"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
November 2005
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
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EU Slaps Arms Embargo on Uzbekistan

Jacob Parakilas

On Oct. 3, the European Union voted to impose arms sanctions and other restrictions on Uzbekistan. The sanctions include a ban on the sale or transfer to Uzbekistan of arms, military equipment, or any other equipment that might be used for internal repression.

The EU expressed concern about Uzbekistan’s human rights record, particularly the government’s violent response to a protest in May in which Uzbek government forces opened fire on a group of protestors in the town of Andijon. The government has denied wrongdoing, asserting that it acted in self-defense against armed Islamic extremists and killed fewer than 200 people. However, other groups and witnesses have placed the death toll much higher and asserted that most of those killed were unarmed. The incident has yet to be subjected to closer official scrutiny, as Uzbekistan has so far resisted calls for an international inquiry.

In addition to preventing arms transfers, the EU’s move cancels all official EU/Uzbek meetings and prevents Uzbek officials associated with the shootings in Andijon from entering any of the EU’s 25 member states. The restrictions are scheduled to last for an initial period of a year, with the possibility of extension if Uzbekistan continues to block an investigation.

Uzbekistan’s relations with the United States are more complex. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Uzbekistan allied itself with Washington’s war on terrorism and offered the United States the use of the Karshi-Khanabad airbase for operations in Afghanistan. However, this summer the Uzbek government demanded that the United States vacate the base by the end of the year. On Oct. 6, the Senate voted to block a $23 million payment for the use of the base.

So far, the United States has not stated whether it will impose measures similar to those of the EU. In an Oct. 6 interview with Radio Free Europe, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried said, “There’s a lot of concern…in the United States about the direction [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov is leading Uzbekistan, leading his country. That is, the Uzbeks need to think about this, and we will see what they do. I don’t want to speculate about what we will do in response to their actions because they haven’t taken them yet.”

However, the effectiveness of Western arms sanctions on the Uzbek government is unclear. The Uzbek military and state police forces are predominantly equipped with Russian- and Chinese-made equipment, and neither country has given any indication that it intends to levy sanctions on Uzbekistan.


Suppliers Weigh Indian Nuclear Cooperation

Wade Boese

At an October meeting, the world’s leading nuclear suppliers offered mixed reactions to a U.S. initiative to expand civil nuclear cooperation with India. The group is awaiting a formal U.S. proposal as well as Indian steps toward granting greater outside access to its nuclear facilities before deciding how to proceed.

President George W. Bush promised Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh July 18 that the United States would seek to revise U.S. law and international rules so India could obtain nuclear materials and technologies to expand its nuclear energy sector. (See ACT, September 2005.) For nearly three decades, the United States and many other nuclear suppliers have significantly limited nuclear exports to nuclear-armed India. New Delhi exploded a nuclear device in 1974, employing materials and technologies acquired for peaceful purposes, and conducted a further series of nuclear tests in May 1998. India is also one of three countries— Israel and Pakistan are the other two—never to join the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Bush administration officials have not revealed how they want Congress to modify or waive U.S. law to implement the president’s plan. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said Oct. 18 that the administration would present its approach to lawmakers before the president visits India early next year.

After not being consulted in advance about the proposed cooperation, congressional leaders are pressing the administration to give them more input. The chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House International Relations Committees sent a letter Oct. 17 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recommending the administration “begin substantive discussions with our respective committees as soon as possible before final decisions are made on any new legislative proposals.” The bipartisan quartet noted, “We firmly believe that such consultations will be crucial to the successful consideration of the final agreement or agreements by our committees and the Congress as a whole.”

The administration is clearer on what it will request other governments to do. Specifically, administration officials indicated at a Sept. 8 International Relations Committee hearing that the United States will ask its fellow 44 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to exempt India from a 1992 rule that nuclear importers must subject their entire nuclear apparatus to international oversight, technically known as full-scope safeguards. India refuses to submit itself to the rule, and Washington wants to maintain the rule as a general principle.

Still, the United States did not present a specific exemption proposal at an Oct. 17-18 NSG meeting. Instead, it explained the July deal and its motivations, group member officials told Arms Control Today. NSG members, whose meetings are confidential, coordinate their nuclear export controls to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

At the meeting, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom endorsed boosting nuclear ties with India, while Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland registered strong reservations. Most members have yet to decide one way or another about the proposed cooperation. But the majority, including France and the United Kingdom, emphasized that their support hinges on how India’s general nonproliferation pledges are translated into specifics.

In what has turned out to be a domestically divisive declaration for his government, Singh told Bush that India would separate its civilian nuclear program from its military counterpart and permit international oversight of nonmilitary facilities. He also reaffirmed existing Indian policies to institute tighter export controls, adhere to a nuclear-testing moratorium, and support negotiating a treaty to end the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons.

Some NSG members, such as Canada, questioned why the United States did not obtain more from India, particularly a pledge to cease production of bomb-making materials. France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have publicly announced an end to such production, and China is understood to have also followed suit. Indian officials maintain their country will do no less and no more than these five states.

Similarly, other NSG countries knocked the arrangement for not getting India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty banning nuclear testing. However, the Bush administration also opposes the accord, which will not enter into force until the United States, India, and nine other specific countries ratify it.

Still, the critical issue determining whether the nuclear trade door will be opened wider for India is if it enacts a “credible split of its civilian and military” nuclear programs, one diplomat of an NSG member told Arms Control Today Oct. 20.

When this separation will begin remains uncertain. Burns traveled to India near the end of October to negotiate a phased implementation approach for the deal, but no final agreement was announced. NSG members urged the United States to share the timetable once it is completed.


U.S. Proposes Nuclear Fuel Safety Net

Wade Boese

The United States recently announced it will establish a nuclear fuel reserve for countries that forgo the ability to make their own nuclear fuel. This reserve would serve as a backup source of nuclear fuel for such countries if their regular supply channels are interrupted.

Reining in fuel production capabilities has become a top priority of U.S. policymakers because such materials also can be used to make fissile material—plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU)—for nuclear weapons.

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman unveiled the outlines of the nascent U.S. proposal Sept. 26 in videotaped remarks to the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA promotes the use of nuclear technologies and materials for peaceful purposes and seeks to deter or detect the illicit use of civilian nuclear programs for building nuclear weapons. The General Conference is the annual budget and policy decision-making meeting of IAEA members, now numbering 138 states.

Bodman told the conference that the Bush administration “firmly believes that all responsible nations should have access to peaceful uses of the atom.” At the same time, Washington, other Western capitals, and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei have encouraged countries to forgo certain nuclear technologies that can be used in producing both energy and weapons, specifically uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities. But some countries, such as Iran, have expressed unease or outright opposition to this approach because they contend it would deny them technologies to which they have a right and leave them at the mercy of outside suppliers.

To ameliorate this concern, Bodman said the United States would make available nuclear fuel “for an IAEA-verifiable assured supply arrangement.” He offered scant details but asserted, “Through this arrangement, I believe we can advance our common goals of fighting proliferation while expanding the use of nuclear power around the globe.”

U.S. Permanent Representative to the IAEA Ambassador Gregory Schulte partially fleshed out the U.S. proposal in a Sept. 28 letter to ElBaradei. Schulte said the United States intends to blend down 17 excess metric tons of HEU into low-enriched uranium, which cannot be used to make weapons. The lower-grade uranium is the primary fuel for nuclear reactors.

The U.S. ambassador indicated the blended-down uranium would be available should a country experience a “disruption in supply” of its nuclear fuel. Only states that “forego enrichment and reprocessing” would be eligible to receive this reserve fuel, he wrote. Bodman’s reference to “responsible nations” suggests the United States might also employ additional criteria to prevent states that it does not trust, such as Iran and North Korea, from obtaining fuel from this U.S. reserve.

Noting that blending down HEU is “an extensive and time-consuming process,” Schulte estimated that “[w]e anticipate that this fuel will become available in 2009.” A U.S. government spokesperson told Arms Control Today Oct. 18 that, when completed, the blend-down process would yield approximately 10 nuclear reactor reloads.

The U.S. government has provided no additional information on how the fuel reserve would function. Left unclear is whether a recipient would be charged for the fuel, how the fuel would be transported, and how the resultant spent fuel would be handled. In his letter, Schulte stated, “Details concerning this initiative are still being finalized.”

The U.S. proposal extends a policy first enunciated by President George W. Bush in a February 2004 speech on controlling the spread of nuclear weapons. (See ACT, March 2004.) The president made the case that nuclear suppliers needed to “ensure that states have reliable access at reasonable cost to fuel for civilian reactors” so they do not feel compelled to acquire their own uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities. “Enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” Bush declared.

ElBaradei has argued similarly and proposed a five-year moratorium on the construction of new plants for these activities. His call has gone unheeded, but the Group of Eight—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—agreed in July to extend for another year a moratorium on any new exports of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The IAEA director-general also convened an experts group to explore multilateral ways of producing and providing nuclear fuel. The group released its findings in February (see ACT, March 2005), laying out five alternative approaches, but countries have not reached agreement on any particular one.

Still, ElBaradei continues to press states on the matter. At an Oct. 5 event in Moscow, he argued that one of the more “interesting and challenging projects” facing the world is developing “a regime by which we can provide assurance of supply to all countries, subject to nonproliferation criteria, to be able to have reactor technology, fuel technology, and in return, accept not to develop their own independent fuel cycle [i.e., enrichment and reprocessing capabilities].” He concluded, “I think this will be a leap of faith in protecting ourselves.”

The recent U.S. proposal differs in many respects to ElBaradei’s concept. For example, the United States would retain ownership of the fuel reserve rather than placing it under multilateral control. Congress could then intervene and pass laws restricting how the fuel reserve would be operated. Most importantly, the U.S. proposal is fixed on providing “reliable access” to fuel, whereas ElBaradei is looking to give states that meet an apolitical set of nonproliferation criteria an “assurance” of supply. The latter is less subjective and unacceptable to the United States.


OPCW Director Seeks Middle East Inroads

Michael Nguyen

Efforts to win universal support for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) have foundered because of resistance from key countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. But the head of the international organization charged with implementing the CWC told Arms Control Today that some limited progress has been made in getting Middle Eastern countries to discuss the subject.

Maintaining the viability of challenge and industry inspections also is essential in ensuring the long-term relevance and credibility of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said Director-General Rogelio Pfirter in a Sept. 23 interview. A lawyer and longtime diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Pfirter has headed the OPCW since July 2002. He was appointed during a special meeting of the CWC’s states-parties following the U.S.-led ouster of his predecessor, José Bustani, in 2002. (See ACT, September 2002.)

More than eight years after its entry into force, 175 states have ratified or acceded to the convention prohibiting the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons, while an additional 19 states have not ratified or acceded to the convention. The CWC’s rapid pace toward universality is particularly remarkable when compared with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s (NPT) history: the NPT had only 104 states-parties eight years after its entry into force, although it currently has 189 members. Pfirter noted, however, that substantial obstacles remain. “In terms of numbers, it’s not too large, but in terms of quality, it might be quite a daunting task for us still,” he said.

In the Middle East, neither Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, nor Israel have ratified the CWC, although Israel has signed it. The United States has accused both Egypt and Syria of maintaining stockpiles of chemical weapons. “Unfortunately, chemical weapons are hostage to nuclear weapons,” said Pfirter, referring to the refusal of Egypt and Syria to accede to the CWC until Israel accedes to the NPT.

But Pfirter remains optimistic, noting that the issue has advanced some after having been largely “inert” until two years ago. Since then, the OPCW has met both bilaterally and collectively with officials of each state, and these countries have assured Pfirter that they agreed with the underlying principle of the convention that chemical weapons should not exist or continue.

Still, Pfirter says that he sees greater willingness among the three states to revisit the CWC in a “dynamic fashion, not just take for granted that there will always be a stalemate.” Officials from all three countries attended a July OPCW workshop in Cyprus seeking universal adherence in the Mediterranean region. He said he looked forward to Egypt and Syria sending official observers to future formal meetings of OPCW states-parties.

But Pfirter also acknowledges that the odds are long. “The security question in the Middle East,” he says, “will play a key role ultimately in any decision that countries might take.” For example, he predicted that security concerns would trump any economic considerations raised if CWC states-parties choose to punish these non-state-parties by restricting their ability to trade in Schedule 3 chemicals, which are defined as chemicals used in large quantities by commercial industries that also pose a nonproliferation risk as chemical weapons or precursors. Such restrictions might have a significant impact on important industries in Egypt and Israel. In the convention, states agreed that they would decide whether to bar trade in Schedule 3 chemicals with non-states-parties five years after its entry into force but took no action on the matter at the appropriate review conference in 2003. More than two years later, Pfirter said he did not believe there was the necessary consensus among the states-parties to move forward on the issue.

The internal strife of several states also is an obstacle to universality. Nonetheless, the Democratic Republic of Congo acceded to the convention Oct. 12, and Iraq has pledged to accede in the near future. One troublesome holdout has been North Korea, where efforts to seek a diplomatic opening have generated no response, according to Pfirter.

Beyond universality, ensuring that CWC states-parties are free of chemical weapons is essential to ensuring the convention’s success. Pfirter argues that doing so requires loosening states’ inhibitions to take advantage of the treaty’s provision for challenge inspections. He describes such inspections as “one of the key components of the credibility and deterrent capacity” of the convention. No such inspections have been conducted to date. To ensure that the challenge inspections remain a viable instrument of the convention, Pfirter has worked to ensure that the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat maintains a high-level of readiness, including surprise drills and observation of and participation in mock challenge inspections and workshops dedicated to the process.

Pfirter also sees the nonproliferation aspects of the convention as essential to its long-term mission. The convention itself has a well-defined industry inspection regime, placing chemicals into three schedules based on their military and commercial value. Schedule 1 facilities, which use chemicals with high military but low commercial value, have received repeated inspections. But he believes that OPCW needs to be conducting more inspections of Other Chemical Productions Facilities (OCPFs) that produce unscheduled chemicals. Less than 300 of the 4,834 declared OCPFs have been inspected.

The ability to maintain these inspections depends on the OPCW’s limited budget. Pfirter has steered the organization out of the financial crisis that led to substantial reductions in its inspections activities in 2001-2002, but the OPCW is still dependent on payment by chemical weapons possessor states for inspections conducted during destruction activities. The unpredictable nature of the destruction schedules has caused budget shortfalls in the past.

Another nonproliferation concern is the failure of many states-parties to follow through on their Article VII obligations, which require states-parties to designate a national authority and implement the convention through administrative and penal legislation. The 2003 Eighth Conference of States Parties adopted an action plan two years ago to provide technical assistance, but it is clear that many states-parties still have not acted. “Implementation is of the essence,” said Pfirter, and the upcoming Tenth Conference of States Parties Nov. 7-11 will revisit the issue.

Chemical weapons destruction deadlines established in the convention also loom on the horizon. Pfirter appealed to the developed world to provide all the support necessary to help Russia meet the convention’s ultimate 2012 deadline for destroying its chemical stockpile. If Russia and the United States fail to destroy their stockpiles, “I think it will have a devastating effect,” Pfirter said.

Today, Russia, with the largest declared stockpile, has destroyed less than 3 percent, while the United States, with the second-largest stockpile, has destroyed less than 40 percent. Both states have asked for and received extensions to the three interim deadlines established by the convention. By December 2007, the United States is committed to destroying 45 percent of its stockpile, the third and final interim goal. At the upcoming conference, the United States has said that it will push to establish a firm target date for Russia to destroy 45 percent of its stockpile. Countries generally have supported extending Russia’s deadline, but no new date has been set.

Click here for a complete transcript of the interview.


Defending Missile Defense: An Interview with Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering

Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

President George W. Bush has made fielding missile defenses a priority. In pursuit of this objective, he withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, has requested nearly $38 billion in missile defense funding since taking office, and last year ordered the deployment of the initial elements of a defense against long-range ballistic missiles. On Sept. 29, Arms Control Today interviewed Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, who oversees the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), about the current status of and future plans for U.S. anti-missile systems.

ACT: We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Could you provide our readers with a snapshot of the current status of ballistic missile defense efforts, particularly the ground-based midcourse system?

Obering: First of all, I want to make a couple of points. The ground-based system is of course the most visible and one of the more complex components of our missile defense system. But it is part of a larger capability that we are building, and that is an integrated ballistic missile defense system. It will consist of space-based sensors, sea-based defenses, land-based defenses—along with sea- and land-based sensors—tied to command and control centers. So, we are building an integrated and layered system.

Now, specifically to the ground-based midcourse system, it is the part of the system that is capable at this point of protecting against long-range missile threats. We attack them in the midcourse phase.[1] Since the summer of 2004, we have been emplacing interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg, California. We currently have seven interceptors placed at Fort Greely and two in California. They are supported by the Defense Support Program satellites, which we have had for years for early-warning purposes, and the Cobra Dane radar in the Aleutian Islands, which we just had a very successful test of. In that test on [Sept. 26], we launched an actual long-range target out of the back of a C-17. It comes down in parachutes and then ignites and comes on a threat trajectory into the defended area across the radar. We proved in that test that we were able to detect, track, classify, and generate a fire-control solution against that missile with the interceptors and the actual hardware and software that we have in an operational configuration today.

ACT: Let me ask you a question on the interceptors placed at Fort Greely. Last October, the appropriate military commands began putting the system through a “shakedown.” Initially, this was described as a process that would last several weeks, but it has now been underway for nearly a year, and the system is yet to be declared operational. Why is that?

Obering: Well, I do not know who classified that as only being for several weeks.[2] I am unaware of that. What we decided to do was what you would do with any system of this complexity, much like taking a ship on a shakedown cruise. That is what we have been doing since last October.

Let me get to a broader point here for just a second and then come back. We live in a different world then when we signed the ABM Treaty during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The way that we acquired, produced, developed, and tested [weapons] systems grew up in that Cold War environment. And, to be very frank, there was not a sense of urgency then that we have developed in this day and age. So, we felt we were totally defenseless against a country that would develop a long-range or even, for that matter, a medium-range threat against the United States. We had no defense against that. In [missile defense] testing we did from 2000 to 2002,[3] we successfully intercepted targets. We did that with a prototype of the [exoatmospheric] kill vehicle (EKV)[4] that we have in the ground today. That gave us enough confidence that we had a capability that we ought to start getting out the door, again, because we had no defense at all. Had we been attacked, I would have been hard-pressed to say why I did not try to start getting that capability into the field. So, that was the rationale behind starting to put out a defensive line of capabilities. Is it perfect? No. Is it what we are going to have for the future in terms of this idea? No. We are going to continue to improve this.

In fact, we have already had at least two major configuration changes to the system with respect to updated software in the fire control system of the command-and-control and battle management system. We continue to develop and wring those out. We have demonstrated that we can take the system from what we would call a developmental state, where we are upgrading this software or upgrading a configuration, into an operational alert state and then back. We will continue to do this as we improve and upgrade the system. But the point is that, when we are in this development mode, we can come out of that into an operational mode, should we have to, for real world purposes. That is something that is important. You can continue to build a system and improve it while having that inherent capability.

ACT: Is there going to be a point when you are going to declare the system operational?

