U.S. threatens to intercept WMD shipments to Iran, Libya
April 2, 2003
The Bush administration has pledged to roll back efforts by Iran and Libya to develop nuclear weapons.
Washington has determined that Iranian and Libyan missile and weapons of mass destruction programs are threats to U.S. security. The international community has failed to address these emerging threats and the United States could decide to intercept WMD shipments to these Middle East states, sources said.
"At a minimum, interdiction can lengthen the time that proliferators will need to acquire new weapons capabilities, and demonstrates our commitment to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems,"said John Wolf, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.
"In some instances, interdiction can prevent proliferators from acquiring new capabilities. Procurement efforts are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and our efforts to halt those procurements must keep pace," he said.
Iraq presents the most serious WMD and missile threats, officials said. But they added after the U.S.-led war against Baghdad, the most dangerous regimes would be Iran and Libya.
Both Teheran and Tripoli are producing biological and chemical weapons and are seeking to develop nuclear warheads. Iran is regarded as far more advanced and has also been manufacturing the Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile with a warhead that can deliver nonconvenational weapons.
"Iran has a sizable, heretofore clandestine, effort to acquire capabilities that makes sense only as part of an effort to produce fissile material for weapons," Wolf told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. "It has done this while maintaining the pretense of adherence to its NPT safeguard obligations."
Wolf said the Bush administration is "determined to do what it takes to push back" efforts of Iraq, Iran and Libya to achieve nuclear capabilities. The international community, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, must be more vigilant in tracking Iran's nuclear program, he said during March 17 testimony. IAEA Director-general Mohammed El Baradei led a delegation in February to examine Iranian nuclear facilities.
The U.S. officials suggested that the IAEA has not released all of the information obtained from its inspection of the Natanz gas centrifuge facility. In a briefing in early March, El Baradei said the facility is almost complete, but did not elaborate.
"We count on IAEA to be forthright and forceful in identifying problems and safeguards violations, and we expect it to insist on immediate action by Iran to end its clandestine nuclear weapons programs," Wolf said. "This is not just an IAEA problem; again the international community must act in concert. All nations that have not yet done so should sign the Additional Protocol. That would enhance global security through more rigorous safeguards."
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lowell Jacoby also said Iran is expected to increase its missile and WMD production capabilities.
Jacoby told the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in February that Iran has begun supplying missile production technologies to Syria.
The State Department has established five goals for nonproliferation. These include curbing WMD material and technology as well as missiles to those deemed as proliferators or terrorists. Other goals include pressuring countries to halt procurement of WMD and missiles and containing the transfer of advanced conventional arms to states of concern and to terrorists.
"Enhancing nonproliferation dialogue with our worldwide partners is essential to success," Wolf said. "But dialogue is no substitute for concrete action, and where dialogue fails we will use other means -- whether multilateral, plurilateral, or unilateral. That was at the heart of President Bush's National Security Strategy."
Gestate-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, January 21, 2003
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