REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Now I'd like to introduce the second and final set of panelists. We're thrilled to have Mr. Paul Leventhal, who founded the Nuclear Control Institute in 1981 and served as its president for 22 years prior to transitioning to senior adviser in June 2002. Previously, Mr. Leventhal held senior staff positions in the United States Senate on nuclear power and proliferation issues.
Previously he has served as special counsel to the Senate Government Operations Committee and as staff director of the Senate Nuclear Regulations Subcommittee. During his tenure as staff director, he was responsible for the investigation and legislation that resulted in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 establishing stricter control on U.S. nuclear trade to combat the spread of nuclear weapons. Mr. Leventhal also served as co-director of the Senate special investigation of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. We thank you so much for being here. It's an honor.
He will be followed by Mr. Michael Eisenstadt, the senior fellow of the Washington Institute and a specialist in Persian Gulf and Arab- Israeli security affairs. Michael is widely published focusing on U.S. strategy in the Middle East, regional security, non-conventional weapons proliferation in the Near East and Southwest Asia, and on the armed forces of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Prior to joining the Institute in 1989, Mr. Eisenstadt worked as a civilian military analyst with the United States Army and as a reserve officer in the Army. In '91, he served in Turkey and Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort. More recently, he served at the United States Central Command on the joint staff and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a great American.
Thank you so much, and we will put both of your statements in their entirety in the record. And please feel free to summarize for us. Mr. Leventhal.
Nuclear Control Institute
MR. LEVENTHAL: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman and members of the subcommittee.
Let me say at the outset, in the course of my remarks I will be referring to four documents, and I would very much appreciate if they could --
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Without objection.
MR. LEVENTHAL: -- be made part of the hearing record. Thank you.
I appreciate your invitation to testify today on the deeply troubling implications of Iran going nuclear. And I will concentrate my remarks on two aspects of the subject.
First I will address what impact an Iran with nuclear weapons would have on the international non-proliferation regime and the prospects of utilizing the regime to prevent Iran achieving that goal. And second, I will explore the concern that if Iran does go nuclear, Hezbollah goes nuclear or any of the other terrorist organizations supported by the current conservative theocratic regime and the prospects for countering that threat.
Even if a nuclear-capable Iran were not to provide its terrorist surrogates with nuclear weapons or the materials and know-how needed to build them, a nuclear-capable Iran under its present leadership could be an unparalleled earthquake with shock waves that could rattle the foundation of U.S. vital interests in the region, at home, and around the world, not the least of which is the survival of the nuclear-non-proliferation regime itself. And I believe the first early-warning tremors of such a quake are now being felt.
As Undersecretary of State Bolton's excellent testimony makes clear, it is now apparent that Iran has been exploiting its standing as a non-nuclear-weapon state under the terms of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty to hide a nuclear weapons development program behind the civilian research and power programs that are permitted by the treaty.
But in the absence of a smoking gun, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, although highly critical of Iran's multi-layered deceptions and lack of cooperation, is reluctant to declare Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
And I believe, to some extent, that is based on his perception within the board of governors of the IAEA, and it was alluded to by the first panel of witnesses, that our European partners, who are prominent in the IAEA board of governors, have a differing view than the U.S. on the best tactical approach as it was described in the first panel to dealing with Iran on this question and also what constitutes actual nuclear weaponization.
But I also believe that the heavy burden of proof that applies to the head of the international organization, which operates by consensus, does not apply to the United States, whose vital interests and global commitments could be so adversely affected by an Iranian nuclear fait accompli.I go on in my remarks to say that we really cannot wait for proof beyond a reasonable doubt of an Iranian bomb. And we should be prepared to respond to the multitude of discoveries in Iran which were so richly detailed in Undersecretary Bolton's rather searing indictment of Iran, and that includes the covert plans for production of unsafeguarded highly-enriched uranium and separated plutonium, the traces of these materials that were found, the experiments with Polonium, which is a neutral initiator used to trigger nuclear explosions, the heavy-water production plant, the heavy-water reactor that they plan to build, laser enrichment.
