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

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
December 2006
Edition Date: 
Friday, December 1, 2006
Cover Image: 

Cluster Munition, Anti-Vehicle Mine Limits Sought

Wade Boese

Upset at the lack of progress at a November meeting on multilateral arms issues, some states took matters into their own hands. Norway announced plans to lead negotiations on banning cluster munitions, while Australia, Denmark, and the United States crafted a voluntary pledge under which governments would promise to limit their use of anti-vehicle mines.

These were announced near the end of the third review conference of the 1981 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) that took place in Geneva Nov. 7-17. The accord’s 100 states-parties must commit to at least two of its five protocols that seek to protect civilians and combatants against injury or death from indiscriminate or inhumane arms. The convention’s newest protocol entered into force Nov. 12 and commits adherents to clear their territories postconflict of unexploded ordnance, or explosive remnants of war (ERW). (See ACT, January/February 2004. )

Although fully committed to the new protocol, Norway wanted the review conference to pursue additional steps to prevent ERW altogether. Specifically, Oslo hoped states-parties would commit to outlawing cluster munitions, which are bombs, rockets, or shells that spread smaller submunitions or bomblets, sometimes up to several hundred, over a broad area.

Independent studies have found that these weapons have accounted for a significant portion of unexploded ordnance, as well as ERW casualties, in recent conflicts. The UN Mine Action Service reported Nov. 13 that cluster munitions have caused all 23 deaths and “most” of the 136 reported injuries from unexploded ordnance in Lebanon following fighting there last summer between Israel and the radical Shiite group Hezbollah. (See ACT, October 2006. )

Norway was not alone in singling out cluster munitions. In a Nov. 7 message to the conference, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged countries to “freeze the use of cluster munitions against military assets located in or near populated areas.” Austria, the Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden also advocated negotiations for a legally binding instrument that “addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.”

But several larger powers indicated at the outset that such proposals were overly ambitious and undesirable. The Department of State issued a Nov. 3 statement declaring that countries should focus on fulfilling the new ERW protocol and “not on negotiating new rules on cluster munitions.” Similarly, Anatoly Antonov, head of the Russian CCW delegation, stated Nov. 7, “[W]e cannot accept the logic of restrictions or even bans on ammunition artificially and groundlessly declared as ‘most dangerous.’” Moscow and Washington have both employed cluster munitions in recent military conflicts.

The CCW operates by consensus, and opponents of cluster munitions negotiations were not swayed. But the conference agreed to a June 19-22, 2007, meeting of a group of governmental experts to discuss arms that cause ERW, including a “particular focus on cluster munitions.” The group would report on these talks to next year’s annual states-parties meeting in November.

This compromise did not satisfy Norway. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre announced Nov. 17 that his government would organize a conference in hopes of moving toward an international cluster munitions ban. He argued the urgency of the problem demanded action and that the “time is ripe” because of “increasing calls” for a ban.

Some states already have cluster munitions restrictions. Belgium has outlawed them, Norway has instituted a use moratorium, and Germany has stopped procuring them.

The Norwegian initiative recalls Canada’s effort a decade ago to ban anti-personnel landmines (APLs) after the CCW and the Conference on Disarmament failed to do so. This initiative produced the 1997 Ottawa Convention that now numbers 151 states-parties and which has helped destroy some 38 million stockpiled APLs worldwide. (See ACT, November 2006. )

No date has been set for the Oslo meeting nor have any invitations been made. A Norwegian official told Arms Control Today Nov. 20 that this process should not be considered as competition to the CCW meeting but as a parallel process.

Ronald Bettauer, head of the U.S. delegation to the CCW conference, made clear Nov. 17 that Washington sees things differently. Describing the United States as “disappointed” with Oslo’s move, he said, “the effort to go outside this framework is not healthy for the CCW” and would “weaken the international humanitarian law effort.”

Bettauer contrasted Norway’s response on cluster munitions with how other states reacted to the failure of the conference to adopt a long-standing, 31-nation proposal to restrict the use of anti-vehicle mines. Rather than “go outside” the CCW and undermine it, Bettauer said frustrated governments would proceed on an anti-vehicle mines agreement when the states-parties were ready. But in the meantime, some governments would move forward and enact as national policies the restrictions that they had sought internationally.

Five years ago, the United States and Denmark proposed that the CCW adopt a protocol restricting anti-vehicle mines. The initiative gained 29 other co-sponsors, including Norway.

The latest version of the proposal calls for limiting the use of undetectable anti-vehicle mines or anti-vehicle mines lacking self-destruct or self-deactivation mechanisms to clearly marked perimeter areas. It would further restrict exports of undetectable anti-vehicle mines or those that cannot self-destruct or self-deactivate.

In the past few years, Belarus, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Russia have blocked the proposed protocol. In November, they again opposed the measure.

Pakistan insisted that undetectable and long-lasting anti-vehicle mines are necessary for security, while China raised what it claims are the economic and technical challenges of making anti-vehicle mines detectable and outfitting them with self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms. Antonov further asserted a case had not been made that anti-vehicle mines pose a “serious humanitarian threat.”

The State Department Nov. 3 issued a statement detailing incidents of civilian deaths inflicted by anti-vehicle mines. In addition, protocol proponents argue that threats of anti-vehicle mines can dissuade or slow the delivery of aid, food, or medicine to areas needing help.

Confronting a persistent stalemate, CCW members did not extend negotiations for another year. The conference did agree to devote up to two days to discuss anti-vehicle mines at the 2007 states-parties meeting.

Washington, which voiced readiness to resume negotiations if positions changed, did not hide its unhappiness. “The United States was deeply disappointed that after five years of discussion, the conference was unable to achieve consensus on the adoption of an anti-vehicle mine protocol and had to suspend work on this important subject,” the State Department declared Nov. 17.

Still, Australia, Denmark, and the United States unveiled the same day a voluntary “Declaration on Anti-Vehicle Mines” incorporating the key elements of the anti-vehicle mine proposal. By the close of the conference, 22 additional countries, including Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, had pledged to adhere.

CCW members reached consensus on two issues at the conference. They agreed to establish a pool of experts for states-parties seeking compliance assistance and create a voluntary contribution fund that poorer states-parties or nonmembers could use to help pay for CCW-related activities or events.

Arms Trade Treaty Effort Endorsed

Wade Boese

UN member states recently overwhelmingly endorsed an effort to craft a treaty to regulate the international conventional arms trade. A final accord is by no means assured, however, as two dozen leading arms buyers and sellers abstained from the vote and the world’s top arms exporter, the United States, cast the sole dissent.

All told, 139 countries voted Oct. 26 for the so-called arms trade treaty resolution originally co-sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. The vote occurred in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, which is an annual forum where governments debate measures on disarmament and international security matters. The General Assembly, which almost always replicates First Committee votes, is expected to give final approval to the resolution in early December.

