Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

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

Record­ed August 28, 2005
REALAUDIO

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.”

(Idem.)

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.’”

(Idem.)

4.

“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.”

(Idem.)

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.”

(Idem.)

7.

“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.’”

(Idem.)

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.)

11.

“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.)

14.

“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.”

(Idem.)

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.”

(Idem.)

16.

“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.)

18.

“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.”

(Idem.)

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.)

22.

“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.)

23.

“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.”

(Idem.)

24.

“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.”

(Idem.)

25.

“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.)

26.

“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.”

(Idem.)

27.

“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.”

(Idem.)

28.

“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.”

(Idem.)

31.

“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.)

Discussion

9 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
    By PETER STOCKTON and ROBERT ALVAREZ

    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
    By MATTHEW L. WALD
    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
  8. It looks like the Dooms­day Clock, which was recent­ly set at “two min­utes to mid­night” for 2019 based on the twin mega-threats of cli­mate change and nuclear war, is trag­i­cal­ly run­ning right on time: mil­i­tary ten­sions have flared up between India and Pak­istan fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist attack on Indi­an secu­ri­ty forces in Kash­mir. India pledged to retal­i­ate and, sure enough, both Indi­an and Pak­istan to have shot each oth­er’s jets down fol­low­ing a series of retal­ia­to­ry strikes from both sides. So now two of the world’s nuclear pow­ers are run­ning bomb­ing raids against each oth­er.

    With that chill­ing unfold­ing sit­u­a­tion, it’s worth not­ing one of the poten­tial region­al repurrcus­sions this con­flict could have: Pak­istan is arguably mov­ing clos­er to becom­ing a client state of both Sau­di Ara­bia and Chi­na. And as a result of becom­ing a Sau­di client state, Pak­istan is get­ting much clos­er to adopt­ing the Sau­di anti-Iran­ian line that it has long been resist­ing (Pak­istan has a large Shia pop­u­la­tion). So while war between India and Pak­istan should clear­ly be a top con­cern at this point, it’s pos­si­ble that the ten­sions with India is also mak­ing a region­al Sun­ni-Shia con­flict more like­ly too:

    Haaretz

    Opinion// Pak­istan Just Became Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s Client State, and Turned Its Back on Tehran

    Mohammed bin Salman got a syco­phan­tic wel­come in Islam­abad this week, as Sau­di Ara­bia threw Pak­istan an eco­nom­ic life­line. But that aid came at a steep price: Pak­istan has now for­mal­ly joined the Sun­ni Mus­lim axis against Iran

    Kun­war Khul­dune Shahid
    Feb 24, 2019 10:27 AM

    Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have got the cold shoul­der from protest­ing crowds in Tunisia and been pub­licly side­lined at the G20 con­fer­ence last Novem­ber, but he was treat­ed to a hero’s wel­come in Pak­istan this week.

    It was more of a savior’s wel­come, bear­ing in mind the finan­cial life­line he threw to Prime Min­is­ter Imran Khan. And that aid was part of a sig­nif­i­cant bar­gain struck between Islam­abad and Riyadh.

    Khan has acqui­esced to MBS’ point­ed demand: to join the Sun­ni Mus­lim axis against Iran. That for­mal­iza­tion of an anti-Tehran alliance that Pak­istan has pre­vi­ous­ly hes­i­tat­ed to endorse will have rip­ple effects both with­in Pak­istan, and across the region.

    The first leg of Sau­di Crown Prince Moham­mad bin Salman’s Asia tour saw him strike $20 bil­lion worth of deals in Pak­istan. The financ­ing comes as much need­ed relief for Islam­abad, which is look­ing to dodge a thir­teenth Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund bailout amid a bal­ance of pay­ment cri­sis that is crip­pling the econ­o­my.

    Dur­ing the two day trip that cul­mi­nat­ed on Mon­day, MBS fur­ther pro­vid­ed diplo­mat­ic sup­port to Islam­abad at a tense peri­od of rela­tions with India due to last week’s bomb­ing in Indi­an-admin­is­tered Kash­mir, which killed over 40 Indi­an secu­ri­ty offi­cials.

    Just as India threat­ens war in retal­i­a­tion, assur­ances Pak­istan received from both Sau­di Ara­bia and Chi­na bol­stered its deci­sion that there was no need to go after Jaish-e-Moham­mad, the ter­ror group that took respon­si­bil­i­ty, and whose lead­er­ship is still liv­ing open­ly inside Pak­istan.

    Where Chi­na has reit­er­at­ed it has no plans to recon­sid­er its veto on the move to des­ig­nate JeM Chief Masood Azhar a ter­ror­ist by the Unit­ed Nations, Sau­di Arabia’s joint state­ment with Pak­istan fol­low­ing MBS’s vis­it high­light­ed the need to “avoid politi­ciza­tion of the UN list­ing regime.”

    MBS’s finan­cial and diplo­mat­ic sup­port comes in exchange for Pakistan’s increased involve­ment in the so-called Islam­ic Counter Ter­ror­ism Mil­i­tary Coali­tion (IMCTC). Islam­abad was informed about its new role by for­mer Army Chief Gen­er­al (retired) Raheel Sharif – who now com­mands the IMCTC – in the lead up to the MBS vis­it.

    The IMCTC was formed in Decem­ber 2015, nine months into Sau­di mil­i­tary cam­paign in Yemen. At the time Riyadh was plan­ning the exe­cu­tion of influ­en­tial Shia cler­ic Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, which brought Sau­di Ara­bia and Iran to a stand­off, lead­ing to a sev­er­ing of diplo­mat­ic ties.

    It also coin­cid­ed with the peak of the Islam­ic State (ISIS)’s pow­ers in Iraq and Syr­ia, con­fi­dent enough even to launch attacks in Sau­di Ara­bia. That syn­chronic­i­ty gave the IMCTC cov­er as a mil­i­tary alliance designed to counter ISIS, dis­guis­ing its counter-Iran aims, with the obvi­ous feel-good fac­tor of an unprece­dent­ed for­ma­tion of Mus­lim states unit­ing to fight a group orches­trat­ing Islamist ter­ror­ism across the world.

