Volume 4, No. 3 – September 2000
IRAN AND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Editor’s Summary: This article surveys Iran’s efforts to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction, its motives for doing so, and the threat this poses to other regional states. The article discusses how the United States and others have tried to prevent or delay the deployment of such systems, as well as possible actions for U.S. policy to reduce the potential problems arising from their presence in Iran’s arsenal.
Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, a 17-ton medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) able to carry a 1.2 ton payload with a range estimated at 1,300 kilometers, (1) became operational following a successful test launch around February 20, 2000.(2) The Shahab-3 was first test-fired in August 1998. Yet only 18 months before earlier test, a senior U.S. intelligence official had told Congress that it might take Iran as long as ten years to acquire a missile with such a long range. (3) Following the 1998 launch, the U.S. government recognized that “the Shahab 3 significantly alters the military equation in the Middle East by giving Tehran the capability to strike targets in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and most of Turkey.” (4)
Iran’s development of the Shahab-3 is significant for two reasons. First, it gives Iran a delivery system able to strike every important U.S. ally in the region. Second, it was clearly designed as a delivery system for weapons of mass destruction. Iran has been developing nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons since the early 1980s, during Iran’s long war with Iraq. But the pace of development significantly accelerated in the early 1990s.
Iran’s weapons program significantly affects the strategic environment in the entire Middle East. In addition to undermining international non-proliferation norms, these programs pose a direct military threat to U.S. interests and allies in the region and to U.S. military forces deployed there. The Iranians appear to have accelerated their work on NBC weapons and associated delivery systems in recent years. While some analysts believe that Iran would use its NBC weapons and missiles only if the regime’s survival were in question, the limited available evidence calls that thesis into question. Iran’s storage of chemical weapons on Abu Musa, an island in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Dubai, suggests that Tehran would use such weapons long before the regime’s security was in doubt. (5) By merely possessing these weapons or by threatening to use them, Iran could also use them to gain leverage over neighboring states.
NBC WEAPONS PROGRAMS
The development of NBC weapons and delivery systems has strong support in Iran, as George Tenet, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), noted in testimony to Congress in early 1999: “[Iran’s] reformists and conservatives agree on at least one thing: weapons of mass destruction are a necessary component of defense and a high priority.” (6)
Contrary to the view of some analysts, there is no evidence indicating that the growing influence of relative moderates in Iran would reduce support for these programs. Indeed, it appears that the greater influence of technocrats is enhancing the programs by making possible the appointment of individuals selected more for their technical expertise than for their religious or political affiliations. For these reasons, even if the radicals lose influence in Tehran, there is no reason to believe that the Islamic Republic will constrain development of NBC weapons.
Iran’s progress in developing NBC capabilities varies considerably from program to program. The chemical weapons program, for example, appears considerably more advanced than its nuclear or biological counterparts. Fortunately, a lack of money, difficulties in integrating complex programs, and constraints imposed by Western technology transfer controls have slowed the programs. Although Iran has made considerable progress in developing ballistic missiles, it is less clear that it has developed missile delivery systems for its existing chemical or biological agents. Nevertheless, unless significant changes occur in Iran, it is only a matter of time before Iran has an effective NBC arsenal.
Since the early 1980s, U.S. officials have worried that the clerical regime in Tehran was bent on acquiring the infrastructure to build nuclear weapons. These concerns became more acute in the early 1990s. A 1997 Arms Control and Disarmament Agency concluded: “Although Iran’s rudimentary program has apparently met with limited success so far, the U.S. believes Iran has not abandoned its efforts to expand its nuclear infrastructure to support nuclear weapon development.” (7) In early 1999, CIA director Tenet testified that Iran “seems to be pushing its [nuclear] program forward.” (8)
Numerous estimates, many unduly pessimistic, have been made by various governments regarding the time Iran needed to acquire nuclear weapons, often suggesting that this would happen by the year 2000. The most credible estimate was provided in January 1995 by U.S. secretary of defense William Perry and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who estimated that Iran would need seven to 15 years to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, implying acquisition between 2002 and 2010. (9) In contrast, General Anthony C. Zinni, chief of the U.S. Central Command and thus responsible for U.S. military forces in the Middle East, believes that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon within a few years.(10)
Nevertheless, the Iranian effort to acquire nuclear weapons has been hampered by an inadequate technical base. According to the U.S. Defense Department: “At this stage, Iran’s scientific and technical base remains insufficient to support major nuclear programs. The Iranians recognize their dependence on foreign assistance and are encouraging younger Iranians to study abroad to gain needed technical assistance.” (11)
Despite considerable efforts since 1996, then, there is little public evidence to suggest that Iran has made more than limited progress in developing nuclear weapons. Iran still might require 7 to 15 years to produce a weapon, or achieve this goal only between 2006 to 2014. Certainly, though, it is difficult to predict when Iran will cross the nuclear threshold.
