Category Archives: south asia

Old News

Awhile back, I was just so pleased with myself for making the connection between “cars and centrifuges”: — for example, how automakers are used as a false end-users for dual-use machine tools, hard-to-get materials, and the like.

It turns out this has been going on for decades. Take the case of “Van Doornes Transmissie”:, which _Nucleonics Week_ flagged waaaaay back in 1981:

bq. THE DUTCH JUSTICE MINISTRY TURNED DOWN A REQUEST FOR A REPORT on the so-called Khan affair from the special parliamentary committee that intends to conduct its own probe into the matter. The Justice Ministry probe is known to concern two companies — Van Doornes Transmissie and Fysisch Dynamisch Onderzoekslaboratorium (FDO), a subsidiary of VMF Stork Nv. A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani scientist, is alleged to have obtained uranium enrichment knowhow while working for Ultracentrifuge Nederland and FDO in the 1970s. The two companies named in the government probe are believed to be involved in the export of strategic goods to Pakistan. The Justice Ministry said it doesn’t know when its probe will be complete, though a member of Parliament concerned with nuclear affairs said he hopes the ministry’s work will be completed in two or three months.

VDT reportedly shipped thousands of maraging steel rotor tubes to Pakistan in the 1970s.

So, like it says up at the top, old news.

The Festival of Unenriched Fuel

Notwithstanding an “earlier report”: that the event would take place by the New Year, Iranian “news”: “media”: now report that the Fuel Manufacturing Plant at Isfahan will be ceremonially inaugurated tomorrow, National Nuclear Technology Day.

The FMP is already partly operational, making natural uranium pellets for fuel assemblies, destined for the Arak reactor. So call it the “Festival of Unenriched Fuel”:

Kuwait’s news service also “reports”: that “the production of a new generation of centrifuges” will be announced, presumably at Natanz. Does this mean that the “carbon-fiber”: models exhibited last year at PFEP are now in production? We’ll see.

So what’s the point?

As in the past two years, the anniversary provides an occasion for President Ahmadinejad — now entering the homestretch of his re-election campaign — “to drape himself in the colors of nuclear patriotism”: One can only hope for the traditional “open-source”: “intel”: “bonanza”:

_Update: I missed this, the true “intel bonanza”: link._

Speaking of traditional nuclear holidays, the 11th “Yom-e Takbeer”:, or Pakistani Day of Greatness, is coming up in a month or so. It commemorates the nuclear tests of 1998. Perhaps greatness is not “what comes to mind”:, but symbols are funny that way: they lack substance.

(Hey, FCNL, why aren’t these dates on the “calendar”:

Coincidentally, representatives of the 5+1 group — the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany — will be “meeting tomorrow”: in London. Before deciding to come out with any premature announcements, here’s another date they might ponder: Iran’s “election day”:,_2009, June 12. With the recalcitrant incumbent boasting that Iran’s “nuclear case is closed”:, this might not be the best moment to supply him with election propaganda. Timing is everything…

Pakistan MFA on Khan Release

Following up on Josh’s “post”: from the other day, I give you the two relevant statements from Pakistan’ Foreign Ministry. The “one from 6 February”: called AQK a “free man.”

Perhaps responding to some of the, um, somewhat negative reactions to that announcement, the Ministry said “the next day”: that Islamabad

bq. has dismantled the nuclear black market network and no individual associated with it enjoys any official status nor has access to any strategic facility.

I know how much you all like primary sources…

Khan Walks… Back?

News of the release of AQ Khan from house arrest may have been premature.

Days after the Foreign Ministry “called”: the Khan saga a “closed chapter,” _Dawn_ (of Karachi) “reports”: that the Pakistani government is weighing an appeal of his release.

The government appears to be backing out of an ill-considered deal with Khan, whose “terms”: have now reached the papers:

Under an agreement reached among Khan’s lawyers, the judge who ordered him released and the government, officials said, the Pakistani Interior Ministry will limit and monitor Khan’s telephone calls, visitors and activities. The ministry will also prohibit his travel outside the country.

Until now, these terms were a “secret”:, which allowed Khan to step before the news cameras to claim total vindication.

It’s hard to know what the good folks in Islamabad were thinking. Just the other week, President Zardari was “openly hitting up the U.S. for a new aid package”: Fine timing…

Kahuta and SWU Capacity

Andreas Persbo has a “good post”: up at his place on the subject.

This is a decent summary:

bq. But what is the capability of this plant today? Well, figures are both unreliable and, in addition, some sixteen years out of date. It is *sometimes assumed in the literature that the facility has some 3,000 centrifuges operating at any given moment, and that the capacity of the plant is somewhere between 9,000 and 15,000 separative work units.* These figures rely on open source information compiled and assessed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (Albright, et al., 1997). The authors of the study readily admit that “the number of operating machines at any one time is highly uncertain. Part of the confusion is that Pakistan has installed considerably more machines than it has successfully operated. In 1986, it was reported that Kahuta had 14,000 centrifuges.” (See p. 275). Yet, *the claim that the plant is capable of a meager 15,000 SWU’s resurface time and time again.* Over the last couple of weeks, I have been compiling a Google Earth placemark of the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory, cross-checking with public imagery analysis to get a complete picture of the facility. Almost immediately, *I suspected that the 15,000 SWU figure might be grossly misleading.*

The argument is a little involved, so read the whole thing. I was glad to see that he gave proper credit to “Jeffrey and Mark Hibbs.”:

India, Pakistan, Iran: The Nobitorium

At a recent ACA event, Matthew Bunn “discussed”: the possible lessons that India’s experience with its nuclear arsenal has taught Iran:

bq. …some of my Iranian colleagues—I’ve been making an effort to try to understand what is going on in Tehran, although with limited success—have told me that in Tehran the *nuclear hardliners are pointing to India and saying basically, look what happened to them, they tested, everybody in the whole world sanctioned them, and then six months later Clinton was crawling back and saying, please be our friend, et cetera. Now, they’re getting this nuclear deal.* The hardliners are using that as an argument that while there may be sanctions now, if we just move forward, eventually the world will roll over and acquiesce to what we’re doing. That’s a plausible argument. That’s not obvious to me that they’re wrong given the huge pool of oil and gas that Iran is sitting on.

Plausible, indeed.

Interestingly, Hassan Rowhani (Iran’s head nuclear negotiator at the time) argued in a 2004 speech that Pakistan and Brazil’s nuclear programs show that the international community will accept nuclear programs once they are established:

bq. As for the question of what we can do now that they all disagree with our having the fuel cycle, I submit to you that we require an opportunity, time to be able to act on our capability in this area. That is, if one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice, that we do possess the technology, then the situation will be different. *The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them.* Our problem is that we have not achieved either one, but we are standing at the threshold.

To be fair, the next sentence says that Iran is not pursuing a nuke:

bq. As for building the atomic bomb, we never wanted to move in that direction and we have not yet completely developed our fuel cycle capability. This also happens to be our main problem.

I actually think that there are reasons to believe that Iran might currently be in a bit more of a mood to bargain. But that’s for another post. In any case, one can understand why other countries may have gotten the idea that waiting out UNSC nuclear-related sanctions might be a viable strategy.

See, for example, “Resolution 1172,”: which the UNSC adopted following India and Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear weapons tests.

Zia Mian talked about it at an “ACA event”: back in November. Members of the international community should keep his words in mind as they consider the atrocity known as the US-India nuclear deal:

[The resolution] outlined a series of demands on both countries, and I’ll just say what they were.

One was that India and Pakistan should stop the further development of nuclear weapons, that they should not deploy their nuclear weapons, that they should stop developing ballistic missiles, and that they should stop producing fissile materials for nuclear weapons. There also were some others.

Now, since 1998 and this unanimous resolution from the Security Council, we have seen benign neglect—actually, I think “benign” is not the appropriate word—appalling irresponsibility by the Security Council and its members that they have basically forgotten that they ever passed this resolution because India and Pakistan have continued to do all the things they were told they should not do. With this deal, the United States is now saying that that resolution may as well never have been passed because no longer is it interested in saying that India and Pakistan must not produce fissile material for nuclear weapons; it’s saying if you do, that’s your business; it has nothing to do with us.

What does that mean now for future Security Council resolutions, unanimous or otherwise, that says you must do this? What it says is that as time passes, as interests change, who knows what the status of that resolution may be, that perhaps you shouldn’t take them very seriously at all in the future. I find that deeply troubling considering we’re dealing with nuclear weapons.

Here are two of the key paragraphs from the resolution:

7. Calls upon India and Pakistan immediately to stop their nuclear weapon development programmes, to refrain from weaponization or from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of missile material for nuclear weapons, to confirm their policies not to export equipment, materials or technology that could contribute to weapons of mass destruction or missiles capable of delivering them and to undertake appropriate commitments in that regard;

8. Encourages all States to prevent the export of equipment, materials or technology that could in any way assist programmes in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons or for ballistic missiles capable of delivering such weapons, and welcomes national policies adopted and declared in this respect;

I have “argued before”: that the US-India deal makes a mockery of that second paragraph.

[Credit to “S Heidt”: for the title.]

*Update*: For anyone who cares, this post has been rewritten, but not in a way that changes its substance.

Bad Ideas

In an effort to compare the US-India nuclear deal to other historically-bad ideas, I give you an account of a 1975 article from _Fortune_ magazine that I found in Steve Weissman and Herbert Krosney’s 1981 book “_The Islamic Bomb_”:

According to Weissman and Krosney, the article argued that the United States was “sacrificing too much of our foreign policy on the altar of nonproliferation” and should have been “trading our superior nuclear technology for other things of value, economic and political.”

The article went on to complain that the US nuclear industry had lost out on some key sales of reactors and other nuclear items. The countries? South Korea, Taiwan, Libya, Brazil, and Iran.

I guess _Fortune_ was right because we didn’t stop any of those countries’ nuclear weapons programs. And our foreign policy was ruined. Or something.

Iran and India

Next time you hear someone claim that the Iranians haven’t raised the US-India nuclear deal in discussions about its nuclear program, remember this…

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Javad Zarif, stated 31 July:

“Iran’s right to enrich uranium is recognized under the NPT. And upholding the rights of States parties to international regimes is as essential as ensuring respect for their obligations. These regimes, including the NPT, are sustained by a balance between rights and obligations. Threats will not sustain the NPT or other international regimes. Ensuring that members can draw rightful benefits from membership and non-members are not rewarded for their intransigence does.


This goes so far that when it suits the US, even the acquisition of nuclear weapons for non- NPT members becomes “legitimate” to quote the US Ambassador.

Always Trust Everyone

The President of Pakistan has repeatedly said that Pakistan is not making a bomb and has no intention of making a bomb. We have not only made this commitment solemnly, we are prepared also to accept international safeguards on a non-discriminatory basis.

From “Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme,” published by Pakistan’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, 1986

It goes on to explain that Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely for the purpose of heading off an energy crisis.

Department of Wankery

The House “approved this atrocity”:;_ylt=Ar7kgf9SNbxPtqc7PKbWBs5A7AkB;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl yesterday. Great first day back from vacation.

But since the deal will strengthen the nonproliferation regime and definitely has nothing to do with campaign contributions, selling weapons to India, or containing China, I’m not worried.

OTOH, “this”: is truly frightening.

My utility belt tells me it’s to the bar, Batman…


“The final bill is here.”: