PSI Lacks Sweet Libya Skills

Thought I’d give a heads-up about a “forthcoming _Arms Control Today_ article”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_07-08/Interdiction_Misrepresented.asp 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,”:http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/46917.htm 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”:http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2005/20050531_PSI.asp 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”:http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/46951.htm, 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”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2004_07-08/IAEAandLibya.asp which later ended up in Libya.

But apart from that…

*Update:*

I neglected to give Michael Roston credit for “addressing this issue”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=154 a while ago. My bad.

1 thought on “PSI Lacks Sweet Libya Skills

  1. Mark Gubrud

    So, am I the only person who thinks it’s obvious that Ghaddafi (or however we spell his name here) made a deal with the US (back in Clinton days of appeasement) to run a sting on AQ Khan, in return for rehabilitation, culminating in the BBC China seizure and Libya’s subsequent “coming clean”? This would be consistent with the fact that (from Boese’s article):

    Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher later that day indicated Rice chose her words carefully because ”[t]here were other efforts being pursued in the case of Libya and Khan that contributed to successfully finding out and stopping this shipment.”

    Khan could not be stopped unless he were caught in the act before the whole world (the Italian Navy was handy for that) and Ghaddafi could not betray him openly before the Muslim world. So this worked out to everyone’s advantage (other than those in the market for illicit nukes).

    Moammar should probably be given a Medal of Freedom, but he’ll probably be happier with some shiny new oilrigs.

    Reply

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