    Three years lat­er, how­ev­er, ISIS has been large­ly elim­i­nat­ed in the Mid­dle East, even before the IMCTC could become oper­a­tional. And so the coali­tion, with a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Sun­ni mem­ber­ship mak­ing it a mere exten­sion of the “Arab NATO,” needs a new cov­er for its actu­al goals of coun­ter­ing Iran­ian influ­ence in the region.

    The win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty is nar­row: Sau­di Ara­bia must exploit the remain­ing life­time of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and its staunch anti-Iran pos­ture, embod­ied by the U.S. pull­out from the Iran nuclear deal, and the eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits of US-backed sanc­tions on Iran­ian oil.

    Gen Raheel Sharif, Mil­i­tary Com­man­der of the #IMCTC called on HE Imran Khan, Prime Min­is­ter of the Islam­ic Repub­lic of #Pak­istan at the PM’s Sec­re­tari­at, Islam­abad. Salient con­tours of IMCTC’s domains and ini­tia­tives in the fight against #ter­ror­ism were dis­cussed.@ImranKhanPTI pic.twitter.com/sFMirzhFjA— IMCTC (@imctc_en) Feb­ru­ary 13, 2019

    Pak­istan holds a key posi­tion in the Sau­di plan. Not only is Pakistan’s mil­i­tary exper­tise crit­i­cal for the sus­te­nance of IMCTC, its loca­tion as Iran’s neigh­bor has geostrate­gic sig­nif­i­cance.

    Where Sau­di Arabia’s $10 bil­lion oil refin­ery in the port city of Gwadar will pro­vide the finance and ener­gy life­line to Pak­istan, its loca­tion in Balochis­tan, bor­der­ing Iran, sparks obvi­ous mil­i­tary appre­hen­sions in Tehran.

    To make Pak­istan an inte­gral part of its case against Tehran, MBS is also look­ing to paint as a poten­tial vic­tim of “Iran­ian ter­ror­ism.” This was evi­dent is Sau­di State Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir call­ing Iran the “world’s chief spon­sor of ter­ror­ism” sit­ting next to the Pak­istani For­eign Min­is­ter Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islam­abad on Mon­day.

    That explic­it­ly anti-Iran rhetoric is being voiced in Pak­istan in the pres­ence of the most senior Pak­istani min­is­ters and with their tac­it sanc­tion under­lines that Islam­abad has now for­mal­ly aligned itself against Tehran.

    Prac­ti­cal­ly, how­ev­er, this has been the case since Pak­istan decid­ed to join the IMCTC in 2016, and gave the green light for its for­mer army chief to com­mand it.

    Tehran has already react­ed to the new­ly hos­tile tone. On Sat­ur­day, Tehran said Islam­abad would “pay a high price” for last week’s attack on its Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards alleg­ing that Pak­istan pro­vides safe havens to Jaish-al-Adl, the group which has reg­u­lar­ly orches­trat­ed attacks in Iran. Tehran has threat­ened retal­ia­to­ry action in the past for what it con­sid­ers delib­er­ate­ly lax bor­der secu­ri­ty.

    Just as Islam­abad gave MBS an anti-Iran podi­um, Tehran is echo­ing claims often made by India: that Pak­istan pro­vides a safe haven for to jihadists and fails to take action against mil­i­tants cross­ing the bor­der to launch attacks on neigh­bor­ing ter­ri­to­ries. That iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with its arch-ene­my nat­u­ral­ly makes Pakistan’s align­ment against Iran eas­i­er.

    Pop­u­lar opin­ion in Pak­istan has not been over­ly enthu­si­as­tic to sign­ing up the Sau­di side in its Mid­dle East con­flicts. Three years ago, the Nation­al Assem­bly even adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion against the country’s mil­i­tary involve­ment in Yemen.

    The fact that Pak­istan is home to the sec­ond largest Shia pop­u­la­tion in the world has also been a con­cern for its rulers every time they’ve been asked to become par­ty to Sau­di for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties.

    There are more ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the rul­ing par­ty, Pak­istan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), which has a sig­nif­i­cant vote bank among the Shia com­mu­ni­ty. The lead­er­ship of its main rival, the Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Nawaz (PML‑N) are wide­ly con­sid­ered to be Sau­di shills, since Riyadh pro­vid­ed for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif refuge in the after­math of the 1999 mil­i­tary coup.

    But the tide is turn­ing. None of this dis­com­fort was vis­i­ble in the almost hagio­graph­ic cov­er­age of MBS’s Pak­istan trip, with the local media churn­ing out pan­e­gyric sup­ple­ments ded­i­cat­ed to the Sau­di Crown Prince. Even the oppo­si­tion lead­er­ship whole­heart­ed­ly wel­comed MBS; there was a scram­ble to take cred­it for the deals signed with Sau­di Ara­bia.

    And unlike in Tunisia or the G20, nei­ther the glob­al out­rage over the killing of jour­nal­ist Jamal Khashog­gi nor Sau­di war crimes in Yemen were even whis­pered as con­cerns.

    That’s less sur­pris­ing. Giv­en the country’s own dis­re­gard for them, there usu­al­ly isn’t much out­rage in Pak­istan over human rights vio­la­tions – unless Mus­lims are at the receiv­ing end from a non-Mus­lim regime. Of course, there’s an excep­tion for super­pow­er allies: Pak­istan has not com­ment­ed on China’s per­se­cu­tion of Uighur Mus­lims in the Xin­jiang region bor­der­ing Pak­istan.

    Indeed, Islam­abad might be enter­ing a pro­longed era of enforced silence on the human rights abus­es exer­cised by Chi­na and Sau­di Ara­bia, with the two coun­tries look­ing set to pro­tect their invest­ments in Pak­istan by pro­vid­ing diplo­mat­ic sup­port on the inter­na­tion­al stage.

    On the Sau­di side, that back up won’t be entire­ly water­tight. While Chi­na already con­sid­ers India a major rival, Sau­di Ara­bia won’t feel any com­pul­sion to com­pro­mise its grow­ing trade rela­tions with India for the sake of paci­fy­ing Pak­istan, and might even issue vague state­ments against cross-bor­der ter­ror­ism for New Delhi’s con­sump­tion.

    Pak­istan is clear­ly relin­quish­ing not incon­sid­er­able con­trol over its for­eign pol­i­cy and mil­i­tary resources, and reaf­firm­ing its dimin­ished sta­tus as a client state of both super­pow­ers. But Imran Khan’s gov­ern­ment clear­ly assess­es that’s a small price to pay for eco­nom­ic sal­va­tion and the gift of sol­id cov­er to con­tin­ue to nour­ish jihadists as key geostrate­gic assets.

    ...

    ————

    “Opinion// Pak­istan Just Became Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s Client State, and Turned Its Back on Tehran” by Kun­war Khul­dune Shahid; Haaretz; 02/24/2019

    Pak­istan is clear­ly relin­quish­ing not incon­sid­er­able con­trol over its for­eign pol­i­cy and mil­i­tary resources, and reaf­firm­ing its dimin­ished sta­tus as a client state of both super­pow­ers. But Imran Khan’s gov­ern­ment clear­ly assess­es that’s a small price to pay for eco­nom­ic sal­va­tion and the gift of sol­id cov­er to con­tin­ue to nour­ish jihadists as key geostrate­gic assets.”

    It’s a com­mon bar­gain between nation states: the wealth­i­er state makes a bunch of invest­ments and the poor­er state implic­it­ly relin­quish­es some con­trol of its for­eign pol­i­cy. And Pak­istan appears to be in the process of mak­ing that kind of bar­gain with both the Saud­is and Chi­na. And as a con­se­quence, it appears that Pak­istan is join­ing the Sun­ni axis against Iran, some­thing it pre­vi­ous­ly hes­i­tat­ed in part due to the fact that Pak­istan has the world’s sec­ond largest Shia pop­u­la­tion:

    ...
    Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have got the cold shoul­der from protest­ing crowds in Tunisia and been pub­licly side­lined at the G20 con­fer­ence last Novem­ber, but he was treat­ed to a hero’s wel­come in Pak­istan this week.

    It was more of a savior’s wel­come, bear­ing in mind the finan­cial life­line he threw to Prime Min­is­ter Imran Khan. And that aid was part of a sig­nif­i­cant bar­gain struck between Islam­abad and Riyadh.

    Khan has acqui­esced to MBS’ point­ed demand: to join the Sun­ni Mus­lim axis against Iran. That for­mal­iza­tion of an anti-Tehran alliance that Pak­istan has pre­vi­ous­ly hes­i­tat­ed to endorse will have rip­ple effects both with­in Pak­istan, and across the region.

    ...

    Pop­u­lar opin­ion in Pak­istan has not been over­ly enthu­si­as­tic to sign­ing up the Sau­di side in its Mid­dle East con­flicts. Three years ago, the Nation­al Assem­bly even adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion against the country’s mil­i­tary involve­ment in Yemen.

    The fact that Pak­istan is home to the sec­ond largest Shia pop­u­la­tion in the world has also been a con­cern for its rulers every time they’ve been asked to become par­ty to Sau­di for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties.
    ...

    The tim­ing of Sau­di Crown Prince Moham­mad bin Salman trip to Pak­istan almost could­n’t have been bet­ter in terms of cement­ing these ties: MBS’s two day trip to Pak­istan took place days after the ter­ror attack in Kash­mir, giv­ing MBS a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to show diplo­mat­ic sup­port for Pak­istan in the midst of the cri­sis. Diplo­mat­ic sup­port that fol­lowed $20 bil­lion in deals:

    ...
    The first leg of Sau­di Crown Prince Moham­mad bin Salman’s Asia tour saw him strike $20 bil­lion worth of deals in Pak­istan. The financ­ing comes as much need­ed relief for Islam­abad, which is look­ing to dodge a thir­teenth Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund bailout amid a bal­ance of pay­ment cri­sis that is crip­pling the econ­o­my.

    Dur­ing the two day trip that cul­mi­nat­ed on Mon­day, MBS fur­ther pro­vid­ed diplo­mat­ic sup­port to Islam­abad at a tense peri­od of rela­tions with India due to last week’s bomb­ing in Indi­an-admin­is­tered Kash­mir, which killed over 40 Indi­an secu­ri­ty offi­cials.

    Just as India threat­ens war in retal­i­a­tion, assur­ances Pak­istan received from both Sau­di Ara­bia and Chi­na bol­stered its deci­sion that there was no need to go after Jaish-e-Moham­mad, the ter­ror group that took respon­si­bil­i­ty, and whose lead­er­ship is still liv­ing open­ly inside Pak­istan.
    ...

    Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s for­tu­itous tim­ing has anoth­er dimen­sion: with Don­ald Trump in the White House, the Saud­is have a US admin­is­tra­tion that is very in line with its anti-Tehran stance. So if the Saud­is can some­how man­age to arrange for a con­flict with Iran that involves the Sau­di Islam­ic Counter Ter­ror­ism Mil­i­tary Coali­tion (IMCTC), hav­ing Pak­istan as a mem­ber of that coali­tion pro­vides with mil­i­tary pow­er and very con­ve­nient geog­ra­phy giv­en Pak­istan’s shared bor­der with Iran:

    ...
    Where Chi­na has reit­er­at­ed it has no plans to recon­sid­er its veto on the move to des­ig­nate JeM Chief Masood Azhar a ter­ror­ist by the Unit­ed Nations, Sau­di Arabia’s joint state­ment with Pak­istan fol­low­ing MBS’s vis­it high­light­ed the need to “avoid politi­ciza­tion of the UN list­ing regime.”

    MBS’s finan­cial and diplo­mat­ic sup­port comes in exchange for Pakistan’s increased involve­ment in the so-called Islam­ic Counter Ter­ror­ism Mil­i­tary Coali­tion (IMCTC). Islam­abad was informed about its new role by for­mer Army Chief Gen­er­al (retired) Raheel Sharif – who now com­mands the IMCTC – in the lead up to the MBS vis­it.

    The IMCTC was formed in Decem­ber 2015, nine months into Sau­di mil­i­tary cam­paign in Yemen. At the time Riyadh was plan­ning the exe­cu­tion of influ­en­tial Shia cler­ic Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, which brought Sau­di Ara­bia and Iran to a stand­off, lead­ing to a sev­er­ing of diplo­mat­ic ties.

    It also coin­cid­ed with the peak of the Islam­ic State (ISIS)’s pow­ers in Iraq and Syr­ia, con­fi­dent enough even to launch attacks in Sau­di Ara­bia. That syn­chronic­i­ty gave the IMCTC cov­er as a mil­i­tary alliance designed to counter ISIS, dis­guis­ing its counter-Iran aims, with the obvi­ous feel-good fac­tor of an unprece­dent­ed for­ma­tion of Mus­lim states unit­ing to fight a group orches­trat­ing Islamist ter­ror­ism across the world.

    Three years lat­er, how­ev­er, ISIS has been large­ly elim­i­nat­ed in the Mid­dle East, even before the IMCTC could become oper­a­tional. And so the coali­tion, with a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Sun­ni mem­ber­ship mak­ing it a mere exten­sion of the “Arab NATO,” needs a new cov­er for its actu­al goals of coun­ter­ing Iran­ian influ­ence in the region.

    The win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty is nar­row: Sau­di Ara­bia must exploit the remain­ing life­time of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and its staunch anti-Iran pos­ture, embod­ied by the U.S. pull­out from the Iran nuclear deal, and the eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits of US-backed sanc­tions on Iran­ian oil.

    ...

    Pak­istan holds a key posi­tion in the Sau­di plan. Not only is Pakistan’s mil­i­tary exper­tise crit­i­cal for the sus­te­nance of IMCTC, its loca­tion as Iran’s neigh­bor has geostrate­gic sig­nif­i­cance.

    Where Sau­di Arabia’s $10 bil­lion oil refin­ery in the port city of Gwadar will pro­vide the finance and ener­gy life­line to Pak­istan, its loca­tion in Balochis­tan, bor­der­ing Iran, sparks obvi­ous mil­i­tary appre­hen­sions in Tehran.
    ...

    So it’s going to be grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing to see if Sau­di Ara­bia can suc­cess­ful­ly use Pak­istan’s con­flict with India and finan­cial woes to turn Pak­istan into the kind of client state that will actu­al­ly use its mil­i­tary in a con­flict with Iran. Pak­istan and Sau­di Ara­bia have long had close ties, but they appear to be even clos­er now.

    And that brings us to one of the oth­er chill­ing aspects of this sit­u­a­tion: we’ve already seen how the Saud­is are VERY inter­est­ed in acquir­ing the capac­i­ty to devel­op a nuclear weapon and active­ly try­ing to find a coun­try that will build nuclear plants in the coun­try that leave open the option of nuclear fuel enrich­ment. And it’s long been clear that the Saud­is viewed the Pak­istani nuclear pro­gram as a kind of ‘plan B’ for acquir­ing nuclear weapons (i.e., just get Pak­istan to hand over some nukes). So it seems like a pret­ty safe bet that the trans­fer of nuclear tech­nol­o­gy is one of the top­ics under dis­cus­sion at this point. One of the things about being a client state is that it’s pret­ty hard to say ‘no’. Will that extend to not being able to say ‘no nukes’? We’ll see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 27, 2019, 4:29 pm
  9. With Turkey sig­nal­ing it’s ready to resume its eth­nic cleans­ing of the Kur­dish-held regions of north­east Syr­ia fol­low­ing the brief ‘pause’ in the iron­i­cal­ly-named “Oper­a­tion Peace Spring”, it’s worth not­ing one of the oth­er grand ironies here: there’s one big ambi­tion shared by not only the Kurds and Erdo­gan, but also actors like ISIS and John Bolton. That’s the ambi­tion of redraw­ing the bor­ders cre­at­ed dur­ing WWI via the Sykes-Picot agree­ment. The Kurds under­stand­ably blame the Sykes-Picot agree­ment on leav­ing the Kurds out of hav­ing a home­land and scat­ter­ing them across mul­ti­ple new coun­tries. And as we’ve seen, Erdo­gan also wants to see those bor­der redrawn, albeit def­i­nite­ly not for the ben­e­fit of the Kurds. ISIS used to put out videos called “The End of Sykes Pico”, and even John Bolton called for the cre­ation of a “Sun­ni-stan” in east­ern Syr­ia as a counter to ISIS. It’s one big rea­son Erodogan has for mil­i­tary’s crush­ing the Kur­d’s right now and por­tray­ing them as ter­ror­ists. Because if the bor­ders in the region are to be redrawn, set­ting a Kur­dish home­land is an obvi­ous choice that much of the world could get behind and Erdo­gan’s gov­ern­ment wants to avoid at all costs.

    So giv­en that con­text for the restart of Turkey’s “Oper­a­tion Peace Spring” eth­nic cleans­ing oper­a­tion, here’s a a reminder that this eth­nic cleans­ing oper­a­tion is dra­mat­i­cal­ly fuel­ing those long-held ‘greater Turkey’ ambi­tions:

    The Hill

    How Turkey sees its Syr­ia inva­sion

    By Ilan Berman, opin­ion con­trib­u­tor — 10/21/19 05:00 PM EDT
    The views expressed by con­trib­u­tors are their own and not the view of The Hill

    A new phase of the Syr­i­an civ­il war appears to have been avert­ed — at least for now. On Oct. 17, fol­low­ing an urgent meet­ing with Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan announced a tem­po­rary halt to mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in north­ern Syr­ia that had, up to that point, killed scores of civil­ians and dis­placed some 130,000 oth­ers.

    Yet the cur­rent cease­fire could end up being only a tem­po­rary pause to a broad­er Turk­ish push into Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry. That’s because, behind the scenes, pow­er­ful ide­o­log­i­cal forces are urg­ing Turkey’s gov­ern­ment to press its advan­tage.

