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Hans Blix Report - June 1, 2006

"Weapons of Terror"
The International Commission on Abolishing
Weapons of Mass Destruction



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991
Comments to

May 29, 2006

LONDON - Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki the presumption has been that war can get no worse. The world has been spared a second nuclear war, so this presumption has a measure of truth. But the planning for major war has grown more alarming in all manner of ways - proliferation certainly but, not least, in the relatively recent statements of the U.S., Russia, the UK and France who, signalling a momentous shift in military doctrine, say that they are prepared to use their nuclear weapons for war fighting and not just for deterrence, as during the Cold War.

When Hans Blix was the UN inspector charged with investigating whether Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction he once said that anyone can hang out a sign "beware of the dog", but it doesn't mean they have a dog. In Saddam Hussein's case this turned out to be correct. These days the issue is rather more complicated. Libya recently gave up its nuclear weapons' program. But while it was going on there was no dog sign and no one knew that they had made as much progress as they had. With North Korea they did hang out the sign but we still don't know how much is bluff and how much is real. With Iran all is still a series of question marks.

Nevertheless, Blix in an interview he gave me on the eve of publishing the report of a commission he chaired on how to get rid of nuclear weapons, concluded that the big question is not whether the dog in question is going to bark - it probably isn't unless it is seriously provoked - but whether the "dog minders" of the international community, especially the big nuclear bomb powers, appear credible as they try to de-fang these animals.

Alas, they shy away from seeing the obvious: "If they themselves have real dogs with nuclear and even biological teeth and they say they are more prepared to use them than in the Cold War days why should these other new would-be dog owners listen to them?"

"We have struggled with these conundrums", he told me, "and trust we have mapped out an intelligent way of going forward. I believe it is the first time that such a diverse panel of expert minds (including an ex US Secretary of Defence) has come up with a doable program for self-discipline in the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ultimately for total disarmament.

Idealistic and out of touch will be the accusation, says Blix, "but didn't President Ronald Reagan himself say in his second inaugural address: 'We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth?'"

First, the Blix commission argues, we have to take military threats off the table. The proliferation of nuclear weapons cannot be solved by the immediate play of military hardball. The specific cases that now worry the international community probably can be contained by a mixture of security and energy guarantees, by favourable trade agreements and political engagement. No country can be expected at this stage to unilaterally forgo its military options (as long as they remain conventional) but the sword can be sheathed while negotiations progress.

Second, we have to re-engage with the legal commitments of the central bargain of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The nuclear-haves must take rapid steps to sharply reduce their nuclear armaments. Whilst the goal must be zero, there can be no excuses for not immediately halving their arsenals and in the case of the UK and France forsaking them.

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Within the next couple of years every nation, including not just the old nuclear-haves but the relative newcomers, India and Pakistan, must sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the brain child of President John F. Kennedy, and likewise agree to a treaty banning the production of all fissile material for military purposes.

As for the use of terror weapons by revolutionary groups, at present terrorists do not have the expertise to build or, in the case of biological and chemical weapons, deliver effective weapons of this kind. For the future, the Commission argues, if we maintain and strengthen the efforts against nuclear theft a terrorist attack need not be a great worry.

After two hours with Blix I came away even more convinced by this very wise man, who has seen it all, that the degree of nuclear proliferation will depend on the atmospherics generated by the nuclear-haves. If they are seen to be earnestly creating a world where terror weapons are marginalized and then abolished, the incentives dangled before both the likes of Iran and terrorists to try and develop a weapon of mass destruction will be much diminished.


Read more about the Commission, see who is behind it, who has financed it and you can download the report here:

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission homepage


Copyright © 2006 By JONATHAN POWER


I can be reached by phone +44 7785 351172 and e-mail:


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