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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
September 2007
Edition Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Cover Image: 

Arms Trade Dips But Still Brisk in 2006

Wade Boese

Despite reporting to the United Nations a collective decline in their global arms transfers in 2006, arms suppliers posted the third-highest tally for major conventional weapons exports in 15 years. Arms buyers and sellers also volunteered more information than in past years on their small arms and light weapons trade.

Seeking to shed greater light on worldwide weapons transactions with the goal of curbing dangerous arms acquisitions and buildups, governments in 1991 approved creation of a voluntary UN Register of Conventional Arms. The measure calls on countries to account annually by May 31 for their previous year’s exports and imports of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile systems. Governments may also detail their complete holdings and domestic procurement of those weapons.

The annual reports tend to trickle in, and by mid-August, 93 countries had filed submissions on their 2006 arms trade. Typically, about 120 countries will report each year. A significant portion of these states do not actually export or import listed arms but instead file “nil” reports indicating no transactions. Fifty-two governments have made such reports covering last year.

Most major arms exporters regularly participate in the register, providing a general accounting of the global arms market, and this year is no different. Thirty countries have reported exports totaling almost 10,500 weapons. This sum is shy of the 2005 mark of nearly 12,000 exports but exceeds all other previous years’ totals except for that of 1992.

Two key arms exporters, China and France, have yet to report. China has not participated since 1997 to protest the U.S. reporting on its arms deliveries to Taiwan. But Beijing is expected to submit a report this year after Washington agreed last summer to exclude from future submissions its arms shipments to Taipei. (See ACT, October 2006. ) China perceived the past reporting as conveying legitimacy to Taiwan, which Beijing insists should be under its rule.

Among the countries that have filed reports, Turkey topped all exporters in volume by delivering 3,040 122-millimeter rockets to the United Arab Emirates. Istanbul’s other shipments comprised 453 ACVs to Iraq and one ACV to the United States.

Assessing the arms trade by individual weapons transfers, in which one rocket counts the same as one tank or one warship, can distort the scale, complexity, and nature of the business. Although Turkey’s total deliveries of 3,494 weapons easily surpassed that amassed by other countries, its actual stature in and influence on the global arms market remains less than that of the major powers, such as France, Russia, and the United States, as well as growing suppliers such as South Africa and Ukraine.

Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the United States has been the world’s pre-eminent arms seller, but Russia and a few others are giving Washington greater competition. In fact, Moscow reported the second-highest amount of arms transfers last year, at 1,374.

The Kremlin actually sent China more weapons—944 missiles and missile systems and two warships—than the United States delivered to all of its buyers. The U.S. export total of 934 weapons also trailed Ukraine’s sum of 1,118 exports, 590 of which were missiles and missile systems to China.

All told, the U.S. tally for 2006 was 970 weapons less than what it shipped in 2005 and ranked as the smallest U.S. tally ever. Yet, it is unlikely the start of a downward trend. Arms deals sometimes take years to be implemented, and the Pentagon notified Congress of nearly $37 billion in potential contracts with foreign buyers last year (in contrast to $12 billion in 2005), suggesting U.S. exports are likely to grow over the coming years.

In addition, the U.S. stable of 29 clients in 2006, not including Taiwan, was far larger than that of other leading suppliers. Ukraine had the second-most customers at 19, while South Africa named 12 countries as buyers and the United Kingdom identified 10.

Russia also has a much smaller client base than the United States. Aside from China, Russia shipped weapons to 10 states. This group included a few purchasers from which Western suppliers have recently shied away: Myanmar (100 artillery pieces), Sudan (four attack helicopters), and Venezuela (four combat aircraft and 14 attack helicopters).

India also has been a top Russian customer, and Moscow reported sending 149 missiles and missile systems last year to New Delhi. But there is rising competition for the Indian market. Poland supplied 156 ACVs to India in 2006, and the United States is currently offering India advanced fighter aircraft.

Russia reported no arms transfers to Iran even though there are rumors of increased arms dealings between the two states. Moscow has recently provided Tehran with Tor-M1 air defense weapons, but the register does not call for reporting on ground-to-air missiles unless they are of the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft variety known as man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS. Russia’s last register reference to Iran was three combat aircraft that Moscow exported to Tehran in 2003.

Similar to most states in the Middle East, Iran does not participate regularly in the register and has not filed a report since 1999. Arab states, except Jordan and Lebanon, generally boycott the instrument, claiming it provides a distorted view of regional security because Israel is not obligated to report on its widely acknowledged nuclear weapons stockpile.

Israel consistently reports to the register, claiming 130 exports and 23 imports in 2006. In a statement attached to its June submission, Israel recommended that the “first priority” in improving the register should be encouraging greater participation in “problematic regions such as the Middle East.”