    So far, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has styled its inva­sion as a war of neces­si­ty. In In his Octo­ber 15th Wall Street Jour­nal edi­to­r­i­al, Erdo­gan depict­ed the mil­i­tary offen­sive — iron­i­cal­ly dubbed “Oper­a­tion Peace Spring” — as the log­i­cal prod­uct of legit­i­mate Turk­ish secu­ri­ty con­cerns regard­ing lin­ger­ing extrem­ism and insta­bil­i­ty, and the per­sis­tent fail­ure of West­ern lead­er­ship. “The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” Erdo­gan argued, “missed its oppor­tu­ni­ty to pre­vent the Syr­i­an cri­sis from pulling an entire region into a mael­strom of insta­bil­i­ty,” so it should now sup­port the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment in its deci­sion to inter­vene.

    At home, how­ev­er, Erdogan’s sup­port­ers and aligned ide­o­logues have been singing a sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent — and more telling — tune. In assort­ed op-ed columns and media appear­ances, back­ers of the Turk­ish government’s Syr­ia strat­e­gy depict­ed the “green light” giv­en to Erdo­gan by Pres­i­dent Trump as a his­tor­i­cal moment in which their coun­try should seize the ini­tia­tive and impose its vision on the region.

    Per­haps the clear­est exam­ple appeared in the pages of the con­ser­v­a­tive Yeni Safak dai­ly, where colum­nist Ibrahim Karag­ul made the intel­lec­tu­al case for a revival of Turk­ish expan­sion­ism. “A new and force­ful step is going to be tak­en aimed at ‘shap­ing the region and his­to­ry,’” Karag­ul wrote. “Patience has run out, warn­ings are over, prepa­ra­tions are com­plete” for the inva­sion of north­ern Syr­ia, as a result of which “Turkey’s pow­er will kick into gear once again.”

    The mes­sage is unmis­tak­able. If Karag­ul and oth­er like-mind­ed Erdo­gan enthu­si­asts have their way, Turkey’s recent incur­sion into Syr­ia would be just the start of a larg­er, and dis­tinct­ly impe­r­i­al, project.

    That idea is hard­ly new. Turk­ish politi­cians have long pro­pound­ed an out­sized view of their country’s region­al pres­ence — one root­ed in its his­toric great­ness. It did not take long after the col­lapse of the Ottoman Empire for the idea of “greater Turkey” to be revived by Turk­ish nation­al­ists, although its imple­men­ta­tion was ham­pered by the dynam­ics of World War II and sub­se­quent­ly the Cold War. The con­cept received renewed atten­tion, at least tem­porar­i­ly, after the col­lapse of the USSR pro­vid­ed Turkey an oppor­tu­ni­ty for expand­ed influ­ence among the new­ly-inde­pen­dent nations of Cen­tral Asia and the Cau­ca­sus. In turn, this “neo-Ottoman­ism” has con­tin­ued into the Erdo­gan era, with Turkey’s pres­i­dent styling him­self as a new sul­tan and even issu­ing maps that take a decid­ed­ly expan­sive view of the country’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al hold­ings. Today, the strate­gic open­ing in Syr­ia appears have revived that impulse anew.

    For the time being, at least, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment seems con­tent with the cur­rent sta­tus quo, through which it has suc­ceed­ed in cre­at­ing a long-cov­et­ed buffer zone on Syr­i­an soil. But only time will tell whether the arrange­ment holds, or whether Ankara decides to once again press for­ward. Sup­port­ers of a “greater Turkey,” at least, are cer­tain­ly hop­ing it will. In var­i­ous media out­lets, Turk­ish ide­o­logues are now argu­ing that their country’s adven­tur­ism in Syr­ia is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a vital con­tri­bu­tion to Euro­pean secu­ri­ty and a blow to West­ern impe­ri­al­ism. Thus the con­sen­sus for fur­ther mil­i­tary action, if Erdo­gan deems it nec­es­sary, appears to be firm­ly in place.

    ...

    Ilan Berman is senior vice pres­i­dent at the Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­i­cy Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. An expert on region­al secu­ri­ty in the Mid­dle East, he has con­sult­ed for the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and Depart­ment of Defense, and pro­vid­ed assis­tance on for­eign pol­i­cy and nation­al secu­ri­ty issues to a range of gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies and con­gres­sion­al offices.
    ———-

    “How Turkey sees its Syr­ia inva­sion” by Ilan Berman; The Hill; 10/21/2019

    At home, how­ev­er, Erdogan’s sup­port­ers and aligned ide­o­logues have been singing a sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent — and more telling — tune. In assort­ed op-ed columns and media appear­ances, back­ers of the Turk­ish government’s Syr­ia strat­e­gy depict­ed the “green light” giv­en to Erdo­gan by Pres­i­dent Trump as a his­tor­i­cal moment in which their coun­try should seize the ini­tia­tive and impose its vision on the region.”

    Trump did­n’t just give Erdo­gan a “green light” to eth­ni­cal­ly cleanse the Kurds out of north­east­ern Syr­ia. He hand­ed Turkey an oppor­tu­ni­ty to seize the ini­tia­tive and impose its vision on the region. That sure sounds a lot like Erdo­gan’s dreams of effec­tive­ly redraw­ing the bor­ders of the region. Dreams that are mutu­al­ly exclu­sive from the Kurds’ own dreams of redraw­ing the bor­ders of the region. Time will tell if “Oper­a­tion Peace Spring” morphs into “Oper­a­tion Great Turkey”.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, these ambi­tions for a great Turkey aren’t lim­it­ed to redraw­ing bor­ders and expand­ing Turkey’s sphere of influ­ence. The ambi­tions also involve nukes. And those ambi­tions may have already been boost­ed by the A.Q. Khan nuclear net­work:

    The New York Times

    Erdogan’s Ambi­tions Go Beyond Syr­ia. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.
    A month before invad­ing Kur­dish areas in Syr­ia, Turkey’s pres­i­dent said he “can­not accept” the West’s restric­tions that keep him from a bomb.

