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For The Record  

FTR #524 The Safari Club and the ‘Islamic Bomb’

Recorded August 28, 2005

Since 9/11, there has been a heightened level of discussion on the possibility of nuclear terrorism, particularly in light of the A.Q. Khan network and the smuggling of nuclear technology from Pakistan to a number of other countries. This broadcast sets forth information that demonstrates the complicity of the Safari Club in the development of the “Islamic Bomb.” An outsourcing of U.S. intelligence functions to Saudi Arabia and (to a lesser extent) Pakistan, the network was the principal element in the CIA’s support network for the Muslim mujahideen that drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Of course, it was that conflict that spawned Osama bin Laden as a warrior. In this program, the development of the Pakistani “Islamic Bomb” by the A.Q. Khan network is seen as a quid pro quo for Pakistani and Saudi help in fighting the Soviets. In addition to the fact that the Saudis were in effective to control of the A.Q. Khan network’s operations, the show demonstrates that CIA assets associated with that network were allowed to operate in the United States until well after 9/11!

Program Highlights Include: The important role of the BCCI in the financing of the A.Q. Khan network’s operations (the BCCI milieu is deeply involved in the events in, and around, 9/11); U.S. pressure on British investigators to abandon their investigation of the A.Q. Khan network; the operations of Nazir Ahmed Vaid, an apparent CIA asset whose operations on behalf of the A.Q. Khan network continued in the United States until after 9/11; the George W. Bush administration’s relaxing of sanctions imposed on Pakistan by the Clinton administration because of its efforts at promoting the spread of nuclear technology; the participation by the Theodor Shackley/Thomas Clines/Edwin Wilson network in the Afghan Mujahideen support effort.

1. The broadcast begins by presenting background information on the Safari Club. That information is contained in FTR#522. Underwritten by Saudi Arabia, the Safari Club entailed the outsourcing of U.S. intelligence operations to the Saudis and other countries. It is in the context of the Safari Club that the Saudi-funded Islamic Development Bank undertook much of the financing of the A.Q. Khan network and its development of the Islamic bomb.

“The same leadership that promulgated the Safari Club—the Saudi royals—also strongly funded and supported the Islamic Development Bank. Begun in 1973, the IDB now has 55 member states, with Saudi Arabia dominating, with 27.33 percent of the bank’s funding. As a comparison, Egypt contributes 9.48% and Pakistan just 3.41% of the bank’s total capital. It was through the bank’s scientific and economic development efforts that huge amounts were funneled into Pakistan, which ended up in the hands of A.Q. Khan and his now-infamous nuclear bomb-building syndicate.”

(Prelude to Terror; by Joseph Trento; Copyright 2005 by Joseph J. Trento; Carroll & Graf [HC]; ISBN 0-7867-1464-6; p. 313.)

2. U.S. involvement with the A.Q. Khan network’s development of the Islamic bomb was a quid pro quo for Pakistani cooperation with the covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan—the same war that spawned Osama bin Laden.

“The effort that began prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan—and that President Carter’s National Security Adviser warned was a serious effort to build the first Islamic bomb—was deliberately ignored by Carter in order to secure Saudi and Pakistani cooperation for the anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan. Like almost everything about the anti-Soviet effort, the Reagan administration expanded on it; and the CIA directly assisted the Pakistani nuclear effort by allowing Pakistani nationals to procure hardware for the program in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”


3. In RFA’s 4, 29, 30—available from Spitfire—we examined the privatized intelligence network developed to extend U.S. intelligence operations beyond the oversight of Congress. Utilizing the talents of Edwin Wilson and Frank Terpil, this network was operated principally by Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines, two of the leading figures in CIA covert operations throughout much of the agency’s existence. This network was deeply involved with the Afghan support effort. It should be noted that the elder George Bush was deeply involved with the Wilson-Shackley-Clines operations, as well as the Safari Club. As we saw in FTR#522, the Safari Club, in turn, subsumed the operations of the Wilson-Shackley-Clines network to a considerable extent.

“ ‘There was nothing more important than propping up a free Afghanistan. One of the things I did was try to get the Afghan king, then living in exile in Italy, to come back to Afghanistan so we could build a new government,’ Tom Clines recalled. Although he was out of the CIA and officially retired, ‘I was trying to do my part in keeping Afghanistan in our column. . . .Shackley was working with the Royal families in the Gulf . . . all were contributing to the effort in the early 1980’s.’”



“Clines conceded that the off-the-books intelligence operations had been melded into the Afghan war effort. ‘We worked for who was helping the United States the most. The Saudis worked very closely with us.’ Clines recalled how Bernard Houghton, who had run Nugan Hand Bank in Saudi Arabia until it ran out of money, played a key role, working with Prince Turki and the Saudi GID.”


5. Out of the enormous amounts of money the Saudis and the Safari Club channeled to the Afghan mujahideen support effort, the Pakistanis diverted a large sum in order to underwrite the cost of their nuclear network.

“What many people do not know was that the Safari Club had made a deal with Pakistan at the expense of the Afghan people. The Safari Club was run by the Saudis. It was a club to serve their purposes through the CIA. Shackley and Wilson were not members; only nations could belong. Shackley and Wilson were men who served the club in exchange for power, influence, and money. Pakistani Intelligence would handle all the money going to facilitate the proxy war against the Soviets. That meant that hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States and Saudi Arabia were being run through Pakistan with no accountability. ‘Unfortunately,’ said Robert Crowley, ‘the Pakistanis knew exactly where their cut of the money was to go.’ Where the money went was into an Islamic nuclear-weapons program supported by Saudi Arabia and accepted by the United States.”

(Ibid.; p. 314.)

6. Despite U.S. claims to the contrary, this country did not interdict the A.Q. Khan network. On the contrary, the U.S. blocked British attempts at interdicting A.Q. Khan’s operations

“During the early 1990’s, British Customs began looking closely at the United States—Pakistan nuclear network. One of their top agents was an Arabic-speaking Muslim who traveled the world tracking down A.Q. Khan’s network. The British soon learned that the United States had no interest in shutting down the network, which had been operating for years. The Muslim customs agent, whose identity must be protected for his own safety, was actually confronted by Khan in Dubai, where the agent had traced a number of Khan’s front companies. The agent testified in a trial involving associates of Khan’s that the father of the Pakistani bomb confronted the Muslim customs agent and called him ‘a traitor to Muslim people’ for uncovering the nuclear network that was supplying weapons equipment to Libya, Iran, Malaysia, and North Korea.”



“A top French Intelligence official, who asked that his name be withheld from publication, described the U.S.—Pakistani cover-up of the Khan network as having ‘an important precedent. Just as the U.S. allowed Israel to develop nuclear weapons, under pressure from the Saudis, the U.S. allowed Pakistan to be Saudi Arabia’s proxy as the first Islamic nuclear state. The Saudis put up the cash and have clean hands as Pakistan builds the bomb for its supposed defense against India over Kashmir . . . but my country and the British received no cooperation starting in the 1980’s when we discovered traces of Khan’s network. The U.S. did not want to discuss it.’”

