This Book Review was
written by Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont
edition of Deadly Arsenals, published under the auspices
of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, is to be compared with the well-known
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Yearbook
The two works are
largely complementary. While the SIPRI Yearbook focuses
mainly and in a comprehensive way, in each of its chapters, on
developments during the previous year in a vast range of issues
that are of relevance to international security and arms
control, and provides a large number of bibliographical
references on these events, it is often necessary to go back to
previous issues in order to acquire a global understanding of a
particular topic. In contrast, Deadly Arsenals gives a
general and more readable snapshot of nuclear and CBW
In its first part,
the book reviews current “global trends”, gives an overview of
international disarmament regimes, provides useful technical
background, inter alia, on nuclear activities in the
world (pp. 45-55), biological and chemical weapons (with useful
tables of the main existing biological warfare agents, pp.
69-76, and examples of chemical warfare agents, pp. 77-80), and
missile technology (with special emphasis on the burning issue
of antimissile systems, pp. 97-101).
It is interesting to
note that the authors, who document extensively the use by U.S.
and other Western officials prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq
of unverified and often misleading information about the
supposed Iraqi WMD arsenal (pp. 333-337), have decided as a
consequence to avoid the term “WMD” from now on. They give the
change in the new edition is that it no longer employs the term
“weapons of mass destruction”. Though used widely by officials
and the media, this phrase conflates very different threats from
weapons that differ greatly in lethality, consequence of use,
and the availability of measures that can protect against them.
[…] A failure to differentiate these [chemical, biological, and
nuclear] threats can lead to seriously flawed policy. For
example, the repeated use of the term “weapons of mass
destruction” to describe the potential threat from Iraq before
the 2003 war merged the danger that it still had anthrax-filled
shells, which was possible, and the danger that it had nuclear
weapons, which was highly unlikely. Similarly, saying that Syria
has weapons of mass destruction merges the danger that it has
chemical weapons, which is almost certainly true, with the
danger that it has a nuclear bomb, which is certainly not true”
The second part of
the work is devoted to detailed analysis of the nuclear, BW and
CW arsenals of each of the Nuclear-declared states (Russia,
China, France, United Kingdom and the United States), with a
review of the current strategic context in which they are
involved. The third part deals in the same way with non-NPT
nuclear states (India, Pakistan and Israel), the fourth with
“two hard cases” (North Korea and Iran), while the fifth and
last deals with what are regarded by the authors as
“non-proliferation successes” (the cases of Libya, Iraq, the
three non-Russian successor states of Belarus, Kazakhstan and
Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa).
Given the richness of
the book, we will limit ourselves to the three cases of the
U.S., Israel and Iran.
The nuclear and
chemical arsenal of the United States still raises concerns, not
only because of its weight, which is, according to the authors,
not known officially with precision,
but also because of the uncertainties created by the new U.S.
strategic doctrine, following the Nuclear Posture Review
(NPR) released by the Department of Defence in January 2002,
which emphasizes the enduring value and central importance of
nuclear forces for the U.S. defence policy, despite of the end
of the Cold War. The NPR outlined plans, among others, to
accelerate efforts to develop antimissile systems, and to begin
the development of new, low-yield nuclear weapons (p. 204). As
the authors point out:
“Though the NPR’s
commitment to deep cuts in the nuclear arsenal was significant,
it was basically a slower and less verifiable version of earlier
U.S. plans, developed in the 1990s in START II and discussions
for START III” (pp. 204-205).
As a consequence of
these trends, under the provisions of the Strategic Offensive
Reductions Treaty (SORT) signed by George W. Bush and
Russian president Putin in June 2002, which replaces START,
Russia and the U.S. will maintain “more weapons in the field
than was envisioned in the arms reduction process pursued
throughout the 1990s” (p. 205). Without contest, “with the
signing of SORT, the irreversibility of nuclear cuts is no
longer a U.S. goal” (Ibid.).
What is most
disturbing is that the NPR also “called for steps that make the
use of nuclear weapons by the United States more likely, even in
response to non-nuclear threats or attacks” (p. 207). The
authors rightly remark in this respect that: “within the new
nuclear use policy formulation, there are few if any military
contingencies that would explicitly rule out a possible nuclear
response by the United States”. Given this position, it is not
surprising that president Bush refused in 2006 to rule out the
use of nuclear weapons in the event of a strike on Iran.
Apart from the
nuclear issue, it is also mentioned that, while the U.S.
entirely destroyed its impressive stockpile of biological
weapons during 1971-73, it has not met the destruction deadlines
of its chemical arsenal under the Chemical Weapons Convention
In light of these
developments, the reader is in a position to identify the U.S.
as the main party responsible for the current crisis of the
international arms control regime (see p. 211).
The nuclear and
CBW posture of Israel is also well documented. It is more
disturbing than even that of its powerful U.S. ally. As is
common knowledge, Israel, which owns, according to the authors,
between 100 and 170 nuclear weapons, is not a member of the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and has never
acknowledged officially that it possesses nuclear weapons.
It possesses “advanced chemical and biological weapons
capabilities, although it is not known what type or how many
offensive agents it currently has” (p. 261); regarding these
capabilities, the work under review replies mainly on the
authoritative works of Avner Cohen.
The authors highlight the “nuclear opacity” (p. 268) or “nuclear
ambiguity” (p. 269) of Israel, which signed the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, being the only one of the
three non-NPT nuclear weapon states to do so, but opposed the
1991 US proposal for a ban on production of fissile material.
regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran, the book under review
contains substantial developments on the nuclear programme and
the missile capabilities of the country, but one will regret
that the authors rely mainly, if not exclusively, on sources and
references which are likely to reflect the viewpoint of the U.S.
administration, or close to it.
Unfortunately, because of that, the presentation of the current
nuclear controversy is questionable: the authors assert that
“for more than two decades Tehran has secretly pursued the
ability to produce nuclear materials than can be used in
weapons” (p. 295), while in fact the UN Security Council
Resolution 1737 (2006), referring to the IAEA Director general
report of 27 February 2006, stated only that: “the IAEA is
unable to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear
materials or activities in Iran”.
It is obvious that there is more than a nuance between these two
assertions. It is also to be noted that the book, due to the
year of its publication (2005), does not take into account the
latest developments, among them the sanctions imposed in
2006-2007 by the UNSC, and the work plan agreed on 27 August
2007 between Iran and the IAEA.
In conclusion, one
can say that “Deadly Arsenals: nuclear, biological, and
chemical threats”, despite the above-mentioned weaknesses,
is beyond dispute a comprehensive and useful guide to nuclear
and CBW proliferation issues, and an essential companion to the
The latest edition
was published in May 2007: SIPRI Yearbook 2007:
Armaments, Disarmament and International Security,
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007.