Cablegate: Australia Group: 2008 Information Exchange (Ie)


DE RUEHFR #0735/01 1081641
P 171641Z APR 08

S E C R E T PARIS 000735




E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/16/2033

Classified By: ESTH/NP COUNSELOR ROBERT W. DRY FOR REASONS 1.4 (B), (C) , (D), (E) AND (H)

------- SUMMARY -------

1. (S) The following describes highlights of the Information Exchange (IE) portion of the annual meeting of the Australia Group (AG), which met in Paris, April 12-18, 2008 (Report on AG Plenary provided septel). The IE included 30 presentations by twelve AG member states. The US provided 10 of the 30 presentations. These presentations focused on chemical and biological warfare (CBW) programs of concern, trends and developments in CBW proliferation, prospective new members to the AG, CBW terrorism, visa issues, and emerging and future CBW threats. All papers referred to below were provided by the Chair (Australia) separately and are available to concerned agencies upon request. Copies of referenced papers and presentations will be made available on Intellipedia. END SUMMARY.

------------ INTRODUCTION ------------

2. (S) The Chairman opened the Information Exchange Session with a review of past IE efforts and thanked the membership, especially the small countries, for their continued support and commented on the value of the information exchange for all our efforts to stem the proliferation of CBW programs worldwide. The Chairman went on to remind delegates that proliferation of CBW applicable technologies is still of great concern.

--------------------------- TRENDS IN CBW PROLIFERATION ---------------------------

3. (S) The US gave a presentation on CBW proliferation networks. After the presentation, New Zealand expressed concern about the growing use of the internet in facilitating illicit transfers through internet brokerages and online auction houses. New Zealand asked for US views on this subject.

4. (S) The US gave a presentation on Iran,s indigenous BW-applicable production equipment manufacturing capabilities.

5. (S) The Netherlands gave a presentation on potential limitations to Iran,s indigenous production capability for potential CW precursors and raw materials. The Netherlands assesses that Iran put its CW program on ice, after it ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and assesses that Iran does not stock CW currently but has developed a production mobilization capability. The Netherlands noted that Iran lacked the long-term humid storage necessary for phosphorus trichloride storage. The Netherlands assesses that laboratory and pilot-scale CW agent production is within reach for Iran, but that Iran would face significant technical hurdles developing industrial-scale CW agent production. The Iranian complex Shaheed Meisami is capable of small-scale phosphorus trichloride production and Raja Shimi is capable of large-scale production of phosphorus trichloride. Iranian imports of phosphorus have been limited and sporadic, totaling 70 tons; however, given the size of the global market, unnoticed imports may have escaped notice. The Netherlands assessed that elemental phosphorus production was a limiting factor for Iran, and they have seen no evidence of large imports of phosphorus. The Netherlands assesses that Iran desires to become independent of any chemical imports, but the first and most difficult step they will need to achieve is the production of elemental phosphorus. There is no information on the indigenous production of elemental phosphorus in Iran. Bulk storage facilities for phosphorus are likely suboptimal, but long-term storage cannot be ruled out.

6. (S) Australia thanked the Netherlands for its presentation and noted that it had performed a study of Iraqi phosphorus supplies in the past.

7. (C) Germany presented on suppliers of dual-use equipment to Iran. Germany assesses that Iran,s main suppliers of dual-use equipment are Russia, India, and China, and that Iran can indigenously produce at least ten precursor chemicals. Iran can indigenously manufacture most of the equipment required for BW agent production. One or two sites in Iran are indigenously producing glass-lined equipment, but Germany still observes transfers of glass-lined equipment to Iran. Germany assesses that the main suppliers of dual-use equipment to Iran are non-AG members, but even these countries strive to improve their export controls on the transfer of dual-use equipment. Russia was a prevalent provider and mediator with the Iranian Technology Cooperation Office (TCO) in the past, but in the past five years, the only contacts Germany has identified are inquiries concerning bulk chemicals. India also has been a key supplier of precursor chemicals and biotechnology equipment to Iran. Sensitive entities have sought glass-lined equipment from India, but Germany does not know whether this equipment was received. The poor quality of Chinese equipment may have motivated Iranian entities to turn to India. China is Iran,s main supplier of dual-use goods, especially in the chemical field. Iranian entities employ deception strategies in order to obtain these goods. However, there is no confirmed information about any information or material transferred from China to Iran being used in any CBW program. Germany noted that China has changed its behavior in recent years, no longer talking of discrimination in export controls, and may have increased its vigilance in limiting exports of materials to Iran in some cases. Germany assesses that serial proliferators based in China are still active. Q.C. Chen and his business partners, including Nanjing Chemical Industries and Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import and Export Company, provided items to Iran for about 20 years, but the last case Germany has identified was in 2004. The Liyang Yunlong Chemical Equipment Company in 2006 offered to re-export chemical equipment to Iran through Dubai if relevant export licenses were denied by Chinese customs. Zibo Chemet gave glass-lined equipment to Iran, and many of the greater than 30 end-users in Iran cannot be verified. The South Industries Science and Technology Trading Company has been active in the past twelve months and, in an unidentified twelve month period, had transferred 41 glass-lined vessels, including dozens of heat exchangers and glass-lined distillation units. No links have been seen with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

8. (S) The US gave a presentation on CW-applicable transfers from Chinese firms to Iran.

9. (S) Australia continues to be concerned about the presence of an offensive CW program in Syria. Australia assesses that Syrian procurement suggests the program is focused on nerve agents such as VX and sarin. The Australians believe Syria is committed to improving and expanding its program, including through testing. Syria maintains a basic indigenous capability, in contrast to other countries of concern, but maintains some dependence on precursor imports. The Syrian Scientific Research Council (SSRC) is the primary entity directing Syrian CW efforts. Information concerning the SSRC role in procurement BW-related items is unclear. Syria appears focused on importing precursors and precursors of precursors,, including hydrochloric acid, monoethylene glycol, diisopropylamine, hydrogen fluoride, monoisopropylamine, and sodium sulfide. Australia noted it did not propose adding additional chemicals to the AG control list. Australia noted it was particularly interested in any additional information available on Syrian procurement of hydrogen fluoride and whether Syrian chemical procurements were opportunistic or targeted, emphasizing the importance of information sharing within the AG membership.

10. (S) The US presented on Syrian CW-related procurement.

11. (S) The US presented on transfers of CW-related material between Iran and Syria.

12. (S) The Netherlands gave an update on monoethylene glycol laboratory studies related to Syrian procurement. Laboratory experiments demonstrate that monoethylene glycol can be used as a precursor for sulfur mustard, and possibly for VX and sarin. The Netherlands urged the AG membership to provide information on Syrian procurement of monoethylene glycol, and proposed that members use catch-all controls to prevent transfers to Syria. The Netherlands noted that the US sent a demarche related to Syrian procurement efforts several months ago. The Netherlands has not detected any additional imports or exports of monoethylene glycol to Syria in the past year.

13.(SBU) The Chairman noted that France had prepared a paper on cooperation between Russia and Syria on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

14.(C) Germany presented on Syria CBW-relevant cooperation. Germany noted that Syria,s chemical industry was dependent on imports, and that most of these imports were received by front companies subordinate to SSRC. SSRC is the key entity in development of the CW program, and possibly the BW program, in Syria. Germany discussed the risk of intangible technology transfer to Syria through student visits and technical cooperation. SSRC students had visited the Egyptian National Research Center. These students included Isam Ajami, Nabil Yaakoub, and Samir Fatil. The Egyptian government was not aware of the student,s affiliation with SSRC. A November 2007 newspaper article described North Korean cooperation with Syria, including how to mount CW warheads on missiles. The article referenced a Syrian stockpile of sarin nerve agent. A Janes Defence Weekly article in 2007 described an explosion at a joint Iranian/Syrian missile production facility in Aleppo. The article indicated that the explosion involved CW agents, but Germany can rule out any WMD involvement and has information that the explosion was, in fact, conventional.

A 2007 newspaper article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat described Ahmadinejad,s visit to Syria, which reportedly resulted in a 1 billion USD agreement which included weapons purchases from Russia and the development of chemical weapons. Classified and reliable information from 2007 indicates that Syria conducted a scientific exchange with Iran that included training Syrian students at the University of Tehran. The institute involved was the Higher Institute for Applied Science and Technology (HIAST). Germany summarized the available information as indicating that Egypt, North Korea, and Iran had cooperated with Syria, but much of the information was of questionable reliability. Germany could only rule out the Janes Defence Weekly article, but could not verify the other newspaper allegations.

15. (SBU) Spain presented on an export attempt to Lebanon. The Spanish presentation addressed a case investigated by the Spanish National Intelligence Center. In May 2007, a Spanish chemical company submitted a request for an export license for 500 grams of potassium cyanide to Lebanon. The purchaser was Numelab SARL, and the end-user was Litani River Authority. Spain denied the export license because the requested materials were inconsistent with the claimed end use, the analysis of magnesium in soil samples, and the head of the Ministry requesting the chemicals is a Hizbollah member. A paper on this case study will be available on Intellipedia.

16. (SBU) Italy presented on the status of CW-related compliance efforts in Libya. A transcript of Italian comments will be available on Intellipedia.

17. (SBU) France presented a case study on Pakistani chemical procurement efforts from China. In June 2007, the Pakistani company Metal Works Islamabad ordered from China seven glass-lined reactors, consisting of three 50-L reactors, one 100-L reactor, one 300-L reactor, one 500-L reactor, and one 1000-L reactor. The reactors were manufactured by the Chinese company Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant (ZCEP). The company Metal Works Islamabad has been noted as a front company of the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, and this company purchased two corrosion-proof pumps in 2005. Use of this equipment for civilian purchases appears to be slightly legitimate., The intermediary for the glass-lined reactor transfer was Tianjin Universal Machinery Import/Export Corporation. This company asked its Pakistani customer to replace glass-lined reactors, with steel-structure mixing machines, in the letter of credit in order to avoid problems., The French believe that this case suggests China follows export procedures but Chinese suppliers are ready to deceive Chinese officials in this area. A full transcript of this presentation will be available on Intellipedia.

18. (S) Canada presented on export controls in India. Canada assessed that India may be softening its export control commitments. Canada noted an Indian presentation to a meeting of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention where India described its recent Prohibition of Illegal Activities Act of 2007. Canada noted that the wording of the Indian legislation was unacceptable to some BWC participants, because it defined the term unlawful as without the authorization of the central government, suggesting India could develop CW or BW materials with the authorization of the central government. The legislation also stated that nothing in the act restricts the right of the central government to defend and protect India. Canada noted that, in February 2008, the Indian government had agreed to add 24 chemicals to its national export control list that were included on the AG control list, but not under the CWC schedules of chemicals. A newspaper article reported that only five of these chemicals would be added to the control list; however, when Canada inquired about this allegation, India claimed that Canada should pay no attention and should not be worried. Canada expressed interest in receiving additional information on other AG member views on India,s export controls and relevant legislation.

19. (S) The US presented on the worldwide growth of the specialty chemical industry.

20. (SBU) Canada commented that it was particularly interested in member views on how to control the transfer of specialty chemicals, specifically for instances where countries of concern requested small amounts of very pure chemicals. The Netherlands responded by noting that small quantities of these chemicals would have a wide variety of commercial applications, but could also be applied as an analytical standard for CW agents.

21. (SBU) Sweden presented on the electrochemical production of export-controlled precursors. Without procuring controlled precursors, white phosphorous can be use to produce the nerve agents sarin and soman using the electrochemical method. This method is a safer, easier, and less expensive way to manufacture organophosphorous compounds, and reactors made of less-corrosive materials can be used because there is no fluorination involved. Kazan Institute of Organic and Physical Chemistry published on this method. A paper prepared by Sweden will be available on Intellipedia.