(Ibid.; pp. 314-315.)

8. The U.S. actually shipped some of the hardware to A.Q. Khan’s operation!

“A senior source in the British government, who asks not to be named, confirms that Khan ran the network and that parts for the nuclear-weapons program came from the United States. Khan’s daughter, attending school in England, was being tutored, and at the ends of faxes dealing with logistics for her education, Khan would sometimes write, in his own hand, items he needed for the nuclear program.”

(Ibid.; p. 315.)

9. Next, the program details some of the history and background of the Pakistani nuclear effort:

“Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons had begun some fifteen years earlier. Shortly after taking office in 1972, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiker Ali Bhutto expressed his determination to develop a nuclear capability. His purpose was two fold: to offset the inherent threat posed by Pakistan’s much larger neighbor and avowed enemy, India; and to make his country a leader of the Islamic world. After India detonated its first atomic weapon on the Pakistani border in 1974, Bhutto pushed his nuclear program into high gear. To lead the effort, he tapped Abdul Qadeer Khan, an accomplished metallurgist and businessman with a strong desire for wealth. To finance his ambitious program, Bhutto turned to his country’s oil-rich ally, Saudi Arabia, and to Libya. China also pledged assistance. By 1976, when George Bush served as CIA Director, U.S. intelligence estimates reported, in a secret CIA report on Pakistan, that Pakistan was engaged in ‘a crash program to develop nuclear weapons.’”


10. As mentioned above, the U.S. “signed on” with the Pakistani nuke program after the start of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

“In 1979, while awaiting execution following his overthrow, Bhutto wrote in his memoirs that his goal as prime minister had been to put the ‘Islamic Civilization’ on an even footing with ‘Christian, Jewish and Hindu Civilizations’ by creating a ‘full nuclear capability’ for the Islamic world. The man who overthrew Bhutto, General Muhammad Zia ul Haq, carried on that effort. In April 1979, when President Zia refused to halt work on the ‘Islamic Bomb,’ President Jimmy Carter cut off American economic and military aid to Pakistan. Just eight months later, however, following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, Carter struck the ultimate Faustian bargain in order to win Zia’s approval for using Pakistan as a base of operations for the mujahideen. Zia’s fortunes further improved following the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.”

(Ibid.; pp. 315-316.)


“With the covert U.S. war in Afghanistan intensifying, the Pakistani dictator gained significant advantage and used it. In addition to winning large economic and military-aid packages for his country, he extracted a promise from the Reagan-Bush administration that there would be no U.S. interference in Pakistan’s ‘internal affairs.’ That meant no complaints about Zia’s dictatorial rule and no obstruction of his efforts to build an Islamic Bomb. To keep up appearances, Zia publicly maintained that he was not developing nuclear weapons. However, in 1983, a secret State Department briefing memo revealed that there was ‘unambiguous evidence’ that Pakistan was ‘actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program’ and that China was providing technological assistance. At the time, U.S. law prohibited providing assistance to any country that was importing certain nuclear-weapons technology. The Reagan-Bush administration simply ignored the legislation, arguing that cutting off aid to Pakistan would harm U.S. national interests.”

(Ibid.; p. 316.)

12. Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson was a major backer of the Afghan mujahideen and actively encouraged the Pakistanis to continue to develop their nuclear program.

“Throughout the 1980’s, Congressman Charlie Wilson, the former Ed Wilson associate, acting in concert with the CIA, repeatedly blocked Congressional efforts to halt American funding of Pakistan in order to protect a key ally in the covert Afghan war. Wilson went so far as to tell Zia, ‘Mr. President, as far as I’m concerned you can make all the bombs you want.’ Zia privately assured the congressman that Pakistan’s nuclear program was peaceful and that it would never build a delivery system. ‘The truth was the Americans had little choice,’ [Dawud] Salahuddin said. ‘Zia was worshipped by the mujahideen. He was the only foreign leader who attracted universal admiration amongst them, even though they were well aware that his ISI [Inter Service Intelligence] guys were taking what the Afghans figured was a 60-percent cut on all that was being sent to them. None of that took any glow off Zia’s halo. He was the only one to open his country to the Afghan resistance, allowed training camps, and there were always more Afghan refugees in Pakistan than in Iran. The Iranians did nothing of the sort or the scale in the military sphere. . . .The guy was almost saint-like for the resistance.’”

(Ibid.; pp. 316-317.)

13. American complicity with the program was assisted by Pakistani president Zia’s equivocation about the goals of their nuclear program, which he maintained were peaceful.

“Zia continued to deceive the United States about his nuclear-weapons ambitions. In the mid-1980’s, he flatly told the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Vernon Walters, that Pakistan was not building a bomb. When senior State Department officials later confronted him about the misrepresentation, Zia told them, ‘It is permissible to lie for Islam.’ He eventually gave up the pretense, telling Time magazine in 1987 that ‘Pakistan has the capability of building the bomb.’”

(Ibid.; p. 317.)


“By 1985, the Saudi royal family had succeeded in drawing the United States into an Islamic morass. Over the years, the Wahhabi sect, a radical form of anti-Western Islam, had increasingly caused the high-living royal family political problems at home. To deal with this, the royal family gave the Wahhabi leaders free rein and paid lip service to their diatribes against the West and Israel. But after the fall of the Peacock Throne in Iran, religious divisions surfaced within the royal family, contributing to a schizophrenia in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy: with one hand the Saudis supported the secular Saddam Hussein against the Islamic regime in Iran, and with the other they dispatched Osama bin Laden and others as members of Saudi Intelligence to work with the most radical Islamic elements fighting to secure control of Afghanistan. The anti-Communist Reagan-Bush policy makers focused only on the goal of weakening the Soviet Union, ignoring the threat of radical Islam.”


15. The Pakistani nuclear effort was subsidized through the BCCI—a vehicle for much of the covert operating of the 1980s. Current FBI director Robert Mueller led the official “investigation” into BCCI, and covered up much of what was there to be discovered.

“The efforts by the Saudis, Reagan, Casey, and Bush to destabilize the Soviet Union through the war in Afghanistan carried a huge price in terms of both money and the number of Afghan lives lost. Hundreds of millions of dollars poured into Pakistani Intelligence from the United States, with almost no control on how the funds were spent. The same BCCI bank accounts being used to fund the Afghan resistance were also used to fund the Pakistani nuclear-bomb program, according to a Senate report on BCCI.”



