future delivery to India. The Phalcon is an advanced communications, electronic intelligence, and radar system able to provide simultaneous long-range tracking of multiple air and surface targets. The first of the three aircraft will be transferred to India within three to four years.

Israel has been marketing the Phalcon system overseas for several years but has met stiff U.S. resistance. In July 2000, Israel cancelled the proposed sale of four Phalcon systems to China under extreme pressure from Washington, which worried that the system might tilt the military edge in the Taiwan Strait away from Taipei and too much in Beijing’s favor. The United States further called upon Israel to delay a possible deal with India but dropped its objections in 2002 as relations improved between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani government officials expressed their displeasure with the new deal but did so in more reserved tones than usual. One Pakistani diplomatic source told Arms Control Today March 22 that the sale would exacerbate the already asymmetrical conventional-force balance between India and Pakistan and would compel Islamabad to look at ways to lessen the deal’s impact. It is too early to know what those measures might be, the source said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senate Passes Additional Protocol

The U.S. Senate March 31 unanimously approved an “additional protocol” to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), less than a month after President George W. Bush...

Miles A. Pomper


The U.S. Senate March 31 unanimously approved an “additional protocol” to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), less than a month after President George W. Bush made a strong push for Senate passage of the pact.

Before the treaty becomes national or international law, however, Congress must first pass implementing legislation, a process that could take several months as the administration’s proposed language has yet to be considered by the relevant House and Senate committees.

All non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) have safeguards agreements with the IAEA that require detailed declarations of nuclear activities and allow IAEA inspections to ensure that those activities are not being used for illegal military purposes. As a recognized nuclear-weapon state under the NPT, the United States is under no legal obligation to accept such safeguards but has, as a matter of policy, voluntarily permitted them, albeit with broad “national security” exemptions.

The additional protocol agreement approved by the Senate is based on the 1997 Model Additional Protocol. The IAEA, after its failure to detect Iraq’s pre-1991 crash nuclear weapons program revealed weaknesses in the agency’s inspections and monitoring procedures, developed the protocol to strengthen the agency’s ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities. For example, the protocol allows agency inspectors to conduct short-notice inspections of undeclared facilities and requires states to provide more information to the IAEA about their nuclear activities. The IAEA cannot actually implement these measures in a particular country unless its government has concluded its own version of the Additional Protocol.

The U.S. version of the Additional Protocol, signed in 1998, would provide the IAEA with nonmilitary information on U.S. research, development, enrichment, and reprocessing activities; locations and capacity of fissile material production sites; export and import of nuclear material; and uses of fissile material and waste products.

The agreement, however, allows the United States to invoke a provision called the “national security exclusion” to deny the IAEA access to “activities with direct national security significance…or to locations or information associated with such activities.” The United States has the “sole discretion” in determining whether it can invoke the exclusion. In the event that it does allow IAEA inspectors into a facility, the United States will be able to use “managed access” to limit the inspectors’ activities. Washington can also employ “managed access” to protect “proliferation-sensitive” and “proprietary or commercially sensitive information” in military and commercial nuclear facilities.

Senate approval of the additional protocol came after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had voted 19-0 on March 4 in favor of a resolution of ratification. In the same markup, the panel also approved legislation reauthorizing spending for the Department of State that includes several important nonproliferation efforts.

The Senate panel also unanimously approved a fiscal year 2005 State Department authorization bill, laying down policy markers and spending ceilings for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 The bill would authorize $485 million for the “Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs Account”—$70 million more than Bush requested.

The legislation would also authorize funding for several new initiatives designed to improve foreign countries’ abilities to deal with proliferation threats from radiological to biological weapons. These include fellowships for multidisciplinary training on nonproliferation issues; programs to train “first responders” such as doctors and police officers to cope with an attack by a radiological, or “dirty,” bomb; and programs to improve public health facilities and expertise overseas to detect the use of biological weapons better.

In addition, the bill calls for the president to submit an annual report to Congress summarizing U.S. policy and actions regarding arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament, with input from all of the major national security agencies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taiwan, China, and U.S. in Arms Referendum Imbroglio

After provoking a stern rebuke from the United States, Taiwan in mid-January modified a proposed March 20 referendum regarding China’s deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at the island. 

Wade Boese

After provoking a stern rebuke from the United States, Taiwan in mid-January modified a proposed March 20 referendum regarding China’s deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at the island. The move appeared to mollify Washington, but Beijing remains upset.

The initial referendum text asked voters to weigh in on whether China should end its deployment of some 500 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan and revoke its threats to use force against the island. The amended referendum now simply questions whether Taiwan should buy more missile defense systems if China does not withdraw its missile deployments and whether Taipei should negotiate a “peace and stability” framework with Beijing.

The referendum—the island’s first—was proposed last fall by Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian, a longtime advocate for Taiwanese independence who is currently seeking re-election. (See ACT, January/February 2004.) Both Beijing and Washington objected to the proposal. China perceived the referendum as a sly attempt to put Taiwan on a path to declare independence, which China resolutely opposes because it wants the island returned to the mainland’s control. The United States worried such a vote might plunge China and Taiwan into armed conflict.