Although various criteria-based proposals to limit global arms sales date back more than a decade, the current concept grew out of a September 2004 speech by then-British Foreign Minister Jack Straw. (See ACT, November 2004. ) Straw expounded on the initiative in March 2005, saying that weapons suppliers should “operate and trade in a way which is transparent, responsible, and accountable.”

The resolution calls for exploring a “comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.” Conventional arms encompass weapons ranging from pistols and rifles to tanks and aircraft carriers.

Welcoming the vote Oct. 26, British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett said a future treaty’s purpose is to “end the irresponsible trade in arms worldwide.” There is no agreement yet on what standards should distinguish between responsible and irresponsible deals, although Beckett suggested criteria could include a potential importer’s “respect for human rights.”

Fifteen Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, published an open letter Oct. 24 outlining what a treaty should entail. They recommended suppliers weigh how exported weapons might be used prior to making transfers. Any weapons deals that could be used to “violate international law” should be denied, the laureates wrote.

The earliest that formal negotiations on the treaty could start is 2009. The resolution first calls on the UN secretary-general next year to obtain government views on the possible treaty and make a report. Taking that report into account, a group of governmental experts is supposed to convene in 2008 to “examine the feasibility, scope, and draft parameters” of an agreement.

Typically, some 20 experts make up such a group, and they meet for three separate sessions during the year. If they reach consensus on a report recommending negotiation of a treaty, UN members could then vote to start formal talks. In the event consensus cannot be achieved, governments could choose to establish another experts group, start negotiations outside the United Nations among like-minded countries, or drop the effort entirely.

Although its composition is not yet determined, the 2008 experts group could have difficulty reaching consensus because it will most likely include officials from the United States and countries that abstained from the October vote, notably China and Russia. All three have large stakes in the global arms market (see page 28 ) and are critical of the initiative. Yet, a U.S. government official told Arms Control Today Nov. 17 that the United States was the “only government that had the gumption to vote no.”

The United States contends the initiative will be expensive, time consuming, and of little utility because any final product, if there is one, will inevitably establish standards of the lowest common denominator. The U.S. official said that Washington fears that if such an instrument is completed, it would weaken efforts to get certain countries to improve their export controls or behavior if they already complied with some minimum standard.

A British official told Arms Control Today Nov. 16 that London agrees that an accord “based on the lowest common denominator would be of questionable value.” Therefore, the British government, according to the official, “is committed to securing an agreement that will make a real difference.” The official added that “whatever the terms of a treaty, it should not compel any country or group to adopt controls weaker than they currently operate.”

Similar to other major arms suppliers, the U.S. government historically has been reluctant to cede any authority over export decisions. After initiating arms sales restraint talks with other key weapons exporters in 1991, the United States agreed to ship up to 150 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan despite knowing that it would probably cause the talks to collapse, which they did. The Clinton administration then opposed for several years legislation to establish criteria for vetting U.S. arms exports. Most recently at a UN conference last summer, the Bush administration opposed barring small arms and light weapons exports to nonstate actors. (See ACT, September 2006. )

The Bush administration has opposed the arms trade treaty process in part because it could turn into a series of meetings spanning several years, similar to the UN-backed effort to curb illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking. While 172 countries voted at the recent First Committee for convening another small arms meeting by 2008, the United States stood alone in opposition. “What we don’t want is more meetings, but more action,” the U.S. official asserted.

Nonetheless, London intends to keep advocating the merits of an arms trade treaty to Washington. “The United Kingdom will continue to engage the United States on this issue and encourage it to participate as work progresses with the aim of securing its support for an eventual treaty,” the British official stated.

New Details Emerge on NK Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

Several weeks after North Korea’s early October announcement that it had successfully tested a nuclear device, new information is emerging about the test and Pyongyang’s plutonium-based nuclear weapons program. Still, much uncertainty remains about the status and scope of that program and a suspected North Korean uranium-enrichment program.

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, spoke with North Korean officials about the nuclear program when he visited the country Oct. 31 to Nov. 4. He discussed his findings in a report presented Nov. 15. Hecker was accompanied by John Lewis, a historian at Stanford University; Charles “Jack” Pritchard, former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea; and Robert Carlin, former senior policy adviser at the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization. Lewis and Hecker also discussed the North Korean nuclear program with various Chinese officials. In addition, a Department of State official also discussed the status of these programs during two interviews with Arms Control Today.

Test Uncertainties

One week after the test, the office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte stated that North Korea had “conducted an underground nuclear explosion” with a yield of “less than a kiloton.”

North Korean officials maintained during their meeting that the test was successful, Hecker said. But he reported that Pyongyang told Chinese officials two hours before the test to expect a yield of about four kilotons.

A four-kiloton yield would have been far below that of the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Nagasaki bomb, for example, had a yield of 21 kilotons. Analysts have debated whether the low yield indicates that North Korea attempted to test either a simple nuclear device or a smaller, more sophisticated device that could be deployed on a missile. (See ACT, November 2006.)

According to Hecker, Chinese nuclear scientists estimated the explosion’s yield at about one kiloton. Those scientists argued that the North Koreans had tested a simple nuclear device designed for an explosive yield of four kilotons in order to ensure that they could contain the test’s radioactivity in a horizontal shaft. The Chinese assessment is “reasonable…based on the facts we have at this time,” he said. The State Department official said that U.S. intelligence agencies had not yet determined why the test yield was so low.

North Korean officials told Hecker that the device used plutonium as its fissile material. The State Department official said Oct. 31 that the United States does not yet know whether this claim is true but said that he “would be shocked if it were anything else.” Whether the United States will be able to determine when the plutonium was produced is uncertain, the official said.

It does not appear that North Korea is preparing to conduct another test at this time. “None of the officials we met gave us the impression that they are planning a second nuclear test,” Hecker said. Likewise, the State Department official said that there are “no indications” that Pyongyang is doing so.

Hecker said that North Korea will “keep the number” of future nuclear tests “to a minimum” because of its limited plutonium inventory.

Plutonium Program Continues

Hecker also noted that North Korea continues to operate its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, including its five-megawatt nuclear reactor and a facility for reprocessing spent fuel to extract plutonium. But he said that operation of the research reactor has slowed somewhat. In addition, the construction of two larger reactors, which would have vastly expanded Pyongyang’s plutonium-production capacity, has not kept pace with North Korea’s previous estimates.

Under the 1994 Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea, Pyongyang froze these facilities’ operation and subjected them, along with approximately 8,000 spent fuel rods, to international monitoring. North Korea also froze the construction of the two larger reactors.

But after the most recent North Korean nuclear crisis started in October 2002, Pyongyang ejected the inspectors, announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, restarted the reactor, and claimed to have reprocessed the spent fuel to obtain plutonium.

Hecker said that prior to its test explosion, North Korea probably had 40-50 kilograms of plutonium, which is enough for about six to eight nuclear bombs. The test “most likely” consumed about six kilograms, Hecker said. This estimate of the total plutonium inventory appears to be somewhat lower than one from South Korea’s Ministry of Defense reported by the semi-official Yonhap News Agency Oct. 26. The reactor is accumulating about one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year, according to Hecker’s discussions with Yongbyon officials.

Hecker reported that Ri Hong Sop, director of the Yongbyon nuclear center, said that North Korea plans to unload the reactor “sometime next year” and reprocess the spent fuel. However, Pyongyang may unload the reactor sooner if the “political situation” changes, Ri said. North Korea expert Selig Harrison told reporters in September that Pyongyang intends to unload spent fuel rods from the reactor for reprocessing by the end of the year.

Pyongyang last unloaded the reactor during the spring of 2005 and restarted the reactor in June of that year. The reactor “has been operating with the current fuel load” since then, Hecker said.

The North Korean officials also provided an update regarding Pyongyang’s progress in completing the two larger reactors.

According to Hecker’s report, the officials said that “virtually nothing” has been done at a site where North Korea had been constructing a 50-megawatt reactor. Pyongyang has apparently not yet made “a political decision” to proceed with a full-on construction effort, Hecker said, adding that “technical difficulties” are slowing down the project. These difficulties will put the reactor’s completion “at least several years into the future,” he added.

After a visit last year, Hecker said that a North Korean official implied that Pyongyang is attempting to complete construction on the reactor within “a couple of years.”

Ri said that North Korea has not yet decided whether to complete a 200-megawatt reactor that had also been under construction prior to the Agreed Framework, said Hecker.

Uranium-Enrichment Program

Hecker said that the North Korean officials provided no information regarding the country’s suspected uranium-enrichment program. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium hexafluoride by spinning it at very high speeds to increase the concentration of the relevant fissile isotope. Highly enriched uranium can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

Hecker said that “it is very likely” that North Korea has “at least a research-scale uranium-enrichment effort.” Pyongyang has repeatedly denied having such a program.

State Department officials told Arms Control Today about a year ago that North Korea has enough components sufficient for a “pilot” enrichment facility. But it is still unclear whether Pyongyang has an operating facility or possesses all necessary centrifuge components. (See ACT, June 2006.)

North Korea is likely continuing work on the program, the State Department official said in November, adding that the United States has little information about its progress and calling the program a “black hole.” The official indicated that North Korea’s efforts to obtain materials for the program had largely stopped but pointed out that Pyongyang may have learned to produce its own components.

The official also said that North Korea may have an advanced enrichment program but acknowledged that Pyongyang may have halted work on it, perhaps because the government ran out of money or lost access to foreign expertise.

North Korea Sanctions Detailed

Paul Kerr

Since North Korea agreed Oct. 31 to return to multilateral negotiations designed to resolve the crisis surrounding its nuclear weapons program, officials from other participants in the six-party talks have held a series of preparatory meetings. But no starting date has been set for the talks. Meanwhile, a UN Security Council committee has finalized lists of military items whose export to North Korea are restricted because of Pyongyang’s Oct. 9 nuclear test.

North Korea Returns

North Korea said after the test—its first—that it was still willing to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill told reporters Oct. 31 that during meetings in Beijing involving U.S., North Korean, and Chinese officials, the North Korean delegation reiterated Pyongyang’s willingness to implement a September 2005 joint statement. In that statement, produced at the end of the fourth round of talks, Pyongyang agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear programs in return for incentives from other participants of the talks.

North Korea’s decision to return to the talks marked a shift from its previous refusal to do so until Washington lifted what Pyongyang has termed “financial sanctions” on the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, a reference to the Department of the Treasury’s September 2005 designation of the bank as a “money laundering concern.”

The United States asserts that the bank provided financial services to North Korean government agencies and front companies engaged in illicit activities such as drug trafficking. Since the U.S. designation, Banco Delta Asia has frozen North Korea’s accounts, and other financial institutions have curtailed their dealings with Pyongyang. (See ACT, September 2006.)

A spokesperson for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Nov. 1 that Pyongyang agreed to return to the talks “under the precondition” that North Korea and the United States would resolve the Banco Delta Asia issue “within the framework” of the six-party talks.

But Hill said the previous day that although the United States had agreed to “find a mechanism within the six-party process” to address the matter, the North Koreans made “very clear” that these discussions “were not preconditions.”

Washington is “prepared to form a working group” that would develop a way for Pyongyang to address U.S. concerns about its illicit activities, Hill said without specifying further.

The Banco Delta Asia issue has haunted the stalled talks since all six parties last met in November 2005. The North Korean delegation focused almost exclusively on that issue during that session, which lasted only a few days. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

North Korea and the United States have not met bilaterally to discuss the matter since March. At the time, North Korean officials made several suggestions for resolving U.S. concerns about the country’s illicit activities. The Bush administration, however, apparently rejected these proposals at the time.

Pyongyang subsequently attempted to discuss the matter with the United States, but the Bush administration refused to engage in bilateral discussions separate from the six-party talks.

However, a U.S. official familiar with the issue claimed in a Nov. 21 interview with Arms Control Today that U.S. officials have made offers since the March meeting to provide North Korea with advice on ensuring that their financial transactions are legitimate. But the official said that Pyongyang has not taken advantage of the offers.

Looking Ahead

Since the October announcement, U.S. officials have been meeting with officials from the other parties in order to “prepare the groundwork” for the talks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters Nov. 16.

However, the United States has not decided on the details of its plan for implementing the September 2005 agreement, including the resolution of controversial questions regarding the proper sequencing of rewards and obligations, the State Department official said.

Regardless, Rice made clear that Washington expects Pyongyang to take the first step when the talks resume, saying that North Korea will “need to demonstrate” its commitment to denuclearization in order to show that “the talks are going to produce something.” She did not specify further.

Similarly, the U.S. official said that the Bush administration hopes that North Korea will come to the talks with a proposal to dismantle its nuclear programs, adding that the United States has not yet decided precisely how Pyongyang should implement this commitment.

Nevertheless, Hill apparently discussed some specifics during a Nov. 29 bilateral meeting with North Korean Vice Minister Kim Gae Gwan in Beijing, telling reporters that day that he “share[d] some ideas…that we had already worked out” with the other participants in the six-party talks. Hill provided no details, but added that North Korea will study the proposals.

However, the U.S. official provided ACT with some details regarding Washington’s expectations of North Korea. For example, Washington wants Pyongyang’s initial actions to go beyond simply suspending the operation of its nuclear facilities, the official said.

Charles L. “Jack” Pritchard, a former State Department special envoy to North Korea, told a Washington audience Nov. 15 that in recent discussions he had in Pyongyang, North Korean Deputy Director-General for North America Li Gun indicated that North Korea might be open to such a suspension.

North Korea has continued to operate the facilities associated with its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang also is suspected of having a uranium-enrichment program. Both can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The official also said that North Korea would be expected to present a declaration of its nuclear program and materials, adding that Pyongyang’s failure to provide some information regarding its enrichment program will likely result in the end of negotiations. “Some people here will pull the plug” on the process, the official said.

The United States has not received any indication from North Korea that it wants to discuss the program, he added.

As for the Banco Delta Asia issue, the U.S. official said that the working group would likely begin work around the same time as the next round of talks.

However, he said that the issue is unlikely to be resolved in the short term because the United States is not in a position to end its investigation of the bank. The official also dismissed reports that some funds may be unfrozen in the future, explaining that the investigators do not know which accounts are associated with illicit activities. No funds will be freed up until the investigation is completed, the official said.

Some observers have speculated that releasing some funds could be part of a deal to persuade North Korea to be more conciliatory.

Pritchard also said that Pyongyang apparently expects China to unfreeze the funds, but China’s Foreign Ministry has indicated that this is not the case.

Resolution Implementation Moves Ahead

Meanwhile, the UN committee has finalized the lists of weapons-related items whose export to North Korea are restricted, a South Korean diplomat told Arms Control Today Nov. 30. The committee was established under Security Council Resolution 1718, which was adopted Oct. 14 in the wake of the North Korean test. The diplomat said that the committee has “yet to work out” the list of North Korean entities and officials subject to the resolution’s restrictions. In addition to military-related items, the resolution says that states are to prevent the transfer of luxury goods to North Korea, but it does not define what those are.

The diplomat also said that about 33 governments have submitted their initial reports on the steps they have taken to implement the resolution, which called on all governments to submit such reports within 30 days.

One of those was the United States. On Nov. 29, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said that the United States had defined its set of luxury goods that Washington would ban from being sold to North Korea. They include such items as “cognac and cigars,” he said, adding that the relevant regulations “will be published in the Federal Register.” He did not specify a date.

Problems With Iraq, Weapons Persist

Paul Kerr

The United States has lost track of thousands of weapons provided to Iraqi troops, according to an Oct. 28 report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Several days later, the office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte suspended public access to a website containing information from captured Iraqi documents apparently relevant to building unconventional weapons.

The report is the result of an audit of “the type, quantity, and quality” of weapons purchased for the Iraqi Security Forces by the U.S. Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). The audit was conducted at the request of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) and came well more than three years after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

According to the report, approximately 370,000 weapons costing about $133 million have been purchased with IRRF funds since November 2003. Twelve types of small arms were purchased, including machine guns, grenade launchers, and assault rifles.

The Multi-National Security Force Transition Command-Iraq could not account for 751 assault rifles, 13,180 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, and 99 machine guns, the report says, posing concerns about the “physical security” of the weapons.

Moreover, the United States may not be able to keep track of the remaining weapons because the command failed to register their serial numbers. Approximately 10,000 weapons, or less than 3 percent of the total provided, were registered, according to the report.

Although the command has said it will take steps to remedy the situation, the report argues that those efforts are inadequate.

For example, the command’s response to the report says that it has developed a system “to maintain accountability” of the weapons. However, SIGIR criticized this procedure, arguing that it is inadequate because the weapons are not registered until after they arrive in Iraq and are distributed to the Iraqi forces. “Without first determining how many weapons were in fact purchased and received…there is no assurance full accountability is established for all weapons,” the report says.

Additionally, the command rejected the report’s recommendation that it register serial numbers with the Department of Defense’s Small Arms Serialization Program, stating that it is meeting “the intent” of the report’s recommendation by establishing its own registry. However, the report states that the command is required to register the weapons with the program.

Sensitive Iraqi WMD Information Leaked

Meanwhile, concerns arose in November that Negroponte’s office may have posted information relevant to developing unconventional weapons.

The director of public affairs for the DNI, Chad Kolton, said in a Nov. 2 statement that the office has “suspended access to a web site containing captured Saddam [Hussein-]era Iraqi documents pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.” The office will review the material “before the site becomes available again,” he added.

This action followed a New York Times report that the documents contained information that could potentially assist the efforts of other states or nonstate actors to develop nuclear weapons. An IAEA official told Arms Control Today Nov. 22 that agency inspectors “had expressed concern internally about the site,” but the agency had not yet warned the United States before the Times article was published.

This is not the first time that the office has removed documents from the site in response to proliferation concerns. Demetrius Perricos, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), expressed concern to U.S. officials in April about a document that contained information about Iraq’s chemical weapons program.

Asked about the Times article, UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan said in a Nov. 21 interview that the file “contains various ‘recipes’ and ‘cookbooks’ [for making chemical weapons] which we thought should not be made public,” adding that it was removed about a week later.

The document was the same as one that Iraq had provided UNMOVIC in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The DNI’s office had begun releasing the documents March 16. At the time, Negroponte cautioned that the government “has made no determination regarding” the documents’ accuracy or authenticity. (See ACT, April 2006.)

The documents were posted at the urging of several legislators, including House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Hoekstra has said that there are unanswered questions about the fate of Iraq’s illicit weapons.

Several official studies have concluded that Iraq did not have illicit weapons. No official evidence has emerged that information contained in the documents contradicts those findings.

The United States has lost track of thousands of weapons provided to Iraqi troops, according to an Oct. 28 report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Several days later, the office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte suspended public access to a website containing information from captured Iraqi documents apparently relevant to building unconventional weapons. (Continue)

Iran’s Enrichment Efforts Advance

Paul Kerr

Iran continues to advance its nuclear programs even as diplomatic efforts to contain it continue, according to a Nov. 14 report from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the agency’s Board of Governors. ElBaradei also reported that investigators have not been able to make progress in their investigation of Tehran’s nuclear activities for months, although Iran promised some renewed cooperation with the agency in late November.

Uranium Enrichment Continues

The report indicates that Iran is moving forward with its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. They can produce low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used in nuclear reactors, and highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used in certain types of nuclear reactors and as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

ElBaradei confirmed that Iran has been testing centrifuges in its pilot uranium-enrichment facility with uranium hexafluoride “during intermittent periods,” although they have mostly been operated without nuclear material.

The director-general’s report confirms that Iran has completed installing a second 164-centrifuge cascade. Iran has for months been operating cascades made up of 10 and 20 centrifuges, as well as an initial 164-centrifuge cascade. ElBaradei said that Tehran began to test the new 164-centrifuge cascade with uranium hexafluoride Oct. 13. (See ACT, November 2006.) According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, it would take more than a dozen years of operating a 164-centrifuge cascade to generate enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

All of these cascades are in a pilot centrifuge facility located at Natanz, but Iran is also constructing a larger commercial facility at the same site.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ali Hoesyni reiterated Nov. 12 that Iran plans to install 3,000 centrifuges in the larger facility by March 2007. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a Nov. 21 television interview that Iran ultimately intends to install 60,000 centrifuges, a number slightly higher than past figures given to the IAEA. Last April, Stephen Rademaker, then-acting assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation issues, claimed that it would take less than a year for Iran to enrich sufficient material for a nuclear weapon if Tehran had 3,000 installed centrifuges and less than a month if Tehran had 50,000. (See ACT, April 2006.)

