Blocking the Bomb: Can Middle Eastern Nuclear Designs be Stopped?

AIPAC Policy Conference with Ariel Levite and Paula DeSutter
May 16, 2004


American Israel Public Affairs Committee

MR. : (In progress) -- this forum is on the weapons proliferation, weapons of mass destruction proliferation in the Middle East. Those of you who know me, and have heard me talk about this issue in the past know that one part of my biography is somewhat relevant to the issue at hand. I spent close to four years as Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for Nonproliferation Policy, which meant I dealt specifically with the development of American policy to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I will tell you that I spent a great deal of my time during that four-year period focusing on the Middle East as one of the primary centers of the threat of the spread of weapons of mass destruction, particularly on Iran and on Iraq.

I remember in the fall of 1990 if someone would have asked me how far Iraq was away from a nuclear weapon, I would have given them the U.S. government's best estimate, that Iraq was five to seven years away from a nuclear weapon. After the Gulf War, in 1991, we discovered that Iraq was six months to a year away. We discovered a great deal about the Iraqi nuclear weapons program that we had not known. I say that to show you the limits of intelligence. In many ways, what recently happened with respect to Iraq and its possession or non-possession now of weapons of mass destruction is the opposite of most intelligence failures. Most intelligence failures occur because you know too little and, therefore, you underestimate. In the case of Iraq, we overestimated, but that is a very different and aberrant kind of intelligence failure. Most times it is because we underestimate.

With respect to Iran, we have known for a very long time that Iran has sought a nuclear weapon. Iran is a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which means it has internationally foresworn obtaining nuclear weapons, and its entire nuclear infrastructure, anything they have with respect to a nuclear program, is supposed to be safeguarded and inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Well, at the end of the year 2002, an Iranian opposition group claimed to discovery a great deal more about the Iranian nuclear weapons program than anybody had ever heard of before. We knew they were getting assistance from the Russians, we would see intelligence about various technologies that would flow to the Iranians from the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans. And we knew the Russians were building a power reactor for the Iranians. The Iranians were spending a great deal of money to develop nuclear power for "peaceful purposes." Iran is one of the most energy rich countries in the world, both with respect to petroleum resources, and with respect to natural gas resources, and the notion that they needed to spend billions of dollars to get peaceful nuclear energy is somewhat akin to importing snowblowers into Alaska.

But all of a sudden, at the end of the year 2002, we discovered a great deal more. It wasn't just the odd piece of technology. It wasn't the fact that they were developing nuclear power. It was that they had had a program for 18 years to deceive the International Atomic Energy Agency in ways that can only be described as leading to a nuclear weapon. They built a pilot uranium enrichment facility, and enriched uranium. They are in the process of building a massive uranium enrichment capability that when complete could allow Iran to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon to build a nuclear weapon once every ten days to two weeks.

That they built a heavy water conversion facility, heavy water is used in a type of nuclear reactor that produces plutonium as a byproduct. There are two ways to get a nuclear weapon, one is to enrich uranium to weapons grade, and the other one is to separate plutonium from the gunk of a nuclear reactor -- that they have experimented in separating plutonium.

When all of this came out, the Iranians were forced to admit it, and gave a final and complete report on all of its nuclear activities, except that it wasn't, because the IAEA continued to discover more things that the Iranians would then own up to, oh, you mean that. For example, the design for and actual product of a much more advanced centrifuge that would be used in a large enrichment facility that would allow them to much more quickly produce highly enriched uranium than what I just mentioned. Or, the experimentation with polonium, polonium is a nuclear element used primarily to trigger nuclear reactions in nuclear weapons. And the Iranians failed to mentioned those.

When the Libyans came clean last year with their own nuclear weapons program, they admitted having bought from the Pakistanis a nuclear weapons design that we didn't know they had. As I said earlier, you don't know what you don't know. And we have yet to discover that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons design. On the other hand, if the Paks sold it to the Libyans for $4 million, it isn't all that hard a leap to assume the Iranians might also have sought to buy it from the Pakistanis. This becomes particularly dangerous because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would present a grave security threat to the United States, and an existential threat to the State of Israel. Imagine Iran, the world's largest state- sponsor of international terror, in possession of a nuclear weapon, sitting astride the oil shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf. Imagine the impact in the region itself just by their mere possession of that weapon.

You know, very few Canadians lost sleep last night over the fact that the United States has 6,000 nuclear warheads. I don't know anybody in the Middle East who would sleep well at night knowing that the Iranians had nuclear weapons. Who possesses those weapons does matter. And the Iranians have already, this current leadership in Iran, has already threatened Israel. And we are dealing with a very narrow timeframe. I hope that as a result of what has come out over the last several months, and the activity of the IAEA now in Iran, that their program has been slowed, the Iranian program has been slowed. It is a hope; it is certainly not a fact. And the Iranian program could be within a year or two from the indigenous capability to produce nuclear weapons. Our time is running out.

We have with us to discuss this and other elements of the weapons proliferation in the Middle East two leading experts, both of whom I have known for a considerable period of time, Dr. Ariel Levite, Eli Levite, is the Deputy Director of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, is one of Israel's foremost experts on matters of arms control. I first met Eli after the Gulf War in 1991 with the resumption with the start of the peace process. You may remember we had all kinds of tracks of peace process, including arms control in the Middle East, and I was Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the time, and Eli was Israel's leading advocates, and we both attended those conferences. We didn't make a whole lot of progress, Eli.

And the second person on our panel is Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula Desutter. I am very proud to say that Paula is also an alumni of ACTA working in the Bureau of Verification and Compliance when it was part of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, it is now part of the State Department, and is one of America's leading experts on what you do when you have an arms control agreement, how in fact do you make sure that it's enforceable.

How do you make sure that they aren't cheating? Both of which are directly relevant to the kinds of problems we face in the Middle East.

So, we will start with Eli Levite.


ARIEL LEVITE: Two things I would like to say at the outset. The first is that sort of the switch from being an academic to a government official is reflected in the dress code. The second is that you will use PowerPoints. And the real reason for using PowerPoints is not just in order for the security people to vete what it is that you're going to say, although that is always a concern, but also in order to show your few cartoons. So those will be forthcoming.

I think given such a wonderful introduction by Brad, one is also reminded of the Saxman Corporation that has guided Israeli and American policy in the course and on the substances of both arms control and nonproliferation. And Brad has only talked about one aspect of this cooperation that has gone on for a very long time. So, I think that you would find considerable similarity of views, although there will be a few nuances, as is obvious.

So, I want to add a few footnotes on Iran, and broaden the picture a little bit to talk about other dimensions of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. I think that point of departure for this presentation has to do with the realization that there was something that was achieved in the early 1960s, namely a certain measure of nuclear stability that is beginning to unravel, and it has been beginning to unravel precisely at the time that we thought that we have made the greatest accomplishment in nuclear nonproliferation, that is that the bedrock of arms control in the nuclear domain, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that was consolidated in the late 1960s, and was extended indefinitely in the mid-'90s, was actually not working very well. Paula could probably talk about many aspects of this, but I will just mention a few that are of particular concern to people who reside in the Middle East.

First is that whereas we used to be worried about nuclear technology emerging from the established suppliers from Western Europe, from Russia, potentially from China, what we have discovered in recent years is there are other people on the block who are actually providing nuclear technology. And, as Brad has already mentioned, are willing to provide practically everything, that is not just the nuclear technology but also weapons design, and in some cases even nuclear materials, and that's Pakistan, or at least from Pakistan, and the DPRK, no caveat, no restrictions on what they are willing to supply.

We have also been discovering that in addition to Iran, which has already been mentioned, there are other countries that have expressed considerable interest in nuclear technology, and not for the most benign of purposes, and so there is a lot of discussion now going on about other recipients of the Pakistani or the A. Q. Khan network to be more precise in the Middle East. Syria is often mentioned, but a couple of other countries of which we have grave suspicions have also been on the receiving end of the nuclear technology.

We're also discovering that there are some new fashions of cooperation reminiscent of what one would really think of as a network, this is not just a supplier on the one hand and a recipient, there is actually some kind of a division of labor between recipients and suppliers. And I just point out to you, for example, that part of this wonderful accomplishment of the United States and the United Kingdom on Libya was not only to eliminate the Libyan program, but also to arrest the cooperation between Libya and other countries in the Middle East, because that's how things are being done these days.

We're discovering that we don't only have to worry about states, but we also have to worry increasingly about non-state actors. We've seen that in the terrorism domain, we now have to look at this in the proliferation domain as well. We also have to be increasingly worried about this convergence, this huge infusion of motivations between anti-Western Islamic ideology, and strategic considerations, and greed, and corruption, and so on, both among people who possess the technology as well as among some of the governments that are in control, or supposedly in control of that technology.

And we also see that the nuclear technology very often goes hand- in-hand with the capability to deliver it across long ranges, and the weapons of choice in that respect are ballistic missiles. And if you look at the countries that are expressing interest in long-range ballistic missiles, it's very often the same list of countries.

So, the bad news is that the legitimacy that was originally granted in the context of the Nonproliferation Treaty, that countries can possess the fuel cycle, it's still there, and the Iranians have been trying to take advantage of it, as have others, that the core nuclear technologies are still very much accessible on the market, in fact, more so because centrifuge technology originated in Germany, and subsequently was part of the Urenko (sp) Plant that involved several European countries have migrated to Pakistan, and now from Pakistan, via Pakistani scientists, to others, and it's become very widely accessible. And it's a technology which can much more easily be concealed, and could be much more difficult to target.

We're seeing that the traditional tools that the international community has built to address nuclear proliferation problems are showing considerable weaknesses. The supplier regimes were supposed to deny supply are not effective when they're talking about countries that lie outside them. The International Atomic Energy Agency was built to check on countries that honor agreements that they take upon themselves, and the safeguards had considerable limitations built into them. We're seeing that countries that have used a Nonproliferation Treaty, or FORAC (sp) for short, or NPT, to acquire nuclear are now saying that if pushed to the wall, and if people go deeply into trying to sort of inspect what they actually have, they might withdraw from the treaty, and that's perfectly legitimate. North Korea has already done it. You can either accept it or reject it, but they are perfectly entitled to do it on national security grounds.

And we have also seen that the international community has failed to erect the implementation mechanisms in the form of the Security Council where one can forge a consensus to deal with those countries that have been cheating, and it's already been a serious problem with the North Koreans, and could very soon be a big challenge with respect to Iran. That is, suppose they are actually caught cheating in formal noncompliance of the treaty, and the issue is moved on to the Security Council, what happens then? And so there is the lingering suspicion that given not only the few cases that I've mentioned, but also that the entire structure may be unraveling, that we would see other countries entering the fray, and not just Iran.

This is basically suggested to say, this is a very serious issue. I think all of us sort of have a feeling that things are not going very well in the world, and we all point out to different areas in which this is true. I submit to you that nuclear proliferation is a good candidate for being sort of ranking very high out there.

I don't want to paint a completely bleak picture. I will submit to you that there are a few bits and pieces of good news, and those are not just important as they are, but they are sort of also important in inspiring confidence that we could, if we actually put our minds and resources to this, and diplomatic efforts, and rally behind those countries that really care, we could achieve progress. The Libyan case has been a case in point, where the Libyans not only gave up on the nuclear weapons program, but did so in a manner that sets a very important precedent. The U.S. has already set sort of a benchmark for North Korea that the North Koreans have now failed to abide by, which is a complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement, which is where not only do they have to dismantle their nuclear weapons program, but the stuff is actually taken out of the country, and the whole thing is anchored in a U.N. Security Council resolution. This is a very important benchmark, and clearly there were a lot of countries in the Middle East who were not very happy with the example that Libya has set, but it's not only a major diplomatic triumph in and of itself, but also an important precedent.

The U.S. has advanced considerable other tools with the assistance of some of its more important allies, and there are a few new ones that have been joining in different capacities, to what is called a Proliferation Support Initiative, trying to interdict proliferation, including on the high seas by boarding ships, and so on, with the Panamanians and Liberians agreeing that other countries will be able to board their ships.

There is an increasing recognition that the issue is not presently, and shouldn't in the future, be a partisan issue in the United States.

Many more of the U.S. allies or potential allies, including those who have diverted from the United States on other issues, such as Iraq, are stepping up to the plate and recognizing that it is very important to cooperate in this domain because the stakes are now higher than they have ever been, and I include in this the Europeans, even the French, which we've all talked about in the context of Iraq.

There are all kinds of interesting new initiatives underway. You might hear about this more from Paula, and I think that at the end of the day, as Brad has already mentioned, history in some important respects is on our side. The scare of nuclear proliferation that was very high in the '60s did not materialize, and it did not materialize to a large extent because of diplomatic efforts, and other types of arrangements, and intelligence efforts, and so on. And so we could still face the task and succeed.

Iran is the most acute present challenge. It's the most acute present challenge because it's an important country, because it's a relatively rich country, because it already has a considerable infrastructure in the nuclear domain, because the IAEA has been very reluctant to take on Iran. The IAEA has known for well over a decade that Iran is up to no good, that Iran was not meeting its obligations, and failed to act to it. And Brad as already sort of described to you how this turnaround came about, with some revelations that basically forced the IAEA.

It was very difficult to get others, other than the United States, to focus on Iran, not just the agency, but also others, and so on. Some of the tools that have been put in place, including tools by the sort of in the form of U.S. legislation and so on, have not been very effective in trying to sort of bring the Iranians to stop, because they haven't been very consistently implemented.

But, then starting last year, when the Iranians were put on the spot, the dynamics began to change. It has begun to change in some important respects, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. But, the good thing about it is that the U.S. and Israel are no longer alone. We have a coalition that consists also of the Australians, and the Canadians, and the French, to some important respects also the United Kingdom, to a lesser extent Germany, and other countries, both in Europe and beyond, who are really taking the issue very seriously. But, the Iranians are seeing this as something which is a major challenge, and which they are using some very creative tactics to try and defeat.

I want to say a few words about the Europeans, because I think a lot depends here not on just the U.S. and Israel operating alone. I think that a good thing to be said about the Europeans is they have set for themselves a standard which is very similar to the standard the U.S. has set up for itself on North Korea. I think it's also very important the Europeans have no doubt about the gravity of the issue at stake, and that they're even willing to contemplate, in extreme cases, the use of force, and that they have really recognized that Iran was a case in point, in good time, that is that the intervention came before there were affects on the ground that were completely irreversible. Yet, some aspects of the European behavior have been controversial. I don't want to go into too many specifics on this, and the Iranians have tried to use the bargaining style, this bizarre bargaining style to drive a wedge between the Europeans, between the Europeans and the United States, between allies, and so on, have been trying to use their threats of pulling out of the NPT and so on.

The jury is still out on whether the European engagement strategy will succeed. It's clear that the good cop-bad cop strategy has its limitations, and it has its advantages, but neither side feels completely comfortable playing the role of either just a bully, and the other guy of just sort of the good guy. So there is a very complicated game going on. We cannot afford to give up on Iran. I think that Brad has already talked about some of the aspects of why Iran would be scary.

I would say that the problem is not confined to Iran in and of itself. If the Iranians were to succeed in getting a bomb, others will follow suit, and will follow suit very quickly. It will be very difficult to keep the genie out of the bottle once they've gotten to the point where they actually possess weapons. In fact, the war that had completely arrested the Iraqi designs has come at a point in which the Iranians were quite far along, and if the Iranians are perceived to be getting there, others will accelerate their efforts, and we will see the Middle East moving very rapidly into a multi-nuclear nations region.

The bottom line has already been said by President Bush. He talked about not only the development of nuclear weapons in Iran is intolerable, but also the program is intolerable. And President Bush has also, I think, laid down the principle of how one deals with this, you start through the U.N. and the U.N. mechanism, but you may not end there if it came down to it. That is a very important benchmark, and that's the one we should all adopt in terms of future behavior. Iran is a tough nut to crack, but that's what we should aim for.

What needs to be done? U.S. leadership remains indispensable. We need to continue to promote a bipartisan spirit which has guided efforts in this domain, that it should continue well into the next administration. It is crucial to keep on board the U.S. allies, and broaden their scope as much as possible. It's very important to work with the Russians, the Russians have been receptive, by and large, to U.S. efforts and inducements, and also been very receptive to the dialogue with Israel in this domain, but that's not something that can be taken for granted, there is a high maintenance challenge.

We may need to step up the pressure to move to more coercive, diplomatic measures. Brad has already alluded to that, and so on. We cannot just focus on Iran, we need to look beyond Iran, and clearly, and this is easier said than done, when there is Iraq, when there is terrorism, when there are other issues on the plate? ?(inaudible)? ?the security domain, nonproliferation, which has traditionally been a lackluster activity, it's something where you're required to do things, an alienate a lot of people in the process, is still something that you have to do, and you have to put it on a very high priority, and presidents, and secretaries of state, and defense have to be involved. That's not easy, but that's where your role is very important.

We need to go beyond Iran, we need to work on the diplomatic front to strike initiatives that set up new norms of the legitimate and not legitimate, in terms of access to nuclear technology, the president's initiative in this respect has been very important. The president has also spoken of the need to reform the only legitimate watchdog that currently exists in the nuclear domain, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we believe this is, indeed, extremely important if we can count, in order to be able to count on their effort. They've been very good at investigation, but much weaker in other respects. So we have to go beyond the supplier regimes, both in terms of who participates, who adopts those measures, Pakistan, and so on, as well as the criteria they use. And I think that there is an effort to do that in the context of the upcoming G8 summit and beyond.

Let me conclude by showing you three last slides, one is sort of to talk about A.Q. Khan, representing a much broader phenomena, how much mischief can one person do? It hasn't been one person, and hopefully that problem is addressed, but it will take a lot of effort to make sure that it's actually effectively and permanently. To give you the flavor of the Iranian claim that what they're doing is all domestic uses, and so on, Brad has already alluded to the legitimacy for an oil rich country to pin so much hope, not only in terms of nuclear reactors, but also the entire fuel cycle, which makes even less sense than having the nuclear reactors. And finally to talk about what the energy is actually used for, it's actually sort of? ?(inaudible)? ?this energy is used for making bombs.

