"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
June 2006
Edition Date: 
Thursday, June 1, 2006
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U.S. Bars Future Arms Sales to Venezuela

Wade Boese

Underscoring its continuing unhappiness with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Washington announced May 15 that future U.S. arms sales to Venezuela would be prohibited. Although Venezuela is not a major U.S. arms buyer, Venezuelan officials denounced the action.

Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack said May 15 that the ban stemmed from a determination that Venezuela was not being helpful in the U.S. war on terrorism. McCormack provided more specific examples a day later, saying Venezuela was cementing closer intelligence ties with Iran and Cuba, serving as a transit point for arms and individuals of concern, and maintaining links to Colombian guerrilla groups.

The U.S. move outlaws any new U.S. government and commercial arms deals with Venezuela. The ban is not retroactive, so deals previously concluded can be filled. In addition, U.S. exporters can, up to 24 times a year, provide spare parts worth less than $500 for previously sold equipment, according to statements by McCormack May 17.

A precise accounting of what might be in the arms pipeline to Venezuela is difficult to ascertain as companies have four years to act after a commercial arms sales license is approved. In addition, the Pentagon does not have to publicly notify Congress of any arms sales it concludes with a foreign government unless the deal exceeds $14 million. The last agreement with Venezuela that topped this reporting threshold occurred in 1996.

Still, Venezuela in recent years has been procuring some U.S. arms, including spare parts for 24 F-16A combat aircraft purchased in the early 1980s. In its latest comprehensive accounting of weapons deals with foreign governments, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency reported that, from fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 2004, Venezuela received approval for $184 million in arms purchases from the Pentagon and $103 million in arms buys from U.S. companies. Whether all these agreements were completed is unknown.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Alí Rodríguez Araque blasted the U.S. move May 16 as an attempt to “handicap our defenses” and “prepare the political conditions for an attack.” In a May 19 op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, denied the U.S. allegations and asserted Washington was seeking to “isolate, antagonize, and destabilize Venezuela.”

McCormack responded May 16 to Araque’s statements by arguing that “instead of throwing up sort of diversionary rhetoric and overheated rhetoric, [Venezuela] might focus instead on actually taking steps to fight terror.”

Washington recently also has been pressing Brazil and Spain to deny arms, such as military aircraft and naval patrol boats, to Venezuela. (See "Latin American Arms Sales Moving Forward," March 2006.) Comments by Araque and Herrera suggest that the United States is having some success, although Arms Control Today inquiries to confirm the status of the deals were not answered.


U.S., Libya to Restore Full Diplomatic Relations

William Huntington

The United States is set to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Libya, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced May 15. The same day, President George W. Bush filed a report that will allow Libya to be taken off of the list of state sponsors of terrorism by the end of June, easing related sanctions.

The move culminates a historic rapprochement between the two nations that began in the late 1990s with Libyan steps to cooperate with the investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Libya accepted its culpability for the bombing in August 2003 and committed to paying $2.7 billion to the families of the victims. On December 19, 2003, following months of secret negotiations between Libya, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Libya announced its intention to scrap its unconventional weapons programs. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

Among other disarmament steps, Tripoli agreed to destroy its stock of Scud missiles that violate the Missile Technology Control Regime; declared and agreed to destroy its chemical weapons and precursors; signed an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency; and divulged information regarding its past illicit procurement of nuclear weapons-related items from the Abdul Qadeer Khan network.

The Bush administration painted the resumption of full diplomatic ties as a significant benefit for Libya stemming from Tripoli’s decision to abandon its unconventional weapons programs and made pointed comparisons with Iran and North Korea. Department of State spokesperson Edgar Vasquez told Arms Control Today May 18 that Libya’s recent decisions should stand as a “model for the regimes of Iran and North Korea.”

In a prepared statement, Rice said May 15, “Just as 2003 marked a turning point for the Libyan people so too could 2006 mark turning points for the peoples of Iran and North Korea…. We urge the leadership of Iran and North Korea to make similar strategic decisions that would benefit their citizens.”

Libyan Ambassador to the United States Ali Aujali told Arms Control Today May 22 that both Libya and the United States stood to gain from “opening a new page in U.S.-Libyan relations.” However, he noted that only if Libya realizes the benefits it expects from its new relationship with the United States would the normalization of relations send a “strong message” to the international community. These include increased economic and business ties, the institution of student exchange programs, and greater numbers of visas for Libyan citizens, he said.



The United States is set to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Libya, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced May 15. The same day, President George W. Bush filed a report that will allow Libya to be taken off of the list of state sponsors of terrorism by the end of June, easing related sanctions. (Continue)

U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal Simmers

Wade Boese

The Bush administration is urging lawmakers to quickly give their approval to a U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation proposal, but some legislators are expressing reservations about the pace and scope of the deal.

President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed last July to revive U.S. civilian nuclear trade with nuclear-armed India after a three-decade hiatus. Yet, many aspects of the deal remain unsettled. (See "Bush, Singh Advance Nuclear Deal," April 2006.)

On May 25, New Delhi provided Washington with India’s version of a bilateral cooperation agreement setting out the two sides’ obligations. Details of India’s draft were not yet available at press time, but preliminary Indian media reports suggest it does not include a provision triggering the deal’s termination if India conducts a nuclear test. A U.S. draft agreement, given March 14 to India, contained a clause to that effect.

Despite the incomplete status of the bilateral cooperation agreement, the Bush administration wants lawmakers to essentially permit a completed agreement to enter into force after 90 days unless two-thirds of both chambers of Congress object. This approach differs from current U.S. law, which would require a majority approval from both chambers.

Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), charge that the administration’s approach makes it nearly impossible for Congress to stop the agreement even if there are serious objections to its contents. Berman proposed an alternative bill May 19 requiring that India meet certain conditions, such as halting the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons, to be eligible for future U.S. nuclear trade.

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House International Relations Committee and a supporter of the deal, said at a May 11 panel hearing that the administration-backed legislation, if pressed to a vote soon, would “get a negative response from the Congress.” Lantos proposed that Congress wait until the bilateral cooperation agreement is finalized and India concludes safeguards negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency before using “expedited procedures to assure an up or down vote on the [deal].” Safeguards are supposed to help prevent the misuse of civilian nuclear technology for bombs.

Still, administration officials say they are optimistic that their preferred legislation will triumph. But they are also eager for Congress to act before July when lawmakers, particularly in the House, will start to turn their attention to winning re-election in November.


UN Extends Committee on Terrorists and Arms

Wade Boese

In a unanimous vote April 27, the UN Security Council extended for two years a committee charged with monitoring efforts by states to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring or developing biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. The vote on Resolution 1673 reflected general satisfaction with the committee’s activities to date but also an acknowledgement that much work remains to be done.

The committee’s origins can be traced to a September 2003 speech by President George W. Bush calling for a UN resolution criminalizing proliferation. (See "Bush Calls on UN to Curb Proliferation," October 2003.) After several months of debate and the exposure of the nuclear black market network run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1540 in April 2004 requiring all countries to “adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws” prohibiting nonstate actors from obtaining unconventional arms. (See "Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution Denying Terrorists WMD," May 2004.) Neither “appropriate” nor “effective” were defined.

The so-called 1540 committee was originally established for a two-year period ending April 28, 2006, to review mandated country reports detailing individual UN members’ implementation of the resolution. By April 20, the committee, which comprises the 15 current Security Council members, had received and assessed at least the initial reports of 129 countries; 62 countries failed to file a report. Eight experts hired by the committee helped evaluate the reports.

In an April 25 report of its findings, the committee revealed that many countries lack laws, border controls, and export controls to prevent the spread of unconventional weapons to nonstate actors. For example, the committee reported that only 77 countries have a “national legal framework to control the flow of goods across their borders” and just 80 governments “have some export control legislation” pertaining to unconventional weapons items.

The report further noted the committee’s concern “about the number of states that still have no legislation in place that prohibits and penalizes the possible use by non-State actors of their territory as a safe haven” for unconventional weapons activities. Although many governments contend they do not have such weapons or the materials that can be used to make them, the committee asserted that all states must adopt laws regarding such arms because “their territories may still be used as part of the proliferation pathway.”

An official associated with the committee told Arms Control Today May 12 that the recent report reveals the “poor job” countries have done in implementing the resolution. “It leads one to believe that we have been pretty lucky [in avoiding a terrorist attack employing unconventional arms],” the official remarked.

Speaking May 18 in Tokyo, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared, “More must be done to ensure compliance with Security Council Resolution 1540.”

A Department of State official interviewed May 18 by Arms Control Today described implementation of the resolution as being at an “early stage” and admitted “there remains a great deal of capacity-building and education to be done.” Nevertheless, the official described the 1540 committee as an “important tool” that can be used to “prod states” into taking action.

Many countries, particularly those that did not file reports, claim they do not have the infrastructure or resources to implement the resolution. Nearly all of the governments that did not file reports are relatively poorer countries from Africa, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. North Korea is the only state with known nuclear weapons capabilities that has not reported.

Resolution 1540 urged governments “in a position to do so” to assist those that might have trouble fulfilling their obligations. The April 25 report noted that 46 countries have volunteered to provide assistance, while 32 countries requested such help.

However, little, if any, specific assistance has been rendered, according to several U.S. and foreign government officials interviewed by Arms Control Today. A senior State Department official said May 15 that one of the key challenges for the committee over the next two years will be “marrying up donors with recipients.”

A precise work program for the committee remains to be settled. However, a general sense exists that the committee will intensify its efforts to obtain reports from countries that have failed to provide them and to bring donors and recipients together. One diplomatic source at the United Nations told Arms Control Today May 18 that both areas are of particular interest to Slovakian Ambassador Peter Burian, who was appointed chairman of the committee Jan. 4.

What remains uncertain is whether the committee will take a bigger role in prioritizing and recommending remedial actions for countries to strengthen their laws and export and border controls. The official associated with the committee said that many countries “won’t find it acceptable” if it is telling them what to do. The senior State Department official also stressed that it is important for donors to provide assistance without being “too heavy-handed or intrusive.”

Still, one area where Washington will urge action is pushing countries to specify penalties that will be imposed if entities help finance proliferation. The United States instituted Executive Order 13382 with this objective last June (see "United States Eyes Proliferator's Assets," September 2005) and has sanctioned 20 foreign entities to date using the measure.

Like its predecessor, Resolution 1673 was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorizes the Security Council to take punitive actions if it chooses. Although top U.S. officials have repeatedly pointed out this option in past speeches, the senior State Department official said that possibility is not likely to be invoked anytime soon. However, the official said the question of how to respond to countries that ignore the committee’s outreach activities is something the Security Council might eventually have to address.


Small Arms, Large Problem: The International Threat of Small Arms Proliferation and Misuse

Matt Schroeder and Rachel Stohl

The illicit proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons[1] ranks among today’s most pressing security threats. Tens of thousands of people are killed or wounded each year in conflicts that are fought primarily with these weapons and in crime-ridden areas outside of conflict zones. They are also the weapons of choice for many terrorists. Approximately half of the international terrorist incidents documented in the 2003 Department of State report on global terrorism were perpetrated with small arms and light weapons.

Governments will gather in New York during June 26-July 7 to address this danger and mark the five-year anniversary of the inaugural UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. That conference resulted in an international Program of Action (PoA) on small arms and light weapons, the first comprehensive global agreement on such arms. Despite its limitations, the PoA has boosted international efforts to stem the uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of these deadly weapons. These efforts include increasing the number of signatories to relevant treaties, drafting best practice guidelines, destroying surplus stockpiles, strengthening national laws, and heightening awareness of the issue. Progress has been pronounced in certain areas. Particularly noteworthy is the U.S.-led global campaign to eradicate the illicit trade in Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).[2]

Yet, there is still much more to be done. Reports of lost, stolen, and diverted small arms and light weapons are daily reminders of the continued prevalence of weak export controls, poor stockpile security practices, and inadequate or nonexistent border security. Particularly disheartening are arms shipments to war zones and dictators. Since 2001, UN investigators have documented numerous violations of arms embargoes on governments and armed groups in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

Reining in the illicit trade requires a global recommitment to implementing the PoA. Thus far, implementation has been very uneven. Some countries have fulfilled most of their obligations, while others have yet to satisfy even the most basic requirements. The review conference is an opportunity to systematically assess implementation of the PoA to date, identify shortcomings in national and international implementation, and develop a road map—formal or informal—for addressing these shortcomings. Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires that member states avoid the pitfalls of consensus decision-making and follow through on commitments made during the conference.

A Growing International Awareness, 1995-2006

The UN Small Arms Conference

During the 1990s, the gruesome intrastate wars that ravaged many developing countries were fought primarily with small arms and light weapons. In Rwanda, nearly a million people were massacred in less than a month by genocidaires armed with machetes and protected by AK-47-wielding soldiers. In Liberia, a civil war lasting more than a decade and fought primarily with small arms and light weapons took the lives of 250,000 people and displaced nearly half the population. These and other equally horrific examples led to the convening of a 1996 UN Panel of Governmental Experts to develop an agenda for addressing the excessive and destabilizing accumulations of small arms. The panel produced a report and recommended that the United Nations hold an international conference on the issue.

A similar expert panel three years later developed a loosely coordinated UN agenda on small arms. As part of this agenda, the United Nations has taken up the issue of small arms proliferation at the UN Security Council and in the UN General Assembly.[3] In addition, the UN secretary-general produces annual reports on small arms, and the Security Council has imposed arms embargoes, which include the prohibition of small arms and light weapons transfers.

Regional initiatives in the late 1990s also helped set priorities and develop standards and norms. Among them were the 1997 Organization of American States (OAS) Firearms Convention and the complementary Model Regulations, which seek to reduce small arms trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. In addition, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) drafted a Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons in 2000 that contained export criteria for small arms transfers.

The most intense efforts came at the UN Small Arms Conference, which was held in New York during July 9-20, 2001. Its primary purpose was to consolidate and coordinate small arms initiatives and develop an action agenda. Negotiations at the conference were tense and at times acrimonious. Then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton set the stage with a forceful opening-day speech that bluntly outlined U.S. “redlines,” those issues that were off limits for discussion. Although every country has redlines, the tone and starkness of Bolton’s speech alienated many member states.[4]

Particularly contentious were the issues of limiting arms to nonstate actors, norms and standards on civilian possession of weapons, restrictions on the legal trade and manufacture of small arms, and follow-up processes aimed at negotiating legally binding treaties. When the PoA was finalized, all references to nonstate actors, civilian possession, and legally binding treaties had been removed. The United States was the most vocal in its opposition, but it was not alone. China, Cuba, and other states silently supported the positions that the United States publicly advocated.

Although many debates were acrimonious, the member states were able to agree on a wide variety of issues. The resulting agenda for action contains recommendations for government action at the national, regional, and global levels. It is significant for several reasons, primarily because it establishes a global action plan on small arms that all UN members have agreed to implement. It also has several limitations. It is voluntary (politically rather than legally binding), has no enforcement mechanism, and is riddled with ambiguous language and vague requirements. For these and other reasons, implementation of the PoA varies widely. Below is a brief overview of the 10 “pillars” called for in the PoA and their implementation.

National Points of Contact and Coordination Agencies

Establishing agencies to coordinate policy and research on the illicit small arms trade and identifying points of contact to liaise between these national agencies is the most basic and the easiest to implement of the pillars. Yet, as of May 2005, only 143 out of more than 190 UN member states had designated national points of contact, and just 79 had established national coordination mechanisms.[5] These numbers represent a significant improvement from 2003, but they still fall far short of the universal compliance that it is not unreasonable to expect five years after the UN conference. Furthermore, several entries on the United Nations’ National Points of Contact list are incomplete or out of date, reducing the utility of this list.

Legislation, Regulations, and Administrative Procedures

A clear, comprehensive set of laws, regulations, and administrative procedures that covers all aspects of the manufacture, transport, storage, transfer, and disposal of small arms and light weapons is a prerequisite to an effective national response to their illicit proliferation and misuse. Roughly three-quarters of UN member states have laws and procedures controlling the import of small arms, about two-thirds control production, and less than one-half control the transit of small arms through their territories.[6] Because arms traffickers are experts at identifying and shifting their operations to countries with lax or nonexistent controls, these legal gaps are problematic.

Criminalization Regimes

Because governments cannot lock up gun runners if their activities are not criminal offenses, the PoA requires that member states outlaw the unauthorized manufacture, possession, stockpiling, and trade of small arms and light weapons. Yet, many countries still have not criminalized some or all of the activities identified in the PoA. Only about three-quarters of UN member states have laws and procedures that criminalize the illicit possession of small arms, and only two-thirds criminalize the illicit manufacture and trade of these weapons.[7]

Stockpile Management and Security

Proper management of national small arms stockpiles is also essential to curbing the illicit trade. Physical security and stockpile management practices vary significantly from country to country. Some governments go to great lengths to secure their small arms and light weapons, while the control exercised by other governments is tenuous at best.

Too little is known about many national practices to systematically assess progress in this area since 2001. Yet, anecdotal evidence from the press, government officials and UN reports, and data compiled by civil society suggest there is still much room for improvement. Since 2001, there have been several disturbing accounts of egregiously poor practices and a steady stream of reported thefts and diversions from government arsenals. Furthermore, the 2005 study found that only 99 governments have “standards and procedures for the management and security of stockpiles,” and only 64 claim that they conduct “regular reviews of stocks.”[8]

Internationally, concern over the dangers posed by poor stockpile management spurred the development of best practice guides and the establishment of several national and multilateral assistance programs. In 2003 the OSCE published a detailed guide to stockpile management and security and began providing advice and assistance on stockpile security and management to member states, starting with Belarus and Tajikistan. Some countries also provide assistance on a bilateral basis. Since 2000, a small team at the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency has completed such assessment and orientation missions in more than 24 countries.[9]

Weapons Collection and Disposal

Stockpiles of surplus and obsolete small arms and light weapons are attractive targets for arms traffickers, who often acquire them from corrupt or unsuspecting government officials. The vast Cold War stockpiles in eastern Europe have been particularly exploited, as evidenced by recent transfers to countries under UN arms embargoes. For example, small arms shipments from Ukraine to western Africa in 1999 and 2000 added 180 tons of assault rifles, machine guns, MANPADS, anti-tank missiles, and ammunition to the arsenals of former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s rogue regime and the Revolutionary United Front, an insurgent group that gained control of Sierra Leone’s diamond mines through a campaign of rape and mutilation.[10]

Since 2001, donor states have teamed up with several countries in eastern Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere to destroy surplus stockpiles of small arms and light weapons. These programs rank among today’s most important and cost effective aid programs. In the past five years alone, NATO countries have funded the destruction of more than 4.5 million small arms and light weapons.[11] Similarly, a modestly funded State Department program has destroyed more than 800,000 surplus weapons, including 18,500 MANPADS, and 80 million rounds of ammunition.[12] Despite its obvious importance, the program received only $8.6 million in funding for the current fiscal year, which is little more than “decimal dust,” to use the words of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).[13]

Export, Import, and Transfer Controls and Regulations

Preventing illicit arms transfers requires the adoption of policies, procedures, and practices aimed at controlling their import, export, transit, retransfer, and end use. These controls range from arms export eligibility criteria—the factors considered by governments when determining whether to authorize a particular transfer—to post-shipment monitoring of exported items. Several spectacular diversions of small arms to terrorists and war zones since 2001 are directly attributable to shortcomings in national transfer controls. In 2001, the Nicaraguan government’s failure to verify the legitimacy of a (fraudulent) Panamanian purchase order supplied by a crooked arms broker resulted in the diversion of 3,000 AK-47 assault rifles to Colombian narco-terrorists.[14]

There has been a flurry of multilateral activity on transfer controls over the past five years. Members of regional and international institutions have adopted several new multilateral agreements and have indicated their support for the creation of new agreements. At the global level, entry into force of the firearms protocol to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime in July 2005 was an important milestone in the campaign to universalize strong transfer controls. The protocol requires states-parties to adopt a variety of controls on the manufacture, storage, transportation, and transfer of firearms.

As of April 2006, 52 countries had signed the protocol, and 49 countries had ratified it. Also significant is the expansion of the UN Conventional Arms Register to include mortars between 75 and 100 millimeters in size and MANPADS. The register is a voluntary arrangement that increases transparency in the international arms trade by encouraging states to submit annual reports on their arms imports and exports, as well as their national holdings and procurement. Prior to the addition of mortars and MANPADS in 2003, the register only covered large weapon systems such as planes, tanks, and ships.

Also significant is the burgeoning international movement for a common set of arms export criteria, or global principles, that would elaborate states’ existing responsibilities under international law. The largest and most visible initiative is the Control Arms Campaign, the ultimate goal of which is an arms trade treaty that “would have at its heart a set of common core principles to regulate and control the international arms trade.”[15] The movement has been embraced by at least 42 governments and nearly a million individuals worldwide.

Although critically important, many of these agreements have significant limitations. They lack monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, leaving the identification, documentation, and punishment of noncompliance to individual member states. Implementation is also slowed by resource limitations. Effectively controlling land borders, seaports, and air space requires trained personnel and functioning equipment, both of which are in short supply in many developing countries. Finally, many states are not bound by the agreements, either because they are not members of the regional organizations through which the agreements were negotiated or because they simply have not ratified them.


The term “brokering” refers to the myriad administrative, logistical, and financial activities associated with international arms transfers. These activities range from acquiring end-user certificates to arranging for the transport of the weapons to the recipient. Arms brokering is an underregulated area in the international community; only 40 countries have some form of arms brokering legislation.[16] The resulting gaps and inconsistencies are exploited by illicit arms brokers, who shift their operations to the areas with the weakest laws and the least oversight.

Regional agreements, obligations under the PoA, and pressure from civil society are all aiding in the development of national brokering laws and international brokering standards. For example, the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2001 calling for an international treaty on arms brokering and the appointment of a group of states to facilitate such a process. In 2002 it also adopted a common position on brokering that requires the development of legal controls on brokers and the establishment of penalties for violations of these controls. This was an important step in developing regional brokering standards and harmonizing national practices in Europe. Similarly, in 2003, both the Wassenaar Arrangement and the OSCE created guidelines and best practices on arms brokering, and the OAS developed its own Model Regulations for firearms brokers.

The PoA addresses brokering in its follow-up section, which calls for an exploration of ways to develop stricter international controls on brokering. A UN Group of Governmental Experts will begin a formalized process after the 2006 review conference. Meanwhile, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have called for a legally binding international convention on brokering that requires registration and licensing of brokers, criminal penalties for violators, and systems for international cooperation.[17]

Marking, Tracing, and Record-keeping

Without a universal system to mark weapons at the point of production, import, transshipment, and export, it is extremely difficult for law enforcement to track the route of black market weapons accurately and determine how to stop more weapons from following the same route. Thus, some states are seeking to develop marking and tracing regimes that require placing specialized markings on each weapon.

Regional and international institutions have attempted to develop marking and tracing regimes, but to date, little progress has been made. The marking of small arms is, to an extent, covered in the UN firearms protocol, but loopholes and the slow pace of ratification have weakened the effort to develop a single universal system.

The PoA required a feasibility study on the development of an international instrument on marking and tracing. Thus, in June 2005 a UN working group drafted a nonbinding document that established minimum standards for marking small arms and light weapons and an international procedural mechanism for tracing illicit weapons. However, the agreement is actually weaker than many national and regional standards. Some NGOs are calling for a legally binding treaty and have created a model convention on marking and tracing.[18]

Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of Ex-combatants

Effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs are essential to limiting future proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. When implemented properly, DDR programs reduce the number of illicit weapons in circulation and provide opportunities for former combatants to pursue a livelihood in areas other than soldiering. In many cases, programs provide incentives such as cash, goods, or skills training in exchange for weapons.

The PoA encourages states to develop and implement DDR programs that include small arms collection, control, storage, and destruction and, if states have the capacity to do so, to support DDR programs in other countries. The World Bank has a multinational program that coordinates DDR programs throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa, the goal of which is to develop programs for up to 350,000 ex-combatants in nine countries.[19] Since the 2001 conference, high-profile DDR programs have been established in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. In Afghanistan, donor governments, such as Japan, helped to pay the $100 million tab for disarming approximately 63,000 former combatants, decommissioning 250 former militia units, and providing reintegration packages to 53,000 ex-combatants.

Assistance and International Cooperation

One of the major themes in the PoA is the need for cooperation at the national, regional, and international levels to develop best practices and strategies for addressing small arms proliferation and misuse. Without systematic cooperation, intelligence sharing, and assistance, the PoA and other small arms measures will not be effectively implemented, as the small arms problem is multifaceted and transnational.

As of May 2005, at least 22 states had provided financial or technical assistance for small arms projects in other countries.[20] As mentioned above, the United States provides millions of dollars each year to help countries secure small arms stockpiles and destroy surplus and obsolete weapons and provides substantial export control training and tracing assistance to more than 30 countries. Similarly, Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom provide significant financial support for stockpile security and destruction programs. Also encouraging is the emergence of regional leaders such as Pakistan, Thailand, and South Africa, which have established programs aimed at, for example, the disarmament of ex-combatants in neighboring countries.[21]

Regional organizations and multilateral agencies have also provided support for the creation and implementation of small arms programs. For example the UN Development Program and the Stability Pact established the South East Europe Small Arms Clearinghouse to assist countries in that region with border control, legislative and regulatory issues, the collection and destruction of illicit and surplus small arms, and stockpile management. Other regional organizations, such as the OSCE, the European Union, and NATO also have elaborate small arms assistance programs.

Review Conference

The agenda for this summer’s review conference is still being drafted. Negotiations continue on the scope and language of a proposed outcome document for the meeting, which is currently being prepared through informal UN consultations supplemented by a number of planned regional consultations.

Some states, such as members of the EU, hope that the conference will be an opportunity to supplement, elaborate on, or clarify the PoA while other states, including the United States, would prefer that the focus be limited to reviewing progress made on the PoA. These states often argue that adding to the list of obligations makes little sense when so few governments have met existing obligations. Many states agree on the need to clarify sections in the PoA that are seen as confusing by adding definitions and more concrete language. For example, they suggest defining precisely what is meant by “adequate laws, regulations and administrative procedures.”

It is still too soon to tell which issues will be addressed at the conference. Some issues that dominated discussion in 2001, particularly arms shipments to nonstate actors, will almost certainly be on the agenda. Other issues, such as national controls on civilian possession, are so contentious that many states object to even discussing the possibility of including them on the agenda. Finally, there are several new, potentially contentious issues that were not part of the discussions in 2001 that may make it onto the agenda. These issues include the relationship between small arms and development and the introduction of specific arms export criteria.

As for the form of a final conference document, states could adopt an addendum to the PoA that fleshes out existing obligations or develops new obligations at the national, regional, and global levels. Alternatively, states could adopt a declaration that simply reaffirms the principles already identified in the PoA. Delegates might also attempt to map out the future of the UN small arms process after the conference, which is currently ill defined. A potential obstacle to achieving any of these objectives is the common UN practice of decision-making by consensus, which in the past has stymied negotiations and allowed a few states to derail measures that enjoy broad support. Failure to reach consensus in a final conference document could be particularly detrimental as this document is likely to identify “next steps” for the UN small arms process.


