AJC GLOBAL FORUM 2013 - JOIN THE INNER CIRCLE www.ajc.org/globalforum
John Bolton, Under Secretary of State, Arms Control and International Security

Annual Meeting 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001

May 7, 2004 -  Click hereto listen to John Bolton, Under Secretary of State, Arms Control and International Security's speech.

John Bolton
Under Secretary of State, Arms Control and International Security
American Jewish Committee's 98th Annual Meeting

Well, thank you very much, it's a pleasure to be here today, and I think you've got a really outstanding program going. I understand you're going to be honoring former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio later today. And I just want to say, during the time that she served as Foreign Minister of Spain, she did an outstanding job for her country. She was a friend of the United States, and had an excellent personal relationship with Secretary Powell, and I think we're all going to miss her, but wish her well in whatever her next endeavors are.

I wanted to take a few minutes here today to talk about the problem posed by Iran and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and longer and more accurate ballistic missiles. I want to do it first by putting it in the context of the global threat we face to the United States and its friends and allies around the world through the proliferation, particularly of nuclear weapons and dangerous nuclear technology. This is a real moment of crisis in the international efforts for protecting against the proliferation of all forms of weapons of mass destruction, but particularly nuclear weapons. And not just for the United States, obviously where we have great cause to fear terrorist use of nuclear weapons, but for our friends and allies in dangerous parts of the world, not the least of which, of course, is Israel. I knew I was coming to the right place today when I saw the AJC ad this morning this morning in the Wall Street Journal as I was having my first cup of coffee, and it's definitely enough to wake you up as to what the threat that Israel faces is. And made, obviously, far more acute by rogue state possession of nuclear weapons.

We've been trying to address the threat of nuclear proliferation in a variety of respects. And, in fact, a couple of months ago, President Bush made a very important speech to the National Defense University, where he discussed the threat of nuclear proliferation in more detail than any leader in modern times, really, proposing a series of reforms, and enlargement of some that he had already started in his administration. I want to just discuss those briefly, because I think doing so will help put Iran in the proper context.

Back in the fall, at his speech at the General Assembly, President Bush had asked the Security Council to pass a resolution on nonproliferation, basically calling on the Security Council to do two things. One, for each country in the U.N. to take the treaties that prohibit chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear weapons, and make activity related to those weapons criminal under their national laws. We have a phenomenon in the world where a lot of countries will sign up to treaties, and yet within their own jurisdiction, the country might have pledged not to use biological weapons, but it's not criminal for their own nationals to be working on biological weapons projects. Obviously in this country, it's all criminal. The president wanted other countries to make this activity criminal, wanted the Security Council to call on them to do it.

And second, to do what we and a number of other Western countries have done, which is enact very strict export control regimes to prevent the technology related to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles, from being exported. As I say, the president proposed this to the U.N. back in September, and as with many things in the U.N., it takes a while. But just a few weeks ago, the Security Council did pass Resolution 1540, which essentially implements the president's proposal. We think this will be an important step forward. This is the first major action that the Security Council has taken on the proliferation issue, and we hope that it will be an important one.

But I think we recognize that Security Council resolutions, as helpful as they may be, are not the entire answer. And that's why, just about a year ago, in Krakow, Poland, the president proposed the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is an international effort that we've undertaken to get countries not just to pass laws and adopt resolutions, but to take active measures to interdict the trafficking in international commerce of weapons of mass destruction, their related technologies. In his NDU speech a couple of months ago, the president called to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative, so that we would undertake not just interdiction of these prohibited materials in international commerce, but that we would take national efforts to go after the laboratories, the manufacturing facilities and the financial support infrastructure for the WMD black market. This is a shadowy world, to be sure. But we've had some recent indications, just how dangerous that world is. You may have read about the uncovering of the A.Q. Kahan network run by a prominent Pakistani scientist, so-called father of the Pakistani nuclear weapon, not supported, as far as we can tell, by the government of Pakistan, but all the more frightening because using manufacturing facilities in Malaysia, shipping facilities in the Persian Gulf, financial institutions in Europe, A.Q. Kahn built up a network of nuclear customers as diverse as Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Now, the uncovering of this network, or the public unveiling of it, was something that we had worked for, we've been following this network for quite some time. It's an extraordinarily dangerous phenomenon. But in part, the network was uncovered as a result of the Proliferation Security Initiative, which, in October of last year, uncovered a shipment of uranium enrichment centrifuges being sent from Malaysia to Libya, acting on information that we obtained working with the British, the Germans and the Italians, we diverted a Germany ship coming through the Suez Canal on its way to Tripoli. We diverted the ship to Italy, where a group of crates labeled "used machine parts" was unloaded and unpacked, and revealed very sophisticated uranium enrichment equipment that would have gone to support the Libyan nuclear weapons program. This was a major success for the Proliferation Security Initiative, and was a direct contributing factor to Libya's decision in December of last year to renounce weapons of mass destruction. Since December of last year, we have literally carted out and sent to Oakridge, Tennessee, the entire Libyan nuclear weapons program. We put it on airplanes and a large freighter which docked in Norfolk a couple of weeks ago, and it's now all at a secure facility in Tennessee.