Thank you.


PAULA DESUTTER: I'd have to comment on the cartoons, I don't think A.Q. Khan has ever apologized for the proliferation he's been undertaking. Thank you for inviting me to speak to AIPAC.

Thank you, Brad, for the introduction, and thank you for the work that AIPAC does. I think the work is important in informing Americans, Israelis, and others about matters of mutual interest.

There's no more important issue facing the United States and Israel today than Iran's efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Let me make Iran's aims very clear from our perspective, they are trying to build a nuclear bomb. In my world, which is State Department diplomacy, we often craft our language quite obscurely.

And it makes it a little bit more difficult t understand exactly what we're saying, we talk about weapons of mass destruction, w talk about, and I will talk today about noncompliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, we talk about the nuclear fuel cycle. When we use terms like that I fear we sometimes make Iran's nuclear weapons program sound like an abstraction, but it's not. It's a looming, concrete reality. If Iran succeeds in its efforts to build a nuclear bomb it will threaten peace and security in the region, the carefully constructed nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the very existence of our close ally, and the only democracy in the Middle East, which is Israel.

Last fall I spoke to a joint committee of American congressman and Israeli Knesset members on the issue of Iran. One Knesset members said at this hearing that he thought that Iran was only one year away from completing the building of a nuclear bomb. Now, that was eight months ago. I don't think that he was right. But, estimating a timeline for a clandestine weapons program is not an exact science. We have overestimated, or underestimated such programs several times. I don't know if they've got one year, or two years, or five years. But, unless Iran's nuclear weapons program is ended the Knesset member will be right some day, and I fear some day soon. As my boss, Undersecretary John Bolton, said in his statement at the U.N. two weeks ago, if we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer it will be too late, Iran will have nuclear weapons.

So what is the Bush administration trying to do about this? The Bush administration is determined to use every tool at our disposal to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. A key instrument in this effort is the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, which I understand AIPAC had some measure of success in assisting in the passage. This four year old act permits the president to impose sanctions on suppliers of nuclear weapons material, missiles, and advanced conventional weapons to Iran. It requires us to report to Congress every six months on sanctions imposed under this law. Under the Bush administration the State Department has implemented this law aggressively to impose sanctions on foreign companies that trade in WMD, including nuclear materials, with Iran.

We believe that such sanctions will, over time, if applied consistently have both a deterrent effect on those who sell to Iran, and make it more difficult for Iran to buy the things it needs. As I said earlier, this is not an exact science, but we are using the intelligence and other information we receive more effectively, and we are applying the law more effectively and vigorously. The Clinton administration imposed sanctions under this law on one company, the report we submitted to Congress last month imposed sanctions on 13 companies. These sanctions are pretty significant, too, I should mention. It is a thump on the side of the head, and I think other countries are starting to receive the message.

This administration is also determined to reinvigorate our compliance assessments of countries like Iran, that are seeking nuclear weapons and other WMD. For example, as Brad mentioned, successive administrations have stated the Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and we've even said, in some cases, that elements of these programs violated the nonproliferation treaty, but these reports have been imprecise about the manner and consequences of the violation. The Bush administration is being more direct in its criticism. After a rigorous compliance assessment, and when I say that, for those of you who have not worked within a bureaucracy let me tell you that when someone says a rigorous compliance assessment it means that the knives were out and the fists were flying, but it was done with lawyers, so it wasn't interesting. But, after this rigorous compliance analysis the administration issued a statement for the first time only two weeks ago, and at the U.N. there was a preparatory commission meeting for the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference which is coming up next year, and Undersecretary Bolton gave a statement at that prep com that stated its judgment that Iran is seeking, or receiving assistance in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon. This is the language that's laid out in the Nonproliferation Treaty, under which we cited them as being in violation of Article II of the Nonproliferation Treaty.

That sounds boring, but it matters. The reason it matters is that Iran has consistently claimed that it has -- there is Article IV of the treaty, which says each country has an inherent right to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and Iran will cite that portion of the obligation loudly, clearly, repeatedly. What they don't mention is the latter part of the obligation which says, in conformity with Articles I and Articles II. What this means is that, from the United States perspective, Iran has a right to develop civilian nuclear power under the treaty, only in conformity with Article II. They have not done that, and Iran has now forfeited its right to pursue peaceful nuclear activities.

I should say that the Iranian representatives at the prep com were unhappy at these statements. Our focus on Iran's nuclear program has brought about some positive changes. The international community, as Eli said, has focused on Iran's lies, and brought pressure to bear to reveal certain aspects of Iran's nuclear program. Russian President Putin has agreed with us that a nuclear armed Iran poses an unacceptable threat, and they have assured us that they will not finish the Bushehr reactor's construction, or supply fuel for the reactor until they are assured that Iran is in full compliance with its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations. Russian recognition of the importance of delaying their cooperation with Iran is significant, and we intend to work closely with them on a continuing basis to make sure that they don't move forward on Bushehr until Iran truly is in compliance.

The International Atomic Energy Administration inspectors have done a good job in identifying some of Iran's many deceptions and violations. For example, the IAEA recently discovered Iran's failure to disclose development and testing of advanced durizine (sp) uranium enrichment centrifuges, which is a clear indicator that Iran continues its quest for nuclear weapons. And as was mentioned before, they did not provide a full declaration, and this is being discovered by the IAEA. It's one thing for the United States to go the IAEA and to other countries and say, we believe Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, it really is helpful to have an international inspection agency going forth and saying, here is what they're doing. The United States has been, at times, frustrated that the IAEA has not, at the board of governors, reached a noncompliance finding, which would refer this to the U.N. Security Council, but we're not done.

But, these inspectors can only have so much affect. Inspection is also an imprecise science, you can only go to those places where you're taken. If you're taken to places after the facility has been cleaned up the probability that you will detect persuasive information is not as good. So we're concerned about this. The president is concerned about some of the weaknesses in the nuclear nonproliferation regime, on February 11th set forth a new series of proposals on WMD. A couple of these are worth emphasizing in connection with Iran. For example, the president proposes limiting enrichment and reprocessing plants to those states that already have full scale, functioning plants. Members of the nuclear suppliers group would refuse to sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment to countries that have not yet reached that stage. He proposes creation of a special committee of the IAEA made up exclusively of members in good standing, to focus intensively on safeguards, and to ensure that nations comply with their international obligations. We believe that this new committee would deter, detect, and prevent nuclear proliferation.

The president's proposal would limit the import of nuclear equipment to states that have signed the additional protocol, and it would bar countries suspected of having covert nuclear weapons programs from holding seats on the IAEA board of governors, or on the new IAEA special committee. It sounds so obvious that it's remarkable. If you're suspected you can still sit on the board of governors, which Iran has been able to do. It sort of keeps you from getting a consensus on whether or not they should be referred. The president's proposal would also give the IAEA enhanced authority to inspect suspected violators. Taken together, President Bush's proposals are the first real attempt in over 30 years to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime, as a first line of defense against countries like Iran, who would use the NPT as cover and concealment while they build nuclear bombs.

While progress is never instant or certain in this business, I believe that the administration's efforts have shown some movement in slowing Iran's nuclear weapons progress. Examples include Russia's commitment to stop dealing with Iran until they comply with their obligation, and the good work of the IAEA inspectors. These steps, along with U.N. adoption of President Bush's proposals, should improve the situation. But, these efforts alone will not result in a nuclear free Iran, only a strategic commitment from Iran to confess their quest for a nuclear bomb, and to eliminate the program in a transparent way will enable Iran's readmission into the community of nations. That's not asking for too much. Iran is being asked to abide by a treaty that it freely undertook, and signed. Iran has received multiple benefits from membership in the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and they must not be permitted to exploit its advantages without being held to its obligations. We believe that Iran should follow Libya's lead in making a strategic decision.

Let me briefly discuss what Libya has done and why it stands as a model for countries like Iran to follow in giving up their WMD programs. I am -- Brad didn't explain this too much, but I am a verifier. We are the ones that go around looking to see if other countries are cheating, and telling our colleagues in the regional bureaus at the department that the people in their region are cheating, or the people that negotiated the agreement, there are violations of your regime. So we like to think of ourselves as the skunk in the garden party at the Department. I should say that we kind of like it, which is the sad part. But we don't usually go around talking about good news. We are usually the bearers of bad tidings. But in this case I think that we have extremely good news, or at least the beginning of a very good news story.

On December 19th, 2003, Libya announced that it would voluntarily rid itself of its WMD equipment and programs. Libya, which like Iran is a party to the NPT, declared its intention to comply in full with the NPT and to sign an additional protocol. These steps, Libya announced, would be undertaken in a transparent way that could be proved, including accepting immediate international inspections. Libya has already made enormous progress toward fulfilling these commitments. The United States, United Kingdom, and international organizations have worked closely with Libya to ensure its complete elimination of WMD and long-range missiles. We have focused in initially on the removal of items of greatest proliferation concern. Since the beginning of the year the U.K. and U.S. have assisted Libya and together we have, as Brad mentioned, removed nuclear weapons design documents that were discovered in December that they had. Again, he's absolutely right. It's not -- one can't assume that no one else got these documents. But we wanted to get the originals if we could.

We have dismantled Libya's known nuclear weapons program. When I say that, it's pretty breathtaking. They had a uranium conversation facility. We have four teams that have gone out. We've rotated, we've sent people in to remove equipment, and when the nuclear team was saying, okay?-?(audio break, tape change) -- we brought all of that back, they have destroyed all of Libya's more than 3,000 chemical munitions. This is a great story, they were in a hurry to get the munitions that they had hidden from us. It's interesting to discuss this for a minute because we had pretty good intelligence about their nuclear program. We have a little bit more work to do to confirm that what is known and what we've removed is everything, but that's just a matter of time.

But in the chemical area, they had shown the intelligence people that had been out there in October and December a lot of their munitions. But when our guys got out there in January, they said, okay, there is some more we want to show you. And they took them out to a turkey farm and it was a big warehouse, and they had it filled with unfilled munitions that they then said, we want to declare these as well. We were assisting them in preparing their declaration for the Chemical Weapons Convention. So, when we came back, I think it was in March, the question was, how are they going to eliminate all these munitions rapidly and without a lot of publicity, and what they did is, they lined up the munitions side-by-side, the head of the chemical team works for me, and he said, Paula, it was amazing, it just was stretching out as far as you could see, and they took a bulldozer, and the OPC the chemical weapons convention implementing group, the OPCW was there, and they drove across all of these chemical munitions and crushed them. Okay, that's not something that you get when you're trying to twist arms to get somebody to come into compliance. That's the kind of activity you get when somebody really has made a strategic commitment, and that strategic commitment is then being implemented.

We have identified and co-located their chemical agent stock, and precursors for destruction, that will be done under international supervision, and we've eliminated their SCUD-C missiles by removal. As President Bush said in February, abandoning the pursuit of illegal weapons can lead to better relations with the United States and other free nations. Continuing to seek those weapons will not bring security or international prestige, but only political isolation, economic hardship, and other unwelcome consequences. As was mentioned, some of Libya's neighbors are not delighted with their decision, and they undertook it without any promises from the United States. We didn't say, if you do this, we will do Y. We just said, it will open the way to better relations. We, therefore, believe that we had an interest in making sure that there is good movement on our part to recognize what they've done. And the U.S. has responded to their good faith efforts thus far by deciding to terminate, as the president did last month, the application of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, or ILSA, on Libya. These sanctions remain in place on Iran, and we hope that the message is received. But the results of Libya are breathtaking, and I would not have guessed six months ago that Libya's nuclear program would be in Tennessee rather than in Tripoli, and it's only because they made a strategic commitment to rid themselves of the WMD and long-range missiles that we're where we are.

Why did Libya choose this path? Based on my own analysis, and Colonel Kadafi's public statements, I believe it reflects the simple recalculation of the costs and benefits of pursuing, deploying, and using weapons of mass destruction, and that is the example we hope Iran will follow. The U.S. and its allies have used, and must continue to use every resource at our disposal to turn the tide of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These tools are intended to change cost/benefit calculations of proliferating countries, and affect their strategic decision-making. We've used diplomacy, we will continue to do so. We have imposed sanctions and applied economic pressure, we will continue to do so. We have used force and the threat of force, and we will continue to do so, and we have used interdiction and cooperation with others as part of the President's Proliferation Security Initiative, and we will continue to do so.

So let me say in conclusion that the pursuit of nuclear weapons by any country in violation of its treaty obligations is a matter of concern for the United States. States that support terrorism present particularly stark dangers. The U.S. has identified terrorism and WMD proliferation as key issues facing the world, permitting these two dangers to coalesce magnifies the problem exponentially.

In the Middle East, Iran and Syria pose threats as state sponsors of terror, but as they pursue WMD and nuclear programs, how can we assume that they will not share this technology with their terrorist allies? We have eliminated the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Libya appears to have seen the error of its ways. But North Korea, Iran, and Syria are still supporting terrorists and continuing to build WMD programs. The United States and Israel stand together in the war on terrorism. We cannot afford to permit Iran to build a nuclear bomb that would threaten Israel and further its terrorist goals in the Middle East.

The U.S. approach to proliferation is clear; we will use every tool at our disposal. We will use diplomacy at all times, economic pressure when we can, and military pressure when we must. And this is the way we're going forward. Thank you very much.


MR. : I will entertain your questions in a minute. And I ask you to come to the mikes to ask. Before I do that, I want to spend just one minute talking about what it is that AIPAC has done about this particular issue, about Iran, over the course of the last ten years. And I want to begin by first noticing my good friend Shimon Aram (sp) in the audience.

Shimon, would you stand up for a second.


Shimon, in February of 1995, at an AIPAC Executive Committee said, what on earth are we doing about Iran? -- which led over the course of the next year-and-a-half to the passage by Congress of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act which sought to impose sanctions on any foreign entity investing in the Iranian petroleum industry, because that was how they were affording a nuclear weapons program, which led, in 1998, to the congressional passage of the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, which led in the year 2000 to the passage of the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which led last week to the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passing a resolution urging the international community to take all appropriate measures to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which is why on Tuesday morning, when you go to Capitol Hill to lobby, one of the issues you will be lobbying on is to get members of Congress to sign letters to the president of the United States.

We have a G-8 -- group of eight industrialized democracies -- meeting in the United States in June. Those eight countries together account for over 40 percent of Iran's trading partners.

They hold enormous economic leverage over Iran, which is why we will be lobbying to send a letter to the president to make Iran a centerpiece of that meeting, and it's why over the course of the next six, seven, eight, nine months, we will be continuing with measure after measure after measure dealing with Iran, because the threat that it poses, if it succeeds in obtaining a nuclear weapon, is that great.

We will now take some questions. Go ahead.

Q: From a layperson's perspective, I'm puzzled because it seems like the international community seems really loathe to seriously address the enormous threat that Iran poses, and they seem to address it more with slides and platitudes. When you see a little kid about to fall off a slide, you don't wave at them, you rush across the playground. So what's going on with the international community?

MR. : I'll start. I don't think, by the way, your frustration with the international community is a layperson's frustration, I think you've just eloquently expressed the view of the government of the United States, and the view of the government of Israel with respect to the international community. Why is it that they refuse to take this issue more seriously? In part, it has to do with economics. It has to do with trade. It has to do with oil.

That said, I think over the course of the last year, the Europeans have begun to take this issue a great deal more seriously, and one hopes that it isn't too late, and that it just isn't verbal, that in fact they are prepared to take the kinds of real steps necessary to get Iran to change its course.

Do you want to add anything?

MS. DESUTTER: Obviously, we agree with your frustration, but one of the things I would mention -- and it's my fault and the fault of my bureau -- is that there are more countries than those that lie in Europe, and one of the things that we're undertaking in my bureau is to try to do a better job of, if not finding, creating more allies on these issues. When I was up at the U.N. for the Preparatory Committee, I made a point of doing some bilaterals with some third world countries, some in Latin America, and one of the things that a couple of people said to me is, you know, everything you're saying to me makes sense, but we don't really have expertise in this, we don't have that many people devoted to that. And so I think there is probably more spade work that can be done so that the Europeans do not always have sort of the only say. I mean, it's true that the board of governors is going to be the primary area of focus for the IAEA, but there is more work that can be done.

MR. : We have two mikes. We're going to go from mike to mike, so go ahead.

Q: We've been enormously wrong in the past on the long side of estimating when countries will complete their nuclear programs. There's really not balance in our misestimation. Brad mentioned that we were about five years wrong on Iraq in '91. We were certainly wrong on Pakistan, North Korea, and Libya with regard to their state of advancement. Tony Blair is pressuring President Bush not to take any action on Iran. Karl Rove is pressuring President Bush, no war in '04. If information were to come to your attention, Secretary Desutter, that Iran were within a month of developing a nuclear weapon, or perhaps accounting for our capacity for misestimation, in five months of building a nuclear weapon, what would give me comfort, particularly as a New Yorker, with regard to what you're doing is if you were to articulate with the powers that be in your administration a well-defined attack plan that if, and when, predefined information emerges, there's a three-day trigger, that's it. It's operations time. And I don't have the confidence that you've articulated that kind of trigger.

MS. DESUTTER: We face the same problem in North Korea. We debate internally. We look at the intelligence. Iran is good at hiding. North Korea is, if anything, better at hiding their nuclear weapons programs. And so: a) I should say is, as an assistant secretary at the State Department, I'm probably not the one that you want to have making war plans, although I'd volunteer to help if anybody were to ask me, but I doubt they'll be asking me anytime soon.

