New Paradigms Forum Proliferation Issues and Much More …


Action-Planning Session on Curbing Missile Development and Proliferation


Below are the remarks Assistant Secretary Ford delivered to a breakout group of the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, held in Warsaw, Poland, on February 14, 2019. They may also be found on the website of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.

Thank you, Mr. Convenor. Let me say first that it is very gratifying to hear such distinguished figures from around the world speak out so clearly in decrying the ways in which missile proliferation is destabilizing the Middle East.

As we have heard, and as we all know, Iran is by far the worst offender in the region. Infamously, it is not only developing more sophisticated missiles of its own, but is also proliferating both missiles and missile production technology, including — rather appallingly, I must say — to non-state actors such as Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists and Houthi militias. But Iran is unfortunately not the only regional country that has been acquiring or contributing to the spread of missile technology that helps bring ever more volatility and instability in the Middle East.

Countries throughout the region badly need to learn how to exercise restraint and prudence in this respect, refraining from any further measures that inflame regional arms races and risk creating dangerous escalatory spirals. The dangers presented by missile proliferation in the Middle East call for a broad and concerted international effort to bring countries into a community of restraint that will contribute to the regional peace and security that it is the purpose of this pathbreaking Warsaw conference to promote.

As for any countries that refuse to join the community of likeminded nations contributing to peace and security, we must not shy away from imposing fierce pressure upon them to abandon such destabilizing policies. Where we cannot dissuade them from trying, we must prevent them from succeeding in acquiring such capabilities, by acting decisively to cut off their access to the technologies, components, and materials they need for their missile programs.

This means having all countries — both in the region and farther afield — adopt and enforce strong export controls consistent with internationally understood standards of best practice. Countries must impose effective checks not just upon outgoing national exports of proliferation-facilitating items and material but also upon the transshipment of such things through their national jurisdiction. They must strengthen national authorities and improve their ability to interdict shipments, and build better cooperative counterproliferation partnerships.

And they must shut down the unscrupulous exporters, brokers, shippers, and middlemen who fuel and profit from illicit trafficking in missile components and materials. This means putting forever out of business outlaw proliferators such as Li Fangwei — also known as Karl Lee — a notorious fugitive from justice with a $5 million reward on his head who has been sheltered in China for many years while continuing to serve as the most important foreign supplier of equipment and materiel to Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Giving safe harbor to such persons is unconscionable.

Finally, Mr. Convenor, let me join the comments made by my fellow participants in this session urging broader adherence to the standards of best practice embodied in the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC) on missile pre-launch notifications and information exchanges, the export control standards of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the conventional arms and dual-use technology control standards of the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the WMD-related export control standards of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Australia Group (AG). I also wholeheartedly agree with the comment that more countries should participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and use its exercises and workshops to hone their ability to be good cooperative partners in interdicting WMD- and delivery-system-related transfers. These are hugely valuable institutions, and deserve more support.

An earlier speaker also noted, quite correctly, that U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 requires all of our countries to adopt effective legal and regulatory controls to prevent WMD from falling into the hands of non-state actors. It does, and we must enforce it — and help partners who may need capacity-building assistance in this respect. Since we are talking today about missile proliferation threats in the Middle East, however, I would also remind delegates that UNSCR 2231 imposes conventional arms and missile restrictions upon Iran, and in fact prohibits any transfers to Iran that could contribute to WMD-capable missiles that have not been expressly approved by the Security Council. We need to make sure that this is rigorously enforced.

Mr. Convenor, we are gathered here this afternoon in an action-planning group, and we are planning follow-on meetings at which we can develop effective strategies for reining in the missile and advanced conventional arms proliferation that today presents such a threat in the Middle East. Accordingly, I would suggest that we make it a strong focus of our diplomacy together to get all states in the region — as well as all countries that are points of origin or transshipment points for missile-related trafficking to that region — to bring themselves up to the “best practice” standards embodied in these various institutions and rules. We should enlist more and more countries in holding to such standards, and we should make it increasingly painful for any who show themselves to be irresponsible impediments to regional peace by refusing to do so.

Thank you.

-- Christopher Ford

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