I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
July/August 2008
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
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Rethink European Missile Defense

Daryl G. Kimball

Within weeks of entering office, the next U.S. president will be confronted with dozens of pivotal choices. One of the most important will be whether to install untested missile defenses in eastern Europe to deal with an Iranian missile threat that does not exist.

The decision should be easy. Deployment should be deferred until the system is proven effective in realistic tests, allies are on board, and a new agreement with Russia delineates the size and capability of strategic missile defenses.

Yet, after years of partisan posturing on missiles and missile defense, few decisions on the subject have been rational or easy. For more than a decade, proponents of missile defense have hyped the threat of long-range missiles from the likes of Iran and North Korea and pushed for anti-missile systems that are not ready for prime time.

For instance, in 1998 an influential commission chaired by Donald Rumsfeld dismissed earlier intelligence findings and warned that any nation with a well-developed, Scud-based missile infrastructure would be able to flight-test a long-range missile within five years. A decade later, neither Iran nor North Korea have successfully flight-tested intermediate-range or long-range missiles.

Rumsfeld’s report spurred missile defense acolytes to argue that testing and development of strategic missile defenses should no longer be constrained by the U.S.-Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Over Russian objections, Bush withdrew from the treaty in 2002. Since then, the administration has poured roughly $8 billion a year into the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, conducted limited testing, and rushed a handful of ground-based strategic interceptors into Alaska and California ahead of the 2004 election.

In 2007 the administration announced plans for a new ground-based, long-range anti-missile system in Europe. It wants 10 interceptors in Poland and a new radar in the Czech Republic by around 2011. In response to sharp objections from Moscow, Bush has said the deployment is not intended to counter Russia and would be limited. Leaders in Moscow remain unconvinced, and Congress has withheld full funding until the interceptors can be proven to be effective and the host countries approve basing agreements.

Like Bush, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain enthusiastically supports missile defense as a way to guard against rogue-state “blackmail.” He has gone even further and asserted that missile defenses also serve “to hedge against potential threats from strategic competitors like Russia and China.” The presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, has voiced doubts about the effectiveness of strategic anti-missile systems and called for a greater emphasis on more capable short- and medium-range interceptors. Neither has addressed the European missile defense issue directly.

No matter who enters the White House, a course correction on the European component of missile defense policy is in order. If it is not already clear, the next president will soon realize that the case presented for the system simply does not stand up.

Although intelligence assessments suggest that Iran’s nuclear program requires urgent diplomatic action, it is not predicted to have a long-range missile capability until 2015 or later. Even if Iran were to acquire and threaten the United States or its allies with nuclear-armed missiles, such aggression could be deterred by other means.

The new president also will learn that strategic missile defenses cannot be relied on to protect in a real-world crisis. The new, two-stage interceptor for the European site has not yet been built, let alone tested. An October report from the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation recommends at least three flights tests, a process that could not even begin until 2009 and would take several years to complete.

Meanwhile, the Polish government is demanding that the United States pay for costly upgrades to Polish air- and short-range missile defenses to counter Russian targeting of the proposed anti-missile site. Although other NATO allies have agreed to discuss the U.S. missile defense proposal, many are skeptical and have not endorsed it.

An open-ended deployment made over Moscow’s objections would also seriously impede work with Russia on a range of other vitally important issues, including strategic arms reductions, the prevention of nuclear terrorism, and curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Instead of choosing this path, the next administration should take the time needed to reach a new agreement with Russia for missile defense cooperation and avoid renewed strategic conflict. The key will be to agree to firm limits on the number of strategic missile interceptors that might be deployed in eastern Europe and elsewhere, as well as to complete a long-delayed joint early-warning center to build confidence and avoid miscalculation.

After decades of spending, ambitious timetables, and overstated threat warnings, it is past time to restore reason to missile defense policy by deferring deployment of a new anti-missile site on Russia’s border that is unnecessary and imprudent.

Within weeks of entering office, the next U.S. president will be confronted with dozens of pivotal choices. One of the most important will be whether to install untested missile defenses in eastern Europe to deal with an Iranian missile threat that does not exist.

The decision should be easy. Deployment should be deferred until the system is proven effective in realistic tests, allies are on board, and a new agreement with Russia delineates the size and capability of strategic missile defenses. (Continue)

Interdiction Initiative Successes Assessed

Wade Boese

Commandos rappelling down ropes from a helicopter to a ship deck or navy forces boarding a vessel at sea are images often associated with a Bush administration initiative to intercept unconventional weapons or related cargo in transit. Actual interdictions tend to be less dramatic. Recently disclosed incidents involved export control and customs officials denying export licenses and transfers, as well as air traffic authorities refusing overflight rights to planes allegedly transporting suspicious goods.

U.S. officials detailed those interdictions as part of a Washington conference marking the five-year anniversary of the May 31, 2003, unveiling of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). (See ACT, July/August 2003 .) Initially comprised of 11 countries, the voluntary initiative has grown to more than 90 participants who have committed to intercept items of proliferation concern at sea, on land, and in the air before they reach their final destination.

Representatives of more than 80 countries attended the May 28-29 conference, the second day of which focused on expanding participation in the initiative. Officials from 21 nonparticipants, including China, India, and Pakistan, were present at the meeting. Those three countries, as well as others, have questioned the legality of interdictions and the initiative itself despite assurances from participants that all activities are consistent with international law. 

Assessing the PSI’s results has been difficult. Governments have been reticent to discuss specific interdictions publicly, claiming that to do so might imperil future operations by exposing intelligence sources and methods relied on to get useful information. In a June 6 briefing to nongovernmental groups, U.S. officials said even they are unaware of all PSI activities because participants keep some operations secret from each other.

Current and former U.S. officials periodically have issued vague claims of success. For instance, one U.S. official at the June briefing said there have been “several instances” in which suspect planes have been prevented from completing their flights due to governments refusing to let the aircraft fly over their territories.

In a May 28 op-ed in The Washington Times, Robert Joseph, a PSI architect and former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Brendan Melley, a former National Security Council official from 2001 to 2005, reported that “dozens of interdictions have taken place slowing nuclear and missile programs in Asia and the Middle East.”

The two former Bush administration officials implied a specific PSI triumph was the October 2003 confiscation of centrifuge technology bound for Libya aboard a ship, the BBC China. But foreign government officials familiar with that interdiction and John Wolf, the assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation at the time, have disputed that it was a PSI operation, asserting that the cargo seizure stemmed from activities preceding the initiative. (See ACT, July/August 2005. )

The discrepancy stems in part from the fact that the PSI, which participants describe as “an activity, not an organization,” is more of a call to action than a program with dedicated budgets, staff, and capabilities. A second U.S. government official at the June briefing noted, “[T]here are not any capabilities that are exclusively PSI.”

Instead, the initiative is based on encouraging countries to increase their cooperation and information sharing to counter proliferation. They also are supposed to make better use of and build on their pre-existing national capabilities and legal authorities to intercept suspicious or deadly cargo. As these capabilities expand, U.S. officials contend the channels through which proliferators can operate freely will shrink and their costs of doing business will increase.

Those of the opinion that the BBC China incident constitutes a PSI success seemingly classify all activities by participants since the initiative’s inception to halt questionable transactions as falling under the PSI. Indeed, a third U.S. official at the June briefing defined a PSI success as when “you stop anything from going to a proliferation destination.”

On the Washington conference’s second day, the U.S. government described five of those instances. Three of the cases involved missile- and nuclear-related cargo destined for Iran, while Syria was the intended recipient of missile-related goods in the other two examples. (See box.)

A trio of the interdictions entailed states stopping shipments that allegedly violated separate UN Security Council resolutions restricting certain missile and nuclear transfers to Iran or from North Korea. Another of the reported successes resulted from a government refusing an export license for a transfer because it contravened that state’s export controls. Given that those four transactions were inconsistent with national or international law, it is unknowable whether states would have worked together to halt them without the PSI.

In two of the cases, the exports in question never left the potential supplier’s territory, while the intercepted transfers in the other three incidents, including some U.S.-manufactured equipment, were returned to the state of origin. The third U.S. official at the June briefing pointed out that most of the goods in proliferation transactions are legal but recipients of concern pursue the items for arms programs through illegal methods, such as using front companies or fake manifests.

The first U.S. official added that “the end user is paramount” in identifying unacceptable trade and triggering action. Washington has been clear that it sees the PSI as a tool to impede trade involving Iran, North Korea, and Syria, but not U.S. allies and friends such as India and Pakistan, which developed covert nuclear procurement networks. (See ACT, December 2003 .) 

Despite the allure of interdictions, U.S. officials at the June briefing downplayed counting such operations as an accurate yardstick of the PSI’s value. They said the initiative’s worth is measured in what they claim are the growing individual and collective capabilities of participants to curb proliferation.

Examples frequently highlighted by U.S. officials are the eight bilateral shipboarding agreements that the United States has negotiated with other governments, Mongolia being the most recent in October 2007. The arrangements establish expedited procedures to allow searches of suspicious ships under those states’ legal authorities. U.S. officials say that 35 interdiction exercises, which have involved more than 70 countries, also demonstrate increasing capabilities.

Exercises and other PSI operational aspects are determined by the Operational Experts Group. The group is comprised of 20 states, including the United States and the other 10 original participants (Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom). It generally meets three to four times annually, and its next meeting will occur Sept. 24-26 in Paris.


Recently Claimed Proliferation Security Initiative Successes

As part of a May 29 briefing for foreign government officials attending a Proliferation Security Initiative conference in Washington, the U.S. government provided five examples of purported PSI interdictions. The Department of State later distributed that briefing paper June 17 to some nongovernmental entities, including Arms Control Today. Below are brief descriptions of the five incidents.

February 2005: The United States tipped off a European government that one of its national entities was preparing to ship coolers to Iran that could be used in that country’s heavy-water reactor program. Heavy-water reactors have served as a key source of plutonium in the nuclear bomb efforts of India, Israel, and Pakistan. The European government investigated the claim and denied an export license for the coolers in accordance with a national law controlling such exports to Iran.

November 2006: The transfer of chromium-nickel steel plates to Iran by an Asian company was stopped in a third country. The steel plates, which reportedly could be used in missile components, were returned to the original supplier country. The interdicting state acted in accordance with UN Security Resolution 1696, which calls on states to prevent transfers of items to Iran that could contribute to its ballistic missile programs.

February 2007: Unspecified sources alerted port authorities in an unidentified state to a shipment destined for Syria of U.S.-origin equipment that could be employed for testing ballistic missile components. Those authorities conducted an inspection, seized the equipment, and returned it to the United States. A foreign firm had served as the intermediary for the attempted Syrian purchase of eight vibration test systems and eight humidity chambers.

April 2007: A shipment of sodium perchlorate to Iran from an unspecified source was detoured to an Asian port, whose government then sent the shipment back to the country of origin. The sodium perchlorate, which can be used in making solid rocket propellant for ballistic missiles, was intended for an Iranian entity barred from receiving certain missile technologies by UN Security Council Resolution 1737.

June 2007: An unidentified country denied overflight rights to a Syrian plane scheduled to make a round-trip flight to North Korea. The denial stemmed from the United States sharing suspicions that the intended cargo was related to ballistic missiles. UN Security Council Resolution 1718 obligates countries to cooperate in preventing transfers of ballistic missiles and related technologies from North Korea. The Syrian flight did not occur.



Candidates Differ on Iran, Agree on Sanctions

Peter Crail

Over the past month, the issue of how the United States will address Iran’s nuclear program has become one of the centerpieces of the foreign policy debate between the two presumptive major-party presidential candidates. The candidates differ in particular on their perceptions of the usefulness of direct dialogue with Iran, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) indicating that he would drop U.S. preconditions for meeting with Iran and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declaring that such an approach would only strengthen the ruling regime in Tehran.

The Bush administration maintains that it will not hold discussions with Iran on the nuclear issue until Iran complies with UN Security Council demands to suspend its enrichment-related activities and halt the construction of its heavy-water reactor. The Security Council has adopted four resolutions reiterating these requirements.

Obama, however, has affirmed that he would be willing to engage in direct talks with Iran without these preconditions. During a Nov. 11, 2007, Meet the Press interview, Obama characterized such preconditions as meaning that “we won’t meet with people unless they’ve already agreed to the very things that we expect to be meeting with them about.”

He stated in a June 4 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that he would present Iran with a “clear choice” between cooperation or increased pressure and argued that, should Iran fail to cooperate, such a diplomatic overture would “strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on stronger sanctions in the Security Council.”

Obama has also suggested the possibility of a summit-level meeting with Iran but has cautioned that such a meeting may not involve Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He told reporters May 27 that there is no reason to meet with Ahmadinejad “before we know he [is] actually in power,” adding “he’s not the most powerful person in Iran.” Iran will hold its presidential elections in mid-2009. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the highest political authority in Iran.

On several occasions, McCain has criticized Obama’s willingness to hold direct talks with Iranian leaders without preconditions, suggesting that such an approach would only strengthen the regime in Tehran. In a June 2 speech to AIPAC, McCain claimed that a meeting between the U.S. president and the Iranian president or supreme leader would “harm Iranian moderates and dissidents” and grant the hard-line elements of the regime “the appearance of respectability.”

During a May 19 campaign speech, however, McCain stated that the United States should “communicate with Iran our concerns about their behavior” at an “appropriate” diplomatic level.

Public support appears to favor direct talks with Iran’s leadership. According to a May 19-21 Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans support holding direct talks with the president of Iran.

Aside from their split over the value of direct negotiations, the candidates hold markedly similar positions on ways in which the United States can increase pressure on Iran.

Each maintains that no options should be “taken off the table”—a reference to the potential use of military action—and stress the need for more robust multilateral sanctions against Iranian financial institutions and its energy sector. In particular, the candidates advocate going beyond Security Council sanctions to apply financial and political pressure on Iran.

McCain said June 2 that, should the Security Council “delay in [its] responsibility” to impose harsher sanctions against Tehran, Washington must lead “like-minded countries” to do so. Obama echoed this suggestion during his June 4 speech, stating that the United States should “find every avenue outside the United Nations to isolate the Iranian regime.”

Among the measures both candidates have cited as necessary to increase pressure on Iran are sanctions to limit Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum and encouraging a private divestment campaign modeled on the international divestment effort against the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s.

McCain and Obama have also supported legislation that would mandate U.S. sanctions on foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. firms that do business with Iran and that call for listing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

The IRGC is a military organization, comprised of about 150,000 individuals, that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile program and elements of its nuclear program. It also controls an array of commercial enterprises.

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Over the past month, the issue of how the United States will address Iran’s nuclear program has become one of the centerpieces of the foreign policy debate between the two presumptive major-party presidential candidates. The candidates differ in particular on their perceptions of the usefulness of direct dialogue with Iran, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) indicating that he would drop U.S. preconditions for meeting with Iran and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declaring that such an approach would only strengthen the ruling regime in Tehran. (Continue)

States Divest From Businesses Tied to Iran

Brian Radzinsky

Eleven U.S. states have adopted legislation to divest public pension funds from companies with financial ties to Iran’s petroleum, defense, and nuclear sectors in an attempt to persuade Iran to give up its uranium-enrichment program and alleged sponsorship of terrorism. Almost 20 more states are considering similar legislation to supplement existing federal and international sanctions.

This is the first time that state investments have been leveraged for nonproliferation goals. During the 1980s, anti-apartheid activists urged state and local authorities and some universities to divest holdings from companies invested in or doing business with South Africa. During the 1990s, humanitarian activists persuaded Massachusetts to divest from companies “doing business with” Burma (Myanmar). More recently, almost 30 states passed legislation to divest from companies with investments in or engaged in trade with Sudan. The Iran case is unique, however, because divestment legislation explicitly references Iran’s alleged sponsorship of terrorists and its uranium-enrichment program.

Since the 2003 discovery of Iran’s clandestine uranium-enrichment program, the UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions freezing the finances and limiting the travel of prominent members of the nuclear and ballistic missile programs (see page 39). Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear reactors and provide the explosive core for a nuclear weapon.

The effort by U.S. states to divest from Iran mirrors a larger change in the Bush administration’s approach to Iran. For its part, the U.S. government has maintained various sanctions on Iran since 1979. Recently, however, Washington has moved away from advocating sanctions against individuals and organizations and toward a strategy of financial isolation. The Department of the Treasury in 2007 barred Iran’s Bank Saderat, Bank Sepah, and Bank Melli from the U.S. financial system and cut off their ability to conduct transactions with U.S. banks through a third party. (See ACT, March 2007.) In March, the UN Security Council urged member states to “exercise vigilance” about the activities of these banks. (See ACT, April 2008.) Treasury officials have recently discussed sanctioning Iran’s central bank, which is said to have picked up some of the business that used to flow to sanctioned institutions.

Legal Challenges

State divestment efforts also face legal challenges. The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) in 2000 successfully sued Massachusetts over legislation to divest from Myanmar. In that case, NFTC v. Crosby, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Massachusetts’ decision hindered the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy effectively. The NFTC won another legal battle in a U.S. district court over an Illinois law mandating divestment from Sudan.

Lawmakers have taken steps to circumvent subsequent court challenges. Several bills pending at the federal level encourage and authorize state divestments. The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, introduced by Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) in the Senate and a bipartisan group of eight representatives in the House, would publish in the Federal Register the names of companies with $20 million or more invested in Iran’s energy sector and authorize individual states to adopt divestment legislation.

The bill also provides legal safe harbor for fund administrators who might oppose divestment on grounds that doing so would cause their funds to depreciate. To this end, the bill protects mutual fund managers from lawsuits and pension fund managers from charges of fiduciary responsibility. According to Missouri’s treasurer, the Missouri portfolio suffered minimal disruption following divestment and in some years outperformed the original fund.

Divesting From Terrorism

Most divestment legislation adopts the criteria laid out in the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act to identify significant investment in Iran. Formerly the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, it requires the president to sanction those foreign companies with investments of $20 million or more in Iran’s energy sector.

In that vein, legislation signed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and Michigan directs state pension administrators to divest from companies that meet this standard and companies with financial ties to Iranian “terrorist organizations” identified by the U.S. government. Also anathema are companies that facilitate Iran’s acquisition of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons technology or military equipment.

Missouri and New Jersey have adopted explicitly “terror-free” investment policies. Terror-free investing, part of a larger initiative endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Center for Security Policy, and a number of other groups, encourages U.S. states to divest from companies “reasonably known to be operating directly with the government or a government-controlled agency in U.S.-sanctioned nations, or that are engaged in the sponsorship of terrorism.” Known as the Divest Terror movement, proponents argue that investing in such blacklisted countries as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria poses not just a threat to national security, but to the health of the investments themselves.

Of these countries, Iran stands the most to lose from widespread divestment from its economy. Iran’s gross domestic product is greater than that of Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria combined—around $600 billion, according to most sources.

The movement has gained several prominent adherents, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). In a June 2 speech at AIPAC’s national convention, McCain called for a “worldwide divestment campaign” in order to pressure Iran’s “radical elite.”

The target of state divestments, both in practice and as a part of a broader strategy to pressure Iran financially, is to hurt companies with significant ties to Iran’s energy sector. Companies potentially affected by divestments include such European giants as Spain’s Repsol, France’s Alcatel and Total, and Royal Dutch Shell. Some states’ pension funds are too small to conceivably have an impact. On the other hand, California’s Public Employees and State Teachers Retirement Systems invest a combined $400 billion in U.S. and international companies. An estimated $2 billion of those funds are tied up in Iran’s oil sector.

Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department official in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and director of the Stein Counterterrorism Center at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, concedes that divestment alone will probably not force Iran to adhere to international demands. “The real issue is not divestment [by itself],” he says, “but the totality of the various [coercive] measures. Together they have a very good chance of forcing Iran to rethink its policies.”


Eleven U.S. states have adopted legislation to divest public pension funds from companies with financial ties to Iran’s petroleum, defense, and nuclear sectors in an attempt to persuade Iran to give up its uranium-enrichment program and alleged sponsorship of terrorism. Almost 20 more states are considering similar legislation to supplement existing federal and international sanctions. (Continue)

Iran Presented With Revamped Incentives

Peter Crail

On June 14, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany formally presented Iran with a revised proposal for comprehensive negotiations aimed at resolving concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The incentives package builds on an offer made by the six-country group in 2006 and includes a potential face-saving understanding that would allow talks to begin with Iran if it agreed to halt its controversial uranium-enrichment activities shortly thereafter. Overall, however, the proposal maintains the original offer’s basic framework of providing political and economic benefits to Iran in return for shutting down the country’s sensitive nuclear activities.

The six-country offer follows a vague Iranian proposal for a negotiated settlement delivered to the group in May. (See ACT, June 2008. )

Meanwhile, Iran has continued to rebuff international demands to halt its uranium-enrichment-related activities and the construction of its heavy-water reactor, missing a June 3 deadline established by Security Council Resolution 1803 to do so. (See ACT, April 2008. ) Not only has Iran proceeded with both activities, but, according to a May 26 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, Iran’s proficiency in running its uranium-enrichment program has increased substantially since last year.

A uranium-enrichment program can be used to enrich uranium to low levels for use in nuclear power reactors or high levels for use in nuclear weapons. A heavy-water reactor can produce plutonium, which also can be used for peaceful or military purposes.

Minor Changes but More Fanfare

The six countries—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—agreed in January to revise the 2006 offer as part of a compromise between the Western countries and China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow insisted on such a repackaging in return for their support for Resolution 1803, adopted in March. Resolution 1803 imposed a third round of sanctions on Iran. (See ACT, April 2008. )

The repackaging effort was primarily aimed at clarifying some of the provisions in the 2006 offer and demonstrating to the Iranian general public the benefits Iran would receive if Tehran complied with international demands. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters May 22 that the modified offer “will make clear that there are substantial benefits for the Iranian people” if Iran complies with its international obligations. Likewise, officials from some of the six countries explained to Arms Control Today in March that the revised proposal was geared toward selling the proposed incentives to the Iranian populace rather than providing further concessions to entice the regime in Tehran. (See ACT, April 2008. )

As part of this effort to raise the profile of the incentives package to the Iranian public, the political directors of the six-country group, with the exception of the United States, joined EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to present the offer to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki June 14. U.S. officials have indicated that Washington would not send a representative to Tehran unless Iran complied with its Security Council obligations. (See ACT, June 2008. )

Solana and representatives of the five countries included with the offer a letter signed by the foreign ministers of the six countries, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. European diplomats told Arms Control Today in June that there were difficulties in getting approval from the United States for Rice to sign the letter, as Washington was still uncomfortable with some of the terms included in the offer.

In their presentation of the negotiations proposal to Iran, Solana and the accompanying political directors sought to clarify how such negotiations would proceed, including an initial six-week period in which Iran committed not to expand its enrichment program while the six countries agreed not to pursue additional Security Council sanctions. Under this “freeze-for-freeze” process, Iran would only be required to suspend new enrichment activities right away while the parties discussed the logistical details of who would carry out the negotiations, what their schedule would be, and other parameters.

A British diplomat told Arms Control Today June 18 that although the time frame for this freeze is subject to some discussion, a clear time limit would need to be established in order for Iran to implement its suspension and to allow actual negotiations to proceed. The letter accompanying the proposal stated that “formal negotiations can start as soon as Iran’s enrichment-related and reprocessing activities are suspended.”

A number of experts, including IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, have promoted the prospect of such a freeze-for-freeze agreement since the Security Council first began to impose sanctions on Iran in December 2006. ElBaradei told reporters June 14, 2007, that because there was no need for Iran to expand its enrichment capacity, “it would be a good confidence-building measure if Iran has a self-imposed moratorium…on the number of centrifuges being built.”

European diplomats told Arms Control Today in June that there was always an implicit understanding that such preliminary negotiations would have to take place but that this was the first time that such terms were explicitly relayed to Iran. The diplomats also noted that the freeze-for-freeze proposal offered a face-saving way for Iran to accept the terms of the negotiations.

The repackaged letter outlined several areas of potential cooperation between some or all of the six countries and Iran, including in the fields of nuclear energy, regional security, civil aviation, economic infrastructure development, and humanitarian issues. Although many of the proposed avenues for cooperation were identical with the 2006 offer, the June package included a number of new provisions.

One potentially key new provision was a “reaffirmation of the obligations under the UN Charter to refrain...from the threat or use of force.” Although this language echoes an obligation that all UN members have agreed to follow, it is also suggestive of a security guarantee to Iran. A German diplomat told Arms Control Today June 19 that the language was a compromise largely between the United States, which felt that it could not offer a formal security guarantee to Iran, and Russia and China, which argued that such a guarantee would provide a major incentive for Iran to comply with international demands and negotiate over its nuclear program.

Indeed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters May 14 that the six countries should “give Iran security guarantees” as part of its revised proposal. Washington rejected such a proposition the same day, with White House Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe stating, “Security guarantees are not something we are looking at [at] the moment.”

The proposal also goes into more detail regarding some of the political and economic benefits Iran would receive. Such details include the development of Iran’s transportation infrastructure, improvements in Iran’s agricultural sector through “cooperation in modern technology,” and support for educational opportunities for Iranians in the areas of civil engineering, agriculture, and environmental science.

Iran provided mixed reactions to the six-country proposal. Iranian officials initially reiterated Tehran’s refusal to consider a proposal that requires Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities. Iranian government spokesperson Gholam Hossein Elham told a June 14 press conference that “if the package includes suspension, it is not debatable at all.”

Other officials appeared more receptive and indicated that Tehran was studying the offer. Mottaki explained to reporters June 19 that the package “is currently under consideration and, at the appropriate time, Tehran will give its reactions.”

Iran Moving Up Its Enrichment Learning Curve

In defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, Iran continues to expand the number of centrifuges at its commercial-scale enrichment plant at Natanz and improve its capability to operate them.

According to a May 26 IAEA report, Iran is currently operating a module of 3,000 centrifuges that are based on Pakistan’s P-1 centrifuge design. In addition, Iran has begun running an additional 328 centrifuges and has installed another 164 at a second module, which will also house a total of 3,000 machines.

Previous IAEA reports indicated that Iran was operating the centrifuges installed in its first module “well below [their] declared design capacity.” (See ACT, March 2008. ) Between February and December 2007, Iran fed about 1,670 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride into its centrifuges. Uranium hexafluoride is the feedstock used in gas centrifuges to produce enriched uranium.

In the five-month period between December 2007 and May 2008, however, Iran exceeded the amount fed during the previous 11-month period by feeding about 2,300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride into its operating centrifuges. Although this increase only represents about one-half the stated design capacity of the P-1 centrifuges, it represents an increase from far lower capacity levels exhibited throughout 2007. Part of this difference is also due to the fact that Iran was installing its first set of 3,000 centrifuges between February and November 2007 and was therefore operating fewer centrifuges throughout the year.

The report also indicates that Iran installed a third generation of centrifuge, called the IR-3, at its pilot-scale enrichment facility in April. Like the IR-2 centrifuge design Iran began installing at the pilot plant in January, the IR-3 is based on the P-2 centrifuge design Iran acquired from Pakistan. The P-2 centrifuge can enrich uranium about 150 percent faster than the P-1. (See ACT, November 2007. )

On June 14, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany formally presented Iran with a revised proposal for comprehensive negotiations aimed at resolving concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The incentives package builds on an offer made by the six-country group in 2006 and includes a potential face-saving understanding that would allow talks to begin with Iran if it agreed to halt its controversial uranium-enrichment activities shortly thereafter. Overall, however, the proposal maintains the original offer’s basic framework of providing political and economic benefits to Iran in return for shutting down the country’s sensitive nuclear activities. (Continue)

107 Countries Approve Cluster Munitions Treaty

Jeff Abramson

On May 30 in Dublin, 107 countries agreed to the text of a new treaty that calls for the clearance and destruction of virtually all existing cluster munitions but will permit the use of more advanced cluster-like arms. However, backers of the new Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) did not include those holding the majority of the world’s cluster munition stockpiles, who are opting to instead address the humanitarian impact of the munitions within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse small submunitions over broad areas that sometimes fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing noncombatants.

Key Compromises Reached

Cluster munitions date back to at least World War II, when they were air-dropped by Soviet and German forces. Traditionally, the weapons were designed for use against mobile, diffuse targets, such as large vehicle or troop formations, although they have sometimes been used more widely. The United States, which possesses a stockpile of more than 700 million submunitions, used the weapons in the 1960s and 1970s in Southeast Asia, leaving an estimated 20 million unexploded bomblets in Laos alone at the end of the Vietnam War. Most recently, Israel fired cluster munitions into Lebanon during hostilities in the summer of 2006, with perhaps 1 million submunitions failing to explode initially. (See ACT, January/February 2008.) Hezbollah reportedly fired other cluster munitions into northern Israel that same year.

The exchange raised a humanitarian outcry, and at the end of 2006, Norway announced that it would take the lead on restricting the weapons after Russia, the United States, and some other countries party to the CCW refused to accelerate the pace of work on the weapons in that forum. The so-called Oslo process drew on a nongovernmental movement that had already coalesced around the weapons, comprised of many of the same individuals and organizations that had led the effort to create the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. (See ACT, December 2007.) Through major conferences in Oslo (February 2007), Lima (May 2007), Vienna (December 2007), and Wellington (February 2008) and smaller, regional meetings, the Oslo process expanded to include more than 100 countries.

The text agreed to in Dublin requires the destruction of all forbidden cluster munitions within eight years and the clearance of all areas afflicted with unexploded cluster submunition remnants within 10 years. Extensions may be requested if these deadlines cannot be met. The accord also includes measures for international assistance to victims of cluster munitions. Countries will be able to sign the treaty beginning in Oslo Dec. 3, and then it will enter into force six months after 30 governments sign and ratify it.

A major question going into the Dublin conference was whether eventual CCM states-parties would be able to cooperate militarily with the United States or other non-states-parties. The desire to maintain interoperability put U.S. allies, in particular the United Kingdom, in a “delicate” position at the Dublin conference, according to one British diplomat who spoke with Arms Control Today June 19.

To address these concerns, a compromise was reached in Dublin with the inclusion of Article 21, specifically clarifying “relations with states not party to this convention.” It permits military cooperation even when cluster munitions are used, as long as member states do not “expressly request the use of cluster munitions in cases where the choice of munitions used is within its exclusive control.” This rather broad exemption made it much easier for U.S. allies to support the convention, as the United Kingdom dramatically did May 28 when Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a statement that, “[i]n order to secure as strong a Convention as possible in the last hours of negotiation we have issued instructions that we should support a ban on all cluster bombs, including those currently in service” by the United Kingdom.

Although abstaining from the Oslo process, the United States did exert pressue on its participants. During a May 21 press briefing as the Dublin meeting was in its initial days, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Stephen D. Mull repeated U.S. interoperability arguments that the draft treaty could be read as calling for the criminalization of military cooperation between eventual member and nonmember states. Because U.S. ships carry cluster munitions, he further extended the argument to say that U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian assistance could be cut off, raising the stakes for the global community. Mull also said that “a much more effective way to go about this is to pursue technological fixes that will make sure that these weapons are no longer viable once the conflict is over.”

A separate concession on the definition of cluster munitions partially reflects U.S. preference for technological improvements instead of an outright ban. In Article 2, negotiators exempted munitions that “avoid indiscriminate area effects and the risks posed by unexploded submunitions” by requiring that no more than nine explosive submunitions be included in a cluster munition and that each of them meet the following characteristics: weigh more than 4 kilograms and less than 20 kilograms; be designed to detect and engage a single target; and be equipped with an electronic self-destruct mechanism and an electronic self-deactivating feature. According to most experts, current U.S. weapons do not meet these requirements, but the British diplomat indicated an expectation that Western technology will improve over time.

Treaty’s Impact to Be Determined

As the Dublin conference drew to a close, many participants expressed optimism that their efforts would lead to a global norm. Advocates called on eventual states-parties to ask their nonmember allies to remove any cluster munitions stockpiled on a member’s territory in order to further the norm against use. Nonetheless, the nonparticipation of many countries and continued claims of military utility for the weapons means that questions will remain about the impact of the convention.

In his closing statement May 30 in Dublin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin noted that although “important states [are] not present, I am also convinced that together we will have succeeded in stigmatizing any future use of cluster munitions.” In response to questions from Arms Control Today, Dutch diplomats indicated in e-mails June 18 that they view the CCM as a new international humanitarian norm and that the Netherlands would work to convince other countries to join the treaty.

In a June 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a European diplomat cited the Ottawa Convention as an example that “a norm can be created even without important users and stockpilers participating.” Since the 1997 opening for signature of the Ottawa Convention, the trade and production of anti-personnel mines has essentially ceased. Even though major producers and stockpilers of anti-personnel mines have not become states-parties to the convention, most have generally stopped planting new mines. (See ACT, December 2007.) The CCM is patterned after the Ottawa Convention, in some places sharing the exact same language.

The British diplomat indicated that London is committed to maintaining interoperability and wants to be “in front of the international movement,” intending to do “more than just the letter of the treaty.” As such, it has been closely watched for its response to calls for eventual states-parties to ask allies, especially the United States, to remove cluster munitions from any bases on a CCM member’s territory.

On June 3, Foreign and Commonwealth Office deputy minister Mark Malloch-Brown indicated that, “at the end of that eight-year period [for stockpile destruction], even a country such as the [United States], were it not a signatory, would no longer be able to keep such weapons on UK territory.” Deputy defense minister Bob Ainsworth clarified on June 5 that the CCM “does not prevent the [United States] from continuing to stockpile cluster munitions on their bases within UK territory (including Diego Garcia). However, in keeping with our commitment to uphold the norms of the treaty, we will be discussing with the [United States] the longer-term status of their stockpiles on UK territory.”

Dutch diplomats indicated that their country was still studying the question of third-party stockpile removal.

Danish Ambassador Bent Wigotski, a delegate to the Dublin meeting and the CCW, indicated in a June 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today that Denmark reads Article 21 as providing “no reason to support actions to remove U.S. cluster munitions from bases in countries parties to the new convention.”

He also argued that many of the major stockpilers of cluster munitions maintain the weapons for military use and therefore will not comply with the new convention. Wigotski said, “Countries possessing more than 90 percent of the world stockpiles do not take part in the Oslo process and have no intention of acceding to the convention…. [A]ny comparison with the Ottawa Convention is misleading. Cluster munitions are much more important for a number of countries, constituting a very significant part of their firepower.” Mull expressed similar sentiments, saying in the May press briefing, “We think that it is going to be impossible to ban cluster munitions, as many in the Oslo process would like to do, because these are weapons that have a certain military utility and are of use. The United States relies on them as an important part of our own defense strategy.”

Although opponents argue that today’s war-fighting is unlikely to fit the open troop formation scenarios for which cluster munitions were originally designed, the CCM attempts to offer a way through the military utility debate with the exemption for munitions that avoid indiscriminate effects. “The exclusion of these types of munitions…is one prerequisite for universalization of the convention,” the European diplomat said, adding that it will allow states-parties “to keep necessary military capabilities…while preventing the continued use of cluster munitions that…cause unacceptable harm to civilians.”

One munition that meets these requirements, according to the European diplomat, is the German-produced SMArt-155, which only contains two submunitions, can target individual objects, and has self-destruct and self-deactivation capabilities. It has not been used in combat to date.

Whether additional countries will take this option and make the transition to more expensive alternate munitions or simply abandon cluster munitions remains to be seen.

Next Steps in the CCW

As the Oslo process was launched, countries participating in the CCW opted to begin negotiations on the weapons. Those discussions are conducted primarily through a government group of experts on CCW Protocol V, which entered into force Nov. 12, 2006, and covers explosive remnants of war, of which unexploded cluster munitions are a subset. Many major cluster munitions producers and stockpilers, including China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States, have stayed out of the Oslo process in favor of the CCW.

The successful conclusion of the CCM may put added pressure on the countries participating in the CCW to reach a new accord by a November meeting of CCW states-parties, the target date suggested by numerous diplomats. Although any agreement that comes out of the CCW is unlikely to include as sweeping a limitation on cluster munitions as the CCM, many participants hope that it would be accepted by countries that currently possess the majority of the world’s stockpiles and thereby dramatically lessen the humanitarian toll of historic and future cluster munitions use.

A Dutch official stated that “Dublin definitely adds urgency to the CCW process.” The European diplomat said that CCW participating countries that abstained from the Oslo process “now have an opportunity to show that the CCW is up to the challenge” of addressing cluster munitions and added that “out of the 105 states-parties to the CCW, 68 participated in the Dublin conference and adopted the text of the new [CCM].”

During his May press conference, Mull recognized humanitarian issues related to cluster munitions and reiterated Washington’s desire to address those concerns through the CCW process, which he described as the “place where all of the principal producers and users of these munitions vote and participate and work together.” Wigotski stressed the Danish belief “that the participation in the CCW of all the major users and producers should make it possible for the CCW to produce a legally binding protocol with an added value and impact in the real world—covering the more than 90 percent of world stockpile not affected by the Oslo process.”

The next major meeting of the pertinent CCW group of experts takes place July 7-25 in Geneva. Additional meetings are scheduled for Sept. 1-5 and early November, which would allow for preparation of a protocol to be presented at the annual meeting of states-parties set for Nov. 13-14.

Exactly what that protocol might entail is still unclear. Public statements by U.S. officials and communications to Arms Control Today by diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom all express a desire to conclude a protocol that prohibits the use of cluster munitions that cause “unacceptable harm” or a similar formulation of that term. Wigotski stated, “[I]n the view of Denmark, the CCW should at least take action affecting those types of cluster munitions that have no self-destruction, self-deactivation, or self-neutralization features.” The European diplomat pointed to a May 2007 proposal that ultimately envisages a complete prohibition on cluster munitions as “a sound basis for a CCW result.” The British diplomat expressed hope of “coming out with an acceptable, sensible compromise at the end of the day.”

The advance copy of the chairperson’s draft discussion paper for a protocol on cluster muntions includes articles on clearance and destruction, victim assistance, and cooperation and assistance but leaves blank articles on general prohibitions and restrictions and storage and destruction. Rather than simply calling for a blanket restriction on cluster munitions use, the draft allows for military purposes and relies on avoiding “incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, [and] damage to civilian objects, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

Given the possibility that countries not participating in the Oslo process may agree to a new CCW protocol, the collective result could be new international norms that dramatically lessen the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions use.

Click here to comment on this article.

Corrected online October 8, 2008. See explanation.

High-Level Panel Calls for Stronger IAEA

Kyle Fishman

In a May report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, a panel of prominent international leaders recommends that the agency assume additional responsibilities and perhaps double its budget by 2020 in order to ensure a substantial expansion in nuclear power while preventing nuclear weapons proliferation.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei established the commission in the fall of 2007 with the purpose of addressing future challenges to the agency. The 18-member group, composed of ministers, academics, politicians, scientists, and business leaders, was chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and included other notable figures such as former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

The enhanced role for the IAEA, the commission argues, will require concrete changes within the agency. Administrators must work to modernize infrastructure, focusing on overlooked areas and making safeguards, research and development, and other activities more efficient. The report also reveals that sweeping staffing reforms are necessary, as one-half of the agency’s top management and senior inspectors will be forced to retire within the next five years. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reached similar conclusions about IAEA inspectors in a November 2005 report. (See ACT, December 2005. )

Improving efficiency and attracting personnel are only part of what is necessary to equip the IAEA to meet existing and proposed obligations; that ultimate goal will require considerable increases in investment. The commission calls for a one-time budget increase of approximately $120 million and consistent annual increases estimated at $75 million for several years afterward to deal with the increased workload. It also advocates a more reliable system of funding than the one in place now, which is essentially voluntary.

The commission seeks to reformulate the IAEA’s mission and resources at a time when the agency is challenged by renewed global interest in nuclear energy production and growing concerns that states or nonstate actors may divert nuclear materials to nuclear weapons purposes. The report notes that the amount of nuclear material in the world is increasing at a tremendous rate, having multiplied tenfold from 1984 to 2007, implying increased commensurate safeguard responsibilities. IAEA safeguards are meant to ensure that civil nuclear fuel and facilities are not diverted to weapons purposes.

In recent years, safeguard responsibility has increased in depth as well as in breadth. The 1997 Model Additional Protocol strengthens IAEA safeguards by improving the agency’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities, allowing inspectors to visit any suspected sites within states-parties. The commission recommends that future nuclear cooperation be contingent on compliance not only with an additional protocol, but with an “Additional Protocol Plus.” Such an agreement would allow inspectors unfettered access to information, sites, and individuals related to nuclear activities, all of which might be necessary to ensure the peacefulness of states’ nuclear programs.

To date, 117 states have signed additional protocols with the IAEA. However, some key non-nuclear-weapon states, notably Brazil and Egypt, have refused to sign, arguing that they should not be asked to take on additional responsibilities while nuclear-weapon states have failed to fulfill their nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) commitment to disarmament.

In addition, the panel suggests that the IAEA’s current authorities be interpreted as giving it the responsibility to inspect for indicators of nuclear weaponization activities and recommends that the agency establish a small team of specialists for that purpose. Traditionally, the agency has only sought to ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted from peaceful purposes.

The report also calls for the IAEA to improve the security of nuclear materials in an effort to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism. It says that ensuring the protection of nuclear materials includes fulfilling obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540, intended to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, for which the IAEA can help establish and verify binding security standards against a minimum level of threat. More focused efforts against proliferation, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, also play a role in this process, according to the report.

Citing economic development needs and environmental concerns, the commission argues that the IAEA should continue to be active in safely and securely expanding the nonmilitary use of nuclear power. It supports the creation of a global nuclear safety network composed of states, firms, and organizations that would promote the exchange of knowledge and experience and provide training on IAEA safety standards.

The report also echoes ElBaradei’s advocacy for multilateralizing the nuclear fuel cycle, with the possibility of an IAEA fuel inventory of last resort. (See ACT, November 2003. ) The commission indicates that “such comprehensive services could be made so attractive that few states would want to follow any other approach,” easing concerns over states’ attempts to privately complete the fuel cycle, which many see as the first step in weapons development.

Finally, the report maintains that the IAEA’s independent and definitive verification of the nuclear disarmament process is vital to sustaining the nonproliferation regime, calling on states not party to the NPT to join new partnerships for disarmament. It also sees the agency working to reduce demand for nuclear weapons through their devaluation on the part of nuclear-weapon states, encouraging the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, and more generally working to mitigate international conflict.

LOOKING BACK: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Then and Now

George Bunn and John B. Rhinelander

Less than a year after dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the United States adopted a statute prohibiting the transfer of its nuclear weapons to any other country. It was not until 23 years later, however, that countries began signing an international treaty that prohibited the transfer of nuclear weapons by a country that had them to any other country, indeed “to any recipient whatsoever.”[1] On July 1, 1968, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and many other countries signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at ceremonies in Washington, Moscow, and London. Subsequently, nearly 190 countries have signed and ratified the treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons from the few countries that then had them to the many that did not and at reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.

The 40th anniversary of the NPT provides an opportunity to re-examine the history of the treaty’s negotiation and ask what lessons it offers for today.

The NPT’s Negotiating History

The NPT’s history really began in 1946. That year, the Department of State and some of the scientists who had made the bomb drew up the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, which, with major revisions, became a formal U.S. proposal to the United Nations known as the Baruch Plan. It proposed that the United States turn over control of all its enriched uranium, including that in any nuclear weapons it had, to a new UN body (over which the United States and the other permanent members of the Security Council would have a veto) and that all countries in the world should be prohibited from possessing their own nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union opposed this plan, and the UN committee created to consider it got nowhere.[2]

The next stab at controlling nuclear weapons proliferation came in 1953 when President Dwight Eisenhower proposed to the UN General Assembly the negotiation of a treaty that would seek to control nuclear activities around the world and prevent, if possible, the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. This led to negotiations that finally produced a useful treaty, though one that fell short of what Eisenhower had proposed. This treaty, the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of 1956, authorized creation of the IAEA and gave it the responsibility for providing information and assistance to countries seeking to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and for performing inspections of their nuclear facilities to ensure that the operators did not divert from peaceful purposes to weapons production the uranium fuel used to run nuclear reactors and the plutonium that was produced in such reactors.[3]

The NPT negotiations themselves really got started after the unanimous approval of a 1961 UN General Assembly resolution on negotiation of a treaty that would ban countries without nuclear weapons from acquiring them and that would require the inspections that the IAEA treaty only authorized. In particular, the resolution asked the countries “possessing nuclear weapons” to “undertake to refrain from relinquishing control of nuclear weapons and from transmitting information necessary for their manufacture” to nations not possessing nuclear weapons. Second, it recommended that states not possessing nuclear weapons “undertake not to manufacture or otherwise acquire control of such weapons.” It urged nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states to “cooperate to those ends.”[4]

The same year marked another step that had an important but indirect effect on the creation of the NPT. At President John Kennedy’s request, Congress approved legislation establishing the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) to replace the State Department in the research, planning, and negotiation of arms control and disarmament treaties. Soon after the ACDA’s creation, its leaders sought authority from Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Kennedy to negotiate with the Soviets an agreement intended to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. This authority was granted after negotiations within the U.S. government and with U.S. allies produced a modified draft treaty.

By forming an institution separate from the State Department that would handle negotiations regarding a treaty such as this, Kennedy also created a means to sidestep opposition in Foggy Bottom to the NPT and win support from others in the executive branch and Congress. The State Department had long supported establishment of a multilateral force (MLF) composed of ships owned by several NATO countries, including the United States, armed with U.S. nuclear weapons and manned by officers and sailors from the United States and other participating NATO countries. Some State Department officials had insisted that U.S. officers and sailors on MLF ships would retain control of the U.S. nuclear weapons. However, other State Department officials and some allies felt that the MLF effort would be endangered if a new treaty prohibited transfer of control of nuclear weapons to any other entity, such as an MLF ship with officers and sailors from countries not having nuclear weapons or that had an MLF “board of directors” that included many allies that did not have nuclear weapons.

In 1962, Rusk showed Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko a simple U.S. draft nonproliferation agreement based on the 1961 General Assembly resolution, which the Soviets had not opposed. The draft did not mention the MLF but would not have prohibited it. Gromyko rejected Rusk’s proposal without even consulting Moscow. How much this action was based on Gromyko’s knowledge that NATO members were considering the MLF proposal was not clear, but there had been many private discussions about the MLF proposal among NATO members. Leaks to representatives of non-NATO countries seemed likely.

At the Disarmament Committee that followed this Rusk-Gromyko meeting, Gromyko focused on a broad Soviet proposal for “general and complete disarmament,” including complete nuclear disarmament, not on the General Assembly nonproliferation resolution.[5] Given Gromyko’s reaction and the interest of West Germany and others in the MLF proposal, negotiations to implement the 1961 General Assembly resolution calling for an NPT stalled for several years, but so did NATO-country negotiations to create an MLF armed with nuclear weapons.

After the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, U.S.-Soviet tensions relaxed somewhat, and serious negotiations to produce a ban on nuclear weapons tests produced U.S.-Soviet agreement on the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 (limited because it did not ban nuclear weapons tests underground). Still, the possibility of a successful negotiation of an MLF agreement with U.S. allies seemed likely to make successful negotiation of an NPT with the Soviets impossible. ACDA officials were concerned that the United States would get neither an MLF nor an NPT unless some way to break this stalemate could be found.

Indeed, it took three years of failure both in the MLF negotiations and the NPT negotiations to produce a U.S. decision to give up on an MLF and pursue an NPT alone. Then, the ACDA was authorized to try to negotiate with the Soviets a draft NPT with a provision prohibiting the five nations then having nuclear weapons (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) from transferring control over any of their nuclear weapons to anyone. As finally negotiated, this provision also called on these five nations not to “assist, encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear explosive weapons, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.” Moreover, the nations not having nuclear weapons that joined the treaty had to agree not to receive or manufacture or “otherwise acquire nuclear weapons…and not to seek or receive any assistance” in their manufacture.[6]

With this new U.S. formula in hand, U.S.-Soviet negotiations over a draft NPT finally began in earnest in Geneva. Later, Rusk and Gromyko met in New York to discuss further NPT negotiation possibilities, and it became clear that the Soviets were now interested in such talks. In September 1966, a U.S.-Soviet working group, which included one of the authors of this article, came up with three possible drafts of an NPT prohibition on the transfer of nuclear weapons that the Americans and the Soviets could present to their governments.

President Lyndon Johnson also authorized ACDA negotiators to present a draft no-transfer treaty provision to the West German government, probably the most important U.S. ally in Western Europe that the NPT would ban from having nuclear weapons. Johnson had good reason to be concerned about the reaction of the West Germans. They had already done considerable work related to building nuclear power reactors, and some in the West German government appeared to support research into nuclear weapons production, given that U.S. nuclear weapons were stationed with U.S. troops on West German territory. The British and the French already had nuclear weapons and would be accepted as NPT nuclear-weapon states in the U.S.-Soviet staff-proposed drafts. No other U.S. allies then seemed both seriously interested in and clearly capable of making nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, after further prolonged negotiations with the United States as well as with other NATO allies, the West Germans finally came around. They signed the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state, thus obligating themselves not to acquire nuclear weapons. Without West Germany’s NPT promise not to acquire nuclear weapons, the Soviets would not have accepted an NPT. The Soviets had already complained about U.S. nuclear weapons deployed with U.S. forces in West Germany, weapons that were guarded by U.S. troops. The Soviets were not about to agree to a treaty permitting West Germany to control any nuclear weapons.

These further negotiations with the West Germans and other U.S. allies produced a consensus on a U.S. proposal to submit to the Soviet negotiators. With changes resulting from further negotiations both with the Soviets and our interested allies, we produced a final draft of the NPT to present at the Geneva-based Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee and the UN General Assembly in 1968. This included provisions recommended by the eight nonaligned countries represented at the Geneva disarmament conference, including India, such as Article IV, which provides that the NPT “shall” not be interpreted as “affecting the inalienable right” of all NPT parties “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”

The NPT Today

The 1968 NPT permitted the five states that had tested nuclear weapons to keep these weapons for the time being but obligated them under Article VI to negotiate to reduce and ultimately eliminate them. The treaty also prohibited other states-parties from acquiring nuclear weapons.[7] Forty years after the signing of the NPT, it is a worldwide treaty joined by more than 180 countries that do not have nuclear weapons as well as the five that had tested them by 1968. Russia has taken the place of the Soviet Union as one of the five nuclear-weapon states, and the 14 other former Soviet republics that became independent have become non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT.

Today, the most important NPT provision that has not been well observed is Article VI, the obligation of the five nuclear-weapon states “to negotiate in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

In 2007, when she was the United Kingdom’s foreign minister, Margaret Beckett called for negotiators to take additional steps toward nuclear disarmament. She said, “The judgment we made 40 years ago [at the NPT’s signing] that the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons was in all our interests is just as true today as it was then. For more than 60 years, good management and good fortune have meant that nuclear arsenals have not been used, but we cannot rely just on history to repeat itself.”[8]

It is true that on occasion nuclear-weapon states have taken advantage of NPT treaty review conferences to reiterate their intention to seek nuclear reductions. Yet, no serious nuclear-weapon reductions have taken place that include all five states permitted by the NPT to possess nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has been no exception. Unlike previous administrations, the current administration has made only a small effort to negotiate nuclear weapons reductions with Russia at a time when the two countries still control more than 95 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world. The U.S.-Russian nuclear reduction treaty (the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty) signed by the presidents of the two countries during the Bush administration calls for the removal from active deployment of some nuclear warheads, but it does not require their elimination.

Instead of negotiating agreed nuclear weapons reductions, the Bush administration has announced a wide range of potential uses for nuclear weapons, greater than any past U.S. administration seems to have announced.[9] In addition, the administration did not accept prior commitments by earlier U.S. administrations that limit the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon countries, including commitments that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against countries that have agreed that they will not acquire nuclear weapons.[10] In brief, the Bush administration has done little to carry out the U.S. obligation to pursue “nuclear disarmament” mandated by Article VI.

Early this year, Congress passed legislation calling for the executive branch to conduct a thorough review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy by the end of the first year of the next administration. This review, Congress said, must describe the new U.S. administration’s “assessment of the role of nuclear forces in military strategy”; its “objectives…to maintain a safe, reliable and credible nuclear posture”; and its views of the “relationship among U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, targeting strategy, and arms control.” This would mark the first such re-examination since the Bush administration’s 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, which stated a new U.S. policy of relatively free use of nuclear weapons against countries that are hostile to the United States even though they do not have nuclear weapons.[11]

In addition, three important states (India, Israel, and Pakistan) refused to join the NPT in 1968 when it was opened for signature, and they eventually produced nuclear weapons. Despite its refusal to join the NPT and its acquisition of nuclear weapons, India has been rewarded by the Bush administration by a proposed U.S.-India agreement that, if implemented, would appear to violate current U.S. law and be inconsistent with agreed international guidelines.

North Korea did join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state but later withdrew and tested a nuclear weapon that appeared to be in part the product of its nuclear weapons research activities conducted while it was an NPT state-party. Several countries, most prominently South Africa, abandoned their nuclear weapons-making efforts and joined the NPT.

Negotiations to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons began in the Clinton administration and, after a long pause, were taken up again by the Bush administration. Several preliminary agreements have been signed. However, North Korea has not yet carried out its promise to eliminate its nuclear weapons. Iran, while a member of the NPT, has a uranium-enrichment program that began in secrecy 20 years ago and remains ambiguous as to its purpose: weapons, peaceful uses, or both. Negotiations with Iran remain stalemated.[12]


The nuclear nonproliferation regime is at a crossroads. If it is to be saved and reinvigorated, the next U.S. president must take the lead at the start of his administration, January 20, 2009.

First, the president should outline a plan to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime to Congress, to the U.S. public, and to foreign leaders. We hope he will include the Shultz-Perry-Kissinger-Nunn proposals in the Wall Street Journal calling for deep cuts in nuclear weapons around the world.[13] This is, of course, one vision of what serious planning and successful negotiation of a nuclear weapons reduction agreement pursuant to Article VI could produce.

Second, the next U.S. president should propose early concrete steps for U.S.-Russian cooperation and nuclear reductions The United States should propose additional reductions beyond SORT and the continuation of START verification measures. It is self-evident that positive relations between the United States and Russia will be central both to specific near-term actions and to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Third, the next U.S. president should extend these talks to include the other nuclear-weapon states. At a time that U.S.-Russian arms reduction talks have effectively stalled out, it may seem disingenuous for the two countries that control more than 95 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world to invite the “Three” (China, France, and the United Kingdom) to join their occasional nuclear weapons reduction negotiations. However, early agreements between Russia and the United States and then among the five nuclear-weapon states on steps toward nuclear disarmament are essential to satisfy the non-nuclear-weapon NPT members that these two countries are complying with their Article VI obligations. Significant compliance with this obligation is important to forestall further proliferation by non-nuclear-weapon countries and to keep some of them from withdrawing from the NPT.

Fourth, the United States should establish a serious dialogue with China on nuclear weapons issues. This is essential to steps that China and the United States, joined by others, should take in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.

Fifth, the next president should appoint a nonproliferation “czar” before inauguration day. The czar would work with the president-elect on his policy positions and be the leader of the president’s effort to enact legislation creating a new agency to focus on nonproliferation and arms reduction negotiations. In the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations, the ACDA led the U.S. effort to negotiate an NPT and other important treaties to limit nuclear arms. The ACDA was separate from the State Department but under the general direction of the secretary of state (but not the rest of the State Department) as well as the president.

Unfortunately, conservatives in Congress during the last years of the Clinton administration succeeded in abolishing the ACDA and placing its employees back in the State Department. This meant that the personnel responsible for negotiations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons were more likely to be influenced by State Department personnel responsible for specific regions of the world. State Department personnel focused on other subjects than preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and on other regions than those where that spread is a matter of particular concern. This happened in the case of the recent U.S.-Indian agreement that was to provide major nuclear assistance to India despite its pursuit of nuclear weapons, a pursuit which earlier U.S. administrations had tried hard to prevent and then slow. In negotiating the U.S.-Indian agreement, State Department officials overrode or ignored established arms control concerns in their eagerness to reach an unsound agreement.

Sixth, the 2006 U.S.-Indian nuclear agreement should be set aside. It seems to be stalled now by political opposition within India, and it will not likely come before the U.S. Congress for approval this year. If it went into force one day, it could help undermine the NPT regime. Instead, India should become a key actor in pursuit of the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, a goal that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi urged so eloquently at the UN.

In conclusion, it should not be forgotten that the NPT has been the primary rulemaker that has prevented the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Many countries have nuclear research reactors and a sufficient industrial base to at least begin pursuing nuclear-weapon activities. Without joining the NPT, India, Israel, and Pakistan have become nations with nuclear weapons. North Korea, not well developed industrially, produced fissile material for nuclear weapons and then withdrew from the NPT. Libya, although a member of the NPT, started development of nuclear weapons but, with efforts by other countries to enforce the norm of the NPT and some financial assistance, was persuaded to stop that effort. In the Middle East, we saw Iraq pursuing nuclear weapons in the 1980s and 1990s. It took a UN-Iraq war to stop that effort. Subsequently, the existence of the NPT made it possible for the UN Security Council to demand strict disarmament requirements in a post-war cease fire. We have seen what may be nuclear weapons-making efforts in Iran and Syria. Additional NPT members in that region of the world, where non-nuclear sources of energy such as oil are readily available, have expressed interest in building nuclear power reactors. Does their nuclear interest go beyond power reactors?

What would the world look like if there were no NPT? It has provided the standard that has restrained many countries from pursuing nuclear weapons. Without it, would there be 20 or 30 countries with nuclear weapons or pursuing nuclear weapons?

Corrected online September 3, 2008. See explanation.

George Bunn, the first general counsel for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, helped negotiate the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and later became U.S. ambassador to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee. He is now at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. John B. Rhinelander is senior counsel at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. He served as deputy legal adviser at the Department of State and legal adviser to the ABM Treaty/SALT I delegation.


1. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (July 1, 1968), art. I (hereinafter NPT).

2. See, e.g., Lenice N. Wu, “The Baruch Plan,” in Encyclopedia of Arms Control and Disarmament, ed. Richard Dean Burns (New York: Charles  Scribner’s Sons, 1993), pp. 771, 774-783; George Bunn, Arms Control by Committee: Managing Negotiations with the Russians (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), pp. 59-61.

3. Bunn, Arms Control by Committee, pp. 85-92.

4. UN General Assembly Resolution 1665, December 4, 1961 (the “Irish Resolution”).

5. See Bunn, “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: History and Current Problems,” Arms Control Today, December 2003, p. 5.

6. NPT, arts. I and II.

7. Bunn, Arms Control by Committee, pp. 87-103; U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements: Texts and Histories of Negotiations (1980), pp. 82-83.

8. Margaret Beckett, Keynote address at Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, Washington, D.C., June 25, 2007.

9. Amy F. Woolf, “Nuclear Weapons in the U.S. National Security Policy: Past, Present, and Prospects,” CRS Report for Congress, October 29, 2007, p. 10.

10. Over the years, several presidents have made commitments not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT, for example the nuclear nonuse protocol to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America of 1967, which the United States signed and ratified before the NPT. Similar treaties exist for several other regions of the world. The protocols to these treaties have been signed but not ratified by the United States. See, e.g., George Bunn, “The Legal Status of U.S. Negative Security Assurances to Non-Nuclear Weapon States,” Nonproliferation Review, Spring-Summer 1997, p. 1.

11. See David Holloway, “Deterrence, Preventive War, and Preemption,” in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy/Confronting Today’s Threats, eds. George Bunn and Christopher Chyba (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press and CISAC, 2006), p. 34; Roger Speed and Michael May, “Assessing the U.S. Nuclear Posture,” in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy/Confronting Today’s Threats, p. 248; George Bunn and Christopher Chyba, “U.S. Nuclear Postures for a New Era,” in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy/Confronting Today’s Threats, p. 297.

12. See William J. Broad, “Look Who’s Tough on Iran Now,” The New York Times, News of the Week in Review, June 1, 2008, p. 1.

13. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “Toward a Nuclear-Free World,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. See interview with Sam Nunn,  “World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” Arms Control Today, March 2008, p. 6.

Senate Committee Completes Iraq Intel Probe

Peter Crail

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence June 5 completed its long-delayed investigation into U.S. intelligence on Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of that country. The final portions of the investigation entailed a comparison of prewar intelligence with speeches made by senior administration officials and an examination of the work carried out by two Pentagon offices, which compiled their own intelligence related to Iraq. (See ACT, March 2008. ) The committee began its examination of the prewar intelligence on Iraq in June 2003.

The report concluded that several specific administration claims related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs were not supported by intelligence available at the time. The Bush administration had cited WMD possession as a key justification for the 2003 invasion and attributed their statements to faulty intelligence, in particular the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The committee report indicates, however, that some of the inaccuracies in the statements by the administration were not based on the judgments of the intelligence community.

This investigation differed from the first committee report issued in July 2004 as well as several previous U.S. government reports, which had focused on the inaccuracy of prewar intelligence reporting about Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. The committee’s 2004 report concluded that many of the key judgments contained in a critical October 2002 NIE on Iraq were overstated. (See ACT, September 2004. ) Likewise, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction stated in its March 2005 report that the intelligence community was “dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments” concerning Iraq’s suspected chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. (See ACT, May 2005. )

The committee announced in February 2004 that it would conduct a second phase of investigations that would include an examination of prewar statements, not simply the accuracy of prewar intelligence information. (See ACT, March 2004. ) Democrats in particular wished to examine whether the prewar statements by the administration were supported by the intelligence community’s findings, while Republican lawmakers wished to limit focus to the quality of the intelligence itself. (See ACT, November 2003. )

Following the announcement of the phase two investigations, committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) stated during a July 9, 2004, press conference that the completion of the second phase “is one of my top priorities.” Yet, the process languished for several more years due to disagreements over the scope of the investigations and ground rules for requesting documents from the executive branch and interviewing administration officials. (See ACT, December 2005. )

In an effort on November 1, 2005, to bypass the lengthy deliberations, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked a rarely used rule to halt Senate operations and bring the body into a closed session. The two parties then formed a six-member task force to develop a plan for the investigation. The committee later issued reports on segments of its phase two investigation in September 2006 and May 2007.

The June report was subject to considerable partisan disagreement, in particular regarding the consideration of prewar statements by administration officials. Although approved by a bipartisan majority of 10 to 5, some Republican committee members sharply criticized the investigation as politically motivated.

Committee Vice Chairman Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.) and Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) issued a minority view with the report. In it, they claim that the Democratic majority refused to review statements made by the Clinton administration that were submitted by Republican members and did not allow individuals whose statements were reviewed by the committee to respond to the committee’s judgments. Their addendum includes a number of statements made by Democratic lawmakers and former Vice President Al Gore regarding Iraq’s WMD programs and ties to terrorist organizations.

Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) additional views, submitted along with the report, stated that the committee decided not to review public statements made prior to the summer of 2002 or those made by “lower level” administration officials because “there were not deemed to be as central to the lead-up to the war in Iraq.”

Prewar Statements

The report and investigation focused on five major policy speeches made by senior administration officials. The speeches included President George W. Bush’s Sept. 12, 2002, address to the UN General Assembly; his 2003 State of the Union address; his October 2002 speech in Cincinnati; an August 2002 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention by Vice President Dick Cheney; and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council outlining Iraq’s violations of the council’s resolutions prohibiting the maintenance of WMD capabilities. In addition to these speeches, the committee reviewed a number of statements by senior administration officials between the summer of 2002 and March 2003.

The committee compared these statements with “hundreds” of finished analytical intelligence documents produced prior to March 19, 2003. The report also describes postwar findings regarding the intelligence, which proved much of the available intelligence to be incorrect, but did not use the postwar judgments as a basis for the committee’s conclusions.

Based on these comparisons, the committee arrived at 16 conclusions related to different facets of the administration’s case against Iraq, including Baghdad’s suspected nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs; its missile programs; and its links to terrorism, in particular its association with al Qaeda.

The committee concluded that many of the administration’s general statements related to Iraq’s unconventional weapons capabilities were substantiated by the available intelligence. In some of these cases, however, such as statements regarding Iraq’s WMD production capabilities and its development of unmanned aerial vehicles, the report states that the administration characterized their assessments with a greater degree of certainty than the intelligence judgments themselves did.

According to the report, the administration’s statements were not supported by the available intelligence in areas related to specific claims regarding Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs and its relationship with terrorist groups. For example, although the committee determined that statements about Iraq’s WMD possession were supported by the available intelligence, it judged that specific claims that Iraq “operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes” were unsubstantiated by the intelligence information.

Only one conclusion, related to statements suggesting that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States, was determined to have been “contradicted by available intelligence information.”

Although the bulk of the report draws conclusions from the comparison of statements by administration officials and available intelligence, it briefly raised a more endemic concern regarding the ability of the executive branch to “unilaterally declassify and divulge information” at its own convenience. The report suggests that such prerogative allows administration officials to selectively declassify and use intelligence that supports a policy position while ignoring intelligence that may undermine that position. The report does not expand on this concern.

The report did not compare administration statements on Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs against the information and assessments of the UN weapons inspectors, who conducted more than 760 inspections covering about 500 sites from November 2002 through February 2003. As early as Feb. 13, 2003, the chief UN inspector, Hans Blix, reported to the UN Security Council that there was no evidence either of active chemical or biological weapons programs or stockpiles. International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported that there was no evidence of a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, March 2003. )

According to sources familiar with the Senate Intelligence Committee report, neither the U.S. intelligence community nor the Bush administration apparently took action to reassess the October 2002 NIE findings on Iraq, which were based entirely on information gathered before the return of the UN inspectors in November 2002. (See ACT, October 2004. )

Pentagon Offices

In addition to its investigation into prewar statements on Iraq, the committee examined the intelligence activities carried out by two Department of Defense offices: the Office of Special Plans and the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group.

Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Special Plans, which was tasked with examining raw intelligence related to Iraq’s WMD programs, under the control of then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. Feith also created the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group after the September 2001 attacks to examine links between terrorist organizations and host countries.

The committee’s review followed on the Defense Department’s own review of the intelligence production and dissemination of intelligence related to Iraq by Feith’s office. This report, issued in February 2007, stated that the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy produced “alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus” of the intelligence community. The report further stated that, although these activities were not illegal or unauthorized, they were “inappropriate.”

Congressional sources told Arms Control Today Feb. 15 that Roberts used the Pentagon investigation as an excuse to delay the committee’s investigation into Feith’s offices. (See ACT, March 2008. )

The committee’s investigation focused specifically on a series of meetings between Pentagon officials and a number of Iranians that were primarily focused on potential efforts for overturning the regime in Tehran.

The report concludes that the decision by deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to withhold pertinent information from the intelligence community and the Department of State before and after the meetings was “ill-advised.” The committee also criticized the Defense Department leadership for failing to conduct an interagency counterintelligence analysis of the potential influence of the Iranian nationals on U.S. officials.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence June 5 completed its long-delayed investigation into U.S. intelligence on Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of that country. The final portions of the investigation entailed a comparison of prewar intelligence with speeches made by senior administration officials and an examination of the work carried out by two Pentagon offices, which compiled their own intelligence related to Iraq. (See ACT, March 2008. ) The committee began its examination of the prewar intelligence on Iraq in June 2003. (Continue)

News Analysis: Missile Defense Role Questioned

Wade Boese

Is the deployed U.S. anti-missile system capable enough to have a president rely on it to protect American lives if a hostile regime threatened to use long-range ballistic missiles to attack the United States? Some current administration officials say that President George W. Bush already did so during a similar crisis with North Korea in the summer of 2006. Others say such assertions exaggerate the risks faced in that incident and are intended to add luster to the administration’s controversial missile defense system, which was originally deployed in 2004 but remains unproven in the eyes of many, including some government experts.

Revisiting the Summer of 2006

In June 2006, North Korea placed its newest ballistic missile, the Taepo Dong-2, on a launch pad. The missile, which some estimated as capable of reaching the continental United States, never had been flight-tested, and its predecessor had been launched only once in a failed August 1998 attempt to put a small satellite in orbit. (See ACT, August/September 1998 .) Despite its apparent missile launch preparations, North Korea was observing a voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range ballistic missiles that it had instituted in September 1999 and then extended indefinitely in a September 2002 bilateral agreement with Japan.

But Pyongyang also was unhappy with the suspended status of talks with Washington and other capitals on implementing a September 2005 agreement, which offered the Kim Jong Il regime economic and energy assistance in exchange for eliminating its nuclear programs, including any weapons that it might have built. (See ACT, October 2005 .) Meanwhile, the United States and its European allies recently had offered Iran new incentives intended to get it to end some of its nuclear activities, leading some observers to joke that North Korea was developing “Iran envy,” according to a former U.S. government official interviewed June 19 by Arms Control Today.

After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s motivations and whether it would launch the missile, the secretive regime July 4-5 fired six shorter-range missiles and the Taepo Dong-2. All the missiles, including the Taepo Dong-2, which failed approximately 40 seconds into its inaugural flight, landed harmlessly in the Sea of Japan.

Leading up to the tests, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States urged North Korea not to break its moratorium and warned that it would face penalties for defying them. The United States also let it be known that it was activating its ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system from a testing mode to operational readiness. That move put crews at Fort Greely, Alaska, on alert to fire, if ordered, the nine long-range ballistic missile interceptors based there. The Bush administration now deploys more than two dozen total GMD interceptors in Alaska and California.

Assessing the Missile Defense Move

Some Bush administration officials contend the decision to ready the GMD system was significant in freeing the president from having to contemplate trying to destroy the Taepo Dong-2 before it could be launched and escalating the situation.

In a March 11, 2008, briefing to reporters on U.S. anti-missile system efforts, John Rood, the acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, revisited the June 2006 activation decision. He explained that because of the system, “we didn’t have to seriously consider options like pre-emption or overwhelming retaliation. We had a defense, and we were content to use that defense, and it was a way of not contributing to the crisis being larger.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England struck a similar chord during a March 31 speech to attendees of a Washington conference sponsored by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA). He argued that missile defenses “allow our national leadership a choice beyond offensive actions,” noting that the North Korea case “was a prime example.” He said, “[W]e had no idea when [the Taepo Dong-2] was going to be launched and where they intended to fly it. It was possible that it could have reached U.S. territory.”

A month later at an April 30 hearing of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Lieutenant General Henry Obering, the director of the MDA, used the same episode to describe the capability of the GMD system. He stated that the system “was good enough that when the North Koreans stacked their Taepo Dong-2 in the summer of 2006, the president was relying on [the system] as opposed to taking the advice of some…former senior officials to pre-emptively strike that site.”

The officials in question were former Secretary of Defense William Perry and Ashton Carter, former assistant secretary of defense. They had advocated in the June 22, 2006, Washington Post that the United States destroy the Taepo Dong-2 before it could be launched in order to prevent North Korean technicians from learning from the flight test and using that data to “perfect” an ICBM capability.

Unlike Perry and Carter, however, the more recent Bush administration statements obscure the broad perception at the time that North Korea, aside from seeking diplomatic leverage, might be preparing for a test, not an attack. Bush officials imply that the risk of an attack was sufficient enough that, without the GMD system, the president would have had to consider using military force to prevent the launch. The Department of State, including Rood’s office; the National Security Council; and the MDA did not respond to Arms Control Today questions seeking clarification of the recent statements.

Charles Pritchard, a former envoy to negotiations with North Korea who left the State Department in August 2003, thinks current Bush officials have been “hyping the situation greatly.” In a June 5 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he wrote there was “no credible evidence or the slightest suggestion that North Korea was about to attack” the United States.

Noting that, in the summer of 2006, North Korea had yet to demonstrate a nuclear weapons capability—something it would later do in October 2006 with a widely condemned nuclear blast—Pritchard contended that “it made no sense technically or politically for North Korea to do something that would have invited massive retaliation.” Adding that he did not recall any reports of North Korea massing its troops at that time, he asked, “What kind of country attacks a superpower with a single missile that contains no [weapons of mass destruction] and has no follow-on plan to deal with the consequences?”

Public statements by Bush administration officials at the time suggest that they too saw the North Korean activities as test preparations. For instance, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a June 22 interview with CNN that the possible launch would be “the first test of this particular [missile] type.” Although stating that the missile’s payload was uncertain, Cheney seemed to downplay the danger by observing that North Korea’s missile capabilities were “fairly rudimentary” and that past North Korean test flights “haven’t been notably successful.”

Congressional sources interviewed by Arms Control Today said they did not recall any sense that a missile attack was likely, but one noted that reading the reclusive Kim Jong Il’s intentions was problematic and might have led to some uncertainty about the situation. Nonetheless, that staffer shared the general perspective of another who June 5 said the Bush administration statements were “a lot of hooey meant to build confidence in the [GMD] interceptors.”

Is the Anti-Missile System Reliable?

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), who chairs the subcommittee before which Obering testified on April 30, declined to comment to Arms Control Today on the nature of any information surrounding the June 2006 North Korean missile activities that “may have been the subject of classified intelligence briefings.” But in a June 11 statement, he observed that “components of the [GMD] system have yet to undergo successful realistic and operational testing such as would warrant full confidence against real-life threats should they be developed anytime soon.”

In the summer of 2006, the model of interceptors deployed in Alaska had not been successfully tested in intercept attempts, although prototypes had achieved five intercepts in eight experiments dating back to 1999. Since the summer of 2006, the interceptors have hit targets in two tests, while a third test was recently cancelled. (See ACT, June 2008 .) Still, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which conducts studies for Congress, reported in March that “the tests done to date have been developmental in nature, and do not provide sufficient realism for [the Pentagon’s] test and evaluation director to fully determine whether the [Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS)] is suitable and effective for battle.” The GMD system is the long-range element of the broader BMDS.

Despite the caveats and reservations of the GAO and the Pentagon’s own independent testing evaluator, Obering maintains confidence that the GMD system would protect against a long-range missile fired by Iran or North Korea if they were to acquire such a weapon. That optimism has spread to others. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said at an April 1 hearing of the strategic forces subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee that missile defense had evolved “through some highly challenging technological problems to a day when the North Koreans rattle their missiles, we feel confident we can knock it down.”

In an interview aired April 25, 2007, with the ABC News Nightline program, Colonel Ted Hildreth, the commander of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion operating the interceptors in Alaska, said, “I’d bet my family’s life” on the system’s capability to knock out a missile. It is unclear whether the Bush administration was entrusting many families’ lives to the system two years ago or just making a bet that it figured would not be called.

Is the deployed U.S. anti-missile system capable enough to have a president rely on it to protect American lives if a hostile regime threatened to use long-range ballistic missiles to attack the United States? Some current administration officials say that President George W. Bush already did so during a similar crisis with North Korea in the summer of 2006. Others say such assertions exaggerate the risks faced in that incident and are intended to add luster to the administration’s controversial missile defense system, which was originally deployed in 2004 but remains unproven in the eyes of many, including some government experts. (Continue)


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