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“Weapons of Terror”


"So long as any state has nuclear weapons, other states will want them," the just-released Report of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission notes quite simply and elegantly.  It adds: "So long as any such weapons remain, there is a risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident."

Chaired by Hans Blix, the former chief-weapons inspector of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), who held this post throughout the American lies about, build-up towards, and eventual launching of its March, 2003 military seizure of Iraq, the Blix Commission returned repeatedly to the theme of the cessation and reversal of the nuclear-arms race, the goal of disarmament and, ultimately, a nuclear-weapon-free world.  The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1970-) therefore figures prominently in the Blix Commission report.  But above all, the NPT's disarmament objectives. 

In the days leading up to the June 1 release of the Blix Commission's report, I had a hunch.  My hunch was that (a) with the ever-vigilant focus on Iran's nuclear program (systematically distorted as this focus has been among the English-language powers and their news media), (b) with the conference scheduled in Vienna among the Permanent Five members of the Security Council (the U.S. and—the U.K., France, China, and Russia) plus Germany to try and reach a unified position on Iran's nuclear program (reportedly, they did reach one—though as best I can tell, they didn't really), and, last, (c) with what turned out to be the last-second gesture in the figure of its Secretary of State to enter into negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program, the one non-negotiable demand being that Tehran surrender its "inalienable right" under the NPT to possess a civilian nuclear program (a "policy shift" and "reversal of course" and however else the English-language media lied about this one, a gift from on-high rejected by Tehran), it would be impossible for the English-language news media not to report about the Blix Commission and its Report.  In particular, though, it would be impossible not to report the guiding principle that in the field of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological, and chemical, disarmament trumps all other objectives.  And the only states that can disarm are those states that actually do possess these weapons and the means of delivering them.

And I was right: It proved impossible for the English-language news media not to report about the Blix Commission.

Because as it turned out (i.e., through Friday, June 2, when I am drafting this blog, and excluding wire-service reports), two U.S.-based newspapers mentioned the existence of the Blix Commission report, the New York Times devoting a little more than 600 words to it, the New York Sun merely mentioning it in passing. 

In the U.K., The Guardian devoted another 600 or so words to it.

In Canada, the Toronto Globe and Mail upwards of 500 words.

While in Australia, I didn’t find anything. 

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not they reported it accurately.  But since the No. One recommendation of the Blix Commission’s report was disarmament—nuclear-weapons disarmament in particular—any report or commentary on this document that doesn’t capture this focus must be judged guilty of ignoring the substance of the Commission’s report.

At risk to us all.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (Homepage), Stockholm, Sweden
Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms, Hans Blix et al., June 1, 2006.  (And the accompanying press release.) 
Civil Society Review of the Final Report (Homepage), June 1, 2006.  (See both accompanying press release I and press release II.)

"Press Conference on Iran," Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Department of State, May 31, 2006.  (And for those of you who'd like to read Rice's statement in Farsi.)

Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Homepage)
Islamic Republic News Agency (Homepage) 
Iranian Students News Agency (Homepage)
FARS News Agency (Homepage)

"Blix urges WMD-free Middle East," AlJazeera.net, June 1, 2006
"Commission attacks nuclear drift," Laura Trevelyan, BBC News International, June 1, 2006 
"WMD Commission Seeks To Revive Disarmament," Hans Kristensen, Strategic Security Project Blog, Federation of American Scientists, June 1, 2006
"Blix panel prods Israel, Iran to shun nuclear arms," Irwin Arieff, Reuters, June 1, 2006
"
Annan welcomes report urging broad steps to prevent terrorists from getting WMDs," UN News Center, June 1, 2006

"Halt missile defense plan, Blix tells U.S.," Jeff Sallot, Toronto Globe and Mail, June 1, 2006
"Blix warns of WMD vicious circle," David Batty, The Guardian, June 2, 2006 
"'World Will Act in Concert' on Iran, Bush Declares in a New Warning," Benny Avni, New York Sun, June 2, 2006  
"Lack of U.S. Leadership Slows Nuclear Disarmament, Report Says," Warren Hoge, New York Times, June 2, 2006

"U.S. Iran policy not shift despite talks offer," Ge Xiangwen, People's Daily Online, June 3, 2006

"The Fourth 'Supreme International Crime' in Seven Years Is Already Underway," Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ElectricPolitics.com, May 16, 2006 

"Iran, the IAEA, and American Power I," ZNet
"Iran, the IAEA, and American Power II," ZNet
"Iran, the IAEA, and American Power III," ZNet
"'Weapons of Terror'," ZNet, June 2, 2006

Afterword: The parallels between the Washington regime's propagandizing the world over Iraq's non-existent "weapons of mass destruction" program, ca. 2001-2003 (i.e., at least until such time as its military seizure of Iraq was accomplished, and it could then marshal the major organs of the international system on the basis of this fait accompli), on the one hand, and this same regime's propagandizing the world (or at least that tiny percentage of it that lives in the intellectual and moral backwaters of Washington, New York, London, Paris, and Berlin) over Iran's perfectly legal research and development of an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle technology, on the other, is so striking in so many ways that one never knows where to begin with it.  (Though for five very fine recent explorations of this theme, see: "Uncle Chutzpah and His Willing Executioners," Edward S. Herman, ZNet, March 15; "The Fourth 'Supreme International Crime' in Seven Years Is Already Underway," Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ElectricPolitics.com, May 16; "The Latest Neocon Lie about Iran," Gary Leupp, CounterPunch, May 27-29; "Now Introducing, the Office of Iranian Affairs," Gary Leupp, CounterPunch, May 30; and "Endgame in Iran," Mike Whitney, OpenNews.com, June 2.)

Nevertheless.  Overwhelmed as we are by the Reign of Lies in Washington and the Reign of Terrors elsewhere, two artifacts that were absolutely crucial to the seizure of Iraq to which we must always remember to direct the attention of anyone caught wobbling on the question of Iran are: 

Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, U.S. Central Intelligence Organization, October, 2002.  (For the PDF version of the complete report.)
"U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Addresses the UN Security Council," White House Office of the Press Secretary, February 5, 2003 
(For the complete transcript of the UN Security Council's proceedings dated February 5, 2003, inasmuch as they pertained to the American fabrications about Iraq, as well as the remarks by the other 14 members of the Council at the time, and, finally, Iraq, see "The situation between Iraq and Kuwait" (S/PV.4701).)

To be perfectly honest with you, I am somewhat amazed that these major artifacts of the Reign of Lies have been allowed to remain extant at the respective CIA and White House websites.  But as far as I know, they've never been scrubbed or cleaned-up since their initial fabrications.  In other words: Be sure to snag copies while you still can.

"'Intelligence' and the Invasion of Iraq," ZNet, April, 2005 
"'As Far as Feasible'," ZNet, April, 2005

Update (June 5): I've been able to find five more instances in which the Blix Commission's Report either was featured, mentioned, or Blix himself was invited to comment on it.  Including a commentary that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer under Blix's byline.   

"Blix to Deliver New WMD Assessment," Terry Gross, National Public Radio, June 1, 2006
"Playing with nuclear fire," Editorial, London Free Press (Ontario), June 4, 2006
"What about weapons we already have?" Hans Blix, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 4, 2006 
Hans Blix on NBC-TV's Meet the Press, Tim Russert, June 4, 2006, see pp. 46
"How to slow the spread of the bomb," Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor, June 5, 2006

One of these was especially important: Blix's June 4 studio appearance on NBC-TV's Meet the Press (see pp. 46).

Update (June 16): Just checked.—I see that the IAEA now has posted a copy not only of its latest (June 8) report to its Board of Governors on Iran, but also, finally, a copy of its previous report too (April 28—the one that the IAEA tried to keep under wraps for the past several weeks).

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2006/27), IAEA, April 28, 2006
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2006/38), IAEA, June 8, 2006

These two reports constitute (roughly) the 17th and 18th written reports in a series devoted to Iran’s nuclear program that stretches back to June, 2003.

Clearly, the IAEA is one "multilateral" institution about which the Americans can't possibly object that it isn't giving them their money's worth.

FYA ("For your archives"): See below, where I'll post copies of the transcripts of Blix's appearances on NPR and NBC.

SHOW: Fresh Air 12:00 PM EST
NPR
June 1, 2006
HEADLINE: Hanx Blix, former director of International Atomic Energy Agency and now head of Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, talks about the commission's goal and its report to the UN on weapons of mass destruction
ANCHORS: TERRY GROSS

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

As headlines focus on Iran's nuclear program and diplomatic efforts to stop it, Hans Blix is taking the longer view on weapons of mass destruction. As you probably remember, during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Blix was the head of the U weap–UN weapons inspection team in Iraq. Before that, he spent 18 years as the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA.