Another measure also indicates that Iran has been accelerating its enrichment efforts. Between Aug. 13 and Nov. 2, Iran fed about 34 kilograms of feedstock into its centrifuges. By contrast, Iran fed a total of about six kilograms of the material into the centrifuge during June and July, according to a report from ElBaradei to the IAEA board in August.

The IAEA is still verifying Iran’s claim that the more-recent campaign enriched uranium to less than 5 percent uranium-235, a level typical for LEU used in nuclear reactors.

Tehran also began a new “campaign” in June to produce uranium hexafluoride from lightly processed uranium ore. According to the report, Iran converted a portion of 160 metric tons of lightly processed uranium ore to uranium hexafluoride, yielding 55 metric tons as of Nov. 7. According to the report, Iran told the agency that it anticipates converting all of the ore by January 2007.

Investigation Stalled

Meanwhile, ElBaradei told reporters Nov. 23 that the agency is “going through a period of standstill” in its investigation of a number of issues related to Iran’s past undeclared enrichment-related activities.

His report says that the IAEA has found no evidence that Iran has diverted any of its declared nuclear facilities or materials. However, it also says that the agency will “remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify” that Tehran has not engaged in clandestine nuclear activities “unless Iran addresses…long outstanding verification issues.”

Since its investigation began in 2002, the IAEA has discovered that Iran engaged in secret nuclear activities, some of which violated its safeguards agreement. Iran has provided explanations for some of these issues, but the agency says that several others remain unresolved. (See ACT, March 2006.)

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.

ElBaradei attributed the IAEA’s lack of progress to Iran’s limited cooperation with the agency. As one obstacle, he cited Tehran’s continued refusal to implement its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Tehran has signed the protocol, which augments the IAEA’s authority to investigate possible undeclared nuclear activities, but has not ratified it. For several years, however, Tehran had been behaving as if the protocol were in force but stopped doing so in February. (See ACT, March 2006.)

ElBaradei also noted Tehran’s decision to link its cooperation with the investigation to the UN Security Council’s deliberations concerning Iran’s nuclear program (see page 31).

Iran indicated in a Nov. 1 letter to the IAEA that it is willing to address the agency’s outstanding questions regarding its nuclear program, according to ElBaradei’s report. However, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki indicated in a Nov. 23 television interview that this cooperation is “conditional” on the Security Council stopping its deliberations.

ElBaradei reported that the agency has been unable to resolve a number of outstanding issues related to Iran’s centrifuge program, such as procurement efforts and research on advanced centrifuges.

Additionally, the IAEA has still not made progress in determining the origin of some LEU and HEU particles found at several locations in Iran. The particles raise the possibility that Tehran may have either imported or produced additional undeclared enriched uranium in violation of its safeguards agreement. Iran has previously admitted that it enriched uranium secretly but only to very low levels.

Most recently, the agency has asked Iran for information regarding HEU particles discovered when inspectors took environmental samples from a container located at the Karaj Waste Storage Facility. The facility had not been declared to the agency, an IAEA official told Arms Control Today in late October. ElBaradei reported that the agency had asked Iran to provide information about the source of the particles and the past use of the containers.

Iran replied in a Sept. 6 letter that the containers “had been used for the temporary storage of spent fuel” from a research reactor located in Tehran, which “could explain the presence of the HEU particles.” The IAEA is currently analyzing samples taken from other containers, which had been used to store spent fuel from the reactor.

The reactor had used HEU fuel but has used LEU since the early 1990s. Iran has recently provided additional cooperation relevant to this issue, ElBaradei informed the IAEA board Nov. 23. Tehran told the agency that it will allow agency inspectors to take additional environmental samples from equipment located at a “technical university.” The IAEA last collected such samples in January and subsequently discovered that they contained HEU particles. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

Iran has also “agreed to provide” the IAEA with access to the “operating records” of its pilot enrichment facility, ElBaradei said. Tehran has dragged its feet on supplying this information for several months, according to his report.

According to ElBaradei, the agency also is continuing its investigation of Iran’s past undeclared plutonium-separation experiments. Iran, however, has not “provided sufficient clarification” of these issues and has told the agency that “no other relevant information is available,” he reported.

Most recently, the IAEA detected plutonium in the environmental samples taken from the containers found at the Karaj facility, according to ElBaradei’s report. The agency is assessing a Nov. 13 response from Iran.

The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization issued a statement two days later indicating that the plutonium particles originated from spent fuel from the research reactor.

The plutonium experiments have caused concern because Iran is building a nuclear reactor moderated by heavy water. Such reactors can produce weapons-grade plutonium, which is also used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Although the IAEA has found evidence that Tehran was interested in reprocessing spent reactor fuel, Iran has said that it will not do so.

Security Council Deadlocks on Iran

Paul Kerr

The UN Security Council’s five permanent members remained deadlocked in November on a resolution that would address Iran’s continued refusal to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors sent an additional signal of concern about an Iranian nuclear reactor project that could potentially produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

A Nov. 14 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said that Iran has not yet complied with Security Council Resolution 1696, which called on Tehran to suspend its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program by Aug. 31. Rather, Iran has expanded its enrichment program, ElBaradei reported.

The permanent Security Council members, along with Germany, also had required Iran to suspend the program as a precondition for beginning negotiations on a package of incentives they offered Tehran in June. The package is designed to persuade Iran to give up enrichment but leaves open the possibility that Tehran could eventually have such a program. (See ACT, October 2006.)

Iran claims that it intends to produce low-enriched uranium to be used as fuel in nuclear reactors. But many suspect that Tehran will use its enrichment-related facilities or the expertise gained from operating them to produce highly enriched uranium, which can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

Resolution 1696 requires Iran to take other steps to demonstrate that its enrichment program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, such as fully cooperating with the IAEA investigation of its nuclear programs. (See ACT, September 2006.) Tehran has also not complied with this provision, ElBaradei reported.

Security Council Discussions Continue

In Resolution 1696, the council had expressed its intention to adopt “appropriate measures” under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, Article 41, if Iran did not comply with its demands. Article 41 describes measures short of military force that can be employed “to give effect” to council decisions.

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom reacted to Iran’s continued noncompliance by drafting a resolution in late October that would impose sanctions on Tehran. That draft includes a series of measures apparently designed to constrain Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. (See ACT, November 2006.)

In early November, Russia submitted a number of changes to the draft. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said that his country’s changes make the European draft “quite a bit shorter,” Reuters reported Nov. 3. Moscow has been that draft’s most vocal public critic, but Beijing also has voiced objections.