Iran could acquire nuclear weapons in one of several ways. It could attempt to steal a weapon from the former Soviet arsenal now located in one of the successor states.(12) Iran could also acquire fissile material from the former Soviet Union. Such highly enriched uranium or plutonium suitable for use in making atomic bombs would allow the Iranians to field a crude nuclear weapon much faster.(13) It has been estimated that Iran could then produce a fission bomb between 9 and 36 months. (14)
Finally, Iran could create the infrastructure needed to produce fissile material on its own. In this case, the time needed to develop a weapon would grow considerably. This process would also be more easily detected because of the size and complexity of the associated facilities and the unique signatures of the chemicals used. Evidence shows that Iran has explored developing capabilities to produce both highly enriched uranium and plutonium, each of which requires a considerably different infrastructure.
While the Russians are currently building the VVER-1000 reactor at Bushier, this type of reactor is considered poorly suited to plutonium production. Russia has also promised that the reactor will be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and that spent fuel would be returned to Russia. (15) Should Iran decide to break these agreements, it could extract plutonium from the spent fuel only by building reprocessing plants. Although the Iranians tried to obtain such a facility from Russia, there are no reports that it has succeeded. Thus, while U.S. government officials are concerned that acquiring this reactor will help Iranian scientists improve their skills, Tehran would need another reactor better suited to plutonium production.
Responding to U.S. government efforts to block its enhancement of nuclear capabilities, Iran tried to find countries willing to supply the technology but found few such opportunities. Consequently, by the early 1990s, Iran was largely limited to two principal suppliers of nuclear technology, China and Russia. A Department of Defense report noted: “Chinese and Russian supply policies are key to Iran’s success.” (16)
In response to U.S. pressure, Iran has taken the unusual step of allowing the IAEA to conduct relatively intrusive inspections of its nuclear infrastructure. The IAEA has detected no violations of Iran’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments. Although some experts discount the IAEA conclusions, most believe that Iran is so early in the process of developing nuclear weapons that it has little need to hide its activities. (17)
Iran already has an offensive biological weapons program and may have produced small quantities of biological agent. (18) It is unclear from the available information when U.S. experts believe that Iran will have a more serious biological agent dissemination capability.
There is relatively little public information about Iran’s biological weapons program. During the 1980s, an Iranian scientist made repeated efforts to acquire different strains of a fungus that produces mycotoxins from Canadian and later Dutch facilities. (19) According to a December 1998 New York Times report, Iran attempted to hire scientists in the former Soviet biological weapons program, the world’s largest and most sophisticated. At least some of these scientists have accepted the Iranian offers, although it remains unclear how many or what expertise they provide. (20) Given Iranian ties to Russian expertise, Iran might adopt agents developed by the former Soviet program, such as Marburg, smallpox, plague, and tularemia. (21) At the same time, the Iranians are trying to reduce their dependence on foreign technology and assistance.