Standing next to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao after a Dec. 9, 2003, White House meeting, President George W. Bush warned, “The comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose.”

China was not appeased by the change in the referendum’s language. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan fumed Jan. 18, “This is a unilateral provocation against the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and its essence is to make way for Taiwan’s independence in the name of referendum in the future.”

Washington has reserved official comment on the new wording, but it also has been pushing Taiwan to buy missile defense systems for the past few years
. Taiwan has pleaded it does not have the funding.

Although the United States stands ready to supply Taiwan with arms, it takes issue with growing European interest in resuming weapons deals with China. France and Germany are spearheading an effort to get the European Union (EU) to end its arms embargo against Beijing that has been in place since the Chinese government violently crushed public protests at Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Javier Solana, the EU’s top foreign policy and security official, has recently suggested that the embargo is likely to be repealed, although when remains unclear.

Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher Jan. 28 recommended against such an action. “We believe that the U.S. and European prohibitions on arms sales [to China] are complementary, were imposed for the same reasons—specifically, serious human rights abuses—and that those reasons remain valid today,” he said.

Not surprisingly, China views the matter differently. On Feb. 12, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue deemed the EU arms embargo a “relic of the Cold War.” She added, “It is our hope that…this anachronism would be comprehensively resolved as soon as possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Will Not Join Landmine Treaty; Position on Fissile Material Cutoff Pact Uncertain

The Bush administration has no intention of joining an anti-landmine treaty and is reviewing past U.S. support for negotiating an agreement to end the production of key nuclear weapons materials...

Wade Boese

The Bush administration has no intention of joining an anti-landmine treaty and is reviewing past U.S. support for negotiating an agreement to end the production of key nuclear weapons materials, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker told Arms Control Today in a Jan. 21 interview.

Sworn into his post in August 2002, Rademaker serves as a chief deputy to the Department of State’s senior arms control official, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton. Like his boss and many other top Bush administration security officials, Rademaker, who worked for several years as a senior aide on the House Committee on International Relations, holds a skeptical view of multilateral arms control agreements.

In the summer of 2001, the Bush administration initiated a review of U.S. landmine policy. A key element was a May 1998 pledge by President Bill Clinton to sign by 2006 the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines (APLs) if the United States was able to find effective alternatives to such weapons. Rademaker said future U.S. landmine policy “will certainly not include signature of the Ottawa Convention.”

Rademaker’s comments mark the first official confirmation that this administration would not fulfill Clinton’s pledge. The administration subsequently announced its new landmines policy Feb. 27.

A longtime champion of ending U.S. landmine use, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed disappointment Feb. 20 about the administration’s intention. “It is unfortunate, but no surprise, that the Bush administration will not join the Ottawa Convention,” the senator said. He added, “Ten years ago the Pentagon pledged to aggressively develop alternatives to landmines, but that turned out to be an empty promise.”

Despite remaining outside the Ottawa Convention, the United States did not use APLs in its invasion of Iraq last March. (See ACT, July/August 2003.) It is also the largest funder of mine action work, such as destroying landmines and helping landmine victims.

The United States is party to the amended mines protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which limits how landmines may be deployed, and is pushing for negotiations on a new CCW protocol to regulate the use of anti-vehicle mines.

Along with the landmine promise, the Bush administration inherited from the Clinton administration a policy calling for the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) to end the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons purposes. During its first years in office, the Bush administration continued its predecessor’s promotion of the FMCT at the 66-member United Nations Conference on Disarmament, and administration officials repeatedly blasted their fellow members, particularly China, for failing to start formal talks on the agreement.

Over the past several years, China insisted that negotiations on a treaty preventing an arms race in outer space be conducted in parallel with the FMCT. That idea had been strongly rejected by Washington. As Rademaker explained, “It’s our view that there’s not an arms race in outer space so to negotiate a treaty prohibiting an arms race in outer space presumes a fact not in evidence.”

Near the close of the conference’s annual working session last fall, China offered to drop its insistence on parallel negotiations. (See ACT, October 2003.) Rather than seizing the apparent opportunity to start the long-awaited FMCT talks, however, Rademaker indicated the administration is now having second thoughts. “We are looking at the threshold question, does an FMCT make sense?” he said.

Rademaker contended that an earlier rationale for the treaty—to prevent a nuclear arms race from emerging in South Asia—is now outdated since both India and Pakistan are armed with nuclear weapons. Rademaker remarked, “This is a concept that’s been around for a long time and a concept that has not evolved while the context in which it exists has evolved.”

