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How Safe Are Pakistan’s Nukes?

Posted on May 4, 2009
Pakistan missile
AP photo / B.K. Bangash

A missile on its mobile launcher takes part in the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad in March 2005—just days before the country’s military announced it had successfully test-fired a short-range nuclear-capable missile.

President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, will have a lot to talk about when Zardari visits the White House on Wednesday, what with al-Qaida and the Taliban stirring up trouble of late and sparking concerns over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The New York Times:

For years the Pakistanis have waved away the recurring American concerns, with the head of nuclear security for the country, Gen. Khalid Kidwai, dismissing them as “overblown rhetoric.”

Americans who are experts on the Pakistani system worry about what they do not know. “For years I was concerned about the weapons materials in Pakistan, the materials in the laboratories,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who ran the Energy Department’s intelligence unit until January, and before that was a senior C.I.A. officer sent to Pakistan to determine whether nuclear technology had been passed to Osama bin Laden.

“I’m still worried about that, but with what we’re seeing, I’m growing more concerned about something going missing in transport,” said Mr. Mowatt-Larssen, who is now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Several current officials said that they were worried that insurgents could try to provoke an incident that would prompt Pakistan to move the weapons, and perhaps use an insider with knowledge of the transportation schedule for weapons or materials to tip them off. That concern appeared to be what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was hinting at in testimony 10 days ago before the House Appropriations Committee. Pakistan’s weapons, she noted, “are widely dispersed in the country.”

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By Sepharad, May 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

AFriend—thanks for the clarification. I’ll look for the other thread.

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By Fadel Abdallah, May 6, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

A second installment of my respond to the old, but very unwise Sepharad, May 5 at 9:23 pm #. This one is courtesy of an enlightened fellow Jew, David Glick, who is a psychotherapist in Fairfax, California. Sepharad might want to pay a visit to this gentleman and seek intellectual and spiritual psychotherapy from him!
“A Letter to My Fellow Jews”
By David Glick

“What, I ask, has come of us? “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” say Israeli leaders Simon Peres and Tzipi Livni. Have we, who historically have been subjected to such horrific prejudice, persecution and even genocide, become so callous that we are now morally blind to the violence and oppression that Israel is inflicting on the people of Palestine, a large number of whom are innocent civilians?

We, who once were the victims of the Nazi genocide, which murdered six million Jews while the world was silent, have now become the perpetrators of violence. After the experience of the Holocaust, “never again” quite understandably meant that we Jews would never again allow ourselves to be so vulnerable that we would go to slaughter like lambs to the kill.

But “never again” must never be the sole possession of the Jewish people. That cry belongs to the world—to all who suffer under the boot of an oppressor who visits violence and death upon them.

It is the great tragedy of the Palestinian people that they are the victims of victims. Consequently the crimes and suffering they have endured have gone unacknowledged by all those who disingenuously use the Holocaust to justify whatever Israel does as self-defense. That manipulative use of the Holocaust desecrates the memory of all those who perished in the ghastly inferno of that Nazi hell.

Israel’s collective punishment of the people of Gaza, its excessive, disproportionate use of force, and its indiscriminate bombing of civilians are war crimes under the Geneva Convention.

We Jews who criticize Israel do so out of the values of our Jewish moral heritage. It is high time that we Jews reach back and embrace our proud tradition of social justice and honestly admit to ourselves that the Zionist enterprise, in its urgency to find a sanctuary, made the Palestinians pay the price for Europe’s anti-Semitism and the horrible crimes committed against us prior to and during the Holocaust.

Palestinians could not understand why they had to give up their homeland to remedy something for which they were not responsible. And so one tragedy was heaped upon another. Let us be big enough to acknowledge this reality and ask the Palestinians for their understanding and forgiveness, and in return genuinely commit to seek as just a remedy as possible.”
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By Night-Gaunt, May 6, 2009 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Pakistan’s security service, the ISI was the one that created the Taliban to help pacify and control Afghanistan but like so many things it comes back to bite them in the crotch. Even now Pakistan’s troops are working to retake areas taken by the Taliban. As for the nukes, where are they? Does anyone other than the generals and high officials know their full locations? Obama in one his more recent speeches alluded to the Pakistan generals having full control of them and he was comfortable in that knowledge from them.

Many in the ISI and military are as fanatical and hard line as the Taliban they created and are just waiting to take control themselves if need be. [It has happened to Pakistan since separation from India in 1947 with many military dictatorships.]

If Pakistan tires of its people being killed by USA drones, it will be very ugly for the foreign interlopers and armed immigrants that the USA is in the region. Very bad.

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By AFriend, May 6, 2009 at 2:39 am Link to this comment

Sorry group. I responded to KDelphi in the wrong post. My post below was meant for another story line.


In 2003 I read two stories in the media in which it was explained that Pakistan’s nuclear defense network came under American command and control in that same year. I recall a terse response from the White House Press Secretary, Ari Flesher, indicating this to be true. The White then had no further comment. I have not heard the same since.

President Obama’s recent statement in which he indicated great confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was secure makes me wonder if this is still true.

I don’t have the answer, however, I know what I both read and saw six years ago.

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By Fadel Abdallah, May 5, 2009 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment

By Sepharad, May 5 at 9:23 pm #

“Fadel—The Israelis have had jet planes for a long time too, but they haven’t flown them into buildings filled with people. Al Quaeda does. (And the Taliban might be willing to share them.”
Here we go again confused Zionist, insisting on living in denial about Israel’s thousands of crimes and terrorist acts against the natives of the lands they stole on installments over the last sixty years! You’re in a better situation not to pick on my posts, for it gives me more opportunities to expose your beloved Israel’s fascism, its state- sponsored terrorism and its numerous criminal acts in a neighborhood to which they came from all the corners of the world as mentally disturbed colonialists and occupiers when they could not put up a courageous resistance against their victimizers in Europe. You know the short history of your little Israel, don’t you unwise old Sepharad?
In fact, all the world knows that Israel is an expert in flying its cowardly jet plans over defenseless refugee camps in Lebanon and Gaza and leveling them to the ground, killing children, women and men, knowing quite well that the attacked don’t have anti-aircraft weapons to put a resistance. These many acts of Israel, besides their criminality and barbarity are also indicative of the cowardliness nature of the Israelis in attacking defenseless refugees who initially lost their homes to Israeli terrorism and dispossession in two major wars of aggression.

In fact, the number of Palestinians and Lebanese killed by Israel in its most recent two cowardly attacks on Gaza and Lebanon far exceeds the number of people killed on 9/11.

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By Sepharad, May 5, 2009 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

I think the nukes and related material are as safe as the Pakistan government is stable.

Fadel—The Israelis have had jet planes for a long time too, but they haven’t flown them into buildings filled with people. Al Quaeda does. (And the Taliban might be willing to share them.)

IOW, it would be better if the American military could secure those sites, and no more money should be flowing to Pakistan if they won’t tell us where they are. If any material is missing, we need to find it, or at least find out to whom it went missing, then decide what if anything can be done.

Also better make sure out relations with India and China are OK, and if not, repair them.

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By Sepharad, May 5, 2009 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi, did you say part of anything “AFriend” is sort of responding to? What happened to your post?

Afriend, I don’t know where KDelphi lives, but KD and I disagree on many things and agree on many more. (I’m a progressive/liberal, have been civil rights activist, FoI Act researcher/pusher, investigative journalist, history mag editor and firm supporter of Israel. Jewish by birth, tradition and culture but not religious.) Re unions, some have been good, some have gotten side-tracked, but obviously workers (and consumers) need SOME form of protection from the defective globalisation enacted through NAFTA but has been a problem ever since the multinationals discovered cheaper labor possibilities and offshore nontax shelters. 

But this if off-topic.

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By geronimo, May 5, 2009 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Unsafe Pakistani Nukes Is A Reprise Of Iraq’s Nonexistent Weapons Of Mass Destruction

“Based on?”

“The use of CIA sources.”

“The reason being?”

“The CIA always tailors its information to the specifications of the powers that be.”

“The answer being?”

“That the truth is the opposite of what the CIA says.”

“Then thw nukes are safe?”


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By Fadel Abdallah, May 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment

Pakistan’s nukes are as safe or unsafe as those of fascist Israel!

I challenge one daring journalist, politician or academician in the whole hypocrite West to dare write a major article on Israeli nukes and the danger they represent to the world. They can start by interviewing Vanunu and telling the world about his suffering because he blew the whistle on Israeli nukes long time ago.

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By PK, May 5, 2009 at 7:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What nonsense! Pakistan is a sovereign country and has to do what must be done for its own security and interests.

Talibans were created by the CIA and with money from Saudi Arabia and Gulf states. So stop pointing fingers elsewhere.

This talk of nuclear safety is at best a racist garbage for political posturing and pressures.

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By AFriend, May 4, 2009 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment


I say again; the firing of Air Traffic Controllers is the singular example some people use as proof that President Reagan was a union buster. Your example here is in dispute.

Repeating the same example does not further the argument. To be labeled there must be more then a single example. One is not a hunter after a single hunt.

Union decline over the past 40 years finds it’s causes in a multitude of reasons. Placing this squarely at Ronald Reagan’s feet is an extremely narrow read on history.


Am I too far off if I imagine you live in world where humans are not simply human but rather the “Left” thinkers in America are the good guys and those inclined to the Right are all bad people?

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By L Wolf, May 4, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pakistan is the engineer of the rabid Wahabism that was architected by Saudi Arabia. The fanatical masses of Pakistan have squandered away their intellectuality in a petty one-upmanship to prove as the true keepers of the islamic faith. They provide what the Saudis lack to propagate the fanatical wahabi extremism.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the US failed to identify the real culprits as the brainwashed fanatics of Pakistan and instead chose to go after Afghanistan. The Taliban and the fanatics of Saudi Arabia provide the thought but it is Pakistan that provides the apparatus to put those thoughts into action. Pakistan has to be contained. Cut the hands that hit you. Deal with the brains later.

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