Obering: Well, first of all, I do not make that call. I am responsible for developing the system and getting it out there. There are a lot of factors that go into what you declare in terms of the capability, not the least of which, obviously, is the technical readiness or the maturity of the system. From a technical and performance perspective, we have a capability that we can use. Had we followed that classic [development] model that I talked about in the Cold War era, we would just now begin to probably start some of our testing to support a fielding decision, meaning that we would be three or four years away from having any operational defensive capability. We would be launching targets and interceptors in our test bed in the South Pacific, but in terms of a real live operational capability against a real world threat, we would not have anything.

This idea of concurrent development and test, development and test, development and test, with inherent capability, is a model that we need to pursue for today’s environment. We have used it on other programs. We used it on Global Hawk and on Predator.[5] In this particular instance where you do not have anything, I think it is very appropriate.

ACT: Two years ago, then-Undersecretary of Defense Edward Aldridge predicted the [ground-based] system would have a 90 percent chance of successfully taking out a North Korean ballistic missile. A few months ago, you noted that the system has a “better-than-zero” chance of hitting an incoming missile. What accounts for this seemingly large discrepancy, and how do you rate the current system’s ability to intercept a ballistic missile warhead?

Obering: What I meant by “better-than-zero” is that, if you do not have anything in the field, you have zero. The specific percentage of the system’s effectiveness is classified. That is why I do not articulate what that is. Now, Undersecretary Aldridge made a comment in testimony, and I do not know the context of that in terms of how he made or why he made that remark. But I can tell you that not only is it better than zero, which is what we had a year ago, it is much, much better than zero. I just cannot get into what those details are. Nor, I think, would the American public expect that because we do not typically go into those kinds of details for our systems.

ACT: What is that assessment of “much, much better than zero” based on?

Obering: The testing that we have done to date. It is based on the confidence that we have continued to build in the system. I want to go back and iterate a little bit about that. A lot of times, critics say, “it is untested, it is unproven, etc.” The fact of the matter is the basic functionality of the system—the ability to intercept a target traveling at the speeds that we are talking about,[6] the ability to engage in a terminal engagement and destroy the target—we have seen that in intercepts that we have done in the 2000-2002 time frame. We took the kill vehicle that accomplished those intercepts, and we improved it by making it more producible and making it a more robust design. The booster that we have in the ground today, we have actually flown successfully in the current configuration twice before and in a similar configuration another time. Is the system designed for a very, very complex threat suite? The answer is no. But what it can handle is what we anticipate the threat to be in the near term. We will evolve and improve the system over time to handle what we think the threat is going to evolve to.

ACT: You mentioned testing. There has not been a successful intercept test since October 2002. The interceptors that are deployed now in Alaska and California are comprised of boosters and kill vehicles that have never been flight-tested together. What gives you confidence that these interceptors will work?

Obering: Good question. I want to be a little specific about why we have not had a successful test since 2002. A large measure of that time was to stand down because we thought we had learned as much as we could learn from those tests. We had basically wrung out those configurations as much as we could. A large measure of that stand-down was to take the money that we would have had in further testing of that design and put it into the development of the [interceptor] configuration that we have in the holes today.

When we came back up online last year to begin our flight testing again, we ran into a problem in December and a problem in February.[7] Those problems had nothing to do with the basic functionality of the system. They were basically technical glitches.

In December, we had a software timing issue in the booster; we actually flew with that twice before. It was easily fixed. It was one parameter in one software line of code.

In terms of the February test, we had a ground support arm in a silo that did not clear out of the way. That turned out to be workmanship and a quality control issue. Let me explain. We have two silos down in the South Pacific that we test out of. The particular configuration of the silo that we were testing out of in February happened to be for a booster configuration that is no longer in the program, and there had to be some modifications done to that silo to accommodate the booster that we now have in Alaska and California. It was the workmanship surrounding the modifications to that test silo that led to this failure. This was not the rocket science part. We determined that, based on workmanship, there was some salt air fog that got into the silo. It corroded a hinge and that is what [led to the failure]. We do not have that problem in Alaska or in California with respect to the silos.

Since we had the failures in December and in February, I wanted to make sure that we had wrung everything out. Because when you have two failures in a row like that, even when they are peripheral to the basic functionality of the system, you want to make sure that you do not have any other problems lurking, especially when you talk about quality-control, workmanship, and that type of thing. I established the Independent Review Team to take a look at the program and review every aspect of it, basically soup-to-nuts, and to tell me where we needed to pay attention. They made some great recommendations. Since May, we have been going through the items that they have recommended, and we have laid out a systematic test program that we plan to get back into here in a couple of months. In the meantime, we have been taking components of the booster and the kill vehicle and putting them through qualification testing. We have been doing full qualification testing on the booster’s software. So, those have been the pacing items to get us back into flight testing.

ACT: You mentioned the Independent Review Team. Their conclusion was that there was not enough flight data to validate [testing] models and simulations. Once again, how do you have confidence that the interceptors will work?

Obering: Well, the major conclusion that they had is that there were no design flaws that they could tell in the system. That was one of the primary [findings] they made. You almost never have enough flight-test data to validate all the simulations and models that you need. However, I can tell you, for the booster configuration that is sitting in the silos in Alaska and California, we have flown that. And those models for the flight test have very accurately predicted the performance of those boosters, including the launch environments and everything else. We have to have more flight-test data. There is no doubt about that. But we can now get that data as part of our flight-test program and, at the same time, have at least some type of capability, should we need it, to counter an operational, real world threat. This is not a game. It tends to be a game sometimes, I think, inside the beltway.

ACT: If I may, what’s the reasoning behind conducting the next two flight tests without a target and then waiting to go back to intercept testing next year?

Obering: First of all, any time that you go through that type of systematic exhaustive review of your program, you want to go back and make sure that you minimize the variability when you resume testing. We want to take this a step at a time now. We are being very conservative to make sure that we have thought through everything.

The rationale for not flying against a target in the next flight test is we want to make sure we can take the kill vehicle through its paces. We are going to be able to do some things with that kill vehicle now that we would not be able to do if we were flying against a target. For example, if there is no target when the kill vehicle opens its eyes, it is going to do some maneuvers that we have not had to do in the recent test program.

The reason we are going to fly the second flight test without a target is because we are going to start launching the interceptor out of an operational site, which is Vandenberg. You do not do that overnight. You have got to make sure that you have tested the crews, that they are ready. Moving to a new site means you have new aspects of range safety and everything else. Therefore, you want to make sure that you have got that right before you go against a target.

Then we introduce targets for the third test and the fourth test.

ACT: Our readers, as I am sure you are not surprised, have closely followed the debate over missile defenses and the ABM Treaty. As you know, in December 2001, the president announced that the United States would withdraw from the treaty. How has that withdrawal benefited U.S. missile defense programs?

Obering: Tremendously. Absolutely tremendously. It also benefited arms control because, let’s face it, we are the ultimate in arms control. When all else fails, we have to have something between us and a weapon. When attempts to diplomatically disarm other countries fail, we have to perform.

At the time the ABM Treaty was signed in 1972, it was appropriate for the environment that we were in. It was a very good thing because our primary threat at that time was the Soviet Union, which had missiles capable of reaching the United States. The concept of mutually assured destruction was evident; it was stabilizing between the two countries. The lesson learned from the ABM Treaty is make sure that you have the right treaty with the right nation. In 1972, there were about eight nations around the world that had ballistic missiles or ballistic missile technologies, and most of those were friendly to the United States. Today, there are more than 20 countries around the world that have ballistic missiles and ballistic missile technologies, and many of those countries are not friendly to the United States or, at least, could be considered hostile to some of our intents and interests. For us to have abided by the ABM Treaty with a country that no longer existed, while the rest of the world were arming themselves with these weapons, flies in the face of responsible defense for the American people. I could not honestly look an American in the face and say that we are providing for the common defense if we are not addressing a threat that was growing around the world.

ACT: Were there specific actions that you would not have been permitted to do under the treaty that you have done since the withdrawal?

Obering: You bet. We could not have built an integrated capability, which you are going to have to do against these types of threats. The ability for us right now to take an Aegis radar[8] and tie information [that it gathers] into a fire control system for a ground-based weapon located in Alaska or California would have been a violation of the treaty. We could not mix strategic and tactical or theater weapons systems together to achieve the capability that we now have and that we will continue to improve.[9] This idea of mixing and matching sensors and interceptors and command-and-control elements to expand your detection and engagement capability over a single, autonomous system would have been prohibited by that treaty. So, the ability to even develop and field a capability, other than the one site that was allowed in the treaty, would have been prohibited.

Again, the treaty was a recognition of the environment in which it was written. It is not the environment that we have today. We had to take very realistic steps to address today’s environment and today’s threats. I do not view this as a zero-sum game like some people do. We have to continue diplomatic efforts to try to encourage countries not to invest in weapons of mass destruction. One of the ways you can do that—and I think historically speaking it has always been the case—is through strength. You show them that it is not worth the investment. The ultimate missile defense is if we can dissuade a country from ever investing in ballistic missiles to start with. That is one of the primary objectives. If we cannot do that, we have to find ways to deter them from ever using them and, if they do use them, to destroy them before they harm the American people, our interests, or allies.

ACT: Recently, you have endorsed exploring the possibility of space-based interceptors. MDA has plans to possibly begin testing and exploring these systems as early as 2012. When will the United States start having to deploy hardware to create this space-based test bed, and why do you think this is necessary?

Obering: That is a great question. Let me preface it this way: Twelve years ago, if you had asked me if we were going to be fighting in Afghanistan, I would not have predicted that. If you can tell me where we are going to be fighting 12 years from now or what threat countries we have to deal with or what those threats will look like and where they are coming from, then I could lay out very precisely a terrestrial-based system that could handle that. But we do not know. We know what we know today, and we will continue to evolve that.