Obviously, there are a lot of things that happen in the Proliferation Security Initiative that we don't talk about publicly, because they're extremely sensitive. But this interdiction of this shipment of centrifuge equipment to Libya is something that we can talk about, and I think properly so, so that American citizens have a chance to understand the extent of the activity that we've undertaken, and the nature and sophistication of the problem we face of worldwide black market in nuclear technology that rogue states and terrorist groups very much want to tap into. And that really leads to another aspect of the suggestions that President Bush made in his recent speech, to cut off the flow of sensitive nuclear technology, to countries around the world where there's a risk of that technology getting into the hands of terrorists or states that are really not seeking peaceful nuclear power, but are seeking nuclear weapons.

The president has basically proposed that this technology not go to any countries that don't already have it. That these countries that want to have a peaceful civil nuclear power program would have a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel, but they don't need to get into enrichment and reprocessing and a lot of other aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. That they can be conducted perfectly consistently with the nonproliferation treaty, but which can bring a country like Libya or Iran right to the brink of nuclear weapons, without ever technically violating their treaty commitments. This is something that we're working on in the context of getting ready for the G8 Summit that will take place at Sea Island in Georgia this June, to see if we can get endorsement for the broad thrust of the president's proposals. It's sensitive, involves commercial questions and so on. And it's a very far-reaching change, but one that we think that's important, given the threat that we face from nuclear proliferation. If I had to make a contrast between how one can be effective in getting countries to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons versus the threat we face from a country that hasn't come to that decision yet, there's really no better contrast than between Libya and Iran.

Libya, basically, after years of being isolated, and feeling that they might be the next target of American military force after Iraq, made a strategic decision. They made a strategic decision that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction was not making Libya more secure, it was making it less secure. And so, on that basis, they concluded that, in fact, they would be able to move back into the civilized community of nations if they very publicly gave up these weapons and allowed us complete, unimpeded access and transparency, which, in fact, we have obtained. Now, if you want a model for countries about how to give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, Libya has provided it to us. And it's a 180 degree contrast with the way that Iran has behaved, which has been concealing a large scale, covert nuclear weapons program for over 18 years. Very clear that Iran draws from many of the same networks that supplied Libya with its nuclear technology and components and materials, specifically from the A.Q Kahn network, as Kahn himself has confessed. Now, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has uncovered much of Iran's program, but not all of it, because the Iranians have engaged in a very clever pattern of deception and denial, as we call it. They have declined to make full and open declarations to the IAEA, as they've been repeatedly required to do. They have another obligation coming up in just a week or so, to make yet another declaration to the IAEA. Personally, I'd have to say I doubt that they're going to make an accurate declaration, because to do so would reveal their nuclear weapons program. They're pursuing technology that simply makes no sense in their own claim that they need peaceful nuclear power for civil purposes in their country. This is a country that has literally hundreds of years of reserves of oil and natural gas. Why they need nuclear power has escaped our economists at the Department of Energy. Why they need to pursue things like heavy water production facilities and heavy water reactors, uranium mining, uranium conversion and uranium enrichment can really be explainable only in terms of the pursuit of an indigenous, self-sufficient nuclear weapons program.

We think that the situation in Iran constitutes a threat to international peace and security. We've believed this for well over a year. We've made substantial efforts at various meetings of the IAEA Board of Directors to get this matter referred to the U.N. Security Council. We have not been successful in that regard, in part because three of our European friends, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, have been trying to work a diplomatic arrangement with Iran, where Iran would first suspend and then eventually cease its uranium enrichment activities, in exchange for access to energy technology. We believe the Iranians are not living up to their end of the deal, because to do so would mean the abandonment of their nuclear weapons program. Our judgment is that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons, and that the European arrangement ultimately will not succeed. But as long as that deal is playing out, it makes it very difficult to get this matter referred to the Security Council.

Now, I mentioned a moment ago the resolution that President Bush had asked for. I think that's an important resolution. But if the Council can't deal with a problem like Iran or a problem like North Korea, you have to ask, over time, what impact that will have on the Security Council's ability to function on the most important security issue that we face, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is a question for Iran, and I think for all of us. They have to make a decision that they're going to come clean on what they're up to, or we're going to have to treat this as something that's a direct threat to our own national security and that of our friends and allies. The president has been very clear that a central objective of his administration is to keep the world's most dangerous weapons from falling into the hands of the world's most dangerous people. That's something that we're actively engaged in. I know it's something that's of enormous concern to the AJC, and I've welcomed your support and a lot of the work that David Harris and others have done on this issue over the past years. I want to assure you it's a top priority for us in the administration.

But it's not an easy problem to solve. It's going to take a lot of sustained work. As I say, I appreciate the cooperation that you've demonstrated in all of your several capacities before. I just want to urge you to keep at it, because until we solve this problem, none of us are safe.