Monthly Archives: July 2005

ROK Intel on North Korean Nukes

Both Jeffrey and I have “written before,”: about whether North Korea has a deliverable nuclear weapon.

Just to provide another data point, ROK intelligence reportedly “assessed in February”: that Seoul’s northern neighbor may have nuclear devices, but probably can’t deliver them because they’re too heavy.

The relevant excerpt:

When North Korea said in February that it possessed nuclear weapons, confirming long-held suspicions in the United States, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said Pyongyang probably lacked the technology to fire them on a rocket.

“North Korea might have developed one or two conventional nuclear bombs, but if it did, it may not have the technology to launch them on a missile,” the NIS report said.

“We believe North Korea has not acquired enough technology to miniaturize nuclear bombs which must weigh less than 500 kilograms to be mounted on a missile.”

I had seen the reporting about the NIS conclusions, but had forgotten about the 500 kg number.

UNMOVIC Lessons Learned

Since verification and inspections will likely continue to be a topic of discussion for the foreseeable future, I thought UNMOVIC’s “21st quarterly report”: might be of interest. It contains an appendix describing some “lessons learned” from UNMOVIC and UNSCOM’s experiences in Iraq.

There are no international verification schemes for either biological weapons or missiles, but UNMOVIC has encouraging lessons for monitoring both.

Here are some excerpts.

Regarding the ever-contentious issue of BW verification, UNMOVIC concludes that states cannot hide BW programs under a comprehensive inspections regime:

The account of international verification in the period from 1991 to 1995 exemplifies that even the most clandestine biological warfare programme, such as the one in Iraq, cannot be hidden in its entirety from a comprehensive inspection regime.

It also shows the complexity of the determination of past biological warfare activities and provides lessons that are important to consider in cases when concealment policies and practices are actively employed. Prior to the arrival of international inspectors, Iraq cleaned all sites involved in the production of biological warfare agents, removed evidence of past activities, including relevant documents and records, reconfigured equipment, decontaminated and renovated buildings and structures and prepared convincing cover stories.

The report _does_ acknowledge that UNMOVIC inspectors initially missed a dual-use facility that was producing BW, until Iraq came clean in 1995. UNMOVIC suggests extensive sampling and analysis, combined with documents, records and staff interviews, could defeat such chicanery:

Unlike Al Hakam, which was built as a dedicated biological warfare facility, the foot-and-mouth disease vaccine plant at Al Dawrah was constructed as a legitimate turnkey facility by a foreign company in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The plant was designed for the production of vaccine for three foot-and-mouth disease strains endemic to Iraq. United Nations inspectors, who visited the plant from September 1991 to 1995, identified capabilities existing at the facility to produce biological warfare agents, but concluded that the site was a legitimate facility since no modifications to its original design had been made by Iraq. No evidence of its involvement in Iraq’s biological warfare programme was found until Iraq declared its past involvement in 1995. Sampling at this facility was not performed prior to 1995.

23. The most important lesson learned with regard to the experience of the foot-and- mouth disease vaccine plant is that Iraq indeed carried out large-scale production of a biological warfare agent at a legitimate civilian facility. Conversion of a legitimate facility for biological warfare purposes is difficult to detect, especially when such activities take place only for a short period of time, and when the site requires only very minor adjustments for the production of a biological warfare agent. Similar experience was gained regarding another legitimate facility at Fudaliyah also utilized by Iraq’s biological warfare programme.

24. It was also found that if a deception campaign is actively pursued, the probability of finding hard evidence of activities related to biological warfare is minimized. The major technical tool that could have helped to identify such facilities is extensive sampling and analysis. Other verification methods, such as the evaluation of documents and records and interviews with staff, are also important, but could be influenced by deception efforts.

The report also discusses UNMOVIC’s efforts to ensure that Iraq kept its missiles within UN-permitted ranges, first describing persistent problems in determining missile range/payload capabilities:

bq. It is well understood that the range of a missile is affected by the payload. However, a payload may vary depending on military requirements. Thus, it is more complicated to establish the possible maximum range of a missile system under development or at the modification stage, since the results of flight tests woulddepend on multiple parameters, such as fuel load, payload and engine shut-off (burn time), that could be changed at a later stage and could thus affect the range value. Therefore, range alone is an insufficient criterion to make a judgment on a missile under development.

UNMOVIC also suggests that technical limits placed on ballistic missiles, when verified by inspectors, constrained Iraq’s ability to develop proscribed missiles:

Additional technical parameters applied in the course of ongoing monitoring and verification, that could be practicably verified with a minimal degree of ambiguity, have proven to be effective tools that prevented Iraq from developing proscribed missiles in the presence of international inspectors.

10. These parameters included a 600-millimetre limit for the diameter of the airframe of all liquid propellant missiles, the prohibition of any modifications of SA-2 missiles relevant to their conversion into a surface-to-surface mode, the prohibition of tests of SA-2 engines with shut-off valves or modified for extendedflight duration and the prohibition of the use of original or modified parts and components of SA-2 missiles for use in a surface-to-surface role. While Iraq did not formally accept these restrictions, it refrained from the production of missile systems that would violate them in the presence of international inspectors until December 1998, when inspectors withdrew from Iraq.

11. After 1991, Iraq retained capabilities to develop indigenously or modify missiles with a range close to 150 kilometres and, due to the nature of missile technology, was technically able to produce missiles that could exceed the prohibited range. However, it did not do so while under ongoing monitoring and verification. The record of ongoing monitoring and verification in the missile area shows that monitoring goals can be achieved through an enhanced verification system comprising on-site inspections, static and flight test observation, use of remote cameras, documents and computer search, tagging of missile hardware in combination with an export/import monitoring mechanism and restrictions on the reuse of missile parts and components from other permitted-range missiles. The absence of international inspectors, the accessibility of critical foreign missile parts and components, and accumulated experience from past missile projects werecrucial contributing factors in the resumption of proscribed missile activities by Iraq in the period from 1999 to 2002.

UNMOVIC also describes the conclusions of an international group of experts who were tasked with revising the UN’s ongoing BW monitoring and verification plan in Iraq. It’s worth reading if only to get a sense of what some BW verification experts are currently thinking.

Wilson Bashers & Rove Defenders: Hearing You Talk is a Waste of Silence

Others are doing a fine job keeping up with the legal issues and day-to-day news regarding the whole Wilson/Plame/Rove thing.

However, as this “NYT oped”: points out, the Wilson affair is part of a larger issue: the administration’s deceptions regarding the Iraq WMD issue. Wilson simply (and correctly) pointed out that the Niger/Iraq/uranium intel was a relevant data point.

I realize that “we all know”: the “right-wing line”: (Rove was merely trying to set the record straight) is bullshit, but this silliness has gained enough currency in places like the “WSJ”: and “Slate”: where it should be convincingly and repeatedly refuted.

[As an aside,you’d expect this crap from the _WSJ_ oped page, but Slate should _really_ be embarrassed for printing the Hitchens screed.]

*First,* Rove was not correcting the record: he offered no substantive rebuttals of Wilson’s claims, the administration “knew by that time”: how weak the Niger intel was, and both Tenet and the White House were admitting as much.

*Second,* any allegations of nepotism would have been meaningful if and only if Wilson had either botched the investigation or falsely reported what he found in Niger. He did neither.

* There is no evidence that Wilson failed to report evidence about a possible uranium transaction. Prior to Wilson’s trip, “according to the SSCI report,”: two other investigators had arrived at conclusions similar to Wilson’s, as had INR. All of this info was available by the time Rove started smearing Wilson.

Incidentally, the SSCI report explains that Wilson’s report wasn’t given to Cheney because it added nothing new to the intel (which the OVP had) showing how weak the Niger claim was.

*Third,* some on the right (including a “former roommate”: and current friend) still argue that the Iraq-Niger claim is actually true. It’s not.

* Let’s establish that the burden of proof is pretty high here. Neither Iraqi or Nigerien officials say the story is true. Furthermore, no official sources say it’s true. “The ISG found”: “[n]o evidence… that Iraq tried to get uranium from Niger”. Indeed, Baghdad was offered uranium from another African country and turned it down.

* Iraqi officials did indeed meet several times with Nigerien officials, but for purposes unrelated to uranium, according to the ISG report- required reading for anyone claiming that Iraq could not possibly have been interested in any economic transactions with Niger that didn’t involve uranium.

* There is no other good evidence that Iraq tried to get uranium from Niger. People like Hitchens are still citing “these bullshit _FT_ articles”: in an attempt to suggest otherwise, but I think all the official reports trump. We’ll get to the substance of the _FT_ claims in another post.

*Fourth,* The UK Butler report does not prove that Bush was right. “Jeffrey Lewis”: and “Josh Marshall”: have done a good job dissecting this claim. Bottom line: It looks doubtful that the UK has anything worth a damn.

As an aside, the Butler report still doesn’t disprove that Bush lied in his SOTU speech – Bush claimed that the administration had “learned” something from the UK which the United States IC actually believed to be false.

Anyway, the press needs to keep pushing the administration to explain its role in handling the Iraq intel. That ain’t happened yet.

Chirac and Iran – Nothin’ New

I hate to contradict Scott Gearity, whose Export Control Blog is really sweet, but I have to disagree with “his take”: on “this Haaretz piece”:

According to the article:

French President Jacques Chirac has told Haaretz that if European negotiations with Iran fail to eliminate the threat of nuclear proliferation, then the issue will have to be moved to the UN Security Council.

Chirac’s statements regarding the possibility of imposing sanctions on Iran, which, according to observers, is the first time he has taken such a firm position in the matter, came in an interview with Haaretz on the eve of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s state visit to France Wednesday.

“I hope that [the European negotiations with Iran] will succeed and eliminate the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Chirac said. “If this does not prove to be the case, it will, of course, be necessary to transfer the handling [of the Iranian problem] to the UN Security Council.”

Scott suggests that Chirac’s statement “could be significant in light of the ongoing EU3 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program,” adding that

bq. … threatening to haul Iran before the Security Council isn’t the same thing as actually doing it, but for people who think that Americans and Europeans must work together on Iran to achieve a satisfactory outcome, Chirac’s comments should be welcome.

Chirac, however, wasn’t describing a new position. In a March letter to Solana, the EU3 “said”: that “we shall have no choice but to support referring Iran’s nuclear programme to the UN Security Council” if Tehran doesn’t play ball.

Moreover, that letter was just a more explicit statement of the “EU3’s previous policy”:

Agreed that it’s good to see Chirac standing firm on this issue, but I sometimes think that the press is a bit fixated on this “EU3=wuss” trope.

FMCT: Geneva Ain’t a Nice Place Off Your Face

Wade Boese enters the race with “an excellent piece”: on the US opposition to FMCT negotiations.

Wade wrote “about the FMCT/CD goat rodeo”: a few months back, but here he succinctly summarizes how China called the administration’s bluff:

bq. The United States said for years that it would be willing to entertain talks on outer space in exchange for FMCT negotiations, but Beijing would not bite because it argued that the two subjects deserved equal treatment. Yet now that China has compromised and is willing to accept simply talks, “the Bush administration rejected it out of hand, effectively blocking any forward movement on an FMCT agreement,” explains Ambassador Robert Grey, who represented the United States at the conference from 1997 through 2001.

He also supplies a Bolton quote that I hadn’t heard before:

bq. The concern is that talks could open the door for further action. Emblematic of this deep-seated sentiment is then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton’s July 2001 admonition that “from little acorns, bad treaties grow.”

The Administration claimed the FMCT couldn’t be “effectively verified”, but Ambassador John Carlson “dissolves”: this argument. Also, check out “this press roundtable”: featuring Robert Einhorn and David Albright’s thoughts on the subject.

_ACT_ editor Miles Pomper and I asked IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei about the FMCT a few months back. A fan of the treaty, ElBaradei had this to say about the verification question:

*ACT:* Could you elaborate a little bit more on that? As you know, the Conference on Disarmament is divided on the question over whether a fissile material cutoff treaty is effectively verifiable, and you just mentioned verification. Do you think such a treaty could be effectively verifiable?

*ElBaradei:* To me, to verify a cutoff treaty means that we have to verify all enrichment/reprocessing facilities and look for any such undeclared activities, which we do now in other countries. Basically, we will have to do the same in all nuclear-weapon states and the countries outside the NPT (India, Israel, and Pakistan). So, I don’t see anything about the fissile material treaty†again, just off the cuff†that is different from what we do now in other places.

*ACT:* But those are obviously states you’re generally looking at now that are nuclear-weapon states, right?

*ElBaradei:* Yes, but it is the same technique. We would be looking at all the facilities that are capable of producing either plutonium or highly enriched uranium, which is no different from what we do now. I’m not looking into the stockpiles, as far as I understand the cutoff. We are basically looking at future production, meaning that the existing facilities are under verification, that there are no undeclared facilities. So, as I said, I don’t see why we should not be able to verify a cutoff treaty.

But anyway, a fissile material cutoff treaty obviously would facilitate very much the question of management of the fuel cycle in the future because then at that time, if you have a universal cutoff, every enrichment plant in the world, every reprocessing plant in the world, would be under verification. Then it’s much easier to say, “Is that enough, or should we also have a multinational approach?” Right now of course, you have fuel cycle facilities in the military sector that are completely outside any verification at all, let alone multinational verification or multinational oversight.

But with the Bush administration’s attitude, my utility belt tells me it’s to the bar, Batman…

Sticking Feathers Up Your Butt Does Not Make You A Chicken…

…just like “claiming that”: “[President Bush] took advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to use military force” doesn’t make it true – even if you’re the Vice President.

Yes, _ACW_ readers know that the administration was lying. But the administration and its right –wing fluffers keep insisting that Bush exhausted all peaceful options. And those clowns need to be rebutted.

As I’ve “said,”: there has been ample evidence – even leaving aside some good postwar reporting – that the administration was using the inspections process as a pretext for war.

Exhibit A: the persistent US complaints that Iraq was shooting at US planes enforcing the No-FlyZones over Iraq.

Michael Smith “recently wrote”: that “the Downing Street Memo”:,,2087-1593607_2,00.html

quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that “the U.S. had already begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime.”


Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict.

British government figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that although virtually none were used in March and April, an average of 10 tons a month were dropped between May and August.

Smith adds that the US and UK then “dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war” after Iraq didn’t take the bait.

That November, the US argued that Iraq was in material breach of “UNSCR 1441”: because Iraqi soldiers were firing on the US planes.

At the time, I “wrote”:

The no-fly zones enforced by the United States and United Kingdom over Iraq could also provide a trigger for war.


White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan said November 18 that firing on coalition aircraft is a “material breach” of the resolution. McClellan said that Washington reserves the right to take such incidents to the Security Council but had no immediate plans to do so. [UNSG Kofi] Annan stated that it was unlikely that the Security Council would consider shooting at U.S. planes a material breach of the resolution…

Remember, this was _before_ the inspectors even returned to Iraq.

The US, shockingly, was on pretty shaky legal ground:

The United States argues that paragraph 8 of Resolution 1441 supports the U.S. case. That paragraph reads: “Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel…of any Member State taking action to uphold any Council resolution.” Resolution 1441 does not specifically mention no-fly zones, however.

Washington argues that the no-fly zones implement Security Council resolutions because they protect Iraq’s minority populations, prevent Iraq from threatening its neighbors, and monitor cease-fire conditions on Iraq. Specifically, the United States cites Resolutions 678, 687, 688, and 949. This position is controversial; none of the resolutions mention no-fly zones, and Annan stated July 5 after a meeting with Iraqi officials that the no-fly zones are not Security Council policy. Iraq has long opposed the zones, saying they violate its sovereignty and the UN Charter.

Other Security Council members’ views on the matter are mixed. Russia argued in a November 19 statement from the Foreign Ministry that the zones are not covered by any Security Council resolutions and that Washington’s arguments with respect to Resolution 1441 “have no international-legal foundation.” A spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry would not take a position on the zones’ legality or Washington’s contention that Iraqi threats to coalition aircraft constitute a material breach of the resolution, according to a November 19 statement. China had no comment on Washington’s interpretation of the resolution….

According to a “different UK memo”: , London also disagreed with the US position. The UK argued that the zones monitored compliance with “UNSCR 688”: and specifically disagreed with the US position that the NFZs also enforced “UNSCR 687”:

This distinction is, I think, important because 1441

set up an enhanced inspection regime with the aim of bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent resolutions of the Council.

But 688 had f*ck-all to do with disarmament. Seems to weaken the US legal case, no?

Anyway, please mock apologists for Bush _et al’s_ goat rodeo mercilessly…

Iran Proposals Redux

A while ago, Jeffrey “posted the full text”: of an informal Iranian proposal to limit its centrifuge operation to a facility of about 3,000 machines.

Although the proposal contains a few things to like (e.g. a commitment to forego reprocessing), the 3,000 limit isn’t one of them.

The second phase of Iran’s proposal _does_ include the “assembly, testing and installation of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz.” The fourth phase includes the fun-filled “incremental manufacturing, assembly and installation of centrifuge components up to the numbers [50K+] envisaged for Natanz.”

As an aside, a State Department official “confirms”: Iran has also floated the idea of a facility with a few hundred centrifuges. The official wasn’t sure when the Iranians had done this.

Additionally, Russia “suggested”: an interesting proposal, although the details vary depending on who is talking:

bq. Sirus Naseri, head delegate to Iran’s talks with the Europeans, told Agence France Presse May 21 that Tehran is considering a Russian offer to enrich Iranian uranium, but the terms of the deal are unclear. Russia has told the United States that it offered to produce enriched uranium from Iranian lightly processed uranium ore, or “yellowcake.” But Iran claims that Russia offered to use Iranian uranium hexafluoride, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today June 10. Iran has a uranium conversion facility designed to convert yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride. Uranium hexafluoride is perceived as the greater proliferation threat.

Obviously, I prefer proposals that constrain Iran from producing fissile material as much as possible.

It is tough to know the extent to which this all matters, given the election. All of the above could be off the table, but “it looks like”: Iran will not decide anything until the EU3 deliver their proposal, due by August.

PSI Lacks Sweet Libya Skills

Thought I’d give a heads-up about a “forthcoming _Arms Control Today_ article”: from Wade Boese.

[Obviously, I am responsible for all snarky comments.]

Shockingly, Wade finds, the Bush administration has been playing a bit fast and loose with the facts surrounding the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the October 2003 interdiction of the BBC China — the ship that was delivering centrifuge parts to Libya.

Various administration officials have touted that interdiction as a successful PSI operation. “As recently as 26 May,”: SecState Rice asserted that

bq. It was a very important success of the Proliferation Security Initiative that we interdicted a cargo that was headed to Libya from North Korea…

In addition to the fact that the shipment did not originate in North Korea, Rice’s statement appears to be false for another reason.

A “31 May ACA press statement”: summarizes the issue:

Although the administration asserts that the initiative has been a huge success, it says that the sensitive nature of PSI prevents discussion of its specific accomplishments, except for the much publicized October 2003 interdiction of the BBC China transporting nuclear contraband to Libya.

Yet, some foreign government and former U.S. officials dispute this assertion, arguing that the BBC China interdiction was not a PSI operation. These claims will be detailed further in a forthcoming article in the monthly journal _Arms Control Today_…

Interestingly,when Rice praised the PSI “in a speech that same day”:, she characterized the initiative a bit differently than she had just 4 days earlier. This time, she said the “PSI provided the framework for action in the 2003 interdiction of the ship BBC China.”

Obviously, her speech was written before the ACA statement was issued. One wonders what prompted the change.

It’s also worth noting a salient fact that Rice _et al_ omit when they talk about the BBC China — the officials who boarded the ship “missed some centrifuge components”: which later ended up in Libya.

But apart from that…


I neglected to give Michael Roston credit for “addressing this issue”: a while ago. My bad.

CRS Reports: Links

Steve Aftergood brought these two links (“one”: and “two”: to my attention.

I thought I’d add this (little-known, I think) one from the “State Department.”: I don’t think it’s searchable, but for finding recent foreign policy-related reports, it’s wicked good.