Monthly Archives: January 2005

Lying About Iraq. Again.

Dave Ruppe at _Global Security Newswire_ has a “great article on how Bush and Rice are spinning”: the “Duelfer Report”: At least one media outlet decided the fact that the Bush Administration keeps blatantly lying is news.

As an aside, I hope that some with influence in the journalism profession are reconsidering just how they cover events in an age where an administration engages in straight-up propaganda – “staying on message” regardless of the facts. The administration has played the press and something needs to be done about it. Actually, the _press_ needs to do something.

Anyway, things I would add to Dave’s article:

1. The Bush administration line that “Iraq had no weapons, but they had programs” implies that Saddam was on the verge of churning out weapons. Dan Bartlett “told Wolf Blitzer”: that Saddam “had the capabilities to produce weapons of mass destruction on a moment’s notice.”


Read Dave’s summary of “the Duelfer Report”: (or my modest contribution “in ACT a few months back”: ). Suffice to say, the report states that, in the case of nuclear and biological weapons, Iraq had neither weapons nor programs.

2. Little has been written about the ongoing monitoring and verification mechanisms that would have remained on Iraq even if sanctions were lifted. The idea that lifting sanctions would force us to trust Saddam is another lie. (We asked super-dove David Kay about this in an “interview”:

3. Bush et al do not get to say that the war was justified for any reason other than WMD without also admitting that they initially lied to the public about the justification for war. Why? Because the decision to go the UN meant that Saddam would stay in power if he complied with the resolution, tyranny and all. Therefore, regime change and disarmament through the UN were *mutually exclusive.* Simple, but I have yet to see anyone make this argument.

4. This is a bit off-topic, but I think Bartlett should be forced to repeat this gem to every wounded U.S. soldier:

CNN, 16 January 2005

BLITZER: But Europeans, other critics have suggested that he [Saddam Hussein] was contained, he was in a box. The U.S. had a no-fly zone in the north, a no-fly zone in the south. Sanctions were being imposed. He represented very marginally, at that moment in time, a threat to anyone other than his own people.

BARTLETT: Well, that might be easy to say for people who are not actually putting young lives at risk every day flying those no-fly zones. They’re being shot at almost on a daily basis, U.S. pilots.

Bartlett obviously meant they _were_ being shot at. I think the rest speaks for itself.

More Egypt Nonsense

Well now that Michael Roston’s called me out, I feel the need to say something about “this”: _Washington Times_ editorial about Egypt.

In short, it’s bad for many of the same reasons as “this other right-wing article”: about Egypt’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

The _Washington Times_ does acknowledge that the “IAEA is investigating the matter”: But rather than, you know, waiting for the results, the _Times_ carries on with a bunch of alarmist silliness. For example, it talks about a bunch of Egyptian weapons activities that don’t exactly point to a bomb-in-a-basement program (e.g. their ballistic missile programs).

Additionally, the piece mentions that:

bq. Egypt has been quite open in defending the right of Arab nations to develop weapons of mass destruction in order to counteract Israel’s presumed nuclear deterrent (an odd formulation indeed, given the fact that the Arabs have been the ones starting the wars). At a 1989 Chemical Weapons Conference in Paris, for example, Egypt said these weapons were necessary to counterbalance Israeli nukes. In October 1998, President Hosni Mubarak said that Egypt reserved the right to acquire nuclear weapons.

This, of course, ignores several pesky facts:

1. Chemical weapons are not nuclear weapons.

2. Israel “likely has a chemical weapons program”:, in addition to its nuclear weapons.

3. The Mubarak quote, though not sourced, is likely taken out of context from an interview the president did with Al-Hayat. I don’t have the full interview, but a 5 October 1998 AFP article quotes Mubarak saying:

bq. Currently we are not thinking of entering the nuclear club because we don’t want war … When the time comes and we need nuclear weapons, we will not hesitate. But I say if we need it because it is the last thing on our mind.

[_Late Update_: Here is the “full text of the interview”:, becuase I do have such sweet skills. _ACW_]

The _Times_ also ignores the fact that Mubarak made several “anti-nuclear weapons statements”: just in that very same year.

Obviously, Egypt’s nuclear activities should be investigated. But right wing opinion writers need to get sweeter skills.

Wanted: Sweet Iran Skills

I was initially unimpressed a few days ago when “Cheney said”:

Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked, that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability.

Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards. [Mess edited for clarity. _ACW_]

I figured this was yet more buck passing by the administration (“Hey, don’t look at us….it’s the Israelis you gotta worry about”) but then realized that he was really threatening Iran. The reason is very simple- the US, it would seem, pretty much has veto power over an Israeli strike. Which means an Israeli attack is pretty damn close to a US/Israeli attack.

Now, I realize that lots of people complain that our influence on the Sharon government is limited. But in this case, there seem to be some pretty obvious barriers to Israel attacking without U.S. permission. If I’m reading “this map”: correctly, Israeli aircraft would have to pass though Iraq, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia to bomb Iran. For obvious reasons, I think the US and our allies would have a bit of influence in all of those places.

