For immediate release: November 6, 2001

David Albright President, or Kevin O'Neill, Deputy Director

Multilateral Action is Needed to Address Nuclear Proliferation by Iraq

Release of "The Iraqi Maze: Searching for a Way Out," published in the Fall-Winter 2001 issue of The Nonproliferation Review

Click Here for the Article

Given the U.S. declaration of war on terrorism, preventing Iraq from possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD)--particularly nuclear weapons--must remain a preeminent goal of the UN Security Council. Many intelligence agencies are concerned that Iraq continued its WMD programs during the 1990s, particularly after UN-mandated inspections were halted in December 1998. A nuclear-armed Iraq would inflame the Middle East, threaten the existence of Israel, jeopardize world oil supplies, and prompt other states in the Middle East and Persian Gulf to seek nuclear weapons or other WMD. Fears that Iraq would supply nuclear weapons, biological weapons, or other WMD to terrorist groups also cannot be dismissed.

In light of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the UN Security Council has an unexpected opportunity to seek consensus on requiring Iraq to comply with all relevant UN resolutions and cooperate with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Action Team and UN inspectors. The opportunity to take this step will arise in November 2001, when the Security Council is expected to consider a U.S./British proposal to revise the international sanctions regime on Iraq.

Instead of modifying the sanctions regime, the Bush administration should focus its efforts on uniting the Security Council around a resolution that compels Iraq to accept inspections and monitoring of its nuclear capabilities. The attached article, entitled "The Iraqi Maze: Searching for a Way Out," details one approach to resuming inspections and monitoring of Iraq's WMD programs, particularly its nuclear weapons program. The article, by Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) President David Albright and Deputy Director Kevin O'Neill, appears in the Fall-Winter 2001 issue of The Nonproliferation Review.

A Multilateral Approach is Needed to Deal with Iraq

A faction within the U.S. Defense Department would like to immediately broaden the conflict to Iraq. According to media reports, a "Wolfowitz cabal," named after Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, is clamoring for the military occupation of southern Iraq and the installation of a London-based Iraqi opposition group at the helm of a new government.1

So far, President George W. Bush has publicly refrained from speculating on whether or when Iraq would be added to the military's target list. Instead the President has called on Saddam Hussein to "allow inspectors back into the country to make sure that he is conforming to the agreement he made after…the Gulf War."2

The Wolfowitz cabal may yet prevail. However, broadening the present conflict against al-Qaeda to include overthrowing Saddam Hussein will require a compelling justification, unless the United States wants to take on this fight alone. Even for the closest U.S. allies, simply declaring Iraq to be a clear and present danger is not enough proof. Broadening the fight would also jeopardize support from key Arab and other Moslem states for the battle against al-Qaeda.

A first step in building such a justification is to give Iraq one last opportunity to comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions to fully eliminate its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs, and long-range missile programs. This will require Iraq to allow IAEA Action Team and UN inspectors to return to Iraq, cooperate with their efforts to inspect and verify that existing WMD capabilities are eliminated, demonstrate greater transparency than in the past, and permit the deployment and operation of on-going systems to monitor and verify that Iraq's WMD programs are not reconstituted.

If the UN Security Council is united, and the burden of compliance is placed on Iraq, it will be easier for the United States to form a coalition in support of military action, should Iraq refuse to cooperate with inspectors or otherwise materially breach relevant Security Council resolutions.

Background on "The Iraqi Maze: Searching for a Way Out"

"The Iraqi Maze: Searching for a Way Out" is based in part on discussions held at a June 2001 ISIS conference that featured a range of governmental and non-governmental experts who have years of experience in dealing directly with the Iraqi situation.

The article describes the origins and development of the international sanctions and disarmament obligations imposed on Iraq, and discusses how IAEA Action Team inspections constrained Iraq's ability to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program, from 1991 to 1998. It then evaluates the slow erosion of the sanctions against Iraq, the impact of halting the inspections in December 1998, and the December 1999 resolution adopted by the UN Security Council to provide Iraq with a roadmap to ending sanctions. The article analyzes the proposals of the Bush administration, as of mid-2001, to reform the international sanctions against Iraq and to step up efforts to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime.

Based on this analysis, the article concludes that the best way to address the worsening problem of Iraqi nuclear weapons proliferation is a vigorous effort to reintroduce rigorous nuclear inspections and monitoring in Iraq. The article presents one option for the UN Security Council's consideration of how to reintroduce inspectors back into Iraq. The article also concludes that an interim step to lessening the Iraqi nuclear proliferation threat is to remove the remaining low enriched uranium and natural uranium stocks that remain in Iraq.

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1 Elaine Sciolino and Patrick Tyler, "Some Pentagon Officials and Advisers Seek to Oust Iraq's Leader in War's Next Phase," New York Times, October 12, 2001. [Back to the text]

2White House transcript, Washington Post, October 12, 2001. [Back to the text]