Use of Export Controls to Stop Proliferation

Remarks at the Central Asia and Caucasus Nonproliferation Export Control Forum
Tashkent 2002

It is a great pleasure for me to speak to you this morning about the use of export controls to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

I am a lawyer and university professor who has been working on this subject for about 15 years. I have been asked to describe the worldwide proliferation threat today in approximately one hour. This threat has been building for half a century, so it may be presumptuous to think that anyone could describe it in that length of time. If I leave out anything important, I hope you will forgive me.

Before I begin to discuss the threat, I would like to draw your attention to a database that my organization produces. It is called the Risk Report. It contains the names of some 2,800 companies around the world that are linked to the production of weapons of mass destruction or advanced conventional weapons. At the end of my talk, I will give you a short introduction to the database. It is now being used for export control by several agencies of the United States government, such as the Commerce Department, the State Department and the Customs Service, and by several foreign countries including, I am proud to say, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, which have delegations here today. I hope to demonstrate the database to some of the other delegations here later this week.

September 11: the implications

We can draw at least three lessons from the attacks on September 11. First, we know that Al Qaeda – Osama bin Laden’s organization – is interested in getting weapons of mass destruction. We know this from evidence found in Afghanistan. With money, time and a place to work, groups like Al Qaeda are going to try to build these weapons.

Second, we know that a terrorist group could probably deliver any weapon it might produce. If Al Qaeda can organize a 19-person group to fly airliners into buildings, it can smuggle a nuclear weapon across a border. One can import a bomb in parts and assemble it in a building; one can drive it across a border in van; one can sail it into a harbor in a ship; or one can fly it into a city in a crate, “air freight,” with an altimeter.

Third, we know that the attack may be anonymous. The United States was able to find out quickly who launched the attack on September 11, but the next attack might not be so easy to figure out. If someone brings a nuclear weapon into Washington, it would probably be set off in front of the FBI building. That is what our experts think. The bomb would destroy the FBI, U.S. Customs headquarters, U.S. Secret Service headquarters, the Justice Department, and probably the U.S. Treasury building and the White House. Instead of a list of passengers on an airplane, we would be starting with a hole in the ground. A biological attack might be even more difficult to understand. The United States still has not determined who mailed the anthrax letters, and may never find out.

It is absolutely essential that we keep the means to make these weapons away from terrorists and the nations that support them. And that, of course, is where export control comes in. We are now in a new war against terrorism, and who are the front line troops? They are customs officials, border guards, licensing officers and intelligence agents. In effect, they are you – the people in this room. Nothing is more important for the security of the world than what you do. That is why conferences like this are so important, and why I am so pleased to be invited to appear before you.

Let us now examine the most acute proliferation threats, country by country.


Iraq has never disarmed. I am distributing to you a table that my organization prepared a couple of years ago for the New York Times. The table lists the things that the U.N. inspectors believe Iraq is still hiding. The inspectors believe Iraq still has important capabilities in the nuclear, chemical, biological and missile fields.

Since the Gulf War, and in violation of the U.N. embargo, Iraq has repeatedly attempted to import prohibited items. These procurement efforts have been concentrated in Eastern Europe, in particular in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Romania. This is a shift from Western Europe, which was Iraq’s main supplier before the Gulf War.

My organization has published a list of these activities, which you can find on our web site at: The purchases are usually made through Jordan. A Jordanian middleman is typically listed as the final end-user. Then, from a free trade zone in Jordan the goods are diverted to Iraq, usually by going over the border in a truck. So if you run across an order for some five-axis machine tools bound for Jordan, you might want to ask some questions.

This activity will increase in the future. Iraq is getting more oil income now from smuggling, and the expenditure of this income is outside U.N. control. The estimate today is that the amount has reached $3 billion per year. The oil-for-food program is also being relaxed, so that Iraq will be able to buy more “civilian” goods from the U.N. escrow account. In fact, Iraq will try to buy sensitive dual-use items by disguising them as civilian goods.

A year or so ago, I discovered that Iraq had ordered from the Siemens Company in Germany six machines used to destroy kidney stones inside the body without surgery. It turned out that each machine used a high-performance electronic switch that also had a second use: it triggered atomic bombs. Iraq ordered 120 extra switches, manufactured by the French company Thomson, as “spare parts.” I know that Iraq received at least eight of these switches, and it may have received more. Iraq can be expected to acquire more items along this line as the embargo weakens.

What can we look forward to in Iraq? We can expect Iraq to carry forward all of its mass destruction weapon programs, which are now free of U.N. inspections. We should remember what Iraq had already achieved before the Gulf War. It had weaponized anthrax, weaponized botulinum toxin and nerve gas, and it had developed Scud-type missiles capable of reaching Israel and Saudi Arabia. It had also developed a nuclear weapon device that the U.N. inspectors believe would work if Iraq could obtain the fissile material necessary to fuel it. Today, the main obstacle between Saddam Hussein and his objectives is export control.


Iran and Iraq are now in an undeclared race for weapons of mass destruction. What does Iran face in its neighborhood? A nuclear-armed Pakistan on one side, an Iraq trying to get nuclear weapons on the other side, and a nuclear-armed Israel nearby. It is no wonder that Iran’s thoughts turn to nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence officials believe – and have said – that Iran is actively trying to build the bomb. How? Through imports. Iran has tried to purchase a number of plants that have no purpose in its civilian nuclear program, but that would be highly useful in making nuclear weapons. Iran has tried to buy a centrifuge plant from Russia for enriching uranium, tried to buy a large research reactor suitable for making plutonium from Russia and China, tried to buy graphite and heavy water technology from Russia, and tried to buy laser isotope enrichment technology from Russia.

Iran also has an active program for making long-range missiles. These missiles make sense only as nuclear weapon carriers. No one builds a long-range missile to deliver conventional explosives – it is simply too expensive. Any time you see someone busy building a long-range missile, you should look for the nuclear warhead that is scheduled to go on it. Iran has already tested a 1,200 missile and it is developing a 2,000 km missile.

In addition, Iran has an important chemical and biological weapon program, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Chinese companies have been the main suppliers of this chemical program.

It is important to notice that Iran does most of its procurement through the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai. Iran imports more through the U.A.E. than through its own ports.

Our Risk Report database has a list of the Iranian companies that are operating in the U.A.E. and it also has a list of suspect Iranian companies that a European government gives to its exporters confidentially.

What will the future bring? We must expect Iran’s missile program to continue. Iran will try to extend the range of its missiles to reach Europe and eventually the United States. Progress will depend on aid from Russia and China. Iran’s nuclear effort is still at the research stage. Iran has no known ability to make nuclear weapon fuel, which is a large barrier to success. In the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s, the United States expended between 80 and 90 percent of its overall effort in producing the nuclear fuel. There is always the possibility, however, that Iran could manage to buy nuclear weapon fuel on the black market.

India and Pakistan

Both India and Pakistan have tested nuclear weapons, but still have progress to make. Both countries are trying to develop missiles with longer ranges, and smaller warheads to mount on these missiles. This will require better guidance systems, testing equipment, machine tools, and high-speed computers. Both countries will continue to try to procure these items.

Both India and Pakistan have developed their nuclear and missile programs almost exclusively with imports. Virtually every element of the programs in both countries have been imported or based on foreign designs. India’s plutonium comes from reactors supplied by Canada that run on heavy water imported from China, Russia and Norway through a German broker. The United States also sold heavy water to India. India’s rockets use solid fuel stages copied from U.S. designs, liquid fuel stages based on Russian and French designs, and a guidance system developed with help from Germany. Pakistan’s nuclear warheads use a Chinese design and are fueled with enriched uranium made with help from China, Germany, Switzerland and other countries. Pakistan’s missiles come from China and North Korea.

In the future, we must expect India to develop the ability to deliver nuclear weapons by surface ships, submarines and long-range bombers as well as long-range missiles. Pakistan can now produce its own short-and medium-range missiles and has nuclear capable F-16 fighter-bombers from America. Each country will continue to have enough nuclear warheads to inflict immense damage on the other.

In a nuclear war, India would lose its high-tech industry, and lose its bid to be seen as a significant actor on the world stage – the opposite of what India’s nuclear weapons appear designed to achieve. Pakistan could lose its status as an independent nation.

In effect, we have an unprecedented situation in South Asia. Two nuclear-armed states are poised for conventional war across a common border. If war begins, both countries and the world will be stepping off into the unknown. Some people believe that the nuclear forces of each side could cancel out the other’s through deterrence, and that it would be possible to have a conventional war without escalation. That, however, could easily be wrong. In fact, no one knows what a war in these circumstances would bring.

North Korea

North Korea is a concern for two reasons: first, because of its own nuclear and missile capability; second, because of its activity as a supplier.

Perhaps the most important single fact about North Korea is the one we don’t know: how many nuclear warheads it has. U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that North Korea has one or two, but no one is entirely sure. It could have more or less than that number. How would these warheads be used, if they exist? The assumption is that they would serve to hold Japan, South Korea or American troops hostage in the event of war. That is, North Korea could threaten to attack Japan or South Korea or U.S. troops with nuclear weapons to prevent the United States from intervening in a conflict between North and South Korea.

North Korea also has a chemical weapon program. These weapons could be used against U.S. troops in a war, and if they were, they might trigger calls in the United States for the use of U.S. nuclear weapons to reduce U.S. casualties

North Korea has been exporting Scud-type missiles to Iran, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. These sales include production technology, so North Korea is also exporting proliferation – that is, North Korea is giving other countries the ability to sell this technology on to third parties.

In the future, we must expect North Korea to continue to use its nuclear program as a bargaining chip against the United States and South Korea. North Korea will probably continue to export missiles and missile technology. It could also decide to try to make more nuclear weapon material secretly, or it could decide to throw over its present agreement with the United States and to make more material openly.


Looking around the world, we see the following:

Egypt, Syria and Iran can all target Israel with chemical or conventional warheads on missiles. Certainly many hundreds of these missiles and possibly as many as a thousand could be targeted on Israel.

Israel, in turn, can target all of these countries with the same, plus nuclear warheads. These nuclear warheads number in the low hundreds and are sufficient to destroy every target in the Middle East.

India and Pakistan can target each other with scores of nuclear warheads on both missiles and aircraft.

India’s expanding nuclear capability will cover China soon and may cover the entire world within the next decade.

Iran and Iraq will continue their mass destruction arms race.

Virtually all of this new capability will depend on imports, so export control will be a vital tool for stopping it or slowing it down.

The Risk Report database

After telling you all this bad news, I would like to be able to end with some good news. I would like to tell you that our Risk Report database will make all these problems go away. But I can’t do that. All I can say is that the Risk Report is a tool that can help make export control more effective.

The database now contains the names of more than 2,800 organizations around the world that are linked to the development of weapons of mass destruction or advanced conventional weapons. You can learn the activities of these companies by typing in the name in a simple word search. You can also see photographs of the products these companies make. In addition, the database contains descriptions of hundreds of dual-use items that are controlled for export – that is, the items controlled because they would be useful for making nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or long-range missiles. There are many photographs of these items as well, plus descriptions of how the items are packaged for shipment, how they work, and an explanation of why they are controlled. You can find a demonstration version of this database, which you can download, on our organization’s web site at: To reach the database, simply click on the Risk Report button.

The governments that now use the Risk Report include Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.