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Could terrorists wage nuclear jihad?

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion
in response to reader comment: Why The Red Mosque Islamists won't succeed.

Submitted by Latur (India), Jul 25, 2007 at 15:53

If America is making a list of villains of the modern world, A.Q. Khan has to be near the top. Khan is the Pakistani nuclear scientist who smuggled secrets from Europe to help his native country build a bomb to compete with archenemy India. Not finished reshaping the world, he then went into business for himself and, with or without his government's connivance, peddled nuclear secrets and technology to Iran, North Korea, Libya and who knows who else. It is the thesis of "Nuclear Jihad: Can Terrorists Get the Bomb?," set for broadcast tonight on Discovery Times Channel, that Khan has hastened the day when terrorists not linked to nation-states will have access to nuclear bombs.

It's a nightmare scenario — backed by reporting that is detailed and solid, much of it done by two reporters for the New York Times. Today, a freelancer can fashion a roadside bomb out of an artillery shell and take out a Humvee full of Marines. Tomorrow, according to "Nuclear," the same person might be able to smuggle a nuke into a U.S. or European city or any city in any nation considered friendly to the West. How this happened — largely under the nose of the CIA, which had long known that Khan was slippery — is a story that is equally chilling and morbidly fascinating. The Dutch were about to arrest Khan in 1975, according to "Nuclear," but the CIA asked them to back off so that they could catch bigger fish.

Much of the story revolves around America's complex relationship with Pakistan and its military strongman, Pervez Musharraf. The U.S. needs him, and Musharraf has been helpful in fighting the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. But the Islamic movement is strong in his country, and Khan is a hero to the movement for having produced an "Islamic bomb" to rival the Christian, Jewish (Israel) and Hindu (India) bombs. Even though Musharraf made Khan apologize publicly once his black-market enterprise was unmasked, Khan faces no more criminal charges. He lives in quiet retirement in a suburb of Islamabad and cannot be questioned by the CIA or other outsiders. Musharraf dare not punish Khan. This is a country where Osama bin Laden gets a 65% approval rating, "Nuclear" tells us. Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts, and the degree of Islamic influence on his army is unknown.

Using the port at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Khan set up a supply chain of parts that was Wal-Mart-esque, the narrator intones. Khan hardly kept a low profile. After Pakistan exploded its first test nuke in 1998, he was a national celebrity. He owned schools, restaurants, even a disco. He lived large. "A.Q. Khan was in love with himself," says a Pakistani scholar. Was he getting help from his government when he was selling things like an updated centrifuge that is considered a shortcut to making enriched uranium? If not, how did he get permission to travel to North Korea so frequently and why was he riding in that Pakistani air force cargo plane? "How many religious pilgrimages could he make to a country like North Korea?" asks former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

If there will be a nuclear Terrorist attack in West , Pakistan will be responsible for it.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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