After the invasion of Iraq, Blix left the UN and was asked by the Swedish foreign minister to head a new independent international commission to examine how the world could tackle the problem of weapons of mass destruction. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission's work is largely financed by the Swedish government. Blix presented the commission's new report to the UN today. It proposes ways to reduce WMD around the world and eventually outlaw all WMD.

I spoke with Blix yesterday. I said to him, `You could argue that writing proposals is simple, but getting countries to comply and give up their weapons is very difficult.'

Mr. HANS BLIX: It's often said that nothing is so strong as an idea whose time has come and if you come with a message and you've come with some proposals at a moment when there's no receptivity for it, well, then you don't get very far. I was at the IAEA when the Chernobyl accident took place in 1986, and that was the moment when we certainly could do a great deal to improve nuclear safety through conventions and other means. And I was there also in 1991 when we discovered how the Iraqis had been hiding their programs of weapons of mass destruction. And thereafter it would prove possible to strengthen their whole safeguard system, the verification system, the inspection system of the IAEA. Before that, it would not have been possible.

Now we are in a similar situation. We are coming out with a number of messages here, and what is the world–what is the receptivity for it today. And then, I'm–I have some hope for that. I think that with the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was ousted, and that's the–a great benefit of the war, although I think if he had stayed, if the war hadn't occurred, he probably would have faded a bit like Castro or Qaddafi. But, anyway, that was a gain, but what we also experienced was, first of all, that a big war was fought to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist in the first place. In the second place, that the military approach to doing away with weapons of mass destruction was very, very costly. So today maybe the question there is should one not use other means less bloody, less expensive means to try to avoid a proliferation and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. I think that's what we are witnessing now in the case of North Korea and in the case of Iran.

GROSS: Let me quote something from your report. You write, "So long as any state has weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain in any state arsenal, there's a high risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident." What are you saying about countries like the United States that have quite a large arsenal of nuclear weapons. Do you–what do you think this country should be doing?

Mr. BLIX: We are telling Iran that `Don't go on with enrichment of uranium.' We're telling the North Koreans that they should do away with the nuclear weapons they claim they have. But, at the same time, we see discussions about the acquisition of bunker busters, new types of nuclear weapons in the US. And in the UK they are beginning to discuss whether they should have the Trident program replaced by a more modern program. The French will be in front with the same question. Now surely the Russians, the Chinese are also discussing the US weapons, but it is difficult to tell others to stay away from these things which we are refining and developing.

GROSS: One of the things that your report recommends is that countries that do have nuclear weapons sign "no first use pledges." What would a pledge read like, and would you like to see the United States sign a pledge like that?

Mr. BLIX: Right, well, that is a proposal that has been on the table for a long time. I mean, we–not all our proposals are brand-new. We are not so presumptuous as to think that we can come with new proposals of everything. And the non-first use idea is one that has been around for a long time. But it has a special actuality now, and that is that we hear that the US, for instance, is saying that they might use nuclear weapons in retaliation for or perhaps in pre-emption of a use of the other weapons of mass destruction, of biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction. We have heard President Chirac also saying that if there were–if there was a risk of a country assisting terrorists in the use of some weapons of mass destruction, they–it would be an open question what the–France would use in return. Now that would mean that if someone were to use gas somewhere or a biological attack, that the other state could use nuclear weapons in retaliation. There would be–that would be a first use of nuclear weapons which now seems to be open to them and which we think would be very risky because then it might develop into a duel of nuclear weapons being used by other states as well. So we would like to–them to affirm that "no first use" in any circumstance.

GROSS: Let's take a look at Iran. What kind of mix of carrots and sticks do you think should be offered to Iran now?

Mr. BLIX: I think that waving of sticks is often counterproductive because many states will say, `Sorry, but we will not negotiate under a threat. If you remove the threat, then we can talk about it.' And they will know what the sticks are–the threats are anyway. The first carrot you might say is that if they should refrain from making their fuel–enriched uranium for fuel, then you must assure their supply. They have two units of nuclear power plants and they will need fuel, so they must be assured that they can get fuel from abroad if they stay away from producing it themselves. I think that the question of assurance of supply in the case of Iran or fuel for their nuclear power industry is manageable, and we have recently heard how the western European states have said that they might even offer Iran to be sold like water reactors. I think that's very good suggestion, a good carrot, because it demonstrates that the Western world is not against Iran coming–and going for modern technology. The Iranians have often said that, that `the Western world wants to stop us to go into the nuclear age.' But this proposal I think is one, a carrot, that is very effective maybe. Helpful in the first place and shows that they don't want to stop the uranium.

Another feature which is important is–relates to security. With seeing so many US soldiers–over 100,000 soldiers–in Iraq in American bases and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and seeing US activity also in the former Russian Soviet republics to the north, I don't think France should be surprised if they are concerned about this kind of encirclement, and therefore, the question of security and possible security guarantees have come up.

GROSS: I think a lot of people are wondering is what we are seeing now, in terms of negotiation about Iran, going to lead to what happened when we were negotiating about Iraq? I mean…

Mr. BLIX: Yeah.

GROSS: …we ended up invading Iraq. Is that going to happen with Iran, and I'm wondering…

Mr. BLIX: Mmm.

GROSS: …I know you can't predict this with certainty, but you're certainly as informed as anyone. What do you think? Do you think that there might–that the United States might lead an invasion of Iran?

Mr. BLIX: Well, they could…

GROSS: Or use military force? You know. Bomb Iran.

Mr. BLIX: The commission whose report I'm here to present does not pronounce itself on this but suggests what one must do including the question of security and assurance of supply, etc., but I understand your question. I mean, if the Iranians were simply to shrug it off or defy the Security Council, it might send them to escalate into something new and if then the Russians and Chinese were to come and vote negatively with the veto in the Security Council, then theoretically the US might say well, `The Council again is not fulfilling its duty, so we will have to do something separately.'

However, my impression is reading what Washington is saying that they really have no intention to go for a military force in Iran and judging also by what I see from US public opinion, I think that's highly unlikely. I think the other way of both of providing incentives for them to–and assurances that that is more hopeful. But I come back to the need for disarmament measures, you see. To simply tell Iran that `You must behave yourself' or to tell them that `You are troublemakers,' I don't think that will lead us where we want to.

GROSS: What's at stake in Iran? If Iran actually does develop a nuclear weapon, what would that mean?

Mr. BLIX: Well, I think it changes the strategic balance in the Middle East. The Israelis will certainly feel exposed, especially after the warnings or the rhetoric of the Iranian president that he would like to wipe Israel off of the map of the Earth. But we must remember also that Iran is not Iraq. When the Iranian president had said this, he was criticized in the Iranian parliament for it. If someone had said–criticized Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he wouldn't have been alive very many minutes after it. So that may be a question whether this is horrible rhetoric or whether it is something more serious.

But certainly it is that the Israeli superiority and their possession of a couple of hundred nuclear weapons, if that was matched by some nuclear weapons on the Iranian side, it would change the picture very much and would be much, much more dangerous and, therefore, I think it would be desirable that they stay away from this. It would be desirable that the whole world, including Israel, will try to do things that would convince the Iranians that it is not necessary that we are walking towards peace and not towards an increased tension.

GROSS: My guest is Hans Blix. He now heads the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. More after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Hans Blix, and he's now the chair of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, and their goal is to propose ways for reducing weapons of mass destruction around the world. They've issued a new report called "Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons."

You've just completed the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission's report "Weapons on Terror." What are some of the proposals you're making in that report for dealing with terrorist access to weapons of mass destruction? What are some of the ways that you're proposing to prevent terrorists from getting biological, chemical or nuclear weapons?

Mr. BLIX: Well, one of the most important ways is to prevent that they can lay their hands on equipment or indeed on weapons themselves. So putting locks on the weapons stores is a good start, and there's a lot of that being done in Russia, and lots of Western money and lots of US money that has gone into improving the locks and the control, because during the Soviet time, then you had a sort of a police state that was everywhere, and when the police state disappeared, more or less, then they need to have better legislation and better technical means of protection. So this is one means.

You also have conventions which are there for the protection of nuclear material. You need to have good accountants, for instance, of nuclear material. And sometimes talk is about the so-called dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is not a nuclear weapon that would explode, but it's a weapon that contains radioactive material, like cobalt or cesium or other stuff, and you put some conventional explosives together with it, and then you explode it in a public space in London or New York or Paris, and it brings a lot of radiation. It will contaminate. It will not kill all that many people but it will certainly bring a lot of panic. And so keeping control over these radioactive materials is an important part.

GROSS: How does your Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission propose dealing with somebody like AQ Khan, who is, you know, like a nuclear freelancer who sold technology and weapons designs to countries and perhaps to individual terrorists? There–you know, AQ Khan is not a country. You can't–you don't like negotiate with him. You don't–you know what I mean? It's–he's a freelancer so…

Mr. BLIX: Mmm.