22. (SBU) Australia presented on synthetic biology and its various BW-relevant applications. The Australians noted that the global oligo market has many legitmate research uses, including for PCR and detection of infectious diseases. There are potential future growth areas, including disease prevention and gene therapy. They noted BW-relevant applications, including inserting pathogenicity into non-pathogenic organisms, synthesis of pathogenic agents, and developing countermeasure-defeating strains of BW agents. Australia noted that obtaining oligonucleotides is increasingly easy; they can be purchased from commercial suppliers, obtained from universities, or synthesized de novo. Many non-AG countries supply oligonucleotides, including China, Cuba, India, South Africa, Singapore, and potentially others. Australia noted an increase in the publication of research papers citing oligos purchased from non-AG members. Possible roles of AG members include outreach to industry and non-AG members.

23. (SBU) Norway presented a research study on aerosol generation using commercially available sprayers. The project focused on simple delivery methods using non-controlled commercial off the shelf equipment. The study focused on bacillus anthracis and assumed that the strain of anthrax was of medium virulence., They also assumed that the perpetrators had at least basic microbiological skills and could produce agent with reasonable purity. Norway concluded, based on this study, that an inexpensive 1.5-L commercial sprayer could cause 10-20% lethality in individuals in a confined area exposed for at least one minute. There would also be a risk of gastrointestinal and cutaneous anthrax exposure. A paper on this research study will be available on Intellipedia. (Comment: There were few details given regarding materials, methods, and assumptions used in the study.)

------------------------------- INTANGIBLE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFERS -------------------------------

24. (SBU) The United Kingdom presented on its Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). Beginning in 1994, the UK implemented a voluntary vetting program with the cooperation of UK universities to identify students of concern. There had been a drop in participation in this program since 1994. ATAS was implemented in November 2004 and requires all foreign national postgraduate students in certain scientific and technical fields to submit an application prior to receiving a student visa. The UK is implementing an outreach program to universities and had received positive feedback regarding the ATAS procedure, which relies on the government to make an assessment of student risk rather than the universities themselves. The universities subsequently recommended that the process be extended to other researchers, including postdoctoral researchers and non-student researcher.

25. (SBU) Australia asked what procedures the UK had if students switched subjects to a scientific and technical field after entering the country. The UK responded that no formal procedure was in place, but their extensive outreach had encouraged universities to do some voluntary reporting on their own. Australia also asked if other procedures applied to other academics and specialists visiting the UK. The UK responded that these groups were not captured under ATAS but may be included in the future.

26. (SBU) France asked the UK if intelligence services had access to the ATAS system. The UK responded that they consult the intelligence services and the Ministry of Defense on students of concern. France also asked which postgraduate programs would be covered under the system. The UK responded that all science, technology, and computing fields would be covered.

27. (U) The US presented on the visa review program.

28. (SBU) The Netherlands asked the US and the UK how they determine which subject areas are WMD-relevant, and how they account for the fact that some students may only begin to support WMD programs once they return to their home countries. The UK responded that students applying to any science program are introduced to the system, but specific research proposals are used for vetting purposes. The UK responded to the second question by noting ATAS focused only on postgraduates, who typically have more substantial professional histories.

29. (SBU) Cyprus asked if the US visa review policy considered the national origin of the applicant when conducting reviews. Cyprus noted that many Western European countries were in the visa waiver program, but many were not.

30. (SBU) Germany asked the UK how it completed the ATAS process within 10 working days. The UK responded by noting that many of their applications were filtered initially without detailed review, and that the UK maintained a team in the Ministry of Defense with the technical backgrounds necessary to evaluate applications.

31. (SBU) New Zealand commented that it has been targeted by students of countries of concern, particularly Pakistan, for educational development. Most of these students seek postgraduate programs, some in the biological and nuclear engineering fields. Even if the subject is benign, they still review personal and professional linkages to assess risk. They receive many requests from students originating in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and noted that their universities hesitate to cooperate due to concerns about academic freedom. New Zealand noted that the international market for postgraduate studies is wide and growing.

