Monthly Archives: September 2021

U.S. Intelligence on Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons

This interview with Ronald Spiers, former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan contains.a bit on U.S. intelligence during the early 1980s on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Asked “What was your evaluation of our intelligence on the Pakistani nuclear developments?,” Spiers replied as follows:

It was rudimentary; most of the information came from clandestine sources developed by the Embassy. But I must add that I didn’t know how much there was to know. It was very clear that there was a group in Pakistan that was working towards the development of a nuclear capability. We didn’t know how far it had advanced. We knew that they were not reprocessing plutonium at that point. We knew they were obtaining some technical assistance from the PRC—that was common knowledge in Islamabad. There was an installation near Islamabad which was off limits to everybody. Once, the French Ambassador had a picnic near this area and was jumped upon and brutally beaten up. It was clear to me that the Foreign Office, including the Foreign Minister—Jacub Khan — who by the way was one of the most competent people I had ever met, didn’t know anything about what was going on the nuclear field. It was not clear to me that even Zia’s principal nuclear advisor, Munir Khan, was fully cognizant of developments. The little group of nuclear experts was headed by A.Q. Khan, whom I never met because he lived in the south some place and was kept under-cover. Khan had worked once upon a time for EURENCO (European Uranium Enrichment Company) and had allegedly stolen or
had copied enrichment machinery plans. That was some evidence here and there of small procurement efforts which by themselves appeared innocent enough, but that if taken as a whole appeared to be part of a larger pattern. Once plans for a nuclear device had been purloined, the evidence became very strongly suggestive that the Pakistanis were embarked on the development of a weapons program. I am sure that Zia was well aware of what was going on.

CD Disagreements and Sketchy Technology

During a September meeting of the Conference on Disarmament, Iran blocked observer status for several countries. When it came to Yemen’s status, there were technical difficulties. To wit:

The President: We will now decide on the request from Yemen. May I take it that the Conference on Disarmament decides, in accordance with its rules of procedure, to accept this request to participate in its work?

It was so decided.

The President: I welcome these non-member States to the session of the Conference on Disarmament.

Iranian Ambassador Azadi then reiterated an objection that no one had noticed.:

Mr. Azadi (Islamic Republic of Iran): Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder whether you were able to hear my previous interventions. I requested that the list of the new requests be considered one by one, as has been the practice in the past.

The President: Yes, we heard that statement, and that is what we did. We first took Singapore – there were no objections – and then we took Yemen, and again there were no objections.

It seems that you were not able to follow that. Can you confirm?

After explaining Iran’s view concerning Yemen’s participation, the ambassador concluded that “My delegation is not in a position to endorse this request.” But the CD President faced a dilemma:

Well, I have a problem now, because we have already adopted the decision. I gavelled the request from Yemen. I asked whether there were any objections, and I paused quite a long time, because I was indeed expecting some reaction from the Islamic Republic of Iran, but there was not one.

I understand you are having technical problems and probably did not hear my question, so this is a bit of a difficult situation, but I think everyone understands that there are technical difficulties. I would thus ask for everybody’s understanding and suggest that we go back to this request from Yemen. I will ask again whether the Conference on Disarmament decides to accept these requests to participate in our work in accordance with the rules of procedure.

Bottom line: Iran objected again and Yemen din’t get observer status.

ElBaradei on IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East

Lest you think that there are lots of new ideas, bMohamed ElBaradei wrote this in 1992, back before he was DG. Explaining that the IAEA GC in 1989 “requested the Director General to consult with the States concerned in the Middle East with a view to applying Agency safeguards to all nuclear installations in the area,” he added:

In the course of the consultations, which took the Director General to a number of States in the Middle East, it became clear that there was general agreement among States of the region on the desirability of applying IAEA safeguards to all nuclear facilities in the Middle East.

Opinions differed, however, as to whether this should precede or follow the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone and whether this could precede or follow a comprehensive peace in the region. A special emphasis was placed by many States on the need to develop a special and more comprehensive safeguards approach tailored to the special needs of the Middle East. A number of the States emphasized the importance of a system of mutual inspection by the parties, in addition to verification by the IAEA, as a necessary confidence building measure.

Pakistan in 2001 on Overflights and Nuclear Weapons Sites

David Smith, who in September 2001 was the Army attache at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad , includes an interesting anecdote in a recent WOTR piece. During a meeting between then-U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin and then-President Pervez Musharraf, the latter explained his position concerning a U.S. demand that Pakistan grant “blanket overflight and landing rights for all necessary [U.S.] military and intelligence operations:”

Blanket overflight of Pakistani territory was “no problem” as long as no-fly zones over strategic areas — Pakistan’s nuclear sites — were established and honored.

I had not heard that one.


INR Iraq WMD Intel

In this 2005 interview, former INR official Wayne White discussed the intelligence that INR saw RE: Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons program

But on CW and BW, we were as wrong as anyone else. Therefore, it was good that there was a review of the evidence on that because, honestly, I have never seen more Humint on something that apparently no longer existed – Humint in one instance which was not generated by the CIA or State or any U.S. government source, which was utterly convincing to me and incredibly specific. We are not talking about three or four reports, but rather 20 or 30, as I recall. There have been developments that were true and actually had been happening on various Middle East issues for which I only saw two or three reports and deemed them to be correct. It was amazing how much disinformation was thrown at us. A lot of it came from Ahmad Chalabi and his INC, who of course wanted to get back into Iraq. He knew the only way to do that was to get the U.S. to do it militarily.

When an Exocet Met BNPP

In this 2005 interview, former INR official Wayne White discussed an Iraqi Exocet strike on the Bushehr reactor:

There was a fear factor involved in firing the Exocet missile at a ship. In order to get a solid missile lock on the target, you released the missile about 30 miles away from the target using locking radar on the attacking aircraft itself. You had to wait, guiding the missile, as you remained in the area marking time (the military calls it loitering) until the sea skimming missile got within about five kilometers, which is darn close, to the intended maritime target. Then the missile’s own short-range radar got a final lock and sent a signal back to the aircraft that no further assistance was required. What the Iraqi pilots were doing, with Iranian aircraft frequently scrambling against them, would be to leave the area before the aircraft had fully guided the missile to the point at which the missile itself locked onto the target. In this situation, the missile would go wandering around a portion of the Gulf looking for a target, which often wasn’t the intended target.

Iran’s first nuclear plant was practically right on the Gulf at Bushehr,not too far from Kharg Island. The Bushehr reactor had a high dome profile. The dome was being constructed before the machinery was being installed. One of the sea skimming missiles hit the nuclear reactor dome. Why? Missiles went for a high radar profile, which is why all the tankers were hit in the rear. A tanker is a long flat vesselwith a big superstructure in the rear, so the sea skimmer would go toward the rear. It was mainly designed to destroy warships, because of their smoke stacks, bridge, radars, etc., created the highest profile in the center of the vessel. But the tanker was not an ideal target for this missile. It always hit the rear.