Pakistan’s Ticking Nuclear Time Bomb

Exclusive: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal remains a top global security threat, as Islamic jihadists penetrate many of the nation’s political, educational and military institutions, says Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Dozens of world leaders are arriving in Washington, D. C. for the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, a biennial event dedicated to minimizing the threat of loose nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations.

The summit couldn’t be more timely in view of recent revelations that militants linked to the Islamic State recruited two employees at a Belgian nuclear plant where an insider in 2014 drained thousands of gallons of lubricating oil, severely damaging its turbines.

A nuclear test detonation carried out in Nevada on April 18, 1953.

A nuclear test detonation carried out in Nevada on April 18, 1953.

The summit also comes just days after North Korea released a video threatening a nuclear first strike against Washington — an unrealistic but unsettling boast from one of the world’s most repressive and impenetrable regimes.

But an even greater threat to nuclear security lies thousands of miles from Belgium and Korea — in Pakistan. It is home to about 120 atomic weapons, making it the world’s fifth largest and fastest growing nuclear arsenal. Pakistan also has large stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for making dozens of new warheads.

No one should sleep well while the armed forces who are responsible for securing that deadly stockpile continue to collaborate openly with armed extremists at home and abroad, and adopt provocative doctrines for using nuclear weapons on the battlefield.

Pakistan is one of the last places on Earth to which you’d want to entrust nuclear weapons. The Pakistani industrialist Shakir Lakhani last year declared his country a “failed state,” noting that corruption is rampant and that terrorists “have infiltrated our institutions, our schools and colleges, our universities, our police departments, our armed forces and perhaps even our judiciary.”

The celebrated journalist Ahmed Rashid warns that Pakistan is “in the process of dissolution, facing the same fate as Syria or Somalia.”

Government collapse in Pakistan is the private worry of every nuclear security planner today. Said Gary Sanmore, former National Security Council Coordinator for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, “as we look at the sectarian violence and tensions between the government and the military and so forth — I worry that . . . even the best nuclear security measures might break down. You’re dealing with a country that is under tremendous stress internally and externally, and that’s what makes me worry.”

In words that remain as plausible as ever today, the noted American arms control expert Robert Gallucci said a decade ago that Pakistan is “the number one threat to the world … [I]f it all goes off — a nuclear bomb in a U.S. or European city — I’m sure we will find ourselves looking in Pakistan’s direction.”

The Terrorist Threat

Although Pakistan’s atomic weapons are doubtless well protected, they remain highly vulnerable to insiders motivated either by extremist ideology or corrupt inducements — both of which are in ample supply. Pakistan makes matters worse by bolstering and in some cases creating the very terrorists who threaten its nuclear stockpiles.

Pakistan has long been a sponsor of international terrorism, most notably in Afghanistan and especially India, its hated enemy. For example, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency helped spawn the notorious group Lashkar-e-Taiba to fight Indian forces in Kashmir.

Terrorist attacks on India’s parliament in 2001 and Mumbai in 2008 were spectacular outcomes of Pakistan’s malign policy. Pakistani leaders apparently also sheltered Osama bin Laden until the U.S. Navy SEAL raid in 2011, according to a former defense minister.

Days after the leaders of India and Pakistan met on Christmas Day last year in Lahore, terrorists from Pakistan attacked a major Indian airbase, preventing a thaw in the two country’s relations. That attack may have been independently planned, but Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have a long history of sponsoring such terrorist provocations to derail peace initiatives.

According to Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University, “Pakistan’s security institutions have instrumentalized a menagerie of Islamist militants to prosecute its internal as well as external policies with respect to India and Afghanistan.

“Since 2001, many of these erstwhile proxies have turned their guns and suicide devices on the state and its citizenry under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban. A lack of both will and capacity hinder the state’s ability to effectively confront this threat and secure its population.

“Most problematically, Pakistan still wants to nurture some militants who are its assets while eliminating those who fight the state. Civilians lack the ability, will, or vision to force the security forces to change tactics.”

The resulting “blowback” from Pakistan’s support of terrorism has taken a huge toll, like the suicide bombing in Lahore this Easter. Although it received less media attention than the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, the Lahore bombing a killed twice as many victims.

From 2002 to 2011, terrorists in Pakistan killed 3,700 people and wounded another 9,000. Several times that number died from other forms of political, ethnic, communal, and Islamist violence.

