Could He Find Cheese In Wisconsin?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece on the history of the A.Q. Khan nuclear network that proliferated nuclear technologies from the West to Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and Libya (undoubtedly others as well). The A.Q. Khan network was responsible for making Pakistan a nuclear power under the nose of the IAEA and the Clinton Administration despite the fact that Pakistan barely has the industrial capacity to produce sewing needles, no less nuclear weapons.

It is an interesting consequence of history that the war in Iraq helped crack open the A.Q. Khan network. As pressure built up on Saddam Hussein to disarm, Libyan dictator Mohammar Qadafi was worried that he would be next. He had been in negotiations with the governments of the United States, Britain, and Italy to unilaterally disarm himself of his entire nuclear program — a transaction which began shortly before the fall of the Hussein regime and concluded shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces. The technology and documentation recovered was invaluable to stopping A.Q. Khan’s deadly network. Dr. Khan himself was arrested by the Pakistanis in February of 2004.

But there’s yet another twist to the story. One of the people who was responsible for getting to the bottom of the A.Q. Khan network’s attempt to procure uranium from Africa was none other than former Ambassador Joseph Wilson — the same man who was charged with that task in regards to Iraq three years later in 2001. Wilson said that he found no evidence that the Pakistanis were getting uranium from Africa — despite the fact that it is well documented that Dr. Khan visited the African states of Niger and Mali, both of whom are sources for uranium ore that can be processed into weapons grade material.

Wilson’s failure to uncover the truth in 1999 was repeated again in 2001 where he deliberately lied to The New York Times about finding no evidence that Iraq officials were pursuing African uranium when he himself reported that then-Iraq trade minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf had gone to Niger on a trade mission — and Niger’s chief export of interest to Iraq happens to be uranium.

The fact that the CIA continually dropped the ball when it comes to counterproliferation, just as they did on counterterrorism only shows how poor our intelligence capabilities were in the last few years. In a time when both al-Qaeda and nuclear proliferation were gathering threats on the horizon, the CIA failed to accurately assess the status of Pakistan’s nuclear program and the impact of the A.Q. Khan network. We should consider ourselves fortunate that the first sign of this tragic miscalculation wasn’t a terrorist-detonated nuclear weapon in a major American city.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.