Terrorist use feared
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.