Until this objective is achieved, Israel indicated it would not supply additional information on its military holdings and domestic procurement as some countries do. The statement further noted that Israel would not back existing proposals to increase reporting on additional types of weapons, such as bridge-laying vehicles, aerial refueling planes, and other “power projection capabilities and force multipliers.”

Israel also opted not to volunteer information on its small arms and light weapons trade as called for by a 2003 UN group of government experts. Israel is not in the minority in this case, however, as only about a half dozen governments actually reported on such transfers for 2005.

But another group of experts last year approved a standard reporting form for such arms, which include pistols, rifles, and machine guns, and reports dramatically increased this year. Twenty-seven states, ranging from Trinidad and Tobago to the United Kingdom, reported on their exports and imports of those types of weapons for 2006. Russia and the United States remained among the majority that did not.

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.

White House Nonproliferation Office Created

C. I. Bosley

On Aug. 3, President George W. Bush signed into law measures designed to strengthen U.S. nuclear nonproliferation programs. Congress had approved the measures in late July as part of broader legislation aimed at implementing recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. In 2004, that panel had proposed several initiatives to bolster efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (See ACT, September 2004 and March 2007. )

The law establishes a nine-member bipartisan congressional advisory panel, as well as the Office of United States Coordinator for WMD Proliferation and Terrorism. Democrats have long sought to establish this office, which will have a director confirmed by the Senate. The Bush administration had earlier opposed its creation, contending it only added another layer of bureaucracy.

In addition, the legislation calls on the president to “expand and strengthen” the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led global effort to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction and other dangerous cargo.

The act also removes several provisions, enacted in 1993, permitting the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to disburse funds for safeguarding and destroying weapons of mass destruction to former Soviet bloc countries only if the White House deems them “committed” to disarmament and upholding human rights and in compliance with international arms control agreements. Removing this clause eliminates a long-standing potential obstacle: In 2002, several CTR programs were threatened with a freeze when Bush declined to certify Russia’s compliance with this provision. (See ACT, May 2002. ) In 2002 and in December 2005, Congress granted the president the ability to waive this requirement on grounds of national security but still maintained the underlying stipulation. (See ACT, January/February 2006. )

However, a key section aimed at combating nuclear trafficking has been deleted from the bill. When the House first passed the legislation in January, it included measures to combat the illicit transfer of nuclear materials, particularly via clandestine networks such as that of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. In fashioning a final compromise, a House-Senate conference committee struck a provision for sanctioning entities involved in transferring nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology, which could produce material for nuclear weapons. The committee also eliminated a provision that would have made awarding of U.S. foreign aid contingent on a country’s nonproliferation record and absence of illicit nuclear trafficking. 

Capitol Hill sources told Arms Control Today that Senate negotiators declined to accept those House-passed provisions during negotiations on the final bill. These sources maintained that Senate objections had less to do with the content of the measures than ensuring quick approval of the measure.

U.S. Begins Trimming ICBM Fleet

Abby Doll

On July 12, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, home to the largest ICBM force in the United States, began deactivating the first of 50 Minuteman III missiles slated for retirement. The United States will retain 450 Minuteman IIIs in service, with the missiles spread evenly between Malmstrom and Air Force bases in North Dakota and Wyoming.

Since the United States retired the last MX, or Peacekeeper, ICBM in September 2005, the Minuteman III has been the sole ICBM in the U.S. inventory. In addition to these ICBMs, current U.S. plans envision that nuclear weapons will also be deployed on 14 ballistic submarines, 21 B-2 bombers, and 56 B-52 bombers by 2012.

The Department of Defense announced its decision for the 50-missile reduction in its 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. Because the reductions would affect 500 base personnel and reduce the funding allocated to Malmstrom, Montana legislators, in concert with other congressional delegations, delayed the action with an amendment requiring the Pentagon to justify the missile cuts first. (See ACT, May 2007. )  

A Pentagon report submitted March 18 defended the reduction, saying it would not weaken the U.S. strategic deterrent and would help to sustain the remaining missile force into 2030. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley then issued the final order for reduction on June 29.

The Air Force selected the 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom for deactivation because of its unique communications and launch control systems. Known as the “odd squad,” its decommissioning will trim $3 million from annual expenses and eliminate the need for additional training, personnel, and logistics support.

In a seven-and-a-half-hour procedure, two Malmstrom maintenance teams carefully removed both the missile’s booster stage and the re-entry vehicle containing the nuclear warheads. A security force squadron then escorted the components back to the nearby Malmstrom base. At some point, the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the Department of Energy that oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, will collect the warheads and transport them to an undisclosed location.

The teams will repeat this procedure for each remaining missile. If the process remains on schedule, Malmstrom will deactivate one missile a week and complete this first phase by August 2008.

In the second phase, crews will then remove all hazardous materials and reusable items from the launch-control facilities and missile silos. The Air Force will transfer useful missile components to Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, for storage, where they will be available for operational use or for flight-test programs at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  

Malmstrom plans to place the launch facilities under a “30 percent caretaker status” in which the Air Force will board up and lock all windows and doors and periodically inspect the sites for trespassing and vandalism. Unless directed, the sites will not be eliminated and will remain available for possible future use.

Although the Air Force Space Command has studied a future replacement or complement ICBM for the Minuteman III, its most recent analysis recommends retaining the existing Minuteman III arsenal through a series of gradual upgrades. These upgrades, including improvements on guidance components, command and control systems, and booster and re-entry vehicles, will begin in 2020.

Lawmakers Knock New Warhead Report

A recent Bush administration report intended to shore up congressional support for a flagging initiative to build a new nuclear warhead appears to have backfired. Key lawmakers blasted the report, and the program suffered another budget vote defeat. (Continue)

Wade Boese

A recent Bush administration report intended to shore up congressional support for a flagging initiative to build a new nuclear warhead appears to have backfired. Key lawmakers blasted the report, and the program suffered another budget vote defeat.

On July 24, the secretaries of defense, energy, and state sent a four-page report to Congress espousing what they see as the merits of the administration’s Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Submission of the report came approximately a month after lawmakers started carving up the program with their budget knives. (See ACT, July/August 2007. )

The trio of secretaries argued that the RRW program is crucial to ensuring a safer and smaller future nuclear arsenal. Driving the 2004 initiative is the supposition that the present practice of refurbishing existing warheads to survive longer is untenable because, in doing so, each warhead gradually moves away from its original blueprint, casting doubt on whether it will detonate with as much power as designed.

Moreover, advocates of the RRW program say it will produce simple-design warheads using less-hazardous materials. These warheads, supporters say, will require less effort to maintain and would come equipped with modern security devices to protect against misuse. They also contend that because RRWs will be easier to manufacture, the United States can reduce the thousands of spare warheads stored for emergencies or crises.

In their report, the secretaries emphasized the same themes, warning that “delaying progress on [the] RRW [program] will force the United States to maintain a large stockpile.” Approximately 10,000 warheads currently comprise the arsenal, but the administration in June 2004 called for nearly halving this force by 2012. (See ACT, July/August 2004. )

The secretaries further contended that RRW program delays will increase the risk of “having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons.” RRW designs, according to the administration, will be simple enough that they will not require proof testing. The United States suspended nuclear testing in 1992.

The report’s testing assertions riled several lawmakers. Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) reacted most harshly, writing an Aug. 1 letter denouncing the administration’s claim as “irresponsible.” They noted that Congress had received no evidence that existing warheads are “on a performance cliff” necessitating renewed testing.

The duo are the chairman and ranking member of the energy and water development appropriations subcommittee that in June led the House in zeroing out the administration’s fiscal year 2008 budget request of nearly $89 million for RRW research by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). A semi-autonomous agency under the Department of Energy, the NNSA manages the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

The Senate has yet to pass its version of the energy and water appropriations bill, but the panel with the lead on the measure cut $22 million of the NNSA request. In a July 9 report explaining its action, the committee noted it was “divided” on the RRW program but thought there needed to be more “vigorous analysis” of how the program fit into long-term U.S. nuclear plans. When the Senate passes a final bill, any differences between it and the House version will need to be worked out by lawmakers from each chamber.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), an RRW opponent, charged that the secretaries’ claims “do not stand up to scrutiny.” In an Aug. 1 speech introducing a bill for new nuclear policy and posture reviews, she noted that existing warheads have been annually certified as safe and reliable and recent studies showed that the core of most nuclear warheads had minimum life spans longer than previously thought—85 years or more. (See ACT, January/February 2007. )

Feinstein criticized the administration as “rushing” to develop RRW systems without a clear picture of future U.S. nuclear needs. She speculated that the report revealed “the administration is clearly getting nervous” about the program’s funding.

The House dealt another blow to the program’s prospects Aug. 5 when it passed a defense appropriations bill that denied the administration’s separate $30 million request for the Navy to conduct RRW research. The administration plan is for the first new warheads to replace some older W76 warheads on U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The Senate has not started work on its version of the defense bill.

Congress has previously approved research into the RRW concept, but it has not authorized development of an actual warhead. If lawmakers were to consent to development, the administration projects production of the inaugural RRW as early as 2012.

The July report noted the administration was preparing a more detailed report on the RRW program and the future U.S. nuclear stockpile. In their letter, Visclosky and Hobson recommended that the administration “move past empty rhetoric and enter into a constructive dialog with Congress on this vital issue.”

Small Arms Raising Concerns in Iraq

A pair of recent reports have raised concerns about the use and transfer of small arms in Iraq. A July 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Department of Defense could not fully account for at least 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi forces between June 2004 and September 2005. A previous report in 2006 estimated that the Pentagon could not account for 14,000 small arms but hinted that the numbers could be much higher. The new total heightened concerns about the potential use of missing U.S. weapons against U.S. forces by insurgents or sectarian militias. (See ACT, December 2006.) (Continue)

Jeff Abramson

A pair of recent reports have raised concerns about the use and transfer of small arms in Iraq. A July 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Department of Defense could not fully account for at least 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi forces between June 2004 and September 2005. A previous report in 2006 estimated that the Pentagon could not account for 14,000 small arms but hinted that the numbers could be much higher. The new total heightened concerns about the potential use of missing U.S. weapons against U.S. forces by insurgents or sectarian militias. (See ACT, December 2006.)

Shortly after release of the GAO report, the Associated Press reported that Italian officials investigating mafia activity had stopped an illegal arms shipment in February of more than 100,000 automatic weapons purportedly destined for Iraq’s Interior Ministry. The Iraqi middlemen involved in the deal claimed that it was proceeding with Iraqi and U.S. approval, but U.S. officials said Iraqi officials had not informed them of any such purchases.

Since 2003, the United States has provided about $19.2 billion to develop Iraqi security forces. The Defense Department recently requested an additional $2 billion to support these efforts. From June 2004 through September 2005, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq reports showed that the U.S.-led coalition issued about 185,000 AK-47 rifles and 170,000 pistols to Iraqi security forces. Of these weapons, GAO analysis indicated that property book records could not fully account for 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols. An additional 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets also could not be fully tracked.

Congress funds the train-and-equip program outside of traditional security assistance programs, reportedly to allow for greater flexibility in accounting and implementation. As of July 2007, the GAO found that no specific accountability procedures had been determined and that property books were incomplete and inefficiently managed on spreadsheets. Mark Kimmitt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, concurred with the report recommendations and wrote in an attached letter that “[s]teps are being taken to incorporate features fully into a proper accountability system.”

Security Council Ends UNMOVIC

On June 29, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution officially terminating the mandate of UN inspectors tasked with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament. The inspectors had not been able to visit Iraq since a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country in 2003. The United States and United Kingdom assured the council that Iraq had been disarmed. Others, however, warned of the dangers posed by the country’s residual weapons capabilities. (Continue)

Paul Kerr

On June 29, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution officially terminating the mandate of UN inspectors tasked with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament. The inspectors had not been able to visit Iraq since a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country in 2003. The United States and United Kingdom assured the council that Iraq had been disarmed. Others, however, warned of the dangers posed by the country’s residual weapons capabilities.

Resolution 1762, which was submitted by Washington and London, “decides to terminate immediately the mandates” of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iraq. The council adopted the resolution 14-0, with Russia abstaining.

The Security Council’s action ended a years-long debate regarding the inspectors’ fate. The United States and the United Kingdom had been pushing to end the inspectors’ mandate since shortly after the invasion, but other council members, particularly Russia, had opposed such a move. Moscow had argued that the inspectors should be given a more prominent role in assessing the fate of Iraq’s former weapons of mass destruction programs. (See ACT, June 2007.)

UN Security Council Resolution 687, which was adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, tasked the UN Special Commission and later UNMOVIC with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles exceeding ranges permitted by the United Nations. The IAEA had a comparable role for Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs.

The UN withdrew all of its inspectors in December 1998, but in September 2002, Iraq allowed them to return. UNMOVIC and the IAEA withdrew their inspectors in March 2003 just before the U.S.-led invasion. In May of that year, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1483, which stated the council’s “intention” to “revisit the mandates” of the inspectors.

A U.S.-British letter contained in an annex to Resolution 1762 states that “all appropriate steps have been taken to secure, remove, disable, render harmless, eliminate, or destroy” Iraq’s illicit weapons and related programs. The United States and United Kingdom pledged in a May 2003 letter to the Security Council that they would take these steps.

The more recent letter also referred to a 2005 report from Charles Duelfer, the special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which stated that Iraq had destroyed its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and had not restarted any of the related programs at the time of the invasion. The ISG was the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for prohibited Iraqi weapons.

Despite these assurances, both Russia and UNMOVIC expressed concern about possible dangers from Iraq’s past weapons programs. For example, Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, said that Russia abstained from voting for the resolution because UNMOVIC had not officially certified that Iraq was free of illicit weapons. Churkin also expressed concern about the fate of some Iraqi missiles that were not destroyed by the inspectors.

Similarly, Acting UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos warned about the uncertainty concerning Iraq’s past weapons programs in a June 29 briefing to the council. For example, he reiterated that more than 350 missile engines may remain in Iraq, which inspectors had not been able to destroy by the time of the invasion. Additionally, Perricos said, other weapons-related “capabilities…may still remain” in the country. These include “scientists and technicians” with weapons-related expertise, as well as “more than 7,900 dual-use items” that could be used in weapons programs.

Perricos also noted that, “[i]n the present security environment of Iraq, the possibility should not be discounted that nonstate actors may seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities.” A May UNMOVIC report raised similar concerns. (See ACT, July/August 2007.)

Although Resolution 1762 terminates the inspectors’ mandate, it also “[r]eaffirms Iraq’s disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions.” Past Security Council resolutions imposed restrictions on Iraq, such as a prohibition on missiles with ranges exceeding 150 kilometers. This resolution does not specifically name those restrictions, but they are still in place, a knowledgeable British official told Arms Control Today Aug. 1..

Previous Security Council resolutions provided for international monitoring to ensure that Baghdad would not reconstitute its illicit weapons programs. However, no comparable mechanism is now in place.

Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the United Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, indicated that the Security Council should "move forward and focus on ensuring" that Iraq carries out its obligations. He did not elaborate, however.

Currently, no international inspections regimes would apply to Iraqi missiles or biological weapons programs. However, Resolution 1762 does urge Iraq “to adhere to all applicable disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and related international agreements” and “invites” Baghdad to “report to the Security Council within one year” on its progress in this regard. In particular, the resolution mentions the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and an additional protocol to Iraq’s IAEA safeguards agreement.

IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, allow the agency to monitor non-nuclear-weapon states-parties’ declared nuclear activities. An additional protocol augments the agency’s ability to discover undeclared nuclear activities.

Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati, Iraq’s permanent representative to the UN, said June 29 that his government would provide the requested report. He reiterated that Baghdad has drafted a law regarding Iraq’s accession to the CWC and said that Baghdad is preparing to conclude an additional protocol.

The resolution also urges Iraq to report on its progress in implementing export controls for goods that have both civilian and military applications. Bayati said that Baghdad “would be committed” to such measures.

Resolution 1762 also requests the UN secretary-general to transfer to Iraq within three months funds from Iraqi oil revenue that had been set aside to cover UNMOVIC’s operating costs.

Going Forward

Resolution 1762 also requests the UN secretary-general “to take all necessary measures to provide for the appropriate disposition of UNMOVIC’s archives and other property.” In addition to electronic and paper documents, the commission has a variety of other items, such as missile engines, artillery shells, and bombs, UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan told Arms Control Today July 24.

The UN still has to decide on the degree of organization and openness of the commission’s future archives, Buchanan added. The archiving process must also maintain control over proliferation-sensitive information, he said, adding that most of the documents are “sprinkled in some way” with such information. The resolution states that the UN should keep “sensitive proliferation information or information provided in confidence by [UN] Member States…under strict control.”

The resolution also requests that the secretary-general “inform the Security Council within three months on steps taken” in the archiving process. Currently, 14 commission employees are left to perform the archiving tasks. These employees have contracts until Oct. 10, but the agreements could be extended, Buchanan said.

UNMOVIC Completes Compendium

On June 27, UNMOVIC issued its full compendium of “lessons learned” from the inspections. Comprised of more than 1,000 pages, it discusses the history of the UN inspections in Iraq as well as Baghdad’s illicit weapons programs. The compendium touts the inspectors’ successes and discusses lessons drawn from their mistakes.

UNMOVIC released a summary of the compendium in June 2006, but Perricos explained that the commission could not publish the full version without first removing “sensitive information” that could potentially aid other countries’ weapons programs.

