Saturday, March 28, 2015
The Islamic Bomb
Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capacity, with the first detonation test on May 28, 1998 (pictured above), all designed to counter India’s earlier nuclear arms capacity. His major contribution to Pakistan’s weapons development came primarily in the improvement of the centrifuge technology necessary to generate and enrich the level of fissionable material required to support a substantial and powerful nuclear weapons program. Today, Pakistan has a lot of nuclear warheads (over a hundred by many estimates).
Nominally once placed under some lax form of “house arrest” for sharing nuclear weapons technology methodology with both North Korea and Iran, A.Q. Khan is a hero to the entire Islamic world for his efforts. Today, when there are hints of Pakistani instability and the potential for radicals to take down the government, there is always the fear that Pakistan could thus release its nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons knowhow to the entire radical Islamic movement.
Noting that Pakistan’s nuclear program was the product of their ongoing feud/battles with neighboring India – bomb envy with a desire to keep the playing field level – it is interesting to note how the various factions in the great Sunni-Shiite divide are reacting to Iran’s clandestine development of a nuclear weapons capacity. American journalists have focused on Iran’s potential to nuke Israel, but there is a much deeper issue across the entire Middle East.
Although Shiites are a distinct minority in the overall Islamic world (at about 15% of all of Islam), they are heavily present in Iraq (60%) and Iran (90%+). And while Sunnis and Shiites might have lived gently side-by-side before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, as Shiites were allowed “democratically” to dominate the U.S.-imposed government, they generated massive Shiite discrimination and retribution of Sunnis who had ruled Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. It was one of the issues that allowed Sunni-extremist ISIS to rise, a force mandated to protect Sunnis against marauding Shiites.
If you recall from prior blogs, Shiites represent a world where the Qur’an is a mystical book that only the holiest clerics can interpret, while Sunnis find that interpretation heretical since they believe the Qur’an must itself be read by all faithful Muslims to make their direct connection with God. Hence, today Shiite and Sunni nations are facing off in surrogate wars across the region.
As Shiite rebels have wreaked havoc in Yemen of late, sending the Sunni government into exile, they have provoked a rare military attack in Yemen by the neighboring Saudi Arabian Air Force. It seems rather clear that there is an increasing element among Sunni nations to contain this rising Shiite “threat” and, in particular, to begin to build a defensive shield over what is seen as unbridled growth of Iranian support of these Shiite “terrorist” groups, from Hezbollah to Yemeni Houthis. Many in the Sunni world see Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations as unstoppable. Some of these Sunni nations fear Iranian nuclear weapons as much as does Israel… maybe even more.
We are watching Sunni Arab nations generating a thought-to-be-impossible coalition against militant Shiite expansionism, particularly and initially focused on the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. “A meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, on [March 26th] endorsed the idea of a combined Arab defense force, a longstanding proposal given new impetus by the crisis in Yemen.” New York Times, March 26th. Indeed, military forces from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and eight other regional Sunni states have been coordinating a military response to the Shiite Yemeni threat. A pan-Arab military force is the hot topic at the Arab League, as Egypt is demanding a permanently-assembled military response to allow incumbent nations aggregate force to combat insurgency. Given that these Sunni nations have never been able to get onto the same page before now, this is rather huge news. Iran, meanwhile, is telling these Sunni powers to butt out of Yemen.
Yet this new consolidation of Sunni regional power is only a part of the shifting politics of Middle Eastern sludge. The other side of this nasty equation is the deepening fear of these Sunni nations of Shiite Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and of a nuclear arms containment treaty to which they are neither negotiating parties nor particularly trusting in the results (regardless of lip service to the contrary). The subtext may be the ultimate undoing of Western efforts to contain Iran by treat: a nuclear arms race across the entire spate of regional powers.
“The Saudi Ambassador to the United States would not rule out the possibility of the Saudis creating their own nuclear bomb to counterbalance a nuclear-armed Iran in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on March 26th… ‘This is not something we would discuss publicly,’ Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir said on ‘The Situation Room.’ Later, when pressed, he said, ‘This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on.’
“‘But the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security,’ he added. ‘There are two things over which we do not negotiate: Our faith and our security.’… Al-Jubeir said, however, the details disclosed by the Obama administration to the Saudis about the developing nuclear deal with Iran were ‘positive.’… ‘I can't say that we like it, because we don't know the details,’ he said. ‘The assurances we have received from the administration have been positive but we want to see the details before we can make a judgment.’” CNN.com, March 27th. The Saudis have the money, despite the fall in petroleum prices, to buy their way into the nuclear club, but you can rest assured that more than one of the other non-nuclear Sunni nations are also exploring a path to nuclear weapons as well.
If we think things are bad now, all of these machinations could make things a whole lot worse. When we took down Iraq’s former government, the rules of unforeseen consequences went on steroids, and the blowback has been nothing short of catastrophic. Our Middle Eastern policies since 2001 seem to have been designed by the worst combination of the Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy. Our Department of State always knew that our military policies would be destabilizing for the region; they tried to speak, but they were muzzled by ignorant politicos elected for reasons other than their intelligence, education or understanding of the facts that actually do govern the world.
I’m Peter Dekom, and when you elect sloganeering less-than-the-best-and-brightest to public office, you get what you pay for!!!