All of these, in addition to the overall pattern of Iranian deceptions and omissions and belated admissions, are clear evidence of illicit activities that, unless halted, will lead inevitably to bomb- making.
The problem is that the NPT, as written, and the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as presently constituted, have difficulty in coping with a nation whose activities may bring it to within a screwdriver's turn of having a bomb.
There is a gray area that Iran is seeking to exploit between activities that are significant to developing the know-how and the materials needed to make nuclear weapons, which do not violate the treaty, and the actual manufacture and perhaps detonation of a nuclear weapon, which clearly does constitute a violation.
And I will be discussing, concisely, I hope, the treaty's provisions that apply to supplies to or activities in a non-nuclear weapon state that are ostensibly peaceful but raise concerns, such as those we now have in Iran about proliferation risks, economic or technical justification, and safeguards' effectiveness.
But I also believe it's important, first, to highlight a basic dilemma that bedevils all civilian nuclear activities and the non- proliferation regime itself, and that is, the inextricable link between the peaceful and the military atom.
And just to briefly summarize, the problem, frankly, is that all reactors now operating produce plutonium and atom bomb material as a by-product of fissioning uranium inside a reactor. As long as plutonium remains in the highly radioactive spent fuel of these reactors, it is inaccessible and in a form unsuitable for making weapons. Once separated from spent fuel, however, in a reprocessing plant, it is in a pure form that can be applied either to the fueling of reactors or the building of bombs.
A further problem is the widespread use of highly-enriched uranium as fuel and research reactors. Unlike low-enriched or natural uranium used in power reactors, which are unsuitable for use in bombs, highly-enriched uranium is an atom bomb material; indeed, the material used in the Hiroshima bomb. Plutonium is the material used in the Nagasaki bomb.
So a fundamental flaw of the non-proliferation regime, especially as it applies to the current situation in Iraq, is that it permits, indeed promotes, the use of weapons-capable nuclear fuels, separated plutonium and highly-enriched uranium, even though power and research reactors can be operated with low grades of uranium that are unsuitable for weapons.
The major nuclear industrial states have been the principal culprits by making a business out of the production, use and export of these non-essential, dangerous and difficult-to-safeguard fuels. Indeed, they have set an example of legitimate use of atom bomb materials as civilian fuels that Iran and other proliferating states have exploited in their pursuit of nuclear weapons.The attempts to deal effectively with Iran at the IAEA, under the auspices of the NPT, are complicated by the importance Iran places on being treated equally and, in its view, fairly on a country-neutral basis that does not single out Iran on a discriminatory basis. Yet the non-proliferation regime, as it has evolved under the terms of the treaty, is inherently discriminatory; not just nuclear-weapon have and have-not states, but also fissile-material have and have-not states.If plutonium were abandoned as the diseconomical and dangerous fuel that it is and its prohibition of civilian applications became an international norm, then denying reprocessing and use of plutonium would not be exceptional. Iran's pursuit of plutonium would be exceptional and an unambiguous signal of a weapons program.
In similar fashion, if uranium enrichment services were provided by existing suppliers on a guaranteed basis to nations that forswore reprocessing and plutonium use, nations that insisted on developing national enrichment capacity, as Iran is now doing, also would be violating an international norm and clearly signaling a weapons program.
So what I'm laying out here is a proposition, one that is not now part of the non-proliferation regime but which I strongly suggest should be considered as a fundamental way to reform the regime so as to avoid problems in dealing with the future Irans, assuming we have a long and happy future ahead of us.
And the proposition is this: If all excess military and civilian highly-enriched uranium were being blended down to ensure an ample supply of low-enriched fuel for power and research reactors and all excess weapons and civilian plutonium were being disposed of in highly-radioactive waste instead of being stockpiled for use as reactor fuel, then an international norm to prohibit production and use of weapons-capable fuels could be universally applied.
