'We Are Hoping That The Example Of Iraq...Would Be Persuasive': Interview with US Undersecretary of State John Bolton, April 5
Radio Sawa Interview with John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, Washington, D.C., April 5.
Question: Please can you outline the non-proliferation policy of the United States in the Middle East after disarming Iraq?
Undersecretary Bolton: The United States is very concerned that states seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction give up that quest, and that they live within the commitments that they've made in such things such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention. So we are hoping that the example of Iraq divested of its weapons of mass destruction would be persuasive to a number of other states in the Middle East, and we certainly intend to exert a maximum diplomatic effort to persuade other states like Syria, Libya and Iran among others to give up their pursuit of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and long range ballistic missile delivery systems.
Question: Do you have any concern that Iraqi scientists, know-how and production materials would pass along to neighboring countries?
Bolton: I think there is a risk from a variety of programs, Iraq being one, that the intellectual capital that scientists and others have developed would find its way to other rogue regimes and that's something that we're very concerned about in the period immediately after hostilities in Iraq end. It's something that we and other coalition partners have already been thinking about and working about to try to minimize that outcome.
Question: What countries after Iraq pose the greatest threat in terms of weapons of mass destruction?
Bolton: In terms of countries that are closest to acquiring or actually have nuclear weapons, clearly North Korea and Iran are the two highest on our list. They're in two different parts of the world and they're at different stages in their nuclear weapons program. But there's no doubt that in the aftermath of the Iraq conflict that Iran and North Korea will be on the top of our list of priorities. But there are other countries that already have substantial chemical and biological weapons capabilities that also worry us greatly.
Question: What message does the Iraqi operation send to such countries?
Bolton: I think it sends a message that when the President of the United States says that all options are open in his determination to rid countries of weapons of mass destruction, that he is serious about it. And no one wants to repeat what has happened in Iraq, and we are hoping that the elimination of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be important lessons to other countries in the region particularly Syria, Libya and Iran, that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high. We want a peaceful resolution to all of these issues, but the determination of the United States, especially after September 11, to keep these incredibly dangerous weapons out of the hands of very dangerous people should not be underestimated.
Question: Can you sense any change in Libya's attempt to get WMD since the international community has gone its way and suspended sanctions?
Bolton: Our evidence is very convincing that since the Security Council suspended sanctions because of Pan Am 103, that the government of Libya has substantially increased its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, so that at the very time the government of Libya has been seeking to put the terrorist destruction of Pan Am 103 behind it, it's nonetheless pursuing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and ballistic missile systems that would make it still a grave threat to its neighbors both in North Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea, and indeed worldwide possibly. So this remains something, whatever the outcome, which we hope will evolve in the Pan Am 103 matter. Libya's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is still very, very troubling to the United States.
Question: Do you believe that Libya is well on its way to have a nuclear bomb?
Bolton: Well, I don't want to get into the specifics, but we do know that there is no question but since the suspension of the UN sanctions, that Libya's procurement activities and a lot of its activities in the nuclear program have been increased.
Question: Where does Iran's nuclear program stand?
Bolton: Well, in the wake of the visit recently of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, we now know in a public way that Iran has a very sophisticated nuclear fuel cycle program. They've got the capacity to enrich uranium up to weapons grade levels and a whole range of other activities in the nuclear fuel cycle that could give them fusion materials to build nuclear weapons in a very short period of time. I think that the outside observers who saw just a small part of the Iranian program were impressed and surprised at how sophisticated and advanced it is, which shows that the Iranian nuclear weapons effort is really very, very far along.
Question: What are we asking Russia now to do regarding Iran and its nuclear program?
Bolton: Well, we have pressed the Russians for some time to end all of the assistance that's been going to the clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program, and the recent revelations about Iran combined with North Korea's withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty show how easy it is to get around the international non-proliferation regime. So we have asked Russia to consider not delivering fuel to the Bushehr reactor until Iran has verifiably given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. We think that when a country is so obviously pursuing nuclear weapons that peaceful nuclear cooperation that otherwise would be unexceptional is something that really should not go forward.
Question: Has the United Nations been effective on the issue of non-proliferation of WMD?
Bolton: Well, I think the answer is that over the years countries have been willing to sign non-proliferation agreements and arms control treaties and then violate them; and that is the sort of non-compliance that has troubled us very greatly and that we've raised in a number of international forums. I think there's a heavy burden on the United Nations to show that it can be effective in this area and to show that statements, documents, declarations, resolutions and treaties that come out of the UN system in fact are observed by everybody who signs up to them. If they're not, then obviously the entire UN system will be less effective.
Question: Can you assess the work of Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency?
Bolton: Well, we support the Director General and his work. The IAEA is a very important international agency. It has a very important mandate. We support it with our assessed contributions and substantial voluntary financial contributions as well, and we want to make it stronger. We'd like to see it more effective. We think changes have been made in the past few years, but as with any international organization there could be substantial additional improvements as well.
Question: Do we have a specific plan to locate Iraq's chemical and biological agents after the end of the war?
Bolton: We have a very detailed plan to try to locate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction storage areas, chemical agents, biological agents, warheads, production facilities, the files and records of the weapons programs, so that these can be exposed to the world so that everybody can see the extent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and also so that we can begin the process of destroying them finally; so when a new Iraqi government comes into power, representatives of all the elements of Iraqi society committed to not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, that we will be able to say that in fact Iraq is completely free of such weapons and therefore should be a full participant again in the international economy and political scene.
Question: What do you say to people and countries who are calling for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East?
Bolton: Well, I think the question of how to get to a state where there are no nuclear weapons is obviously something that's complex, and that we are pursuing. We adhere to the non-proliferation treaty which has only five legitimate nuclear weapons states, and that remains our position.
Source: Transcript - State's Bolton Says Iraq a Lesson for Syria, Libya, Iran, US Department of State (Washington File), April 16.
© 2003 The Acronym Institute.