Iran started its chemical weapons program in 1983 and produced its first agent in 1984, during the Iran-Iraq war and in response to Iraq’s efforts. In 1996, the U.S. Defense Department estimated that cumulative production had reached at least “several hundred tons of blister, blood, and choking agents.” (22) One source claims that the Iranians might have as much as 2,000 tons of chemical agent, possibly including nerve agent. (23) More authoritatively, General Anthony Zinni reported that Iran “may have produced several thousand tons of chemical agents to date.” (24) According to Middle East defense analyst Michael Eisenstadt, “Iran has the most active chemical warfare program in the developing world.” (25)
Iran is also working to enhance the sophistication of its chemical program. It is trying to develop nerve agents, including VX, the most advanced agent to enter the inventories of the United States and the Soviet Union. (26) The U.S. government has suggested that Iran possesses stockpiles of chemical-filled artillery shells and bombs. (27) Persistent reports that Iran may possess chemical warheads for its SCUD missiles have never been confirmed. (28)
The effectiveness of Iran’s existing chemical weapons arsenal is uncertain. Iran apparently relies heavily on hydrogen cyanide which is highly toxic but not an effective battlefield weapon. (29) One estimate suggests that 20 tons of hydrogen cyanide is necessary to equal the military effectiveness of one ton of sarin nerve agent. (30)
The Iranians have signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), under whose terms they will be forced to eliminate existing stocks of chemical weapons and dismantle chemical production facilities. The Defense Department, however, doubts Tehran’s sincerity and believes that Iran “continues to upgrade and expand its chemical warfare production infrastructure and munitions arsenal.” (31)
Recent reports that Iraq may be acquiring from Russia a new type of chemical agent, known as Novichok agents, should raise concerns that Iran may do the same. (32) The Soviet Union reportedly developed the Novichok agents in order to evade the controls imposed by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Although prohibited by the treaty, these agents are not specifically mentioned in the annexes to the convention. Russian scientists estimated that one Novichok agent was five to eight times more lethal than VX, the most dangerous nerve agent that the United States ever developed. (33)
LONG-RANGE DELIVERY SYSTEMS
Essential to the effectiveness of an NBC weapon is the delivery system that transports it to the intended target. The delivery system must be capable of carrying the weapon’s weight, have sufficient range to reach the intended target, and possess enough accuracy to allow the weapon to do significant damage. For tactical applications, field artillery can be used, and Iran is believed to possess such munitions for at least its chemical agents. To strike targets at longer ranges, however, Iran needs to rely on either long range aircraft, such as its Soviet-supplied Su-24 strike aircraft, or surface-to-surface missiles.
BALLISTIC MISSILES: A GROWING CAPABILITY
The Iranians first began to acquire ballistic missiles in the mid-1980s, when the Libyans reportedly provided about 30 Soviet-built SCUD-C missiles with a 300-kilometer range. Since then, Iran has acquired additional missiles from North Korea and China, and has received assistance for indigenous development from China, North Korea, and Russia.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran has more than 400 surface-to-surface missiles: including about 25 CSS-8 launchers with 200 missiles, and about 10 SCUD launchers with 210 SCUD-B and SCUD-C missiles. (34) These missiles have sufficient range to hit targets in Iraq and the other states bordering the Persian Gulf. They cannot strike targets very far into Saudi Arabia, and are unable to reach Israel. In addition, the missiles are relatively inaccurate. (35)
Iran’s efforts to develop a region-wide missile capability took a big step forward with the 1998 test launch of the Shahab-3. The United States believes that Russian technology has played a critical part in the development of the Shahab-3, though the missile itself is based on the North Korean No Dong. (36) In late 1999, a senior U.S. defense official reported that Iran was experiencing problems with the missile and had several unsuccessful tests. (37) However, in early 2000, the Iranians conducted another successful test launch of a Shahab-3, using one of a dozen North Korean rocket motors supplied to Tehran in early 1999. (38)
Iran is also believed to be working on more advanced systems. The Shahab-4 appears to be an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a range of 2,000 kilometers. In contrast, it appears that the Shahab-5 will be a 10,000-kilometer range intercontinental range missile (ICBM). (39)
Significantly, the U.S. intelligence community is no longer confident about how long it will take Iran to develop an ICBM.
“If Iran follows a development time line similar to that demonstrated with the Shahab-3, which included significant foreign assistance, it would take Iran many years to develop a 9,000 to 10,000 km range ICBM capable of reaching the United States. But Iran could significantly shorten the acquisition time-and warning time-by purchasing key components or entire systems from potential sellers such as North Korea.” (40)
The U.S. intelligence community’s evolving views on Iran’s chance of acquiring ICBMs are reflected in the unclassified version of a National Intelligence Estimate released in September 1999. According to the testimony of the National Intelligence Officer responsible for the report, North Korea is the most likely country to acquire an ICBM. He added that, “Iran is the next hostile country most capable of testing an ICBM capable of delivering a weapon to the United States during the next 15 years.” Other assessments of Iranian missile capabilities include the following:
–Iran could test an ICBM that could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload to many parts of the United States in the latter half of the next decade, using Russian technology and assistance.
–Iran could pursue a Taepo Dong-type ICBM and could test a Taepo Dong-1 or Taepo Dong-2-type ICBM, possibly with North Korean assistance, in the next few years.
–Iran is likely to test a space launch vehicle (SLV) by 2010 that-once developed-could be converted into an ICBM capable of delivering a several-hundred kilogram payload to the United States.
Beyond that, analysts differ on the likely timing of Iran’s first flight test of an ICBM that could threaten the United States. Assessments include:
–likely before 2010 and very likely before 2015 (noting that an SLV with ICBM capabilities will probably be tested within the next few years);
–no more than an even chance by 2010 and a better than even chance by 2015;
–and less than an even chance by 2015. (41)
Given the available information, it is probably prudent to assume that Iran will possess a missile capable of striking U.S. cities by 2010.
The key problem for the Iranian ballistic missile program is the development of warhead designs to permit effective delivery of NBC weapons. As the Iranians develop longer-range systems, the need for more sophisticated warheads grows. A warhead suitable for use in a short-range missile such as the SCUD-B, which flies at a relatively low speed and does not leave the atmosphere, is unlikely to be useful in an ICBM missile.
To deliver effective biological and chemical weapons, Iran must develop warheads capable of delivering cluster munitions. The United States and Soviet Union are known to have developed such munitions and thus could be a source for such arms, if Moscow ignores U.S. pleas not to do so. (42)
CRUISE MISSILES: THE NEXT STAGE?
The Iranians also have an interest in cruise missiles-unmanned aircraft-like missiles with a self-contained guidance system. Using modern satellite navigation systems, cruise missiles can attain accuracies of less than 20 meters and can carry nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons (43)
Recently, Iran took a significant step forward in its efforts to develop cruise missile capabilities. According to the Washington Post, U.S. intelligence experts believe that Iran can now produce the C-802 anti-ship cruise missile, a Chinese system based on the French Exocet anti-ship missile. (44) If these reports are correct, Iran could adapt this system for delivering biological and chemical weapons against neighboring states. To reach more distant targets, it would need to develop a different system. (45)
U.S. POLICY OPTIONS
What steps can be taken to halt or constrain Iran’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction? U.S. government efforts over nearly two decades working to stop Iran’s NBC acquisition programs have been largely successful. Consequently, Iran’s capabilities have been slowed and reduced. Still, it is highly unlikely that such programs will stop or roll back Iran’s weapons programs. Thus, the United States needs to prepare to deal with the implications of NBC weapons in Iranian hands.
Any country committed to acquiring NBC weapons will eventually obtain them. Non-proliferation efforts, however, are critical for several reasons. First, they drive up the cost of programs, inevitably reducing the size of a country’s weapons arsenal. Second, prevention programs reduce the sophistication of capabilities because the Iranians cannot necessarily obtain needed technology from the best sources. Finally, non-proliferation efforts impose delays.
Thus, U.S. policies have yielded significant benefits and should not be abandoned once Iran actually begins to acquire NBC weapons, since Tehran would try continually to upgrade and obtain larger quantities of arms: to replace hydrogen cyanide and mustard gas with agents like VX, and to secure longer-range missiles.
What this suggests, however, is that non-proliferation programs cannot be the only component of a reaction toward Iran’s NBC programs. Deterrence strategies must reduce Iran’s readiness to employ NBC weapons. U.S. assurances must persuade allies and friends in the region of a real commitment to their security.
EXPLOITING IRANIAN VULNERABILITIES
Reviewing Iran’s NBC and missile development programs suggests that the Iranians have two weaknesses that can be exploited as the United States continues to develop its responses. First, Iran remains dependent on foreign technology and expertise, especially in program management and systems integration. Second, the Iranians have limited financial resources, which prevents them from establishing massive parallel programs the way Iraq did during the 1980s. Thus, they cannot compensate for delays or increased costs imposed by U.S. interference simply by throwing more money at the problem.
The framework for U.S. efforts to constrain Iran is the non-proliferation regime created over many years through the negotiation of multilateral arms control treaties. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is intended to halt the spread of nuclear weapons by controlling sensitive technologies associated with their development. The NPT’s focus has traditionally been on the nuclear fuel cycle to prevent a country from building the infrastructure needed to produce fissionable material. The problem is that there are alternative ways to acquire fissile material, especially given the disarray in the former Soviet Union. Thus, even if the IAEA mechanisms are highly effective-a dubious proposition-Iran still possesses alternative routes.
Two treaties form the basis for arms control in the area of biological weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits the possession or production of biological weapons, while the 1926 Geneva Protocol prohibits use of biological weapons [CUT]. The BWC provides no inspection or verification system, but there is no reason to believe that even a well-designed verification system would detect a well hidden biological weapons program. Therefore, the main utility of the BWC is to provide the international norm that justifies U.S. concerns for Iran’s illegal efforts to develop biological weapons.
Finally, there is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). As previously noted, Iran must eliminate its chemical weapons capabilities to comply with its CWC obligations. Iran has admitted to past possession of chemical weapons production facilities but does not admit to any current possession of weapons. (46) It appears that Tehran will try to evade the treaties restrictions and retain chemical weapons and associated production capabilities.
While these treaties themselves may not prevent Iran from acquiring NBC capabilities, they can provide the basis for bilateral and multilateral diplomatic initiatives.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, U.S. officials recognized that there was a high risk that expertise, technology, and sensitive materials critical to the development of NBC weapons could assist proliferating countries like Iran. Therefore, the Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative was launched. Although these efforts have chemical and biological components, the primary focus has been the security of former Soviet nuclear technology.
Iranian efforts to develop NBC weapons and delivery systems depend heavily on foreign assistance. Iran’s nuclear weapons program appears to rely on assistance from China and Russia; its chemical weapons program on support from China; its biological weapons program on Russian help; and its missile program on a combination of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean support. The salience of external support is evident in a U.S. Department of Defense statement about Iran’s chemical weapons program: “China is an important supplier of technologies and equipment for Iran’s chemical warfare program. Therefore, Chinese supply policies will be key to whether Tehran attains its long-term goal of independent production for these weapons.” (47) This suggests that eliminating foreign support for Iran’s weapons programs would slow development, reduce sophistication, and increase costs.
The Clinton administration has pressured China, Russia, and North Korea to end state-supported proliferation activities and to curtail illicit exports. The record of accomplishment, unfortunately, is extremely uneven. North Korea clearly views missile sales as a source of badly needed foreign exchange, and has made it quite clear that it will continue its sales. Similarly, there are severe doubts about the willingness of China and Russia to stop all but the most flagrant exports. Russia particularly has expressed a desire to prevent Iran from acquiring NBC weapons and their associated delivery means. But, in practice, Moscow has shown limited willingness to identify and act against those responsible for exporting Russian technology to Iran.
Two problems suggest that it will be impossible to rely on export controls to halt technology transfers. First, despite considerable pressure from Congress, the Clinton administration has not been willing to impose significant penalties on China or Russia for on-going efforts to support Iran’s weapons programs. Although these views may be justified by a broader view of the U.S. strategic interests, they do little to ensure that Iran does not develop NBC weapons.
Second, even countries that support U.S. non-proliferation objectives often engage in trade with Iran contrary to U.S. wishes. This is a clear lesson of the French willingness to sell Microturbo engines to Tehran, ostensibly as power generators, even though the equipment might be helping Iran develop an indigenous production capability for cruise missiles. If it is difficult to reach agreement with a NATO partner, the prospects of reaching agreement with countries that have radically different views of their national interest is even less likely.
In particular, the U.S. Congress has sought to exploit Iran’s need for investments. A focal point of this effort was the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). In May 1998, the administration, however, agreed to waive sanctions for oil and gas investments in Iran, effectively gutting the act. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright justified this action: “Among other factors, I considered the significant, enhanced cooperation we have achieved with the European Union and Russia in accomplishing ILSA’s primary objective of inhibiting Iran’s ability to develop weapons of mass destruction and support of terrorism.”(48)
European countries objected to ILSA as imposing sanctions on entities outside the legal jurisdiction of the United States. Moreover, the Europeans prefer a policy of engagement toward Tehran, rather than one focusing on sanctions. As a practical matter, ILSA had only a limited impact. In general, the Iranians have been hindered more by their own unfriendly policies toward investment than by U.S. sanctions legislation. Indeed, a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Iran 59 of 60 countries in terms of their attractiveness to foreign investors. (49)
Another main component of an effective U.S. strategy is the Department of Defense’s Counterproliferation Initiative. This effort was started in the early days of the Clinton Administration because of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin’s strong views that nonproliferation efforts might fail and, as a result, the U.S. military might be forced to fight an adversary armed with NBC weapons. As originally conceived, the Counterproliferation Initiative focused on the need to have a balanced military response to allow the United States to defeat an NBC-armed adversary.
THEATER MISSILE DEFENSES
Active defenses are a critical element of efforts to defeat NBC weapons. Because the most likely delivery system for these weapons are ballistic and cruise missiles, the U.S. military needs robust theater missile defense systems. The importance of the missile defenses was highlighted during the 1991 Gulf War, when Patriot missile batteries, despite their incomplete effectiveness, helped nullify the strategic advantage that the Iraqis gained from their missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Because of the Gulf War experience, Israel increased its commitment to missile defenses and to the Arrow missile program. The first of three Arrow batteries became operational in March 2000. Unfortunately for Israel, Iranian missiles pose an even tougher challenge for Israel than the Iraqi missiles. The farther a ballistic missile flies, the higher its speed on re-entry, and the harder it is for a missile defense system to intercept it. Thus, Israel appears interested in developing a Boost Phase Intercept weapon, designed to destroy a ballistic missile just after launch or a launcher immediately after it has fired a missile. The Israeli program appears to rely on remotely piloted vehicles, which would have to be flown into Iranian territory, a daunting technical challenge. The United States needs to work with Israel to ensure that it has the capabilities needed to defend against Iranian missiles.
CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL DEFENSES
After the end of the Gulf War, the Department of Defense determined that the U.S. military lacked adequate chemical and biological defenses. Consequently, considerable effort has been made to solve this problem by equipment to detect chemical and biological agents, protective garments and gas, and decontaminating materials to eliminate hazardous substances.
Israel is the only country in the region that has a significant capability in this area. In addition, it is one of the few countries anywhere in the world that provides such protection for its civilian population. As a result, Israel is probably better prepared as a nation to deal with this threat than virtually any other country, including the United States.
As a result of the Clinton administration’s concern that U.S. cities may be increasingly vulnerable to chemical and biological terrorism, (50) the United States is devoting considerable resources to develop programs to deal with casualties and to clean up contaminated areas. While Israel already has considerable capability to conduct such operations, other U.S. allies in the region have far less ability to do so. The United States needs to work with them to ensure that they are not vulnerable to chemical and biological weapons use.
The United States probably cannot stop Iran from acquiring NBC weapons, so long as the Iranians remain willing to pay the political and economic costs of pursuing such programs. But there is a great deal the United States can do to constrain Iranian capabilities that will reduce the risks posed by Iranian NBC capabilities to U.S. military forces, friends, and allies in the region. Three administrations have pursued policies aimed at preventing the Iranians from acquiring NBC weapons and missile delivery systems. Although they have not prevented Iran from making progress, these policies have slowed the Iranian programs, increased the financial cost, and limited the size and sophistication of Iranian capabilities.