“The Reagan-Bush policy violated both American law and international nonproliferation treaties. But this type of violation was not unprecedented: the United States had allowed covert aid to Israel to help with their nuclear-weapons program in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson had given James Angleton permission to assist Israel in further developing its nuclear-weapons program. Now the Reagan administration was leveling the playing field. The Saudis claimed that Israel had directly aided India in developing its program and had thus created a dangerous imbalance in the region. Allowing Pakistan to develop a weapon, but not to deploy it, seemed like a workable compromise and, the Saudis argued, the only solution. The 1979 memo from Zbigniew Brzezinski to President Carter—had warned that the price of luring the Soviets might include abandoning efforts to stop nuclear proliferation in Pakistan. Just six years later, the Reagan-Bush team played a huge role in making the first Islamic nuclear weapon possible.”

(Ibid.; pp. 317-318.)

17. CIA Soviet analyst Melvin Goodman was among those few American intelligence analysts who noted that we were backing the wrong Islamic groups in Afghanistan. Arms dealer Sarkis Soghanlian (deeply involved with the Bush-Reagan-Safari Club clandestine operations of the 1980’s) maintains that the A.Q. Khan network was at all times directed by the Saudis.

“By the mid-1980’s, so much money was flowing through the Pakistani ISI that the CIA did not have a handle on where it ws going, according to Melvin Goodman, a former CIA analyst on the Soviet Union. ‘They were funding the wrong Islamic groups . . . ,’ said Goodman, ‘and had little idea where the money was going or how it was being spent.’ Sarkis Soghanalian, who profited from providing arms for the secret-aid program, put it bluntly: ‘As in Iraq, the U.S. did not want to get its hands dirty. So the Saudis’ money and the U.S. money was handled by ISI. I can tell you that more than three quarters of the money was skimmed off the top. What went to buy weapons for the Afghan fighters was peanuts.’ According to Soghanalian, the funds were first laundered through various BCCI accounts before being disbursed to ISI and into an elaborate network run by A.Q. Khan. ‘Khan’s network was controlled by the Saudis, not Khan and not Pakistan,’ Soghanalian said. [Emphasis added.] ‘The Saudis were in on every major deal including Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Malaysia.’”

(Ibid.; p. 318.)


“After two decades of silence on Pakistan’s nuclear-proliferation network, the CIA went public in 2004, taking credit for uncovering the network. After A.Q. Khan’s bizarre confession, apology, and subsequent pardon (‘There was never any kind of authorization for these activities by the government,’ Khan said on Pakistani television. ‘I take full responsibility for my actions and seek your pardon’), the CIA claimed it had successfully exposed Pakistan’s nuclear efforts. In fact, Khan’s network was only the tip of a huge nuclear-technology iceberg.”

(Ibid.; pp. 318-319.)

19. Recent claims by the CIA that they had “uncovered” and “interdicted” the A.Q. Khan network are as disingenuous as Khan’s preposterous public proclamation that he alone—and not the Pakistani government—was responsible for the operation. That’s right, A.Q. Khan was a “lone nut!”

“The truth of how much the CIA and the private intelligence network knew in the 1980’s and what their actual role might have been is suggested by a pair of criminal cases—one in London and one in Houston. In each case, the defendant received very kind treatment from authorities, who allowed the nuclear-proliferation network to continue operating.”

(Ibid.; p. 319.)

20. Much of the rest of the program is devoted to a chilling discussion of the myriad operations of Nazir Ahmed Vaid, one of the A.Q. Khan network’s principal operatives. In addition to the fact that Vaid’s operations appear to have been conducted while he functioned as a CIA asset, it is vitally important to note that his U.S.-based activities were allowed to continue after 9/11!! The George W. Bush administration turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear efforts as yet another quid pro quo—this one in exchange for Pakistan’s “cooperation” in “the war on terror.” As was the case with much of the rest of the Khan network’s efforts, Vaid’s activities were also conducted through the BCCI, to a certain extent.

“In June 1984, the U.S. federal agents arrested Nazir Ahmed Vaid, a thirty-three-year-old Pakistani, as he attempted to smuggle out of Houston fifty high-speed electronic switches of a kind used to trigger nuclear bombs. At the time of the arrest, U.S. Customs agents seized several letters directly linking Vaid to S.A. Butt, the director of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission. Butt was already well known to U.S. and European arms control officials as ‘they key operative in Pakistan’s successful attempts in Europe in the 1970’s to obtain the technology and resources for the enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of plutonium.’ Vaid reportedly offered to pay for the switches in gold, later determined to have been supplied by BCCI. U.S. federal officials, however, never informed the prosecutors that the letters connected Vaid to the Pakistani bomb program. Instead, a very special deal was worked out.”


21. Note the evidence of U.S. complicity in Vaid’s activities!!

“Vaid ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of illegally attempting to export the switches, known as krytrons, without a license. U.S. District Judge James DeAnda sentenced Vaid to five years’ probation, the minimum possible sentence. At Vaid’s sentencing, both Judge DeAnda and the prosecutor agreed that Vaid was not a foreign agent. DeAnda described him simply as a businessman ‘trying to expedite what he thought was a business deal.’ Just three weeks later, Vaid was deported. According to reporter Seymour Hersh, Arnold Raphel, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, later revealed that there had been a ‘fix in’ on the Vaid case and that the CIA had arranged for the matter to be handled quietly.”

(Ibid.; pp. 319-320.)


“Because of his conviction and deportation, Vaid was prohibited from returning to the United States. His name appears on a U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database of banned individuals. Nevertheless, according to an ICE spokesman, Vaid has entered the country more than a half dozen times during the past several years. By simply dropping his last name and becoming ‘Nazir Ahmed,’ Vaid ‘fraudulently’ obtained multiple visas from the U.S. State Department, according to ICE.”

(Ibid.; p. 320.)


“During his recent visits—some after the September 11, 2001, attacks—Vaid has established, in Texas, a string of companies with foreign affiliations. Three in particular stand out. On July 22, 2002, Vaid, using the name Nazir Ahmed, and his brother, Mohammed Iqbal Vaid, incorporated Najood Trading, Inc., and Idafa Investments, Inc. The sole shareholder in Majood is a company of the same name based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Emirates are known to have been used as a transshipment point by the Khan network. The Dubai company identifies itself as being engaged in, among other things, ‘Building Service Materials Trading, Construction Materials Trading, Roofing Materials & Accessories.’ The directors of the Texas company are ‘Nazir Ahmed’ and Ahmed Ali, whose address is the same as that of the Dubai parent company.”



“The sole shareholder in Idafa Investments is an Islamic investment firm of the same name based in Mumbai, India. The Web site for the parent company identifies it as a broad-based investment advisory and management firm that operates on Quranic principles. The founder of the Indian company is listed as Ashraf Abdul-Haq Mohamedy. One of the directors of the Texas company is Ashraf Abdulhak [sic] Mohamedy. The others are Mohamed Ashraf Abdulhak Mohamedy, Mohammad [sic] Vaid, and ‘Nazir Ahmed.’ The Indian company’s Web site provides a link to Islamic Quest, an organization ‘established to present the correct position of Islam to Non-Muslims.’ The contact person for Islamic Quest is listed as Ashraf Abdulhaq Mohemedy.”