The attack in Lahore was carried out by a break-away faction of the government-sponsored Pakistani Taliban. Gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban previously killed 22 people at Bacha Khan University in January and 145 people, mostly children, at a school in Peshawar last year. The government has been unable or unwilling to rein in such extremist violence. Someday it may prove equally unable to rein in terrorist attacks on its nuclear installations.

The Obama administration knows this, but for the most part maintains the fiction that Pakistan’s military has its nuclear arsenal fully under control. One reason for its diplomatic language and continued military aid is to avoid a rupture that would jeopardize continued U.S. military operations in Afghanistan (as almost happened in 2012 after Pakistan closed NATO supply routes following American airstrikes on Pakistani soldiers suspected of aiding the Taliban).

Privately, however, President Obama “questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the U.S. at all,” reports Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

According to David Sanger, Obama told his staff in 2011 that Pakistan’s potential disintegration — and the resulting “scramble for its (nuclear) weapons” — represented his “single biggest national security concern.”

A Question of Doctrine

In addition to having “the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal,” Pakistan “is shifting toward tactical nuclear weapons intended to be dispersed to front-line forces early in a crisis, increasing the risks of nuclear theft should such a crisis occur,” according to a new report on “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism” by experts at Harvard University’s Belfer Center.

Pakistan intends to use these smaller nuclear warheads against conventional Indian forces in case another war breaks out between the two major powers on the Asian subcontinent. Such mobile weapons are inherently vulnerable to seizure by terrorists during transit.

The intended tactical use of such weapons on the battlefield also raises the odds of any military conflict escalating rapidly to an all-out nuclear war. During a war over Kashmir in 1999, Pakistan’s government “ordered the arming of its nuclear missiles, potentially bringing the two countries to the brink of a nuclear conflict,” according to military historian Joseph Micallef.

Needless to say, an all-out nuclear war between India and Pakistan could kill, wound or sicken tens of millions of people and render much of South Asia virtually uninhabitable.

“We are really quite concerned about . . . the destabilizing aspects of their battlefield nuclear weapons program,” said the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this March. To which a senior Pakistani nuclear adviser replied, “We are not apologetic about the development of [tactical nuclear weapons] and they are here to stay.”

Washington’s Inadequate Response

The Obama administration recognizes the threat from Pakistan and other source of “loose nukes” but has failed to make them a priority. As Steve Mufson reported in the Washington Post, “in his fiscal 2017 budget, Obama has proposed deep cuts in spending on programs to stop nuclear proliferation while leaving intact military spending on a new generation of weapons. . . .

“For fiscal 2017, the Obama administration has proposed its smallest nuclear security budget ever. The proposal would slash spending for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s international program by roughly two-thirds, to a level last seen in the mid-1990s.”

Besides restoring funding, the administration should make collaboration with Russia on nuclear security programs a higher priority than escalating conflicts over less vital issues like the future of Crimea.

In a letter sent to President Obama on March 28, six Democratic U.S. senators also recommended that his administration lead by example, and seek to reduce the bloated nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia to 1,000 warheads and 500 delivery vehicles by 2021.

With regard to Pakistan, Washington should apply more pressure — including withholding military aid — to restrain its provocative nuclear policy toward India, and its support for terrorist organizations.

At the same time, however, the administration should avoid special favors to India that stoke Pakistan’s paranoia and resentment. For example, the Bush administration’s nuclear cooperation agreement with India, which allowed U.S. nuclear technology sales to India, contributed to the arms race between India and Pakistan and “did long-lasting damage toward both the global non-proliferation norms and the efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons,” according to Subrata Ghoshroy, a researcher at MIT.

And if Washington really wants to get serious about Pakistan, it must eliminate Islamabad’s remaining leverage over the United States. That means withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan once and for all, so Pakistan cannot unleash its proxies to kill American soldiers or cripple the U.S. logistics chains.

Once Afghanistan is off its agenda, Washington can finally focus on that region’s real threat to world security: Pakistan’s growing nuclear stockpile.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

18 comments for “Pakistan’s Ticking Nuclear Time Bomb

  1. mohanraj
    April 7, 2016 at 02:59

    Pakistan is not a failed state, since it never had control over its entire territory. It is a military organisation gone nuts.Pakistan exists for the military and not the other way round.Most of the Islamic screwballs owe their existence to Pakistan ,a vassal of Saudi Arabia!