Both a European diplomat and a Department of State official told Arms Control Today Nov. 27 that Russia and other council members subsequently have only made limited progress in resolving their differences regarding the scope of a resolution.

According to press reports and statements from U.S. and Russian officials, Moscow objects to such provisions as a near ban on travel for officials associated with Iran’s nuclear programs, as well as potential restrictions on Russian supplies of fuel for a nuclear power reactor that Moscow is constructing near the Iranian city of Bushehr. Russia has agreed to supply fuel for the reactor and take back the spent fuel. (See ACT, November 2006.)

Moscow also wants to narrow the resolution’s provisions that would restrict trade in goods potentially related to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russian officials have argued that a resolution should seek to moderate Iran’s behavior rather than punish Tehran. Moscow also has expressed concern that punitive measures could induce Iran to cease its cooperation with the IAEA altogether.

Iran has already cut back on its cooperation by halting in February its implementation of an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. (See ACT, March 2006.) Such agreements allow the agency to monitor the declared civilian nuclear activities of states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to ensure that they are not diverted to military purposes. Additional protocols augment the IAEA’s authority to investigate possible undeclared nuclear activities.

Although the United States supports the European draft, Washington has reportedly continued to push for stronger action against Tehran.

Speaking to reporters Nov. 15, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley characterized differences between Washington and Moscow as “largely tactical considerations.” But John Bolton, the U.S. permanent representative to the UN, was more blunt in a FOX News interview the same day, claiming that Russia’s stance stems from its commercial ties with Iran.

By contrast, the European diplomat said that Russia’s motives are not yet known and that the United States and European council members are trying to “get to the bottom” of Moscow’s objections.

Russia may not agree to the sanctions at all, he said, adding that, in any case, Moscow “does not appear to be in any hurry.”

Reactor Aid Rejected

With action stalled in New York, the IAEA board took a modest action against Iran’s nuclear program during a Nov. 23-24 meeting in Vienna. The board declined to approve an Iranian request to provide technical assistance for a heavy-water reactor that Tehran is constructing at Arak. Weapons-grade plutonium can be obtained far more easily by reprocessing the spent reactor fuel from heavy-water reactors than from light-water reactors, such as the one being built near Bushehr.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the IAEA Ambassador Gregory Schulte said in a Nov. 13 speech that the completed reactor would be capable of producing enough plutonium for about two nuclear weapons per year.

In a Nov. 22 speech to the IAEA Technical Committee, Iranian Permanent Representative to the IAEA Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh reiterated that the reactor is intended to produce medical isotopes and argued that a decision to deny assistance would be motivated by politics. Iran is requesting “technical recommendations” regarding nuclear safety rather than reactor construction, he added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Nov. 23 that Iran will continue work on the reactor regardless of the IAEA’s decision, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iran has said that it will not engage in reprocessing, and ElBaradei reported that there “are no indications” of such activities in the country.

A State Department official confirmed press reports that the board did not vote on the matter but agreed simply to remove the request from a list of other technical assistance requests that were granted that day. ElBaradei told reporters Nov. 23 that the board might reconsider its decision at some point in the future.

Senate Passes U.S.-Indian Nuclear Trade Bill

Wade Boese

The Senate Nov. 16 overwhelmingly approved a bill to facilitate expanded civil nuclear trade with India. The House earlier this year passed similar legislation. The two congressional chambers hope to negotiate a compromise measure for President George W. Bush to sign before the end of the year.

The Senate bill passed 85-12, bolstered by support from current Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and his expected successor, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.). No Republicans dissented on the measure, which Lugar hailed as advancing the president’s “most important strategic diplomatic initiative.”

The measure essentially exempts India from legislation Congress passed three decades ago that virtually ended nuclear commerce with the South Asian state. Lawmakers enacted the earlier legislation after India in 1974 conducted a nuclear test using material produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor using U.S.-origin heavy water designated for peaceful purposes. In July 2005, Bush promised Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he would push lawmakers to resuscitate nuclear trade between the two countries if India divided its nuclear complex into civilian and military sectors. (See ACT, September 2005. ) New Delhi unveiled its separation plan last March, classifying 14 of 22 existing and under construction power reactors as civilian. (See ACT, April 2006. )

In the day-long debate, proponents of enhanced trade put less emphasis on the virtues of nuclear cooperation per se than the importance of forging closer ties with a rising, democratic Asian power. For example, Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said India could serve as a counterweight to China. “As China expands its economic power and military strength, U.S. nuclear cooperation with India can help to even the international keel,” he said.

Advocates also contended nuclear commerce with India would help power India’s growing economy, profit U.S. industry, and provide India with more environmentally friendly energy. They also argued implementation of Bush’s initiative would give India a greater stake in global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

Detractors disputed these claims. They also warned the current plan would lead to more nuclear weapons and undermine worldwide nuclear control rules. “This agreement means we are signing up to have more nuclear weapons produced on this earth,” Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) stated.

In negotiations on the Bush-Singh pact, New Delhi rejected Washington’s request that India cease producing fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for weapons. Indian leaders maintain they are not ready to cap or constrain their nuclear weapons program.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) criticized the deal as it would provide “assistance to India without any restraint or limitation on its existing weapons program.” He argued it conflicted with a “fundamental tenet” of U.S. policy: countries seeking civil nuclear commerce should abandon or forswear nuclear weapons. This policy is also a core element of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which India has never signed.

Bingaman proposed an amendment requiring New Delhi to make progress toward checking the growth of its arsenal before receiving U.S. nuclear exports. His two-step approach would have permitted nuclear equipment and technology to flow to India if it was “taking specific steps” to conclude a treaty outlawing fissile material production for weapons, while the supply of nuclear material would have hinged on New Delhi halting such production.

Lugar conceded “an Indian commitment to abandon its nuclear weapons program would have been optimal,” but he characterized Bingaman’s proposal as a “killer condition.” India, Lugar contended, would construe the amendment as “moving the goalposts and an unacceptable renegotiation of the deal.” Senators sided 73-26 with Lugar.

Critics also voiced concern that increased U.S. nuclear exports to India would free up resources New Delhi now dedicates to energy for use in weapons production. They warned that such a development would call into question the U.S. NPT obligation “not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce” non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire nuclear arms. Despite having nuclear weapons, India is considered a non-nuclear-weapon state under the accord.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) proposed prohibiting all nuclear trade with India unless the president certified that such transactions would not “contribute directly or indirectly” to India’s nuclear weapons program. His amendment also would have required the president to secure assurances from New Delhi that it would not use fuel imports for its civilian sector to facilitate increased output on the military side. It was defeated 71-25.

