Remembering A.Q. Khan, the Man Who Gave the World Its Nuclear-Proliferation Problems

On October 10, A.Q. Khan died in Islamabad of complications related to a coronavirus infection. More than any single individual, he contributed to the acquisition of advanced nuclear technology by dangerous and unstable nations. Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker write:

In the early 1970s, Khan, a metallurgical engineer, exploited his employment at a Dutch company . . . to steal restricted gas-centrifuge-design drawings and documents. Khan later returned to Pakistan to lead Islamabad’s illicit procurement efforts to acquire components and materiel for a centrifuge program, taking advantage of weak European and Japanese export controls on nuclear dual-use equipment to achieve his goal. Khan’s efforts allowed him to rise in prominence within the nuclear weapons complex and, later, in Pakistani society.

Khan reportedly led Islamabad’s successful effort to develop atomic bombs fabricated with highly enriched uranium by 1984. Khan also realized that selling Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities to other countries would turn a handsome profit.

The A.Q. Khan nuclear-proliferation network relied on numerous corrupt companies, manufacturers, engineers, and businessmen worldwide. Khan and his agents grew key nodes of the network in Malaysia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The black-market ring used offshore manufacturing businesses, shell companies, opaque shipping methods, and illicit banking to facilitate the transactions.

By the time the United States and Europe endeavored to close down the Khan network in 2004, it had sold substantial nuclear equipment and assistance to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, and had reportedly approached others.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iranian nuclear program, Libya, North Korea, Nuclear proliferation, Pakistan

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy