Chasing the Nuclear Genie; the Proliferation Security Initiative

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Chasing the Nuclear Genie; the Proliferation Security Initiative


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It won't be easy to get the nuclear genie back into the bottle. No sooner had President Bush announced his very worthy initiative to combat proliferation, unveiled during a speech at the American Defense University on Wednesday, than newspaper reports over the weekend detailed disturbing findings of a trail of nuclear designs from China to Pakistan to Libya. This is one hot and scary topic.

In fact, Libya has released a mother lode of information, which is now being analyzed by experts from the United States and Britain, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The designs in question were handed over to American officials after Libya's Moammar Gadhafi decided to renounce weapons of mass destruction (WMD), presumably to avoid going the way of Saddam Hussein. Readers of The Washington Times won't be too surprised, of course; this newspaper's Bill Gertz long since broke the news of the Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation.

Revelations about Iran's program for enriching uranium are equally disturbing. Also last week, international inspectors discovered that Iran had hidden blueprints for a highly sophisticated centrifuge, capable of producing a key element in nuclear weapons. This means that even as Iran was pretending to be cooperating with the IAEA, it was engaged in a double-cross. Who knows what else they have tucked away?

And overshadowing it all are the revelations about Pakistan's black market in nuclear technology, run by the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan. Mr. Kahn is accused of running a veritable Wal-Mart of black-market proliferation, as IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has put it. Eager customers included Libya and North Korea.

Do these deplorable failings of anti-proliferation measures invalidate the main point of Mr. Bush's speech that "every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction"? No. What it does is to reinforce his message that we must put teeth into the IAEA.

Mr. Bush wants to give the atomic inspection agency an enforcement arm to verify compliance from member countries. He also wants known and suspected violators of IAEA rules to be barred from positions on its board of governors, which seems a very reasonable idea. Iran, for one, has been able to flout the rules for 18 years. …

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