Although Biden helped spearhead the opposition to Feingold‘s amendment, he acknowledged the thrust behind it. “I hope especially that India will not use its peaceful nuclear cooperation to free up domestic uranium for increased production of nuclear weapons,” he said. Absent an outside provocation, such an increase would be a “gross abuse of the world’s trust,” Biden declared.

Senators reaffirmed during the debate that an Indian nuclear test or transfer of civilian nuclear imports to its military sector would be a clear breach of the U.S.-Indian pact and result in its termination. Lugar said that, in the event of a test, the United States “shall have the right to request the return of supplies.”

Nonetheless, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) indicated that India would be able to turn elsewhere after the deal was approved. “Once the door to cooperation is opened to India, it may be difficult to get other countries to agree to shut it again,” he observed. Indeed, France and Russia are already lining up as potential suppliers, and China and India issued a joint statement Nov. 21 agreeing “to promote cooperation in the field of nuclear energy.”

India’s ties with Iran drew some of the greatest scrutiny from lawmakers. Indian leaders have said they oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, but New Delhi also stated last year that the Iranian nuclear program did not pose a threat to international security. Bush administration officials have repeatedly portrayed India as playing a helpful role on Iran.

Senators rejected 59-38 an amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) requiring a suspension of Indian military-to-military relations with Iran before receiving U.S. nuclear imports. But they adopted by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) conditioning future nuclear commerce on a presidential determination that New Delhi was “fully and actively participating” in U.S. and international efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Bush welcomed Senate passage of the legislation and said he looked forward to signing a final bill soon. Congress reconvenes Dec. 4 and will have to reconcile the recent Senate bill with the July 26 House version. (See ACT, September 2006. )

It remains to be seen whether a final product will retain some Senate provisions that India has criticized. New Delhi has been particularly critical of two. One calls for additional measures to verify that U.S. exports stay in India’s civil sector. The other prohibits exports of uranium-enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, and heavy-water technologies because they can be used to produce nuclear bombs as well as energy.

India is taking a wait-and-see approach. Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Indian parliamentarians Nov. 23 that “it would be premature to predict the eventual outcome of this process or to comment on the matter [until] we have seen the legislation in its final form.” He added, “[T]here is no question of accepting any additional requirements beyond those” in the original Bush-Singh statement and the separation plan.

The Senate bill includes a measure unrelated to India that could be a source of contention for House members. It would implement under U.S. law an additional protocol to a U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In March 2004, the Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the protocol itself. Although largely symbolic, the protocol notionally gives the agency greater authority to conduct activities inside the United States. The House has not yet considered such implementing legislation, so that chamber would have to approve it as part of the final legislation that emerges from the House-Senate conference committee for the instrument to take effect.

Even if Congress approves a final bill and Bush signs it into law before the end of the current congressional session, it would still be some time before expanded U.S.-Indian nuclear trade could commence. The two governments first must complete negotiations on a formal bilateral nuclear cooperation accord, which then must be approved by Congress. In addition, India and the IAEA must reach a safeguards agreement specifying what types of oversight measures will be placed on Indian civil nuclear facilities. Finally, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group would need to exempt India from the voluntary group’s nuclear supply restrictions. (See ACT, November 2006. )

The Senate Nov. 16 overwhelmingly approved a bill to facilitate expanded civil nuclear trade with India. The House earlier this year passed similar legislation...

U.S. Maintains Perch Atop Rising Arms Market


Wade Boese

Russia and France last year eclipsed the United States in arms sales to developing countries, but Washington still led in total global weapons deals, according to a recent report to Congress.

The United States has ranked as the world’s most prolific arms seller since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the nearly simultaneous triumph of U.S. arms over Soviet weapons in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But figures in the Oct. 23 report Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1998-2005 indicate Washington faces renewed competition, particularly in sales to developing countries.

The annual report by Congressional Research Service analyst Richard Grimmett classifies all countries as developing except Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, the United States, and all European states.

Last year marked the first time in the eight-year period covered by the report that the United States did not conclude the highest value of arms agreements with developing countries. The United States finalized nearly $6.2 billion in such sales, but France tallied $6.3 billion and Russia posted $7 billion.

Still, the United States signed $12.7 billion in total arms agreements in 2005, surpassing every other supplier in worldwide weapons deals. In comparison, France’s grand total was $7.9 billion and Russia trailed with $7.4 billion.

Although annual U.S. arms sales have remained relatively level over the past several years, the U.S. share of global deals has varied depending on fluctuations in the overall market. For example, in inflation-adjusted dollars, U.S. arms agreements in 2003 totaled $15.5 billion and accounted for one-half of the $29 billion in worldwide sales, while the U.S. sum last year made up just more than one-quarter of the global total of $44 billion.

The recent global upsurge stems from increased sales by China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. French agreements last year exceeded those from 2004 by $5.7 billion. Russia showed a smaller gain of $1.8 billion, while China tripled its 2004 sales total to $2.1 billion.

Although the United Kingdom’s $2.8 billion in agreements last year marked a $3.8 billion decline from 2004, the 2005 total still ranked as London’s second-highest sum in the past eight years. A $1.8 billion agreement to sell 66 Hawk advanced jet trainers to India played a big part in the abnormally high 2004 British total.

India was the leading developing-country arms buyer in 2005 with $5.4 billion in agreements. Those included contracts for six French Scorpene attack submarines worth $3.5 billion and roughly a billion dollars in Russian missile and rockets.

The United States traditionally has not been a major arms seller to India, but Washington is seeking to change that by offering New Delhi combat aircraft. (See ACT, May 2005. ) Grimmett told Arms Control Today Nov. 16 that Indian leaders appear to be “seriously thinking” about the proposal.

Even if Washington fails to lure New Delhi away from Moscow and Paris, the United States is unlikely to be supplanted as the globe’s top arms marketer because of its large stable of customers. Grimmett noted in his report that U.S. clients include the developing countries “most able to afford major new weapons purchases.”

Seven of the top 10 developing arms buyers since 1998— Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates—are dedicated U.S. customers or made major past purchases of U.S. arms. China, India, and South Africa are the other three.

The $107 billion in global weapons deals signed by the United States since 1998—more than double that of second-place Russia’s $45.6 billion in agreements over the same span—will help ensure that steady business flows to U.S. arms manufacturers. “The fact that the U.S. has such a wide base of arms equipment clients globally means that it still will be able to conclude a notable number of agreements annually to provide support, upgrades, and ordnance” for previously sold weapons, Grimmett wrote.

Russia is working to improve its post-sales support to attract new customers. It has also sought to expand arms sales through counter-trade arrangements, co-production agreements, and debt forgiveness. Algeria and Syria are recent beneficiaries of the latter practice.

Although arms orders are up for the Kremlin, Grimmett assessed that its efforts to woo new buyers has “met with mixed results.” Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yemen have all recently acquired Russian arms, but China and India still account for a substantial portion of Moscow’s arms sales.

