Weapons Inspectors Can’t Disarm Iran
David Kay – Wall Street Journal July 17, 2010
Tehran's belligerent rhetoric about its nuclear program ratchets up daily, while the international community continues to push for tougher sanctions. The hope is that economic pressure can force Iran to the bargaining table, where it will agree to abandon its weapons capabilities—and that such disarmament will be verified by inspections. As a former weapons inspector, I have very bad news: A weapons-inspection regime in Iran will not work.
Inspection and verification are often viewed as ways to prevent a country from developing nuclear weapons. This is well beyond the capabilities of any conceivable inspection regime, especially given Iran's status as an almost-nuclear-capable state. The fact that inspectors must let Tehran carry out its civilian-nuclear effort while policing the military program makes the task largely unachievable.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would need access to all of the infrastructure that could possibly aid in fashioning a nuclear weapon and potential delivery systems. They also would need a full and complete declaration of all Tehran's nuclear components, all of its uranium enrichment, all of its plutonium-related activities, and all missile testing, production and deployment sites.
This is just not plausible when inspectors confront a hostile regime. Tehran has kept hidden its nuclear activities and support networks, domestic and foreign. It has refused repeated IAEA requests for interviews with the scientists and engineers responsible for large areas of its secret atomic work, and it has refused to disclose the details of its involvement with North Korea and with Pakistan's A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network.
The result is that Iran now has a broad capability in all aspects of the complex nuclear-weapons process—from converting natural uranium into enriched uranium using gas centrifuges, to designing and testing the components of a nuclear weapon, to working on the construction of a missile-deliverable warhead, to building and testing missiles capable of delivering that nuclear warhead over significant distances.
Imagine the following scenario: Inspectors are roaming around Iran trying to find a clandestine centrifuge plant. They have information that it is hidden in an Iranian military base, but that's all they know. Which base and where in that base is unknown. The inspectors would like to descend on various sites without advance notice, with equipment capable of searching underground as well as above ground, and conduct environmental sampling. They would also insist on interviewing personnel and looking over anything entering or leaving the base during their time in situ.
This is exactly how inspection regimes have fallen apart in the past. The realities on the ground are too complex for inspectors to ever be able to promise even a 50% guarantee of success. Access to facilities, personnel, communications and documents is often delayed—if not entirely denied—by a hostile regime such as Iran's.
There's also the question of manpower. The IAEA would need a large body of adequately trained, equipped, supported and financed inspectors, but the only countries capable of supplying them are the United States, the United Kingdom and France—countries that would obviously be viewed with great distrust by Iran. On the other hand, Russian and Chinese personnel would clearly be suspected of bias in favor of the Islamic Republic. Israel, Pakistan and India have qualified scientists, but hardly seem an appropriate source of inspectors. So, creating a technically qualified group of people that is both acceptable to Iran and independent would be a huge hurdle. Arms-control inspections are easier for political leaders to support in the abstract than in actual operation.
We have seen the failures time and again. Individual IAEA inspectors in the 1980s raised serious questions about the extent and direction of Iraq's nuclear program. These suspicions were buried, and the inspectors moved to other jobs. Even after the 1991 Gulf War, the IAEA leadership at first rejected inspection findings that showed massive violations by Iraq.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the IAEA leadership gave Iran a public "clean bill of health" on living up to its safeguard obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the face of questions from inspectors. Even after Iran's 20-year-long clandestine program started to be revealed, the IAEA inspectors have had a hard time getting United Nations authority to confront the Islamic Republic. It is easier to temporize and delay than to confront violations.
The net result is that violators become emboldened and inspectors become demoralized, learning to look the other way when transgressions are discovered.
The blunt truth is that weapons inspections simply cannot prevent a government in charge of a large country from developing nuclear weapons, when that government has decided to breach its obligations not to. The international community must use inspectors when possible to aid their efforts, but it needs to face up to the fact that these people are not the answer to the problem at hand. If they fail to see the limits of the IAEA or any other inspection team, only further disaster awaits.
Mr. Kay led the U.N. inspections after the Persian Gulf War that uncovered the Iraqi nuclear program. He later led the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, which determined there were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction at the time of the 2003 invasion. A longer version of this op-ed appeared in the March/April issue of The National Interest.Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704188104575083582467171848.html
Comment – July 17, 2010
The above is no big surprise coming as it does from one of the main cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion. However, the fact that other articles arguing a similar line have appeared recently should tell us something is afoot.
After repeated delays the powers that be have finally resolved to embark on military action against Iran. It may only begin in another 6-12 months but a campaign to prepare the western public has already begun.
As the above illustrates, this will entail trying to convince us of the futility of weapons inspections and later, no doubt, sanctions too. So that ultimately the only option left will be a military one. Expect to see more articles touting a similar line in the weeks and months ahead.
Finally, the above should be seen in the light of testimony David Kay made before a congressional committee in 2003:
“Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The very scale of this program when coupled with the conditions in Iraq that have prevailed since the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom dictate the speed at which we can move to a comprehensive understanding of Iraq's WMD activities...
“Why are we having such difficulty in finding weapons or in reaching a confident conclusion that they do not exist or that they once existed but have been removed? Our search efforts are being hindered by six principal factors:
“1. From birth all of Iraq's WMD activities were highly compartmentalized within a regime that ruled and kept its secrets through fear and terror and with deception and denial built into each program.
“2. Deliberate dispersal and destruction of material and documentation related to weapons programs began pre-conflict and ran trans- to post-conflict.
“3. Post-OIF looting destroyed or dispersed important and easily collectable material and forensic evidence concerning Iraq's WMD program. As the report covers in detail, significant elements of this looting were carried out in a systematic and deliberate manner, with the clear aim of concealing pre-OIF activities of Saddam's regime.
“4. Some WMD personnel crossed borders in the pre/trans-conflict period and may have taken evidence and even weapons-related materials with them.”
As we now know Iraq’s WMD were largely the product of fertile imaginations within western intelligence. And the same people involved in that charade are now trying to convince us about Iran’s WMD. Are we going to swallow more of their lies and deception?
Last updated 19/07/2010