“Mohammed Vaid signed the incorporation papers for both Majood and Idafa on the same day, July 19, 2002, and before the same notary public. On that same day, and before the same notary. ‘Nazir Ahmed’ signed the incorporation papers for yet another company, MEC Enterprises (USA), Inc. (The signature above the printed words ‘Nazir Ahmed’ appears to read simply ‘Vaid.’) The sole shareholder in the company is MEC Engineering is a metals machining and manufacturing company. Its many ‘functions,’ as listed on its Web site, include: ‘Tanks Vessels & Shells,’ ‘Pharmaceutical Machineries & Equipment,’ ‘Waste Water Treatment,’ and ‘Engineering Pipeline Construction.’ The owners of MEC Engineering are Abdul Qavi Qureshi and Abdul Majid Qureshi. The directors of the Texas subsidiary, MEC Enterprises, are ‘Nazir Ahmed’ and Mohammed Aslam Qureshi of Karachi.”

(Ibid.; p. 321.)


“As recently revealed, Khan’s middleman, B.S.A. Tahir, helped establish a subsidiary of a Malaysian metal machining company and used it to manufacture parts for high-speed centrifuges for enriching uranium. The parts were transshipped through Tahir’s Dubai-based front companies to end users such as Libya.”



“The first known U.S. company the Vaids set up following Nazir’s deportation was Finatra Communications, Inc. The company was incorporated by a third party, Ameen M. Ali of Houston, in August 1996. The shareholders were Mohammed Vaid, 20 percent, and ‘Nazir Ahmed,’ 80 percent. Both listed residential addresses in Houston. In 1999, the Vaids changed the name of the company to Finatra Group of Companies.”



“Nazir Vaid also operates a branch of Finatra in Pakistan. A 1997 article in Pakistan & Gulf Economist refers to ‘Nazir Ahmed Vaid’ as the chief executive of Finatra’s Cybercafe in Karachi, reportedly the first such establishment in Pakistan. The parent of the Cyber-café is the Finatra Group of Companies, also based in Karachi. Finatra Group controls several businesses, including a Web-hosting service, and energy-generation company, phone and cell-phone mental agencies, and a prepaid calling card dealer called Finatra Communications Private Limited. In 1998, Finatra Communications signed a contract with Pakistan’s official phone company, Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd., to provide prepaid phone-card service in Pakistan. The service also allows direct international dialing. All of these businesses could be useful to an intelligence service or a terrorist organization. In 2004, U.S. Customs was planning to detain Vaid on his next trip to the United States after being warned by a reporter that Vaid was traveling freely between the U.S. and Pakistan. In the fall of 2004, a U.S. Customs agent inexplicably told Vaid’s son that there was a detention order out on his father. That incident raises major questions about Vaid’s relationship with the United States government—and about security in the Customs Service.”

(Ibid.; pp. 321-322.)

29. Again, note that Vaid was able to function in the U.S. after 9/11!

“According to an ICE spokesman, Vaid last left the United States on November 1, 2002. More than one CIA source said that Nazir Vaid is a CIA ‘asset.’ In a telephone interview, Vaid flatly denied working for U.S. or Pakistani Intelligence. He also insists he is not engaged in the trade or shipment of nuclear technology.”

(Ibid.; p. 322.)

30. The George W. Bush administration was “shocked, shocked!” to learn of Pakistan’s Islamic bomb program. Note that the Clinton administration had imposed sanctions on Pakistan because of its nuclear activities. The Bush administration lifted those sanctions two weeks after 9/11!

“The George W. Bush administration expresses shock at the fact that Pakistan’s declared Islamic Bomb program became just that—a pan-Islamic nuclear-weapons supermarket. This is the same Bush administration that, in an eerily familiar move—just two weeks after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001—lifted the sanctions that had been imposed by the Clinton administration on Pakistan because of its nuclear-weapons activities. The Bush change was to win Islamabad’s assistance in the new war in Afghanistan—the ‘war on terrorism.’ This is also the same administration that—publicly, at least—accepts A.Q. Khan’s absurd confession that he is responsible personally—and not as an agent of the Pakistani government—for disseminating nuclear weapons know-how to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.”



“The fact that the United States had protected the Islamic Bomb program also emerged in the Edwin Wilson case. During the time Wilson was fugitive, the former CIA front man sent the Reagan White House and the CIA detailed information about the Libyan nuclear program. The memorandum went from Wilson in Libya, through his lawyers, to Ted Shackley and the National Security Adviser. Wilson would later say he was never asked or questioned about what he had learned about the Libyan nuclear program. . . .”

(Ibid.; pp. 322-323.)


7 comments for “FTR #524 The Safari Club and the ‘Islamic Bomb’”

  1. There are reports that one of the US military bases that handles about a third of the nuclear missile arsenal failed its latest inspection. It would be interesting to know what the “tactical-level errors” were during the exercises? Like, was it a nun-related incident gone awry? An AI existential angst-induced mishap? Hopefully it wasn’t that bad, but this doesn’t sound good:

    Air Force nuclear unit in Montana fails inspection; general says it ‘fumbled’ key exercise
    By Associated Press, Published: August 13

    WASHINGTON — An Air Force unit that operates one-third of the nation’s land-based nuclear missiles has failed a safety and security inspection, marking the second major setback this year for a force charged with the military’s most sensitive mission, the general in charge of the nuclear air force told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

    Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said a team of “relatively low-ranking” airmen failed one exercise as part of a broader inspection, which began last week and ended Tuesday. He said that for security reasons he could not be specific about the team or the exercise.

    “This unit fumbled on this exercise,” Kowalski said by telephone from his headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., adding that this did not call into question the safety or control of nuclear weapons at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

    “The team did not demonstrate the right procedures,” he said, and as a result was rated a failure.

    To elaborate “could reveal a potential vulnerability” in the force, Kowalski said.

    In a written statement on its website, Kowalski’s command said there had been “tactical-level errors” in the snap exercise, revealing “discrepancies.”

    Without more details it is difficult to reliably judge the extent and severity of the problem uncovered at Malmstrom, home of the 341st Missile Wing, which is one of three nuclear missile wings. Each wing operates 150 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, on alert for potential launch against targets around the globe.

    “While the fact that the unit made errors during this exercise is disappointing, this type of exercise is designed to push people to their limits and learn how to improve,” Little said.