    By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
    Oct. 20, 2019

    WASHINGTON — Turkey’s pres­i­dent, Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, wants more than con­trol over a wide swath of Syr­ia along his country’s bor­der. He says he wants the Bomb.

    In the weeks lead­ing up to his order to launch the mil­i­tary across the bor­der to clear Kur­dish areas, Mr. Erdo­gan made no secret of his larg­er ambi­tion. “Some coun­tries have mis­siles with nuclear war­heads,” he told a meet­ing of his gov­ern­ing par­ty in Sep­tem­ber. But the West insists “we can’t have them,” he said. “This, I can­not accept.”

    With Turkey now in open con­fronta­tion with its NATO allies, hav­ing gam­bled and won a bet that it could con­duct a mil­i­tary incur­sion into Syr­ia and get away with it, Mr. Erdogan’s threat takes on new mean­ing. If the Unit­ed States could not pre­vent the Turk­ish leader from rout­ing its Kur­dish allies, how can it stop him from build­ing a nuclear weapon or fol­low­ing Iran in gath­er­ing the tech­nol­o­gy to do so?

    It was not the first time Mr. Erdo­gan has spo­ken about break­ing free of the restric­tions on coun­tries that have signed the Nuclear Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, and no one is quite sure of his true inten­tions. The Turk­ish auto­crat is a mas­ter of keep­ing allies and adver­saries off bal­ance, as Pres­i­dent Trump dis­cov­ered in the past two weeks.

    “The Turks have said for years that they will fol­low what Iran does,” said John J. Ham­re, a for­mer deputy sec­re­tary of defense who now runs the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton. “But this time is dif­fer­ent. Erdo­gan has just facil­i­tat­ed America’s retreat from the region.”

    “Maybe, like the Ira­ni­ans, he needs to show that he is on the two-yard line, that he could get a weapon at any moment,” Mr. Ham­re said.

    If so, he is on his way — with a pro­gram more advanced than that of Sau­di Ara­bia, but well short of what Iran has assem­bled. But experts say it is doubt­ful that Mr. Erdo­gan could put a weapon togeth­er in secret. And any pub­lic move to reach for one would pro­voke a new cri­sis: His coun­try would become the first NATO mem­ber to break out of the treaty and inde­pen­dent­ly arm itself with the ulti­mate weapon.

    Already Turkey has the mak­ings of a bomb pro­gram: ura­ni­um deposits and research reac­tors — and mys­te­ri­ous ties to the nuclear world’s most famous black mar­ke­teer, Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pak­istan. It is also build­ing its first big pow­er reac­tor to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty with Russia’s help. That could pose a con­cern because Mr. Erdo­gan has not said how he would han­dle its nuclear waste, which could pro­vide the fuel for a weapon. Rus­sia also built Iran’s Bushehr reac­tor.

    Experts said it would take a num­ber of years for Turkey to get to a weapon, unless Mr. Erdo­gan bought one. And the risk for Mr. Erdo­gan would be con­sid­er­able.

    “Erdo­gan is play­ing to an anti-Amer­i­can domes­tic audi­ence with his nuclear rhetoric, but is high­ly unlike­ly to pur­sue nuclear weapons,” said Jes­si­ca C. Var­num, an expert on Turkey at Middlebury’s James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies in Mon­terey, Calif. “There would be huge eco­nom­ic and rep­u­ta­tion­al costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pock­et­books of Erdogan’s vot­ers.”

    “For Erdo­gan,” Ms. Var­num said, “that strikes me as a bridge too far.”

    There is anoth­er ele­ment to this ambigu­ous atom­ic mix: The pres­ence of rough­ly 50 Amer­i­can nuclear weapons, stored on Turk­ish soil. The Unit­ed States had nev­er open­ly acknowl­edged their exis­tence, until Wednes­day, when Mr. Trump did exact­ly that.

    Asked about the safe­ty of those weapons, kept in an Amer­i­can-con­trolled bunker at Incir­lik Air Base, Mr. Trump said, “We’re con­fi­dent, and we have a great air base there, a very pow­er­ful air base.”

    But not every­one is so con­fi­dent, because the air base belongs to the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. If rela­tions with Turkey dete­ri­o­rat­ed, the Amer­i­can access to that base is not assured.

    Turkey has been a base for Amer­i­can nuclear weapons for more than six decades. Ini­tial­ly, they were intend­ed to deter the Sovi­et Union, and were famous­ly a nego­ti­at­ing chip in defus­ing the 1962 Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis, when Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy secret­ly agreed to remove mis­siles from Turkey in return for Moscow doing the same in Cuba.

    But tac­ti­cal weapons have remained. Over the years, Amer­i­can offi­cials have often expressed ner­vous­ness about the weapons, which have lit­tle to no strate­gic use ver­sus Rus­sia now, but have been part of a NATO strat­e­gy to keep region­al play­ers in check — and keep Turkey from feel­ing the need for a bomb of its own.

    When Mr. Erdo­gan put down an attempt­ed mil­i­tary coup in July 2016, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion qui­et­ly drew up an exten­sive con­tin­gency plan for remov­ing the weapons from Incir­lik, accord­ing to for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cials. But it was nev­er put in action, in part because of fears that remov­ing the Amer­i­can weapons would, at best, under­cut the alliance, and per­haps give Mr. Erdo­gan an excuse to build his own arse­nal.

    For decades, Turkey has been hedg­ing its bets. Start­ing in 1979, it began oper­at­ing a few small research reac­tors, and since 1986, it has made reac­tor fuel at a pilot plant in Istan­bul. The Istan­bul com­plex also han­dles spent fuel and its high­ly radioac­tive waste.

    “They’re build­ing up their nuclear exper­tise,” Olli Heinonen, the for­mer chief inspec­tor for the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, said in an inter­view. “It’s high qual­i­ty stuff.”

