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Nuclear Proliferation

David Aaronovitch reviews in The Times (HT: Don) "The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor" by William Langewiesche:
In a time when we are used to blaming the Americans for everything, it is depressing to discover that it was primarily European (especially German) insouciance, greed and stupidity that helped to supply the nuclear weapons programmes of Pakistan, Iraq and other gate-crashers at the nuclear party.

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Don S on :

One point that seems to be missed in Europe (if not in the US) is that a number of the world's thorniest problems wear a 'Made in Europe' label when you look closely. Or rather that European companies and individuals contribute heavily. But when the crisis comes to a head it is the US which must deal with it, and take the blame, with Europeans loudly and vociferously leading the ranks of the finger-pointers. Iranian and North Korean nukes? Look at Khan. Then look beyond Khan to the European (expecially Germans according to Aaronovitch) companies which sold him technology which he in turn sold on to Iran and North Korea, among others. Iraq War? Look back a decade to the failure of the UN Resolutions after Iraq War I. Look at why the embargo failed. Food for Oil, run by the French and the European-dominated UN (henceforth to be known as the EN). The embargo failed and that was a major cause of Iraq War II. Does Europe acknowledge it's large role in causing these problems? Of course not! It's Uncle Sam's fault, Bush;s fault. Always.

Zyme on :

You cannot mingle buisness interests of companies with political interests of countries. Companies want to make money. There is an embargo? Skilled merchants will find a way around it. That is their interest. If all this was influenced by a political approval of european countries, then there must be a reason (=goals). Could you enlighten us what goals that might be? Nuclear proliferation does not sound like the kind of thing that creates a huge amount of jobs :) The only thing that comes to my mind is that american influence has suffered from the nuclear arming of its most hated enemies. But that can hardly be the only reason, right?

Don S on :

No, not the only reason or even the primary reason (that is profit without personal consequences). But hurting Uncle Sam while profiting handsomely - what's not to like, eh? ;) At least until Uncle catches on to the game, because that could entail consequences....

Zyme on :

"But hurting Uncle Sam while profiting handsomely - what's not to like, eh? ;)" Yeah sure, why not.

Don S on :

Note: While I wrote 'Made in Europe I wasn't being fair or accurate. A more accurate statement would be 'Made in Germany and France' with perhaps a little 'Made in the UK & Italy'. Though not very much of the latter. The former doesn't trade much with pariah regimes and the latter doesn't have the advanced technology fpr the most part. Latte and designer clothes don't do much to help a-bomb projects. The sanctemonious finger-pointing at Uncle Sam are also largely 'made in Germany and France'. Which fits, doesn't it?

Martin on :

In January 2006, James Risen, a New York Times reporter, alleged in his book State of War that in February 2000, a U.S. covert operation - code-named Operation Merlin - had backfired. It originally aimed to provide Iran with a flawed design for building a nuclear weapon, in order to delay the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program. Instead, the plan may have accelerated Iran's nuclear program by providing useful information, once the flaws were identified. http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1678134,00.html Besides, the US, Germany, and the entire West helped the Shah of Iran with his nuclear program.

Pat Patterson on :

I remember when Risen's book came out and I borrowed a copy to read. I was rather surprised and disappointed to see that there were simply no footnotes or citations but only unsourced notes at the end of the book. Most of the information appeared to come from CIA sources and Colin Powell. No one has stepped forward to talk about Operation Merlin, which could be understandable, but the only source for its existence was Sy Hersh, who has become more than a little unreliable. Even the current Iranian regime denies that this event ever took place. Yet there obviously is still plenty of blame to go around though the Shah's planned 23 nuclear power plants were never built due to the West's distrust of Khomeini and a certain number of bounced checks after 1979.

Axel on :

I haven't read Langewiesche's book but it seems that it's mainly based on his articles in the Athlantic Monthly. You can read [url=http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200511/aq-khan]"The Wrath of Khan"[/url] for free. So far, I haven't detect new information concerning notorious Dr Khan and his proliferation network which weren't published earlier in Europe during the 90's. But what Langewiesche didn't mention is the statement from former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers that the Dutch authorities were held off from taking action against Khan in 1975 and 1986 because the CIA wanted to gain more information about the scientist's activities. (see, for instance, [url=http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=1&story_id=22629]CIA asked us to let nuclear spy go, Ruud Lubbers claims[/url] and [url=http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/ludwig032306.htm]Why did the CIA resist the arrest of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan?[/url]) For me, this makes perfectly sense because from the 1970s, people in the international intelligence community were aware of Khan. The CIA knew about Khan in the early 1970s and they probably underestimated him. Do you really think that someone who works for such a sensible company like Urenco isn't monitored? The Carnegie Council also offers a summary and balanced assessment of the whole Khan affair ([url=http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/5391.html]Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network [/url]).

Detlef on :

Since I´m not an expert, I can´t comment on his alleged "facts". Still, it would have been nice if David Aaronovitch would have provided some facts for his suggestion of "especially German insouciance, greed and stupidity". The only guy he mentioned in his review, A. Q. Khan worked at a Dutch (European) enrichment facility. That´s not exactly proof of European / German "insouciance, greed and stupidity"? How exactly did Europe / Germany help A. Q. Khan, "the Oppenheimer of Third World proliferation"? I´d be grateful for some links. As I said, I don´t know enough about that topic and the book might very well be true. Still, I would expect that someone reviewing a book would mention some of the facts reported there. If only to help his readers judging the value of his review for themselves. Without it, his review is somewhat incomplete.

Don S on :

One guess on why Aaronovitch wrote that, david. Consider the kind of materials and machines Khan was buying, Detlef. Very advanced machinery tooled to extremely fine tolerances. There are not too many countries which produce such machinery, are there? The countries with the most notable reputations for producing this kind of equipment (especially during the period 1974-1998 when Khan was most active) were Japan and Germany. France, Nederlands, the US, UK, and possibly the Nordic countries and Canada might be other possibilties but did not possess the same reputation as the top two. Narrow the field to Europe and that leaves Germany, France, Nederlands, UK, Swittzerland, and the nordic countries. I doubt Khan got much from the US, Canada, or Japan. I also doubt that Khan could have done this without major participation of German comanies and without at least passive culpability of German regulators. Nederlands seems to have been on to Khan at least to some extenet so I doubt their companies could act with quite the impunity that Germans could. That leaves France, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries. France could do it - but did they? I doubt the nordics or Switzerland could provide the wide range of parts which Khan would be ordering although they may have contributed. Switzerland almost certainly did and I can't rule the French out. I don't have specific proof that the Germans were as culpable as Aaronovitch claims - but do understand that there is a very short list of suspects who could have done this - and the Germans are at the head of that list.

Detlef on :

Thanks Don. Just to be clear. I have no doubt that German companies were involved! And at least some of them were no doubt at least suspecting how their equipment would be used. No excuses about that. But... As I said I´m not an expert and I didn´t research that topic lately. So far as the Internet allows it. :) However I do remember one story from back then. Probably because I was an engineering student back then and doing an internship at one of the "Involved" companies. Back then one of their product lines were laboratory equipment. From centrifuges to high precision measurement equipment. With a lot in between. That company was named as one of the companies selling equipment to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. And used in the Iraqi nuclear program revealed when Hussein was defeated in the first Gulf war. The only problem was... That particular piece of equipment wasn´t manufactured in Germany. It was manufactured by the company subsidiary in the USA. And exported to Iraq with the approval of the US government. Which seems to suggest that all of us were a bit careless in the 1980s. And I seem to remember a foreword by Tom Clancy? "The Sum Of All Fears"? Being shocked about all the information he got from American companies about equipment and machinery to produce nuclear weapons? I might be wrong here. Going from memory. :)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Detlef, There might be some new evidence here: International Institute for Strategic Studies: Nuclear Black Market Dossier Press Statement ‘Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the rise of proliferation networks - A Net Assessment’ 2 May 2007 [url]http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/nbm/nuclear-black-market-dossier-press-statement[/url] and: [url]http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/nbm/press-coverage[/url] I have not had a chance yet to read it yet.

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