    Asked whether the Air Force intends to take disciplinary action against anyone for the inspection failure, Kowalski said the Air Force is “looking into it.” Overall, the 341st wing “did well,” he said, earning ratings of excellent or outstanding in the majority of the 13 areas in which it was graded by inspectors. Those areas include management, administration, safety, security, emergency exercises, worker reliability and other facets of a mission that relies on teams of officers and enlisted personnel.

    ICBM wings undergo two types of inspections. The one at Malmstrom was a “surety” inspection, which the Pentagon defines as “nuclear weapon system safety, security and control.” The point is to ensure that no nuclear weapon is accidentally, inadvertently or deliberately armed or launched without presidential authority.

    It’s worth noting that the House of Representatives passed a law last year that would address the longstanding security concerns at the various US nuclear laboratories as part of the House Defense Authorization Bill for 2013. It seems to focus on deregulation and reducing oversight as the answer:

    The Project on Governemt Oversight (POGO) Blog
    Apr 27, 2012
    House Subcom Proposes Dramatic Shift Toward Self-Regulation of Contractors Managing Nuclear Weapons Complex

    Yesterday, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces reported legislation that would seriously undermine health, safety, and financial accountability of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) nuclear weapons program. Managed within DOE by the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the nuclear weapons complex operates sprawling laboratories and production facilities in New Mexico, Nevada, California, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina. At more than $8 billion this year, nuclear weapons activities command about 30 percent of the agency’s annual budget.

    At the heart of the sweeping changes in this legislation, the House Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2013, are several requirements, including:

    * A shift to “performance-based” oversight, which would eliminate health, safety, and financial standards that impose fines and penalties for violations. The subcommittee cites the success of this model in the private sector, but avoids the facts that, unlike the private sector, nuclear weapons facilities are ultra-hazardous, have very large radioactive waste legacies, excess cancer and beryllium disease among its employees, a long history of safety problems, and contractor mismanagement enabled by self regulation. For more than 20 years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has listed DOE’s nuclear weapons program on its “high risk” list of programs most vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse.

    * Establishment of a “National Security Administration Council” made up of weapons contractors to look over the shoulder of the DOE and NNSA and then make recommendations regarding “scientific and technical issues related to policy matters and on operational concerns, strategic planning and development of priorities.” The council will have the authority to require the Secretary of Energy to respond to its recommendations within 60 days. This gives contractors, especially from the weapons labs, an unprecedented oversight role of an inherently government function.

    * Weakening the authority of the Secretary of Energy to oversee the weapons laboratories. The Subcommittee restricts the authority of the Energy Secretary by requiring congressional approval of any disapproval of policies, actions regulations, or rules issued by the NNSA. To justify this, the Subcommittee cites a 2009 study paid for by the weapons labs advocating the creation of an independent nuclear weapons agency free from the DOE, and overseen by contractors.

    * Weakening the DOE Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. The Board was established in 1988 because of several serious lapses in safety at DOE nuclear sites. However, under the proposed legislation, it would effectively be required to negotiate its safety recommendations for a period of 45 days with the DOE prior to making a recommendation—a process that would compromise the Board’s independence and undermine safety. Furthermore, the legislation would require the Secretary of Energy to wait for 15 days before bringing a finding of “imminent or severe threat to public health and safety” to the attention of the President.

    * Elimination of DOE’s internal health, safety, and security oversight functions. The Subcommittee wants to transfer oversight to the NNSA, which would eliminate the role of the DOE’s Office of Health Safety and Security, which reports directly to the Secretary and is responsible for oversight and enforcement of safety and security requirements. Some of DOE’s standards protecting workers are more stringent than OSHA, which the Subcommittee apparently finds to be “most burdensome.” This change would eliminate the DOE’s worker exposure standard for Beryllium, a major source of occupational risk at weapons labs. DOE’s standard is 10 times as protective as federal OSHA’s. In 2010, the DOE fined Livermore National Laboratory $200,000 after the 27 employees showed early signs of health problems after being exposed to beryllium from 7 safety lapses. At the same time, the Subcommittee recommends a significant cut in the NNSA staff –claiming major cost savings.

    A Department of Defense memo recently obtained by POGO provides a devastating critique of the financial mismanagement and lack of scientific rigor of the DOE’s nuclear weapons laboratories. The Subcommittee has ignored this and appears to be taking its signals from these same laboratories that advocate operating in total secrecy and with unfettered self-regulation.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2013, 6:56 pm
  2. Stories about nuclear power plants getting decommissioned early due to massive mechanical failures and safety concerns serve as reminders of the dangers of nuclear power and society’s addiction to unsafe sources of energy. But it turns out there’s an even scarier possibility lurking out there: the nuclear power plant operators might lose money! *gasp*

    The New York Times
    Entergy Announces Closing of Vermont Nuclear Plant
    Published: August 27, 2013

    The Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, one of the oldest nuclear plants in the country and the subject of heated battles over the decades, will close late next year, the company that owns it announced on Tuesday, less than two weeks after winning a protracted legal fight against the State of Vermont to keep it open.

    The company, Entergy, said a long depression in natural gas prices had pushed the wholesale price of electricity so low that it was losing money on the reactor, which is on the Connecticut River in Vernon just north of the Massachusetts border.

    So far this year, owners have announced the retirements of five reactors, with the low price of gas being cited as a factor in all of the cases. Three of the five have substantial mechanical problems.

    But Vermont Yankee and one in Wisconsin, Kewaunee, represent a more ominous trend because they have no major physical needs beyond the typical requirements for continuing capital investments. Vermont Yankee did face some expenses for improvements prompted by the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns in Japan in March 2011, but these do not appear to have been decisive.

    The latest closing would leave the United States with 99 operating reactors, presuming no others shut before the fourth quarter of next year, when Vermont Yankee is to close. Four reactors in Georgia and South Carolina are under construction, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is finishing a fifth in Tennessee. But the industry is in a period of rapid decline.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 27, 2013, 9:03 am
  3. Here’s an article that’s a reminder that attempts to stop a country from developing nuclear weapons are also attempts to stop that country’s avowed enemies from obtaining nukes too:

    BBC Newsnight
    Saudi nuclear weapons ‘on order’ from Pakistan
    6 November 2013 Last updated at 16:57 ET
    Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.

    While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.

    Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.

    Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

    Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions.

    Gary Samore, until March 2013 President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser, has told Newsnight:

    “I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.”

    The story of Saudi Arabia’s project – including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges – goes back decades.

    In the late 1980s they secretly bought dozens of CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China.

    These rockets, considered by many experts too inaccurate for use as conventional weapons, were deployed 20 years ago.

    This summer experts at defence publishers Jane’s reported the completion of a new Saudi CSS-2 base with missile launch rails aligned with Israel and Iran.

    It has also been clear for many years that Saudi Arabia has given generous financial assistance to Pakistan’s defence sector, including, western experts allege, to its missile and nuclear labs.

