Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pakistan Warns Against US Bid to Grab Bomb

Arab News reports the Pakistani Foreign Ministry's reaction to the Washington Post story that the US has a "secret plan" to secure that country's nukes should it go belly up.

“If there is any threat to our nuclear assets and sovereignty, we have the capacity to defend ourselves,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said.

Separately, a ministry statement said in response to the daily’s report that “suffice it to say that Pakistan possesses adequate retaliatory capacity to defend its strategic assets and sovereignty.”

The ministry strongly denied its weapons were at any risk. “Our strategic assets are as safe as that of any other nuclear weapons state,” it said.

So, who came out ahead of that media exchange? At least the Pakistanis know there's a "secret plan" to grab the nukes and Washington knows that Pakistan has a "secret plan" to defend them. Nothing follows.


Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Wheels within wheels...

The threat to their nukes leads Pakistan to beef up security on those nukes, which is what we wanted.

Threatening the Bush Administration makes Musharaf look less like an American lapdog, which is what he wanted.

11/13/2007 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Panama Ed said...

Those weapons are as secure as the Pakistani Government is ...

ha ha ha ha ha ha .....

While lawyers lead the insurgency in the streets and terrorists are released in Warizistan.

11/13/2007 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

My main fear -- and it may be just paranoia -- is that the we may wrongly assume there's some deep game to manage the Pakistani nukes simply because the issue is so important. One could reason, "they've got to have it covered" and therefore it must be.

Yet it's sometimes proved true in the past that nobody was minding the store. It seems incredible that the US had practically no reliable human intel assets covering Saddam's WMD program. And if that is how a vital issue in Iraq was covered, what positive proof do we have that this "secret plan" in Pakistan is any better resourced?

Do we have any basis, either way, to feel either doubtful or confident that the Pakistani nuke issue is being handled well? The best open source indicator I can come up with is to track how well the US can anticipate political events within Pakistan. That is one a proxy indicator of how good the apparatus in that country is.

My subjective guess is that the US has more and better assets in Pakistan than in Saddam's Iraq. But how much better, I don't know.

11/13/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I recall that when the Russians were planning to dismantle large numbers of nuclear weapons in the early 1990's that they offered to give us access to the nuclear material storage facilities if we paid to build them.

I do think we paid for the storage facilities, or at least part of the cost, so I wonder how that access aspect is working out? Especially now in Czar Putin's Russia?

11/13/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Wretchard: Remember that the U.S has been an open and strong ally of Pakistan for somewhere around 50 years now. The USSR - and Great Britian - supported India with weapons and we - and the Red Chinese - supported Pakistan. The Pakistani Air Force flew F-86's, F-104's and Migs.

And it was more than just the U.S. A Canadian friend of mine trained the Pakistanis in mine removal techniques.

One would assume that kind of long association would result in both the kind of deep insights and the personal contacts we would need to understand what is going on there. That was not true of Iraq. It was once somewhat true of Iran, but things have changed quite a bit since then.

11/13/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Proof of the Pakistani's lack of adequate, by US Standards, security is Dr Khan's proliferation network.

Either the Pakistani Army sanctioned his efforts, thusly it was Pakistani Policy to proliferate through Dr Khan as a cutout, or their security was so lack as to be non-existent.

Even in the US, the nuclear warheads, mounted upon cruise missiles can be misplaced, under the wings of a B-52.

Such lack of security, in the US, does not bode well from the US perspective, for the situation in Pakistan.

11/13/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

My understanding that the weapons are stored, disassembled, with the compenents in seperate locations.

A few junior officers and some NCOs, that's all that have to be corrupted, at each storage facility.

We kow that General Gul was radicalized, still is in retirement. But who replaces General Musharraf, in charge of the Army?
And after that General?

The USAF episode of a couple months ago shows just how easy the misappropriation of numerous nuclear warheads could be, here in the US. Let alone in Pakistan.

11/13/2007 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Note on Russian Nukes:

BETHESDA, Md. – The Megatons to Megawatts program has completed the elimination of weapons-grade uranium equal to 10,000 nuclear warheads, USEC Inc. (NYSE: USU) announced today. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) from former Soviet nuclear warheads once aimed at the United States has been converted, diluted and recycled into low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel purchased by USEC.

USEC markets the fuel to its utility customers for use in their commercial nuclear power plants. Once the material becomes LEU, it is no longer weapons-capable. This achievement marks the halfway point in this 20-year program.

USEC’s utility customers have used Megatons to Megawatts fuel in more than 90 power reactors in 31 states. The fuel generates about 10 percent of America’s electricity each year. To date, the total fuel purchased from Russia could generate enough electricity to power the United States for one year.

At a White House press conference last week following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Bush said, “This year we reached a milestone in nonproliferation cooperation by completing the conversion of 10,000 Russian nuclear warheads into peaceful fuel for U.S. power reactors. And I appreciate very much that sense of cooperation. That’s good for the world to see.”

Disclosure: I used to work for USEC downblending the Russian uranium. The number one rule when blending uranium is "Never Lick the Spoon!!!"


11/13/2007 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Yes, and one would expect that a technically competent superpower would be able to prevent the violation of its airspace, for example, and that it would have effective and hidden countermeasures in place to defeat the avowed intentions of its enemies. Notwithstanding our own embarrassment on that score, does anyone remember the name Mathias Rust?

Here's a fact. The best governments are almost criminally incompetent. Assume the worst. Assume that neither Pakistan nor the US are doing enough, nor even the right thing. I have no doubt that there are John P. O'Neills out there, and the Pakistani equivalent, trying to get it under control. But I'm also sure that there are your Barbara Bodines as well, thwarting and deflecting their efforts for the best possible reasons.

11/14/2007 08:36:00 AM  

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