Controlling Nuclear Proliferation

July 17, 1981

Report Outline
Fallout from Israeli Raid
Dangers in the Middle East
Carter Administration Record
Outlook for Non-Proliferation
Special Focus

Fallout from Israeli Raid

Objectives of Non-Proliferation System

Fallout from Israel's June 7 attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor is still settling in capitals all over the world, and it may be years before the raid's ramifications are fully understood. But one thing already is clear. By taking matters into its own hands, Israel indicated its absence of faith in the world's ability to control nuclear proliferation. Israel's skepticism is widely shared. According to Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, the “message of the Begin bombing raid on Iraq is that the bedrock of the worldwide non-proliferation effort is more sand than solid.” New York Times columnist James Reston wrote: “Israel's ‘Pearl Harbor’ attack on Iraq merely gives us a glimpse of the coming nightmare if this problem [of nuclear proliferation] is not brought under control.”

The world's system for preventing nuclear proliferation rests on two connected and mutually dependent pillars: (1) the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), under which the nuclear powers pledge not to help other nations acquire atomic weapons and those nations without such weapons promise not to build them in exchange for access to nuclear technology; and (2) the system of international safeguards that are imposed on exported nuclear equipment and on nuclear facilities operated by parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Plainly, the NPT can be relied on only to the extent to which the community of nations supports its objectives and is prepared to enforce its provisions, with sanctions or force of arms where necessary. And even when nations are prepared to give the treaty that kind of support, safeguards are a reliable barrier to proliferation only to the extent they receive adequate funding and professional attention, and only to the extent they cover all relevant activities.

The basic objective of the safeguards system, which is administered by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, is to monitor the flow of “fissionable materials” — plutonium and highly enriched uranium — the crucial materials needed for construction of atomic bombs. Agency inspectors make spot checks at safeguarded facilities, after giving the affected countries advance notice. The inspections are intended to provide “timely warning” of a “diversion” of fissionable material from peaceful to military uses. The system is not designed to physically prevent diversions of nuclear material. Rather, it is meant to deter them or, where that fails, to warn the community of nations of potentially dangerous activities.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jul. 29, 2016  Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal
Mar. 08, 2002  Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jun. 24, 1994  Nuclear Arms Cleanup
Jun. 05, 1992  Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 29, 1990  Obstacles to Bio-Chemical Disarmament
Apr. 22, 1988  The Military Build-Down in the 1990s
May 24, 1987  Euromissile Negotiations
Jul. 11, 1986  Chemical Weapons
Apr. 27, 1984  Reagan's Defense Buildup
Jun. 04, 1982  Civil Defense
Jul. 17, 1981  Controlling Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 05, 1981  MX Missile Decision
Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
Sep. 07, 1979  Atomic Secrecy
Mar. 17, 1978  Nuclear Proliferation
May 27, 1977  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1977  Politics of Strategic Arms Negotiations
Nov. 15, 1974  Nuclear Safeguards
Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
Oct. 12, 1959  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1959  Nuclear Test Ban
Dec. 04, 1957  Scientific Cooperation and Atlantic Security
May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
Aug. 27, 1943  Gas Warfare
Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Arms Control and Disarmament
International Law and Agreements