  2. Kim Dixon
    April 1, 2016 at 10:32

    “Although Pakistan’s atomic weapons are doubtless well protected…”

    They are not even well-protected. They move about the country in *bread trucks*.

    When a nuclear device is detonated in the West, it will likely be of Pakistani origin.

  3. jasmoran66
    April 1, 2016 at 08:51

    You lost me with the Seals/Bin Laden reference. I didn’t think that this site would spew that garbage. Learn the truth. Disappointing.

  4. March 31, 2016 at 18:55

    I wonder why it’s Pakistan with its tiny arsenal that you are so alarmed about. They should worry much more about his US and Russia poorly handle such materials in massive quantities spread our all over .

    And India, where there’s a fascist Hindu government of Narendra Modi whose party’s founding ideologue Golwalkar looked to Nazi Germany for guidance on what to do with India’s Muslim population.

    If history is our guide, it’s much more likely that the next time, if ever, a nuke is used it will be by the guardians of civility who have wiped out entire native populations in multiple places, not by the colored races. Already the amount of explosive power used by them in recent wars exceeds multiple nukes

  5. Waqas
    March 31, 2016 at 16:10

    Unfortunately pakistan’s biggest mistake was to go with US on proxy war against Russia which benefitted US and pak end up handling all the junk of world terrorists that were accumulated in Afghanistan by US. After loosing 70,000 life’s we realise our mistakes and started to fix it now …we are winning again and cleared 95% tribal areas of pakistan. Also helping US to get a respectable exit from Afghanistan. I wish fox and CNN could ever show a try picture of pakistan also….

  6. Waqas
    March 31, 2016 at 16:03

    In last few years more than 2500 nuclear related incidents happened around the world….can any genius here explain me when there is not a single nuclear incident occurred in pakistan how come they are a threat…you guys don’t know a single thing about pak and start commenting and writing articles lile an expert….

  7. David Smith
    March 31, 2016 at 13:51

    Exciting stuff, but it reads more like Hollywood scriptwriters pitch than realistic analysis. Phraseology such as “ticking nuclear time bomb”, ” loose nukes”, “Pakistan unleashing it’s proxies” do not belong in rational discussion. Regarding Pakistan’s imminent “disintegration”; politically Pakistan has always been made up of numerous nearly sovereign, small feudal local domains. It is the way Pakistani’s like it, and does not threaten Pakistani sovereignty. Setting aside the purely Hollywood scenario of ” terrorists” hijacking a military convoy transporting a tactical nuke, security of nuclear weapons is a technical issue, and easier than might be imagined. An Implosion Device is very difficult to detonate, and requires complex electronics, it was the most difficult technical problem at Los Alamos. I am no expert, but I can imagine that numerous safeguards, such as multiple removable modules, codes, unique plug connections, self destruct failsafes and others I can’t imagine are available.Having the “fusing” electronics divided into several modules, stored separately, that would all need to be assembled, authorized through chain of command, would be sufficient.

    • J'hon Doe II
      March 31, 2016 at 14:19

      Your explanation of nuclear weapon dynamics is positive knowledge, David Smith. – Thank You!

  8. March 31, 2016 at 05:36

    This is a very important article with only a few notions and questions to add:

    What about the “nuclear umbrella,” the security guaranty that Saudi Arabia is rumored to have bought from Pakistan, and what about the occasionally mentioned “Islamic bomb”? Saudi Arabia appears stable at the moment, but wages war in Yemen and is deeply involved in Syria. Its feudal social system, a corrupt and decadent royal family, Wahhabism, and a sizable Shiite minority are an explosive brew which will one day be lit up. One can only hope that this happens before nukes come into play.

    What about the Israeli nuclear arsenal? Iran has agreed to abstain from nuclear weapons development, but the rich gulf monarchies have both the means and the reason to acquire nukes. What would the USA do in such a case?

    Why are 84 US B-61-12 variable yield nuclear warheads in the Turkish air base Incirlik? Families of US servicemen in Turkey have just been called home because of security threats, but no threats exist for the nuclear bombs? Turkey wages war against its Kurdish population in the southeast and it is the base of countless Islamic terror groups which Erdogan nurtured to destroy Syria.

    Erdogan’s AKP is closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and there is ample evidence about collusion of the MIT and other Turkish state organizations with Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham, and nearly every other Islamic terror group.

    Why is the USA modernizing its nuclear arsenal and deploying 480 nuclear warheads in Europe (“nuclear sharing” with US, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium)? Why is nuclear disarmament not on the agenda anymore?