There are a lot of things about a space-based interceptor that we do not know that we need to explore from a technical perspective. I think it is also a proper debate to have with the American public and in Congress as to whether we want to do this. But speaking from a military perspective and from somebody who is charged with protecting the American people, deployed U.S. forces, allies, and friends against all ranges of missiles in all phases of their flights, it makes sense to explore a space-based interceptor layer. And, it would be nothing more than that. It would be a layer to the system that we have evolved and will continue to evolve terrestrially. There is a lot that needs to be answered, and there needs to be an active debate about whether we want to do this. One of the things that I want to make sure is that it is an informed debate and that is why we think it is prudent to do some experimentation with respect to whether you can even achieve [a space-based layer]. Can you build the responsiveness to command-and-control? Is it affordable? If you have interceptors that are unaffordable in terms of their mass, size, weight, or whatever, there is no use in starting down the path. So, what we have proposed is not that we are going to actively build a space-based layer. What we have proposed is a very modest and moderate test-bed approach to launch some experiments. We have a very modest amount of money beginning in the 2008 time frame to begin to do this experimentation. The debate can take place in parallel to that, and hopefully it will be a much more informed debate than we have today.

ACT: What about those who would point out that initially the Fort Greely site started out as a test bed site and then it was turned into an operational site, so why couldn’t a space-based test bed become a deployment site just by changing its name?

Obering: Well, when we took the Fort Greely site as a test bed and it became basically a site with an operational capability, it was done for a good reason. There was a recognition that we had an emerging threat. We had a threat from North Korea, and we had to do something about that.[10] I would anticipate that we would not have an operational space-based interceptor layer unless we needed it. But these defenses take time, so being able to go from a test bed into an operational status in a very short amount of time is something that is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

ACT: What about the concerns of Russia, China, and others that this could set off an arms race in space?

Obering: The Russians and the Chinese understand, or at least should understand, that the scale of what we are doing nowhere near matches what they can amass in terms of attack profiles and quantities. We are not talking about a massive Brilliant Pebbles[11] or a massive space-based interceptor constellation that would come anywhere near close to countering a Russian or Chinese threat. We are not talking about that. We are talking about a modest layer to help us engage emerging threats that could occur around the world over the next decade. Now, some people also describe this as the weaponization of space. That is a term that we do not do enough examination of. What we are talking about doing, if this pans out, is putting very small-scale interceptors into space that would be defensive weapons. They would have no offensive capability. They would have no ability to attack anything on the ground. They would not have the survivability to come back through the atmosphere.

ACT: They could attack satellites in space.

Obering: It depends on how we design them. It depends on what their intent and their use are. A warhead traveling through space and a satellite traveling through space are very different. These have to be considered defensive weapons because, again, just by design and by the nature of what we are talking about. But I am not the one to decide that. All I am charged to do is to try to make sure that we have thought through the technical aspects and that we have got an informed debate. This is a decision that needs to be made by the American people and, obviously, debated in Congress.

ACT: How many interceptors, in general, are we talking about for a test bed in space?

Obering: Not even a handful to start with. We are talking about onesies, twosies in terms of experimentation. That is all we are talking about.

ACT: Back on Earth, could you update us on U.S. plans to deploy long-range interceptors in Europe?

Obering: We have money that has been budgeted beginning in the 2006 time frame for this, and we think it is important for a variety of reasons. Part of our strategy is not only to protect the U.S. homeland, but also to protect our deployed forces, our allies, and friends. We are concerned about threats that may emerge from the Middle East. Having another interceptor site in Europe would greatly [complicate] not only an attacker’s problem with respect to the United States in terms of how many interceptor sites they have to deal with, but it also primarily provides coverage to our allies and friends. There are several nations in Europe that are very interested in hosting a third interceptor site, and we will continue to pursue that over the next year.[12]

ACT: Is there a general time frame? You said the money begins in 2006, but when might interceptors be deployed to Europe?

Obering: Well, we are going to have to have a fairly sound, solid foundation of agreement in the next several months so that we can begin to move out with the program.

ACT: You have already addressed it somewhat, but for decades, missile defense and efforts to limit offensive missiles were viewed as competing against one another. How do you see the two as being complementary, or how do you achieve that?

Obering: First of all, you have to recognize that arms control assumes rational actors. Arms control assumes adversaries that can be deterred. It assumes that there are people who have something to lose and that you can actually deal with in terms of negotiation and in terms of being able to come to an accommodation over a mutual disarmament, or even unilateral for that matter. What we are finding out today in this world is we have folks that are not like that. We have folks that are willing to sacrifice not only themselves but hundreds of people for a particular cause. If those people get their hands on these types of weapons—and there are hundreds and hundreds of missiles out there; many, many, many that are unaccounted for—they are almost undeterrable. Certainly, they are non-negotiable when it comes to something like arms control. That is why I see us as being very much a collaborative effort. There are countries that can be deterred. There are countries that we can enter into arms control agreements with. I think that is very wise, and that is something that we need to do. On the other hand, we have seen in the last several years that there are organizations and countries that just are not deterred in that manner.

ACT: Is there anything we have not asked about that you would like to add?

Obering: Just one of intent and one of what I will call trust. Many times, you can get the feeling, if you read a lot of the critics of missile defense, that we are trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes or that we are trying to fool people or we are trying to build something that is unreliable or that is foolhardy. I wish that more people would give us the benefit of the doubt. We have thousands and thousands of dedicated Americans that are working very, very hard to build a defensive capability where there was none before. They are doing it for a very good reason. When you walk though some of the factories that we have that are producing these components and these systems, what you see on the walls are pictures of American cities. In many cases, they are aerial photographs of the hometowns of the workers that are crafting the system. They understand what they are doing is very important. I wish more people would give us the benefit of the doubt. We are on the side of trying to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being used against the American people and our interests. I think that is something that I would like to see emphasized much, much more.

ACT: Thank you very much for your time.

Click here for a complete transcript of this interview.


1. Ballistic missiles have three stages of flight: the boost phase, the midcourse phase, and the terminal phase. The boost phase begins at the missile’s launch and lasts until its rocket engines stop firing. Depending on the missile, this phase lasts between three to five minutes. The midcourse phase starts after the rockets finish firing and the missile is on a ballistic course toward its target. For ICBMs, this phase occurs in space and can last up to 20 minutes. It is during this stage that the missile’s warhead or warheads separate from the delivery vehicle. The terminal phase begins when the missile’s payload re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere and it continues until impact or detonation.

2. General John W. Holly, who oversees development of the ground-based midcourse defense, told a Washington audience Oct. 14, 2004, that the shakedown would take place over six to 12 weeks. Wade Boese, “Missile Defense Still on Hold,” Arms Control Today, December 2004, pp. 33-34.

3. From October 1999 to December 2002, the Pentagon conducted eight missile intercept tests using the ground-based system. The system tallied five hits and three misses in these developmental tests.

4. The ground-based interceptors deployed at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base are comprised of two main components: a high-speed booster and the EKV. The booster lifts the EKV into space, where the two then separate. Using radar updates and its own onboard sensors, the 70-kilogram EKV is supposed to maneuver into the path of an oncoming warhead and destroy it through a collision.

5. Global Hawk and Predator are unmanned aerial vehicles.

6. The ground-based midcourse system is currently focused on intercepting targets traveling five to seven kilometers per second.

7. In these two tests, the interceptor failed to launch. Wade Boese, “Ground-Based Interceptor Fails Again,” Arms Control Today, March 2005, p. 29.

8. The Aegis radar is part of a broader, ship-based system originally intended to track and counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. In recent years, MDA has claimed the system can also help track a long-range ballistic missile. The concept is to use the ship-based radar to relay tracking data to a ground-based interceptor to help locate and engage a target.

9. Strategic systems are those designed to engage long-range ballistic missiles. Tactical or theater systems are those designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Different capabilities are needed to intercept missiles with different ranges because they all fly at varying speeds, trajectories, and altitudes.

10. North Korea ’s last ballistic missile flight test was an August 1998 test of its medium-range, 2,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-1. Although the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that North Korea is developing a longer-range Taepo Dong-2 capable of reaching the United States, Pyongyang has not flight-tested such a missile.

11. Brilliant Pebbles was an initiative of President George H. W. Bush that envisioned up to 1,000 space-based interceptors.

12. At least the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have all held discussions with the United States about hosting missile interceptors. Wade Boese, “ U.S. Eyes Missile Defense Site in Europe,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2004, p. 39.


ElBaradei, IAEA Win Nobel Peace Prize

Miles A. Pomper

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its sometimes controversial director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 7. The agency is charged with promoting the uses of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes and verifying that such technologies are not used to build nuclear arms.

Hailing ElBaradei as “an unafraid advocate” of new nonproliferation efforts, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that, “at a time when disarmament efforts appear to be deadlocked, when there is a danger that nuclear arms will spread both to states and to terrorist groups, and when nuclear power again appears to be playing an increasingly significant role, [the] IAEA’s work is of incalculable importance.”

The decision reflects, in part, the new roles that the IAEA and ElBaradei have played in recent years. ElBaradei has raised the profile of the agency by taking a more proactive and public role and tackling political issues as well as technical concerns.

The IAEA now finds itself at the crossroads of international security concerns. Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to new countries, such as Iran and North Korea, has taken on added importance with the end of the U.S.-Soviet nuclear rivalry. But succeeding in the quest to control weapons or materials has become more difficult because of technological advances and a more open global economy. The September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington further ratcheted up these concerns as policymakers and the public pondered the damage the attackers could have done with a nuclear weapon.

Both the IAEA and individual states have struggled with these challenges. There have been some points of global agreement. Spending on IAEA weapons inspections has risen. The agency and leading member states have supported tightening IAEA safeguards that ensure that nuclear materials are used for peaceful purposes, in particular by encouraging universal adoption of the 1997 Model Additional Protocol. In a bid to thwart potential terrorist attacks, states have agreed to tighten global standards for protecting material. And, although they have differed on tactics, both ElBaradei and leaders such as President George W. Bush have offered plans to stop the development of new facilities that can produce the fissile material—highly enriched uranium and plutonium—for nuclear weapons.

