Netanyahu’s Horrible Mistake on Iran and History of Proliferation via China and Pakistan

Netanyahu’s Horrible Mistake on Iran and History of Proliferation via China and Pakistan

In mid-1980s, Abdul Qadeer (AQ) Khan – Pakistan’s infamous Nuclear scientist – provided the design for the P-1 (P stands for Pak) nuclear plant to Iran.  A plant that contained

5,832 P1 centrifuges in 38 individual cascades, four sets of cascades would be producing enriched uranium in stages up to weapon-grade.  Iran called these IR-1.  The plant was built in Iran with parts smuggled through the networks.   For example, in 2002, B.S.A. Tahir – AQ Khan’s protege – was using SMB Computers as a cover to supply parts to Iran, Libya and North Korea.  In fact Tahir married Nazimah Syed Majid, daughter of a Malaysian diplomat.  When Khan wanted to make components for plants in Iran, Libya, and North Korea – which he could in Kahuta, but transporting out would be risky given the watch on Pakistan – Malaysia was selected as the place to make those components uninhibited and supply them to Iran.

The US knew of Pakistan’s Black market activities during Jimmy Carter’s administration.  But that did not stop US from doing nothing.

Abdul Qadeer Khan’s sale of nuclear technology to rogue nations is no longer a secret. The Pakistani physicist, revered in his homeland as the father of the Islamic bomb, was forced to confess his “unauthorized proliferation activities” on Pakistan’s state television in 2004. He has been confined to house (more accurately, mansion) arrest ever since.
But the staged confession and wrist-slapping were only one act in a long-running farce whose full consequences have yet to play out. U.S. intelligence agencies first got wind of Khan’s nuclear black-market activity during the Carter administration. Yet he continued to operate, uninterrupted, through the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, the Clinton years and George W. Bush’s first term, until his network was formally shut down in 2003. (Source: Washington Post)

Actually, to say that the US did nothing to stop Pakistan’s Nuclear activities – to procure Nuclear power plant, subsequent enrichment and finally the Nuclear bomb as well as proliferate the technology and Nuke’s – is an incorrect statement.  In fact, the US helped Pakistan do it!

In 1989, Barlow transferred to the office of the Secretary of Defense, where he initiated an in-house intelligence analysis program. He was in a chain of command below Stephen J. Hadley, then Assistant Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of Defense was Dick Cheney. His early work included an effort to sound the alarm about the now-discredited Pakistani nuclear scientist and proliferator, Abdul Qadeer Khan. In particular, he discovered that Pakistan’s nuclear program depended upon clandestine and illegal procurement activity within the United States.[2] The US administration, however, knew that this was the case; indeed, his report detailed occasions when the State Department under Ronald Reagan had actually helped it happen, warning targets of sealed arrest warrants in FBI operations and approving export licenses for restricted goods.[2][3] (Source)

Yes, as strange as it may sound, but the State Department under Ronald Reagan went against its own state agencies to help Pakistan acquire the Nuclear plant.  The design of the plant that Pakistan built with that unusual US help was what was later handed over to Iran as the P-1 reactor.  This reactor by now has been making weapons grade Uranium for Iran.

As of the end of May 2009, the underground Natanz facility had 30 cascades, each with 164 P1 centrifuges, producing low enriched uranium with an average enrichment of about 3.5 percent.  Another 13 cascades were under vacuum and able to start producing LEU.  In total, these 43 cascades contained 7,052 P1 centrifuges.  In comparison, a plant to make significant quantities of weapon-grade uranium requires fewer P1 centrifuges. (Source)

If one says that Iran’s Nuclear program was indirectly facilitated by the Ronald Reagan himself, via special treatment to Pakistan and its incessant proliferation, then it would not be off the mark.

But Iran doesn’t just has Reagan’s benevolence to thank for.  It has placed itself in the right company.  With China as the kingpin, and Pakistan as the proliferation point, North Korea and Iran have gained in Nuclear area tremendously.  There is a regular quid pro quo that goes on between these friends.  North Korea gives Missiles to Iran and Pakistan.  Pakistan gives Nukes to Iran and North Korea.  Iran gives Oil and Gas to Pakistan and North Korea.  The symbiotic relationship has worked for all four.

During all three detonations, Iranian representatives, including the

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh—thought to be Iran’s chief nuclear scientist—were


. Tehran has been funding the North Korean nuclear program for perhaps as long as a decade, which means the Islamic Republic is already a nuclear state, at least as a practical matter. The close cooperation across national boundaries means nuclear weapons programs need not be just national in scope. We tend to think of China, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran as having four parallel efforts, but in truth it’s better thought of as one program conducted in various locations.

It is China that ultimately makes Iran dangerous.

Netanyahu’s Speech and History of Iran’s Nukes

Netanyahu today made a historic speech in US Congress.  Generally, the word historic should go with something that would augur well or is something great.  But in this case, Netanyahu has sought to undermine the US President and his administration and directly engage with the US Congress behind his back to sabotage the deal that the US is trying to do with Iran.   All this at the behest of the Republicans, who dominate both the houses of Congress!  I totally understand Israel’s situation and fears.  That, those around them are after their lives.  I also understand that they need strong action.  But one wonders if Netanyahu has dragged Israel into the dirty arena of US partisan politics?  And if that is a smart move?

Let us first understand the merits of his arguments, which are ludicrous to begin with.

He has tried to show how ISIS – a hard core Sunni State – and Iran have the same mission, i.e; annihilation of Israel.

Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.

He is right that both hate Israel, but wrong in the implications of his statement that the enemy of the enemy is US (and Israel’s) enemy.  In a way it is true.  Both are enemies of Israel.  If anyone survives, it will go after Israel as well.  But the question is – will it?  Actually, if I were Israel, I would be afraid of another country which can become a far natural ally of ISIS, than Iran.  Saudi Arabia!  And it may have or get the Nukes when needed as well!

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.

This was the situation in 2013.  By now this alliance might be much further on.

If played properly, Iran is in the best position to fight and annihiliate ISIS.  Why?  Because its own survival is at stake as a Shia country.  In the entire Middle east, for precisely the reasons that Netanyahu mentions, Iran is the only real player that can and may take on ISIS head on!

In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.

If what Netanyahu says is correct, then it would stand to reason that Iran stands the best chance in Middle East to take on ISIS.  And given the Shia-Sunni fault-lines, this can be what Iran may want to do anyway.  Afterall, for Iran, ISIS is an existential threat!

The other Sunni powers may play games while they fall in line with the Sunni ISIS.  And, Saudis and Pakistanis actually have Nukes that could be shared with ISIS as well.  The proliferation trade from Pakistan went on for so many years right under the noses and with the blessings of two successive Republican regimes of Reagan and Bush!

If Iran’s nukes are a concern for Israel, as it pushes for tougher sanctions as opposed to talks, then it should remember that over the last so many decades, Iran has been reeling under sanctions.  But that has not impacted its Nuclear Program.  With Pakistan and China backing up along with militant North Korea, Iran may find sanctions which leave it alone as a god-send!

And – for whatever reason – it seems from history that Republican regimes have been closer to Pakistan and its Army establishment for long now.  And, those are the people he enamored himself with.  Strangely, those are the very regimes in front of whom, Israel never raised its voice as the Nuclear secrets were given out by the US.  If one has to do something, Pakistan and China is where one ought to be!

Why Netanyahu’s speech is a bad calculation!

The US is a democracy.  To circumvent a President is to make a mockery of its own institutions.  Generally, in true democracies, such an act – which is to interfere with a country’s internal affairs – should break the relationship down with such countries.  But apparently, in US’ case it will not.  However, it will have long reaching consequences.

Firstly, Netanyahu has made a calculation that Democrats will not be able to win the Presidency in 2016.  That is a big and risky assumption.  Specially given that the demography of the US does not back that result.  The Republicans may not be able to get their man (or woman) to the President’s Oval office in 2016.

If it does, fantastic for Israel.  Or so it may seem.  Except that Pakistan will be back in business.  Something that means resumption and strengthening of proliferation to Iran!

Second assumption that he will win in Israel’s upcoming elections.  He may not.  And what a way to leave his country where he has put a wedge in the relationship with the best ally!

Now imagine now a situation post-2016, where Netanyahu loses and the Democrat candidate wins Presidency.  Will it be of help to the US-Israel relationship?

As for Iran, engaging it now and not letting it focus full steam ahead on it Nuke program, (which it will anyway) – sanctions or no sanctions – will be a better way out.  And if Israel is so worried of Iran’s Nukes, then it needs to focus on Pakistan and China.  They are the ones who provide the DIY kit as well as the plant components!

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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