Reducing the illicit proliferation and misuse of small arms requires a multifaceted approach pursued at multiple levels.

Controlling Supply

Curbing small arms proliferation and misuse requires that the legal trade in weapons be more effectively controlled because the majority of illicit weapons start out in the legal market. Currently, there is no internationally accepted set of controls on arms transfers, and national controls vary in scope and effectiveness. Existing agreements and obligations, such as arms embargoes, lack enforcement mechanisms and are often violated with impunity.

Internationally, the implementation and enforcement of national and international arms embargoes must be improved. Particularly important are UN arms embargoes, violations of which must be thoroughly investigated and punished by the international community. At the national level, those governments that lack authorization systems for the production and transfer of small arms and light weapons should establish them immediately, and countries with weak systems should take steps to strengthen them. Many governments still do not require authentication of end-user certificates, review proposed exports against a list of eligibility criteria, or monitor the end use of exported small arms[22]—the sine qua non of an effective transfer control system. These governments, with assistance from the United Nations, regional organizations, and donor states, should take immediate steps to strengthen their transfer controls.

Securing , Removing and Destroying Weapons

Destroying surplus and obsolete weapons stockpiles is a simple, cost-effective strategy for reducing illicit arms transfers. Donor states should increase funding for these programs, many of which continue to operate on shoestring budgets. Similarly, the international community should prioritize the improvement of national physical security and stockpile management practices. One possible approach is to convert existing best practices into an international agreement and push hard for universal implementation of its provisions. Finally, states should take additional steps to mop up the weapons already in circulation by expanding weapons collection and buyback programs in post-conflict situations. To improve the effectiveness of these programs, planners should take into account the context and conditions in each situation; complete planning for the program before the conflict ends, to ensure that the program begins immediately after the cessation of hostilities; and secure enough funding from donor states to ensure that adequate resources are available for the program’s duration.

Curbing Misuse and Demand

To ensure that weapons are used for lawful purposes, states should establish domestic ownership licensing and authorization systems that take into consideration the applicant’s history of violent behavior, mental health, age, and knowledge of the laws and the safe operation of weapons, among other criteria. In addition, those states that have not criminalized the unauthorized export, use, and ownership of weapons should do so immediately. Finally, those governments that are not already doing so should train their law enforcement personnel in the internationally accepted codes of conduct for firearms use and monitor their compliance with these codes.

States must also develop strategies that address the reasons individuals, groups, and governments seek weapons in the first place. Such strategies must reflect an understanding of the complexities of violence in conflict zones, crime-ridden countries, and countries recovering from war and should involve government officials, local community leaders, and NGOs. These strategies must be linked to other aspects of violence-reduction and disarmament programs, such as security sector reform, and build them into existing programs, such as DDR programs, by providing populations with ways to achieve security and power other than through armed violence.


Matt Schroeder is manager of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists and Rachel Stohl is senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information at the World Security Institute.


1. According to the UN, small arms and light weapons are weapons that can be transported and used by one person or a small crew. Small arms: revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and light machine guns. Light weapons: heavy machine guns, hand-held underbarrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems, and mortars with calibers of less than 100 millimeters.

2. Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State, “The MANPADS Menace: Combating the Threat to Global Aviation From Man-Portable Air Defense Systems,” September 20, 2005 (fact sheet).

3. To date, the UN has adopted more than 30 UN small arms resolutions. These range from addressing small arms in particular countries or regions to the provision of assistance to states attempting to curb small arms proliferation.

4. See Rachel Stohl, “ United States Weakens Outcome of UN Small Arms and Light Weapons Conference,” Arms Control Today, September 2001, p. 34.

5. Biting the Bullet, International Action on Small Arms 2005—Examining Implementation of the Program of Action, International Action Network on Small Arms, July 2005, p. 251.

6. Ibid., p. 32.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., p. 31.

9. Myerscough, “Challenging Conventional Threats: FY06-FY07 Budgets Show Increase,” April 3, 2006 (from the Center for Defense Information).

10. S/2001/1015, S/2000/1195, S/2003/223, S/2002/486.

11. NATO, “Status of Trust Fund Projects,” April 3, 2006.

12. John Hillen, Testimony Before the House International Relations Subcommittee for International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, March 30, 2006.

13. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “New Initiatives in Cooperative Threat Reduction,” February 9, 2006.

14. General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, “Report on the Diversion of Nicaraguan Arms to the United Defense Forces of Colombia,” January 6, 2003.

15. Oxfam International, “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: Next Steps for the UN Programme of Action,” p. 21.

16. Biting the Bullet, International Action on Small Arms 2005, p. 6.

17. Fund for Peace, “Model Convention on the Registration of Arms Brokers and the Suppression of Unlicensed Arms Brokering,” July 2001.

18. Directorate-General for Development Cooperation, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Draft Convention on Marking, Registration, and Tracing of Small Arms and Light Weapons, June 2003.

19. World Bank, “Greater Great Lakes Regional Strategy for Demobilization and Reintegration,” 2002, p. 42.

20. Biting the Bullet, International Action on Small Arms 2005, p. 33.

21. Ibid., p. 286.

22. Ibid., pp. 162-171.


Reorganization Run Amok: State Department's WMD Effort Weakened

Dean Rust

On July 29, 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a Department of State reorganization that focused primarily on arms control and nonproliferation efforts. Its stated purpose was to strengthen the State Department’s role in “protecting America from weapons of mass destruction” [WMD].[1] This was the culmination of an internal, albeit one-sided, debate prompted by an August 2004 draft report by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.

During May-June 2004, the inspector general conducted an inspection of the Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Verification and Compliance Bureaus, all of whose substantive duties are generally overseen by the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. The stated reason for the inspection was the need to evaluate the results of the 1999 merger of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency into the State Department, which had led to the creation of the three bureaus.

The draft report included recommendations that claimed to make the department more efficient and effective in pursuit of U.S. arms control and nonproliferation objectives. Unfortunately, serious misjudgments were made in the report and in implementing the subsequent reorganization, with the latter also infused with a strong political bias. The State Department is now left with a structure not fully equipped to meet today’s diplomatic challenges in arms control and nonproliferation and a seriously demoralized and depleted group of career officers working in these areas.

A Background of Battles

It was clear from President George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign that some changes in arms control and nonproliferation policy would be made following his election. The choice of the highly ideological John Bolton as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, however, suggested that the State Department’s approach to such diplomacy could change significantly, despite then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s reputation for moderation and pragmatism. After all, Bolton brought to his position strong doubts about the value to the United States of treaties and international institutions of any kind.

By late 2002, the Senate had confirmed Bush’s three choices to head the bureaus: Stephen Rademaker as assistant secretary of state for arms control, John Wolf as assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, and Paula DeSutter as their counterpart in the verification and compliance bureau. In addition, the White House had announced the main outlines of its WMD policy.

Over the next year, each bureau’s profile became more clearly defined. As they did, the arms control bureau leadership claimed it did not have enough to do. This view, undoubtedly influenced by Bolton, was puzzling in light of Bush’ s embrace of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, agreement to a U.S.-Russian Consultative Group for Strategic Security, support for negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty, and emphasis on strengthening the norms of the biological and chemical weapons conventions—all arms control bureau responsibilities.

Wolf displayed more independent leadership of his bureau, which led to occasional differences with Bolton. For its part, the verification and compliance bureau was a natural Bolton ally; its mission included assessing a key vulnerability of arms control and nonproliferation treaties and commitments. This political context set the stage for what was to follow.

Throughout 2003 and into the spring of 2004, the three bureaus were frequently in conflict both over policy and process issues. Some of this was to be expected and in the nature of bureaucratic give and take on issues over which bureau equities overlapped. Yet, it went much further: both the arms control and verification bureaus had begun to encroach regularly on the nonproliferation bureau’s responsibilities. Issues on which these bureaus had not previously focused suddenly became of interest, and their views frequently diverged from those of the nonproliferation bureau. Bolton did not seek to ameliorate this situation; if anything he encouraged it. (Bolton had come to view the nonproliferation bureau as untrustworthy because it occasionally took issue with his views during internal debates.)

As a result, the internal process became increasingly dysfunctional. The productivity and effectiveness of all three bureaus were hampered. Needless, nearly daily bureaucratic battles broke out. Policy deliberations were sidetracked and drawn out. Issues already resolved were frequently resurrected. Collegiality suffered as secret meetings and back-channel messages were employed. Senior officials and their deputies spent an inordinate amount of time addressing turf issues. Sometimes, four different representatives from each of the bureaus and the undersecretary’s office would strive to represent the department at interagency nonproliferation meetings. Other governments and even U.S. agencies naturally wondered who was in charge as the assistant secretaries for the three bureaus vied for influence.

This situation was particularly acute when it related to issues where Bolton wanted to curtail the nonproliferation bureau’s influence. One noteworthy incident occurred at the 2004 meeting of the preparatory committee for the 2005 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. No less than three assistant secretaries, an undersecretary, and one ambassador delivered U.S. statements, two of which were embarrassingly repetitive. Not surprisingly, the inspector general’s office heard plenty about these problems during its inspection.

Initial drafts of the inspector general’s report for each bureau became available in early August 2004. As reported in these pages, the report found unclear lines of authority among the bureaus, which had led to duplication and unproductive competition. It also found that that the arms control bureau had too little to do and that the nonproliferation bureau was overworked. It concluded this was a structural problem that could be remedied by merging the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus and narrowing the functions and role of the verification bureau.

The recommendation to merge the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus was a serious mistake. First, the problem was not structural. The lack of “clear lines of authority” identified by the inspector general had resulted from deliberate intrusion by the other two bureaus on the nonproliferation bureau’s functions. This problem could have been clarified by the undersecretary or other high-level officials, had they chosen to do so. Second, it was not clear how the secretary of state would be better served by asking an assistant secretary already stretched by a wide range of nonproliferation issues to also take on arms control matters.

Frankly, even if one believed that the arms control bureau did not have enough to do, it would have been wiser to retain it but assign it some of the nonproliferation bureau’s responsibilities, such as securing and disposing of the remnants of the Soviet Union’s missile and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. Moving these functions to the arms control bureau would have allowed greater concentration on them while allowing the nonproliferation bureau to sharpen further its focus on critical issues such as the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea and the pursuit of presidential initiatives, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

Eliminating the arms control bureau was bound to hamper U.S. diplomacy in this still critical area of international security. Arms control retains considerable salience globally, including among U.S. allies. Moreover, although the United States has modified some approaches to arms control and no longer negotiates lengthy treaties, Bush has pursued unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral measures in this field that should receive regular attention from the State Department. The arms control agenda actually seemed quite robust.

With regard to the role of the verification and compliance bureau, however, the inspector general’s recommendation was on target. Restricting this bureau’s actions and influence would have helped remedy many of the inefficiencies uncovered in the report. I make no judgement on the work for which it clearly had the lead. Moreover, its officers did much good work on cross-cutting issues; they helped keep the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus “honest” and pushed hard for stronger enforcement. Under Bolton, however, the bureau’s leadership crossed the line, and it became more of a hindrance to effective policy than a help.

The inspector general’s report became final in December 2004, and Powell approved the merger of the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus shortly before leaving office, leaving implementation to Rice. He took no action on the recommendation to narrow the role of the verification bureau. Some had argued that any change to the verification bureau would have required congressional action and would be difficult to obtain (Congress created it by statute in 2000). This argument was a red herring; the State Department leadership could have considerably relieved the tangled lines of authority while fully respecting the verification bureau’s statutory mandate.

Rice and Reorganization

Rice affirmed Powell’s decision but deferred implementation until Robert Joseph was sworn in as Bolton’s successor. The new structure was rolled out on July 29, 2005, with Rice announcing the proposed new Bureau for International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN). The structure was largely consistent with options that the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus had considered in early 2005, except that offices dealing with counterproliferation, WMD terrorism, and strategic planning were added to the merged entity and two arms control offices dealing with strategic and conventional arms control were moved to the verification bureau rather than becoming part of the new ISN bureau. Thus, contrary to the inspector general’s recommendation, the verification bureau’s scope expanded, and it was renamed Verification, Compliance, and Implementation (VCI) to reflect the addition of these offices. Joseph stated that the reorganization offered opportunities for professional advancement and represented good government, i.e., it would improve the management of resources and reduce duplication.

The department concluded congressional consultations on September 12, 2005. The only change that emerged from these consultations was the separation of the missile defense and missile nonproliferation functions, with the former going to the enhanced verification bureau. Joseph affirmed that the merger would adhere to all civil service regulations and merit system principles. Little formal planning for implementation of the merger had taken place during the congressional consultation period.

Implementation of the Reorganization

Despite this lack of planning, it was decided to bring the new ISN bureau into existence the next day, September 13, 2005. This was the first of three serious mistakes made before the end of September that effectively doomed important aspects of this reorganization. To stand up the new bureau without an implementation plan meant that specific functional duties of the new offices in the ISN bureau had not been enumerated, nor had any acting office directors been chosen. Neither Arms Control nor Nonproliferation Bureau employees had been assigned to the new bureau, nor had their interests or preferences been determined. The huge amount of personnel work involved in creating new positions had not begun.