But unfortunately, such a global exercise in making virtue out of necessity has not yet taken place, presumably because the necessity of ridding the world of all nuclear-explosive fuels in developed and developing countries alike is not yet seen as urgent. Some day, perhaps soon, I fear, the urgency will be clearly seen.
Now, President Bush should be given credit for taking a step in the right direction in his non-proliferation policy address on February 11th. But by calling for no new reprocessing or enrichment facilities in countries that do not now have them on a commercial scale, he is seeking to stop their spread to the developing world but without addressing the fuel-cycle excesses that exist in the major industrial states, especially with regard to reprocessing and plutonium use.
Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush, makes a similar misstep in an op-ed article in today's Washington Post, which I have submitted for the record, when he proposes that we cannot be effective in trying to stop the enrichment program in Iran without also seeking to shut down one that is about to start up in Brazil.
And, of course, he's right, as far as he goes. But he neglects to address, for example, the enormous reprocessing program that is about to start up in Japan to extract tens of tons of plutonium from spent fuel for use in fresh fuel, which I am sure has not escaped the attention of Iran.
I would suggest and propose that the United States and Russia appeal to the Japanese not to start up this commercial-scale reprocessing plant and instead ensure its energy security with low- enriched uranium made from Russian, blended-down, highly-enriched uranium drawn out of Russia's large military surplus stocks of this material.
And I've also submitted an analysis that we did actually back in 1993 but which has since seemed to have gained support from other elements of the NGO community, specifically the Monterey Center for Non-Proliferation Studies and the Harvard program on managing the atom, whereby we projected just how many years of assured supply and energy security Japan would acquire if it followed this approach rather than start up the very large and dangerous and potentially unsafe reprocessing plant that may well turn out to be a white elephant and not only diseconomical but also one that will continue to cause much concern among the general population in Japan and even among the utility companies that would be using the fuel.
Suffice it to say that if there were in place today a non- proliferation regime that prohibited use of plutonium and highly- enriched uranium, Iran's nuclear activities would be clearly seen as rising above a very low threshold for determining that a nuclear- weapons program exists. And sanctions could be swiftly, universally and severely applied if such a regime prevailed.
Instead, in the absence of such a regime, we are now engaged in a very dangerous cat-and-mouse game with Iran that Iran apparently thinks it can win. In the absence of an effective and transparent non-proliferation regime, we have no choice today but to apply the rather cumbersome and opaque regime that we have. And I've gone into how activities that would appear to be directly related to nuclear weapons do not cross the red line as spelled out in the treaty.
But imperfect as this regime may be, it is by no means impotent if the political will can be found to implement its provisions and make them stick. Perhaps the difficulty of the task before us will make reform of the regime a bit easier later on to prevent the emergence of future nuclear Irans. But such reform will likely prove impossible if Iran or North Korea is permitted to exploit the treaty's provisions to acquire nuclear weapons.
At this point, I just want to make clear that the principal provisions of the treaty which apply to the situation in Iran today are Article 4, which provides the assurances of supply that a non- nuclear-weapon state gets under the treaty so long as it forswears nuclear weapons, but these assurances of supply are constrained by the prohibitions of the treaty that apply both to the weapon states and the non-weapon states, not to supply or in any way to assist non- weapon states to acquire nuclear weapons.
I would argue that this provision, given Iran's current behavior, is sufficient to provide a legal basis for the withholding of the Bushir reactor to Iran. That's the unfinished reactor started in the days of the shah that Russia now is seeking to complete.
And I would argue that it's important to do so because this reactor will produce, in its spent fuel, about a quarter-ton of plutonium a year, equivalent to 30 nuclear weapons, if Iran should drop out of the treaty and forswear any arrangements that are made with Russia to give up its spent fuel and instead decides to reprocess the fuel itself. And this reactor would have a life span of over 30 years, and that's a long time for trying to project what a nation like Iran, under its present leadership, might do over that period of time.
I've submitted for the record a legal analysis of the treaty that was done for the Nuclear Control Institute by our counsel, Eldon Greenberg, which explores this question of how Article 4 has to be implemented in conformity with the prohibitions of Articles 1 and 2.