Yet, how to deal with other nonproliferation challenges has been the subject of an intense, high-stakes international debate.

ElBaradei has supported more universal approaches that treat countries on a fairly even basis, with similar restrictions and obligations. These include such efforts as achieving a treaty cutting off new supplies of fissile material for weapons purposes, proposing new multilateral methods for supplying such material for peaceful uses, and enacting a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. He has also preferred that changes be made and implemented in international fora such as the IAEA and once-every-five-year nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conferences. After winning the peace prize, he told reporters that the award “recognizes the role of multilateralism in resolving all of the challenges we are facing today.”

Yet, ElBaradei has had a difficult time moving forward on multilateral efforts because of a bitter divide between nuclear-weapon states such as the United States and those countries without these arms. Most notably, May’s NPT review conference failed to reach agreement on ways to move forward in confronting proliferation. (See ACT, July/August 2005.)

Non-nuclear-weapon states have questioned whether the nuclear-weapon states, have fulfilled their NPT commitments to make good faith efforts toward nuclear disarmament.

By contrast, the United States, the most powerful nuclear-weapon state, has focused on ensuring that terrorists or countries that might support them are denied such weapons. In this effort, Bush has placed his emphasis on “coalitions of the willing” rather than international institutions, whether it is to stop arms proliferation or the development of uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing facilities. In arguing that both sides have to meet their commitments, ElBaradei has sometimes come under fire from Washington.

The biggest points of contention between ElBaradei and Washington, however, occurred when he challenged Bush administration claims about Iraq’s and Iran’s nuclear programs.

The most intense clash occurred over Bush administration charges that Iraq was reviving its nuclear weapons program. On March 7, 2003, ElBaradei rebutted many of the U.S. claims. He did so only a month after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN Security Council that he had evidence of such a revival, and only weeks before a U.S.-led invasion citing the program as a justification.

“After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei said. Since the invasion, several U.S. investigations have backed up ElBaradei’s assertions.

Some U.S. and other Western officials had grumbled that ElBaradei had not been tough enough on Iran, which the United States contends is pursuing nuclear weapons. In particular, they had urged him to recommend to the IAEA Board of Governors that it find Iran in noncompliance for its many violations of its safeguards agreement. Such a finding automatically triggers a referral to the Security Council, leaving open the possibility of sanctions or even military force.

ElBaradei has disappointed these officials by declaring that he has not found indisputable evidence that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. During a February interview with Arms Control Today, ElBaradei had said that much of the criticism was misplaced, noting that he had said that Iran had “cheated” and was in breach of its safeguards obligations. More recently, he rebuked Tehran before the board for its intermittent and limited cooperation with the agency.

But he said he had not made a judgment about compliance because the question of what to do about Iran’s actions was “clearly a political assessment, which has to be made by member states,” not the agency’s staff. Indeed, the agency’s board made such a judgment in September when it decided that Tehran’s noncompliance should eventually be reported to the Security Council. (See ACT, October 2005.)

On North Korea, ElBaradei and the United States have both supported Security Council action but have been stymied by other countries, especially China, a veto-wielding permanent member of that body. The agency referred the case to the Security Council after Pyongyang ejected IAEA inspectors in December 2002 and subsequently announced its withdrawal from the NPT. China has insisted that the Security Council not act on the case as China, the United States, North Korea, and three other countries seek a negotiated solution.

The tensions between ElBaradei and Washington peaked last year when the Bush administration indicated that it would not support ElBaradei for a third four-year term at the agency. ElBaradei first took office in 1997.

The United States said that it wanted ElBaradei replaced on the basis of a policy supported by some UN members that no director-general of any UN body should be elected to more than two terms.

But a former top aide to Powell said that John Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, had mounted an underhanded campaign to unseat ElBaradei. (See ACT, July/August 2005.)

Moreover, The Washington Post reported in December 2004 that the Bush administration had intercepted dozens of ElBaradei’s phone calls with Iranian diplomats and was scrutinizing them for evidence they could use to force him out.

In the end, however, U.S. efforts to recruit an alternative candidate fell short, and ElBaradei retained considerable support from European countries such as France and Germany as well as from developing states. (See ACT, March 2005.)

ElBaradei can be expected to continue to play a pivotal role during his next four years at the IAEA’s helm, engaging in such issues as determining how to safeguard additional Indian nuclear facilities after a July nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and India, further probing the black-market nuclear network of Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan, and attempting to manage the expected growth of civilian nuclear power without sparking additional proliferation.

Schelling Awarded Nobel Economics Prize

Miles A. Pomper

Thomas Schelling, one of the leading intellectual pioneers in arms control, co-won the Nobel economics prize for his work in applying game theory to the social sciences.

Schelling’s 1960 book, The Strategy of Conflict, was one of the seminal books in the academic field of strategic studies and helped shape U.S. nuclear deterrent practices, including the development of a second-strike nuclear capability. His 1961 book, Strategy and Arms Control, co-authored with Morton Halperin, established the classic definition of arms control as reducing the chances, consequences, and costs of war.



Challenges Face North Korea Talks

Paul Kerr

Participants in the six-party talks designed to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis are attempting to devise a strategy for implementing a Sept. 19 joint statement of principles for achieving “the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” All the parties have agreed to participate in a fifth round of talks, but no date has been set.

Key parties have held bilateral meetings. For instance, Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose country is hosting the talks, visited Pyongyang in late October. Additionally, Japan and North Korea have scheduled senior working-level normalization talks beginning Nov.3 in an effort to settle some of their outstanding issues. The last such talks took place late last year. (See ACT, June 2004.)

Reflecting South Korea’s increasingly public role in the diplomatic process, an Oct. 19 statement from its Foreign Ministry exhorted the other talks participants, particularly the United States and North Korea, to “harmonize the differences in their stances concerning the settlement of the North’s nuclear program” before the next round begins. Russia is the sixth party in the talks.

The joint statement of principles represents the most significant diplomatic achievement after four rounds of six-party talks spanning more than two years and provides important guidelines for future negotiations. For example, North Korea has committed to abandoning all of its civilian and military nuclear weapons programs as well as returning to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In return, other parties have promised security assurances, economic cooperation, and political normalization. However, the statement leaves several controversial issues unresolved. (See ACT, October 2005.)

The current nuclear crisis began in October 2002 when Washington announced that North Korean officials had admitted to possessing a clandestine uranium-enrichment program, which violated a bilateral agreement freezing Pyongyang’s graphite-moderated nuclear reactor and related facilities located at Yongbyon. The 1994 Agreed Framework resolved a crisis that began in the early 1990s when International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors discovered that Pyongyang had diverted spent fuel from the reactor. Enriching uranium or reprocessing spent reactor fuel to obtain plutonium can both produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The Issues

A persistent obstacle to the resolution of the latest North Korean nuclear crisis has been the two sides’ repeated clashes over the proper sequencing of rewards and obligations. The Bush administration has been reluctant to “reward” North Korea while it possesses nuclear facilities, and Pyongyang fears that the United States will pocket any concessions.

Although Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill acknowledged during an Oct. 4 press briefing that “we also have to take some measures on our side,” he has spent considerably more time describing the Bush administration’s detailed demands of North Korea. Washington wants Pyongyang to produce a declaration of its nuclear holdings, including components associated with its uranium-enrichment program, during the next round.

Other countries, such as South Korea and Russia, seem to disagree with this approach. They have called for the parties instead to focus on producing a specific plan to implement all aspects of the joint statement. Pyongyang would be required to issue a declaration during a future round.

Interestingly, despite the repeated U.S. insistence on the importance of verifying any North Korean declaration, two Department of State officials told Arms Control Today Oct. 21 that the administration has not yet agreed on a minimally acceptable verification scheme. This could be significant if Washington believes Pyongyang’s declaration to be inaccurate.

Although North Korea’s Sept. 20 demand for the early receipt of a U.S.- provided light-water nuclear reactor caused a stir, that issue now appears less significant. At that time, North Korea said it would not rejoin the NPT or the IAEA until it received a reactor, a demand the other parties rejected. However, subsequent North Korean statements have modified this demand, and an Oct. 24 Foreign Ministry statement does not mention such an early provision at all.

Operating Reactor, No Freeze

Despite Pyongyang’s September pledge to abandon its nuclear programs, Hill told a Washington audience Sept. 28 that North Korea continues to operate the Yongbyon reactor. The administration wants North Korea to shut down the facilities but will not negotiate a freeze, Hill said.

Administration officials such as Hill and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have argued that negotiating a freeze would prolong the six-party talks and distract from focusing on dismantlement. A former State Department official agreed during a September interview with Arms Control Today that negotiating a freeze could have such an effect, observing that a June 2004 North Korean proposal contained a detailed compensation scheme for a freeze but lacked sufficient detail about the dismantlement phase. (See ACT, September 2004.)

By contrast, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, the lead U.S. negotiator in the Agreed Framework talks, said that his team sought a freeze as a means of securing a rapid settlement so that North Korea could not benefit from protracted negotiations.

During those talks, North Korea agreed to an IAEA-monitored freeze of the reactor and related facilities, including approximately 8,000 spent fuel rods. Since December 2002, Pyongyang has ejected the inspectors, announced its withdrawal from the NPT, restarted the reactor, and claimed to have reprocessed the rods. (See ACT, June 2005.)

Pyongyang announced last spring that it had shut down the reactor and unloaded the spent fuel rods. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D), who visited North Korea in October, said officials told him they had reprocessed this additional spent fuel, the Associated Press reported Oct. 20. Richardson previously served as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.

