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Context of 'October 1981: Retired Pakistani Army Officer Caught in New York with Specialty Metal for Nuclear Reactor'

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A 5,000-lb shipment of zirconium, a grey-white metal that is commonly used to lag fuel rods in nuclear reactors, is seized at JFK Airport in New York. The metal had been checked in for a Pakistan International Airways flight in a container marked “climbing gear.” When airline staff ask to see inside, the passenger traveling with it runs off. It is later determined that he is a retired Pakistani Army officer and close friend of Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. The metal had been purchased in Oregon by an American business on behalf of a Pakistani-based company called S. J. Enterprises. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 90]

Entity Tags: S. J. Enterprises

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

The CIA sets a trap to catch operatives connected to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program who are buying components in the US, but “two high-ranking US officials extremely close to the White House” tip off Pakistan and only a minor player is caught. Initially, a Pakistani businessman contacts a Pennsylvania company called Carpenter Steel and asks to buy a specific type of metal used only in constructing centrifuges to enrich uranium. The Department of Energy learns of the contact and informs Richard Barlow, a CIA analyst focused on Pakistan’s nuclear program. Barlow realizes that both the businessman, Arshad Pervez, and his handler, Inam ul-Haq, a retired brigadier in the Pakistani army, are well-known Pakistan government operatives. Barlow and US Customs set up a sting at a bugged hotel room, but Pervez arrives without ul-Haq, the main target. Barlow then finds that the officials have tipped off Pakistan, even though the information about the operation was closely held (see Mid-1986 and After). Barlow finds cables implicating the two high-ranking officials in the tip-off: Robert Peck, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of Near East Affairs, and another official at the under secretary level. A trail of paperwork definitively proves sabotage within the State Department and the tip-off is found “buried within the lawyerly language of a demarche to Islamabad, subtly phrased so as to protect those who had sent it.” Barlow will later comment: “The CIA went mad. These were criminal offenses.” However, the State Department argues an inquiry would disclose state secrets and the investigation is abandoned, just before President Ronald Reagan again certifies that “Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device.” There will later be a stormy congressional hearing about the affair (see July 1987 or Shortly After). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 169; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Ul-Haq will later be arrested in Germany and extradited to the US, but he will only serve a very short sentence. His nuclear transactions in the US will also be linked to the criminal BCCI bank (see July 11, 1991).

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Robert Peck, Arshad Pervez, Richard Barlow, Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Scientific and Weapons Research (CIA), Inam ul-Haq, Pakistan

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

The US and North Korea sign a formal accord based on the outlined treaty negotiated by former President Jimmy Carter (see Spring and Summer 1994). The accord, called the Agreed Framework, primarily concerns North Korea’s nuclear program. The North Koreans agree to observe the strictures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968 and December 12, 1985), keep their nuclear fuel rods in storage, and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in to inspect their nuclear facility. In return, the US, along with its allies South Korea and Japan, will provide North Korea with two light-water nuclear reactors specifically for generating electricity, a large supply of fuel oil, and a promise not to attack. The Framework also specifies that once the first light-water reactor is delivered in 2003, intrusive inspections would begin. After the second reactor arrives, North Korea would ship its fuel rods out of the country—essentially ending North Korea’s ability to build nuclear weapons. The Framework also pledges both sides to “move toward full normalization of political and economic relations,” including the exchange of ambassadors and the lowering of trade barriers. North Korea will observe the treaty’s restrictions, at least initially, but the US and its allies never do; the economic barriers are not lowered, the light-water reactors are never delivered, and Congress never approves the financial outlays specified in the accord. By 1996, North Korea is secretly exchanging missile centrifuges for Pakistani nuclear technology. [Washington Monthly, 5/2004]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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