    He added that Ankara might “come to the thresh­old” of the bomb option in four or five years, or soon­er, with sub­stan­tial for­eign help. Mr. Heinonen not­ed that Moscow is now play­ing an increas­ing­ly promi­nent role in Turk­ish nuclear projects and long-range plan­ning.

    Turkey’s pro­gram, like Iran’s, has been char­ac­ter­ized as an effort to devel­op civil­ian nuclear pow­er.

    Rus­sia has agreed to build four nuclear reac­tors in Turkey, but the effort is seri­ous­ly behind sched­ule. The first reac­tor, orig­i­nal­ly sched­uled to go into oper­a­tion this year, is now seen as start­ing up in late 2023.

    The big ques­tion is what hap­pens to its spent fuel. Nuclear experts agree that the hard­est part of bomb acqui­si­tion is not com­ing up with designs or blue­prints, but obtain­ing the fuel. A civil­ian nuclear pow­er pro­gram is often a ruse for mak­ing that fuel, and build­ing a clan­des­tine nuclear arse­nal.

    Turkey has ura­ni­um deposits — the oblig­a­tory raw mate­r­i­al — and over the decades has shown great inter­est in learn­ing the for­mi­da­ble skills need­ed to puri­fy ura­ni­um as well as to turn it into plu­to­ni­um, the two main fuels of atom bombs. A 2012 report from the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, “Turkey and the Bomb,” not­ed that Ankara “has left its nuclear options open.”

    Hans Rüh­le, the head of plan­ning in the Ger­man Min­istry of Defense from 1982 to 1988, went fur­ther. In a 2015 report, he said “the West­ern intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty now large­ly agrees that Turkey is work­ing both on nuclear weapon sys­tems and on their means of deliv­ery.”

    In a 2017 study, the Insti­tute for Sci­ence and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty, a pri­vate group in Wash­ing­ton that tracks the bomb’s spread, con­clud­ed that Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to con­sol­i­date pow­er and raise Turkey’s region­al sta­tus were increas­ing “the risk that Turkey will seek nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ties.”

    In response to the Ger­man asser­tion and oth­er sim­i­lar assess­ments, Turkey has repeat­ed­ly denied a secret nuclear arms effort, with its for­eign min­istry not­ing that Turkey is “part of NATO’s col­lec­tive defense sys­tem.”

    But Mr. Erdogan’s recent state­ments were notable for fail­ing to men­tion NATO, and for express­ing his long-run­ning griev­ance that the coun­try has been pro­hib­it­ed from pos­sess­ing an arse­nal of its own. Turkey has staunch­ly defend­ed what it calls its right under peace­ful glob­al accords to enrich ura­ni­um and reprocess spent fuel, the crit­i­cal steps to a bomb the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is insist­ing Iran must sur­ren­der.

    Turkey’s ura­ni­um skills were high­light­ed in the 2000s when inter­na­tion­al sleuths found it to be a covert indus­tri­al hub for the nuclear black mar­ket of Mr. Khan, a builder of Pakistan’s arse­nal. The rogue sci­en­tist — who mas­ter­mind­ed the largest illic­it nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion ring in his­to­ry — sold key equip­ment and designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

    The most impor­tant items were cen­trifuges. The tall machines spin at super­son­ic speeds to puri­fy ura­ni­um, and gov­ern­ments typ­i­cal­ly clas­si­fy their designs as top secret. Their out­put, depend­ing on the lev­el of enrich­ment, can fuel reac­tors or atom bombs.

    Accord­ing to “Nuclear Black Mar­kets,” a report on the Khan net­work by the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies, a Lon­don think tank, com­pa­nies in Turkey aid­ed the covert effort by import­ing mate­ri­als from Europe, mak­ing cen­trifuge parts and ship­ping fin­ished prod­ucts to cus­tomers.

    A rid­dle to this day is whether the Khan net­work had a fourth cus­tomer. Dr. Rüh­le, the for­mer Ger­man defense offi­cial, said intel­li­gence sources believe Turkey could pos­sess “a con­sid­er­able num­ber of cen­trifuges of unknown ori­gin.” The idea that Ankara could be the fourth cus­tomer, he added, “does not appear far-fetched.” But there is no pub­lic evi­dence of any such facil­i­ties.

    ...

    ———-

    “Erdogan’s Ambi­tions Go Beyond Syr­ia. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.” by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad; The New York Times; 10/20/2019

    “In the weeks lead­ing up to his order to launch the mil­i­tary across the bor­der to clear Kur­dish areas, Mr. Erdo­gan made no secret of his larg­er ambi­tion. “Some coun­tries have mis­siles with nuclear war­heads,” he told a meet­ing of his gov­ern­ing par­ty in Sep­tem­ber. But the West insists “we can’t have them,” he said. “This, I can­not accept.”

    Was this procla­ma­tion by Erdo­gan last month about the unac­cept­able nature of Turkey’s lack of nuclear weapons just more anti-Amer­i­can blus­ter in front of the same kind of par­ty stal­warts that are now push­ing for a ‘great Turkey’ region­al impe­r­i­al project? That’s what some experts have con­clud­ed:

    ...
    Experts said it would take a num­ber of years for Turkey to get to a weapon, unless Mr. Erdo­gan bought one. And the risk for Mr. Erdo­gan would be con­sid­er­able.

    “Erdo­gan is play­ing to an anti-Amer­i­can domes­tic audi­ence with his nuclear rhetoric, but is high­ly unlike­ly to pur­sue nuclear weapons,” said Jes­si­ca C. Var­num, an expert on Turkey at Middlebury’s James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies in Mon­terey, Calif. “There would be huge eco­nom­ic and rep­u­ta­tion­al costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pock­et­books of Erdogan’s vot­ers.”

    “For Erdo­gan,” Ms. Var­num said, “that strikes me as a bridge too far.”
    ...

