February 9, 2004
By Peter Brookes
Pakistan has become the world's nuclear Wal-Mart. The father of
the Pakistani bomb, jetsetter scientist A.Q. Khan, turns out to be
the godfather of global nuclear proliferation. Perhaps more than
any one person, Khan is responsible for the most egregious string
of nuclear-proliferation transactions in recent history - perhaps
Khan's televised mea culpa on sharing nuclear technology with
Iran, North Korea and Libya is little consolation. Certainly it's
not enough to warrant the pardon given by Pakistani President
Musharraf. Even more disappointing is Pakistan's refusal to allow
an independent probe of Khan's proliferation activity - or that of
others in Pakistan's scientific, intelligence or military
You can bet that Khan isn't the only one complicit in this
fiasco. U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohammed ElBaradei (Hans Blix's old
sidekick) has said that Khan is just the "tip of the iceberg."
ElBaradei's investigators are pursuing leads in at least five
countries, including Japan, Malaysia, Germany and a couple of other
yet-unidentified European nations.
But what does all this mean? That the world's most destructive
weapons have been placed in the hands of the world's most
despicable regimes. Iran has extensive ties with terrorism,
including considerable outright sponsorship of it. North Korea has
amply demonstrated its willingness to sell ballistic missiles to
the highest bidder.
So the burning question is "secondary proliferation": What might
Iran and North Korea do with their newfound capabilities and
knowledge, besides go nuclear themselves? Will an Iranian A.Q. Khan
share nuclear technology with Syria? Will North Korea give atomic
tips to Burma's junta, which already plans to build a nuclear
Why did Khan do it? For self-aggrandizement, and to line his
pockets with the coins of despots. And to get North Korean
ballistic-missile technology that would let Islamabad level the
strategic playing field with nuclear India. (The Pakistani "Ghauri"
ballistic missile is a nuclear-capable knock-off of Pyongyang's
"No-Dong" missile.) Some suggest he even did it out of
anti-Americanism, supplying America's sworn enemies with nuclear
Perhaps the most important question is: What to do now that the
nuclear horse has left the barn? Here are some suggestions:
Debrief Khan's nuclear clan: Find out exactly what was shared
with North Korea and Iran, the status of their nuclear programs,
the locations of their covert research and production facilities
and who else may have had access to Pakistani nuclear technology or
For instance, has there been Pakistani contact with the Saudis
or the Syrians, both believed to have nuclear aspirations? Did
Pakistani scientists or intelligence personnel have dealings with
the Taliban and al Qaeda on nuclear matters, as has been rumored?
Is all Pakistani fissile material - such as might be used in a
"dirty bomb" - accounted for?
Break up the world's nuclear networks: Using the information
gleaned from Khan's debriefing (as well as Libyan info), U.S. and
international partners must act swiftly to dismantle the
clandestine global-proliferation grid, keeping nukes from spreading
beyond Iran and North Korea. Middlemen and front companies must be
exposed and closed down as soon as possible.
Strengthen international nonproliferation pacts: The U.N.'s
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the voluntary, 38-country
Nuclear Supplier Group export-control agreement are proving anemic
in fighting nuclear proliferation. Real penalties and vigorous
enforcement, such as those contained in the Bush administration's
Proliferation Security Initiative, are in order.
Improve proliferation intelligence: In his Georgetown University
address last week, CIA Director George Tenet identified some
intelligence victories on nonproliferation, such as Libya. That's
great. But these triumphs didn't prevent the Pakistani nuke
blueprints from getting to Tehran and Pyongyang. The independent
intelligence assessment called for by the White House must go
beyond Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to improving all
intelligence, but especially WMD and terrorism.
Pakistan is a troubling strategic partner, especially in light
of Khan's (forced) revelations. But Islamabad remains critical in
fighting terrorism and proliferation.
The Pakistani nuclear genie is out of the bottle, but with
Pakistan's (belated) help, we still have a chance of keeping the
North Korean and Iranian bottles corked.
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. He
served with the CIA, DIA and Naval Intelligence. E-mail:
First appeared in New York Post
Pakistan has become the world's nuclear Wal-Mart. The father of the Pakistani bomb, jetsetter scientist A.Q. Khan, turns out to be the godfather of global nuclear proliferation.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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