Pakistan has finally acknowledged, after years of denials, that its onetime top nuclear scientist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, was not only involved in the illegal transfer of plans for a nuclear reactor to Iran, but was also directly involved, through his “criminal group,” of selling nuclear centrifuges to Tehran on the black market. Pakistan, of course, claims to have had no prior knowledge of the transactions despite reports that Khan even flew to meetings with his counterparts on a government plane.
Oil-rich Iran, meanwhile, has long maintained that its nuclear program is for the production of electricity only, and that it has no desire to become a nuclear power. This is not credible, as Dr. Khan has also made the same technology available to North Korea, which does want nuclear weapons, and Libya, which also did until recently. The centrifuges Iran has purchased will enable it to make material suitable for atomic warheads, assuming it hasn’t already done so.
Iran is a young, fast-growing country led by a radical theocratic regime whose aim is to make itself the dominant player in the region. With its vast oil resources and influence, Iran already has a history of meddling in its neighbors’ affairs and challenging Western, and especially American, interests. An Iran with nuclear weapons would be a catastrophe, as its openly hostile posturing against the West – coupled with its funding of, and collaboration with, radical and terror groups such as Hezbollah – would make it a dangerous force indeed.
An Iran with nuclear weapons would strengthen the hands of the enemies of the West; it is a certainty that the knowledge and technology Iran has purchased on the black market from its Pakistani friends will, in turn, be exported to terror groups with similar militant ideologies. Although we should be afraid of an Iran with nuclear weapons, there is even more to fear from a Hezbollah or al-Qaeda with nuclear weapons.
Where is the United Nations in all this? Its nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been ineffective in getting Tehran to comply with the barest minimum of inspections, although it acknowledges the obvious (after a two-year investigation) – that Iran already has a clandestine nuclear program, including uranium enrichment, and has had one for nearly two decades! IAEA’s head, Mohamed El Baradei, has been constantly thwarted in his (half-hearted) efforts to get Iran to disclose its nuclear intentions, and demonstrates his ineffectiveness again and again as head of the IAEA by accepting Tehran’s version of events. Iran’s leaders assure him, for example, that they actually refused black-market offers of technology that was specifically designed to facilitate the making of nuclear weapons.
Until Iran provides full disclosure as to its nuclear ambitions and permits unfettered inspections of its sites, it should be treated as a pariah; political and economic pressures should be ratcheted upwards. All options should be considered.
And what of Dr. Khan, the Father of Pakistan’s nuclear program and the Godfather of Iran’s and North Korea’s? He has been pardoned for his transgressions by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf; he will not be turned over to another country for prosecution; is permitted to keep all of the riches he earned from the illegal technology transfers; and he lives comfortably (although supposedly under house arrest) in an upscale neighborhood of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. Martha Stewart’s punishment seems Draconian by comparison.
Claude Cartaginese is a contributing writer and researcher for www.discoverthenetwork.org, and is a previous contributor to FrontPageMagazine.