A report in The Financial Times on Aug. 5 recalled that, a week before Pakistan's maiden nuclear tests in May 1998, then Premier Nawaz Sharif received a late night telephone call from a Saudi prince. India, Pakistan's arch-rival, had conducted nuclear tests that month and Sharif was weighing the consequences of following suit. As Sharif told a hurriedly organised meeting of senior officials, the Saudi prince had offered to provide up to 50,000 b/d of oil to Pakistan for an indefinite period and on deferred payment terms. This would allow Pakistan to overcome the impact of punitive Western sanctions expected to follow the tests.
The FT reported a former aide to Sharif as saying the message from Saudi Arabia, delivered on behalf of Crown Prince Abdullah, the de-facto ruler, had once again bailed out Pakistan at one of the most difficult moments in its history. The FT quoted the same former aide as adding: "It is possible that Pakistan may still have conducted its nuclear tests without the Saudi oil. But the tests would have been done with the knowledge that the economic fallout was going to be far more severe".
The telephone call illustrated the intimacy between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, a relationship that receives little international attention but has so far proved, for both sides, probably more profound and secure than any other. A year after the tests, Prince Sultan, the Saudi defence minister, visited the uranium enrichment and missile assembly plant at Kahuta, then run by the now disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul-Qadeer Khan. He thus became the first foreign official known to have visited a Pakistani nuclear research facility.
Saudi financial support has fuelled suspicions of nuclear co-operation between the two countries. The FT quoted a "senior US official" as saying Saudi finance helped fund Pakistan's nuclear programme, allowing it among other things to buy nuclear technology from China. But the FT added: "Officials discount the possibility of Pakistani help to build an indigenous Saudi nuclear weapon: Saudi Arabia does not appear to have the necessary technical infrastructure. But they say there could be a sort of 'lend-lease arrangement' that would allow weapons from Pakistan to be made available to Saudi Arabia". The paper quoted the US official as saying: "The argument that they (Saudis) have options on Pakistan's arsenal are more likely".
Saudi Arabia may have available to it Pakistani bombs!
Here we have an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the Cox Report, which is the unclassified version of a report by the House Select Committee that investigated during the Clinton years Communist Chinese espionage in the United States:
The PRC's nuclear weapons intelligence collection efforts began after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, when the PRC assessed its weaknesses in physics and the deteriorating status of its nuclear weapons programs.
The PRC's warhead designs of the late 1970s were large, multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons that could only be carried on large ballistic missiles and aircraft. The PRC's warheads were roughly equivalent to U.S. warheads designed in the 1950s. The PRC may have decided as early as that time to pursue more advanced thermonuclear warheads for its new generation of ballistic missiles.
The PRC's twenty-year intelligence collection effort against the U.S. has been aimed at this goal. The PRC employs a "mosaic" approach that capitalizes on the collection of small bits of information by a large number of individuals, which is then pieced together in the PRC. This information is obtained through espionage, rigorous review of U.S. unclassified technical and academic publications, and extensive interaction with U.S. scientists and Department of Energy laboratories.
The nice thing about the "mosaic" approach is that the information could be immediately marketable in the right hands; what you learn, though perhaps not useful to you, might be exactly what somebody else wants to know, and providing it might be very profitable.
The trouble is to find a middleman.
In that context, it is chilling to recall the information from Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China, which was presented in The Islamic Bomb, Part 4:
U.S. intelligence officials concluded years ago that China provided early assistance to Pakistan in building its first nuclear weapon -- assistance that appeared to have ended in the 1980s. Still, weapons experts familiar with the blueprints expressed surprise at what they described as a wholesale transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to another country. Notes included in the package of documents suggest that China continued to mentor Pakistani scientists on the finer points of bomb-building over a period of several years, the officials said.
China continues to tutor Pakistani scientists on bomb-building.
Skipping ahead now with another excerpt from Chapter 2 of the Cox Report (emphasis in original):
The PRC stole classified information on every currently deployed U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The warheads for which the PRC stole classified information include: the W-56 Minuteman II ICBM; the W-62 Minuteman III ICBM; the W-70 Lance short-range ballistic missile (SRBM); the W-76 Trident C-4 SLBM; the W-78 Minuteman III Mark 12A ICBM; the W-87 Peacekeeper ICBM; and the W-88 Trident D-5 SLBM. The W-88 warhead is the most sophisticated strategic nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal. It is deployed on the Trident D-5 submarine-launched missile.
Skipping back now with another excerpt from Chapter 2 of the Cox Report:
The Select Committee judges that the PRC's intelligence collection efforts to develop modern thermonuclear warheads are focused primarily on the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
As a result of these efforts, the PRC has stolen classified U.S. thermonuclear design information that helped it fabricate and successfully test a new generation of strategic warheads.
Returning now to another excerpt from PAKISTAN - The Saudi Factor (I adjusted the punctuation, inserting the dashes, to make it more readable):
So far, there is no suggestion that Saudi Arabia purchased nuclear equipment or expertise from the Khan network. But the network's ability to outsource important elements of a nuclear weapons programme would make it easier for any country -- even one without much technical infrastructure -- to start weapons development.
"To be sure", the FT said, "Saudi Arabia has plenty of reasons and the financial muscle to seek nuclear weapons. Saudis live in a dangerous environment, surrounded by rivals. They include Israel, whose undeclared nuclear arsenal Saudi Arabia criticises as the main block to a nuclear-free Middle East, and Iran, Saudi Arabia's strategic competitor suspected by western governments of developing nuclear weapons". The FT recalled that, in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein was considered a close friend of Saudi Arabia, "Iraq's military strength was seen as protection for the Sunni Muslim monarchies of the Gulf against the ambitions of a revolutionary Shia regime in Iran". After Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, however, Iraq became the main threat in the Gulf and the Saudis called on the US for protection.
It is not assessed that Saudi Arabia is trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, but the Saudis do have reason to want nukes, and may have options on Pakistani nuclear weapons, which the Saudis helped pay for.
Recall now the quote from the hearing held by the 109th Congress on Thursday, May 25, 2006, entitled THE A.Q. KHAN NETWORK: CASE CLOSED?, quoted in The Islamic Bomb, Part 1 (the BBC China was the ship that was transporting the smuggled material):
Four months after the BBC China was interdicted, Khan appeared on Pakistani television, and on that show he apologized. The following day, President Musharraf apparently felt compelled to call Khan a national hero. Or does he believe that? I wonder.
Khan claims to have acted without Pakistani Government support, yet former Pakistani President Zia spoke about acquiring and sharing nuclear technology, in his words, with the entire Islamic world. Khan advanced Zia's mission well. Some of Khan's exports were transported by Pakistani military aircraft. Many ask how can the network aggressively market its nuclear products, including the glossy brochures, without Pakistan's Government taking notice?
Recall also the quote from Pakistan Nuclear Security Questioned by Joby Warrick, which was reproduced in The Islamic Bomb, Part 3:
When the United States learned in 2001 that Pakistani scientists had shared nuclear secrets with members of al-Qaeda, an alarmed Bush administration responded with tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment such as intrusion detectors and ID systems to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
For emphasis, I again present the image shown in the previous post. The caption at the bottom reads: The PRC has stolen classified information on every currently deployed thermonuclear warhead in the U.S. ICBM arsenal.
How much of that stolen information about U.S. thermonuclear warhead design has made it to Pakistan?
How much has made it beyond Pakistan, perhaps to someone in Saudi Arabia, or perhaps even to Al Qaeda?