The Proliferation Threat

Presentation at the University of Chicago Program on International Security

I. Introduction

A. I am honored to appear before such a well-informed audience at such a distinguished program. My big challenge will be to tell you something you don’t already know.

B. My organization:

The Wisconsin Project is an advocacy organization that has existed for 15 years with a major emphasis on export control. We have tried in particular to shame exporters out of helping countries build the bomb.

C. IraqWatch.Org:

This is the name of our comprehensive web site on Iraq’s drive to make weapons of mass destruction and the world’s efforts to stop it. I invite you to visit it.

D. The Risk Report:

We publish a database that lists about 2,500 companies around the world that are linked to mass destruction weapon programs. It is now being used by many countries for export control. Under a joint program with the Pentagon, we are now supplying it to the former East Bloc. (I have been to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan over the past couple of years.)

E. The Wisconsin Project also writes articles (usually op-eds) revealing pending export deals that should not be approved – and we have stopped a fair number of them by this means.


II. September 11, 2001: What it means for non-proliferation (lessons)

A. The world is smaller – we have learned that people can get things here that do us harm. If you can organize a 19-person group to fly airliners into buildings, you can organize a group capable of smuggling in a nuclear weapon. You can:

– Bring a bomb in in parts and assemble it in a building; drive it over the border in a van; sail it into a harbor in a ship; fly it into a city in a crate with an altimeter.

– The attack may be anonymous – the investigation may start with a hole in the ground instead of a list of passengers on a plane.

B. Borders, police, customs officers and national governments are a lot more important than we thought. They are the only things that really protect us. They are world’s front-line troops.

– Who goes into and out of a country can make a big difference.

– So can what goes in and out.

– Our safety depends on having good people at Customs, the FBI, the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon. We have to start recognizing that public service is a vital and honorable calling, and stop making speeches about how we have to get the government off our backs. Our safety depends on government workers doing their jobs.

(I say that with full realization that I am at the University of Chicago).


III. The Threat: Who’s Doing What, and Who is Helping?

Iraq and Iran are in an undeclared race to get weapons of mass destruction; India and Pakistan are in a military face-off with nuclear arms pointed at each other; all this has been, and is being, fueled by imports.

A. Iraq

– It has never disarmed. UN inspectors believe Iraq retains capabilities in the nuclear, chemical, biological and missile fields.

– Iraq’s procurement efforts have gone on in the 1990s despite the UN embargo. (Our article in Commentary describes deals in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Romania.)

– The purchases are made through Jordan, by Jordanian middlemen. Jordanian companies are falsely listed as the destination.

– These efforts will increase in the future:

– Iraq’s oil income from smuggling is rising. It could now be as high as $3 billion a year, and this is free for arms – and most of it probably goes for arms.

– The UN oil-for-food program is being relaxed, so Iraq will be able to import more dual-use items by masking them as civilian goods. UN review of what Iraq buys will diminish.

– Iraq will be looking for missile items, in particular.


Attacking Iraq?

– Iraq has weaponized anthrax (put it into missile warheads and aerial bombs).

– Iraq has weaponized botulinum toxin (put it into missile warheads and aerial bombs).

– Iraq has weaponized VX and sarin nerve gas.

– We have to assume that Iraq would be able to deliver chemical and biological agents on the battlefield in rockets, artillery shells and mortar rounds. Also possibly in scud-type missile warheads.

– We also have to assume that Iraq might attempt to deliver some of these agents here in the United States by smuggling them in.

– We could try to deter such behavior by threatening retaliation, but if our goal were to remove Saddam, this might not work. He would not have much to lose.

– Removing Saddam would be good, but we need a mechanism for doing so. Maybe one will come along. It hasn’t yet.


The future in Iraq?

– More oil smuggling, and more imports of WMD-related items.

– Reconstitution of the WMD programs.

– Big restraint is the arms embargo and UN control over Iraq’s oil income.

– It is essential to keep them in place.


B. Iran

– Iran is in a tough neighborhood. A nuclear-armed Pakistan on one side; an Iraq that is trying to get the bomb on the other; a nuclear-armed Israel nearby. US officials openly declare that Iran is trying to get the bomb. Procurements:

– a centrifuge plant from Russia.
– large research reactors from Russia and China.
– graphite and heavy water technology from Russia.
– laser enrichment technology from Russia.
– program for making long-range missiles that could serve as nuclear delivery vehicles.

– Iran procures mainly through the UAE (Dubai).

– Iran also has an active program to build chemical and biological weapons. China has been supplying Iran’s chemical program.

– Bushehr is a giant $800 million hook in Russia’s jaw:

– Iran is demanding help with the bomb as part of the deal – and getting it, albeit slowly.

– This is a typical pattern, in which dangerous “sweeteners” are added to promote the sale of a big-ticket item such as a reactor. The buyer demands the sweeteners before laying out the large amount of cash.

– Our organization recently prepared an update of Iran’s nuclear efforts for our Risk Report database. I am pleased to distribute a copy.


C. India-Pakistan

It has been a long road, but both sides wanted to get where they are. This situation is the natural result of policies both countries have followed for many years.

– India started trying to get the bomb in the late 50s or early 60s – policy was to reverse-engineer Western technology and escape international controls over plutonium.

– India reverse-engineered Canadian power reactor designs and diverted plutonium from a Canadian-American research reactor to military use.

– India also smuggled in hundreds of tons of heavy water.

– The goal was to prove that India had the ability to make the bomb and to be at the table with the big boys – the bomb was a ticket to great power status.

– India never needed the bomb to guarantee its own security.


– Pakistan was obliged to match India – for Pakistan’s own security.

– Pakistan couldn’t allow India to be superior in both conventional and nuclear arms.

– So Pakistan got China to help it build the bomb and some missiles to go with it.


The result is what we see today. The border conflict, which was sure to produce a military confrontation sooner or later, has produced one that includes nuclear arms.

– India may think its nuclear weapons cancel out Pakistan’s.

– Thus India is free to use its conventional forces.

– But, if Pakistan is pushed to the wall, Pakistan may decide to use nuclear weapons, which could deliver devastating blows to India’s cities.

– Or, Pakistan could decide to use its nuclear arms tactically, to annul India’s conventional advantage.

– In any event, both countries would be stepping off into the unknown.


The risk for India is the loss of its high-tech industry and to be seen as a bad place to invest money. India could be set back a generation or two by a nuclear war with Pakistan.

– Result would be to prevent India from being seen as a significant actor on the world scene (the opposite of what India intends its nuclear weapons to achieve).

– If Pakistan delivers only 20 warheads, and each kills only 100,000, that is 2 million dead, plus many more injured. This would be a crushing burden for a developing country like India to shoulder.


IV. What is likely to be next?

A. The overall balance between trade and security, and between freedom of movement and security, must shift.

– It must go back in the direction of security.

– We need to realize that there is no defense against nuclear weapons. A missile shield won’t do it.

– The lesson from the recent attack is that a nuclear explosion is likely to be anonymous, so as to avoid retaliation.

– The best defense is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries, from which such weapons could make their way into the hands of terrorists.

B. We are going to need much better intelligence information and law enforcement.

– We need to find the terrorists before they find us.

– We can’t afford to have cells operating in the United States for years without detection.

C. We also need to figure out how to change foreign governments – if need be – to prevent them from getting the bomb.

– We now accept the fact that Iraq is probably building chemical and biological weapons. If we had solid evidence that Iraq was building nuclear weapons, would we accept that fact too? If not, how many military casualties would we be willing to take to eliminate the danger?

D. A nuclear-armed Iran or Iraq is plainly unacceptable for US security. But the question is: what are we prepared to do to prevent it? That, in my opinion, is one of the biggest questions we have to answer.