GROSS: …how do you propose dealing with people like that?

Mr. BLIX: Well, we support the ideas which have already been acted upon that states members of the UN should have criminal legislation which will be operative against individuals, whether the individuals themselves are trying to make weapons of mass destruction or they're trying to sell them. And the resolution adopted by the Security Council–there was less than 15:40, those are up from a couple of years ago–precisely requests–requires member states to take such criminal action.

GROSS: My understanding is that AQ Khan is basically under house arrest in a very nice house and that he is protected from any kind of questioning from the international community. And, in other words, he got off very easy is my understanding because the United States wants to maintain a good relationship with Musharraf so that Musharraf will cooperate on the war on terror, but in the meantime, one of the possible real guilty parties is getting off really easy, and I wonder what your reaction to that is.

Mr. BLIX: Well, I think that the–we must think forward. I don't think that Mr. Khan will be able to do this thing once again, but any reaction or punishment to him I think should send a signal to others. But you also have to be aware that in every country you have your own domestic concerns, and I assume that one of the constraints the Pakistani government has felt is that he's also regarded as a national hero because he helped to develop a nuclear weapon that the majority of the people in Pakistan perhaps feel that they need to balance the nuclear weapons in India. I don't know the exact movements or the thoughts but that's what I imagine is at play.

GROSS: I've been wondering if the war in Iraq weighs on you in a personal way. You know, what I'm thinking is, you know, your team couldn't find weapons of mass destruction. You wanted more time to keep looking. That time was denied you because of the invasion. Weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq. So, you know, if you were given more time, perhaps there wouldn't have been a war. So, do you think of the war in Iraq in a very personal way?

Mr. BLIX: No, not really. I mean, I feel more like an analyst, and I don't feel a grudge. I mean, I regret what happened. I think it's–it was tragic. I think that if the Security Council would have allowed inspectors to continue inspections for a few months, we would have been able to report that all the sites we'd gone to had no weapons of mass destruction, and since many of these sites were given to us by intelligence organizations, including the CIA, they would have realized that the tips they had, the sources they had, were unsatisfactory. We had told them about three dozen locations, which they had given to us, that there was nothing, so they should have realized that in those cases, their sources were unsatisfactory. And maybe it would have prevented the war. It would have certainly been more difficult to move toward war. However, that is history, and I think that now it's more important to try to learn from the Iraqi affair.

And one lesson that I think must be learned is that the use of international inspection was more objective than the national ones. The national ones turned out to be much more influenced by either wishes or instructions. It says more influenced by wishes of their governments, of Blair in the UK government and of the executives in the US government. They were more susceptible and accepting of such pressures, whereas we international inspectors had the orders from the Security Council, and our only instinct was to do a good professional job. We did not say that there were no weapons of mass destruction. We said that we had carried out 700 inspections and–professionally, and we didn't find any. So–and some people accused to us and said, `You should have said there weren't any weapons,' No, we stuck to the truth. We said what we knew. And it turned out that this critical professional attitude came closer, much closer to the truth than what the UK and the US and even other countries' intelligence did.

GROSS: Clearly, you're very worried about the threat of weapons of mass destruction. There are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that Russia and the United States has now. When you think of that, and when you think about the possibility of accidents, how worried are you?

Mr. BLIX: Well, we should be worried, and I am worried because you have a great many of these are on high trigger alert, and they have systems of launch on warning. So there is a risk as you say that they could be something launched by accident. Right now, there's a discussion in the US whether they should develop some conventional types of weapons that can be fired from–with Trident from the US submarines, and the risk would be that another country may mistake and say that, well, `Trident, that's usually nuclear weapons.' So it might blur the distinction between conventional weapons, and that's a risky think. And all this risk of accident. Yes, it is there, and it does worry both me, and it should worry everybody else.

GROSS: One more question. Do you know that you were a character in the animated movie "Team America"?

Mr. BLIX: I've heard about that, yes.

GROSS: Have you seen it?

Mr. BLIX: No, I haven't seen it. But I heard it described and I know that my head was lopped off and then thrown into some pool of sharks or whatever it was and–but, you know, my reaction was simply that they made me say that `If you do not behave, we will make a report.' And that was made to sound ridiculous, that a report has no importance at all, it has no weight at all. I think that's a mistake. If we had reported to the Security Council that `Well, we have listened to the CIA, we've listened to the others and we have no reason at all to doubt that what they say has a lot of evidence,' such a report would have carried a lot of weight. We did not. We said that we had carried out 700 inspections and we had found nothing.

