Rumsfeld Reports on IAEA

A few weeks back, Rumsfeld “gave an interview”: where he discussed proliferation and international institutions.

He said:

Q: What you said just a minute ago about, you know, this isn’t something that one country can solve, it sounded awfully close to kind of stepping back from what we’ve been saying all along, which is everything’s on the table.

RUMSFELD: Oh, I’m not stepping back from anything like that or anything the president said. No, I was just characterizing proliferation –as something that no one nation can deal with. I mean, it just takes a lot of countries to prevent the proliferation of these dangerous technologies to other people.

And it takes 21st century rules. I mean, we were working to stop a bunch of missiles going into a Middle Eastern country. And if you’ll recall, the ship was stopped, they found the missiles, and they ended up having to let the ship go, and the missiles go because there was no law or rule that would permit them from being — to be stopped. And we had a maritime interdiction system that was available at that time to do that.

But the world has not adjusted to the 21st century, and we’re still functioning with institutions that were fashioned at the juncture of the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, that have stood us in good stead a long time. But this new century is going to require institutions to be either significantly adjusted or new ones to be fashioned, new arrangements to be fashioned. And we think of cyber warfare, the damage that could be done to countries. The rules — the guidelines and the procedures and the legitimacy of certain types of behavior in that area haven’t been thought through well.

Right. I can’t think of anything that the IAEA has accomplished since the end of the Cold War except verifying that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program, sussing out the details of Iran’s nuclear program, helping to investigate the Khan network, and helping to uncover North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Obviously, we need to tweak existing export controls and do something to deal with the spread of enrichment and reprocessing facilities.

RE: the So San incident, I would add the following, which I wrote about “here”:

bq. Fleischer said that the United States had the authority to stop the ship because it was unflagged but that Washington decided to release the ship because it lacked “clear authority to seize the shipment.” Fleischer also suggested that Yemen’s status as an ally in anti-terrorism efforts was an important factor in the decision, saying that Yemen “does not provide a threat to the United States.”

I’ll go back to expressing my inner anguish through the majesty of song…

12 thoughts on “Rumsfeld Reports on IAEA

  1. Paul

    Verifying what others discovered and helping inspect facilities also discovered by Western governments and dissidents? Is that all? It doesn’t seem like an awful lot of use for such a high-brow, completely useless organization like the IAEA.

    Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Khan have all been examples precisely of IAEA/ElBaradei/Kofi Annan obstructionism in the face of overwhelming direct and indirect evidence of nuclear weapons development and malicious intent. This is crystal-clear. When you get people like Annan and ElBaredei saying Iran and North Korea must be “engaged” and “respected” and “allowed to express themselves” or other bullshit phrases like that, what you got is surrender and appeasement. Proof of that is the subsequent behavior of said regimes, emboldened by the lack of spine of the Western world.

  2. hass

    The State Department just provided a report on the IAEA’s Technical Assistance Program to Iran – does anyone know where to get a copy?

  3. hass

    …to Congress. (forgot to add that the report on Iran was provided by the State Dept TO CONGRESS)

    Apparently this report is filed by State to Congress regularly. Wonder what’s in it.

  4. Canary

    To be fair, I fail to see where Rumsfeld comments on the IAEA in this report/transcript. I could not find any comment relating to the Agency.

  5. Paul

    I am aware of that. It changes nothing about the post. I guess I could have pointed out that the Bush administration can and should do a hell of a lot more to increase the effectiveness of international action/institutions against proliferation. But I didn’t feel like flogging that dead horse just now.

  6. hass

    But hasn’t the Bush administration instituted the “Proliferation Security Initiative” outside of the UN Law of the Sea system to (illegally) interdict missiles and other “wmd-related” material from going to countries we don’t like on an ad hoc basis?