    Visits by the then Saudi defence minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud to the Pakistani nuclear research centre in 1999 and 2002 underlined the closeness of the defence relationship.

    In its quest for a strategic deterrent against India, Pakistan co-operated closely with China which sold them missiles and provided the design for a nuclear warhead.

    The Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was accused by western intelligence agencies of selling atomic know-how and uranium enrichment centrifuges to Libya and North Korea.

    AQ Khan is also believed to have passed the Chinese nuclear weapon design to those countries. This blueprint was for a device engineered to fit on the CSS-2 missile, i.e the same type sold to Saudi Arabia.

    Because of this circumstantial evidence, allegations of a Saudi-Pakistani nuclear deal started to circulate even in the 1990s, but were denied by Saudi officials.

    They noted that their country had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and called for a nuclear-free Middle East, pointing to Israel’s possession of such weapons.

    The fact that handing over atom bombs to a foreign government could create huge political difficulties for Pakistan, not least with the World Bank and other donors, added to scepticism about those early claims.

    In Eating the Grass, his semi-official history of the Pakistani nuclear program, Major General Feroz Hassan Khan wrote that Prince Sultan’s visits to Pakistan’s atomic labs were not proof of an agreement between the two countries. But he acknowledged, “Saudi Arabia provided generous financial support to Pakistan that enabled the nuclear program to continue.”

    Whatever understandings did or did not exist between the two countries in the 1990s, it was around 2003 that the kingdom started serious strategic thinking about its changing security environment and the prospect of nuclear proliferation.

    A paper leaked that year by senior Saudi officials mapped out three possible responses – to acquire their own nuclear weapons, to enter into an arrangement with another nuclear power to protect the kingdom, or to rely on the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

    It was around the same time, following the US invasion of Iraq, that serious strains in the US/Saudi relationship began to show themselves, says Gary Samore.

    The Saudis resented the removal of Saddam Hussein, had long been unhappy about US policy on Israel, and were growing increasingly concerned about the Iranian nuclear program.

    In the years that followed, diplomatic chatter about Saudi-Pakistani nuclear cooperation began to increase.

    In 2007, the US mission in Riyadh noted they were being asked questions by Pakistani diplomats about US knowledge of “Saudi-Pakistani nuclear cooperation”.

    The unnamed Pakistanis opined that “it is logical for the Saudis to step in as the physical ‘protector'” of the Arab world by seeking nuclear weapons, according to one of the State Department cables posted by Wikileaks.

    By the end of that decade Saudi princes and officials were giving explicit warnings of their intention to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran did.

    Having warned the Americans in private for years, last year Saudi officials in Riyadh escalated it to a public warning, telling a journalist from the Times “it would be completely unacceptable to have Iran with a nuclear capability and not the kingdom”.

    But were these statements bluster, aimed at forcing a stronger US line on Iran, or were they evidence of a deliberate, long-term plan for a Saudi bomb? Both, is the answer I have received from former key officials.

    One senior Pakistani, speaking on background terms, confirmed the broad nature of the deal – probably unwritten – his country had reached with the kingdom and asked rhetorically “what did we think the Saudis were giving us all that money for? It wasn’t charity.”

    Another, a one-time intelligence officer from the same country, said he believed “the Pakistanis certainly maintain a certain number of warheads on the basis that if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time they would immediately be transferred.”

    As for the seriousness of the Saudi threat to make good on the deal, Simon Henderson, Director of the Global Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told BBC Newsnight “the Saudis speak about Iran and nuclear matters very seriously. They don’t bluff on this issue.”

    Talking to many serving and former officials about this over the past few months, the only real debate I have found is about how exactly the Saudi Arabians would redeem the bargain with Pakistan.

    Some think it is a cash-and-carry deal for warheads, the first of those options sketched out by the Saudis back in 2003; others that it is the second, an arrangement under which Pakistani nuclear forces could be deployed in the kingdom.

    Others I have spoken to think this is not credible, since Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as the leader of the broader Sunni Islamic ‘ummah’ or community, would want complete control of its nuclear deterrent, particularly at this time of worsening sectarian confrontation with Shia Iran.

    And it is Israeli information – that Saudi Arabia is now ready to take delivery of finished warheads for its long-range missiles – that informs some recent US and Nato intelligence reporting. Israel of course shares Saudi Arabia’s motive in wanting to worry the US into containing Iran.

    Amos Yadlin declined to be interviewed for our BBC Newsnight report, but told me by email that “unlike other potential regional threats, the Saudi one is very credible and imminent.”

    Even if this view is accurate there are many good reasons for Saudi Arabia to leave its nuclear warheads in Pakistan for the time being.

    Doing so allows the kingdom to deny there are any on its soil. It avoids challenging Iran to cross the nuclear threshold in response, and it insulates Pakistan from the international opprobrium of being seen to operate an atomic cash-and-carry.

    These assumptions though may not be safe for much longer. The US diplomatic thaw with Iran has touched deep insecurities in Riyadh, which fears that any deal to constrain the Islamic republic’s nuclear program would be ineffective.

    Earlier this month the Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar announced that the kingdom would be distancing itself more from the US.

    While investigating this, I have heard rumours on the diplomatic grapevine, that Pakistan has recently actually delivered Shaheen mobile ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, minus warheads.

    These reports, still unconfirmed, would suggest an ability to deploy nuclear weapons in the kingdom, and mount them on an effective, modern, missile system more quickly than some analysts had previously imagined.

    In Egypt, Saudi Arabia showed itself ready to step in with large-scale backing following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi’s government.

    There is a message here for Pakistan, of Riyadh being ready to replace US military assistance or World Bank loans, if standing with Saudi Arabia causes a country to lose them.

    Newsnight contacted both the Pakistani and Saudi governments. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry has described our story as “speculative, mischievous and baseless”.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 7, 2013, 9:29 pm
  4. No one ever said riding the blowback would be easy. Or ethical:

    The Independent

    Sunday 13 July 2014
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade

    Patrick Cockburn

    How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

    The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

    In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

    There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

    He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

    Dearlove’s explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6’s view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove’s speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that “is essentially Muslim on Muslim”. Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

    The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

    Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

    Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

    The difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.

    But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

    He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ‘9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.'” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

    Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa’ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

    The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa’ida and its clones have failed.

    By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 13, 2014, 8:18 pm
  5. Hey, so if anyone knows of something humanity could use as a “you really don’t want to F@#k with us!”-deterrent that doesn’t threaten life on Earth, please forward your ideas to the Pentagon:

    Defense One
    Defense: We Can’t Afford to Replace Aging ICBMs, Bombers, Subs
    By Marcus Weisgerber
    April 15, 2015

    The Defense Department cannot afford to replace its aging nuclear-missile submarines, ICBMs, and long-range strategic bombers unless it gets a funding boost or radical policy changes are made, according to a top Pentagon official.