To illustrate the consequences of this lack of planning, on September 13 the three newly created offices in the ISN bureau had no employees, and two other ISN offices formed from the merger of abolished offices in its predecessor bureaus had no lines of authority. There were many other organizational and administrative tasks that had not been addressed for all offices, including how to create new professional opportunities (as promised by Joseph) for the more than 200 employees affected by the merger. This lack of advance planning when combined with a sense of urgency in standing up the ISN bureau led to a process constantly beset with more questions than answers and one with many shortcuts. A delay of two to three months after September 13 in establishing the ISN bureau would have permitted a respectful transition period and avoided the “keystone cops” aspect of this exercise.

Only after the reorganization was already underway, did Joseph name a senior management panel to implement it. His second big mistake was the composition of this panel and its mode of operation. As a rule, career employees from substantive, legal, personnel, and management offices in the State Department have joined political appointees in effecting reorganizations. This approach brings expertise, impartiality, and transparency to bear on the many personnel and other management decisions to be made by the political officials. Powell had established such an interdisciplinary task force when it appeared the merger might occur during his tenure. The inspector general’s report had made a similar recommendation.

Instead, Joseph placed the task solely with Frederick Fleitz, Bolton’s former chief of staff, and a panel comprised of political appointees who served under Bolton.[2] These included the principal deputy assistant secretaries of the three bureaus—Frank Record, Andrew Semmel, and Christopher Ford—as well as Ambassador Jackie Sanders, who resided in Geneva and served as U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament and as the president’s special representative for nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

This was a remarkably bad decision. Without casting aspersions on these individuals, the fact is that new leadership had come to the State Department. Rice and Joseph clearly wanted to invigorate the department’s nonproliferation function. Why then would they turn to political appointees dating from Bolton’s tenure to carry this out, particularly given the history of conflict among these bureaus and individuals that was well known inside the State Department? No matter how well intentioned they might have been, each panel member brought a political and personal agenda to the table that had been influenced by the infighting that had occurred. It was inevitable that paybacks would be part of this process, even if not articulated.

Did Rice and Joseph also not realize how little trust the career staff would have in a panel composed largely of political appointees who owed their loyalty to Bolton, whose aversion toward employees who disagreed with him was well known? To top it off, the management panel met in secret, and nothing of importance about its deliberations was revealed. Career personnel officers offered advice to the senior management panel, but much of it was not followed. It appeared as though the panel was trying to maintain a semblance of legality in its decisions but with little regard for sound personnel management policies and practices.

The third serious mistake involved the selection of acting office directors for the new ISN bureau. The standard practice would have limited the choices to the merged bureaus, and then seniority and experience would determine who serves as “acting.” Instead, employees outside the career ranks of the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus were invited to apply for these positions. This was another bad management decision. Not only were former office directors from the merged bureaus competing against each other for a limited number of comparable slots in the new bureau, but personnel with little to no experience in running arms control or nonproliferation offices were invited to join the pool of eligible candidates. Not surprisingly, the selection process was entirely opaque. The decisions were announced on September 28 and amended later in the year.

Incumbent arms control and nonproliferation bureau civil servants and two foreign service officers were chosen to lead seven of the 12 ISN offices. This was not a surprise as all, but one of these offices had experienced little to no change in its duties or composition, and two had previously been led by foreign service officers. However, the senior management panel went outside the ranks of the bureau’s career civil servants for the leadership of the five other offices, including those dealing with the NPT, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran and North Korea, counterproliferation, anti-WMD terrorism, and strategic planning. Several very well-qualified officers—some with more than 20 years experience and outstanding reputations—were bypassed, including some who had led offices and thus were being demoted from their previous levels of responsibility. Significantly, three offices in the merged bureaus had been led by women; none of the ISN acting office directors announced on September 28 were women.

When so many qualified State Department career employees are inexplicably denied leading positions in the new organization, it feeds the perception that political factors played a role in the panel’s decisions. Given the composition of the panel, it does not take much imagination to arrive at that conclusion. Indeed, The Washington Post quoted an official involved in the reorganization as acknowledging that the influence of some career employees was reduced because they were viewed as “disloyal.”[3] The facts point toward an effort to select individuals with favorable political or personal connections to the panel over long-serving career staff with superior qualifications. Not surprisingly, this led to a mini-revolt against the panel, a situation that festered for months and received press attention in February 2006.[4] These decisions and the manner in which they were made do not comport with merit system principles codified in U.S. law promulgated by the Office of Personnel Management involving “fair and open competition for advancement” and “the efficient and effective management of employees.” Moreover, the secret and slipshod way the reorganization was implemented fell far short of “maintaining high standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest.”[5]

The Result

What started as an ostensibly routine inspection of the arms control, nonproliferation, and verification and compliance functions at the State Department has ended with a restructuring that has led to a net loss of the State Department’s effectiveness in these areas. Arms control is bifurcated and subjugated, nonproliferation is even more overburdened, and verification and compliance is more overextended. Poor implementation of the reorganization further compounded the damage caused by the structural changes.

Beyond cronyism and the influence of political factors in the selection of personnel, there is also a presumption by some in the administration that the State Department’s seasoned WMD experts are only capable of “old think” and that post-September 11 “new think” is needed. This perception is wrong. Experienced government WMD experts know the technology, legal regimes, intelligence, and international politics of arms control and nonproliferation and are best suited to devise ways to strengthen existing tools and to find new approaches. They have been doing so for years. Effective adaptation of the regime to new threats requires knowledge and experience. These officers are highly capable of energizing even the less-than-ideal new organizational structure put into place by Joseph.

Yet, the botched implementation has already led many experienced career officers to leave the newly constituted ISN bureau, with others closely on their heels. This resource of knowledge, experience, and advice was consciously built up over the past 30 years in the State Department and the former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), which was merged into the State Department in 1999 to strengthen its ability to address weapons proliferation. The dissipation of this resource will hamper the State Department’s role at home and abroad for years to come.

Frankly, one could argue that this reduction in the State Department’s role is precisely the outcome some were seeking. It is no secret that some in the administration have little faith in treaties and institutional approaches to arms control and nonproliferation. What better way to strip the State Department of its capabilities in these areas, including its experienced officers, than under the guise of reorganization? Efforts to push back against this outcome were effectively neutralized throughout the process by ignoring or overruling alternatives offered by career substantive and administrative officers.

Although accomplishing their political agenda, the architects of this reorganization have weakened the administration’s overall diplomatic resources needed to carry out its goals in coping with such threats as Iran and North Korea and in pursuing its priority tools, including the Proliferation Security Initiative. Moreover, the president, while pursuing new approaches in nonproliferation, has not abandoned existing treaties and institutions in this area and has even pursued limited negotiations on arms control. It is the job of the State Department to advance these policies. Indeed, Rice has strongly affirmed the importance of international agreements and norms on weapons of mass destruction and has expressed support for maintaining the State Department’s role in arms control diplomacy. Yet, the reorganization has severely compromised the State Department’s capabilities in some of these areas.

It is too early to cite specific examples of how this reorganization has harmed the administration’s nonproliferation efforts. Besides, the real damage from poor organizational changes and the loss of experienced staff would most likely be manifest in small increments, with major consequences aggregating over time. It is a fact, however, that the offices in the former nonproliferation bureau that dealt with the NPT, the IAEA, and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs are mere shadows of their former selves. The offices were either merged or divested of some of their duties, their former civil service leadership positions were eliminated, and many experienced career staff have left. The office leadership positions have been reclassified as foreign service positions. While foreign service officers with good management skills can and have served effectively in running nonproliferation program offices, the State Department needs experienced and knowledgeable civil service officers running offices with front-line operational nonproliferation policy responsibilities, including those with a strong technical component.

Similarly, the refusal of the reorganization panel to place former arms control or nonproliferation bureau career professionals in leadership positions on counterproliferation, anti-WMD terrorism, and nonproliferation strategic planning has also seriously compromised Joseph’s task of invigorating these functions. The elimination of the arms control bureau and the transfer of its top career strategic nuclear analysts to other topics will hamper the State Department’s ability to develop the best possible options for future U.S.-Russian cooperation in this area. Additionally, the strengthening of the verification and compliance bureau means that State Department policies on arms control and nonproliferation will continue to be hindered by a much too strong emphasis on matters that, although important, prevent a balanced consideration of U.S. interests on some WMD issues.

It may be too late to change much of what has transpired, but senior State Department leadership must ensure that the remaining reorganization tasks are handled with the utmost professionalism, including full attention to merit system principles. The permanent directors of the five offices noted above should be civil servants, and the selection criteria should focus heavily on relevant experience and knowledge, as well as management skills. Senior leadership must also stem further hemorrhaging of expertise from the ISN bureau. Moreover, it must revisit the decision to transfer strategic and conventional arms control policy to the expanded verification bureau. These key areas deserve more attention than simply being a subset of verification and compliance.

In general, the State Department’s senior management and human resource officials need to take a serious look at this entire exercise, remedy any abuses that occurred, and advise the secretary of state on policies and practices that any future reorganization should follow. The inspector general’s office should delve into some of its key recommendations, such as why the verification bureau’s mandate was expanded rather than contracted and why the reorganization was implemented by a political panel under Joseph rather than, as the inspector general recommended, one led by the undersecretary for management. The inspector general’s office should consider adding subject matter experts to future inspections of functional bureaus. With all due respect, an inspection team comprised solely of foreign service personnel was handicapped in making credible and informed judgments about the efforts of the three previous bureaus in carrying out the administration’s objectives in the arcane fields of arms control, nonproliferation, and verification and compliance. These fields have been dominated for more than three decades by civil servants from a broad range of legal, scientific, military, national security, political science, and international relations backgrounds.

Finally, the selection of a new assistant secretary for the new ISN bureau is critically important. Rice should recommend to the president a person compatible with her approach to nonproliferation diplomacy, one who is experienced, open-minded, and genuinely committed to building effective cooperation in combating the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and related delivery systems, including through the invigoration of international institutions and treaties. It should also be someone capable of mining the considerable resource offered by the State Department’s career arms control and nonproliferation staff and of restoring trust across the board with that group. The selection should reflect a clear break from the political orientation that burdened the State Department’s efforts in this area during the president’s first term.

U.S. diplomacy aimed at building partnerships against weapons and missile proliferation is our first line of defense against states or terrorists that would do us harm. Certainly, some changes in the organizational structure were advisable to reflect today’s priorities and to allow for more efficiency. A heightened organizational focus on new tools such as the PSI and UN Security Council Resolution 1540 makes good sense. However, this reorganization fell well short of achieving its objectives. The State Department has publicly downplayed the internal dissent by citing “the difficulty of change.” Yet, in the words of the old German proverb: “To change and change for the better are two different things.”

Undoubtedly, this is not the first time that subcabinet-level political appointees have hijacked a reorganization to pursue their own agenda, but the outcome in this case has hampered the State Department’s ability to pursue the president’s crucial national security objectives. The new organizational structure has serious weaknesses, many experienced staff have been shunted aside or have left, and key offices remain understaffed. Rice can still salvage some aspects of this unfortunate situation, but she needs to move quickly.


Dean Rust retired from the Department of State on September 30, 2005 after more than 35 years with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and the State Department’s Nonproliferation Bureau, which was created after ACDA merged with the State Department in 1999. His last position with the Nonproliferation Bureau was as the acting deputy director of the office that dealt with nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency matters.

1. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “Beginning to Transform the State Department to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century,” Department of State, July 29, 2005.

2. See Wade Boese, “State Department Announces Reorganization,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, p. 36.

3. Glenn Kessler, “Administration Critics Chafe at State Dept. Shuffle,” The Washington Post, February 21, 2006.

4. See Warren Strobel, “Career Weapons Experts Booted by Bush Team,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 8, 2006.

5. 5 USC § 2301.


NEWS ANALYSIS: Behind Iran's Diplomatic Behavior

Paul Kerr

Ever since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uncovered Iran’s previously covert nuclear activities in 2003, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (later backed by the United States) have attempted to persuade Iran to give up its uranium-enrichment program through a carrot-and-stick approach. This has combined the threat of punitive UN Security Council actions with the promise that Tehran would receive economic and political benefits if it complied with the West’s demands.

An examination of the Iranian leadership’s public statements and negotiating behavior, along with interviews with Iranian officials, indicate that this approach has successfully encouraged some Iranian compromises. The West has extracted some concessions from Tehran by exploiting the regime’s fears of the economic and political risks associated with further international isolation.

But during the past 10 months, Tehran has become more recalcitrant, a trend that has coincided with the diminished clout of Iranian officials more supportive of international engagement and the rise of those more inclined to advocate aggressive negotiating tactics. These domestic political changes occurred as an altered geopolitical landscape arguably decreased the credibility of Security Council threats.

If current trends continue, the international community may well be hard-pressed to persuade Iran’s policymakers that the risks of pursuing a uranium-enrichment exceed the rewards.

A Tangled Nuclear History

Iran and Isolation

Since the current Islamic regime came to power in 1979, the relationship between Tehran and the West has been characterized by mutual distrust and antagonism.

This distrust has interfered with Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear technology. For example, France refused to provide enriched uranium to Iran after the revolution despite the fact that Tehran still held a substantial interest in the French Eurodif uranium-enrichment plant. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

Mistrust from this episode apparently continues to animate Iranian diplomacy. A senior Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today in April that the Eurodif venture, as well as other past Western efforts to constrain its nuclear program, have led the regime to believe that it cannot trust foreign nuclear fuel suppliers.

Moreover, Iranian officials claim that Iran obtained its enrichment technology from a clandestine procurement network because the United States had persuaded other countries to refrain from selling such technology to Iran.[1]

Nonetheless, in the decade leading up to the nuclear crisis, Iran’s relations with the West, particularly western Europe, had been improving. These ties were bolstered because Iran’s previous president, Mohammad Khatami, was perceived as a relative moderate with his call for a “dialogue among civilizations.” Some powerful Iranian politicians, as well as a large segment of the Iranian population, clearly supported the continuation of this trend, which was threatened by the 2003 revelations of Iran’s secret uranium-enrichment and related facilities.

Nuclear Crisis Hits

During the months following the initial public revelations of Iran’s nuclear programs, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were able to use Tehran’s fear of international isolation to induce its cooperation.

Shortly after the IAEA began its investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities, the three European countries offered, in exchange for several Iranian concessions, to begin negotiations with Iran aimed at resolving concerns regarding its nuclear programs. In addition, the Europeans threatened to support the Bush administration’s efforts to persuade the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran refused to cooperate.[2]

Iran agreed in October 2003 to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities, ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, and cooperate with the agency’s investigation of its nuclear activities.[3]

Then-secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani, who was in charge of Tehran’s nuclear diplomacy, said that at the time Iran feared the United States intended to push the council to adopt resolutions similar to those directed at Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Washington wanted UN inspectors to be “given unrestricted access to [relevant] installations, facilities and individuals,” he wrote in a July 2005 report to then-President Khatami, adding that “Iran’s refusal to abide by such resolutions” would have resulted in “subsequent threats followed by military action.” Tehran also believed that the U.S. agenda extended beyond the nuclear issue. Rowhani told a group of senior Iranian officials in 2004 that the “Americans intend to use the lever of the UN Security Council to solve all of their problems with us,” such as Iran’s support for terrorist organizations.

Within months of its agreement with its European interlocutors, Iran began to test the limits of Western diplomatic resolve by chipping away at its promised suspension of its uranium-enrichment activity. The Europeans again threatened to refer the matter to the Security Council. Once more, Tehran yielded, agreeing in November 2004 to adhere to a broader suspension while the two sides negotiated an agreement that was to provide “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program would be used “exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Rowhani indicated that Tehran was influenced by unified international opposition to its enrichment program, arguing that if any of the “powerful countries” had supported the program, Iran “would have had an easier time” proceeding.

During its subsequent discussions with the Europeans, Iran presented several compromise proposals, including a January 2005 paper describing Iran’s willingness to negotiate about a range of issues, such as terrorism and Persian Gulf regional security.

Iran later offered to implement several measures intended to provide assurances of its peaceful nuclear intentions, although Tehran consistently signaled its intention to restart its conversion facility to produce uranium hexafluoride feedstock for centrifuges.

A March 2005 proposal described several mechanisms designed to limit the enrichment program’s proliferation potential. These included limiting the initial operation of the Natanz enrichment facility to 3,000 centrifuges, limiting the uranium-235 content of the enriched uranium, and “allowing continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors” at Iran’s centrifuge and conversion facilities.[4] Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope.

Iran offered further compromises in subsequent proposals, although all of them would have allowed for some uranium-enrichment activity, which was steadfastly opposed by the Europeans and the United States. For example, Iran offered in April to allow IAEA monitoring at its uranium-conversion facility, to begin at an earlier time than previously offered. A July 2005 letter from Rowhani to the Europeans indicated that Iran would agree to operate a lower number of centrifuges during the Natanz facility’s initial operation. The letter also said that Iran would suspend industrial-scale enrichment at Natanz for approximately 10 years.[5]

However, the talks ended in August 2005 after Iran rejected a proposal from the Europeans that offered Iran an array of economic, technical, and security incentives, as well as an assured supply of nuclear fuel, in return for giving up its enrichment facilities. Tehran also broke the November 2004 agreement by restarting its uranium-conversion facility.

These actions took place as Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took office after having been elected in June.

The senior Iranian diplomat said in April that the proposal was “insulting” and showed the Europeans to be unreliable negotiating partners. Stating that the Europeans had not seriously considered Iran’s compromise offers, he pointed out that the European proposal would have required Tehran to give up its enrichment program, a demand that was not an explicit part of the November 2004 agreement. Iran has also complained that the Europeans’ offer required Iran to make short-term concrete concessions in return for vague promises of future rewards.

The diplomat also criticized the United States, arguing that Washington “cast a long shadow” over the talks. U.S. pressure to maintain a hard-line stance dissuaded the Europeans from compromising with Iran, he said.

Although Iranian officials emphasized at the time that these decisions were made by consensus, Rowhani said in a speech in April that he had disagreed with this decision. Had the Europeans responded to Iran’s proposals earlier, he said, the two sides could have reached an agreement.

After the Dog Catches the Car: Security Council Diplomacy

Although both sides have repeatedly expressed their willingness to negotiate, Iran has not been willing to suspend its centrifuge program, the Europeans’ condition for resuming negotiations. The IAEA board finally referred Iran to the Security Council in February. (See ACT, March 2006.) The council issued a nonbinding statement in March that called on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment program and resume negotiations with the Europeans. So far, Iran has refused to do so.

Both sides believe that aggressive negotiating tactics have been successful in extracting concessions. Each faction also has reason to believe that time is on its side. Iran continues to say that it wants to resume negotiations, but it is not clear whether and to what extent Iran is truly prepared to compromise.

However, some Iranian officials are concerned that Iran’s intransigence has come at a cost and has put Iran in diplomatic jeopardy. In a letter to Time magazine published May 10, Rowhani expressed concern that the Security Council could impose sanctions and “even use of force” on Tehran. In a speech the previous month, he argued that the Ahmadinejad government’s more aggressive approach had yielded “some success” but at “a heavy price,” citing the growing international consensus against Iran’s enrichment program.

View From Tehran: Things Are Looking Up

Nevertheless, three trends suggest that Iran will continue to take a tough line. First, Iran likely perceives itself still to be in a relatively strong bargaining position. Second, Tehran is skeptical that its attempts at compromise will be rewarded. Third, Iran’s internal political dynamics appear to be moving away from, rather than toward, compromise.

It is widely believed that Iran’s bargaining position has improved since 2003. For example, the continued insurgency in Iraq may have decreased the United States’ ability to initiate military action against Iran. The increase in oil prices during the past year has likely reduced the Security Council’s willingness to impose sanctions on Iraqi oil exports and increased Tehran’s ability to withstand sanctions in other areas.

Additionally, Tehran has continued to make progress on its enrichment program, providing the regime with another potential source of bargaining leverage. Since last fall, Iran has resumed work at its pilot centrifuge facility, produced enriched uranium, and continued to produce uranium hexafluoride.

A May 18 statement from official Iranian radio claimed that Iran’s technical progress has already enabled Iran to extract concessions from its European negotiating partners. Prior to August 2005, the Europeans had insisted that Iran would have to give up its uranium-conversion facility as part of any final agreement. The Europeans, however, have backed off that demand since Iran restarted the facility. (See ACT, December 2005.)

Iranian officials have previously argued that Iran should use its technological achievements as bargaining leverage. Rowhani asserted in 2004 that the international community typically puts “pressure on a country that is standing on the threshold” of being able to enrich uranium. But if that country developed the technology, he said, “it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to continue the pressure.”

Iran’s Suspicions

Ever since President George W. Bush labeled Iran as part of the “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union address, his administration has made clear its desire to see the clerical regime replaced. Washington also has continued to articulate its differences with Tehran on a range of non-nuclear issues and recently boosted its support for the democratic opposition in Iran.

Therefore, Iran continues to suspect the United States of using the nuclear issue as a pretext for increasing international pressure on the regime.

Indeed, Tehran fears that Washington will view any Iranian nuclear compromises as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to extract additional concessions. For this reason, Iran has balked at taking even temporary steps, such as a renewed suspension of its enrichment program, the Iranian diplomat said.

Additionally, the threat of Security Council action may now be dissuading Iran from undertaking IAEA-requested confidence-building measures that go beyond the government’s safeguards obligations, the diplomat added. Tehran has complied with some of these measures but is wary of participating in what Iran views as a potentially open-ended process that could lead to punitive Security Council actions similar to those taken against Iraq.

The Correct Negotiating Partner

Bush administration officials, such as national security adviser Stephen Hadley, have indicated that the international community can exploit differences within the Iranian leadership by maintaining pressure on Tehran. But such a strategy could prove difficult to execute.

On one hand, there are divisions within the Iranian leadership regarding the regime’s diplomatic tactics. Indeed, both Rowhani’s 2005 report and 2004 speech describe intense debates about diplomatic strategies and tactics. It seems clear that some Iranian leaders perceive international isolation more costly than do others.

However, pro-engagement Iranian officials have already been “discredited” by the Europeans’ rejection of Tehran’s 2005 offers, Farideh Farhi, an expert in Iranian politics, told Arms Control Today May 23. The Iranian diplomat concurred. This rejection demonstrated to more hard-line Iranian officials that compromise was ineffective and only signaled weakness, he said.



1. This claim was contained in Rowhani’s July 2005 report. For example, China decided in 1997 under U.S. pressure to cancel its agreement to supply Iran with a uranium-conversion facility. The United States also persuaded Russia during the 1990s to cancel a proposed sale of uranium-enrichment technology to Iran. Interestingly, the CIA in 1997 assessed that Iran was “responding to Western counterproliferation efforts by relying more on legitimate commercial firms as procurement fronts and by developing more convoluted procurement networks.”

2. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure they are not diverted to military purposes. Under the IAEA statute, the agency Board of Governors is required to notify the Security Council if a member state is found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement.

3. Additional protocols provide the agency with increased authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs, including by inspecting facilities that have not been declared to the IAEA. Iran has signed but not ratified its protocol. However, Iran still implemented the agreement pending ratification. Iran stopped adhering to the agreement in February. (See ACT, May 2006.)

4. Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility at Natanz and is constructing a much larger commercial facility at the same site. Tehran has said that the pilot and commercial facilities will eventually contain approximately 1,000 and 50,000 centrifuges, respectively.

5. Rowhani’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by Arms Control Today, stated that “[n]egotiations for the full scale operation” of the centrifuge facility “would continue on the premise that it would be synchronized with the fuel requirements” of a European or Russian-supplied nuclear reactor—a period of approximately 10 years, the Iranian diplomat said.


LOOKING BACK: Going for Baruch: The Nuclear Plan That Refused to Go Away

Randy Rydell

Sixty years ago, U.S. Ambassador Bernard Baruch addressed the new UN Atomic Energy Commission and outlined a bold and controversial plan for international control or ownership of all “dangerous” nuclear materials and related facilities.[1] Six months later, the divided commission sent its report to the UN Security Council. Lacking a consensus, the plan appeared dead.

Yet, reports of its death were premature. It has been the subject of doctoral dissertations[2] and at least one masters thesis.[3] Hydrogen bomb pioneer Edward Teller urged its revival.[4] In 2003, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei firmly placed multilateral nuclear controls back on the public agenda.[5] In 2004 he stressed that the global spread of dangerous nuclear facilities “could be the Achilles heel of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.”[6]

The end of the Cold War and growing public concerns about nuclear weapons in anybody’s hands offer grounds for a second look at the Baruch Plan.


Early proposals for international nuclear cooperation predated the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Several scientists urged such cooperation to avert a post-war nuclear arms race and to promote disarmament. On November 15, 1945, President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King issued a joint declaration proposing that “a commission should be set up under the United Nations” to prepare recommendations on “entirely eliminating the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes” and promoting peaceful uses.[7]

The declaration stressed that “no system of safeguards that can be devised will of itself provide an effective guarantee against the production of atomic weapons by a nation bent on aggression.” Yet, it also called for the new UN commission to devise “effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying states against the hazards of violations and evasions” while cautioning against the “spreading of specialized information” before such safeguards were in place.

The proposal resurfaced in a communiqué issued from Moscow on December 27, 1945, following a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It contained a draft General Assembly resolution on establishing a UN commission “to consider problems” relating to atomic energy.[8] On January 24, 1946, the General Assembly adopted a version of this text as its first official resolution (Resolution 1(I)).

The Department of State, meanwhile, continued its efforts to develop a specific proposal for international control. On January 7, 1946, Secretary of State James Byrnes appointed his undersecretary, Dean Acheson, to chair a Committee on Atomic Energy, which appointed a Board of Consultants chaired by David Lilienthal to draft an initial report. The result, known as the Acheson-Lilienthal report, was submitted to Byrnes on March 17 and publicly released a few days later.[9] It became, with significant amendments, the heart of the Baruch Plan.

Acheson-Lilienthal Report

Intended merely as “a foundation on which to build,” this report carried a lot of weight as its authors included some key participants in the Manhattan Project, most notably J. Robert Oppenheimer. Like the Truman-Attlee-King declaration, it stressed that “there is no prospect for security against atomic warfare in a system of international agreements to outlaw such weapons controlled only by a system which relies on inspection and similar police-like methods.”

Instead, the report called for international ownership and operation of all “dangerous” nuclear activities, which covered virtually the entire nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium and thorium mines. The new Atomic Development Authority would also conduct research, even on atomic weapons per se. Less-dangerous activities would be exempted from its mandate, including the operation of reactors using safeguarded “denatured” fuels that could not be used directly in nuclear explosives.

The report stressed that such goals could not be achieved if dangerous nuclear activities were left in “national hands.” It warned of the risks of “national rivalries” in forms of atomic energy that were readily convertible to destructive uses. Although the report lacked a detailed enforcement proposal, it called for the geographic dispersal of Atomic Development Authority facilities to ensure that if a state cheated, others could promptly respond, thereby denying any strategic advantage in such a move. Oversight would come from “some integral organ of the United Nations, perhaps the Security Council itself.” Although the report only briefly discussed “stages” of implementation, the United States would clearly relinquish the bomb only after the controls had been established.

The Baruch Plan

Shortly before the submission of that report, Byrnes appointed his friend, Bernard Baruch, to represent the United States at the newly established UN Atomic Energy Commission, a choice not supported by Oppenheimer, Acheson, or Lilienthal. Baruch, a financier-statesman who was well respected in Congress, assembled his own team, which included his own personal publicist, to develop a concrete plan to present to the commission. He indicated that he had his own ideas for the proposal and that he would not serve as any “messenger boy.”[10]

Baruch’s proposal addressed many issues in Resolution 1(I), including scientific cooperation, nuclear power, disarmament, and safeguards. The plan also borrowed heavily on the Acheson-Lilienthal report.

Yet, it also departed from the report, notably in asserting that “there must be no veto” to protect those who violate the controls. It stated that there must be “immediate, swift, and sure punishment” for violations. It was more ambiguous on whether the Atomic Development Authority should actually own uranium and thorium mines but more explicit about the various “stages” through which the controls would have to evolve before the United States would give up its bombs. Baruch left no illusions that disarmament would be easy: “But before a country is ready to relinquish any winning weapons it must have more than words to reassure it. It must have a guarantee of safety, not only against the offenders in the atomic area but against the illegal users of other weapons—bacteriological, biological, gas—perhaps—why not!—against war itself.”[11]

The Soviet Response

With the Cold War unfolding, the Soviet Union would not accept a plan that would eliminate its veto, deprive it of its option of acquiring nuclear weapons, and open its borders to intrusive international inspection, all in the hope that the United States would eventually relinquish the bomb.

Instead, the Soviet representative on the commission, Andrei Gromyko, submitted an alternative proposal on June 19, which reversed the staging of the Baruch Plan.[12] It began with a convention to prohibit the production, storage, or use of atomic weapons and to require the destruction of all such weapons. Violations would constitute a “crime against humanity,” but penalties would be imposed under domestic legislation. Gromyko stressed that the work of the commission could only be successful if the controls were consistent with the UN Charter, especially the veto authority.

The commission’s December 1946 report, although not representing a consensus—the Soviet Union and Poland abstained—did conclude that international control was technologically feasible. It found that although a convention to outlaw nuclear weapons was essential, it was not sufficient to ensure the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The report also endorsed the U.S. proposal to eliminate the veto over enforcement.

The commission’s reports in 1947 and 1948 were opposed by the Soviet Union. The 1948 report concluded that the commission had reached an impasse, which continued into 1949, and in September 1949 the United States announced that the Soviet Union had conducted a nuclear test. In January 1950, the Soviet Union withdrew from the discussions, and the General Assembly dissolved the commission in January 1952.[13]


The collapse of this initiative soon gave way in the 1950s to a substantially different approach. It sought to implement controls in a highly decentralized regulatory environment while relegating disarmament to, at best, a distant goal.

On December 8, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the UN General Assembly[14] and offered his Atoms for Peace proposal, which offered peaceful nuclear cooperation in exchange for safeguards over nationally operated nuclear facilities—exactly what the earlier proposals had warned would not work.

By the mid-1950s, several converging trends set the world on this new course. The first was the reaffirmation of the primacy of national sovereignty in setting and implementing controls, which required a smaller role for central international institutions. The second involved a shift from a prohibitive to a regulatory approach; “safeguards” of national activities would replace schemes for direct control at the global level. A third trend was the substitution of “partial measures” for comprehensive disarmament.

Both the global and national regulatory approaches, however, had one element in common: a shared conviction that both plutonium separation and the production of highly enriched uranium (HEU) were legitimate peaceful activities.

Partial Measures

The legacy of partial measures with respect to disarmament requires little elaboration, as the nuclear arms race between the early 1950s and the mid-1980s resulted in the production of well more than 50,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. Although global nuclear disarmament efforts had failed, the partial measures had their own unhappy legacy.

Many of the basic concepts from the Baruch Plan continued to evolve, however, with the IAEA inheriting many of the Atomic Development Authority’s inspection and promotional functions but without the ownership. Between 1975 and 1987, the IAEA explored several multilateral schemes[15] to deal with fissile materials problems, each failing to produce a consensus.

1975-1977: The IAEA considered Regional Nuclear Fuel Cycle Centres.

1977-1980: The IAEA coordinated an International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation.

1978-1982: Two expert groups studied schemes for the international storage of plutonium and spent fuel.

1980-87: The IAEA’s Committee on Assurances of Supply explored methods to ensure guaranteed supplies of nuclear fuel for countries without fuel cycles.

1987: The UN Conference for the Promotion of International Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy considered various multilateral initiatives.

Why Worry?

In 2006, a few states still produce weapon-usable materials for civilian use, adding to security challenges posed by military stocks. One study claims that “enough weapons-usable uranium and separated plutonium exist today [2004] to produce well over 100,000 Hiroshima-sized nuclear devices.”[16] Losses of even very small amounts of such material pose grave concerns: the IAEA estimates that only about 8 kilograms of plutonium or 25 kilograms of HEU are needed for a bomb.

As of December 2004, the IAEA documented “662 confirmed incidents involving illicit trafficking and other related unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials” since January 1993. These included 18 incidents involving trafficking in HEU or plutonium, including a “few” involving “kilogram quantities.”[17]

The anticipated growth in nuclear energy use will greatly expand this security challenge. One study illustrates the staggering safeguards implications if global production of nuclear power grew by a factor of eight by the year 2075 (roughly the amount needed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a modest 25 percent).[18] The study estimated that this would annually produce 600 tons of plutonium (without reprocessing) and require some 200 additional uranium-enrichment plants, as well as the opening of a large nuclear waste repository each year thereafter.

Many security concerns would persist even if sensitive fuel-cycle activities were undertaken only at multilateral facilities. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of the world’s most notorious illicit nuclear network, obtained his sensitive know-how from URENCO, a multinational consortium in the Netherlands.[19] Such technology was later retransferred to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.

Recent Multilateral Initiatives

Nevertheless, in October 2003, ElBaradei offered a multilateral initiative to “restrict” enrichment and reprocessing to “facilities under multinational control,” design nuclear energy systems that do not require or use weapons-usable nuclear materials, and consider multinational approaches to the management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste.[20] He has long stressed the need for further progress on disarmament and nonproliferation, saying that “effective control of nuclear materials is the ‘choke point’ in preventing nuclear weapons development.”[21]

Following up, the IAEA published in 2005 the report of an expert group on “Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle,” which outlined five “suggested approaches” ranging from reinforcing market mechanisms to more centralized multinational arrangements.[22]

The UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change also stressed the need for progress in disarmament, while calling for arrangements to enable the IAEA to meet demands for low-enriched uranium and for reprocessing services from states that did not pursue national fuel-cycle facilities.[23]

President George W. Bush has urged the “world’s leading nuclear exporters” to provide incentives to forgo such capabilities and to prohibit such exports to any state that did not already have full-scale, operational facilities.[24] On May 18, the United States proposed a draft fissile material cutoff treaty, which would prohibit, without verification, the production of separated plutonium or enriched uranium for use in weapons, but it would not outlaw such activities for other purposes.[25]

Quo Vadis?

As ElBaradei has stated, “[T]he [nonproliferation] regime as is right now is not adequate to deal with the increasing challenges.”[26] Many of the most severe challenges arise from the intrinsic properties of weapons-usable nuclear material.

After a long journey and many side excursions, the world now finds itself back at the same crossroads that it faced 60 years ago. To Baruch, the simple choice was between the “quick and the dead.” A more recent assessment frames the choice as between “denial” strategies or multinational fuel cycles.[27]

If the global use of nuclear power grows as expected, the production of such dangerous material, plutonium in particular, will substantially increase even if a treaty banning the production of fissile material for weapons purposes enters into force. Failure to address this challenge will frustrate global efforts to achieve the three most important nuclear security goals: disarmament, nonproliferation, and counter-terrorism.

Most initiatives dealing with fissile materials operate from the assumption that efforts to ban outright the production of HEU or the separation of plutonium are unrealistic. Yet, the prospect of seeking to regulate indefinitely ever-growing quantities of such material under national control seems no less utopian, even with strengthened safeguards. There is a better approach: if stuck in a hole, stop digging.

A treaty to ban the production of weapons-usable nuclear material would not require the international ownership of dangerous facilities, only their conversion to ensure they will not produce such material.[28] Low-enriched uranium would still be produced, although under even tighter international controls to avoid another Khan affair. Such a treaty would contain no double standards. It would facilitate verification. As noted in the Acheson-Lilienthal report, “It is far easier to discover an operation that should not be going on at all than to determine whether a lawful operation is being conducted in an unlawful manner.”[29] It would also reduce terrorism and proliferation risks, while promoting nuclear disarmament.

Reflecting back in early 1948 on the failure of the Baruch Plan, Oppenheimer wrote that “[i]t is necessarily denied to us in these days to see at what time, to what immediate ends, in what context, and in what manner of world, we may return again to the great issues touched on by the international control of atomic energy.”[30] The time to return to these great issues has surely arrived. As Oppenheimer concluded, “This is seed we take with us, travelling to a land we cannot see, to plant in new soil.”


Randy Rydell is senior counsellor and report director of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (Blix Commission). He is also a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association and is currently on leave as a senior political affairs officer at the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs. He is co-author with Jayantha Dhanapala of Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT: An Insider’s Account (2005). The views expressed are those of the author alone.


1. Bernard Baruch, Statement before the UN Atomic Energy Commission, June 14, 1946 (hereinafter Bernard Baruch statement).

2. Elliott Lee Meyrowitz, “The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: A Critical Analysis of the Relevance of International Law and the Failure of the Baruch Plan” (dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1986).

3. Randy Jerome Rydell, “Antinomies of Security and Disarmament in the Baruch Plan Era” (paper, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1974).

4. “Expert: Put Nukes Under UN Control,” Reuters, February 9, 1992 (remarks at the Wehrkunde Conference, Munich, February 8, 1992).

5. Mohamed ElBaradei, “Towards a Safer World,” The Economist, October 16, 2003.

6. Mohamed ElBaradei, Statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, Vienna, March 8, 2004.

7. Truman-Attlee-King Joint Declaration, November 15, 1945, in U.S. Department of State, Documents on Disarmament, Vol. I (1945-1956), pp. 1-2.

8. Moscow communiqué, November 15, 1945, in U.S. Department of State, Documents on Disarmament, Vol. I (1945-1956), pp. 3-5.

9. “Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy,” March 16, 1946 (hereinafter Acheson-Lilienthal report).

10. Barton J. Bernstein, “The Quest for Security: American Foreign Policy and International Control of Atomic Energy, 1942-1946,” Journal of American History, Vol. 60, No. 4, March 1974, p. 1033.

11. Bernard Baruch statement.

12. United Nations and Disarmament: 1945-1970 (New York: United Nations, 1970), pp. 15-24; U.S. Department of State, Documents on Disarmament, Vol. I (1945-1956), pp. 17-24.

13. UN General Assembly Resolution 502 (VI), January 11, 1952.

14. Congressional Research Service, Nuclear Proliferation Factbook, S.Prt. 103-111, December 1994, pp. 13-21.

15. “Expert Group Report to the Director General of the IAEA: Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle,” 2005, pp. 30-31 (hereinafter Pellaud report).

16. Jon B. Wolfsthal, “Assessing Proposals on the International Fuel Cycle,” Working Paper No. 11, Stockholm, June 2004 (prepared for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission).

17. “Illicit Nuclear Trafficking: Facts and Figures,” 2006.

18. Harold Feiveson, “Nuclear Power, Nuclear Proliferation, and Global Warming,” Forum on Physics and Society, January 2003.

19. Leonard Weiss, “Turning a Blind Eye Again?” Arms Control Today, March 2005, pp. 12-18.

20. ElBaradei, “Towards a Safer World.”

21. Mohamed ElBaradei, Address at the 2005 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2005.

22. Pellaud report, p. 14.

23. “Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change,” December 2, 2004.

24. President George W. Bush, Remarks at the National Defense University, Washington, DC, February 11, 2004.

25. U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva, “U.S. Tables Draft FMCT Text at Conference on Disarmament,” May 18, 2006 (press release).

26. Mohamed ElBaradei, “Tackling the Nuclear Dilemma,” Arms Control Today, March 2005, p. 6.

27. Tariq Rauf and Fiona Simpson, “The Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Is It Time for a Multilateral Approach?” Arms Control Today, December 2004, pp. 17-21.

28. The Carnegie Endowment has called for a ban on the production of highly enriched uranium and “a decades-long moratorium on the separation of additional weapon-usable plutonium.” Carnegie Endowment, “Universal Compliance: A Strategy for National Security,” March 2005, p. 194.

29. Acheson-Lilienthal report, p. 34.

30. J. Robert Oppenheimer, “International Control of Atomic Energy,” Foreign Affairs, January 1948, pp. 239-252.


Reshaping U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy: An Interview With Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph

Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

The Department of State currently has a full plate of issues on nonproliferation and arms control matters, ranging from trying to resolve nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea to promoting a far-reaching U.S. initiative to engage in civilian nuclear commerce with India. Arms Control Today met May 18 with Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph to discuss these issues as well as the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention review conference.

ACT: When talking about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. officials say that each country should make a strategic decision to give up its nuclear programs. How does this administration define “strategic decision”?

Joseph: Iran and North Korea pose strategic threats to our security interests in vital regions, the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the international community. We believe that in both cases what is required is a strategic decision. By strategic decision, we mean a decision that these governments will end their programs and will ensure that there is full confidence that these programs have been ended. I would point to Libya as a case in which we achieved a strategic decision on the part of a government pursuing nuclear weapons. The Libyans made the calculation that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction was no longer in their interest. They announced their decision [December 19, 2003] to eliminate these programs and to allow full access by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as the United States and the United Kingdom, to their programs, the individuals involved, and the facilities involved. We have confidence that the decision was permanent and it applied comprehensively.

ACT: How would Tehran or Pyongyang, were they to take such a decision, demonstrate it? Would they have to take the same steps [as Libya] in terms of making a public announcement and providing access to all the relevant people?

Joseph: The Iranian regime denies that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. It says that its program is entirely peaceful. We of course believe that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Clearly, the concerns of the international community in that regard are reflected in the long line of IAEA resolutions and more recently by a [March 29] presidential statement from the UN Security Council. Iran has concealed its program for over 18 years. It has, according to the IAEA Board of Governors, violated its safeguards commitments. U.S. and other intelligence agencies and the IAEA have uncovered indications that [Iran] has pursued not only the capability to enrich uranium for fissile material for weapons, but indications of weaponization work. North Korea in September [2005] agreed to eliminate all of its nuclear programs. We believe all of those programs are related to nuclear weapons.

A strategic decision on the part of these governments would reflect the same conditions we saw with regard to the Libyan decision, which was a voluntary decision. Strategic decisions by their very nature have to be voluntary. One can look to the Libyan model as a model that applies in these other countries in the context of what a strategic decision would look like. Clearly, Libya is different from North Korea and North Korea is different from Iran. All of the proliferation challenges that we face are unique.

ACT: As you know because you participated in them, the administration engaged in direct negotiations with Libya. Why won’t the administration do that with Iran or take a multilateral approach like the six-party talks with North Korea as recommended recently by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger? [1]

Joseph: We do have a multilateral structure for discussions with North Korea. We did have discussions with the Libyans. I would not characterize them as negotiations in the classic sense where you trade X for Y. We had discussions. We were very clear in terms of how we characterized what needed to be done in order for us to have confidence that a strategic decision had been made on the part of the leadership to eliminate their weapons of mass destruction programs. In the case of Iran, we have of course approached this in a very multilateral way. We have approached it in the context of the IAEA process in Vienna. We have approached it in the context of the [UN] Security Council in New York. We have supported the various efforts by the EU-3 [France, Germany, and the United Kingdom] and others to find a negotiated outcome, a diplomatic outcome to this threat.

ACT: But why won’t the United States actually take part in talks as it has with North Korea?

Joseph: We have made very clear to Iran what our position is on these issues. We have a wide range of fundamental differences with the Iranian regime. We have not only the nuclear threat, but we have Iran as the central state sponsor of terrorism. It is a regime that is using terror and terrorist organizations to undercut the prospects for peace in the Middle East, for the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Lebanese people, and for undercutting the movement to democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have got a set of fundamental problems with the Iranian regime. I do not think there has been any lack of clarity in terms of the U.S. position on each of the key issues with Iran.

ACT: Would Iran’s compliance with the IAEA board’s requirements be sufficient to support a “diplomatic negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes,” as outlined in the March 29 UN Security Council presidential statement?

Joseph: It is very important for Iran to meet the call of the Security Council in the context of the presidential statement and the resolutions of the IAEA board in the first instance by suspending its enrichment activities, which of course represents the most visible and urgent threat. Iran removed in January [2006] the IAEA seals on its facilities related to enrichment and has moved very fast down the enrichment path. It has announced that it has conducted enrichment activity at the 164-centrifuge cascade [at Natanz]. It has stated that it has converted over 110 tons of UF6, the feed material for centrifuges. It has stated that it has enriched uranium to over 3.5 percent.[2] All of these are very troublesome to us, and not just to the United States but to the international community. These activities on the ground have had a great deal to do with bringing together an international coalition that is determined to stop Iran from acquiring the capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. It is a first step. Suspension [of Iran’s enrichment activities] is a first step. The Iranians need to demonstrate that any peaceful program is entirely peaceful.

ACT: But what evidence would provide you confidence that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons?

Joseph: What is important is that Iran not pursue the sensitive fuel-cycle technologies of enrichment or reprocessing. Another great concern, for example, is the construction of a heavy-water reactor. We, along with the other members of the IAEA board and the Security Council, believe that should stop.

ACT: Returning to North Korea, a couple of things. First, there was a mention in The New York Times today that the administration was talking about moving forward with a peace treaty proposal independent of whether there is an outcome on the nuclear talks. [3] Can you confirm that? Second, on the nuclear talks, would the United States participate in providing North Korea with energy supplies if North Korea froze operation of or dismantled its existing nuclear reactor?

Joseph: I cannot confirm anything in The New York Times story. We have been very clear in terms of what we believe should be the next step. North Korea should come back to the six-party talks, and we should implement the agreed statement that was reached last September. That statement emphasizes the need for North Korea to eliminate all of its nuclear programs, and that is the emphasis that we would certainly agree with.

ACT: If North Korea went forward [with dismantlement], would the United States participate in providing Pyongyang with energy supplies?

Joseph: We have made clear both in our June 2004 proposal and more recently that if in fact North Korea’s nuclear programs were eliminated, we would work to provide incentives, including in the energy area, that would be of benefit to the North Korean people.

ACT: Does the United States have a verification proposal that we are willing to share with North Korea so we could be certain that they are fulfilling their commitment to dismantle their weapons program?

Joseph: We are putting a lot of time and effort into developing a type of verification proposal.

ACT: Another issue that has garnered a lot of attention recently is the U.S. proposal to resume full civilian nuclear cooperation with India. Notwithstanding the broader U.S.-Indian strategic relationship, is this a net gain if assessed only on nonproliferation grounds?

Joseph: My assessment is that this is a net gain for nonproliferation. My assessment is that the steps that India has agreed to take as reflected in the commitments from last July [18] do, on balance, strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime. It is important that India will harmonize and implement the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) regulations for its exports, along with the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime.[4] It is important that the civilian programs and civilian activities in the nuclear area will be safeguarded.[5] It is important that India will sign and implement an [IAEA] additional protocol. It is important that India has agreed not to transfer enrichment or reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them. Collectively, these commitments and the other ones that India took on in July move India closer into the mainstream of nonproliferation as opposed to keeping India on the outside. It is a net gain. I have never tried to oversell this, but I do believe that it is a net gain.

ACT: You mentioned the July 18 statement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had committed India to “assume the same responsibilities and practices” as other leading countries. Given that the five recognized nuclear-weapon states have enacted or are understood to have enacted a fissile cutoff [for weapons purposes] and have all signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, why aren’t these actions expected of India as well?

Joseph: We have encouraged India to stop the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. But that is not part of the July agreement.

ACT: Did the United States originally seek to have India end its fissile material production for weapons?

Joseph: We did. India was not willing to do that. We have made very clear that we will not recognize India as a nuclear-weapon state, which is something that it wanted us to do. We have made very clear that nothing that we provide under this or any other arrangement will be used for India’s nuclear weapons program. We have made explicit in our testimony and our public statements that we believe the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)[6] is of fundamental importance and that we will not do anything in the context of our relationship with India or in any other context to undercut that treaty. We have said the same about the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is a very important nonproliferation tool. We are not going to take any steps that would undercut its validity.

ACT: With regard to the NSG, if other countries were to oppose the U.S. initiative to exempt India from the guidelines, would the United States still act on a bilateral relationship with India to pursue full civil nuclear cooperation, or would we try to change the NSG consensus rule?

Joseph: We have said all along that we have to achieve a positive outcome both with Congress and with the NSG in order to move forward. We have said that we would not seek to change the rules of the NSG. The NSG operates on the basis of consensus. We know that we have our work cut out for us [in the NSG], just like we do to achieve passage of legislation with our own Congress. There are many legitimate questions that have been raised both by Congress and in the NSG. We are addressing those questions, and we think we have good answers to those because we do think overall this is a net gain for nonproliferation.

ACT: What is the current status of the U.S.-Indian negotiations on the bilateral cooperation agreement? Our understanding is that India has received a U.S. draft and came back with a half-dozen criticisms or questions. Could you fill us in on the status of the negotiations?

Joseph: We provided India with a draft of the so-called 123 agreement.[7] India has not gotten back to us formally on this. We anticipate that they will provide their comments in the form of an alternative draft in, we hope, the near future. We have heard that there are some difficulties in terms of the draft that we provided, but that is why one has negotiations. These agreements often involve intense negotiations.

ACT: Returning to fissile materials, the United States just offered a new fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) proposal at the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Why now, and is it directly tied to trying to win congressional approval for the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation deal?

Joseph: The administration’s position on the fissile material cutoff treaty has been clear for some time. In July 2004, [then-U.S. Permanent Representative to the CD] Jackie Sanders stated our position on an FMCT before the conference. (See ACT, September 2004.) This is the next step. We have translated our position on FMCT issues into a draft text, and today we laid that text down. We hope that it will become the basis for negotiations in Geneva.

ACT: Have you heard back from India whether it supports this new proposal?

Joseph: It is clear that there are differences in terms of the approach to an FMCT between the United States and India. But we both support the negotiation of a treaty to cut off fissile material production for nuclear weapons or other explosive purposes.

ACT: You mentioned differences. That largely goes to the issue of verification. With regard to the new U.S. proposal, if negotiations were to begin, is there anything that would prevent other countries from raising the issue of verification in those negotiations, and would the United States be receptive to potentially adding verification measures to this draft agreement?

Joseph: Clearly, there is nothing to prevent any participating government in the CD from raising whatever it wants to raise. We anticipate that more than one government will raise the question of verification in the context of an FMCT. We have looked at verification very closely. We did a full-scale assessment on verifiability of a cutoff, and we have come to the conclusion that it is simply not verifiable.

ACT: Would that preclude the United States from being receptive to adding some type of verification measures or confidence-building measures to the draft that we have submitted?

Joseph: We are not in a position where we are going to accept provisions in a treaty that we do not think are effective. In fact, we believe that they could be counterproductive in the sense that they may give a false sense of complacency.

ACT: Aside from the scope of an FMCT, talks on that agreement have been held up in the CD because of other linkages. Other countries have wanted to talk about nuclear disarmament and prevention of an arms race in outer space. Is the United States prepared to hold discussions and negotiations on those topics so we can begin discussions on the FMCT proposal?

Joseph: There has been a long-standing paralysis within the CD. Perhaps the clearest reason for that paralysis has been this hostage-taking, this linkage of one issue to another. We do not think that we should move forward on negotiations on these other issues. We think we should have the CD concentrate on an FMCT, and let’s see if the conference can make a contribution in that context. We know that this paralysis will continue if the hostage-taking continues. We would like to focus on an FMCT.

ACT: You mentioned negotiations, but my understanding is that other countries merely want to set up ad hoc groups that are for discussions rather than negotiations. Are we willing to discuss these subjects?

Joseph: I will just say that our preference is that we focus on an FMCT. It has been years since the CD has produced anything of value. We would like it to have productive negotiations on a topic of importance to the United States as well as to the broader international community.

ACT: Last year, the State Department consolidated the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus. Media reports have alleged that key officials say that the reorganization was politically motivated and will weaken U.S. efforts to address global weapons dangers. How would you respond to those charges?

Joseph: The reorganization was not politically motivated. The call for the merger of the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus surfaced for the first time in a review by the [State Department inspector general (IG)]. The objective of the merger was and remains to restructure these two bureaus so that they and the very talented people that reside in them can make the greatest contribution to dealing with today’s national security threats. I would start from the basic question, how can the State Department and, specifically, how can the bureaus [under the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security] make the greatest contribution to our national security? At the top of the list of the threats we face is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, whether it is Iran, North Korea, other rogue states, or terrorists. We have restructured these two bureaus. We have created new offices in these bureaus to deal with the new threats that we face today to ensure, with regard to our traditional tools of nonproliferation, that we are making the greatest contribution, whether that is in terms of strengthening the treaty regimes or improving our export control assistance to other countries or in the context of new missions promoting the effectiveness of the Proliferation Security Initiative or implementing Security Council Resolution 1540 or expanding programs that will help to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

ACT: You mentioned the IG report. Why were the responsibilities of the Verification and Compliance Bureau increased while the IG report recommended that the bureau should have its functions and role narrowed?

Joseph: We looked at the issue across the bureaus, and it seemed to me and to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the best approach was to create a new bureau that focused on proliferation threats. This is the International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau. The traditional arms control implementation functions, we believed, fit more appropriately with the verification bureau. It was those offices that were transferred into that bureau.

ACT: The 1991 START, including its extensive verification regime, is set to expire in December 2009. Has this administration initiated discussions with Russia on ways either to extend the treaty or continue the verification system?

Joseph: We have had some very recent communications with Russia on this issue, and we are creating a U.S.-Russian group that will look at that question. This is a group that will be chaired by [Deputy Foreign Minister] Sergei Kislyak and myself.

ACT: Will this administration seek additional strategic arms reductions or negotiations with Russia?

Joseph: We have the reductions that are called for in the Moscow Treaty [Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty] that will take us through 2012.[8] It is our view that we ought to focus on other threats. We are working with the Russians on other issues. It is much broader than the old arms control agenda. We are working with them on a lot of nonproliferation and counterproliferation initiatives.

ACT: Is the administration interested in negotiating or discussing with Russia the issue of tactical nuclear weapons?

Joseph: We would very much like to engage on the issue of tactical nuclear weapons in the sense that there is a real imbalance. Russia is moving to put even more reliance on these weapons, while we have drastically reduced our inventories of tactical weapons. We would like to have that discussion. The question is, are we going to negotiate? We would like to have that discussion because we think it is important to understand Russian motivations.

ACT: This November, there is a Biological Weapons Convention review conference. What potential topics would the administration want to see addressed, and what would you view as the ideal outcome of the conference?

Joseph: We think that the work program that has been in effect since the last review conference has been very productive. Instead of focusing on what we consider to be a counterproductive “nonverification” regime, we focused on the more practical and more concrete measures of security of biological agents, codes of conduct, and the need for nations to criminalize the proliferation of biological weapons. We think that these measures are very important, and we would like to see a work program that continues in that same vein.

ACT: Aside from trying to resolve the problems that Iran and North Korea present to the nonproliferation regime, what other measures does this administration plan to pursue to help bolster the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and is the administration looking at the Seven-Nation initiative that is backed by the United Kingdom and Norway as something that might be a way forward?

Joseph: This administration, starting with President George W. Bush, has been very innovative in trying to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I would refer you to the speech that the president gave at the National Defense University in February 2004 in which he laid out seven initiatives, most of which were directed at strengthening the NPT: the ban on the transfer of sensitive technologies related to enrichment and reprocessing to countries that do not already have that capability, the establishment of a special committee on verification, and the list goes on and on. (See ACT, March 2004.) We are very proud of the record we have in that regard.

ACT: Thank you very much.

Click here for a complete transcript of this interview.

1. Henry A. Kissinger, “A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy,” The Washington Post, May 16, 2006, p. A17.

2. Low-enriched uranium nuclear fuel usually is enriched to 3-5 percent. Any material enriched to more than 20 percent is considered highly enriched uranium and is capable of being used to produce bombs. However, the level of enrichment considered ideal for weapons is more than 90 percent.

3. David E. Sanger, “ U.S. Said to Weigh a New Approach on North Korea,” The New York Times, May 18, 2006, p. A1.

4. The NSG is a voluntary export control regime consisting of 45 countries that agree to abide by common guidelines in their civilian nuclear commerce. The Missile Technology Control Regime is also a voluntary export control regime that calls on its 34 members to exercise restraint in their missile exports, particularly of technologies that can be used to deliver a 500-kilogram payload a distance of more than 300 kilometers.

5. In a March 2 military-civilian separation plan agreed to by the United States and India, New Delhi committed to put a total of 14 of its 22 current and planned nuclear reactors under safeguards by 2014. Because a total of six reactors already have or were previously slated for safeguards, India essentially agreed to put eight additional reactors under safeguards. Aside from the eight reactors left outside of safeguards, India also refused to put its existing breeder reactors, enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and spent nuclear fuel under safeguards. New Delhi also reserved the right to declare any future nuclear facilities it builds as off-limits for safeguards.

6. Along with Israel and Pakistan, India has refused to join the 1968 NPT, which commits all of its states-parties, except for China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, to forswear nuclear weapons. However, the five nuclear-weapon states are obligated by the treaty to work toward abolishing their nuclear arms. India, Israel, and Pakistan all have nuclear stockpiles but are not recognized by the treaty as nuclear-weapon states because they did not conduct a nuclear explosion before January 1, 1967.

7. Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 requires that the terms of U.S. nuclear trade with other governments be set out in bilateral cooperation agreements and establishes eligibility conditions for potential recipients of U.S. nuclear commerce. However, India does not meet all of the conditions, so the Bush administration has proposed legislation to exempt India from them and alter the normal congressional review process of Section 123 agreements.

8. The treaty obligates the United States and Russia to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to between 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece. The treaty has no destruction requirements.


U.S. Offers Iran Direct Talks

Paul Kerr

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, are continuing their efforts to craft a new package of incentives and disincentives designed to persuade Iran to end its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a significant U.S. policy shift May 31 by dangling the prospect of direct talks before Tehran.

In late May, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States resumed their efforts to devise an offer after the Security Council failed earlier in the month to agree on the text of a legally binding draft resolution on Iran’s nuclear program. France and the United Kingdom introduced the draft resolution after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported in late April that Iran had failed to heed a nonbinding March presidential statement from the council. That statement had urged Iran to take several steps, including resuming a suspension of its enrichment program and increasing its cooperation with an agency investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities. (See ACT, April 2006.)

But the European resolution met resistance from Russia and China because it would have invoked Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows the Security Council to take punitive action, such as imposing sanctions or using military force, “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Moscow and Beijing have expressed skepticism about the efficacy of sanctions and have also been resistant to invoke Chapter VII, fearing that it could give Washington a pretext to take military action against Iran. (See ACT, May 2006.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said May 16 that “neither Russia nor China will be able to support” a Security Council resolution “that would contain a pretext for coercive, let alone military, measures,” the Interfax news agency reported. But John Bolton, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, downplayed such fears while speaking to reporters May 5, saying that Chapter VII was merely being used because it is required to make Iran’s compliance with the resolution mandatory. Washington is willing to consider other formulations that would make the resolution’s demands legally binding without invoking Chapter VII, Bolton added.

Bolton also said that the United States would like the Security Council to adopt a unanimous resolution but added that Washington does not want “unanimity at any price.” He suggested that the United States might seek a vote on a resolution, even if Russia or China were to object.

Bolton also reiterated that Washington might take action outside the council by undertaking measures with other like-minded countries to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. For example, the Bush administration is seeking to persuade institutions in Europe, Japan, and the Persian Gulf to halt financial transactions with Iranian entities. (See ACT, May 2006.)

Whether Tehran’s compliance with the Security Council’s requests would satisfy Washington remains unclear. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph would not directly respond when asked during a May 18 interview with Arms Control Today if such compliance would be sufficient to address U.S. concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. He did say that a re-suspension of Iran’s enrichment program was a sina qua non.

Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility and is constructing a larger commercial facility. Tehran has told the IAEA that the pilot and commercial facilities will eventually contain approximately 1,000 and 50,000 centrifuges, respectively. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. Iran also has a conversion facility for turning lightly processed uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride.

Iran suspended the program in late 2004 before beginning negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom designed to resolve international concerns about its enrichment program. Those negotiations ended when Iran restarted its uranium-conversion facility last August. (See ACT, September 2005.)

Proposal Discussions

Since the early May setback, diplomats representing the permanent Security Council members and Germany have been circulating drafts of the European proposal in an attempt to reach a consensus, a European diplomat familiar with the discussions told Arms Control Today May 26. The Europeans are trying to unify the Security Council around the proposal by persuading Washington to support an offer of incentives to Iran and by convincing Moscow and Beijing to support the threat of Security Council sanctions.

The idea, the diplomat said, is to present Iran with “a stark choice:” give up its enrichment program and gain the benefits of integration into the international community or keep the program and “suffer the consequences.” The Europeans have been trying to present Iran with such a choice since beginning talks with Tehran in 2003.

The proposal’s incentives reportedly would include a multilateral consortium to provide Iran with a light-water nuclear reactor for energy production, as well as a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel. Similar but less-detailed incentives were contained in an August 2005 proposal that Tehran rejected at the time. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The European diplomat said that there is “nothing particularly new” about the incentives but argued that “explicit endorsement” of the proposal by Washington, Moscow, and Beijing would constitute “one key difference” between this proposal and the one offered in 2005.

The proposal, when finalized, may also address the issue of Iran’s security. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in recent interviews that Washington has not been asked to provide “security assurances” to Iran. But the European diplomat said that the proposal may include the initiation of a “regional dialogue” regarding security issues in the Persian Gulf region, adding that the matter is “still under discussion.”

The proposal’s disincentives will reportedly include an embargo on exports of arms and refined petroleum products to Iran, as well as sanctions designed to target the Iranian leadership, such as a travel ban on Iranian officials and the freezing of certain Iranian assets. (See ACT, April 2006.)

The European diplomat also indicated that if Iran complies with the resolution, the Security Council will agree not to take up the nuclear issue and will instead leave the matter to the IAEA.

Iranian officials have repeatedly called for such an arrangement as Tehran is wary of the Security Council’s power to impose wide-ranging demands and penalties—power that considerably exceeds the IAEA’s authority. For example, a senior Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today in April that Tehran is concerned that the Security Council may give IAEA inspectors unlimited authority to investigate possible nuclear-related activities in its defense facilities. Washington could use such inspections to gather military intelligence, the diplomat said, citing UN weapons inspectors’ espionage activities in Iraq during the 1990s.

Iran has allowed the IAEA to visit some defense-related facilities. (See ACT, March 2006.)

Getting to Yes?

Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, indicated in a letter posted on Time magazine’s website May 10 that Iran is willing to alleviate the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program by, for example, “invest[ing] the time and effort necessary to receive the IAEA clean bill of health.” The IAEA still has a series of outstanding questions regarding Iran’s nuclear activities.

Rowhani, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Iran’s National Security Council, listed several other steps that Tehran would be willing to take, most of which have been articulated in past Iranian proposals. These include negotiating with “the IAEA and states concerned about the scope and timing of its industrial-scale uranium enrichment,” including setting verifiable limits on the production of centrifuge feedstock; and negotiating an agreement with the IAEA regarding the “continuous presence of inspectors in Iran.”

Nevertheless, it appears the two sides will have difficulty finding common ground. The Europeans will initially ask Iran to suspend work at its conversion and centrifuge facilities as a precondition for beginning negotiations, although they may ultimately agree to allow Tehran to continue conversion, the European diplomat said.

Such a compromise appears unlikely to be reciprocated, however. Iranian officials have repeatedly indicated that Iran will not stop work on its centrifuge facility.

The Europeans are not expected to offer to allow Iran to operate a pilot centrifuge facility for research purposes, although the diplomat acknowledged that the idea has been discussed. Iranian officials have said repeatedly that Iran will not forswear enrichment on its own territory.

Agence France Presse reported May 25 that, according to ElBaradei, Iranian officials have said that Tehran had “agreed in principle that for a number of years” Iran’s nuclear fuel production “should be part of an international consortium outside of Iran.” The issue of Iran’s enrichment research was “still being discussed,” he added.

In addition to proposing Iranian participation in a Russian enrichment facility, the draft European proposal would guarantee a nuclear fuel supply for Tehran by providing for a five-year enriched uranium reserve under IAEA supervision. Iran has previously expressed interest in multilateral fuel-supply schemes but has so far insisted on having a domestic enrichment capability as a hedge against possible supply disruptions.

Iranian officials, however, have said that Iran would accept limits on the number of centrifuges in its pilot facility. For example, the Iranian diplomat indicated that Tehran would have been willing in March to limit the number of centrifuges to between 164 and 500. A former European diplomat who maintains contact with Iranian officials said in a May 22 interview that, according to an Iranian official “directly involved” in the matter, Khamenei agreed in the spring of 2005 that Iran would accept a limit of 164 centrifuges.

Iran is currently operating a 164-centrifuge cascade in its pilot facility and is building two others.

But Gary Samore, a former Clinton administration National Security Council aide who maintains contact with Tehran, told Arms Control Today May 17 that Iran is determined to have an industrial-scale enrichment capability and does not want a constraint on its enrichment facilities. According to Samore, Iranian officials say privately that they want to have a “breakout capability” for developing nuclear weapons. Interestingly, the Iranian diplomat who spoke with Arms Control Today also suggested that there are some officials in Tehran who may want Iran to have a nuclear weapons option.

A former senior intelligence official offered another view. Former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia Paul Pillar told Arms Control Today May 22 that, in his judgment, Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program but is not on an “irreversible course.” Pillar cautioned that such assessments are only judgments, noting that U.S. intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programs is limited.

Iranian officials have also told ElBaradei that if the negotiations resume, Tehran is willing to resume implementing its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement—another of the Security Council’s demands. Additional protocols provide the agency with increased authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs, including by inspecting facilities that have not been declared to the IAEA. They supplement mandatory IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Iran has signed but not ratified its additional protocol. Tehran had been implementing the agreement but stopped doing so in February.

Will Washington Talk to Tehran?

In recent months, calls for direct talks between Washington and Tehran have increased, particularly from members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Among others, advocates for such talks include one-time Bush administration officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Department of State Policy Planning Director Richard Haass; Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and committee member Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.); former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger, who was also secretary of state under President Richard Nixon; and William Perry, who was secretary of defense during the Clinton administration. In remarks to the European Parliament on May 30, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, also suggested that Washington participate in direct talks.

Previously, the Bush administration had responded coolly to such suggestions. But White House Press Secretary Tony Snow implied a shift during a May 24 press briefing, telling reporters that Washington might be willing to talk if Tehran agreed to suspend its enrichment activities.

Rice was more explicit in May 31 remarks to the press, saying that “as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our EU-3 colleagues and meet with Iran’s representatives.” She said similar remarks had been delivered directly to Iranian diplomats.

She also endorsed the elements of the proposed European package of incentives and disincentives, adding that “the Iranian regime can decide on one of two fundamentally different futures for its people and for its relationship with the international community.”

However, while Rice said that President George W. Bush “wants a new and positive relationship between the American people and the people of Iran” including enhanced trade and investment, “the nuclear issue is not the only obstacle standing in the way of improved relations.” In particular, she cited Iran’s alleged support for terrorism and “violence in Iraq,” as well as claims that Tehran has interfered (through terrorist proxies) in Lebanon.

Some nongovernmental experts have argued that a lengthy May 8 letter to Bush from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an attempt at a diplomatic opening, although the letter did not directly address the nuclear standoff. State Department officials have also confirmed that Iran had recently sought direct talks.

Iran has made overtures to speak to Washington in the past. In the spring of 2003, Iran sent the United States a detailed proposal for negotiations to resolve several bilateral issues. For example, Iran offered to sign an additional protocol and end its opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to a copy obtained by Arms Control Today.

The United States and Iran have previously said that, in principle, they are willing to discuss Iraqi security issues, but no such talks have taken place.



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