  7. Andy

    I think Rumsfeld is actually right on this. I believe, perhaps wrongly, that the NPT has failed, and will continue to fail, in the post-Cold War world. We’ll have to see what the future brings, but I believe that individual nations, now outside the context of a polar world, have much more incentive to proliferate than they did before. This is partly a result of nationalism, partly the perceived loss of protection from the US/Soviet nuclear umbrella as well as other factors.

    Take Japan for example, which has an advanced nuclear program that is capable of supplying fissionable material for nuclear weapons. Japan could probably weaponize in a matter of months if they so desired. However, Japan is still under US military protection in many respects, so weapons would not benefit them. However, if Japanese-US relations soured, and Japan was left on its own to defend itself and its interests against North Korea and China, I think Japan would have to seriously consider a weapons program for deterrence. As old Cold War alliances and interdependencies change, more countries will consider a nuclear weapon capability to ensure their security against real and perceived threats.

    The NPT itself is a problem from a proliferation standpoint. It guarantees access to “peaceful” nuclear technology without defining what is peaceful and what is not. As we see with Iran, interpretation of the NPT largely comes down to intent – what is a particular country’s purpose in pursuing nuclear technology and particularly dual-use technology like enrichment? This is at the heart of the argument in Iran, with the Iranians insisting their intentions are peaceful and the US and others insisting that they are not. How is it possible to definitively determine one way or another? Safeguards agreements are largely useless against a covert program based on technology gained from a civilian program. Iran was able to hide its so-called “civilian” infrastructure for years. Once it masters the full fuel cycle, I don’t have much faith that the current agreement will detect or prevent a covert enrichment program.

    Article V is a curious and, in my view, archaic provision of the NPT which allows non-nuclear countries access to peaceful applications of nuclear explosions. I don’t how it’s possible to, on one hand, call for complete disarmament (art. VI) while permitting “peaceful” nuclear explosions. How is one to have peaceful nuclear explosives without having weapons?

    Finally, technology has advanced to the point where developing covert programs is easier than during the Cold War. Although the IAEA has a decent record of monitoring, it didn’t discover the Iraqi EMIS program until after the first Gulf War, and were it not for Libyan cooperation, the extent of AQ Khan’s proliferation might still be secret today. It’s impossible to say if other hidden programs are yet undiscovered, but it’s certainly a possibility, even a probability depending on your faith in the system of safeguards.

    So I would like to see a newer, much stricter NPT, but that is probably a fantasy. It’s doubtful the non-nuclear countries would agree to greater limits on their current rights to nuclear technology. Unless the NPT is strengthened, however, I fear that we are now seeing the beginning of a downward trend as more countries obtain the capability to develop nuclear weapons along with the desire to possess them.

  8. Canary

    With all due respect Paul, I disagree with your statement “It changes nothing about the post.” The title reads “Rumsfeld Reports on IAEA.” He didn’t. I support your contention but the post’s title is misleading.

  9. Paul

    RE: HAsson PSI:

    No. The PSI does not empower countries to do anything they couldn’t already do within existing international law.

  10. Paul

    RE: Canary on the title.

    I think it’s more than fair to include the IAEA in the list of “institutions” that Rumsfeld was talking about.

  11. hass

    Sorry but there is a great deal of debate over the legality of PSI – even in its present form. THe PSI docs claim that it is consistent with international law however
    under Article 110 of the
    Law of the Sea Convention the interdiction of vessels is legally only permitted if they’re engaged in five possible
    activities, all of which are themselves illegal such as carrying contraband (drug trafficking
    on the high seas is prohibited by the 1988 Vienna Convention.) Otherwise interdiction requires the consent of the flag State in international waters.

    The US has tried to fit the PSI into international law by dressing it up in the language of international law and later by claiming it constitutes “self-defense” but few are buying that. Even some in the US worry that it could just as easily be applied to the US.

    Since the PSI is selectively applied to
    states which are designated (by whom?) of “proliferation concern” this raises even more doubts that the PSI constitutes a general norm or standard of international law. It is at best a multilateral agreement which is enforceable only among its participants but which is otherwise contrary to international law.


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