I would also point out that Article 3 imposes safeguards conditions on Iran which Iran is now clearly violating. In other words, they have built covert facilities for producing highly-enriched uranium and for separating plutonium. They clandestinely produced, outside of the reach of safeguards, plutonium in a safeguarded research reactor; in other words, without the IAEA knowing it, they removed some of the plutonium to run experiments on their reprocessing plant.
These are clear violations which, under the IAEA statute, authorizes the board of governors to refer or to report the matter of these violations to the Security Council. And I believe -- I agree strongly with Undersecretary Bolton's position that it is high time to bring this matter before the Security Council, and even be prepared to deal with Iran as a treaty violator, outside of the treaty if it chooses to leave the treaty, but with a clear understanding of what the consequences of that would be for Iran in terms of isolation from the international community and the possibility of very strong sanctions.
And there is a view within the international community that Iran very much does not want to be turned into a pariah state on the basis of its nuclear activities, and therefore it might think several times before formally withdrawing from the treaty. But the threat of sanctions might possibly turn its head where right now it seems to be holding its ground within the board of governors of the IAEA.
As for the board of governors of the IAEA, it should be understood that this is a highly promotional organization, protecting the interests of nuclear power, and with regard to France and Germany in particular, I think is the means not to bring things to a head with Iran and thereby not to jeopardize the trade agreement that is still pending between the European community and Iran. And therefore, I believe that the matter should come before the Security Council as soon as possible.
And I'll conclude by simply touching upon the rather unthinkable issue of nuclear terrorism, which I'm sure Mr. Eisenstadt will get into in greater detail. I will not speculate as to whether or not the government of Iran would likely provide nuclear assets to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations it supports and the terrorism that it supports.
I have submitted for the record a paper by an Iranian expatriate, Alireza Jafarzadeh, who at one time was the representative of the organization, the dissident organization based in London, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which was the organization that disclosed much of what we have learned about the covert facilities in Iran.
And this paper describes in some detail the extent to which Iran has sent its intelligence agents and its operatives into Iraq, including some of its own terrorist organizations, to effectively cause instability and undermine the U.S. position in Iraq. So Iran does support not only Hezbollah but a number of terrorist organizations.
In the mid --
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: If you can wrap it up in just a minute, Mr. Leventhal.
MR. LEVENTHAL: I'll close on this note. In the mid-1980s, our organization organized a task force on prevention of nuclear terrorism after holding an international conference on the subject. And this was a group of nuclear weapons designers, nuclear weapons industrialists, anti-nukes, pro-nukes, specialists on terrorism.
The one conclusion that it came to that I think is applicable to the question today of how likely would it be that Hezbollah might go nuclear if Iran goes nuclear is not to try to assess intentions but to focus on capabilities.
The real barrier is to prevent a state that supports terrorism and to prevent terrorist organizations from acquiring the capabilities, because really you have no way of surmising from one day to another or from one year to another whether a state that supports terrorists or the terrorists themselves might go nuclear. And therefore, it is most important to deny Iran the capabilities that could lead to itself going nuclear and the terrorists that it supports and exports going nuclear.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much.
MR. LEVENTHAL: Thank you.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Mr. Eisenstadt.
Senior Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
MR. EISENSTADT: Madam Chairman, it's an honor to appear before this committee, and I thank you for giving me this opportunity. I will summarize the main points of my testimony, which I am submitting for the record.
I will be talking about four items I'll be touching on today: First, how close is Iran to obtaining the bomb? Two, what are the implications of a nuclear Iran? Third, Iran and terrorism. And fourth, what are our policy options?
First, with regard to how close is Iran to obtaining the bomb, the bottom line is we just don't know. There's tremendous uncertainty regarding the status of Iran's nuclear program. It's likely we're only seeing part of it.
The part that we're seeing, the centrifuge program, the heavy- water reactor program, both are in their nascent stages. And it would be a number of years before those elements of its program would be able to provide fissile material for a weapons program.
However, it's quite possible there are parts of this program that we don't see, and therefore a definitive assessment cannot be given at this time. The intelligence community is talking about it in terms of the end of the decade. I would point out, however, if North Korea becomes a source of fissile material or finished nuclear weapons and becomes a purveyor of nuclear technology or nuclear arms, Iran's situation on nuclear status can change virtually overnight.
In addition, the situation with regards to Iran's nuclear status is likely to be characterized by ambiguity for the indefinite future. If and when Iran acquires the bomb, it is not clear that Iran will announce the fact or test a new weapon, at least initially, or that we will find out about that fateful step.
And I would point to the case of North Korea, where for a long time during the 1990s we were uncertain about North Korea's actual nuclear status. So it's quite likely that with regard to Iran as well, we'll be living in a nuclear gray zone or we'll be living with uncertainty about Iran's actual nuclear status for the foreseeable future.
What are the implications of a nuclear Iran? First of all, what impact might its acquisition of nuclear weapons have on Iranian conduct? There's basically two possible models that are often put forward. One is that the acquisition of nuclear weapons have tended historically to induce greater prudence and caution. The example that's thrown out is the conduct of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
However, recent revelations in the last few years about the Cuban missile crisis and how close we were to nuclear war at that time have taken something of the luster off of that case or that model.
The other possibility is that the acquisition of nuclear weapons will lead to an increased propensity for risk-taking and/or aggression. And I would point to several examples that we've seen in the past decade or so; Iran's behavior in the late -- excuse me, Iraq's behavior in the late 1980s.
As Iraq's WMD programs, particularly its chemical and biological programs, matured, we saw a tendency towards greater risk-taking in foreign policy behavior, culminating in the invasion in Kuwait. And I would make the case that it was growing self-confidence that Saddam Hussein derived from his maturing chemical and biological weapons programs which emboldened him to act in a more aggressive fashion.
We've seen North Korea's nuclear brinkmanship throughout the '90s, which I think is due in part, at least, to its chemical and biological capabilities as well as its nuclear capabilities. And finally, we saw Kazakhstan's attempts to seize Cargill in 1999 in disputed territory with India, which I think was due in part to the greater sense of confidence it had as a result of the nuclear weapons test that it conducted the year before. So it's possible that as a result of Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons we'll see greater terrorism and more military provocations.
I would also say that a nuclear Iran poses a threat on another threat. I believe that although the short-term trend lines with regard to political change in Iran are negative -- and I refer to the recent majilis elections -- I think the long-term prospects for political change are good. The question is whether it would be peaceful change or violent change. I think in the long term there is a prospect that there will be violent change in Iran. And if this occurs after Iran has acquired nuclear weapons, one has to raise questions about the safety of this nuclear stockpile and the possibility that people who are associated with the ancient -- the old regime -- might feel inclined to strike out at external enemies who they believe are behind domestic unrest as the regime -- if the regime is perceived by them to be going down the tubes.
Secondly, there's also the likelihood that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons will result in greater regional proliferation, whether Iran declares its possession of nuclear weapons or whether it doesn't -- and it's simply perceived by its neighbors to be a threshold or actual non-declared nuclear weapon state. It's quite possible that Saudi Arabia will purchase a nuclear weapon; some of the Gulf States might try to leverage their petrochemical industries in order to produce a modest chemical weapon deterrent. Israel might try to reduce the ambiguity surrounding its own nuclear program in order to strengthen deterrence. And there's also questions about how Egypt and Iraq might respond to an Iraqi nuclear weapon.
