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US WMD report: Dirty bombs, chem weapons are bunk

But the bioterrorists will strike by 2013! Aiee!

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Enrichment and reprocessing activities, according to the Commissioners, should be made unnecessary by "ensuring access to nuclear fuel, at market prices to the extent possible, for non-nuclear states that agree not to develop sensitive fuel cycle capabilities".

Such guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear supplies and technology is a major plank of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the main quid pro quo which gets non-nuclear states to ratify it and so validate the established Treaty weapon states as the sole rightful nuclear-armed powers.

Curiously, however, the Commission then seems to suggest that America should try to suppress even civil programmes without any dodgy fuel-cycle elements. The commissioners say that the US should also start "discouraging, to the extent possible, the use of financial incentives in the promotion of civil nuclear power".

The report says quite clearly that Iran is working hard on getting a bomb, and should be stopped: also that North Korea has built at least one, and has the material for more, and likewise should be stopped.

Iran continues to defy its [Non-Proliferation Treaty] obligations, UN Security Council resolutions, and the international community in an apparent effort to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. It has 3,850 centrifuges spinning and more than 1,000 pounds of enriched uranium — three-quarters of what would be needed, after further enrichment, to build its first bomb ...

North Korea now has about 10 bombs’ worth of plutonium and it has conducted a nuclear test.

As a top priority, the next administration must stop the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs.

But the primary point of action in dealing with both terrorists and nukes, according to the Commissioners, is Pakistan.

Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan ...

Officials and outside experts believe that the next terrorist attack against the United States is likely to originate from within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. The Commission agrees. In terms of the nexus of proliferation and terrorism, Pakistan must top the list of priorities...

The Commissioners also advocate the creation of a new counter-proliferation chief with direct access to the President, an effort to remain on cooperative terms with the newly hardline Russia on proliferation issues, and more involvement by US citizens - though they aren't very specific about this last.

"The intent of this report is neither to frighten nor to reassure," they write, in summary. "It is ... to convey the sobering reality that the risks are growing faster than our multilayered defenses. Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing."

Perhaps a bit of frightening, then. But some reassurance too:

We also want to assure the people that there is ample and solid ground for hope about the future. Our leaders — whatever their differences over domestic issues — are united in their desire to safeguard our country. The vast majority of the world’s peoples stand with us in wanting to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction and to defeat terrorists.

Whether the report has the balance between scare and reassure right is, of course, a subjective matter. But at least, with the sidelining of some of the less credible threats, it has changed the shape of the terrorism and WMD debate.

The report can be read in pdf here. ®

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