    Even if Congress approves the White House’s 2016 budget for the Pentagon, the Pentagon will find itself $10 billion to $12 short beginning in 2021, Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said Tuesday at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space conference.

    “We don’t have a solution to that problem right now,” Kendall said, asked by a reporter about the plan for funding a replacement for the Navy’s Ohio-class submarines. All more than 30 years old, these “boomers” slip silently around the world’s oceans, waiting for the command to launch their nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

    The entire U.S. nuclear inventory needs to be upgraded by the 2030s, Pentagon officials say. That includes the submarines, land-based Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and new stealth bomber. Together, the three make up the “nuclear triad,” the cornerstone of America’s deterrent force. The Pentagon also says it needs a new nuclear cruise missile.

    Right now, more money toward the end of this decade appears to be the only way to fix the problem, Kendall said.

    The Air Force intends in coming months to pick a builder for its new bomber, of which it plans to buy 80 to 100 for a planned $550 million apiece. However, the aircraft is not expected to carry nuclear weapons when it is declared battle-ready sometime in the next decade.

    Cost estimates for the Navy’s new Ohio-Class replacement submarine range from $5.5 billion to $8 billion each. The Navy plans to buy 12 new subs.

    When the new ICBMs and new cruise missiles are included, the total price tag for the nuclear arms upgrade ranges from hundreds of millions to $1 trillion over the next two decades.

    That leaves the Pentagon with an affordability problem that could force policy changes.

    “There are radical policy changes you can talk about, like changing the nature of the triad, that would help significantly,” Kendall said.

    While academics and military strategists often debate removing one of the legs to the triad, the Pentagon has stuck with the three in all of its strategy reviews in recent years.

    Ideas? Something to replace nukes as an overwhelmingly scary deterrent? Anyone?

    Hmmmmm…does anyone happen to have a tribble lying around? That might be a nice non-violent yet effective deterrent to violent conflict. Well, hopefully.

    And if the tribble deterrent doesn’t pan out there are still alternatives.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 27, 2015, 7:00 pm
  6. The War Nerd has a new piece on the growing Saudi involvement in the civil war in Yemen that highlights a recent event that raises some interesting questions related to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East: The Saudis had apparently been hoping the Pakistanis would provide the ground troops for an operation in Yemen. And the Pakistani parliament had a response. No:

    Pando Daily
    The War Nerd: Bentleys for Houthis!

    By Gary Brecher
    On April 27, 2015

    The Saudis are finally getting some bang out of all the bucks they’ve spent on weapons over the past 50 years, with Saudi planes bombing Yemen for more than a month now.

    There was a short, very short, break in late April, when the campaign was supposed to shift gears to a more “political” phase, but that lasted, oh, a few hours. Literally a few hours. The break was announced on April 21, and on April 22, the inevitable headline appeared: “Saudi-led Coalition Resumes Air Strikes.”

    The instant dissolve of the ceasefire shouldn’t have surprised anybody. The half-life of a Yemeni ceasefire is as short as those elements born in a particle accelerator. This is a typical 21st-century war, slow, small, chronic. Casualties have been fairly low, compared to the mass slaughters of the previous two centuries, with about a thousand people officially killed, a few thousand more officially wounded. Unofficial dead and wounded would probably double that number, but even so, this is not Stalingrad or Gettysburg. This is a Saudi Air Force attempt to do surgical strikes.

    The real Saudi elite is much less wacky, much less hick-ish, and much grimmer than their goofy rep. They may splash out for the occasional stunt like this Bombs-for-Bentleys deal (though I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were a Saudi pilot), but most of the time, the Saudis spend money on military gear in a strange but rational manner.

    And in the context of Saudi military spending, a crummy little Bentley, average price around $225,000 brand new, is nothing at all.

    The Kingdom is one of the biggest defense spenders in the world, tossing out more than $80 billion per year on weaponry. When you break down military spending per capita, Saudi is easily the biggest spender of all.

    The only countries spending more on military procurement are the US, China, and (maybe) Russia. When you consider that there are only 30 million Saudis, compared to 310 million American, 1.3 billion Chinese, and 146 million Russian citizens, the Saudi defense budget stands out as ridiculously huge. One out of every seven dollars spent on imported weaponry comes from the Saudi treasury.

    Of course Saudi citizens don’t feel the pinch of these huge expenses. Taxes in Saudi Arabia are zero-point-zero. That’s the deal the Saud family made with its people: “No taxation for no representation.” The money to buy all this fancy tech is siphoned right out of the oil that is the personal property of the Saud family, who are the official owners—not just rulers, but owners—of the country.

    And the Saud family has been spending this kind of absurd amount on weapons for decades, with no real thought of ever using them. In fact, the Saudis usually had to rely on foreign tech assistance from the US or Pakistan to field their new buys, like the AWACS.

    The one time the Kingdom faced what our hysterical Israeli buddies like to call “an existential threat”—when Saddam Hussein swarmed Kuwait, the Saudis’ little cousin-statelet, in August 1991—they barely even pretended to handle the threat with their own military, going direct for the “Call the Americans” strategy (to the annoyance of a tall skinny dude named bin Laden, with subsequent repercussions here’n’there. But then, bin Laden was Yemeni, a feistier type than yer true Saudi).

    The Saudis spread their cash around the world, with a giant slice landing in the vicinity of Washington D.C., but plenty left over to scatter over the official precincts of Paris, London, and Islamabad. In fact, the Pakistani Army and its ultra-sleaze core, the ISI, has been one of the biggest cash dumps for Saudi over the last few decades. The Saudis thought they were buying Pakistan’s promise to supply cannon fodder in the event of a nasty war like the one going on in Yemen. After all, the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was a guest of the Kingdom for years after being deposed.

    But Pakistan did something that shocked and outraged the Sauds. On April 7, the Pakistani Parliament voted unanimously not to send any troops to Yemen.

    You can imagine the outrage in Riyadh. All the money they spent on those legislators, and the ingrates had the sheer gall to refuse to send cannon fodder on request!

    It was democracy in action, or at least one of the ways you can use the appearance of democracy to avoid doing something you didn’t want to do in the first place. Nobody in Pakistan is dumb enough to send ground troops to fight the Yemeni Shia on their home turf, but a lot of people way up in Pakistan’s real elite, from the PM on down, owed the Saudis a favor. How do you get out of an awkward request from somebody whose bribes put your kids through private school?

    The answer is beautifully simple: Blame democracy! If Pakistan were still an outright military dictatorship, the ISI/Army wouldn’t have any excuse for wimping out on the Saudis’ request, but now that there’s a parliament, you can pass the word to the MPs, warn them that ground troops to Yemen has always been a very bad idea (just ask the Ottomans) and blame your wimp-out on that pesky Western virus, representative democracy.