Now, it didn't sway the US and the UK or Spain, but the majority in the General Assembly, the majority of the Security Council were impressed by that report. Maybe they wanted to come to that conclusion, I don't doubt that, but at the same time, that report, what we said, carried a weight and it prevented the Security Council from authorizing a war, which in my view, it shouldn't authorize. I think the Council was right in not authorizing the war, and I think it really speaks in favor of the UN and the wisdom rather than that it sort of betrayed the US.

GROSS: Well, Hans Blix, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BLIX: Thanks very much for good questions.

GROSS: Hans Blix heads the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. To find out more about the commission and its new report, go to our Web site at freshair.npr.org.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music) 

 

Meet the Press 10:00 AM EST
NBC
June 4, 2006 Sunday
HEADLINE: Dr. Hans Blix, former United Nations chief weapons inspector, discusses war in Iraq, relations with Iran

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Dr. Hans Blix, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

DR. HANS BLIX: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: You chaired a committee and their report is out. "Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms." This is how some of the news reports characterize your report: "Hans Blix, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector, said that American unwillingness to cooperate in international arms agreements was undermining efforts to curb nuclear weapons." Why blame the Americans?

DR. BLIX: Well, I think there was a disenchantment, a disillusionment in the United States after the Iraq war in 1990 and '91 at the international conventions and the inspections had not found out what was going on. And then they turned to the more military means, to what was called "counterproliferation."

Now that we have now practiced counterproliferation in the Iraq–in the war of 2003 and I think we have now come to the conclusion that taking out weapons of mass destruction which didn't exist by military force was not very successful. And maybe there is now an opportunity to again to see whether we can improve the international conventions like the treaty of the convention against nonproliferation. Strengthen the verification and strengthen the support for these treaties.

MR. RUSSERT: But isn't there a consensus that North Korea and Iran just lied and deceived and cheated?

DR. BLIX: In the case of–yes. In both cases, actually, they were, they were cheating. But the–we did not have earlier the strong inspections which we–which the IAEA has got, got later. And in fact, the Iranians have gone back on, on permitting this on a voluntary basis because of the stress they feel, perceived they were subject to.

MR. RUSSERT: You also, you also wrote this, which was interesting to me. "The [Weapons of Mass Destruction] Commission rejects the suggestion that nuclear weapons in the hands of some pose no threat, while in the hands of others they place the world in mortal jeopardy." Do you believe that the United States, France, Great Britain having nuclear weapons is an equal threat to North Korea and Iran having nuclear weapons?

DR. BLIX: We don't compare whether it's equal. We simply say that in the hands of anybody it is a threat. You have threats, as Senator Nunn will say here, you ought to take the weapon–nuclear weapons out of a hair-trigger alert because there can be mistakes and there can be misunderstandings. So they are dangerous. Whether in the hands of a reckless government or a reckless regime, yes it would be worse, clearly. But who is in control in the government in a particular case? You take Pakistan today. Well, we have a president who is trying to keep control, but what if there were another government in Pakistan? So I think they're all dangerous. The weapons sit in Pakistan and they're dangerous; they sit elsewhere and they're dangerous.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you optimistic that the world can stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

DR. BLIX: I think they could, but I think that they–and I–and the commission is also in favor of urging and getting Iran to stop enrichment of uranium. But I think they have to see what is it that might move them towards further enrichment, enriched uranium and to a weapon. What is that–what are the incentives and what should be the disincentives for it?

I think it's welcome that the Western states have now suggested that they might give Iran light-water reactors, because I think that counters the argument that the Western world would like to deprive Iran of the–of the more modern technology. I'm not so sure that the U.S. joining the table will make that much of a difference because, as I understand it, the Iranians will read it that, "Yes, we would like to sit down with you and discuss stopping enrichment, and we will tell you what goodies you'll get for that, but that is presupposing that you stop enriching."

MR. RUSSERT: Well, the U.S. is saying, "Stop enrichment and we'll sit down."

DR. BLIX: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, isn't the ball in the Iranians' court?

DR. BLIX: No. I think that when you say that, "We will sit down with you, provided you stop enrichment," well, then, you are really staking out what you want the negotiations to end in. I think there ought to be a possibility to reach this result, but I think you have to look at the question of security. And this is very likely what we should do.

MR. RUSSERT: So the U.S. should lift that condition?