And yes, I’m aware that Israel has “submarines with missiles”:, but I really doubt there’s more than a slight possibility that Israel could up and attack Iran in such a manner without the US knowing about it.

In any case, this administration has to get serious about Iran. In one sense, it’s saying the right things. Cheney said “everybody would be best suited…if we could deal with it diplomatically” and Powell “said 10 December”: that “U.S. policy is not to advocate regime change in Iran.”

But the problem is that remarks like Cheney’s Israel comments indicate that the administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth on this issue. Since Bush acted in bad faith in the case of Iraq, it’d be hard to blame anyone for thinking that he isn’t serious about diplomacy this time either.

If U.S. policy really is “diplomacy without regime change” (as the administration says it is), then US officials need to express that over and over again and tell people like Cheney to STFU about military action.

Remember Russia?

A conversation I had yesterday with an esteemed arms control expert, as well as “this article by my colleague Wade Boese”:, reminded me to write about a subject I’ve been thinking about recently.

While it is good to continually point out that the Bush administration screwed the pooch on Iraq and neglected more serious threats from North Korea and Iran in the process, it is worthwhile to point out that there is precisely ONE entity that presents an existential threat to the United States: Russia.

The solution for dealing with this existential threat? The Bush administration’s circus act/foreign policy team decided to write some talking points, call them the “U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty”:, and declare the problem solved.

Now, the problems with SORT have been obvious for a while (“no verification in the treaty, expires in 2012, is only in effect for one day, etc.”: And Wade’s article points out that the negotiations for implementing the treaty aren’t going so well.

I know that few, if any, Russia experts think that the Russians will be able to deploy a bunch of nuclear weapons anytime soon. But I still don’t think that we ought to bank totally on these intelligence projections, especially since “the lack of verification measures”: will leave the IC with considerably less capability to monitor WTF is gong on with the Russian strategic arsenal.

Now don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think Russia is going to up and attack us anytime soon. But the fact remains that these weapons *are* there and intentions change faster than capabilities. And then there’s always the risk of accidents, etc.

It is also worth noting that US/Russian/Soviet nuclear negotiations have never been easy. But if US/Russian relations are so damn good right now, it might have been a good time to try a little more arms control.

If you want some perspective on why we didn’t, check out “this interview with outgoing Undersecretary of State John Bolton”: In essence, he says treaties are useless.

Clowns on Parade

Reading Kevin Drum’s recent “take”: on DepSecDef Wolfowitz’s “laughable prewar testimony”: inspired two not-terribly-original thoughts.

1. Everyone who supported the Iraq invasion should be embarrassed. They should really rethink their qualifications to speak about any foreign policy issue, or at least learn from their mistakes. They should also start apologizing profusely to war opponents. The latter is especially true for people who “made their living during the 1990s by trash-talking arms control”:, as well as for liberals (like the New Republic’s Peter Beinart) who still feel entitled to “slander those who disagreed with him about the war”:

2. Watching the administration and its minions pontificate about foreign policy is like watching David Brent opine about management — only it’s tragic rather than funny.

One nice example is contained in a slide that was part of a briefing about Iraq and terrorism that some folks in OSD Policy (wearing floppy shoes) shopped around to the SecDef, the NSC, the CIA, and the Office of the Vice President. (Senator Levin’s staff issued a “report”: this past October that nicely summarizes the issue.)

This particular slide is special because it was left out of the briefing shown to the CIA. Entitled *Fundamental Problems with How Intelligence Community is Assessing Information,* it includes this highlighted gem.

And so the circle is closed: evidence of a partnership, as well as the lack of such evidence, proves that Iraq and al-Qaeda were buddies.

Note to OSD: absence of evidence is still absence of evidence.

Only in this administration could you present something like this to senior policymakers and not be a laughing stock.

Egyptian Nuclear Experiments: The Peter Principle

In an effort to placate Dr. Lewis, I am back to blog†at least until I go to Utah this weekend. Recalling that it’s easier to tear down something than to build it, I then had only to find a target … fortunately, the Heritage Foundation is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to nuttery. Today’s case in point is Peter Brookes’ “latest screed from today’s _New York Post_”: about a possible Egyptian nuclear weapons program.

In a nutshell, Brookes asserts†on the basis of almost no evidence†that Egypt could be pursuing a nuclear weapons program. He then says that Egyptian nucler weapons would have bad consequences.

I will concentrate on the first part, which, needless to say, is really, really, really weak. (Shameless plug … the upcoming issue of _Arms Control Today_ has an article I wrote about this.) My reaction to the second, which takes up about 2/3 of the piece, can be summarized as: “no shit.”

Brookes blows it right from the get-go. He says:

bq. As if North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs weren’t enough, now it seems Egypt may be pursuing the bomb as well.

bq. The evidence isn’t conclusive yet. But according to an initial International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) statement last week, several Egyptian scientists conducted unreported nuclear experiments over the past 30 years.

bq. [snip]

bq. Well, it turns out that Egypt forgot to mention some nuclear activities in its 1982 declaration. And it failed to inform the IAEA about some new work since then, too. Egypt denies violating the treaty, but the IAEA is analyzing environmental samplings from nuclear facilities near Cairo, looking for evidence of uranium enrichment or plutonium extraction.

A few relevant facts:

1. The public evidence shows that Cairo isn’t even close to being in the same league as Tehran and Pyongyang, despite what Brookes’ first sentence implies.

Details about the ongoing IAEA investigation in Egypt are from anonymous officials in press reports (AP broke the story in early November). As far as I know, the “IAEA statement” Brookes mentions does not exist. My interviews for _ACT_ generally support the press reports, but the IAEA has not made an authoritative statement.

The press reports and my sources in both Washington and Vienna say most, if not all, of Egypt’s nuclear experiments took place in the 1980s or 1990s. Obviously, any IAEA safeguards violations should be dealt with accordingly, but it’s not like anyone has found anything like a large-scale nuclear programs.

2. Egypt did have a nuclear weapons program in the past, which peaked in the 1960s. But by all accounts, it never advanced very far. Cairo’s efforts amounted to very little and the country never got anything approaching the ability to produce fissile material. NO ONE I spoke with seemed to think that there is any sort of serious nuclear weapons program.

3. IAEA DG Mohammed ElBaradei obliquely referred to the Egypt in his November 25 statement to the Board of Governors. He “wasn’t exactly sweating when he said”: that:

bq. … cases are surfacing, and will likely continue to surface, in which the Agency finds that States have not in the past fulfilled all of their reporting obligations. Most of these cases are failures that can normally be dealt with in the Agency´s annual Safeguards Implementation Report.

p=. ***

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_Is being this dumb like a sharp_
_shooting pain or just a dull ache_?

Then Brookes goes off the deep end:

bq. Nonproliferation: While some pooh-pooh the idea of an Egyptian nuclear program, it really isn’t that far-fetched. Pakistan’s rogue nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, is said to have been in contact with Egypt, and Cairo has had a long-standing ballistic missile relationship with nuclear-capable North Korea.

bq. Also, during a Sino-Egyptian summit two years ago, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak signed a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with China. That same year, press reports indicated that China (also nuclear-capable) was helping Egypt mine uranium in the Sinai desert.

OK, I won’t insult your intelligence. Obviously any contacts with A.Q. Khan should be investigated along with any other procurement activities. However, “reports” — which ones? — of peaceful nuclear cooperation between China and Egypt prove precisely nothing, nor does the implied connection between missiles and nuclear weapons.

[Brookes probably means: Jacques Schuster, “Cairo Wants to Build Nuclear Bomb,” _Die Welt_, June 22 2002 (EUP-2002-06-21-000487). He should have checked out Mark Hibbs, “Claim Egypt Has Secret Program Unfounded, U.S. Tells Germany,” “_Nucleonics Week_ 43:28, July 11, 2002”: The official U.S. response was that the allegation “doesn’t make any sense.” This may explain why Babbling Brookes is no longer employed in the Pentagon. — _Jeffrey_]

Brookes then adds some policy prescriptions:

bq. Whatever the case, Washington must deal with Cairo carefully. Remember, Pakistan’s pursuit of nukes †and its subsequent isolation †ruined our post-Cold War relationship with the South Asian Muslim giant for years.

bq. And what was the result of our 1990s policies of isolating Pakistan?

bq. The first Muslim nuclear weapons state, and A.Q. Khan’s proliferation of nuclear knowledge to North Korea, Iran, Libya †and maybe even Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In addition, Pakistan’s pariah status brought Islamabad’s support for the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan, and the festering of international terrorism, culminating in the horrors of 9/11. Preventing nuclear proliferation is tough business. Let’s hope we do better with Egypt.

Brookes never explains why isolation was responsible for Khan selling nuclear technology to other countries. My own feeling is that Khan was keen to do that regardless of our “isolation” of Islamabad. Also, Pakistan’s alliance with Islamic extremists in Afghanistan has a lot more to do with the U.S. – sponsored proxy war during the 1980s and Washington’s subsequent neglect of Afghanistan.

But his point is that the US is better off engaging with problem countries in order to further our national security interests. Does that mean he’s willing to support direct negotiations with North Korea and greater engagement with Iran? Somehow, I doubt it.

_Update_: “Michael Roston tooled on Brookes earlier today”:, but I didn’t see it until now.

_Editor’s Note_: A decent sumary of Egypt’s nuclear programs, past and present is Barbara M. Gregory, “Egypt’s Nuclear Program: Assessing Supplier-Based And Other Developmental Constraints,” “_Nonproliferation Review_ 3:1, Fall 1995, pp.20-27”:

_Note from Paul_: A better one is found in Robert Einhorn’s chapter in “_The Nuclear Tipping Point_”: