Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and nuclear racketeer, lived a charmed life from the mid-1990s, when he started covertly hawking nuclear technology to overseas clients.
His ring was finally exposed in 2003 when Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi agreed to open up his nuclear program to US intelligence scrutiny.
In Muslim Pakistan, he was and still is a hero.
Harder to explain away – even by the pressures of domestic and international political expedience – was the Bush administration’s turning a blind eye to the nefarious trade Khan conducted with his own government’s tacit blessing.
The same difficulty applies to Syria which, in 2000, developed an ambition to be the first country in the world to make and disseminate the “poor man’s nuclear weapon” – namely radioactive bombs or RDD for terrorists organizations. North Korea was on hand to assist.
Washington’s briefings and judicious leaks in the last ten days about Syria’s nuclear reactor, built by North Korea and demolished by Israel last September, do not explain how blatant nuclear proliferation was allowed to run riot and benefit the most radical, anti-West Muslim countries for at least eight years.
The skimpy briefings led DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources to three conclusions:
Nuclear schemes hatched unobstructed for eight years
1. Given that work began on Syria’s destroyed nuclear reactor seven years ago, Damascus must have decided on the project, prepared the site, approved the plans and found the necessary substantial funding at least a year earlier, in 2000.
Was the decision made by the incumbent president’s father Hafez Assad before he died in June, 2000, or by his son, Bashar Assad, immediately after his ascent to the presidency?
And where was US intelligence in the years when Damascus, Pyongyang, Tehran, Tripoli and AQ Khan were hatching their clandestine missile and nuclear deals?
Still working backwards, we find that the deal with Syria at least must have been clinched between 2000 and 2002 at the latest, one to three years before the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003. By then, Syria’s nuclear program was more advanced than either Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction projects or Iran’s dread nuclear program!
2. During late 2008 or early 2009, Syria would have been turning out its first one or two nuclear weapons, as the CIA director, Michael Hayden confirmed this week, had its reactor not been destroyed.
3. Is it conceivable that for six to seven years, both American and Israeli intelligence agencies were ignorant of what Syria was up to at Al Kibra and only found out in 2007?
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources do not believe this.
Syria’s drive for nuclear weapons and its dealings with North Korea were assuredly known to intelligence agencies much earlier, in the first half of the 1990s. So why was nothing done about it by the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies and the Israeli governments under Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon?
Syria has always got away with it
With hindsight, perhaps the United States would have done better in March 2003 to have ousted the Baath regime in Damascus rather than Saddam’s Baathists in Baghdad. The former has turned out to be the more dangerous to the West; furthermore, the US invasion of Iraq has ended up opening the floodgates to aggressive Iranian influence.
Targeting Syria would not have pinned down a large US army in unending combat; it would have nipped in the bud the Syrian ruler’s nuclear ambitions, scotched his campaign to destabilize Lebanon and denied extremist Palestinian terrorist command centers a base in the Syrian capital, possibly easing progress toward Israel-Arab peace accords.
Iraq under Saddam would have continued to obstruct Iran’s expansion into the Arab world and kept it isolated as it did in the post-revolutionary 1980s war years.
For now, Tehran’s radical rulers appear to be unstoppable, especially in Iraq, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly 343 reported on April 4, 2008 (Why Has Washington Given Tehran a Free Run in S. Iraq?)
Echoing this query on April 28, Hannah Allam, Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Stroble reported in McClatchy Newspapers:
“One of the most powerful men in Iraq isn’t an Iraqi government official… He is an Iranian general… Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani [who] commands the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force… whose mission is to expand Iran’s influence in the Middle East. As Iran’s point man on Iraq, he funnels military and financial support to various Iraqi factions.”
Damascus and Tehran move on unfazed
If Washington erred, so much more did Jerusalem.
Prime minister Ariel Sharon was never enthusiastic about the plans Washington drew up in 2002 and 2003 for war on Iraq. His choice would have been Iran, not Iraq. But even Sharon never figured that the United States should fight Syria instead of Iraq.
It seems that both Washington and Jerusalem despised the young Assad, and therefore underestimated him. They saw a weak-looking greenhorn stepping into shoes much too big for him and looking dazed by the responsibilities dropped on his shoulders.
Eight years later, with all his weaknesses, Assad has proved them wrong. Closely allied with Iran, Syria has accumulated a frightening measure of leverage in the Middle East; he still rules the roost in Beirut and manipulates the Palestinians. Meddling freely in the war against America in Iraq, he is not afraid to flaunt the sanctuary he grants al Qaeda to pump suicide bombers into that conflict.
Finally, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources point out that Syria and Iran have not only beefed up their own national armies, but augmented them with readily-available proxy forces, i.e. Hizballah (in Lebanon and Iraq), the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami, and Iraqi Shiite militias under Tehran’s thumb.
Whereas Assad Sr. initiated Syria’s alliance with Iran in the late 1990s, his son has joined Damascus and Tehran at the hip, creating a new extremist belt with a regional dimension that spans the entire Middle East and beyond.
This force will not be stopped by Israel’s bombardment of Syria’s North Korean reactor, deterred by sanctions and isolation, or embarrassed by Washington’s careful revelations about its nuclear misdeeds. For Tehran and Damascus, the attack was only a temporary setback in its long war with the United States and Israel.
They are now moving on and acting as though they are sure the odds are still in their favor.