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Context of 'September 1996: China Sells Pakistan Furnace for Nuclear Weapons Program, US Takes No Action'

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The US, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and 58 other countries sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT’s preamble refers explicitly to the goal of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and to the “determination expressed by the parties [to the treaty] to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time.” The NPT will become effective on March 5, 1970. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007] In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write that the NPT “relied heavily on appeals to national interest.” Scoblic will continue: “Given that the treaty allows five states to legally possess nuclear weapons while prohibiting the other 183 from ever developing them, why did dozens of states agree to the top-tiered, discriminatory system—a system of nuclear apartheid, as India put it (see June 20, 1996)? Because it made sense for them to do so.” The NPT gives nations a chance to opt out of nuclear arms races with their neighbors, and gives them the opportunity to share in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the years, far more nations will, under the NPT, give up their nascent nuclear programs—Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, others—than start them in defiance of the treaty. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 274-276]

Entity Tags: J. Peter Scoblic

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The US sells forty F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. One of the contractual preconditions of the sale is that Pakistan does not configure them to drop a nuclear bomb. However, US analyst Richard Barlow will conclude that in fact all of them are configured to carry nuclear weapons. [Guardian, 10/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard Barlow

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Robert Gallucci, a director of the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the State Department, drafts a comprehensive report showing that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is continuing. The report begins with an overview of Pakistan’s nuclear fuel cycle and a confirmation that Pakistan has built a plant to “concentrate uranium ore,” while another to produce uranium hexafluoride is “already in operation.” The report also details work done at the facility in Kahuta headed by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan and the technology being assembled there based on designs stolen in the Netherlands. In addition, Gallucci warns of the procurement network’s increasing confidence and its use of “false end-use statements.”
'Unambiguous Evidence' - The report, which is marked “secret” and not distributed to security contractors or abroad, finds, “There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program,” and, “Pakistan’s near-term goal evidently is to have a nuclear test capability enabling it to explode a nuclear device if [Pakistani dictator Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] decides it’s appropriate for diplomatic and domestic political gains.”
'Nuclear Explosives' - Another section, entitled “Nuclear Explosives,” says that Pakistan is working on an “electronic triggering circuit for nuclear device detonation… as well as experiments on conventional as well as shaped charges.” The Pakistanis have “already undertaken a substantial amount of the necessary design and high explosives testing of the explosive device and we believe that Pakistan is now capable of producing a workable package of this kind.” Gallucci even has drawings given to suppliers by agents for Khan that have been “unambiguously identified as those of a nuclear device.”
Chinese Connection - The report also mentions the Pakistan-China connection, as notes in Chinese and an operations manual from China have been found in circumstances linked to Khan’s operations. US scientists who analysed them concluded they concerned equipment remarkably similar to a device used in a 1964 nuclear test by China, and Gallucci finds, “China has provided assistance to Pakistan’s program to develop a nuclear weapons capability.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 93-94, 478]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Robert Gallucci

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Khan Research Laboratories logo.Khan Research Laboratories logo. [Source: Khan Research Laboratories]The CIA obtains “irrefutable evidence” that Pakistan is able to manufacture weapons-grade enriched-uranium metal, enabling it to build a nuclear bomb. The metal can then be machine-tooled to fit into a warhead that can be attached to an F-16, previously sold to Pakistan by the US (see 1983-7). The information is obtained through a “highly sensitive” CIA operation that finds the metal can be produced at a facility near Islamabad, but not at the Khan Research Laboratories site in Kahuta. The operation was conducted because the US already knew that Pakistan had enough enriched uranium to make about six nuclear devices, but did not know whether it was in a form that could be used in a warhead. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, begins to track missile deals between Pakistan and China. Pakistan needs missiles from China to use as a delivery mechanism for nuclear warheads it is producing at home. Oehler begins this work shortly after being appointed to the position. He had previously worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as the superior of Richard Barlow, another US intelligence official interested in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see January 1989 and After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257] Oehler’s activities will lead to sanctions against China two years later (see June 1991).

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Richard Barlow, a WMD analyst at the Pentagon, is commissioned to write an intelligence assessment for Defense Secretary Dick Cheney about Pakistan’s nuclear program. The report is apparently “stark,” indicating that the program is ongoing and Pakistan has configured US-made fighters to drop nuclear bombs, despite promising not to do so. Barlow also says that Pakistan is still trying to procure components and will start selling its technology to other nations (note: it is already doing so—see 1987). Barlow’s analysis is supported by a separate Defense Intelligence Agency study, which reaches the same conclusion. Barlow will later say, “Officials at the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] kept pressurizing me to change my conclusions.” When he refuses to do so, however, files start to go missing from his office and a secretary tells him a senior official has been intercepting his papers. In July, one of the Pentagon’s top salesmen criticizes him for trying to scupper a forthcoming deal to sell another 60 F-16s to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). Barlow refuses to change the report, but after he is fired he finds that it has been rewritten to say that continued US aid to Pakistan will ensure the country stops its WMD program. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Richard Barlow, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Arthur Hughes.Arthur Hughes. [Source: Middle East Institute]The US agrees to sell Pakistan 60 more F-16 fighter jets in a deal worth $1.5 billion. The US previously sold forty F-16s to Pakistan and Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow believes they were adapted to carry nuclear weapons, in conflict with a promise made by the Pakistanis (see 1983-7). Despite this, shortly before the sale goes through, the Pentagon falsely claims to Congress, “None of the F-16s Pakistan already owns or is about to purchase is configured for nuclear delivery.” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Arthur Hughes also tells Congress that the nuclear wiring has been removed from the planes and that to equip them to deliver nuclear bombs, “it first would be necessary to replace the entire wiring package of the aircraft.”
Testimony Known to Be False - However, this is contradicted by Pentagon analysis and the US intelligence community is well aware that the Pakistani air force has already practiced delivery of nuclear weapons by F-16s. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Barlow will later say the US intelligence community was certain Pakistan had nuclear weapons (see 1987): “The evidence was unbelievable. I can’t go into it—but on a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of intelligence evidence, it was a 10 or 11. It doesn’t get any better than that.” Regarding the F-16 fighters, he will add: “All the top experts had looked at this question in detail for years, and it was a cold hard engineering question. There was no question about it—the jets could easily be made nuke-capable, and we knew that Pakistan had done just that.” [Raw Story, 4/30/2007] Barlow therefore urges that the testimony be corrected, but he is fired from his position two days later (see August 4, 1989). The US should not agree to the sale, as it has passed a law saying it will not sell such equipment to countries that obtain nuclear weapons, but President Reagan has repeatedly and falsely certified that Pakistan does not have a nuclear device, so the contract is signed. However, the deal will collapse the next year when President Bush fails to certify that Pakistan does not have a nuclear weapon (see October 1990). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007]
Motivation Said to Be Profit - Given that the Soviet-Afghan War is over and there is therefore no need to be friendly with Pakistan to ensure it supports the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, Barlow believes that Hughes is lying not to support US national interests, but simply for the profits to be made by the planes’ manufacturer. “They sold out the world for an F-16 sale,” Barlow will comment. [Raw Story, 4/30/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard Barlow, Arthur Hughes, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Richard Barlow, an analyst who has repeatedly insisted that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see July 1987 or Shortly After and Mid-1989), is fired from his position at the Pentagon. Barlow will later say, “They told me they had received credible information that I was a security risk.” When he asks why he is thought to be a security risk, “They said they could not tell me as the information was classified,” but “senior Defense Department officials” are said to have “plenty of evidence.” His superiors think he might leak information about Pakistan’s nuclear program to congressmen in favor of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. He spends the next eighteen months in the Pentagon personnel pool, under surveillance by security officers. Apparently, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and two officials who work for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz are involved in the sacking. It is also rumored that Barlow is a Soviet spy. Barlow’s conclusions about Pakistan’s nuclear program are unpopular with some, because if the US admitted the nuclear program existed, this would lead to a break between the US and Pakistan and endanger US aid to the anti-Soviet mujaheddin and US arms sales (see August 1985-October 1990 and August-September 1989). After he is fired, rumors are started saying that Barlow is a tax evader, alcoholic, adulterer, and in psychiatric care. As his marriage guidance counseling is alleged to be cover for the psychiatric care, the Pentagon insists that investigators be allowed to interview his marriage guidance counselor. Due to this and other problems, his wife leaves him and files for divorce. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Barlow will later be exonerated by various investigations (see May 1990 and Before September 1993).

