Pakistan’s Precedent-Setting Role in Today’s Nuclear Problems, and Israel’s Attempts to Counter It

With Iran on its way to obtaining nuclear weapons—perhaps regardless of whether a deal is concluded in Vienna—it may well be up to the Jewish state to stop it. Israel already prevented both Iraq and Syria from obtaining nuclear weapons with now well-documented airstrikes. So far, it has reportedly favored clandestine measures to slow the Islamic Republic’s path to the bomb. Oved Lobel calls to attention to new information about another covert campaign, in the 1980s, to nip Pakistan’s nuclear program in the bud—which came close to using bomber jets as well:

If Israel’s efforts to halt [the Pakistani nuclear] network had succeeded, not only would Pakistan have been stopped from getting nuclear weapons, but in all likelihood, so too would North Korea—while Iran’s ongoing nuclear program would never have gotten off the ground, and the same can be said for the abortive nuclear programs of Libya and Syria.

Israel planned a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at Kahuta around the same time as the bombing of Osirak, [the location of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, in 1981]. Since 1981, India had been planning a strike against Kahuta to halt the weapons program, and in 1983 Indian officials secretly travelled to Israel to purchase electronic-warfare equipment to overcome Pakistan’s air defenses around the facility. After threats by Pakistan, Israel offered to launch the strikes from two Indian airbases, an operation which then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed off on in March 1984. The U.S., however, leaked the plans to Pakistan and put extreme pressure on Israel, which backed down.

U.S. complicity, across political parties and administrations, supported Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program. . . . The Pakistanis, primarily out of anti-American and Islamist ideological zeal with a touch of financial desperation, gave the Iranians centrifuges, enrichment plant plans and reportedly even weapons designs. . . . Pakistan also reportedly began training Iranian nuclear scientists.

By pretending the nuclear issue did not exist as an irritant in the relationship, the U.S. was able to forego sanctions on Pakistan and partner with it in Afghanistan, first against the Soviet Union and then against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, issues it prioritized over nuclear proliferation. This would prove to be a fatal error of judgement, as Pakistan’s double game in Afghanistan—where it was the key backer of the Taliban and also protected al-Qaeda—would ultimately lead to a transnational terrorism campaign against the West and eventually the 2021 retreat of the U.S. from Afghanistan—delivering the country straight back into the hands of the Taliban.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Nuclear proliferation, Pakistan

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority