Nuclear proliferation and American dishonesty

America’s political expediencies continue to proliferate illicit nuclear weapons

Dafna Linzer’s article in the Washington Post is damning. In its attempt to gain a upper hand in the negotiations with North Korea, it essentially blamed Pyongyang for Pakistan’s crimes. (linkthanks Vijay Dandapani)

In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride — which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium — to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Pakistan’s role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington’s partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states.

Although the briefings did not mention Pakistan by name, the official said they made it clear that the sale went through the illicit network operated by Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist, Abdel (sic) Qadeer Khan. But the briefings gave no indication that U.S. intelligence believes that the material had been bought by Pakistan and transferred there from North Korea in a container owned by the Pakistani government.

They also gave no indication that the uranium was then shipped via a Pakistani company to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and on to Libya. [Washington Post]

The China-Pakistan nexus is the world’s worst (and only) source of illicit nuclear weapons. America’s Cold War-era priorities allowed Pakistan to acquire, develop, and distribute nuclear weapons and technology. America’s War on Terror priorities are helping it get away with more of the same.

The New York Times today reveals that A Q Khan sold not only materials, but also the ‘deepest secrets’ of constructing nuclear weapons. It is hard to believe that American investigators did not know about this earlier.

One of the Bush adminstration’s biggest errors in judgement was shielding Pakistan on the nuclear proliferation issue. While cloistering A Q Khan away from international investigators may have suited the Bush administration’s politicial exigencies, it is clearly working against America’s own interests. First because Pakistan has not stopped its proliferation business, and second, because America’s ruses do not strengthen its hand in the negotiations over North Korea. Anything less than a honest approach towards the sources and consumers of illicit nuclear materials and technologies will work.

Indeed, America’s attempts to cover up Pakistan’s transgressions ironically make it appear complicit in the very crime that it is trying to punish.


  • It appears that the United States has demanded that it be allowed to interrogate Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Pakistan’s former president and army chief, respectively. That’s good. It must not lose this chance to follow through honestly.
  • Brad DeLong does his ‘Why oh Why’ post on this

6 thoughts on “Nuclear proliferation and American dishonesty”

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  3. Yet at the same time the US/Rice is saying that Khan is still a threat, the Khan network still seems up, and is demanding Pakistan give the US access to Khan. One other point. N. Korea has made significant exchanges to Iran, so has China, and so has Pakistan. Nothing in the Post or Times articles is knew to anyone who has been following this case and I am not sure the Post comments, with out sources, may not have a political rational. The whole article seems more like an opinion peace. Nevertheless your main point is still a good solid point and the US needs to stop trying to protect Pakistan and start leaning on them.

  4. Seems to me that the US if finally preparing to dump pakistan after using and abusing its geographical advantages for the coming assault (surgical strike?) on Iran.

    I daresay that to most Int’l observers its apparent that US policy’s fundamentally changed since 9/11 – gone are the days of mollycoddling dictators and/or prizing stability over glasnost. Of course, it won’t and can’t happen overnight but the major shifts are all there. Nobody really believes that the US and Pak are into a long term partnership anymore anymore than they believe that the US -China rivalry in the longterm will be benign.

    And yup, at the risk of raising uber-lib hackles, lemme state that the man responsible for this sea-change in policy and perspective is President Bush alone. The same guy derided variously as ‘Bushitler’ and ‘Chimp’ in an increaseingly openly hostile media has done far more than media darling Clinton ever could or would and is bound behind a much bigger and longterm legacy.

    P.S: BTW, notice the parallels with Reagan? Another great conservative president who in his time was derided as simplistic and dumb but who ignored the naysayers and delivered the world from the scourge of communism?

  5. My sense is that the knives are coming out for John Bolton, and he may be blamed for this in the next leak.

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