  9. Peter Loeb
    March 31, 2016 at 04:57


    Johnathan Marshall’s piece above provides much information
    needed to even begin to decipher the situation. It does so, however,
    in a blaze of ill-defined terms and their even muddier use. And
    example is below:

    “The celebrated journalist Ahmed Rashid warns that Pakistan is “in the
    process of dissolution, facing the same fate as Syria or Somalia.”

    I hadn’t noticed that Syria was “in the process of dissolution”. With coalition
    partners—and at times without them— Syria has made enormous strides
    in conflict with ISIL’s (Daesh) initially successful attempt to destroy
    it, often with the collaboration of the US with affiliates of
    al Quaeda (so called “moderates” for US marketing purposes).

    The retaking of the city of Palmyra with Russian air support can
    be cited as an example showing that Syria has hardly collapsed..
    Some brief soundbite descriptions of the wreck ISIL has made have
    been heard.

    The information on the US federal budget is central. The issue
    is now, as it has so often been (with al Queada collaboration
    via the CIA etc.), whether the US really wants to defeat ISIS.

    Despite US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Vladimir
    Putin last week (see Gareth Porter, Consortium of yesterday)
    one cannot accurately ascertain what is going on. If one could
    only have been the proverbial “fly on the wall”! Gareth Porter’s
    analysis is quite persuasive in his contribution.

    Is the US carrying water for the US weapons industry which
    gains profits (if not “jobs”) from wars conducted by proxy abroad?
    This results in consumers for made-in-the US weapons
    although many contracts must be “greased” by the guarantee
    of outsourcing jobs to the buyer.

    The elimination of NATO eliminates prospective markets for
    weapons sales.

    Does this explain in any way the shift of focus and elimination
    of funding in the US budget? These issues should be addressed.

    Or, as another Presidential candidate proudly declares,
    it’s us (= the good always altruistic US, the “good guys’—
    traditionally “blue” in weapons training) against them (red).
    On with the cold war as incorrectly perceived in public
    discourse. (“Discourse” may be a more polite name
    for the name calling.)

    Earlier weapons structure always posited the US
    against “the bear” (the USSR). Ahh yes, those were
    the good times. Weapons manufacture and the
    profits of manufacturers were booking. Remember,
    first the US was at war (WWII), then a war with the bear.

    (See William Greider, FORTRESS AMERICA… and
    John Tirman, SPOILS OF WAR…)

    Or is the US itself a “failed state”?

    The spreading of ill-defined terms generated via western
    PR does not help much.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  10. March 30, 2016 at 22:22

    Thanks! Well said, and VERY important. U.S. priorities and policy toward Pakistan have been askew for decades. This article points up a real and present danger. ray mcgovern

    • J'hon Doe II
      April 2, 2016 at 08:39

      America’s Nuclear Weapons in Europe Are the Nuclear Elephant in the Room

      By William M. Arkin
      March 31, 2016

      A little more than 60 miles from Brussels Airport, Kleine Brogel Air Base stands as one of six overseas repositories in the world where the United States still stores nuclear weapons. The existence of the bombs is officially neither confirmed nor denied, but it has been well-known for decades.

      Yet the presence of these weapons — an estimated 20 American B61 nuclear bombs to be carried and delivered by the Belgian Air Force’s dwindling inventory of F-16 fighter jets — did not come up in the news coverage following the Islamic State (IS) bombings last week in Brussels, or in the run-up to President Barack Obama’s fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit, being held this week.

      Nor was Kleine Brogel mentioned in reports about the shooting death, days after the bombings, of a security guard who worked at a Belgian nuclear facility, or in stories about vulnerabilities at Belgiam’s nuclear facilities and power plants. In a prominent editorial entitled “Keeping Nuclear Weapons From Terrorists,” the New York Times didn’t mention that US nuclear weapons are stored in Belgium while arguing that “even if the chances are small that terrorists will acquire a nuclear weapon,” the potential consequences are so devastating, we should plug any “possible security gaps.”

      To ensure those gaps are plugged, hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent by the US on security in the two decades since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Belgium’s bombs are stored inside specially constructed armored vaults underneath protective aircraft shelters that are inside a secured storage site exclusively used for nuclear weapons that is inside a military base.

      According to Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project of the Federation of American Scientists, nuclear weapons have been in Belgium since November 1963, when they arrived under a Top Secret agreement codenamed Pine Cone that was never seen or approved by the Belgian Parliament.

      Conventional wisdom is that the nuclear weapons in Belgium, as well as the other four European countries — the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey — where they are stored today (there are two storage sites in Italy) tie together the Atlantic alliance in unique ways. The nuclear weapons are the ultimate American guarantee to Europe, and they’re also a kind of US-European bargain: Only the US president can approve their use, but the host nations have to approve the bombs leaving the country. Thus the weapons can serve as a deterrent while also being virtually unusable.

      The figure of 150 nuclear weapons in Europe today is dwarfed by the number that were stored on European soil at their peak — 7,300 in 1971. Then, there were artillery and missile warheads of a staggering variety, a nuclear bazooka, and even backpack nuclear weapons. Ships and submarines routinely carried nukes into the Baltic and Black seas to the Soviet Union’s doorstep. Policy was driven by perceptions of overwhelming conventional military threat and the doctrines of deterrence, with arsenals growing ever more capable.

      Today, the 150 bombs evade public attention to the extent that a post–terror attack nuclear scare in Belgium can occur without the bombs even being mentioned. And in terms of physical security, with five layers of control, every electronic gizmo known to the world of security, and 300 US and Belgian full-time guards, the bombs are safe.

      “A Tunisian-born national was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to bomb Kleine Brogel in 2003,” Kristensen says. “Suspected terrorists have had their eye on one of the Italian bases, and the largest nuclear stockpile in Europe is in the middle of an armed civil uprising in Turkey less than 70 miles from war-torn Syria. Is this really a safe place to store nuclear weapons?”

      The nuclear weapons still deployed in southeast Turkey, about 300 miles from the Islamic State capital of Raqqa, Syria, are an absurd anachronism, and according to Kristensen, millions of dollars are now being spent to improve the security of the US-Turkish airbase at Incirlik.

      The US says that it spends about $100 million annually to maintain nuclear weapons in Europe, not counting the cost of the estimated 3,000 people directly involved in security, maintenance, and command and control. The argument is that the price is relatively small. Post-Paris and post-Brussels Europe will no doubt look for more money for intelligence and law enforcement. Pressure is even mounting to increase military spending. NATO’s nuclear apparatus would be a good place to start to save money and increase safety. Even Belgium would benefit, with tens of millions of euros freed up to spend on, well, anything else.

  11. Boris Michael Garsky
    March 30, 2016 at 20:58

    This is the reason that China is developing Military security forces which will be posted outside of its borders and I’m sure that Pakistan will be one of the first recipients of these security forces. There is no doubt in my mind that the recent bombing and murder of over 70 Christians is an attempt to totally destabilize Pakistan by igniting a civil war and gain control of their nuclear arsenal.

  12. Pablo Diablo
    March 30, 2016 at 16:30

    It was the United States that gave Pakistan nuclear weapons, which then gave them to North Korea. It was the United States that gave nuclear weapons to India. It was the united States that gave nuclear weapons to Israel, and one or the other that gave nuclear weapons to South Africa. Which countries has Russia given nukes to? Gotta keep the fear factor at highest level to keep the war machine well fed. WAKE UP AMERICA.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 30, 2016 at 22:17

      It was the United States that gave Pakistan nuclear weapons…

      First I’d heard of this. Actually, any nation with a half-decent education system can produce engineers and technicians and spies to eventually make nuclear weapons. Even if – like Pakistan – that nation is dirt poor.

      If anybody gave Pakistan any special help with the nukes, my money would be on China – to make trouble for India.

      I don’t really understand the emphasis this essay has on Pakistan. Nukes are possibly/probably very bad things in any nation, for governments can be overturned and individuals bribed or otherwise made to cough up information and/or materials. Not to menton that unbalanced personalities can come to power anywhere.

      Right after I started reading it I found myself substituting the words “Soviet Union” every place Pakistan was written. Next I tried “Israel”. With a bit of tinkering with the context, both fit very well.

      In 1990 when the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR collapsed, that nation was supposed to have had tens of thousands of atomic explosive devices. To this day I find it difficult to believe every single one was accounted for in all the chaos. Israel certainly assisted South Africa in making several A-bombs. How many other nations has that little shithole of a murderous & thieving apartheid state given such assistance? As for the author’s remark about Pakistan being the #1 suspect if an unexpected nuke goes off in somebody’s city, my first look would be at Israel – what could it gain by the event?

