Keep Khan, give Iran

Gen Musharraf benefits from the Bush administration’s concerns over a nuclear Iran

Seymour Hersh reveals that American special forces are carrying out ‘black reconnaissance’ operations in Iran identifying targets for a possible attack on its nuclear weapons facilities. And in return for some customer information, Gen Musharraf gets not only to keep A Q Khan in quiet retirement but also to expand Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

“It’s a deal—a trade-off,” the former high-level intelligence official explained. “‘Tell us what you know about Iran and we will let your A. Q. Khan guys go.’ It’s the neoconservatives’ version of short-term gain at long-term cost. They want to prove that Bush is the anti-terrorism guy who can handle Iran and the nuclear threat, against the long-term goal of eliminating the black market for nuclear proliferation.”

The agreement comes at a time when Musharraf, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat, has authorized the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons arsenal. “Pakistan still needs parts and supplies, and needs to buy them in the clandestine market,” the former diplomat said. “The U.S. has done nothing to stop it.” [New Yorker]

If there is one thing Pakistan’s military dictators know, and know very well, it is how to profit from servicing America’s foreign policy persuasions.

While preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a noble goal indeed, allowing Pakistan to expand its already existing arsenal is equally (and from the Indian point of view, more) dangerous. The dangers posed by Pakistani nuclear weapons and the A Q Khan network seem to be overlooked at every turn of contemporary American foreign policy.

Update: Praktike and Ambidextrous have interesting perspectives on Hersh’s article. Dan Drezner has an open thread discussion on this. He writes:

If this is true, it suggests the administration really believes that the threat posed by nuclear-armed states is greater than the threat posed by a black market proliferation network that could sell to states and non-state actors alike. [Dan Drezner]

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