32. (SBU) Japan asked for information concerning any notable applications from students originating in North Korea. 33. (SBU) Canada noted that centers of excellence were being established in Pakistan, and that these centers of excellence focused on training Pakistani students in-country with Western professors, potentially leading to future decreases is student visa applications from Pakistan.

------- DENIALS -------

34. (SBU) Australia presented on AG denial trends from 2002 until the present. Iran constituted 26-30% of the denials, double the number of the next most denied state. However, there were fewer BW-related denials within catch-all controls that CW-related denials. There had been overall growth since 2002 in states implementing denials and catch-all controls. Australia noted it was unsure whether the large number of Iran-related denials was due to greater scrutiny from AG members or more aggressive Iranian procurement efforts. 35. (SBU) South Korea commented on three recent denials implemented by its government. In 2006, they denied a license for the sale of a fermentor to Pakistan. In 2007, South Korea denied a license for the sale of triethanolamine to Syria. In 2005, South Korea had also denied the sale of 178 tons of sodium cyanide to India.

------------------------------ TERRORISM AND NON-STATE ISSUES ------------------------------

36. (U) The US gave a presentation on worldwide trends in CBW terrorism.

37. (S) France presented on the use of induced encephalomyelitis as a potential assassination weapon. France noted that there were three forms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) observed in laboratory animals: acute, hyperacute, and chronic. Chronic EAE was similar to multiple sclerosis. France noted that there were only 240 cases since 1941, and the disease had a high mortality rate. France noted that the Soviet Union had conducted research on induced EAE using two general methods at the Soviet Biopreparat facilities Vektor and Obolensk. The first used induction by viruses, such as vaccinia and the second used peptide bioregulators as a primer to induce EAE. EAE is symptomatically similar to multiple sclerosis, and as such, assassination with induced EAE may allow for plausible deniability. France noted that Russian Academy of Science facilities are conducting similar research on neurobiopeptides today. France also noted that peptide bioregulators may provide the basis for a new generation of bioweapons,, either lethal or incapacitating.

(Comment: The US delegation requested but did not receive a transcript of this presentation. Due to difficulties understanding the presenter,s speech, there may be significant gaps and/or inaccuracies in the above summary.)

38. (SBU) Canada presented on the likelihood of terrorist use of CBW. Canada assesses that a terrorist group could produce and use a workable and efficient biological agent dispersion device for small-scale delivery within a few years but is unlikely to produce mass casualties. Al Qaida,s anthrax plans were limited by the difficulty acquiring an anthrax strain, as well as the disruption posed by the invasion of coalition forces. However, Canada assesses that Al Qaida,s intent to develop an anthrax capability remains, but it is unlikely a terrorist group could produce mass-casualties with biological agents. On the other hand, Canada assesses that terrorist groups could produce a workable and efficient chemical agent dispersion device within the next few years. Toxic industrial chemicals can be explosively dispersed using widely available IED technologies. Chlorine attacks in Iraq demonstrate terrorist interest in using explosive dissemination of chemicals. Using traditional CW agents in such a device would present a more serious hazard, and is within the technical capability of some terrorist groups. Canada then described the Mubtakhar device described on a jihadist website, which releases cyanogen chloride ) which can cause bleeding from the mouth - and/or hydrogen cyanide by mixing a cyanide salt with an acid. Canada noted that this device would be most effective in confined spaces with poor ventilation. 39. (SBU) Australia commented that an Australian university had developed a first responder course for terrorist attacks that originally would be available on the internet to distance learning students. After the Australian government discussed risks associated with posting course information on the internet, the university agreed to limit enrollment to government officials with a need to know and distributed all course materials via compact discs marked For Official Use Only., Canada added that Canada is often pressured to release information to first responders as well, but generally the information is only distributed to pertinent officials.

