Are Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferating in Iran, North Korea and Syria

Recognizing the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)in global security, the United States today underlined that the threat is not just theoretical, but also exists in real world.

In his remarks at U.S. Gulf Cooperation Council Workshop

in Dubai, Deputy Assistant Secretary Vann Van Diepen said the international community has long recognized the threat that weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems pose to global and regional security.

“All of us are fully aware of the fact that this threat is posed not only by countries of concern, but by terrorists.” -Mr. Van Diepen

The first chemical weapons destruction team of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) supervised the destruction of 463 122mm rockets which were loaded with sarin, a nerve agent. Destruction activities took place at the Khamissiyah Storage Site, 400 km. south of Baghdad, from 21 February to 24 March 1992. UN Photo/H Arvidsson

He stresses that the use of WMD especially against cities – would have horrendous physical, psychological, and economic consequences, and could even threaten the maintenance of civil order in the countries.

According to Mr. Van Diieoen, the presence of WMD in countries can lead those countries to threaten their neighbors in order to extract political and economic concessions.

The presence of WMD can embolden those countries to engage in conventional aggression or terrorism against their neighbors, Mr. Diepen added.

He adds that the presence WMD risks promoting arms races where neighboring states decide they must acquire WMD of their own, potentially resulting in an expanding spiral of insecurity and instability.

“And you are all well aware this threat is not just theoretical. It exists in the real world, and it affects this region as well as others.” -Mr. Diepen

In Iran, Mr. Van Diepen reports that the country has been acquiring, developing, and deploying for over 20 years ballistic missiles that are inherently capable of delivering WMD, missiles with ranges that easily cover all the GCC countries and even southeastern Europe.

Iran is actively pursuing yet longer-range systems that can cover Western Europe and beyond, Mr. Van Diepen cited.

He cites that Iran is violating its United Nations (UN) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) obligations by continuing to enrich uranium.

The IAEA has formally reported that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device, some of which may be ongoing, and that these past activities included some related to the development of a nuclear payload for a ballistic missile, Mr. Van Diepen noted.

He notes that there is mounting evidence that Iran did not declare and has not destroyed all aspects of its offensive chemical weapons program under the Chemical Weapons Convention which raises questions about it declarations concerning biological weapons (BW) as well.

IAEA declared that Iran has amassed more than two tons of enriched uranium. This amount of enriched material is enough for two nuclear warheads.

In addition, North Korea openly admits to developing and having tested nuclear weapons, Mr. Van Diepen added.

North Korea deploys WMD-capable ballistic missiles able to threaten its neighbors, has tried to flight-test missiles able to reach the United States, and sells missiles and missile technology to any country willing to pay a'” including to countries in the Middle East, he underlined.

“North Korea also is widely believed to have substantial CW and BW programs.” -Mr. Van Diepen

The United States’ has made it clear its commitment to deter any North Korean provocations especially in its nuclear proliferation activity.

The North Korea issue is one of the most important foreign policy challenges of the United States. US considers North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and proliferation activity pose an acute threat to a region of enormous economic vitality as well as to global nonproliferation efforts and to our security interests more generally.

In addition, Syria, too, has a large CW program and ballistic missiles capable of targeting the entire region, he reported.

The country has been researching biological weapons, and attempted unsuccessfully to conceal construction of a nuclear reactor that had no logical purpose other than the production of plutonium for use in nuclear weapons, Mr. Van Diepen stressed.

On June 2011, the head of the United Nations atomic energy agency said today that “it is very likely” that a building destroyed in Syria in 2007 was a nuclear reactor, and there are indications that ‘seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Syria had not cooperated with the IAEA since June 2008 in connection with a building at Dair Alzour which was destroyed in an air attack on 6 September 2007 – by Israel, according to media reports.

Mr. Van Diepen underlines that beyond these examples of nation-state proliferation, it is clear that Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are interested in acquiring WMD.

Terrorists can operate in any country, and can engage in attacks against any country, he stressed.

He adds that CW and BW in particular can be developed using technology available worldwide.

“Terrorists actually have used sarin nerve gas and anthrax bioweapons.” -Mr. Diepen

At the workshop, Mr. Van Diepen also highlighted why counterproliferation matters in addressing the huge threat of weapons of mass destruction.

He highlighted that Syria, North Korea and Iran are very clear examples that all of other countries face a direct security threat from the potential for countries of concern or terrorists to use WMD directly againts the rest of the states around the world.

The world also faces the threat of political and economic instability caused by the use of WMD against others, as well as from the mere possession of WMD by countries of concern and terrorists, Mr. Van Diepen

In addition, he also noted that the national and economic security of all of the countries is undermined by proliferators’ efforts to acquire WMD and their delivery systems.

Mr. Van Diepen stresses that the answer to countering and reducing this threat also is global in scope, and requires work in gulf region as well.

One of central elements of effectively countering proliferation is cooperation, Mr. Van stressed.

The United States is committed to the complete elimination of chemical weapons stockpiles in the United States and around the world. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Cliton has said, “To date, we have already destroyed 89 percent of our original chemical weapons stockpile. We reaffirm our commitment to finish the job as quickly as possible in accordance with national and treaty requirements that ensure the safety of people and the protection of the environment.”

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.