It is unknown whether North Korea’s claims are true. U.S. intelligence assesses that North Korea has produced one or two nuclear weapons using plutonium produced prior to the 1994 agreement.

Additionally, North Korea appears to have resumed construction on at least one of two larger reactors whose construction also had been frozen under the Agreed Framework. Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) stated in September that North Korean officials had notified him during a recent meeting that they were “proceeding with” reactor construction, Agence France Presse reported. A Sept. 11 satellite image published by the Institute for Science and International Security shows what appears to be limited new construction activity at the smaller of the two reactors.

Whither KEDO?

The United States established the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to implement the Agreed Framework, including the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors. However, the organization may be eliminated when its executive board next meets.

A KEDO spokesperson told Arms Control Today Oct. 26 that the board will likely meet in late November, although no date has been set. The board comprises Japan, the European Union, South Korea, and the United States.

The board first suspended work on the reactor project in December 2003. The Bush administration had repeatedly stated that it does not want the project revived but had previously contemplated a role for KEDO in implementing any future agreement with North Korea. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

However, that is no longer the case. Hill stated Sept. 19 that “the United States supports a decision to terminate KEDO by the end of the year.” Furthermore, recent statements from South Korea and Japan, who had previously not supported terminating the reactor project, make the organization’s demise appear even more likely. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura asserted that “there is no one who thinks there is that option for KEDO…to continue,” the Kyodo News Agency reported Oct. 11.

Taking a slightly different tack, South Korean Foreign Minster Ban Ki-moon told Reuters Oct. 2 that the reactor project should be ended, although he appeared to leave open the possibility that the organization may still have a role to play in the future, including overseeing possible future reactor projects.


LOOKING BACK: Multilateral Arms Transfer Restraint: The Limits of Cooperation

James A. Lewis

As the United States and Europe wrestle over European plans to sell conventional arms to China, many Americans would like to see a new transatlantic treaty regime. They disparage the existing regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement, which coordinates export policies on conventional arms and related industrial technologies.

European officials also acknowledge the limitations of the current arrangement; British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has even proposed a new arms trade treaty.

Yet, it is unlikely that any replacement or change to the Wassenaar Arrangement can provide meaningful restraint in conventional arms transfers and still be acceptable both to the United States and Europe. The negotiations during the early 1990s that led to the creation of the Wassenaar Arrangement made clear that mutual restraint in transfers of advanced technology and arms is impossible when foreign policies diverge. And with the end of the Cold War, any Atlantic consensus was fast eroding over sales to commercially important nations in Asia and the Middle East.

The Wassenaar Arrangement, established in 1996, replaced NATO’s Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM). Created in the 1950s, COCOM blocked technology transfers to the Soviet Union and its allies. It had three lists of controlled goods—arms, industrial equipment, and “atomic” technologies—that members “embargoed” to the Soviets. To ensure that an export of a listed item was consistent with the embargo, COCOM procedures required the review and consent of all members. This gave the United States extraterritorial authority to “veto” exports to the Soviet bloc.

COCOM was not a nonproliferation regime. It lacked a global scope and applied only to the Warsaw Pact, China, Vietnam, Albania, Mongolia, and North Korea. It controlled only the advanced industrial equipment the Soviets needed to make their already formidable military equal to the United States.

COCOM’s extraterritorial reach made it unpopular with U.S. allies. With the Soviet collapse, there was immediate pressure to end it. Germany and France in particular believed that the United States used the regime to advance its commercial and foreign policies, using procedures that were no longer acceptable.

The 1991 Persian Gulf War showed that COCOM was neither well suited to the post-Cold War world nor adequate for nonproliferation. Iraq had built the world’s fourth-largest army with $40 billion in foreign arms acquisitions. The discovery by post-war inspection teams that Iraq had easily obtained a broad range of Western industrial equipment for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and for conventional arms was disquieting. The administration of President George H. W. Bush launched two initiatives to remedy these problems. The first sought agreement from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the P-5) to restrain arms transfers to the Middle East. The second sought agreement from the Group of Seven (G-7) states on exports of sensitive industrial and civil goods to Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea.

New Initiatives

The Bush administration put forward its plan for arms transfer restraint shortly after the end of the Persian Gulf War. The administration was prompted not only by the ease with which Iraq had purchased a huge conventional force and equipment for an extensive WMD program, but also by a desire to forestall congressional interest in legislating new restrictions on arms exports. The proposal called for the P-5 to cooperate in ending destabilizing arms sales or proliferation-related exports to the Middle East and was closely linked to British Prime Minister John Major’s effort to create the UN Register of Conventional Arms.[1]

The arms transfer component of the Middle East initiative became, at the United Kingdom’s suggestion, a proposal for a regime with global scope to prevent destabilizing arms transfers. The core would be a commitment by the five governments to observe a common set of guidelines for major weapons systems. The guidelines emphasized avoiding arms transfers that could destabilize a region, put human rights at risk, or provide inappropriately advanced technology. These principles became a precedent for the UN Register of Conventional Arms, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the European Code of Conduct.

Transparency measures would reinforce guidelines. Participants would notify other partners in advance of a proposed arms transfer to allow them to judge if it was consistent with the principles and to intervene through diplomatic channels if they decided it was not. Transparency would give supplier states confidence that they understood the range of acquisitions by a country and allow them to better assess the consequences of a sale. It would also reduce the risk of a purchaser evading detection through piecemeal acquisitions from different suppliers.

The United States was untroubled by advance notification because its Arms Export Control Act already required that Congress be notified of proposed transfers, but the idea faced stiff opposition from France and China. Negotiators met in Paris, London, and Washington and made progress in developing principles and procedures. Talks collapsed when China withdrew in 1992 after the United States decided to sell F-16s to Taiwan.

The G-7 proposal was similar. It called for a mechanism to ensure that industrial exports did not result in another Iraq. A G-7 summit tasked experts to develop restrictions on transfers of sensitive industrial equipment to four problematic states: Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea. In large part, the abject failure of COCOM even to touch such transfers to Iraq prompted this initiative. Additional items whose export might contribute to terrorism, such as hang gliders and zodiac boats, would also be restricted. The G-7 talks were moving toward consensus but had not progressed as far as the P-5 discussions by the end of President George H. W. Bush’s administration.

Assembling a New Regime

The Clinton administration was initially uncertain whether to proceed with the P-5 or the G-7 initiatives it had inherited. Fortuitously, a renewed impetus for an arms transfer regime arose at the first summit between Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in April 1993. The United States expressed concern over arms sales to Iran, particularly the sale of three Kilo-class submarines. In turn, the Russians asked the United States to end the economically burdensome COCOM restrictions.

Yeltsin’s request led to a plan to replace COCOM with a regime that merged the P-5 and G-7 efforts. The new regime would block transfers of arms and industrial goods to Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea and strengthen restraint for sales to unstable regions. The implied trade for Russia was that, if it agreed to stop arms sales to such countries, the United States would end its technology embargo and support Russian membership in the regime, speeding Russia’s incorporation into Western institutions. This was the genesis of the Wassenaar Arrangement. The proposal assumed that COCOM procedures would continue, including the so-called veto, which the United States saw as crucial for ensuring common decisions on exports.

In July 1993, U.S. officials met with counterparts from Germany, France, and the United Kingdom[2] to discuss how to move ahead. There was unexpected opposition. British officials praised COCOM’s work in winning the Cold War but said the conflict’s end also ended the need for controls on arms and technology not covered by the existing nonproliferation regimes. They recommended immediate termination with no replacement. The Germans seconded this.

Ironically, given their later opposition, the French rescued the proposal. They argued that it was premature and abrupt simply to terminate COCOM, as this might create gaps in the coverage of the nonproliferation regimes. The French intervention led to agreement to take the proposal to a September 1993 NATO meeting in Bonn. There the United States would accept COCOM’s end in exchange for European agreement to a new regime for arms and industrial equipment. Tellingly, the French warned the United States not to ask for too much.

The End of COCOM

In Bonn, the United States presented a detailed 17-page proposal that retained COCOM procedures and added elements of the G-7 and P-5 initiatives. The proposal survived long enough for the German chair to go around the table and obtain a resounding rejection. Although the allies disparaged the proposal as cumbersome and intrusive, they agreed that a new arms transfer regime had merit and negotiations should continue. The goal was to present a draft agreement to a sub-ministerial meeting scheduled three months later in The Hague.

It ultimately took three years to reach agreement. The United States wanted a regime that would let it continue to shape other nations’ arms exports. France, Germany and others wanted to restrict the most egregious transfers and little else. For the United States, retaining prior review was crucial. It would build confidence that international norms were being respected and allow consultations if a member state felt a transfer was ill advised or dangerous. Most countries did not want prior review as many feared that although the United States could force them to stop a sale, they would lack the same influence over U.S. transfers.[3]

Washington clung tenaciously to prior review and floated numerous variants during the negotiations. It narrowed the scope to only to a few countries and to “sensitive goods,” and when this was rejected, it tried “very sensitive goods.”[4] Opposition to advance notification, led by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, only grew stronger when Russia joined the negotiations.[5]

The Russians were embittered by the lengthy negotiations that preceded their entry. The chief sticking point was the U.S. demand that Russia, like all other Wassenaar members, agree not to sell arms to Iran. It took almost two years to reach agreement. The Russians asked why U.S. arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia were not equally destabilizing and attempted several times to link ending sales to Iran to U.S. agreement to limit sales to Saudi Arabia or Israel.

Other European states made similar points, noting that they denied manufacturing or testing equipment to programs that the United States supported such as Israel’s Arrow missile defense system. The German Foreign Ministry denied the sale of Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia and asked if the United States would honor that denial and refuse tanks to the Saudis. The United States responded that its global security commitments gave it a unique responsibility to transfer arms despite foreign objections. This lack of reciprocity damaged the U.S. case, and it highlights a central and often unnoticed problem for multilateral arms transfer restraint. There were also hints that a few countries were tempted to curry favor with China or Arab states by vetoing U.S. transfers to security partners such as Taiwan or Israel.