      The US of A has had and still has many problems with its nukes. The “privatizing” craze of recent years has me especially worried.

      Consider this story in the online FP site:

      The story line is that Begium – a “failed state” – has US nukes stored on at least one base which is wide open. Liberally! Is it true? In this age of the Google/NSA alliance tracking every single word on the internet, I don’t dare to search very closely. And it’s a fact that the FP site is a nest of neocon rightwinguts who lie as easily as they breath. But what if they’re telling the truth this time?

      ISIS with stolen nukes. Imagine how Patriot Act – The Ultimate Version – would look.

      • J'hon Doe II
        March 31, 2016 at 14:45

        It was the United States that gave Pakistan nuclear weapons…

        Zachary Smith — “First I’d heard of this”.


        The man who knew too much

        He was the CIA’s expert on Pakistan’s nuclear secrets, but Rich Barlow was thrown out and disgraced when he blew the whistle on a US cover-up. Now he’s to have his day in court.

        Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
        Saturday 13 October 2007
        (Last modified on Friday 8 January 2016)

        Rich Barlow idles outside his silver trailer on a remote campsite in Montana – itinerant and unemployed, with only his hunting dogs and a borrowed computer for company. He dips into a pouch of American Spirit tobacco to roll another cigarette. It is hard to imagine that he was once a covert operative at the CIA, the recognised, much lauded expert in the trade in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
        He prepared briefs for Dick Cheney, when Cheney was at the Pentagon, for the upper echelons of the CIA and even for the Oval Office. But when he uncovered a political scandal – a conspiracy to enable a rogue nation to get the nuclear bomb – he found himself a marked man.

        In the late 80s, in the course of tracking down smugglers of WMD components, Barlow uncovered reams of material that related to Pakistan. It was known the Islamic Republic had been covertly striving to acquire nuclear weapons since India’s explosion of a device in 1974 and the prospect terrified the west – especially given the instability of a nation that had had three military coups in less than 30 years . Straddling deep ethnic, religious and political fault-lines, it was also a country regularly rocked by inter-communal violence. “Pakistan was the kind of place where technology could slip out of control,” Barlow says.

        He soon discovered, however, that senior officials in government were taking quite the opposite view: they were breaking US and international non-proliferation protocols to shelter Pakistan’s ambitions and even sell it banned WMD technology. In the closing years of the cold war, Pakistan was considered to have great strategic importance. It provided Washington with a springboard into neighbouring Afghanistan – a route for passing US weapons and cash to the mujahideen, who were battling to oust the Soviet army that had invaded in 1979. Barlow says, “We had to buddy-up to regimes we didn’t see eye-to-eye with, but I could not believe we would actually give Pakistan the bomb.

        How could any US administration set such short-term gains against the long-term safety of the world?” Next he discovered that the Pentagon was preparing to sell Pakistan jet fighters that could be used to drop a nuclear bomb.

      • Howard Butz
        April 4, 2016 at 20:32

        Very helpful, Zach S, it’s a strategy I have seen used often before, to wit: A is a problem, but B,C,D E, and F are also problems and maybe even more serious. What should we do? (Enter Chicken Little, and you know the rest.)
        Let’s focus on the most unstable possessor of nukes, Pakistan, and keep an eye on the rest. That way, Zach, we can have a better hope of being effective. Dontcha think?

    • elmerfudzie
      April 2, 2016 at 11:30

      Pablo Diablo, This is a re-post of a CONSORTIUMNEWS comment I made over two years ago: Wasn’t it Donald Rumsfeld who promoted commercial nuclear power in North Korea?, approached construction giant ABB of Zurich and lobbied congress to that end? Wasn’t it President Clinton who sealed the deal? I get the eeriest feeling sometimes that this political maneuver and others like it (the Dimona reactor for Israel) are nothing but seed material deliberately planted to promote future wars. Any corporate portfolio develops plans well in advance as do the lobbyists (Rumsfeld) for the military, industrial congressional complex. I’m suggesting that the French government knew Dimona would inspire envy and hate among the worlds one billion Muslims. A similar scenario can be drawn from the North Korea experience, the commercial nuclear power plants were, in effect, bomb factories. They inevitably inspired fear in the immediate neighborhood, guaranteeing renewed military alliances and expenditures, oddly with the original instigators (France in the former and the USA, the latter).

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