The United States must take an active role in assisting Middle Eastern countries to develop responses to the threat posed by NBC weapons, with requirements varying for each country. The United States needs to continue to cooperate with Israel in missile defenses, and extend that effort to the arena of consequence management. Other countries, especially the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, need more direct U.S. help. Where appropriate, the United States needs to ensure missile defenses are available, either by selling them or by deploying U.S.-manned systems. Moreover, the United States needs to work with the GCC countries to enhance their chemical and biological defense and consequence management capabilities.
Finally, the United States must continue to pursue a strategy combining multilateral, bilateral, and unilateral activities. The United States cannot deal with this problem by itself, and needs the support of governments around the world. At the same time, the United States cannot allow itself to be captured by those in the international community who believe that consensus is more important than results, going it alone when necessary to protect national interests, despite criticism from others.
*Dr. W. Seth Carus is a Senior Research Professor at the Center for Counterproliferation Research, National Defense University, Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
For other MERIA Journal articles of interest regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East, see George Tenet, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: A New Dimension in U.S. Middle East Policy,” MJ Vol. 4 No. 2 (June 2000); Laurie Mylroie, “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and the 1997 Gulf Crisis,” MJ Vol. 1 No. 4 (December 1997).
1) Tehran IRNA in English, 1722 GMT August 4, 1998, FBIS.
2) Steve Rodan, “Iran Completes Shihab-3 Development,” Ha’aretz, March 12, 2000, as carried by Foreign Broadcast Information Service’s on-line database.
3) Statement by Acting Director of Central Intelligence, George J. Tenet, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, hearing on Current and Projected National Security Threats To The United States, 5 February 1997, as found at . He stated: “in less than 10 years probably will have longer range missiles that will enable it to target most of Saudi Arabia and Israel.”
4) Robert D. Walpole, National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, North Korea’s Taepo Dong Launch and Some Implications on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 8, 1998, as found at .
5) Ralph Perry, “Iran rejects chemical weapons charge,” United Press International, March 23, 1995.
6) Statement of the Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, as prepared for delivery before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Current and Projected National Security Threats, February 2, 1999, as found at .
7) Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, 1997, as found at .
8) Statement of the Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, as prepared for delivery before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Current and Projected National Security Threats, February 2, 1999, as found at .
9) New York Times, January 10, 1995, p. A10.
10) Aviation Week & Space Technology, December 13, 1999, p. 33,
11) Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response (Washington: Government Printing Office, April 1996), p. 14.
12) Michael Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1996), p. 24, and Anthony H. Cordesman and Ahmed S. Hashim, Iran: Dilemmas of Dual Containment (Boulder, Colorado: Westview press, 1997), p. 306.
13) Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power, p. 16.
14) Cordesman and Hashim, Iran, p. 306.
15) Cordesman and Hashim, Iran, pp. 299-301, and Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Capabilities, pp. 19-21.
16) Proliferation: Threat and Response (November 1997), p. 25.
17) Cordesman and Hashim, Iran, pp. 299-301.
18) Proliferation: Threat and Response (November 1997), p. 27.
19) Don Sutton, “Harmful Fungi Requested by Iranian, Scientist Says,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), August 14, 1989, p. A1, as cited in Ron Purver, Chemical and Biological Terrorism: The Threat According to the Open Literature, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, June 1995, p. 35.
20) Judith Miller and William J. Broad, “Bio-Weapons in Mind, Iranians Lure Needy Ex-Soviet Scientists,” New York Times, December 8, 1998, pp. A1, A12.
21) For a discussion of the former Soviet program, see Ken Alibek, Biohazard (New York: Random House, 1999).
22) Proliferation: Threat and Response (April 1996), p. 15.
23) Andrew Rathmell, “Chemical weapons in the Middle East – Lessons from Iraq,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, December 1995. Eisenstadt, p. 26, suggests that Iran can produce several hundred tons of agent per year.
24) Statement of General Anthony C. Zinni Commander in Chief U. S. Central Command before the House Armed Services Committee, 11 March 1999, as found at .
25) Eisenstadt, p. 26.
26) Proliferation: Threat and Response (November 1997), p. 27.
27) Proliferation: Threat and Response (November 1997), p. 27.
28) Cordesman and Hashim, Iran, p. 292, and Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Capabilities, p. 26.
29) Proliferation: Threat and Response (April 1996), p. 15. For the First World War experience with hydrogen cyanide, see L. F. Haber, The Poisonous Cloud: Chemical Warfare in the First World War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), and Augustin Prentiss, Chemicals in War: A Treatise on Chemical Warfare (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1937), pp. 171-174. World War Two research is discussed in Stanford Moore and Marshall Gates, “Hydrogen Cyanide and Cyanogen Chloride,” pp. 7-16, in Division 9, National Defense Research Committee, Office of Scientific Research and Development, Chemical Warfare Agents and Related Chemical Problems, parts I-II (Washington, DC: 1946).
30) Proliferation: Threat and Response (November 1997), p. 27.
31) Proliferation: Threat and Response (April 1996), p. 16.
32) Richard Z. Chesnoff with Douglas Pasternak, “Mystery at a Pesticide Plant,” U.S. News and World Report, October 25, 1999.
33) Judith Miller, “U.S. and Uzbeks Agree on Chemical Arms Plant Cleanup,” New York Times, May 25, 1999, and Jonathan Tucker, “Converting Former Soviet Chemical Plants,” Nonproliferation Review, Fall 1999, pp. 78-89. Tucker’s article provides considerable detail on the program to develop the Novichok agents.
34) International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance, 1998/99 (London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1998), p. 127.
35) “DRC Receives Iranian ‘Scud” Missiles,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, December 1, 1999.
36) Statement for the Record to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015 by Robert D. Walpole, National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, 16 September 1999, as found at .
37) Aviation Week & Space Technology, December 13, 1999, p. 33.
38) Bill Gertz, “N. Korea Sells Iran Missile Engines,” Washington Times, February 9, 2000, p. 1.
39) Aviation Week & Space Technology, December 13, 1999, p. 33.
40) Statement of the Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, as prepared for delivery before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Current and Projected National Security Threats, February 2, 1999, as found at .
41) Statement for the Record to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015 by Robert D. Walpole, National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, September 16, 1999, as found at .
42) Ken Alibek with Stephen Handelman, Biohazard (New York: Random House, 1999), pp. 5-8.
43) This discussion of cruise missile technologies is based on W. Seth Carus, Cruise Missile Proliferation in the 1990s (Westport, Connecticut, Praeger, 1992).
44) John Mintz, “Tracking Arms: a Study in Smoke,” Washington Post, April 3, 1999, pp. A3-A4.
45) Aaron Karp, “Lessons of Iranian Missile Programs for U.S. Nonproliferation Policy,” Nonproliferation Review, Spring-Summer 1998, p. 20, discusses the possibilities of Iran developing cruise missile systems.
46) “News Chronology,” CBW Conventions Bulletin, Issue No. 46, December 1999, p. 25, includes Iran in a list of nine countries (“China, France, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, the UK, the USA, and one other”) that have declared production sites as of August 31, 1999. It is not on the list of four states that have admitted to possession of chemical weapons (U.S., Russia, India, and “one other”-the one other is presumably the same one in the previous list). On 17 November 1998, the Director General of the Iranian Foreign Ministry admitted that Iran possessed chemical weapons at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, but said, “Following the establishment of cease fire, the decision to develop chemical weapons capabilities was reversed and the process was terminated.” See “News Chronology,” CBW Conventions Bulletin, Issue No. 43, February 1999, p. 20.
47) Proliferation: Threat and Response (November 1997), p. 27.
48) Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Statement on “Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA): Decision in the South Pars Case,” London, United Kingdom, May 18, 1998, as released by the Office of the Spokesman U.S. Department of State, as found on the Department of State web site, .
49) Keith Weissman, “Iran Failing to Attract Foreign Investment,” Near East Report, July 12, 1999, as found at .
50) See George Tenet’s speech with commentary by Barry Rubin published in MERIA Journal, Vol. 4, No.2 (June 2000).
Author’s name & description.