Pakistan has secretly supplied Iran with technology crucial to developing a nuclear weapons programme, international inspectors believe.
There is also evidence it has given information to North Korea and other countries.
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency - the United Nations nuclear watchdog - have recently uncovered a huge procurement network developed by Iran in the past 17 years to access materials, tools and specialist knowledge.
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, considered to be the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, is among the scientists suspected of helping Iran. He is a national hero in Pakistan and is being subjected only to house arrest for his suspected involvement.
The Washington Post has a lengthy article reporting on an extensive Iranian effort that procured supplies for its nuclear weapons development program from a large list of countries.
Documents provided by Iran to U.N. nuclear inspectors since early November have exposed the outlines of a vast, secret procurement network that successfully acquired thousands of sensitive parts and tools from numerous countries over a 17-year period. While Iran has not directly identified Pakistan as a supplier, Pakistani individuals and companies are strongly implicated as sources of key blueprints, technical guidance and equipment for a pilot uranium-enrichment plant that was first exposed by Iranian dissidents 18 months ago, government officials and independent weapons experts said.
The disclosures offer a striking illustration of the difficulties faced by U.S. officials in trying to detect and interdict shipments of contraband useful in making weapons of mass destruction. Iran appears to have obtained the equipment by exploiting a gray zone of porous borders, middlemen, front companies and weak law enforcement where the components of such weapons are bought and sold.
It is very difficult to stop a government with sufficient financial and technical resources from pursuing a nuclear weapons development program.
The government of Pakistan claims the Pakistani scientists helped Iran before Pervez Musharraf came to power and that the scientists acted to help Iran without government approval.
In an interview, Information Minister Rashid Ahmed confirmed the thrust of a report in Sunday's Washington Post that the scientists had been detained for questioning on the basis of information provided to Pakistan by U.N. nuclear inspectors probing Iran's secret procurement network.
Rashid asserted that if there was any sharing of nuclear technology, it was done without the Pakistani government's knowledge or approval. Investigators, he said, are trying to determine whether the scientists may have offered their services as individuals.
It is noteworthy that both Iran and Libya decided to reveal their activities in the aftermath of the American-led invasion of Iraq. The overthrow of Saddam's regime has had a profound impact on the thinking of governments in the Middle East. As a result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq the US has much more leverage than would otherwise have been the case.
At the same time, the US and its allies are far from putting a total permanent stop to nuclear weapons proliferation. Iran's mullahs are still stating that their temporary halt of at least some of their efforts to develop nuclear enrichment capability will not turn out to be permanent. Also, it is far from clear what exactly the North Korean regime is up to or what level of nuclear capability it has achieved to date.
One problem the US faces in preventing long-term nuclear proliferation is that each country that halts nuclear development efforts under US and allied pressure can easily hide extra copies of design documents and research findings to reuse at a later date to reconstitute their nuclear weapons development efforts. Also, each country that possesses valuable design information becomes another potential source of technology proliferation to still other countries.
As a side note, it is curious that while the recent revelations of Libya's advanced nuclear weapons program were viewed as a surprise by Western governments Debka was reporting well over a year ago that the Israeli government saw the Libyan nuclear program as well advanced.
In one of the first surface Indicators of this unease, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, in one of his pre-New Year interviews earlier this month, suddenly came out with a revelation – not about Iraq or even Iran, but about Egypt’s previously unheard of nuclear program. He informed an unsuspecting American and Israeli public that a Libyan program was well advanced to build the first Arab-Muslim nuclear bomb as a joint Egyptian, Iraqi enterprise funded by Saudi Arabia.
There may well still be hidden mysteries of concealed nuclear weapons development programs waiting to be revealed.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 December 23 05:48 PM US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control|