Iran Allegedly Skirts Hezbollah Arms Ban

A year after the United Nations imposed a ban on arms sales to Hezbollah in the wake of its 2006 clash with Israel, the Shiite group in southern Lebanon is rearming. Iran and Syria have been implicated in the weapons buildup. (Continue)

C. I. Bosley

A year after the United Nations imposed a ban on arms sales to Hezbollah in the wake of its 2006 clash with Israel, the Shiite group in southern Lebanon is rearming. Iran and Syria have been implicated in the weapons buildup.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report June 28 on implementation of last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon, implements an arms embargo on Hezbollah, and requires disarmament of the group, which the United States and some other Western countries have designated a terrorist organization. The 34-day war began last year when Israel launched a July military offensive into southern Lebanon after Hezbollah militants there abducted two Israeli soldiers. (See ACT, October 2006. )

In his report, Ban furnished details of extensive armaments smuggling across the Syria-Lebanon border to Hezbollah, as well as to Palestinian militants. Israel asserts these transfers occur weekly. One such incident occurred June 5, when Lebanese troops in the Bekaa Valley seized a truckload of rockets and mortars destined for Hezbollah. Ban termed the clandestine weapons shipments “of great concern” and in “clear violation” of Resolution 1701.

In a separate report, a UN team of experts tasked with assessing the situation along the Lebanese border concluded June 26 that Lebanese border guards demonstrated a “worrying lack of performance.” The Security Council had commissioned this fact-finding mission, citing “mounting information” on breaches of the arms embargo.

Although the Lebanese army deployed last fall more than 8,000 troops to guard the 250-kilometer boundary with Syria, the UN team determined that Lebanese security forces lacked adequate resources to accomplish their objective. Moreover, the experts faulted border guards for instances of “corruption.” Still, in recent months Hezbollah has publicly protested the seizure of its munitions by Lebanese authorities.

The majority faction of the Lebanese parliament issued a January statement contending that “forces directly affiliated with Syrian intelligence” were transporting weapons into Lebanon. Syria’s government denies any involvement, but an Israeli official told Arms Control Today Aug. 3 that Hezbollah is “feverishly receiving major supplies” from Syria.

The Israeli government claims that Iran is the source of many of the weapons transferred through Syria to Hezbollah. During the 2006 war, ordnance with Farsi lettering was discovered in southern Lebanon. In May, Turkish officials interdicted two shipments of Iranian weapons en route to Damascus, confiscating 300 rockets hidden underneath construction materials.

Iran’s ties to Hezbollah are long-standing. The organization was co-founded by Ali Akbar Mohtashemi Pour, then Tehran’s ambassador to Damascus. Arms Control Today asked Iran’s Mission to the UN about these links, but it declined to comment for this story.

Should Israel’s allegations prove accurate, both Tehran and Damascus would be acting in violation not only of Resolution 1701 but also Resolution 1747. That resolution, implemented in response to Iran’s failure to address the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns over its nuclear program, prohibits all Iranian weapons exports as well as all trafficking in Iranian weapons by third parties.

Ban has urged Iran and Syria to do more to prevent the weapons smuggling. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also called for an increase in international pressure on those two countries.

Hezbollah contends it has replenished its stockpiles. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s head, asserted July 28 that his group again possesses “rockets that can hit any area” in what he termed “occupied Palestine,” meaning Israel. (See ACT, October 2006. )

Hezbollah’s Mohtashemi Pour maintained in an August interview with the Iranian newspaper Sharq that in recent months “the Islamic Republic has made available long-range Zelzal-2 missiles” to Hezbollah. Israel contends that it had destroyed all of Hezbollah’s Zelzal rockets during the first night of the 2006 war.

 

France, Libya Sign Nuclear Desalination Deal

On his state visit to Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation with long-time Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. The July 25 memorandum clears the way for French access to Libyan uranium and outlines an agreement on the eventual construction of a nuclear desalination plant to provide drinking water to the littoral desert country. (Continue)

Alex Bollfrass

On his state visit to Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation with long-time Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. The July 25 memorandum clears the way for French access to Libyan uranium and outlines an agreement on the eventual construction of a nuclear desalination plant to provide drinking water to the littoral desert country.

Press reports indicate that Areva, a French company, would be building the reactor for the facility. Although the desalination plant is not an immediate project, the memorandum might give an advantage to Areva in the bidding competition for 1,600 metric tons of yellowcake in Libyan possession. Several foreign nuclear energy entities have expressed interest in acquiring it. Although obligated to dispose of it after ending a clandestine nuclear weapons program, Libya’s plans for the yellowcake are not known.

Areva’s reactor would power the energy-intensive process of making salt water potable. According to the World Nuclear Association, an industry group, 30 million cubic meters of seawater are desalinated every day worldwide. About one-half of this amount is processed in the Middle East, mostly in hydrocarbon-powered plants.

The type of reactor to be used in the facility has yet to be decided. Sarkozy disputed a recent announcement that Libya was purchasing a European Pressurized Water Reactor from Areva.

Libya’s acquisition of the Milan anti-tank missile system and communication equipment was also announced during Sarkozy’s visit. French opposition leaders, among them Socialist leader François Hollande, have called for a parliamentary probe, suspecting that this sale was improperly linked to the release of six medics from Libyan captivity. The missile supplier maintains that the deal had been under discussion for 18 months.