-------------------------------------- WORLD TRENDS IN PROLIFERATION SECURITY --------------------------------------

40. (S) Australia presented on Southeast Asia and chemical and biological security. Australia assessed that no state in Southeast Asia was currently developing an offensive CBW program. Australia noted that the region was a proliferation point for dual-use materials and technologies and potential terrorist access due to poor security. Australia noted that the region had borne the brunt of most conventional terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001 and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is resilient, patient, and prepared to undertake organizational learning. However, counterterrorism efforts have had some success. JI maintains the capability for crude CBW attacks but prefers conventional attacks. One former JI operative reportedly was involved in Al Qaeda,s CBW efforts, demonstrating the ability of groups to reach out to other extremist groups in order to acquire relevant expertise. Australia noted that recent developments in southern Thailand could signal the start of a worrying trend. In late 2007, a terrorist group in southern Thailand introduced a concentrated acid to an IED, causing several casualties. Australia noted security of chemical and biological materials was less than adequate, but was improving in the Philippines and Indonesia. Australia considered chemical security to be a larger problem than biosecurity.

41. (S) The US gave a presentation on worldwide procurement trends for biosafety level (BSL) 3 and 4 laboratories.

42. (SBU) Canada presented on its threat reduction global partnership program (GPP). Canada stressed its engagement efforts with the Kyrgyz Republic. The GPP is enhancing biocontainment capabilities in the Kyrgyz Republic, including a new BSL-3 in Bishkek. Canada stressed that its program operates in accordance with export control regimes and is not providing unnecessary capacity or capabilities to partner countries. Canada plans to expand the GPP to one or two additional countries in the next five years.

43. (SBU) New Zealand noted that Indonesia ) a disparate country of many islands ) has poor biosecurity due to incompetence, as a systemic problem., New Zealand also noted that there is a culture of distrust between the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, and some problems related to sample access and sharing for avian influenza result from this distrust. New Zealand assesses that the threat of bioterrorism from Indonesia is probably low,, but the effects of a bioterrorist attack would be large. New Zealand is interested in assessments regarding the sustainability of biosecurity in Indonesia from any AG members involved in constructing high-containment facilities.

44. (S) The UK highlighted its concerns with potential Russian membership in the AG and noted that it had provided information on CBW-related activities in Russia for the last fifteen years. Regarding CW, the UK expressed doubts about the completeness and accuracy of the Russian CWC declaration. Efforts to clarify the Russian declaration have been unproductive., Particularly, the UK noted press reports from former officials of the Soviet Union alleging that the Soviet Union had developed novichok, agents. The UK believes that research with dual-use implications continues. The UK noted Russia,s use of fentanyls to resolve the Moscow Theater hostage crisis in 2002. The UK does not consider this use to be in contravention of the CWC. The UK questioned if Russia maintained a mobilization capability, particularly when it could be hidden within Russian commercial industry. The UK noted Russian President Boris Yeltsin,s declaration in 1992 on the Soviet offensive BW program and expressed concern that subsequent statements from some Russian officials now deny that there had ever been a BW program. The UK noted that questions remain after the trilateral visits in Russia, as there was no access to key Ministry of Defense facilities that may support ongoing BW efforts. The UK expressed concern that an offensive BW program may continue due to these unresolved issues. There was a high proliferation risk from military and civilian CBW sites, and former weapons scientists.

45. (S) The US presented its view on potential Russian CW and BW activities.

------------- LOOKING AHEAD -------------

46. (SBU) The Chair of the IE sought ideas for the 2009 IE. The Chair also sought member states, feedback on their satisfaction on the current format of the IE. No recommendations for either request were raised at the plenary.

47. (U) For additional information on the 2008 AG information exchange or copies of presentations, where available, contact Zachary Bernstein, Department of State (INR/SPM), Washington, DC 20520 xxxxxxxxxxxx . This cable has been coordinated with Embassy Paris and the AG U.S. Delegation. STAPLETON Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: xxxxxxxxxxxx fm

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