    But as the arti­cle lays out, if there’s more than just blus­ter behind Erdo­gan’s nuclear sen­ti­ments, Turkey may not be the far off from turn­ing that blus­ter into a real­i­ty. Not only does­n’t Turkey have an exist­ing nuclear pow­er pro­gram, with more Russ­ian-built plants on the way, but evi­dence sug­gests it may have been a par­tic­i­pant and cus­tomer of none oth­er than A.Q. Khan’s nuclear weapons traf­fick­ing net­work and now pos­sess­es the cen­trifuges required for enrich­ment:

    ...
    For decades, Turkey has been hedg­ing its bets. Start­ing in 1979, it began oper­at­ing a few small research reac­tors, and since 1986, it has made reac­tor fuel at a pilot plant in Istan­bul. The Istan­bul com­plex also han­dles spent fuel and its high­ly radioac­tive waste.

    “They’re build­ing up their nuclear exper­tise,” Olli Heinonen, the for­mer chief inspec­tor for the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, said in an inter­view. “It’s high qual­i­ty stuff.”

    He added that Ankara might “come to the thresh­old” of the bomb option in four or five years, or soon­er, with sub­stan­tial for­eign help. Mr. Heinonen not­ed that Moscow is now play­ing an increas­ing­ly promi­nent role in Turk­ish nuclear projects and long-range plan­ning.

    ...

    The big ques­tion is what hap­pens to its spent fuel. Nuclear experts agree that the hard­est part of bomb acqui­si­tion is not com­ing up with designs or blue­prints, but obtain­ing the fuel. A civil­ian nuclear pow­er pro­gram is often a ruse for mak­ing that fuel, and build­ing a clan­des­tine nuclear arse­nal.

    Turkey has ura­ni­um deposits — the oblig­a­tory raw mate­r­i­al — and over the decades has shown great inter­est in learn­ing the for­mi­da­ble skills need­ed to puri­fy ura­ni­um as well as to turn it into plu­to­ni­um, the two main fuels of atom bombs. A 2012 report from the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, “Turkey and the Bomb,” not­ed that Ankara “has left its nuclear options open.”

    Hans Rüh­le, the head of plan­ning in the Ger­man Min­istry of Defense from 1982 to 1988, went fur­ther. In a 2015 report, he said “the West­ern intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty now large­ly agrees that Turkey is work­ing both on nuclear weapon sys­tems and on their means of deliv­ery.”

    In a 2017 study, the Insti­tute for Sci­ence and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty, a pri­vate group in Wash­ing­ton that tracks the bomb’s spread, con­clud­ed that Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to con­sol­i­date pow­er and raise Turkey’s region­al sta­tus were increas­ing “the risk that Turkey will seek nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ties.”

    In response to the Ger­man asser­tion and oth­er sim­i­lar assess­ments, Turkey has repeat­ed­ly denied a secret nuclear arms effort, with its for­eign min­istry not­ing that Turkey is “part of NATO’s col­lec­tive defense sys­tem.”

    But Mr. Erdogan’s recent state­ments were notable for fail­ing to men­tion NATO, and for express­ing his long-run­ning griev­ance that the coun­try has been pro­hib­it­ed from pos­sess­ing an arse­nal of its own. Turkey has staunch­ly defend­ed what it calls its right under peace­ful glob­al accords to enrich ura­ni­um and reprocess spent fuel, the crit­i­cal steps to a bomb the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is insist­ing Iran must sur­ren­der.

    Turkey’s ura­ni­um skills were high­light­ed in the 2000s when inter­na­tion­al sleuths found it to be a covert indus­tri­al hub for the nuclear black mar­ket of Mr. Khan, a builder of Pakistan’s arse­nal. The rogue sci­en­tist — who mas­ter­mind­ed the largest illic­it nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion ring in his­to­ry — sold key equip­ment and designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

    The most impor­tant items were cen­trifuges. The tall machines spin at super­son­ic speeds to puri­fy ura­ni­um, and gov­ern­ments typ­i­cal­ly clas­si­fy their designs as top secret. Their out­put, depend­ing on the lev­el of enrich­ment, can fuel reac­tors or atom bombs.

    Accord­ing to “Nuclear Black Mar­kets,” a report on the Khan net­work by the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies, a Lon­don think tank, com­pa­nies in Turkey aid­ed the covert effort by import­ing mate­ri­als from Europe, mak­ing cen­trifuge parts and ship­ping fin­ished prod­ucts to cus­tomers.

    A rid­dle to this day is whether the Khan net­work had a fourth cus­tomer. Dr. Rüh­le, the for­mer Ger­man defense offi­cial, said intel­li­gence sources believe Turkey could pos­sess “a con­sid­er­able num­ber of cen­trifuges of unknown ori­gin.” The idea that Ankara could be the fourth cus­tomer, he added, “does not appear far-fetched.” But there is no pub­lic evi­dence of any such facil­i­ties.
    ...

    So far now, this idea that Turkey has nuclear designs is just spec­u­la­tion. And a major fac­tor tem­per­ing that spec­u­la­tion is Turkey’s rela­tion­ship with NATO. But it’s spec­u­la­tion based on not just Erdo­gan’s recent com­ments but also the real­i­ty Turkey’s future rela­tion­ship with NATO is increas­ing­ly in ques­tion and will be even more in ques­tion if Turkey decides to go on some sort of impe­r­i­al adven­ture and Erdo­gan moves more and more into turn­ing Turkey into an unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic dic­tar­ship.

    So if the chest-thump­ing com­ing out of Ankara about the need to seize the ini­tia­tive and expand the “Oper­a­tion Peace Spring” eth­nic cleans­ing oper­a­tion into a larg­er effort to cre­ate a ‘greater Turkey’ buffer zone actu­al­ly man­i­fests as a more exten­sive eth­nic cleans­ing war on the Kurds that carves up Syr­ia and Erdo­gan uses that as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­sol­i­date pow­er and home and erode even more of Turkey’s democ­ra­cy, well, at that point Turkey might as well go nuclear. And it just might be able to do so soon­er than expect­ed, thanks in part to the A.Q. Khan net­work. Maybe. That part is still spec­u­la­tive. Kind of like how the ques­tion of whether or not this insane species is going to avoid­ing nuk­ing itself into obliv­ion is still high­ly spec­u­la­tive.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 22, 2019, 2:59 pm

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