Russia’s long-term ability to retain its past customers, let alone add new ones, is uncertain because “the Russians have not sunk a lot of money into research and development,” Grimmett said Nov. 16. As a result, Russian arms manufacturers risk not keeping pace technologically with Western rivals and losing potential customers, particularly richer states.

The relative inferiority of Chinese weapons has relegated most of Beijing’s sales to poorer countries in Africa and Asia that cannot afford more advanced and expensive Western arms. The report suggests that future Chinese sales will be predominantly small arms and light weapons rather than major conventional arms, such as battle tanks or combat aircraft.

A key exception could be missiles and missile technologies, which the United States frequently criticizes or sanctions China for reportedly exporting. “ China can present an obstacle to efforts to stem proliferation of advanced missile systems to some areas of the developing world where political and military tensions are significant,” the report states. Beijing’s alleged missile transfers have stifled its bid to join the voluntary 34-member Missile Technology Control Regime. (See ACT, November 2006. )

Compared to their Western counterparts, Chinese arms exports, particularly of small arms and light weapons, do not generate significant revenue. The motivation underlying Beijing’s sales, according to Grimmett, appears to be to extend Chinese political influence and gain access to natural resources, particularly oil.

In this respect, the report suggests that China might be different from some other arms suppliers. “Where before the principal motivation for arms sales by foreign suppliers might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much on economic considerations as those of foreign or national security policy,” Grimmett wrote.

Beijing also differs from other major arms exporters in that it is also a top arms importer. Buying primarily from Russia, China has acquired $14.3 billion in foreign arms since 1998. This amount is second only to Saudi Arabia’s receipt of $50 billion in arms deliveries. (These two sums are not adjusted for inflation.)

Nonetheless, neither Beijing’s nor Riyadh’s arms appetite appears sated. Aside from India, no other developing countries signed up for more new arms agreements in 2005 than Saudi Arabia ($3.4 billion) and China ($2.8 billion).

This trio of top buyers seems motivated and positioned to continue making major foreign arms purchases, although the report observes that arms sales trends can change quickly based on economic factors and national threat assessments. Grimmett stated, “A significant increase in the total value of arms agreements in one or two years is not necessarily predictive of the immediate years to come.”

Anything but Conventional

Daryl G. Kimball

What is the most serious weapons-related security threat? The answer depends on who you are and where you live. For many Westerners, the biggest worry may be catastrophic nuclear terrorism. But for millions of people in conflict-ridden developing regions, the greatest threat emanates from the free flow of and trade in conventional weapons. With global arms sales soaring to more than $44 billion in 2005 and hundreds of thousands of people dying annually from weapons and war, tough new controls on international arms sales are urgently needed.

U.S. and global leaders recognize the high-consequence dangers posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. As a result, they have established a patchwork system of legally binding treaties restricting the possession, proliferation, and use of “unconventional” weapons. However, there is no international treaty regulating the export of conventional arms, which produce more misery and carnage on a day-to-day basis.

During the Cold War, weapons sales were primarily used by Washington and Moscow to win friends and fight proxy wars. Since then, the global arms market has persisted but is driven more and more by profit and interest in sustaining domestic armaments industries.

Partly as a result, countries have sought but been unable to achieve binding restrictions on the global arms trade. After the 1990 Persian Gulf War, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States initiated talks on regulating weapons transfers. The talks limped along until September 1992, when a U.S. decision to sell 150 F-16 fighter aircraft to China’s rival, Taiwan, halted the effort.

Later, in the mid-1990s, a bipartisan congressional coalition sought and failed to establish tougher criteria for U.S. arms sales. The Clinton administration, which relaxed nearly two decades of restrictions on advanced arms sales to Latin America, strongly opposed the adoption of any new standards. A 2001 UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons foundered because the Bush administration opposed provisions affecting civilian gun ownership or arms transfers to nonstate actors.

The latest geostrategic rationale for many U.S. sales is the so-called war on terror. For instance, U.S. officials claim that the recent sale to Pakistan of F-16 jets with air-to-air missiles will help in the fight against al Qaeda. In reality, they are for fighting India, and they create a market for selling similar U.S. fighters to India.

The result is a robust global arms bazaar led, in order, by the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China. Sixty-eight percent ($30 billion) of all weapons sales last year were with developing nations, many of which have subpar records on human rights and democracy. Last year, the United States alone signed deals worth $6.2 billion with states such as Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates for attack helicopters, missiles, aircraft, and other weapons.

Is the arms trade a cause or a symptom of global conflicts? It is both. As outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently put it, “Arms buildups can give rise to threats leading to conflict, and political conflicts can motivate the acquisition of arms. Efforts are needed both to reduce arms and to reduce conflict.”

In particular, the burgeoning trade in small arms and light weapons, including rifles, machine guns, and mortars, helps increase the level of violence of civil conflicts in many countries, from Angola to Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the Darfur region of Sudan.

In response to this unacceptable situation, one major supplier state, the United Kingdom helped spearhead and win UN support for a process that could eventually lead to a new global arms trade treaty. In October, the United Nations’ First Committee endorsed a resolution that calls for exploring common standards for the import, export, and transfer of conventional weapons. Multilateral negotiations could begin in two years. The goal is not to outlaw arms sales but to require suppliers to operate in a more transparent, responsible, and accountable manner.

The resolution won 139 votes, while 24 states, including Russia and China, abstained. The United States was the only state to oppose it. U.S. officials complain that the effort will produce more meetings and less action and lead to a lowest-common-denominator set of standards. Yet, to paraphrase Churchill, what is wrong with more jaw-jaw if it means less war-war?

Rather than impeding the initiative, the United States should be out front pulling. U.S. diplomats should listen to their British counterparts who point out that key suppliers can and should work together to ensure that the treaty compels states to adopt stronger, not weaker, arms transfer controls.

As the world’s leading arms supplier, the United States has a special responsibility and a clear self-interest in establishing tougher, binding standards on conventional arms transfers. Today, most arms sales have little or nothing to do with self-defense and the arms being sold only help fuel conflicts and tensions in unstable areas, undermining prospects for peace and opportunities for the less fortunate. We can no longer afford to ignore the long-term cost to human security. The time to act is now.

What is the most serious weapons-related security threat? The answer depends on who you are and where you live. For many Westerners, the biggest worry may be catastrophic nuclear terrorism. But for millions of people in conflict-ridden developing regions, the greatest threat emanates from the free flow of and trade in conventional weapons. With global arms sales soaring to more than $44 billion in 2005 and hundreds of thousands of people dying annually from weapons and war, tough new controls on international arms sales are urgently needed.

U.S. and global leaders recognize the high-consequence dangers posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. As a result, they have established a patchwork system of legally binding treaties restricting the possession, proliferation, and use of “unconventional” weapons. However, there is no international treaty regulating the export of conventional arms, which produce more misery and carnage on a day-to-day basis. (Continue)

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