Ter­ror­ist use feared

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Is the world more danger­ous to­day than it was at the height of the Cold War? Any­one who is still any­one in the field of nu­clear arms con­trol has weighed in with a re­sound­ing yes. North Korea’s sec­ond nu­clear test, fol­lowed by a re­nun­ci­a­tion of the 1953 armistice agree­ments, and more mis­sile fir­ings, is the lat­est red flag on a dark nu­clear hori­zon. Nu­clear ter­ror­ism, un­think­able dur­ing the Cold War, has be­come the most im­me­di­ate fear of the ex­perts.

It may never be known whether this is an ail­ing, petu­lant North Korean tod­dler throw­ing his nu­clear teddy bear out of the stroller to gain the at­ten­tion he craves or a sick, para­noid dic­ta­tor cur­ry­ing fa­vor with his ag­ing, be­medaled gen­er­als to en­sure a smooth suc­ces­sion to the her­mit throne for one of his sons. The only power that has any in­flu­ence over Kim Jong-il is China. But its leaders are re­luc­tant to wield that in­flu­ence lest they pro­voke the col­lapse of the Dear Leader’s gu­lag.

That also is South Korea’s main con­cern. A sud­den power vacuum — or a bloody strug­gle for power — would make the bill for Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion ($1 tril­lion over 10 years) seem like chump change next to the cost of Korean re­uni­fi­ca­tion. East Ger­many had an in­dus­trial and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture; North Korea would have to build from the ground up in ev­ery field of hu­man en­deavor.

Korea is just one of the nu­clear night­mares haunt­ing the world stage. Pak­istan, in the throes of near civil war, is fever­ishly adding to its nu­clear arse­nal of 80 to 100 weapons. Roedad Khan, the for­mer head of the Pak­istani civil ser­vice who has turned pun­dit, wrote: “Th­ese are crit­i­cal days in Pak­istan. There is no steady hand on the tiller of gov­ern­ment. The sur­vival of the coun­try, its sovereignty, its stunted democ­racy, its hard-won in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, all are on the line. In th­ese danger­ous times, any­thing is pos­si­ble. I shall not be sur­prised at any event that may hap­pen. The coun­try is gripped by fear and un­cer­tainty. [. . .] The ship of state is de­crepit and creaky. The sea is tur­bu­lent. The cap­tain has [. . .] no com­pass. The crew is in­ex­pe­ri­enced. If the na­tion doesn’t wake up, we will all go down like the Ti­tanic. His­tory will re­mem­ber both that [Pres­i­dent Asif Ali] Zar­dari failed to hear the warn­ing bells and the politi­cians failed to ring them loudly enough.”

Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen says he is sat­is­fied that Pak­istan’s nukes are un­der a goof­proof, guar­an­teed-not-to-fail sys­tem and that war­heads and their mis­sile-de­liv­ery ve­hi­cles are stored in sep­a­rate places in dif­fer­ent parts of a coun­try of 175 mil­lion Mus­lims. But no U.S. of­fi­cer has been al­lowed to see any of the stor­age sites. Pak­istani of­fi­cers say, “You haven’t let us see how yours are stored and safe­guarded, so why should we let you see ours?”

More wor­ri­some for West­ern in­tel­li­gence ser­vices is the Pak­istani nu­clear es­tab­lish­ment in Kahuta, 36 miles from Is­lam­abad. Cre­ated by How-Ilearned-to-stop-wor­ry­ing-andlove-the-bomb Ab­dul Qadeer Khan, the su­per­secret Khan Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries and mis­sile-build­ing fa­cil­ity em­ploys about 7,000 nu­clear en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists and en­riches enough plu­to­nium to pro­duce about six nu­clear weapons a year.

“Dr. Strangelove” Khan ped­dled nu­clear se­crets to Amer­ica’s en­e­mies — North Korea (in ex­change for mis­sile tech­nol­ogy) and Iran (for big bucks) — and is idol­ized as a na­tional hero. Pre­sented with the CIA’s ev­i­dence against Mr. Khan, for­mer Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf placed him un­der house ar­rest af­ter he made a grov­el­ing pub­lic con­fes­sion on tele­vi­sion — in English, not in Urdu. How­ever, Mr. Mushar­raf never al­lowed any con­tact with Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

Re­cently ex­on­er­ated, with apolo­gies, by the supreme court, the for­mer met­al­lur­gist still has a huge fol­low­ing as a na­tional hero sec­ond only to the na­tion’s founder, Ali Jin­nah. In Kahuta, many of the build­ings are named af­ter him.

And the CIA and Bri­tain’s MI6 have a hard time keep­ing tabs on pos­si­ble leak­age of nu­clear ma­te­ri­als to al Qaeda, still head­quar­tered in Pak­istan’s Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas (FATA), and their Tal­iban in­sur­gent al­lies, now ac­tive in Pak­istan’s four prov­inces and over most of Afghanistan.

That leaves Iran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions as an­other red flag on a trou­bled geopo­lit­i­cal hori­zon that makes the world far less safe than it ever was dur­ing the Cold War.

Mr. Khan be­gan help­ing the mul­lahs with nu­clear know-how al­most 30 years ago. Shortly af­ter the cler­ics kicked out the late shah’s pro-West­ern monar­chy in early 1979, the supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah (“Sign of God”) Ruhol­lah Khome­ini gave his bene­dic­tion to a nu­cle­ar­weapons fu­ture. The shah told this re­porter that Iran one day would be a full-fledged nu­clear power, and when he went into ex­ile, Iran had 10 nu­clear re­ac­tors on or­der - five from the United States and five from West­ern Europe.

Iran’s nukes also are pulling apart the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Is­rael’s new gov­ern­ment un­der Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. For the first time since 1956, when Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower or­dered Is­rael, France and Bri­tain to cease their oc­cu­pa­tion of the Suez Canal, U.S. and Is­raeli strate­gic in­ter­ests are no longer seen as one and the same.

For Is­rael, Jewish set­tle­ments in the West Bank have noth­ing to do with Iran’s se­cret nu­cle­ar­weapons pro­gram. A ma­jor­ity of Is­raelis say Iran’s com­ing nu­clear at­trac­tions con­sti­tute an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis for the sur­vival of the Jewish state. For Pres­i­dent Obama, Is­rael’s creep­ing an­nex­a­tion of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is mak­ing a Pales­tinian state im­pos­si­ble, which, in turn, leads to what Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II pre­dicts will be an­other war in 2010.

Is­rael’s new Strate­gic Af­fairs Min­is­ter Moshe Ya’alon minced no words: “Set­tle­ment construction will not be halted” and “Is­rael will not al­low the United States to dic­tate its pol­icy.” Mr. Ne­tanyahu’s new team is also con­fi­dent Congress would never al­low Mr. Obama to make aid to Is­rael con­di­tional on a set­tle­ment freeze, let alone dis­man­tling 160 ma­jor colonies that house about 300,000 Jews.

Ar­naud de Borch­grave is ed­i­tor at large of The Wash­ing­ton Times and of United Press In­ter­na­tional. Austin Bay is on va­ca­tion this week.

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