Baltimore Foreign Policy Examiner’s note: Wahid Monawar, one of Afghanistan’s best known diplomats, in his write-up points out to the danger of closing one’s eyes to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
Guest column by Wahid Monawar
As tensions intensify between the United States and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program – where the United States and its allies have rightly accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons – it sends an alarming message to Iran’s regional adversaries. Just this past week, the Washington Post reported that Saudi Arabia had a surplus budget of 306 billion riyals ($81.6 billion) for 2011. With loads of surplus and unsaid revulsion toward the Iranian regime, the Kingdom seeks nuclear weapons at any cost, as nothing will shake the foundation of Saudi’s monarchy more than a nuclear Iran lurking across the Persian Gulf.
Having openly taken sides with Israel, a nuclear weapon state, it leaves the Saudis with little but no choice to partake in the regional nuclear arm race and assess their regional strategic pasture. As records indicate, Saudi Arabia has already ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons, commonly known as Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT.
NPT is a landmark treaty. Its main protocol forbids Saudi Arabia and other non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons, in exchange for nuclear states (U.S., China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) to share the benefit of peaceful nuclear technology. States that have nuclear weapons but are non-parties to NPT are: India, Israel, North Korea & Pakistan.
With uncertainty rampant across the Middle East and an Arab Spring at its doorsteps, the Kingdom cannot afford to withdraw from NPT in hopes of developing its own nuclear weapons. However, the Kingdom has excellent diplo-Jihadi relations with Pakistan – a failed state well known for exporting illicit nuclear materials and terrorism. Saudi Arabia’s long support of Jihad pedagogy across Pakistan, and its financial support for Pakistan military that in turn subsidizes the Taliban and other terrorist groups, to topple the current Afghan government, solidifies Pak-Saudi’s symbiotic amalgamation that will eventually help Saudis purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan.
Inherently, Pakistan has a proven track record of ability to FedEx nuclear weapons across the globe. The mastermind of illicit trafficking is none other than A.Q. Khan. Khan, an engineer turned trafficker, was given autonomous control over Pakistani uranium enrichment program by Pakistan’s Socialist Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. During his tenure, Khan had an outstanding record in the illegal transfer of nuclear materials and technologies to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and others.
According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in 1987, Khan on behalf of the Pakistani government had signed a secret agreement with Iran on peaceful nuclear cooperation. Later on that year, Khan offered the Iranian regime a package of nuclear technologies, including assistance for the difficult process of casting uranium material. The price of the package reported to be in hundreds of millions.
Subsequently, Khan was able to deliver sub-assemblies for numerous centrifuges to Iran. Khan could not have marketed himself without underlined consent of Pakistani dictators, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf.
While Pakistani leaders were complicit in Khan’s illicit trafficking, a more useful question, then, is what motivated Pakistan to sell nuclear materials to rogue states? According to Carnegie: “The Pakistani currency reserve crunch may motivate Khan to expand his nuclear network with sales to North Korea. The crisis might have made a barter agreement attractive to Pakistan to avoid defaulting on external debt.”
It’s worth noting, that while the West sees Khan as the most dangerous nuclear trafficker, in Pakistan, on the other hand, if Islam was not the established religion, surely, Khan would be a deity. Thankfully, Khan is out of business!! But his behavior perpetuates in current Pakistani military Jihadi Generals. In light of U.S.-Pakistan deteriorating relations, Pakistan’s financial needs would make any offer from the Kingdom, not an indecent proposal.
Then, how is that going to happen? Recently, C. Christine Fair wrote a lengthy piece demanding the U.S. President, Barak Obama, to apologize to Pakistani Jihadi leaders. She had used her knowledge as propaganda to illustrate Pakistan’s dire economic situation. She wrote: “As for Pakistan, it’s an economic disaster case. Pakistanis have long endured incomprehensible electricity outages. Now, they lack inadequate gas to cook or heat their homes.”
If this is the real case, then Pakistan seems like a desperate nation in need of additional illegal transactions.
This makes it all more important for the Saudi Kingdom. As for the Kingdom, it’s a matter of defense. Defense is, for all nations, at the heart of national security. While the Kingdom has offered Israel to use its territory as a staging ground to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, even so, it had accepted to live with a perceived nuclear Israel, it will be presumptuous to conclude that Saudi Arabia will follow a similar suit with a nuclear Iran, and effectively render the Saudis as Iranian hostages.
Finally, in Obamaland, there is no shortage of demand for a U.S. military excursion to dismantle Iranian nuclear program, while forgoing an established cognitive dissonance when it comes to U.S. policy in dealing with a habitual offender, Pakistan. Hence, it would be a prudent practice for U.S. policymakers to question the premise of conventional wisdom. The U.S. cannot afford to entrust regional stability to a Pakistan, which behaves contrary to U.S. vital strategic interest. More importantly, and this is not rocket science, but a historical fact, to take into consideration that Pakistan’s perfidious nature and its illusionist leaders have helped to shape an environment of axis-of-evil to thrive. Then, it will be a grave mistake to keep our eyes off the ball and allow Pakistan, to once again, proliferate.
Wahid Monawar is a former Governor of Afghanistan to the International Atomic Energy Agency & the Co-founder of the Neo-Conservative Party of Afghanistan. He is an associate of Zurich Partners. Follow him on Twitter @AfghanPolicy