Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hell for Sale 

Good thing we stomped on Saddam when we did. If he'd had a few more years to raise the necessary moolah, Iraq might have gotten in line behind all the other rogue states to buy some WMD technology from our close ally Pakistan:
Pakistan has developed new illicit channels to upgrade its nuclear weapons program, despite efforts by the U.N. atomic watchdog to shut down all illegal procurement avenues, diplomats and nuclear experts said.

Western diplomats familiar with an investigation of the nuclear black market by the U.N.'s Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said this news was disturbing.

While Pakistan appeared to be shopping for its own needs, the existence of some nuclear black market channels meant there were still ways for rogue states or terrorist groups to acquire technology that could be used in atomic weapons, they said . . . .

Nuclear experts said these channels involved new middlemen who had not played a role in earlier deals which came to light last year.

"These are not the same people. They're new, which is worrying," said one Western diplomat . . . .

Being outside the NPT, like nuclear-armed India and presumed atomic power Israel, meant Pakistan had to buy on the sly.

This was why Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced scientist who built Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and whose role was revealed in 2003, set up a clandestine procurement network with front companies and middlemen who duped manufacturers across the globe into thinking purchases of sensitive dual-use items were intended for civilian purposes.

Khan later used this network to supply Iran, which says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and Libya, which got the same type of technology as Iran but said it was for a covert bomb program that was fully dismantled last year.

It was unclear if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would bring up the issue during her visit this week to Pakistan, a key ally in Washington's fight against global terrorism . . . .

While Khan may no longer be running it, Joe Cirincione, director of non-proliferation at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the black market was still alive. "The network hasn't been shut down," he said. "It's just gotten quieter. Perhaps it's gone a little deeper underground."
As you know, the U.S. has never demanded to interrogate nuke merchant A.Q. Khan for fear of embarrassing dictator Pervez Musharraf, our putative point man in the hunt for bin Laden. And by the way, Pervez, how's that little project coming along?

UPDATE (via or distinguished colleagues at Cursor): See how Condi expresses her disapproval.

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