The negotiations revealed that there was little commonality in foreign and security policies outside of the conflict with the Soviets. COCOM gave U.S. policymakers the false impression that NATO members’ security concerns were closely aligned. In fact, there were wide divergences. Many Europeans thought the goal of the U.S. effort was to multilateralize its unilateral embargo on Iran. Others saw no risk in transfers to China.

China: Irreconcilable Differences

Differences were most intense over China. Even in the 1980s, restrictions on trade with China were so contentious that COCOM’s embargo for that nation had to be progressively relaxed. From the onset of discussions, other allies made clear that they saw China not as a threat but as a potential member. They told the United States that a new regime would be stronger with China in it. The U.S. response was that China could join if it agreed to sell arms only where the United States approved. China did not threaten European security, and there was keen interest among all participants to enter its rapidly growing market. If the United States chose to hamper its own companies in this competition, the Europeans saw no reason to extend such restrictions to their own firms.[6]

Because Europe and the United States had imposed arms embargoes on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and because Japan did not export arms, the China debate focused on dual-use technologies.[7] The United States assumed that there would be no arms sales from allies to China. It tolerated Russian sales to China as a lesser evil necessary to win Russian assent to end arms sales to Iran.

Key supporters in the negotiations bluntly stated that they would not restrict commercial trade with China. Despite understandings that Cold War restraints would be observed until the new regime was in place, high-technology trade with China expanded rapidly after 1994. In the middle of negotiations, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl led a large trade mission to China to push high-tech exports. The United States and its allies did not have a common China policy, and no ally wished to see the Wassenaar Arrangement become a tool to force commonality.

Alternatives Approaches

Given the unacceptable U.S. proposals, several states put forward their own ideas for a new regime. European alternatives were modeled on existing nonproliferation regimes rather than COCOM. Norway, France, the United Kingdom, and others wanted an arrangement like that of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that would include lists of sensitive technologies, common understandings, and national discretion on exports.[8]

An MTCR-like arrangement appealed to Europeans. It dropped COCOM’s extraterritorial reach, used a “nondiscriminatory” approach that did not use the G-7 list of dangerous “rogues” to which a policy of absolute denial would apply, and avoided prior notification. The Europeans were somewhat disingenuous in putting forward these alternatives, as they did not include the most robust feature of the MTCR or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): the “no undercut” rule.[9] Their proposals also lacked the MTCR consultation mechanism for sensitive transfers.

External developments slowed the Wassenaar talks. As the UN Register of Conventional Arms progressed, countries were unwilling to adopt arms requirements that differed from what they had agreed to in the United Nations. Interagency disputes in the United States, known to the United Kingdom and others, over sharing arms transfer data made its proposal seem hypocritical.

Efforts to win multilateral support for arms transfer restraint were badly damaged by U.S. agreement to move arms discussions out of the larger Wassenaar negotiations, which involved more than 20 countries, to a small group of major arms producers: France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The small group’s task was to develop more stringent procedures that would overlay any Wassenaar agreement on arms. These procedures (derived from the P-5 talks) would apply only to the small group members.

This placated Germany and Italy, who had been excluded from the P-5 talks, but it cut the United States off from its strongest supporters ( Norway, the Netherlands, and Japan). In moving arms transfer discussions to a group dominated by opponents, the United States eliminated any chance for meaningful restraint. France, Germany, and Russia combined to block agreement. Commercial interests and a desire to negate U.S. influence shaped discussion. France went so far as to say that it regarded Wassenaar’s arms procedures—a munitions list and post-facto notification—as only advisory. The move to a small group destroyed the chance for serious restraint and ended the U.S. effort begun in 1991. The same problems that afflicted the small group, particularly the opposition of France and Russia, will shape any new effort at arms restraint.

Multilateral Restraint

A common enemy provided a degree of harmony in transatlantic relations during the Cold War. Since then, diverging views on economic and foreign policies and the effort to forge a European identity have created serious tensions. At times, the policies of some European leaders appear intentionally antithetical to U.S. interests. We can no longer assume that Europe and the United States automatically share security interests.

The Wassenaar Arrangement is weak because of these tensions, but it is also weak because the impetus for conventional arms restraint has evaporated. Global arms sales have shrunk from Cold War levels. Asymmetric attacks pose greater risk than conventional warfare. Many allies have redefined their national interests to give priority to economics and commerce. Additionally, the global diffusion of technology and production undercuts the effectiveness of supplier regimes.

Other nonproliferation regimes share, in varying degrees, the Wassenaar Arrangement’s problems. That said, the MTCR, the NSG, and the Australia Group remain more robust. They are unburdened by COCOM’s legacy and have stronger support. The principal reason they are strong and the Wassenaar Arrangement is weak is that stopping WMD proliferation is a compelling policy rationale. WMD exports are almost impossible to justify, while conventional arms exports are routine and legitimate when undertaken in the context of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which guarantees the right to self-defense. Self-defense is an elastic concept that gives states with different foreign policies broad latitude to decide when an arms transfer is legitimate.

The negotiating landscape is cluttered with regimes that would complicate new arms transfer restraint discussions. Alternate mechanisms and guidelines include the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers, the European Union’s Code of Conduct and the UN Register of Conventional Arms. These will constrain any agreement, and it is likely that European states would use existing commitments to blunt U.S. initiatives.

The EU’s Code of Conduct for arms transfers will have the greatest influence. Despite uncertainty over the future of a common European security policy, EU members look to Brussels—not Washington and its partisan debates over China—to set the agenda. The code calls for respect for human rights and avoiding sales “if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim.” Some but not all European countries take the code seriously. The dilemma lies in national discretion. Each country individually determines whether an export is consistent with the code. National discretion means that, if the EU lifts its embargo, transfers of advanced military technology (more useful to China than weapons) are inevitable. Making the code legally binding does not change this, unless committee decisions in Brussels replace national discretion on whether a transfer runs counter to the code. This is a step the major European powers will not accept.[10]

In this regard, a recent British proposal for a UN treaty is largely irrelevant. It focuses on small arms and the grey market, not the difficult issues. Nations will agree not to sell arms to African rebels, but they will differ on whether to provide advanced military technology to China. Nor would a treaty address the problem experienced in Srebrenica, where a mindless embargo left Muslims defenseless against the better-armed Serbs.

The Wassenaar Arrangement shows where the tensions will be if new arms transfer discussions begin. Will Europeans insist, as they did in the Wassenaar Arrangement, that agreement is impossible until Russia joins? They argued then that a regime would be ineffective without all major suppliers involved, but Russia will not accept an arrangement that closes off China, its largest arms export market. Other participants are unlikely to accept the U.S. notion that a transfer already approved by Congress needs no further scrutiny. The United States is equally unlikely to accede to other nations’ denial policies for arms exports to Pakistan, Taiwan, Colombia, or Israel.

It is no insight to say that key U.S. allies and other major nations disagree on many issues: Iraq, UN reform, and the response to terrorism. The experience of the Wassenaar Arrangement suggests that this is not a temporary aberration due to one administration’s policies. Foreign policies diverged in the 1990s and have not grown closer since then. Effective restraint requires more than agreed upon procedures and guidelines. It requires common approaches to foreign policy and security. Absent this commonality, any new arrangement will be hollow and ineffective. European arms sales to China would be a callous mistake, but pursuing some new agreement on restraint is unlikely to stop them.



James A. Lewis was a negotiator in the P-5 Arms Transfer Restraint talks (1991-1993) and in crafting the Wassenaar Arrangement (1993-1996).


1. The proposals were announced by President George H. W. Bush in a speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy on May 29, 1991. Discussion of weapons of mass destruction later moved to a separate track.

2. France , the United Kingdom, and the United States sent representatives from their defense and foreign ministries; the Germans were represented by foreign and economics ministry representatives.

3. Norway ’s experience in trying to get the United States not to re-transfer Norwegian-made light anti-tank weapons to El Salvador, which contravened Norway’s arms transfer policy, colored the debate.

4. The United States was able to win agreement to “sensitive” and “very sensitive” lists but could never link them to robust notification procedures. The lists linger in the Wassenaar Arrangement, serving little purpose.

5. The very close coordination among France, Germany, and Russia to block U.S. initiatives foreshadowed their later actions vis-à-vis Iraq.

6. During the two and a half years of discussions, the Chinese approached some participants ( Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden) concerning membership. Other countries, notably Russia, approached the Chinese. Absent a signal that the United States would agree, no one pushed for China to join.

7. Europe’s embargo never forbade dual-use exports to China, and each nation has discretion in its application.

8. The Norwegian rapporteur of the working group was especially courageous in this regard.

9. “No undercut” means that, if one nation has denied a sale, other states will similarly refuse to sell the item in question. A considerably weakened no-undercut provision was ultimately included in the Wassenaar Arrangement.

10. Oliver Meier , “Between Noble Goals and Sobering Reality: An Interview With EU Nonproliferation Chief Annalisa Giannella,” Arms Control Today, September 2005, pp. 20-22.


IAEA Unlikely to Refer Iran to Security Council

Paul Kerr

On Nov. 24, following an anticipated report from Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors is set to evaluate Iran’s cooperation with a Sept. 24 resolution that found Tehran in “non-compliance” with its agency safeguards agreement. Although Iran seems unlikely to comply with all of the resolution’s demands, there seems to be little chance that the board will refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

Under the IAEA statute, the board is required to notify the Security Council if a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is found in noncompliance with its agency safeguards agreement. Such agreements allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military purposes.

