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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Pakistan: Typhoid Mary of Proliferation

Iran and North Korea, of course, are the remaining two members of the so-called "axis of evil." While these states have long been on the State Department's list of states accused of sponsoring terror, they have not historically been viewed as sponsoring anti-American attacks (well Iran did in the 1970s and 1980s) or cooperating with al Qaeda. North Korea, in particular, is on the list because it is a retirement home for long-ago terrorists. Iran is accused of sponsoring anti-Israeli terror in the name of the Palestinian cause.

So, the reason these states are part of the "axis of evil" is that they pursue weapons of mass destrcution. Yes, the states have been anti-American, but it is a big stretch to pretend 9/11 significantly altered US foreign policy towards those states.

That's because the US, since the end of the cold war, has focused much of its attention on so-called rogue states.

Consider what the Bush administration was saying before 9/11, for example. Richard Armitage of the Bush administration said the following when visiting India in May 2001:
Asked to name the rogue states, he referred to Libya, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and other countries ``in your neighbourhood''. Pressed to elaborate, he said ``we have questions about Pakistan which are well known and of which you are equally aware''.
Pakistan? Aren't they a key ally in the war on terror?

In fact, not long after this Armitage remark appeared in the Indian press, the US clarified that it did not consider Pakistan a rogue state.

Still, America's policy toward Pakistan did change significantly after 9/11. Because Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, the US imposed sanctions required under American nonproliferation statutes. Within weeks of 9/11, however, once Afghanistan was under the microscope, the US decided it needed Pakistan and reversed the sanctions.

I wonder what kind of message that sent to potential proliferants? Perhaps the US has higher priorities than non-proliferation?

In any case, many experts believe that Pakistan is the major source of nuclear technology that makes proliferation possible. For example, consider this statement by Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute (made in May 2003):

I would hope the one thing the IAEA will do [when it looks into Iran] will be to tell what it knows based on its viewing of these machines, but Pakistan is strongly suspected of having transferred the centrifuge technology that it stole from Europe in the late 1960’s and they also transmitted that technology to North Korea, and they-in the initial case, transferred it to China. So this is the Typhoid Mary of proliferation these days, and Pakistan from a U.S. interest standpoint is probably our biggest concern.
So every time you read a story about US concerns with Iran or North Korea, think about Pakistan.

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