Rademaker said he did not know when the administration would come to a conclusion about the treaty. President George W. Bush made no reference to the FMCT in his Feb. 11 speech outlining seven U.S. nonproliferation initiatives.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Secretary of State Colin Powell the day after the president’s speech, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) said that the FMCT would be “an essential supplement” to the president’s proposals. He described it as a “win-win proposition for the United States because we have more than enough fissile material ourselves, while countries of concern continue to seek it.” Powell replied that “some questions have been raised” about the proposed treaty and that the review was still ongoing.

Despite the administration’s uncertain FMCT position, Bush made clear that a top U.S. aim is to limit the spread of nuclear weapons-making capabilities. One of the president’s proposals held that countries not currently possessing working enrichment and reprocessing plants should not be allowed to get them. Enrichment and reprocessing facilities, which a government can legally possess under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) if they are open to international oversight, can enable countries to refine materials not suitable for nuclear weapons into key bomb-making ingredients.

Rademaker suggested that Iran, which claims to have suspended its recently exposed, illicit enrichment activities last November, must be denied the right to such capabilities even if done within the context of the treaty. “We certainly would want to make sure that Iran is out of the business of enriching uranium,” he declared.

Changing times and threats require revisiting past agreements and understandings, according to Rademaker. “I think there’s general recognition that we’ve got some problems with the existing arrangements and the desire in many quarters to reconsider some of these things,” he said.

The Bush administration itself has not hesitated to break with the past. Rademaker noted that the administration “walked away” from a seven-year process to add a verification protocol to the treaty banning germ weapons because “we didn’t like what we saw” and “parted company” with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty prohibiting nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles because it “no longer made sense.”

Still, Rademaker insisted that the Bush administration has “a very good record on arms control issues.” As evidence, he pointed to the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which entered into force last June and commits the United States and Russia to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to less than 2,200 warheads each by the end of 2012. Some outside experts have criticized the treaty for not requiring the destruction of a single warhead or delivery vehicle and for its warhead limit expiring the same day that it takes effect, but Rademaker dismissed these criticisms. “We’ll match our strategic arms control agreement up against that of any other administration,” he said.

For a full transcript of the interview, please click here

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Putin Boasts About Russian Military Capabilities

In February, Russia concluded what it touted as its most extensive military exercises in two decades, revealing both the current weaknesses and the remaining strengths of Russia’s missile arsenal...

Tests Show Both Strengths and Weaknesses

Wade Boese

In February, Russia concluded what it touted as its most extensive military exercises in two decades, revealing both the current weaknesses and the remaining strengths of Russia’s missile arsenal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally witnessed the low and high points. On Feb. 17, Putin watched as a Russian submarine reportedly failed to properly launch two ballistic missiles, although some Russian officials later contended that they were only supposed to be simulations. Another submarine ballistic missile launch went awry the next day. Also on Feb. 18, however, Putin was able to announce the successful launch of a strategic ballistic missile carrying what he described as a “new weapons system.”

Russia possesses “combat-ready armed forces, and this includes the nuclear forces,” Putin said in an English-language transcript supplied by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In his statement, Putin emphasized that the recent exercises cleared the way for adding to the Russian arsenal “new hypersound-speed, high-precision…weapons systems that can hit targets at intercontinental distance and can adjust their altitude and course as they travel.” He implied that such weapons would be ideal for penetrating potential missile defense systems.

Neither Putin nor other top Kremlin officials have shed further light on what the new weapons system is. Most speculation centers on the development of a warhead for a long-range missile that can maneuver after separating from its booster instead of following a ballistic trajectory through space and back to Earth. A warhead that could alter its trajectory would present a much harder target for a missile defense system to hit than a warhead that followed a predictable path.

Why Russia would need to develop such a sophisticated warhead remains unclear because it currently deploys more than 4,600 strategic warheads on more than 1,000 land- and submarine-based ballistic missiles that could simply overwhelm any missile defense system comprised of a lesser number of interceptors.

Although he contended that Russian arms modernization plans were “not in any way directed at the United States,” Putin also said, “[A]s other countries increase the number and quality of their arms and military potential, then Russia will also need to ensure it has new-generation arms and technology.” Washington is currently seeking to deploy the initial elements of a rudimentary multilayered missile defense system this fall and is also exploring new nuclear-weapon designs for new missions, such as destroying deeply buried enemy bunkers.

Still, the earlier submarine missile launch failures detracted from Putin’s upbeat theme. While Russian military officials and press reports went back and forth on whether the tests actually fizzled, Putin confirmed that everything did not go as planned. “Of course, there were pluses and minuses during the course of these exercises,” the president stated.

Putin further pointedly admitted that Russia’s military budget remains pinched. He dismissed the prospect of Russia trying to match U.S. missile defense work, saying, “We think that the time has not come to invest big money in such a project yet. We do not have this money to spare.”

Yet, he indicated that Russia would be keeping an eye on the U.S. effort. “We shall see how work moves ahead in other countries,” Putin said.

Putin is currently campaigning for re-election in March and has been running, in part, on a record of restoring Moscow’s military strength after its dramatic collapse following the end of the Cold War. His re-election is viewed by almost all observers as a certainty.

 

 

 

 

 

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