    If Nawaz Sharif had actually wanted to send troops, he could have done it without even asking Parliament:

    Under Pakistan’s constitution, the resolution is nonbinding, because the prime minister has complete authority over the country’s armed forces. But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said this week that he planned to leave the matter to Parliament.

    But much, much better to pull the ol’ “What can I do? My hands are tied!” routine.

    It was a beautiful moment in the history of double-crosses, and it couldn’t happen to a more fitting sucker than the Saudis, who’ve always had a horror of democracy in any form. When their Pakistani officer liaisons shrugged and said, “It’s those damn MPs!” the Saud princes must have nodded grimly. They always knew no good could come of this human-rights crap.

    I can imagine the laughter in the Pakistan parliament after this magnificent farce was over. One thing that distinguishes South Asian Muslims from the Peninsula Arabs is that people from the Subcontinent love to crack each other up. The Saudis tend to worry about their dignity way too much to laugh. It used to kill the Pakistanis in Saudi, the deadly earnestness of the Saudis. As one of them used to say, “These people must have iron in their necks!” Rodney Dangerfield’s original tough crowd. So, if you can’t make ’em laugh, make ’em a laughingstock. And Pakistan did it beautifully.

    Of course, there had to be a face-saving concession from the Prime Minister, who owes his career to Riyadh. So Sharif went to Saudi and promised that in the event that the Houthi swarm north, into Saudi proper, then hey, man, Pakistani troops would be there to help.

    That scenario isn’t entirely far-fetched. All the hype about Iran, and a proxy war between Iran and Saudi, is, as one sane commentator pointed out, “nonsense.”

    This is an entirely Arabian problem; Iran doesn’t need to do a thing but watch and eat pistachios (from Fresno, probably).

    Part of what makes the refusal of Pakistani to act as the Saudis ground force so interesting is that, as the article points out, the Saudi and Pakistani militaries have deep, long-standing ties to each other. So deep that it’s generally assumed that the Pakistan would basically give the Saudis some nukes in the event of a major conflict.
    At least that was the widely held assumption. And, until now, there was no compelling reason to doubt that assumption.

    But given Pakistan’s refusal to act as the Saudis’ foot soldiers, you have to wonder how willing the Saudis are going to continue relying on Pakistanis as as reliable nuclear vending machine. Now, presumably the Saudis wouldn’t go ahead and actually develop a nuclear weapons program of their own, although given the deep involvement in Pakistan’s program the technical capability is probably there. But with the Saudis aleady threatening to go nuclear if Tehran ever does the same, it will be interesting to see if Pakistan remains as Saudi Arabia’s nuclear weapons storage depot going forward or if the Saudis decide to take things (nukes) into their own hands.

    Will a government that’s absolutely terrified of its own populace rising up someday decide to in-house its nukes program if it starts losing faith in its current nuclear buddy? That can’t be an easy decision.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 29, 2015, 1:33 pm
  7. Here’s one of those headlines that would be reserved for bad dystopian fiction if our world wasn’t already so badly dystopian:

    USA Today

    U.N. blacklists Saudi Arabia for killing kids in Yemen, then reverses decision

    Timothy McGrath, GlobalPost 6:30 a.m. EDT June 8, 2016

    It’s no surprise Saudi Arabia was upset when it found its U.S.-backed military coalition in Yemen on the latest United Nations blacklist, released on June 2, of states and armed groups that committed “grave violations” against children in the course of armed conflict from January to December 2015.

    The Saudis didn’t have to be upset for long, though.

    After public criticism by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.N. — and, presumably, a healthy dose of closed-door diplomatic pressure — a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Monday afternoon that the Saudi coalition would be removed from the list, pending a review.

    Now, the U.N. flip-flop is giving human rights groups whiplash, drawing accusations of political manipulation at the U.N. and raising new questions about whether the international community is giving Saudi Arabia and its allies a pass when it comes to the coalition’s devastating intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

    The U.N.’s annual blacklist includes parties that “recruit or use children, kill or maim children, commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, or engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals, or abduct children in situations of armed conflict on the agenda of the Security Council.”

    Landing on that list puts you in some pretty rough company. This year’s includes non-state actors like the Islamic State, al-Shabab and the Taliban, as well as government forces in Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Saudi Arabia found itself listed among that crew because of its role in Yemen’s multisided civil war, where the kingdom is battling forces loyal to former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi rebels aligned with Saudi’s main regional rival, Iran.

    With military and intelligence support from the United States, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have been obliterating Yemen since March 2015. The U.N. report published with the blacklist found that those airstrikes were responsible for 60% of children killed (785) and injured 1,168 during the conflict in 2015. The report also called out the Saudi coalition for attacks on schools and health facilities, and for preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid.

    Saudi Arabia forcefully rejected the UN’s characterization of its military campaign. Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi called the accusations “wildly exaggerated” and the Saudi Press Agency defended the coalition’s Yemen operations in a statement.

    “Everyone is witnessing that [the coalition] has been carrying out a noble task towards the Yemeni people,” the statement read. “And fighting the insurgents and terrorists, as well as supporting and providing relief for Yemeni people, especially their children.”

    When the UN announced it would remove the Saudi coalition from its blacklist pending review, Mouallimi said he considered the decision “irreversible and unconditional.”

    Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for global advocacy, called the U.N. decision a “shocking flip flop” rooted in “naked politicization.”

    “The U.N. Secretary General’s office has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia’s brazen pressure,” Bolopion said. “Yemen’s children deserve better. The U.N. itself has extensively documented the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen that have cause hundreds of children’s deaths.”

    Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, called it a “a moral failure and goes against everything the UN is meant to stand for.”

    Amnesty International called it “blatant pandering” and warned that the UN was in danger of becoming “part of the problem rather than the solution.”

    The U.N.’s reversal follows its controversial decision in September to cancel an investigation into human rights abuses in the Yemen conflict — a decision that followed soon after Saudi Arabia was chosen to head a key U.N. human rights panel.

    “The U.N.’s reversal follows its controversial decision in September to cancel an investigation into human rights abuses in the Yemen conflict — a decision that followed soon after Saudi Arabia was chosen to head a key U.N. human rights panel.
    It would be nice if this was surprising. And unfortunately the global community will have plenty more chances to help make up for this to children of Yemen. Why unfortunately? Because don’t forget that Yemen is scheduled to basically run out of water in a few years, so even if the war in Yemen was miraculously ended peacefully tomorrow, the Yemeni people are still scheduled to watch their economy and environment jointly collapse from thirst over the next couple of decades. So those Yemeni kids that survive today’s civil war are going to be the Yemeni adults dying from hunger and thirst a decade from now and for the foreseeable future.

    Will the world care when it’s not war but an endless drought killing Yemenis? Probably not, but the opportunity to care will certainly be there. Increasingly and indefinitely.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 13, 2016, 5:28 pm

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