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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Perkovich: Proliferation Trilogy: North Korea, Iran, and India

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor

August 13, 2007

George Perkovich, a leading specialist on nuclear non-proliferation, says that among the current problems with North Korea, India, and Iran, Iran is the most important to resolve because the Iranians are trying to defy international opinion and produce a nuclear weapons capability after having been exposed in the act of trying. “If the Iranians get away with acquiring nuclear weapon capability after having gotten caught breaking the rules that would be a really disastrous situation.” But he rules out military action, and instead calls for even closer international pressure.

There are three major issues on questions of nuclear proliferation right now: the agreement reached in February for North Korea to give up its nuclear program in return for, essentially, help from the outside world; secondly is the continuing defiance by Iran to the Security Council which has been trying to get it to suspend its enrichment activities; thirdly is the U.S.-India agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. On these issues which is the most important right now?

I think Iran is the most important by far. What we’ve been trying to do from the first Bush administration to the Clinton administration to this Bush administration is, in essence, roll back the clock, get a state that has already challenged the international community and we’re trying to get them to stop. That’s very, very difficult. It’s as if on Lexington Avenue there is a TV shop and Iran got caught breaking the window. They were reaching for the TV, and the alarms went off, the cops showed up, and the cops said “Freeze! Don’t touch the TV.” And the Iranians freeze but they don’t step away from the window. And then nobody does anything.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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