Revealing Nuclear Pakistan

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pak nw.jpg
David Sanger has an important and revealing piece coming out Sunday on the security and survivability of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. In addition to depicting the vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear complex, the article illuminates some other pressing elements the incoming administration will need to apprehend. First, the folly and failure of US laws prohibiting distribution of PALs (permissive action links) is undeniable — though at this point one would assume and hope the US has by bypassed these laws to covertly assist in the indigenous development of Pakistani PALs.
Second, as many analysts predicted, the Pakistani military continues to dominate and control national security matters despite the changeover to civilian rule over a year ago. Sanger recounts how in the summer of 2008, Prime Minister Gilani not only failed to carry out a madrassa crackdown, he remained unaware of the operation’s failure that was undermined from within. The anecdote is reminiscent of Prime Minister Bhutto’s peripheral status on national security matters when in the late 1980s the CIA had to inform her during her of the Pakistani military’s nuclear program. This time, however, the US national security establishment did not even bother to inform Gilani of his ignorance. The episode confirms that — though its profile has diminished and moved out of the media spotlight — the Chief of Army Staff will remain the chief interlocutor for US security interests in the region.
But the punch line arrives towards the end of the article comes as it reveals some in the current administration have begun to prioritize Pakistan over Iraq or Afghanistan as the chief national security priority, given the lethal mix of extremist elements, nuclear weapons, a geopolitical hotzone, and geography that borders more than a third of the world’s population.

Though few in Washington will admit it, it is the right question. At the end of Bush’s term, his aides handed over to Obama’s transition team a lengthy review of policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, concluding that in the end, the United States has far more at stake in preventing Pakistan’s collapse than it does in stabilizing Afghanistan or Iraq.
“Only one of those countries has a hundred nuclear weapons,” a primary author of the report said to me. For Al Qaeda and the other Islamists, he went on to say, “this is the home game.” He paused, before offering up the next thought: For anyone trying to keep a nuclear weapon from going off in the United States, it’s our home game, too.

Despite early movements particularly from Biden’s side of the ledger, it remains to be seen whether the incoming national security team agrees with these assessments.
— Sameer Lalwani

Comments

26 comments on “Revealing Nuclear Pakistan

  1. tom says:

    Even the christian community in Pakistan hates the U.S.A which is the biggest terrorist country of all times. In August 2008 the christian solidarity front said that we must finish all the diplomatic relations with the satanic government of U.S.A. If it was not for the moderatw people( muslims and others) in Pakistan, then this country would have been in no difference from Iran. Instaed of being thankful to Pakistan for it’s role in fighting terrorism u maniacs can only criticize it. Shame on u guys. I hope there r no hard feelings there on u’r side but i was sayin the truth.

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  2. Sikander Hayat says:

    To get more information about developments in Pakistan and in the region, please visit http://www.real-politique.blogspot.com

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  3. varanasi says:

    uhh, JohnH…
    i didn’e mention iran in my post.
    rich said:
    “varanasi “because pakistan is not and has never been a existential threat to israel.”
    Sure it is–and was. Pakistan’s ISI actively worked with the CIA to pump up radicalized Islamic factions (al Qaeda, the Taliban), and after the USSR was ousted from Afghanistan, both the ISI & CIA made strategic and political blunders in presuming to give orders and failing to address political grievances of both groups.
    Inciting, funding, advising and training ‘militant jihadists” would definitely make Pakistan a mortal threat to Israel. And to the US. The inability and unwillingness to keep the lid on nukes was just icing on the cake of a fundamentally unstable country.”
    agreed.

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  4. rich says:

    So Frum’s head didn’t spin like a top, nobody spoke in tongues, and he didn’t recite The Beatles’ Hey Jude backwards to transmit satanic messages.
    Huh.
    Glad you had a good time.
    Still, packaging policies ‘to sell’ doesn’t seem to me the best way to debate the way forward, esp with so much on the line. One mistake and we could all be blown frum here to eternity.

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  5. Steve Clemons says:

    I had a terrific time at the dinner…first class hosts and first class
    pets….
    best, steve

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  6. rich says:

    varanasi “because pakistan is not and has never been a existential threat to israel.”
    Sure it is–and was. Pakistan’s ISI actively worked with the CIA to pump up radicalized Islamic factions (al Qaeda, the Taliban), and after the USSR was ousted from Afghanistan, both the ISI & CIA made strategic and political blunders in presuming to give orders and failing to address political grievances of both groups.
    Inciting, funding, advising and training ‘militant jihadists” would definitely make Pakistan a mortal threat to Israel. And to the US. The inability and unwillingness to keep the lid on nukes was just icing on the cake of a fundamentally unstable country.
    But put that militant extremism together with the abject refusal by the US and Pakistan to respond to political grievances and whaddya get:
    1. Muhammad Atta flew a plane into the World Trade Center because he was naturally outraged at seeing Israel bomb civilians in Lebanon in 1996. (I posted links to the Informed Comment citation.) Had Pakistan (& Saudi Arabia & the U.S.) not inflated and exploited militant jihadism–there’d’ve been no movement for Atta to join.
    2. Nearly 10,000 Afghans have volunteered to fight in Gaza–and closely tie the U.S. to Israel’s military agendas. Had Pakistan not allowed/assisted Saudi Arabia and the U.S. in implanting al Qaeda and radicalizing the Taliban, they wouldn’t be primed to respond to Israel’s war crimes.
    wigwag — “Absolutely right; and [Pakistan’s instability is] far more dangerous and consequential than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute . . ”
    Not so. Without the political grievance–i.e., Israeli offensive war against an entire population–there’d be nothing to incite and attract ‘terrorists’–meaning volunteers to the cause. The Tennessee Volunteers did the same thing: traveled a thousand+ miles on foot and horseback to fight for a cause, their way of life and the chance to pursue liberty as they saw it. Same thing.
    Just when we need to win over Afghan popular support–it’s not gonna happen.
    Of course Pakistan is a threat to Israel & the U.S.–it’s a hotbed of extremism, hasn’t done shit to confront it, “Osama bin laden and his lieutenants hiding in the north”–nothing about our contrived setup could last. Of course it’s coming apart at the seams.
    But it’s absurd to claim “pakistan [per se is] a threat to israel, india, china, russia, europe, the united states and the rest of the developed and developing world.” I.e., Everybody. Sure, there are those groups with an arcane and unreasonable agenda. But only rooting out the causes of those grievances, ending the bizarre idea that we’re entitled to do whatever we want whenever we want to whomever we want, and pro-actively changing the dynamic of violation-&-outrage — ONLY those things will get us out from under this sh!tpile mudslide D.C. calls a foreign policy. We’ll be facing blowback for decades unless we get the politics right. Lord knows Israel’s not headed in the right direction. And with Pakistan’s nukes going who-knows-where, I’d rather not go down in flames along with Israel. So it’d be a really good idea not to dink around and get this right finally.
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/usTopNews/idUKTRE50749E20090108?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
    Israel’s willingness to turn the conflict with Palestine into a wholesale war is generating ‘terrorist’ blowback on a macro-regional regional scale. Only we can’t call it ‘terrorism’ anymore, because it’s just plain war–and this is the same as the Tennessee Volunteers used to do–go and defend your people and fight for what’s right.
    The article:
    Afghans sign up to fight Israeli troops in Gaza
    By Hamid Shalizi
    Thu Jan 8, 2009 2:34pm GMT
    KABUL (Reuters) – More than a thousand Afghans signed up on Thursday [in one city] to say they wanted to go and fight Israel in the Gaza Strip, many of them blaming the United States which has some 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, for supporting the Jewish state.
    Accusations by Taliban militants and some Muslim clerics that Israel and its main ally, the United States, aim to destroy Islam have a strong impact on public opinion in Afghanistan, where Washington plans to almost double its troop numbers this year.
    “The acts of Israel against the innocent Muslims of Gaza are barbaric and inhumane and widely helped by the Americans,” Assam said, adding that nearly 10,000 people across Afghanistan had so far volunteered to fight in Gaza.
    Scores of young men crowded into the library of Kabul’s Milad ul-Nabi mosque, lined with banners reading “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” to sign up to fight Israel.
    “More than a thousand brave Afghans registered their names here to fight Israeli troops in Gaza,” said Habibullah Assam, the imam of the mosque and organizer of the campaign.

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  7. TonyForesta says:

    We have no values, and we are already like Rome, and, a dying empire in the final death throes. It will not be long before the economic calamaty that will never be corrected and will ultimately destroy America in the next decade begins taking a toll on our socalled military hypersuperiority. Once we equalled or bettered militarily, (and again we will be able to finance all our bloodthirty predator class warmaker pipedreams) – the blowback, if it has not happened already, will be certain, swift and brutal.
    America deserves what we get, because allowed criminals, pathological liars, traitors, thieves, and warprofiteers to commandeer our government. We allowed our government to implement policies that gutted the middle class, and funnelled all the wealth and resources into the offshore accounts of the predator class.
    We allowed our government to engage in and perpetuate wars or choice that are sold and massmarketed through rank deception. We allowed our government to pervert and betray the Constitution, the rule of law, and the American
    We allowed our government to maraud the resources of soveriegn nations, slaughter innocent civilians, sanction torture as state policy, and rob and pillage poor and middle class American to feed the superrich.
    We allowed our government to immunize crimes of the predator class and privatize the prison system that profits from ruthless prosecution of the poor and middle class for minor crimes, and minimal drug offenses.
    America has indeed shapeshifted into the great satan. Blowback is certain and fitting.
    The laws of Karma are immuntable and inescapable, and there will be blood, a balancing and a reckoning for Ameica’s crimes, betrayals, treasons, treacheries, and perversions.
    It’s already occuring.
    That said, as vile and evil, as America has grown – the same laws apply to the jihadists and – their blowback and karma will be far more brutal, fiery, and final, than America’s.

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  8. JohnH says:

    Varnassi writes: “Pakistan is not and has never been a existential threat to israel. they have always stood apart from their muslim brother in the ME by carefully avoiding conflict with israel.”
    And Iran has sought to provoke conflict with Israel? HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!
    Name me a country that Iran has attacked in the past few hundred years. Now name me a neighboring Arab country that Israel HASN’T attacked in the past 40 years.
    My friend, it’s Israel who has sought to provoke conflict with Iran over primacy in the Middle East.

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  9. easy e says:

    Posted by TonyForesta Jan 11, 3:34PM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Agreed that peace is never going to happen with all that profit in warmaking.
    Disagree that the problems are Third World countries i.e. Pakistan, Iran, India, etc.
    Western powers created the problem over hundreds of years through imperialistic expansionism, colonialism, etc. Think British Empire which has now morphed into American Empire.
    The West needs to do some real soul-searching about its values or we become victims of “Blowback”, or another Rome.

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  10. TonyForesta says:

    Peace is never going to happen. There is too much profit in warmaking, and too much hatred, ignorance, greed, and prejudice in humanity. The best we can hope for is containment. No state, Pakistan, Iran, India or anyone else would risk the certaint destruction of their nation by initiating a nuclear exchange. These arsenals are strategic deterants, and their is no uninventing nukes, or bugs, or chem, – there is only managing, innovating, and evolving the inventories.
    Jihadist massmurderers hold no such contraints, and therein lies the dire threat with regard to Pakistan’s nukes. We are all told, that the inventories are secure “…under the comprehensive mechanism of the National Command and Security System- similar to that of the Indian style”, and that the Pakistani military leaders tasked with managing the comprehensive system are moderate, trustworthy, and sane.
    But the Pakistani government is in dissarray, fragile, and vulnerable, the ISI has too many unholy and toxic tentacles to trust, and the military is torn between the various forces ripping Pakistan apart. If fissures develope that leave cracks or openings in the system for the jihadists, – the threat of nuclear weapons, or other WMD use by some stateless jihadist massmurder gang is all to real.
    Varanasi and WigWag are deadly accurate, claiming Pakistan is the most dangerous place on earth for everyone. The more instability in Pakistan, the greater the liklihood of all those warmaker thinktanks worst nightmares becoming a reality.

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  11. carol says:

    Absolutely. And the U.S. should take the lead in global nuclear disarmament and peace economics. Unfortunately greed, the love of money/power/empire, and the almighty Military-Industrial-Complex have us by the gonads.
    Posted by easy e Jan 11, 12:46PM
    Those 9 steps sound like a good plan to me!
    Wouldn’t the world be a better place for it?

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  12. varanasi says:

    “why doesn’t Israel consider Pakistan to be an existential threat? After all, they have the only Islamic Bomb”
    because pakistan is not and has never been a existential threat to israel. they have always stood apart from their muslim brother in the ME by carefully avoiding conflict with israel. now, with warming relations between israel and india, the pakistanis don’t want to to be left behind strategically or economically.
    However, the upswing of militant jihadism in and around pakistan as well as the world’s lack of confidence in the stability of pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and disruptive, uncontrollable ISI elements are a threat to israel, india, china, russia, europe, the united states and the rest of the developed and developing world.

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  13. Cee says:

    why doesn’t Israel consider Pakistan to be an existential threat? After all, they have the only Islamic Bomb
    JohnH,
    Because Pakistan can defend themselves. If they only had Qassam rockets they would be provoked and attacked.

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  14. easy e says:

    We all know about the WAR-BASED think tanks: AEI, American Security Council, DLC, Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institute, Hudson Institute, PNAC, etc., etc.
    Where are the PEACE-BASED think tanks that could work toward the “re-engineering” and transformation of the Military-Industrial-Complex into a Peace-Economics-Society?
    Inquiring minds wants to know.

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  15. jamzo says:

    you give more weight to sanger’s article than i did
    i did not find it as a breaking news article
    it was more in the style of a sanger’s analysis the foreign policy scene
    a note mentioned that the article was based on sanger’s work on his soon to be published book on the dangers he thinks face the obama administration in foreign policy
    i thought of it as a book promotion
    if it were sanger’s analysis i would have liked to read him saying “I” rather than the “usual sources who will not speak if if give their names”

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  16. easy e says:

    Posted by carol Jan 11, 10:22AM – Link
    Wouldn’t it be simpler if nobody owned nuclear weapons anywhere in the world?
    >>>>>>
    Absolutely. And the U.S. should take the lead in global nuclear disarmament and peace economics. Unfortunately greed, the love of money/power/empire, and the almighty Military-Industrial-Complex have us by the gonads.
    Published on Sunday, January 11, 2009 by Tikkun Magazine
    MEMO TO OBAMA: HOW TO CONVERT TO A PEACE ECONOMY
    by Deepak Chopra
    You have been elected by the first anti-war constituency since 1952, when Eisenhower was elected after promising to end the Korean War. But ending a war isn’t the same as bringing peace. America has been on a war footing since the day after Pearl Harbor, sixty-seven years ago. We spend more on our military than the next sixteen countries combined. If you have a vision of change that goes to the heart of this country’s deep problems, ending our dependence on war is far more important than ending our dependency on foreign oil.
    The most immediate changes are economic. Unless it can make as much money as war, peace doesn’t stand a chance. Since aerospace and military technologies remain the United States’ most destructive export, fostering wars around the world, what steps can we take to reverse that trend and build a peace-based economy?
    1. Scale out arms dealing and make it illegal by the year 2020.
    2. Write into every defense contract a requirement for a peacetime project.
    3. Subsidize conversion of military companies to peaceful uses with tax incentives and direct funding.
    4. Convert military bases to housing for the poor.
    5. Phase out all foreign military bases.
    6. Require military personnel to devote part of their time to rebuilding infrastructure.
    7. Call a moratorium on future weapons technologies.
    8. Reduce armaments like destroyers and submarines that have no use against terrorism and were intended to defend against a superpower enemy that no longer exists.
    9. Fully fund social services and take the balance out of the defense and homeland security budgets.
    These are just the beginning. We don’t lack creativity in coping with change. Without a conversion of our present war economy to a peace economy, the high profits of the military-industrial complex ensures that it will never end.
    Do these nine steps seem unrealistic or fanciful? In various ways other countries have adopted similar measures. The former Soviet army is occupied with farming and other peaceful work, for example. But comparisons are rather pointless, since only the United States is burdened with such a massive reliance on defense spending. Ultimately, empire follows the dollar. As a society we want peace, and we want to be seen as a nation that promotes peace. For either ideal to come true, you as president must back up your vision of change with economic reality. So far, that hasn’t happened under any of your predecessors. All hopes are pinned on you.

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  17. HIjikata says:

    As I read these posts, in particular the West’s concerns of a nuclear weaponed Iran, and what the West would or would not do, I wonder if someone might comment on what the thinking was as Pakistan (and India?) developed their nuclear ambitions? Was the difference that Pakistan was the US’s putative ally? If that was the case, what was the thinking regarding the durability of such an arrangement, and the implicatons of its possible demise?

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  18. carol says:

    Wouldn’t it be simpler if nobody owned nuclear weapons anywhere in the world?
    I don’t know how it makes it right for some countries to own them and others not. Does it not give cause for those who don’t own them to find other ways to air their grievances?
    Yet when they do that maybe in the form of rocket attacks/suicide bombings as that’s all they may have, we jump on them so fast for these atrocious acts it’s unbelievable!!!!
    There can’t be one rule for one country and another rule for other countries!

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  19. JohnH says:

    I’m not so confident about Holbrooke. People I know with personal experience of him have told me that his listening skills are virtually non-existent. US diplomats can no longer swagger around, telling people, “this is what you need to do.” It didn’t get Condi anywhwere, and it won’t resolve anything in South Asia.

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  20. WigWag says:

    “a nuclear Pakistan being bled slowly by jihadis (4 more bombings in lahore yesterday), questionable control of its nuclear arsenal, a powerful secret-service run amok, Osama bin laden and his lieutenants hiding in the north, and a crumbling Afghanistan next door…the most dangerous part of the world.”
    Absolutely right; and far more dangerous and consequential than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the Iranian nuclear issue or how to extricate ourselves from Iraq.
    South Asia will be a huge conundrum for Obama. One of the major reasons the Pakistani intelligence service encourages the Taliban on the Pakistani-Afghan border is that it fears an alliance between the Karzai government and India. The fact that the problem in Afghanistan is so profoundly intractable makes Pakistan much more dangerous than it already was.
    Like him or hate him, Richard Holbrooke may be one of the few diplomats in the United States smart enough, nimble enough and indefatigable enough to take this problem on.
    Obama was smart to appoint him.
    But it’s still hard to see how this story could have a happy ending.

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  21. b says:

    Sameer Lalwani writes:The anecdote is reminiscent of Prime Minister Bhutto’s peripheral status on national security matters when in the late 1980s the CIA had to inform her during her of the Pakistani military’s nuclear program.
    Now that is ahistoric fudging of the reality.
    Bhutto was well aware of the nuclear program. Of course she made the U.S. believe she was not. She herself sold enrichment stuff to North Korea to get North Korean missiles.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/06/01/ST2008060100007.html

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  22. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    For the readers of this note, I would like to apprise the fact that nature of the subjective-strategic apprehensions shown hereby , actually, do not seem warranted since Pakistan’s nuclear programme is positively managed under the comprehensive mechanism of the National Command and Security System- similar to that of the Indian style.But one has to demystify the myth about the future- possibility of the extremists’s controlling the state apparatus: Pakistanis are moderate in majority, and any change of government in the future, can only be happened by the moderate political elements in Pakistan.Yet one can not refute the thesis that in this emerging situation of terrorism in the region, both India and Pakistan need to revitalise the security measures by making their nuclear complexes as the stronger bastions to prevent any threats from the terrorists.Should not one also be convinced of the logic that Israel’s nuclear arsenal is as vulnerable as those of Pakistan and India?

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  23. varanasi says:

    a nuclear pakistan being bled slowly by jihadis (4 more bombings in lahore yesterday), questionable control of its nuclear arsenal, a powerful secret-service run amok, osama bin laden and his lieutenants hiding in the north, and a crumbling afghanistan next door.
    the most dangerous part of the world.

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  24. rapier says:

    Pakistan along with Saudi Arabia were always the epicenter of terrorism. With Pakistan being the gravest problem from a direct threat point of view. The Saudis only to the extent that is the money supplied by the fringe there which fuels so much.
    I wonder if the Condi ever got those late arriving messages from the White House advisers. Probably not. In her White House days we can be sure the subject of Pakistan probably hardly crossed her mind.
    Deep in my lizard brain I think the neocons and Cheney, whatever he is, look forward to nuclear war in south Asia and the Gulf region. Putting a gigantic hole in the global system and the status quo. Giving permission for us to later use them.

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  25. ... says:

    Sameer Lalwani – thanks for your educational post and comments..
    JohnH – thanks for your insightful comments as well…
    wasn’t an oil pipeline going to run to pakistans as a result of the war in iraq? i thought that was one of the objectives, or is it supposed to go thru afganastan which is why the usa has to be in afganastan? i can’t remember..

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  26. JohnH says:

    Oh my God! Reality is finally starting to sink in!
    Only problem is that Pakistan doesn’t have any oil, so what will motivate the energy security complex to support a plan to stabilize Pakistan? And Pakistan doesn’t need any more arms (it will only become more dangerous), so why should the merchants of death support it?
    Question: why doesn’t Israel consider Pakistan to be an existential threat? After all, they have the only Islamic Bomb>

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