A Sea Change in Proliferation: the Examples of Iran and Burma



Geoffrey Forden, Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group, MIT

Date and Time

March 29, 2010 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



RSVP required by 5PM March 28.


Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

FSI Contact

Justin C. Liszanckie

The Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Zangger Committee, and the Missile Technology Control Regime are all "supply-side" nonproliferation regimes.  They were created when "high-tech" really was limited to a few countries and tightening export controls really could reduce proliferation.  For instance, Saddam Hussein's long-range missile development programs signed contracts with proliferation profiteers specifying that all components and infrastructure must come from a small set of Western countries whose names were explicitly listed in the contract.  Today, precision engineering has spread throughout the world to such an extent that A. Q. Khan can have aerospace-quality aluminum cast in Singapore and precisely machined in Malaysia for centrifuges destined for Libya.

This irrevocable spread of technology-and precision engineering is a prime example of a technology that is vital to the economic future of developing countries as well as an enabler of proliferation-is changing the environment nonproliferation regimes must work in.  How dependent developing countries are today on imports of components, materials, or just "know-how" will determine how well our supply-side regimes can still function.  The examples of Iran and Burma, two nations seeking long range missiles, are examined to see how the infrastructure and know-how for WMD is acquired today by two countries with very different levels of technology and capability.  While their missile programs are the explicit subject of this talk, the results could have profound implications for other WMD technologies that are dominated by precision engineering such as centrifuge production for uranium enrichment.

Geoffrey Forden has been at MIT since 2000 where his research includes the analysis of Russian and Chinese space systems as well as trying to understand how proliferators acquire the know-how and industrial infrastructure to produce weapons of mass destruction.  In 2002-2003, Dr. Forden spent a year on leave from MIT serving as the first Chief of Multidiscipline Analysis Section for UNMOVIC, the UN agency responsible for verifying and monitoring the dismantlement of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Previous to coming to MIT, he was a strategic weapons analyst in the National Security Division of the Congressional Budget Office after having worked at a number of international particle accelerator centers.

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