However, the September resolution does not specify when or under what circumstances such a referral will take place. Iran violated its safeguards agreement by conducting clandestine work on several nuclear programs and has yet to resolve a number of questions, especially with regard to its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. (See ACT, October 2005.) Uranium enrichment can produce both fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or fissile material for nuclear weapons.

IAEA board decisions are usually made by consensus, but a Department of State official told Arms Control Today Oct. 17 that Washington anticipates that the board would have to vote on any future referral decision because of the contentious nature of the Iran dispute.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph told an academic audience Oct. 21 that, after receiving such a referral, the council could seek to “reinforce” the IAEA’s efforts, perhaps by calling on Iran to cooperate with the agency and giving the IAEA “new, needed authority to investigate all Iranian weaponization efforts.”

Still, a State Department source told Arms Control Today Oct. 28 that Iran will likely avoid Security Council referral at this month’s board meeting by providing the IAEA with “at least superficial cooperation.” The official would not describe the extent of Iran’s cooperation, but Reuters and the Associated Press reported Oct. 20 that Iran gave the IAEA some documents and allowed agency inspectors to interview a government official.

The September resolution calls on Iran to “implement transparency measures,” such as providing IAEA inspectors with procurement documents and access to certain Iranian officials. These steps are not required by Iran’s safeguards agreement, but the agency believes them necessary for developing a complete history of Iran’s nuclear efforts.

Stalled Diplomacy, Possible Compromises

The September resolution also urges Iran to suspend operating its uranium-conversion facility near Isfahan and resume talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides had been engaged in negotiations since November 2004 to resolve concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran agreed at that time to suspend operations at the Isfahan facility for the duration of the negotiations, but the talks broke down when Iran restarted the facility in August.

Tehran has said that it is willing to return to the bargaining table but will not suspend the facility’s operation. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Oct. 23 that Iran would continue its nuclear efforts until its “fuel cycle becomes operational.”

Uranium-conversion facilities convert lightly processed uranium ore into several uranium compounds, including uranium hexafluoride, which is the feedstock for gas centrifuges. Iran is permitted to operate uranium-enrichment facilities under IAEA safeguards, but both the United States and the Europeans are concerned that Iranian expertise gained from operating enrichment facilities will support a nuclear weapons program.

The Europeans still want Iran to suspend conversion operations and respond to their August proposal, which laid out incentives aimed at persuading Iran to cease its enrichment program permanently. (See ACT, September 2005.)

But the State Department official told Arms Control Today that the Europeans are now exploring solutions that would allow Tehran to keep a limited uranium-conversion capability, perhaps by permitting Iran to produce some uranium compounds but not uranium hexafluoride.

A Western diplomat asked about this possible compromise said that the Europeans’ formal position is that Iran should give up its nuclear fuel programs. But a “credible” proposal allowing Iran to retain a residual conversion capability would not be “ruled out automatically,” the diplomat admitted.

In an effort to strengthen ongoing multilateral diplomacy, the United States and Europeans have increasingly focused on efforts to persuade Russia, who currently opposes a Security Council referral, to change its position. As a permanent member of that body, Russia can veto any Security Council action. Moscow is also widely believed to have considerable influence on Tehran.

Russia and China—another veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council—abstained from voting for the September resolution. Asked about Chinese opposition to a council referral, the State Department official indicated that U.S. officials believe Beijing would moderate its position if Russia does so.

At a press conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Oct. 15 that the IAEA should “do everything possible” to resolve concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program before referring the matter to the Security Council. But he also emphasized “the necessity” for Tehran to cooperate with the IAEA.

The United States is encouraging Russia to propose creative solutions to facilitate the Europeans’ diplomacy, although there is no indication that Russia will join the talks.

For example, Moscow has proposed that Iran share ownership of a uranium-enrichment plant located in Russia, the State Department official said. Designed to address Iran’s claim that it cannot rely on outside nuclear fuel suppliers, this proposal could be combined with Moscow’s months-old proposal to enrich Iranian uranium in Russia. It would also satisfy Washington’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, the official added. Lavrov mentioned the joint-ownership proposal to his Iranian counterpart during a recent meeting, and Moscow is awaiting Iran’s reaction.

Washington anticipates that Iran will reject the offer, the State Department official said, but argued that such a decision would demonstrate Iran’s lack of interest in compromise and make Russia more likely to support the U.S. position.

South Africa has also reportedly offered its own compromise that would allow Iran to convert South African uranium to uranium hexafluoride. The gas would then be sent back to the country. South African embassy and foreign ministry officials did not respond to requests for further details.

The Western diplomat, however, said that no country has approached the Europeans with a proposal. In fact, no government is performing an intermediary role between the two sides, the diplomat said.

Iran Adrift?

Tehran’s more aggressive diplomatic stance since Ahmadinejad’s June election has drawn criticism from some prominent Iranian figures, such as former presidential candidate and current head of Iran’s Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who have called for a more moderate approach.

But, whether Iran’s policies will change remains unclear. Iran had shown signs of moderation by its apparent cooperation with the IAEA and its failure to carry out recent threats to resume work on its other enrichment-related facilities. However, Ahmadinejad’s Oct. 26 call for the destruction of Israel provoked widespread international condemnation and cast further doubt on Tehran’s ability and desire to conduct cooperative diplomacy.

Courting the NAM

To try to win greater support for its preferred hard-line position on Iran at the IAEA, Washington has also lately made an effort to reach out to developing countries, such as those belonging to the Nonaligned Movement (NAM).

These efforts, such as a September statement from U.S. Ambassador Gregory Schulte that emphasized U.S. support for peaceful nuclear energy, are meant to counter Iran’s efforts to gain support among developing countries. Iran has portrayed U.S. and European nuclear diplomacy as an attempt to deny such countries access to peaceful nuclear technology.

NAM countries have generally shown some sympathy to Iran at past board meetings and frequently display an ambivalence regarding nonproliferation efforts in general. Although these governments express concern about the spread of nuclear weapons, they also fault the NPT nuclear-weapon states, such as the United States, for lagging in their disarmament commitments under the treaty.

The State Department official and the Western diplomat differed as to the extent to which Iran’s argument has been effective. Indeed, the September vote tally reflects a degree of disunity within the NAM countries. All told, 22 board members voted for the September resolution, with 12 abstentions and Venezuela casting the only negative vote. Aside from Venezuela, all NAM board members either supported the resolution or abstained from voting. But the board has subsequently added some new members less favorable to the United States: Belarus, Cuba and Syria.

Demonstrating the situation’s complexity, U.S. officials are still lobbying India to support a future Security Council referral. New Delhi voted for the September resolution, but issued a statement later that day which disputed the resolution’s key noncompliance finding.

A source from NAM chair Malaysia told Arms Control Today Oct. 19 that the NAM wants Iran to resolve its outstanding issues with the IAEA but is concerned that removing the issue from the agency at this time would be “counterproductive” and could damage the IAEA’s integrity. However, the source indicated that the NAM could eventually support a Security Council referral if Iran persists in its failure to cooperate fully with the agency.

Apparently referring to Washington’s disregard for UN weapons inspectors’ findings prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the source emphasized that the NAM would base its Iran assessments on reports from the IAEA rather than an “individual country.”


IAEA Iran Vote Tally

Paul Kerr

Below is how the then-members of the IAEA Board of Governors voted on a Sept. 24 resolution that said Iran was in “non-compliance” with its safeguards agreement. The resolution was adopted with 22 board members voting for it, 1 against, and 12 abstaining. Some of the board members have subsequently changed.

For Resolution
Republic of Korea
United Kingdom and
Northern Ireland
United States

Against Resolution

Russian Federation
South Africa
Sri Lanka


IRA Disarms After 36 Years

Erin Creegan

The provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has disarmed after a 36-year armed campaign for a unified Irish state, according to a Sept. 26 report by independent international observers.

Canadian General John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), was invited to monitor IRA members’ Sept. 25 voluntary destruction of guns, ammunition, and explosives. The commission report found the disarmament effort to be complete. “We believe with confidence that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA arsenal,” said the commissioners in their Sept. 26 statement. The British and Irish governments established the IICD in 1997 to independently monitor the disarmament of paramilitary groups on each side of the Northern Ireland conflict.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose administration has worked over the last few years to bring the conflict in Northern Ireland to resolution, expressed his confidence in the commission’s findings. “Successive British governments have sought final and complete decommissioning by the IRA for over 10 years.... Today it is finally accomplished,” said Blair.

According to commission press statements, the number of weapons destroyed corresponded to British and Irish government estimates. De Chastelain suggested in his Sept. 26 press conference that the amount correlated to a Jane’s Intelligence Review estimate of the IRA arsenal, which included 1,000 rifles, two metric tons of Semtex explosive, seven surface-to-air missiles, and two-dozen heavy machine guns.

Commission members noted in the Sept. 26 statement that there is further disarmament work to be done. “It remains for us to address the arms of the loyalist paramilitary groups, as well as other paramilitary groups, when these groups are prepared to cooperate with us in doing so.” The IRA was by far the largest existing Irish Republican paramilitary group, leaving only two small splinter groups still armed.

After the July 7 Islamic terrorist attacks on the London subway system, Blair made conciliatory gestures to the IRA to expedite an end to the armed conflict. Most notably, Sean Kelly, an IRA member who set off a bomb in Belfast in 1993 that killed nine Protestant civilians, was released from prison on July 27.

The next day, the IRA published a call to its members to give up their arms and peacefully pursue a united Ireland. “We now believe there is an alternative way to end British rule in our country” the leadership of the IRA wrote in An Phoblacht/Republican News.

This unilateral declaration to abandon violence follows promises made in the 1998 Good Friday Agreements. This Anglo-Irish accord created a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland and affirmed that any change in the status of the region would be determined democratically.



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