With regard to Iran and terrorism, the problem is really twofold: Iran's direct participation in terrorism and its use of surrogates. In the past decade we've seen a gradual decline in Iran's direct involvement in terrorism and the involvement of its intelligence services in terrorism, largely because it realizes it paid a high price in the early 1990s when its intelligence services were involved in acts of terror in Europe and elsewhere. As a result, it increased its support for surrogate organizations that have been involved in terrorism. The most notable of these are the Lebanese Hezbollah and its various associates and affiliates, such as the Saudi Hezbollah, which was involved in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996; the Palestinian groups Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, the PFLP-GC, and most recently the Fatah organization in the West Bank and Gaza. Then, finally, there's al Qaeda and its associate, such as Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has members of his organization based in Iran. He himself has passed through Iran from Afghanistan to Iraq after the fall of the Taliban. And we also know that Iran has provided safe haven to several senior members of al Qaeda.
Several of these groups have in the past expressed an interest in chemical weapons. We know Zarqawi has been pursuing ricin. Al Qaeda has shown an interest in the full range of weapons of mass destruction. And the Palestinian Hamas has also shown interest in chemical weapons. But I think it's also likely that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons that organizations such as Hezbollah would seek, you know, possibly the acquisition of these weapons or the provision of these weapons from its Iranian sponsors.
The bottom line is you could adduce a range of reasons why Iran would not provide these weapons to these terrorist groups -- indeed the fear of retaliation, its inability to control what is done with these weapons once it provides it with these groups. Perhaps Teheran's belief that it has succeed thus far in the past by conventional means, and therefore why take the risk of resorting to terrorism using nonconventional weapons?
However, the bottom line is we have been surprised so many times in so many ways with regard to trends pertaining to weapons of mass destruction proliferation, and with regard to terrorism. This is -- the prospect that Iran will provide these kinds of weapons to these organizations is a risk that we cannot afford to ignore and we have to consider a very tangible possibility.
And with regard to our policy options, we can continue with our efforts to delay -- to attempt to delay -- Iran's nuclear procurement efforts -- and I wouldn't downplay the importance of these efforts. We've been very successful in the past. These efforts must continue. Paul mentioned the importance of trying to prevent the completion of Bushehr, which could be a source of fissile material. It's not an optimal source, but it is a viable source of fissile material. We have to do what we can to prevent North Korea from becoming a potential source or supplier of finished fissile material or finished nuclear weapons to Iran. Perhaps the Proliferation Security Initiative provides options for doing this with regard to North Korea.
There's the issue of preventive military action. My feeling is that --
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Please wrap up --
MR. EISENSTADT: Yes, ma'am. My feeling is that this option has to be kept on the table, even though I think it's not likely that we'll have the necessary intelligence in order to pull off this kind of operation. But we have to go forward with the planning in the event that such intelligence does become available.
Sanctions -- now, Iran's economy is an Achilles' heel because of its reliance on oil income. The problem is I don't think there's political support, either on the Security Council or in a framework outside of the Security Council, for the kind of sanctions that would bite deep and would hurt Iran, mainly because, I am afraid to say -- I'm sorry to say I don't believe there's many countries who consider this a high enough priority to accept economic sacrifices. And given the price of world oil today, the removal of two and a half million or so barrels of oil additional from the world market and the impact that would have on oil prices, I think unfortunately this is not right now a viable option, although this is something we need to explore.
We need to continue to encourage effort at political change in Iran, and we need to also lay the basis for an enhanced deterrence and containment regime in the Gulf and Southwest Asia, by working with our allies and enhancing the deterrent capability through programs such as the Cooperative Defense Initiative and by enhancing their conventional deterrent capabilities.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.
MR. EISENSTADT: At this point I'll --
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. To follow up with what you were discussing, it's clear that many terrorist groups have received training in Iran, and you've been talking about whether they've had access to nuclear or chemical technology or they were trained in using such weapons. To what extent are terrorist groups controlled by their state sponsors? Is their control limited to funding? Is there more direct administration of these organizations by their state sponsors?
MR. EISENSTADT: I would say that -- I would characterize all these organizations that I mentioned -- Hezbollah, the Palestinian groups, al Qaeda and their affiliates, as independent terrorist organizations that are constrained by -- in many cases by state actors. And the Lebanese Hezbollah is the organization which comes closest to being kind of an extension of Iran's security services.