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Pakistan, US Department of Defense, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard Barlow

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

A Pentagon investigation finds that Richard Barlow, an analyst of Pakistan’s nuclear program, is not a security risk. Based on the investigation, Barlow is told, “after thorough investigation . . . any question of your trustworthiness for access to sensitive information was resolved in a manner completely favorable to you.” His top-secret security clearances are reinstated, but the Pentagon does not restore his clearances to compartmentalized intelligence, without which he cannot do his job. Therefore, Barlow remains in the Pentagon personnel pool, where he performs menial tasks. Barlow was fired from his position in August 1989 (see August 4, 1989), and has been in the pool since then. According to his superiors, he was dismissed for “poor performance” and due to the worry he was a security risk, although it appears that it was actually due to his opposition to false Congressional testimony by a Pentagon official intended to smooth the way for a large sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Richard Barlow, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

October 1990: US Imposes Sanctions on Pakistan

Since 1985, US Congress has required that sanctions be imposed on Pakistan if there is evidence that Pakistan is developing a nuclear weapons program (see August 1985-October 1990). With the Soviet-Afghan war over, President Bush finally acknowledges widespread evidence of Pakistan’s nuclear program and cuts off all US military and economic aid to Pakistan. However, it appears some military aid will still get through. For instance, in 1992, Senator John Glenn will write, “Shockingly, testimony by Secretary of State James Baker this year revealed that the administration has continued to allow Pakistan to purchase munitions through commercial transactions, despite the explicit, unambiguous intent of Congress that ‘no military equipment or technology shall be sold or transferred to Pakistan.’” [International Herald Tribune, 6/26/1992] These sanctions will be officially lifted a short time after 9/11.

Entity Tags: John Glenn, Pakistan, United States, George Herbert Walker Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China begins to supply the M-11 missile, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, to Pakistan. However, the Chinese had apparently started supplying missile technology to the Pakistanis some time before this (see June 23, 1983 and 1989). The US has been tracking Pakistani-Chinese missile deals and the White House becomes aware of these transactions, but no action is taken. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment on the rationale for the inaction, “Despite overwhelming evidence from satellite overheads, human intelligence, and reconnaissance aircraft, Washington held back from intervening, fearing an impasse at a time when the White House was trying to better relations with Beijing, with an eye to the rapidly expanding power of the Chinese consumer who, it was hoped, would be allowed to purchase imported US goods.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: White House, Adrian Levy, Pakistan, Catherine Scott-Clark, United States, China

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The US imposes sanctions on two Chinese companies for their part in nuclear proliferation activities. The sanctions are the product of work by Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Oehler has been tracking missile deals between China and Pakistan for two years (see 1989) and finds out about the companies’ involvement in a shipment to Pakistan of a “training M-11 ballistic missile.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968). At the same time, it signs the Missile Technology Control Regime, a multinational agreement aimed at restricting missile sales. One result is that the US waives sanctions imposed on two Chinese companies the previous year for shipping a nuclear-capable missile to Pakistan (see June 1991). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257, 511] However, China will make another missile shipment to Pakistan a few weeks later (see (April 1992)).

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

A few weeks after China signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime, it ships 34 nuclear-capable missiles to Pakistan. The shipment is tracked by Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Analysis of spy satellite photographs even tells Oehler exactly where the missiles are in Pakistan—Sargodha Air Force Base. President Clinton is briefed on the developments, but no action against Pakistan or China is taken at this time. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257-258]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China begins to provide assistance to Pakistan with the construction of a plant to manufacture missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. China has been supplying missiles to Pakistan for some time (see 1989 and 1991), and the plant is to produce a generic version of one of the Chinese missiles that is being delivered, the M-11. The facility is to be operated by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, which is run by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand. Blueprints of the M-11 will be used to produce a Pakistani version of the missile called the Hatf 3, which will have a range of 150 miles. US intelligence picks up on these developments, and they are reported to Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Estimates indicate that if the rapid progress is maintained, the facility will be completed by 1998. In addition, Oehler warns his superiors that if Pakistan does succeed in building the missiles and loading nuclear warheads onto them, it will probably sell this technology to other countries. However, the Clinton administration takes no action on this intelligence at this time. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment: “If the president accepted the assessment, he would have to impose sanctions that would potentially cost American companies billions of dollars in lost revenues if Beijing lashed out at being censured by Washington—particularly Boeing, which was negotiating a major contract with the Chinese aviation industry, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had a valuable deal with the China National Nuclear Corporation. However, not to act on Oehler’s analysis, backed as it was by hard intelligence, would have enhanced Pakistan’s nuclear capability, to the detriment of India.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: Samar Mubarakmand, China, Clinton administration, Gordon Oehler, United States, Pakistan, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The CIA reports that in the last three months China has delivered missile parts to Pakistan that can be used in the M-11 missile. China has been shipping missiles to Pakistan for some time (see 1989 and 1991). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 512]

Entity Tags: Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency, China

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China ships centrifuge parts to Pakistan to aid that country’s nuclear weapons program. The parts are 5,000 ring magnets, shipped by the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation to Karachi. They are for use in the suspension bearings of centrifuge rotors. The US learns of this shipment, and one of the officials who works on the case is Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Reportedly, CIA Director John Deutch also learns of the deal and tells a meeting at the White House that Chinese officials have approved it. Oehler, who has been arguing for sanctions on China because of its support for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program for some time, thinks that the administration will now have to apply sanctions. However, the Clinton administration does not act on the intelligence. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later ask “officials in the State Department familiar with the deal” why no action was taken. One of the officials will say: “China did not respond well to sanctions. We tried: they achieved nothing. So, we did—well, nothing.” News of the deal is soon leaked to the US press. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259, 512]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, Gordon Oehler, China, John Deutch, China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The US State Department releases a report saying the Chinese government is not supplying equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The report was drafted in response to a leak to the press saying that the US administration knew the Chinese government had signed off on the sale of Chinese magnets for Pakistani centrifuges (see Early 1996). However, the report says there is “no evidence that the Chinese government had wilfully aided or abetted Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program through the magnet transfer.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “It flew in the face of the truth—in the same way that Bush officials had claimed F-16s could not be used to deploy a nuclear bomb” (see August-September 1989). Levy and Scott-Clark will add that Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, is “furious” with the report and the lack of sanctions imposed on the Chinese. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, China, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China sells Pakistan a special industrial furnace for moulding uranium, as well as advanced diagnostic equipment. The equipment is for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and is installed at Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta by Chinese technicians. The US discovers the sale, and one of the officials who receives a report on it and passes this on is Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. However, the US takes no action against the Chinese over the transfer. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259, 512]

Entity Tags: Kahuta Research Laboratories, China, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, appears before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. At a closed hearing he tells it that the administration has intelligence showing that China is shipping nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, but the administration is covering this up (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that by this time Oehler has “had enough” of the administration ignoring his work documenting the deals between China and Pakistan. “There was no consistent policy emerging,” they will write. “There was no strategy even. There was no considered attempt to rein China in or to tackle Pakistan, which was getting increasingly out of hand. There was just a steady drip, drip of doomsday technology from China to Pakistan and from Pakistan to—no one was exactly sure how many countries.” Therefore, Oehler makes the attempt to get the Senate to do something. Levy and Scott-Clark will say he found “the softest way he could to contradict his superiors short of becoming a whistle-blower.” However, no action is taken against China or Pakistan, and Oehler soon resigns (see October 1997). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259-260]

Entity Tags: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, China, Pakistan, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, resigns from his position, taking early retirement. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that Oehler is “exhausted and cynical” by this time. This is because he has frequently warned of the dangers of allowing China to proliferate nuclear weapons technology, but the administration has not done anything about it (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). A senior non-proliferation official in the State Department will later say Oehler “kind of set down an ultimatum” that was ignored, “and he felt he had to walk.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gary Milhollin, a law professor and the director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Weapons, testifies to a Senate committee and complains about a lack of US action over intelligence showing China is breaching treaty obligations. “We are simply watching the Chinese shipments go out, without any hope of stopping them,” says Milhollin. “All our present policy has produced is a new missile factory in Pakistan (see (Mid-1990s)), an upgraded nuclear weapons factory in Pakistan (see Early 1996), and new chemical weapon plants in Iran.” At the same hearing, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) criticizes President Clinton for “giving Chinese firms a green light to sell missile technology to Iran and Pakistan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]

Entity Tags: Gary Milhollin, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Weapons, Jon Kyl

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gordon Oehler, a former US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Clinton administration’s non-proliferation efforts. Oehler resigned in disgust the previous year as the administration was ignoring his warnings of Chinese proliferation to Pakistan and other countries (see October 1997). He tells the committee that “analysts were very discouraged to see their work was regularly dismissed.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]

Entity Tags: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

US President Bill Clinton and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reach an agreement on co-operation between their countries. According to a deal offered by Clinton, the US will refund Pakistan most of the $470 million it owes for a group of F-16 fighters ordered and paid for by Pakistan but never delivered (see August-September 1989). In return, Clinton asks Sharif to close down Pakistani nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan and his operations, as well as training camps for radical Islamists in Afghanistan that are supported by Pakistan. However, Sharif does not fulfill his end of the bargain, and the Pakistani government continues to support both Khan and the training camps. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Sharif thinks he can get away with the inaction because of Clinton’s preoccupation with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and the US’s generally permissive attitude to Pakistani nuclear weapons. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Nawaz Sharif

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

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