Preparations for the French-Libyan nuclear cooperation agreement started in 2005. Its conclusion marks another milestone in Libya’s normalization of relations with the West. As recently as 2003, the North African country was working to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

The United Kingdom and the United States choreographed Libya’s return to the international mainstream, but France has most actively taken commercial advantage of the end of sanctions. Both the United Kingdom and Russia have pledged to cooperate with Libya on medical applications of nuclear technology.

Later this year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit Libya to further cooperation between Washington and Tripoli. According to Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack, Rice wishes to “mark the fact that this is a very changed relationship” since she first joined the Bush administration as national security adviser.

Israel, Neighbors Mull Nuclear Power Programs

Soon after the United States and India concluded negotiations on a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, Israeli officials announced in August that they too may be seeking U.S. help in furthering a civilian nuclear power program. The move comes at a time when Israel is pressuring the international community to clamp down on Iran’s nuclear program and as several other Middle Eastern states have declared their interest in civilian nuclear power programs. By Miles A. Pomper (Continue)

Miles A. Pomper

Soon after the United States and India concluded negotiations on a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, Israeli officials announced in August that they too may be seeking U.S. help in furthering a civilian nuclear power program. The move comes at a time when Israel is pressuring the international community to clamp down on Iran’s nuclear program and as several other Middle Eastern states have declared their interest in civilian nuclear power programs.

Officials at Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission and Ministry of National Infrastructure confirmed Aug. 1 that the government would be conducting a preliminary feasibility study on constructing a nuclear power reactor. If built, the 1,200-1,500-megawatt reactor at Shivta, in the Negev desert near Egypt, would be the first power reactor to be built in the country. It would meet as much as one-tenth of Israel’s electricity demand, according to the Aug. 16 edition of Nucleonics Week. The publication reported that Israel would be looking to a U.S. vendor to supply the reactor.

Israeli officials said they would subject any new reactor to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which aim to prevent the diversion of fissile material from peaceful uses to military ones. An Israeli research reactor at Soreq is already subject to facility-specific safeguards.

Nonetheless, Israel has a widely acknowledged nuclear weapons program using plutonium from an unsafeguarded reactor at Dimona in the Negev desert but has never publicly confirmed that it possesses a nuclear weapons arsenal. Like India and Pakistan, Israel has not signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which would bar it from possessing nuclear arms as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

If Israel moves forward with its plans, it could pose a dilemma for the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The voluntary group, in which nuclear suppliers seek to coordinate their export controls on nuclear transfers to non-nuclear-weapon states, must give its consent to rule changes to allow the pending U.S.-Indian deal to go forward. The United States has proposed a one-time India-specific exception to NSG rules prohibiting nuclear trade with non-nuclear-weapon states that do not subject all of their nuclear facilities to IAEA safeguards (see page 22 ).

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns reiterated that approach at a July 27 briefing on the U.S.-Indian deal. “I can assure you that the United States is not going to suggest a similar deal with any other country in the world,” Burns said. Current Pakistani and former senior Israeli officials have argued that cooperation with NPT outliers should not be decided on a country-by-country basis but by a set of common criteria.

Israel is not the only Middle Eastern state indicating an interest in advancing a civil nuclear power program. About a dozen nations in the region have declared their interest in such programs in the past year.

“The rules governing the nuclear issue have changed in the entire region,” Jordan’s King Abdullah II told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in January.

Some states have hinted at the need to develop a hedge against Iran’s nuclear program. Officials have also cited environmental and economic reasons, saying they need a source of power other than fossil fuels for peaceful purposes such as electricity generation and desalination.

Among the leaders are Egypt and Turkey. Officials in Egypt, which abandoned a previous nuclear program after the 1986 Chernobyl accident, have proposed building a 1,000-megawatt reactor on its Mediterranean coast in the next decade with plans for more. Turkey wants to build at least a pair of power reactors along its Mediterranean or Black Sea coasts within the next five to six years.

In addition, Libya, which abandoned a fledgling nuclear weapons program in December 2003, has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with France under which Paris would provide a reactor to power a Libyan desalination plant (see below). Algeria and Russia signed a nuclear development agreement in January 2007 as the North African nation, which has operated two research reactors for well more than a decade, aims to produce nuclear power. More controversially, Iran has also offered to share nuclear expertise with Algeria.

At the end of 2006, Saudi Arabia and the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates [UAE]) commissioned a year-long joint study on “the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed nuclear cooperation with Riyadh, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has agreed to help the UAE launch its own nuclear program.

Not to be left out, Jordan’s Abdullah discussed the possibility of purchasing Canadian reactors with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in July. In March, Jordanian Energy Minister Khaled Sharida said Amman wants to build its first reactor by 2015.

Morocco, Tunisia, and Syria have also indicated interest in peaceful nuclear power programs.

It is not clear how many of these proposals will come to fruition. Previous plans to build such plants in the region never went forward due to lack of financing or because of drops in the price of oil.

U.S. Plans Major Middle East Arms Sales

Citing threats from Iran, Syria, and various terrorist groups, the Bush administration is offering more than $60 billion in new weapons and military assistance to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other U.S. allies in the Middle East. (Continue)

David Houska

Citing threats from Iran, Syria, and various terrorist groups, the Bush administration is offering more than $60 billion in new weapons and military assistance to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the latest U.S. Middle East arms sales campaign July 30 just before she and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to the region. The specifics of the deals must still be negotiated, but the agreements are anticipated to be ready for formal congressional notification by mid-September.

Although Rice characterized the proposals as the continuation of long-standing U.S. policy, she said that the deals were intended to “help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns underscored the threat from Iran, saying that the future sales will “provide a deterrence against Iranian expansionism and Iranian aggression in the future.”

Under the proposed agreements, the United States will supply $3 billion and $1.3 billion of military aid to Israel and Egypt, respectively, each year for 10 years starting in fiscal year 2009, which will begin Oct. 1, 2008. The United States has provided military assistance to Israel and Egypt since the 1970s. The new proposals represent a 25 percent increase in aid to Israel and a continuation of Egyptian aid at present levels. Burns signed the agreement with Israel on Aug. 16.

U.S. negotiators also are discussing major new arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the other five countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates). The sales have been widely reported to be worth around $20 billion with the lion’s share going to Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency catalogues almost $17 billion in U.S. arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia since fiscal year 1998. An October 2006 Congressional Research Service report says that Saudi Arabia has imported more than $50 billion of weapons over that general period, making it far and away the largest arms importer in the developing world.

Some U.S. lawmakers quickly denounced the Saudi arms sale and have said that they will attempt to block any sale of “high technology armaments” presented for congressional approval. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) had the harshest words for the proposed sale, citing lack of Saudi support for U.S. efforts in Iraq and in fighting terrorism. In an Aug. 2 press release, he called the deal “mind-bogglingly bad policy because the [Saudis] at every turn have been uncooperative. The idea that we are going to reward the [Saudis] with precision weaponry is a stunningly bad idea.”

The 1976 Arms Export Control Act mandates that Congress be notified of all proposed arms sales above $14 million, with a higher threshold for sales to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and NATO members. By law, Congress has 30 days after notification to stop proposed sales by passing a resolution with a majority vote in each house. However, a two-thirds majority would effectively be required in each house to override an expected presidential veto.

Weiner and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) have announced that they intend to introduce such a resolution when Congress is formally notified of the sales. In an Aug. 2 letter to President George W. Bush, a bipartisan group of 114 representatives questioned whether Saudi Arabia was a true U.S. ally. The letter noted that Saudi King Abdullah recently called the U.S. mission in Iraq an “illegitimate foreign occupation” and that more than 50 percent of all suicide bombers in Iraq were Saudis.

Other members of Congress were more ambivalent. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) has said that he is seeking a complete briefing once the sales are finalized and will “see where we are then.” Lantos said in a July 28 statement that although he was glad that U.S. allies had seen the danger of Iran, “we particularly want to ensure that these arrangements include only defensive systems.” The Saudi deal reportedly would include satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (J-DAMs), fighter aircraft upgrades, and new warships.

Israel historically has opposed U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and members of the Israeli media and political right have expressed concern that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia could be used against Israel or even the United States. The critics fear that the Saudi government could be overthrown and the weapons fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. Iran’s air force currently flies F-14 fighters that were sold to the pro-American shah just before the 1979 revolution that brought the current regime to power.

Still, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave tacit approval to the proposal. He told the Israeli Cabinet that “[w]e understand the need of the United States to support the Arab moderate states and there is a need for a united front between the U.S. and us regarding Iran.” State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey told reporters July 30 that the United States will abide by its long-standing policy of ensuring Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over its neighbors.

The U.S. arms effort coincides with several other confirmed and rumored arms sales to the Middle East. France announced Aug. 2 a $405 million arms deal with Libya in which it would provide Libya with anti-tank missiles and radio equipment. Israeli media have reported that Iran is preparing to place a massive order with Russia for fighters and airborne tankers, but these unconfirmed stories have been categorically denied in Moscow and Tehran.

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