Hezbollah as a political entity is an independent political entity that functions within the Lebanese political context, and doesn't always have identical interests with Iran. But the security apparatus of Hezbollah has a very close working relationship with the security apparatus of Iran. and we have seen Lebanese Hezbollah security people involved in terrorist operations and assassinations that had nothing to do with Hezbollah's interests as an organization but served Iran's interests.
So I would say all of these are independent actors, but the Lebanese Hezbollah comes closest to being an organization which sometimes functions in accordance with Iran's state interests.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: And, related to that, seeing as the major terrorist groups have specific goals and agenda, has there been a sense of coordination or carving out of spheres of influence? And, if so, how do you believe this will affect their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction? Will they stockpile their weapons? Will one group having weapons of mass destruction satisfy the other groups?
MR. EISENSTADT: I'll take for example the Palestinians. In recent, especially since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah has played a mentoring role with a number of these Palestinian organizations in order to improve their operational effectiveness and to coordinate their actions. Nonetheless, there remains a high degree of tension -- and rivalry -- between the Palestinian groups. I'm not sure that all of the Palestinian groups would necessarily pursue or have -- you know, pursue chemical weapons or have the ability to develop chemical weapons on their own or would have the trust or the relationship with Iran that they could rely on Iran as a source of nonconventional weapons. But clearly there's a lot of rivalry, and I'm not sure we can talk about really about a division of labor or that degree of coordination between these various groups.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. And, Mr. Leventhal, you referred to complications in dealing effectively with Iran under the NPT. How can the NPT be changed so that countries beyond the P-5 are country- neutral and will help us with what our overarching goal is? And, related to that, you were talking about a flaw that permits and promotes certain nuclear activity for nuclear weapons, which is one of the flaws of the NPT -- and if you could elaborate?
MR. LEVENTHAL: Well, I think the problem with the application of the NPT regime is that it ultimately is the decision of the IAEA board of governors in conjunction with the director-general of the IAEA. They tend to be a very conservative group. They tend to be very protective of the image of nuclear power, and extremely reluctant to do anything that would instill greater fear in the public about nuclear power.
They're also extremely reluctant to make any sacrifices among themselves in terms of giving up the opportunity to use and to make money from the purveying of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium.
I will say this, however: There has been significant progress on a highly-enriched uranium front, where the commercial interests in not giving up that material do not run nearly as high as with plutonium. And Secretary Abraham's initiative to cooperate with the IAEA in cleaning out Russian-supplied research reactors and converting those reactors from highly-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium is quite good.
I would just make this additional point, and it's what I stressed in my testimony: Unless a norm develops that says it is inappropriate and exceedingly dangerous to pursue the use of atom-bomb materials as civilian nuclear fuels, I'm afraid we're going to lose the fight against proliferation, just in quantitative terms. Nuclear power plants produce worldwide about 70 tons of new plutonium a year contained in spent fuel. If all the plutonium that has been produced in spent fuel is ultimately separated out and put into commerce, you're talking about literally thousands of tons of material that only 15 pounds or less are needed to make a bomb. And the question then is how long will it take before some of that falls into the wrong hands.
It also makes it much more difficult to restrain proliferating states, because they say plutonium is a legitimate material; we're entitled under the treaty to use it. The use of it does not necessarily signal the development of a nuclear weapon. So look at the disadvantage we were put in in dealing with Iran on that point. So, as I said in my testimony, I think the major industrial states are the principal culprit. They could go miles to reforming the regime and making it into a far more transparent and effective force for curbing proliferation, but they are not prepared to curb their own activities to the extent necessary to make that possible.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much. I thank both panelists for their expert testimony. It was an honor to have both of you here, and I'm sure that we might have some more questions of you that we'd like to submit.
In closing, I would like to underscore that through its continued breaches it's clear that Iran has forfeited its right to any of this technology or materials, and the time is now. We must act, and we must send the matter to the Security Council. So we thank you for your testimony, and the subcommittee is now adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)
MR. LEVENTHAL: Thank you, Madam Chairman.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.