Q: But I think you'd be an ideal person in terms of articulating what the trigger needs to be, and the Defense Department can layout the logistics.

MS. DESUTTER: I think that the best thing for us to do is make it so that there is a cost/benefit calculation that Iran has to make prior to that. I don't think we're there. I think that Iran has still been able to play games, they're still invited to cocktail parties. I mean, we did make things very unpleasant for them at the prep com, but I think that the additional pressure needs to be made. And I don't want to get into, you know, should we have a benchmark that says if they get within these days. It would be very difficult for us to have that kind of resolution in our intelligence, and to say with some matter of days that we know that they're going to have a bomb.

Q: I don't mean without a degree of precision. I mean, for example, they've just achieved 36 percent U.S.-235 in their enrichment effort, which may sound as if they're only halfway there then to the percentage they need, but in fact, as you know, they're a lot closer than halfway because this works in log space not in linear space. And, so the point is, I think that there are a number of mathematical benchmarks that you can define as triggers, and when one of them is triggered, I think you need to have as policy, Karl Rove doesn't determine it.

MR. : I think we need to understand that the president of the United States has been incredibly clear about this point, without pinpointing a date or a condition under which the United States would necessarily act, he has said with incredible clarity that a nuclear weapon, Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon is intolerable. That is a fairly clear standard, and I think we're going to have to let it go at that and move on.

Q: There are three things brought up every time I bring up the danger of a nuclear weapon in Iran. One is, Israel possessed that nuclear weapon, number two, Israel refused to sign the NPT, and number three is when I argue to Israel we'll never use it first, they say by Golda Meir's own admission Israel was willing and ready to use it in '73. If we are approached with those kind of questions by our congresspersons later this week, what should be our response?

MR. : First of all, let me tell you, I do this for a living, and I almost never get that question. It never happens. The question is, more or less, how do you explain why are we so hell bent against the Iranians having a nuclear weapons when Israel possess a nuclear weapon. How do you have that kind of double standard? Don't go near this. Since it's going to be an American congressman who's going to ask him, in the first instance, you remember me saying that very few Canadians lost sleep over the fact that the United States has 6,000 nuclear warheads. Very few people in the Middle East today lose sleep over the fact that Israel might have a nuclear weapon. Virtually everybody in the Middle East will lose sleep over Iran's nuclear position. Who possesses it does matter.

Second, Israel never signed the NPT; it's not obliged under its obligations. You aren't obliged to fulfill a treaty obligation that you're not a member of. Iran is. Iran is cheating, and Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon against its own internationally bound commitment. Third, if Israel does possess a nuclear weapons capability, it is clearly a matter of deterrence. Israel may have considered the necessity in 1973, but that necessity was in the context of a war in which Israel was fighting for its very survival. And it would only be in that kind of condition that Israel might contemplate the use of a nuclear weapon. Short of that no one ever thinks Israel will voluntarily use a nuclear weapon, and no one I know voluntarily will assert that Iran might not use a nuclear weapon voluntarily. That's the difference.


Q: This question just is a quick rejoinder. First, Golda Meir did not say what you attributed to it, there were all kinds of press speculations. The second is, Israel has never sought for itself the status of a nuclear power. And I put it in sharp contrast, because there are all kinds of occasional references to Israel, India, and Pakistan belonging to the same category. The answer is, one, Israel never wanted to become a nuclear power. Israel only said it had gone so far, no further, and would love to go backwards if the situation permitted itself.

But, at the moment, as a hedge against an uncertain reality it has to be somewhere in-between, and let the world keep guessing exactly where it is, but they're better off not pushing us to the limit to find out.

We all hoped the conditions wouldn't materialize in which we would do it. And that's an extension of a policy of extreme responsibility, in terms of the way in which the issue is being treated internally, the way the issue is treated externally, and in particular with respect to the United States, this issue is very well understood. And I will just tell you that in the last year, it's very interesting, not just very prominent officials from the United States, but also if you look at the way Prime Minister Blair addressed this repeatedly, as well as other very prominent world leaders, they've all recognized that Israel is behaving in this domain responsibly, that it hasn't cheated, that it's committed to nuclear disarmament, for the time coming, and that Israel is facing a unique situation where the threat of annihilation is still out there. So it's in a very unique position. And as Brad said, I think it's quite well understood in this country and beyond.


Q: First of all, thank you very much, Eli and Paula, thank you very much for coming, we appreciate your being here. My question is to Paula.

Paula, can you tell us if the United States has picked up krypton 85 admissions from Iran?

MS. DESUTTER: No, I can't tell you that.

Q: The reason, of course, is very simple for the question. In the case if that were detected, would that not represent incontrovertible, direct evidence that the Iranian nuclear program is for weapon purposes, and weapon purposes alone?

MS. DESUTTER: Let's see, what krypton 85 would tell you is that something is going on with plutonium reprocessing. Am I allowed to say that? But, it wouldn't be -- you shouldn't want to wait for that when you're talking about uranium enrichment. So it would help you with one part of the program, it wouldn't give you incontrovertible evidence. We're trying to put pressure on the IC to do the best that they can in terms of developing and fielding intelligence systems, and collection systems that can do the best. But, unfortunately, there isn't really any silver bullet that I see out there.

MR. LEVITE: Just a quick addition, I think the problem, what we're trying to communicate to you, I think, collectively is the following. If we actually got to the point that Iran is on the brink, the policy choices in front of whoever it is that has to confront them would be very difficult, very difficult, particularly because we're not necessarily talking about reactors, but about centrifuge plans, because some of them are deeply buried, because they can be scattered all over the place.

So the problem is, just as in the case of North Korea, the U.S. has thus far elected to refrain from certain types of action that cannot be completely ruled out with respect to Iran. Therefore, the message that is coming from us is, let's make sure they don't get to the brink. And that's why the current -- the next year will be absolutely critical, so those signs that you are looking for, sort of are not discovered simply because they're stopped before they get to that point.

Q: My name Sidney Bender. I'd like to thank Paula, and I wish she would extend to Assistant Secretary Bolton, and to President Bush our enthusiastic support and congratulations on what happened with respect to Libya. That's number one.