DR. BLIX: I think they will in due course. I think that they will be brought to discuss also the security of Iran.

MR. RUSSERT: You think…

DR. BLIX: But the–there–there is also weakness in the attitude of the states that have nuclear weapons in saying that, "You must stay away from this. We will not." It's a little like a person smoking a cigar and telling his children, "You should not smoke."

MR. RUSSERT: You also write in your report that the U.S. should, in effect, make a guarantee against a military attack.

DR. BLIX: Well, guarantee is a word that I think the U.S. will not say, but I think it will be enough if they said we will respect the U.N. charter,' in Article 2, paragraph four, which says that you can't use armed force against a territorial integrity in other states.

MR. RUSSERT: "Mohamed ElBaradei the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has privately told Western leaders that they have to accept a limited Iranian enrichment program under IAEA monitoring, as it was a matter of national pride and to insist on scrapping it may only bolster Iranian hardliners." Do you agree with that?

DR. BLIX: I think he's absolutely right in saying that it's a matter of national pride. But I think there is a lot of prestige, also, in the Western positions.

MR. RUSSERT: So, but how do you say to the Iranians, "It's OK to enrich," and that's the–one of the key international spokespeople, and when, when the Europeans and the Americans are trying to says, "Stop enriching or we won't talk"?

DR. BLIX: I fully understand the demand that they should stop enrichment, because it–the Middle East is such a dangerous place that if a country like Iran is beginning to move in that direction, it will increase tensions. And I–and, and it will–if they do enrich on large scale, it will bring them perhaps two years closer to a nuclear bomb. But Iran today is not an imminent threat. And they talk a lot about the chapter seven of the U.N. charter, that presupposes that Security Council will establish that there's a threat to international peace and security. No one talks about chapter six, which says–talks about controversies, which if they continue, may constitute a threat to international peace and security.

MR. RUSSERT: After the war in Iraq began, a year–about a year later, you had said this: "There was a lack of critical thinking, that there was probably not a wish to do critical thinking, and that there was a will to do spin. When you saw that, you felt, hey, this is a bit of an oversell."

DR. BLIX: Yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Explain.

DR. BLIX: Well, take Prime Minister Blair, who said that the Iraqis had a capacity to use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, with the implication being that it could hit the United Kingdom in 45 minutes. Well, what was that but spin? And when we see the evidence, they certainly failed to, to examine the, the alleged agreement between the Iraq and, and Niger about the yellow cake, the uranium oxide. I mean, this–one could have doubts about even when hearing about it in the autumn. It was only Mohamed ElBaradei who revealed before the war in the Security Council that this was what he called not authentic, the contract was not authentic. What he should have said was perhaps it was a forgery. People would have understood it better.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think that the Bush administration spun the intelligence?

DR. BLIX: I think all the parties on the alliance were–spun the intelligence. They want to, they–I could say that they, they mislead themselves, first, and thereafter they mislead the world. I have never said that they were in bad faith. I think to say that you have to have very strong evidence. I have never said that.

MR. RUSSERT: Could the war have been avoided?

DR. BLIX: I think so. We had carried out about 700 inspections, and we had been to about three dozens of sites, which the intelligence had given us, and in none of these cases did we find any weapons of mass destruction. If we had been allowed a couple of months more, we would have been able to go to all the sites given by intelligence, and found no weapons, since there weren't any. Now, the intelligence would have understood then that their sources were poor.

MR. RUSSERT: But the French and the Germans would have not gone forward with any kind of military action?

DR. BLIX: No, I think the U.S. would have refrained, also, from the war if they had seen that their sources were bad, and if this information had trickled upward. So the result would have been, very likely, that Saddam would have stayed. I think the great gain of the war was that Saddam the butcher was taken out. But for the rest, it was not, it was not a successful war.

MR. RUSSERT: Not having found weapons of mass destruction, why do you think Saddam engaged in this cat-and-mouse game and didn't come clean?

DR. BLIX: That's right. You know, that's a good question, and one possibility is that he was like someone hanging a sign on the door, "Beware of the dog," without having a dog. When he wanted to tell Iran, and he wanted to tell others that "I'm still dangerous." He was also very isolated person. I don't think that he really had, at the end of the 19–2003, that he had the power to come back. He would have become more like a Qadaffi or like a Castro, wing clipped.

MR. RUSSERT: About two months before the war, this was a piece in The Los Angeles Times: "The chief U.N. weapons inspector [Hans Blix] disclosed troubling new details about Iraq's weapons programs and expressed frustration with what he described as Baghdad's refusal to resolve long-standing questions about efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons, as well as long-range missiles. … His criticism was perhaps his sharpest since the current confrontation with Iraq began … and its tone surprised veteran weapons inspectors." You later said in your gut, you felt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

DR. BLIX: In the autumn of 2002, I was asked, "What do you think? Do they have them or not?" And I said, "My job is not to tell you my gut reactions. My job is to inspect," and that's what we did. In my gut, as you say, I also was under the impression, like most people, that these guys had played cat-and-mouse during the whole of the '90s, so I was suspicious of that. But as the inspections proceeded, gradually, and we didn't find anything, well, I became more doubtful. And we looked at, at the evidence, that was our job. And the evidence did not point to anything. We were displeased with the Iraqis, that they did not make a greater effort to clarify, and–but maybe they couldn't do much more. So that's–we expressed that displeasure with, with them publicly.

And I will say that by the time of February, February 2003, they were frantic in trying to clear up the, the question. We could say that there are lots of things unaccounted for, but unaccounted for means are they there or are they not there? And the U.S. administration was saying, "They are unaccounted for. Where are they?" That was a very different type of conclusion.

MR. RUSSERT: Where are they?

DR. BLIX: Well, they aren't there. I mean, there are people who think that there are still nuclear weapons in Iraq, but they are few. And the U.S. military's not…

MR. RUSSERT: Not nuclear?

DR. BLIX: No, none. None.

MR. RUSSERT: Biological or chemical?

DR. BLIX: No. No.

MR. RUSSERT: Were they fed to surrounding countries?

DR. BLIX: No. They were destroyed in 1991. This is what the son-in-law of Saddam said. And I think that is the truth. There could be relics somewhere, something that was forgotten, but that's all.

MR. RUSSERT: As we sit here in June of '06, North Korea has the nuclear bomb, Iran is pushing to have it.

DR. BLIX: Maybe.

MR. RUSSERT: Maybe?

DR. BLIX: Maybe.

MR. RUSSERT: You don't believe Iran wants a nuclear bomb?

DR. BLIX: Well, I think, after Iraq, we ought to look pretty well at the, at the evidence. And I hear some people saying that, "What could they–why could they go for nuclear? They have oil." Well, no one says that to Mexico. But I certainly don't exclude that there will be groups, important groups in Iran that may be going there, but I think it's a little wild to jump to the conclusion today.

MR. RUSSERT: How fearful are you that a rogue nation would use a nuclear bomb?

DR. BLIX: Well, the risk is there, the risk is that anyone can do so. There is discussion in this country about using nuclear weapons also. And there's–one of the things that we turned against in the commission is that there, there can be use of nuclear weapons against any threat of, of chemical weapons, for instance. We think that one can have understanding if a country's attacked by a nuclear weapon there will be retaliation. But the, the fact is that the doctrine hasn't broadened the scope in–with, within which nuclear weapons can be used.

We think the world should go away from nuclear weapons, and we've seen now an arms race coming, in space, for instance. I was told the other day that U.S. is spending about $20 billion dollars a year in, in space. We have some engineers who tie together with microphones, and then we have a lot of other engineers who are spending $20 billion dollars to see how we can shoot down each other's satellites. This is not talked about. It is as if people are sleepwalking into a new arms race. That's what Kofi Annan said the other day.

MR. RUSSERT: What's the most important recommendation you make that is practical and doable immediately?

DR. BLIX: Well, immediately, it would be a–the–that the U.S. would ratify the comprehensive trest ban–test ban treaty. The administration doesn't want that, and it's not on the agenda. But I think that would send the signal to the rest of the world that we are interested in disarmament and we are willing to participate in it. We are not simply telling the countries of the world, "You stay away from it and we build up arsenals," we will also participate in it. So that would be one thing.

The other would be the agreement that, that has now tabled by, by the U.S. about cutting off the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. If they add to that verification, it would be made more clear. The U.S., I think, is alone at the present time in the world in not wanting to have verification of weapons. Without verification of such an agreement, we will not be credible.

MR. RUSSERT: All right. Dr. Hans Blix, thank you for joining us to talk about your report.

DR. BLIX: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, our political roundtable on Hillary Clinton, the new secretary of the Treasury and what his appointment means, and the continuing whiff of scandal all across Washington and how it will affect the 2006 midterm elections, right here on MEET THE PRESS.

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