Tuesday, March 29, 2005

fwd: US not finished with Pakistan yet

This provides more detail on how much information on how to build a nuclearwarhead was passed by A.Q.Khan to Iran. RLC

Subject: US not finished with Pakistan yet
Date: Mar 22, 2005


Asia Times Online
Mar 19, 2005
US not finished with Pakistan yet
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - The United States is exerting maximum pressure on Pakistan
to provide a detailed and "authentic" list of all of its nuclear
cooperation with Iran over the years.

Contacts in the highest echelon of Pakistan's strategic quarters tell
Asia Times Online that during her visit to Islamabad on Wednesday, US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appraised Pakistan of the latest -
and strong - US demands.

Many in the Bush administration believe that Iran's nuclear energy
program is a smokescreen for developing nuclear weapons. Tehran has
agreed with the European Union and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) that it will temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment

Last week, Pakistan publicly admitted that Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the
mastermind of the country's nuclear program, had given centrifuges -
rather than just blueprints - to Iran as part of a package of
materials that could be used to make a nuclear bomb, but only in "his
personal capacity". Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium.

Now the US wants hard evidence of this and all of Pakistan's other
dealings so that it can build its case against Iran. This will
include full scrutiny of Pakistan's nuclear program, especially from
the late 1980s until the early 1990s, when Pakistan developed the
nuclear device, which it eventually tested in 1998.

Importantly, and to the consternation of Pakistan, the US demand
includes direct access and interrogation of Pakistan's former chief
of army staff, General Aslam Beg, who has on many occasions openly
endorsed nuclear cooperation with Iran, former president Ghulam Ishaq
Khan (August 17, 1988 until July 18, 1993) and Dr Khan.

The exhaustive US demand has sent shock waves through General
Headquarters Rawalpindi. To date, the belief had been that Pakistan's
cooperation has been sufficient to avoid people like Dr Khan from
being handed over.

The contacts tell ATol that the initial reaction in Rawalpindi is
that the requested people will not be placed in the hands of US
interrogators. It is not known what "inducements" Washington is
offering Islamabad for its cooperation, or, conversely, what stick it
is waving for not cooperating. Pakistan has for a long time wanted F-
16 fighters from the US, especially since India is reported to also
be in the market, and already receives financial and other US
military aid for collaborating in the "war on terror".

"The [Pakistan proliferation] issue is of such critical importance
that as soon as it broke out [last year], the Pakistani leadership
decided at once what to do. They placed Dr Khan under house arrest so
that nobody could meet him. After completely isolating Dr Khan,
Pakistan extended all cooperation to the US, which was of value to
the US and to its satisfaction," a top strategic expert maintained.

"But US interrogation of personalities like Ghulam Ishaq Khan, A Q
Khan and General Beg will mean a complete exhibition and access to
all strategic secrets and would be tantamount to compromising
Pakistan's integrity," the expert said.

"Now, though, the US means business and it is collecting evidence
[against Iran] which Pakistan is meant to provide. But the US has
been asked to submit its queries concerning proliferation, and they
will get a reply through Pakistani channels. Inquiries are continuing
by Pakistani officials with all concerned officials, including
General Beg, and their answers are being submitted to the US. It will
continue in the future as well.

"You can match the situation with the South Waziristan operation. At
the start, the US was convinced through its intelligence that all
high-value targets [such as Osama bin Laden] were holed up in South
Waziristan [tribal region]. Washington urged Pakistan to allow US
troops to operate in the terrain to win the 'war on terror' once and
for all. However, from the beginning Pakistan drew a line on its
cooperation under which it fully cooperated in the hunt for militants
and in defeating pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda elements, but it refused to
allow US troops to operate in Pakistani territory, though on
occasions Pakistan turned a blind eye on US advancement in its
territory," he added.

Pakistan is obviously extremely sensitive about the proliferation and
black market side of its nuclear program - which it still insists was
carried by individual elements without the knowledge of the

The public saga of Pakistan's nuclear program began some years ago at
the wedding ceremony of then editor of the Muslim, Islamabad,
Mushahid Hussain, a journalist-turned-politician and now general
secretary of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League.

He introduced Dr Khan to a senior Indian journalist, Kuldeep Nayyer.
Thinking that he was speaking off the record, Dr Khan briefed
Kuldeep, only to his horror - and to that of the establishment - to
then read a full article on Pakistan's nuclear program.

As a result, Dr Khan was given the same security and protocol as the
president of Pakistan.

But once Pakistan acquired nuclear capability, Dr Khan's security
situation became lax and and he was allowed to move around and make
statements in public, and even travel outside the country.

"It was a fact that he was elevated as a celebrity in the country,
and even for generals he was the heroic figure who equipped them with
deterrence against Indian military might," one strategic expert told

This hero-worship backfired. A classified interrogation report of
Khan Research Laboratories' (KRL) security chief, Brigadier Tajwar,
accepted that he knew about the movement of centrifuges outside KRL,
but he dare not stop Dr Khan and ask about the purpose of the
transportation. Pakistan's nuclear program was mostly developed at

Although Dr Khan has been individually blamed - and publicly accepted
responsibility for - Pakistan's proliferation, Iran handed over a
list of about two dozen Pakistani scientists to the IAEA for alleged
involvement in Iran's program.

"US pressure came very late. Before Pakistan even knew of Dr Khan's
involvement in proliferation and despite intense public reaction, Dr
Khan was removed as head of KRL and banned to enter its labs. Only
for the sake of face-saving in public he was appointed as an advisor
to the president," said the expert.

The fate of Dr Khan remains unclear. He is under virtual house arrest
under heavy security in his residence near Islamabad, and he can be
expected to live like that until his end, when he will take all his
secrets with him.

"Unfortunately, this is the most likely scenario. The US pressure is
maximum, there is no doubt. That Pakistan will stand firm there is no
doubt either. The situation will not change, even in the next two
years. However, the ultimate reaction of a world superpower is only
determined by its geostrategic requirements, not by any fixed ideas
or rules," the strategic expert commented.
> Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online.