Number two, however, I think without any question, the agreement that the United States in 1994 made with North Korea was clearly violated, we were deceived, and I don't think North Koreans have a monopoly on deception. I think the same applies to Iran; they may even be smoother and more clever than the North Koreans.

That being said, and considering the surprise we all expressed when were faced with 9/11 and what happened in New York City, and the surprise that happened with Japan in December of 1941, I don't think the Iranians are going to send a deliberate signal that they've got the nuclear bomb and hold it up as a threat. I think we should anticipate the worst, and the worst is that there is going to be a surprise, and the first country that's going to be the victim of that surprise is Israel, they've said so. They've announced that as soon as they get the bomb, they're going to deliver it to Israel. Now, there's a publication that's been handed --

My question is, what are we going to do, and what are we going to be capable of doing to preempt the Iranians, so that whether it be Israel or the United States, that they take out the Iranian program, and that we do not rely on Putin to tell us that he's stopped something, when he may not have stopped something, and assume that everything is going ahead full force, and they've made that cost- benefit analysis?

MR. : Sidney, we've got the question, and let me tell you it is perhaps the most important question that can be asked today, which is, what do you do, what do you do as you see the Iranians advance? And I'm going to outline three or four things that are conceivable. Let me start by saying, the part that probably is not conceivable is an Iraqi-style military maneuver into Iran, both because of the size of the country, the population of the country, because its nuclear program is incredible dispersed. As Eli said, it's under mountains, it's in caves, you can't really get at it very well militarily. That's a real problem. So what can you do?

It seems to me there are three reasonable activities. One is, to greatly increase Iran's economic and diplomatic isolation. Iran is a country that has huge economic problems. It has a huge unemployment problem. And it has a population, two thirds of which are under the age of 30, and that particular age group has an incredible unemployment range. So there's a great deal of economic dissatisfaction. You can magnify that greatly in a very short period of time, if you're prepared to use the economic leverage that Iran's major trading partners have.

Second, the real answer to Iran's nuclear program, I believe, is political change in Iran. In 1980 Argentina, Brazil, and Chile all had nuclear weapons programs. They were all under military dictatorships, today none of them do, they are all democracies today. We need to help figure out a way to promote political change in Iran, to change the leadership in Iran. The overwhelming majority of Iranians hate their government, and want to turn to democracy. We need to figure out how to promote that quickly.

Third, and here it's a little bit more dicey. While we may not have a real military answer to this, do we have other ways of slowing their nuclear weapons program? Can you cause accidents in their nuclear weapons program that delay the program? Are we good enough to figure out where the nodes are? To disrupt their program? This is a game of delay that we are looking for in order to get time to achieve political change. That's the heart of the matter, and I don't know, very frankly, whether any of the things that I just said will succeed. I believe all three have to be tried.

MR. LEVITE: Let me say two things here. First, there is a critical dimension with international legitimacy. The issue of international legitimacy was there, it was an important thing before Iraq. It's ten times more important after Iraq. The only way that one can achieve international legitimacy for any measures you want to take against Iran, unfortunately, had been the IAEA. But, out of recognition of this, there has been a huge effort, by the United States, by Israel, by others, to force the IAEA to come to terms with the Iranian program. What has made the Israeli and American allegations that Iran has a nuclear weapon into something that is widely believed is the IAEA was actually able to support with evidence what it hasn't been able to do in Iraq.

We need to use that first and foremost as a benchmark because that will also make it very difficult for the trading partners to go on doing their own business with Iran, ignoring that reality. And frankly, that has been even very important to reign in the British ambitions to jump in and do business in Iran, not to mention the Japanese and others. So a critical dimension now is to continue to sustain the pressure. The IAEA has a lobbyist in Washington, they get a quarter of the budget out of the United States. Those reminders have been used in the past, and are extremely important to use against the IAEA that they have to do their job, and if they compromise their integrity, we're also not just in trouble with Iran, we're also in trouble elsewhere.

The second thing I think the entire Iranian economy is built around oil. Unfortunately, developments over the last couple of months have driven oil prices to the point the Iranians are reaping huge benefits. But, the Iranians require huge investments in their oil industry to keep it producing at the current level, and increasing it in the future, $3 billion a year. If one were to deprive Iran of those investments, if one was to make Iran a bad political risk, that would clearly have a significant impact. And the current regime, undemocratic more than ever, is not wishing to lose its legitimacy, and is not wishing to lose its investments. That's a very important lever to use.

MS. DESUTTER: I would just build on that a little bit with a couple of examples from Libya. When we went to Libya and we looked at one of the elements of their WMD program, they had bought something that was dual use, and they were trying to use it, it was a chemical filling machine, and it didn't work. And we said, well, why did you keep this? Why didn't you go get your money back? One of the points is sanctions have an affect. A, people have to make a decision to buy less than optimal equipment. B, there really isn't a complaint department when you're out there making elicit procurement. We do need to do -- there is more that we can do. People say, sanctions haven't worked, Iran is still pursuing their program, this administration has tripled, quadrupled the imposition of sanctions over previous administrations.

Why is that? The laws were there, the Iran Nonproliferation Act was a big deal. But, what we're doing is, we're imposing those, we are making the costs greater. Why does that matter? One of the things that Libya wants, is it doesn't just want to be able to trade with the West, what they want to be able to do is to send their young people to school at the best schools. They want to be able to trade, they want to be able to travel. They want the legitimacy. It has a big effect.

It's one of the things that I think over time the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act was part of a Web of constraints around Libya, and it was influential in changing their decision. And if we can continue to put pressure on these countries by putting pressure on other allies, and on other countries to follow suit, it has an effect. I don't think that we're at the point where we have a go-no go with STRATCOM. I think we're at a place where we have to be tough, we have to be tough, we have to be consistent, and we can't change course in bringing the pressure to bear.

MR. : I'm sorry to have to do this, but we have to wrap this up. it is 2:30, and you have about 10 minutes to get to the second track of forms. I want to thank my colleagues up here, Paula and Eli for coming. Thank you very much.


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