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Context of '1983-7: US Sells Forty F-16 Fighters to Pakistan, Possibly Reconfigured to Carry Nuclear Weapons'

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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

Senator Larry Pressler.Senator Larry Pressler. [Source: Public domain]The US Congress passes the “Pressler Amendment,” requiring the president to certify that Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons every year. The amendment was championed by Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD). If the president does not issue such certification, Pakistan cannot not get any foreign aid from the US. Presidents Reagan and Bush will falsely certify Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons several times (see August 1985-October 1990). Journalist Seymour Hersh will later comment: “There is indisputable evidence that Pakistan has been able to escape public scrutiny for its violations of the law because senior officials of the Reagan and the Bush administrations chose not to share the intelligence about nuclear purchases with Congress. The two Republican administrations obviously feared that the legislators, who had voted for the Solarz (see August 1985) and Pressler Amendments, would cut off funds for the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was yet another clash between a much desired foreign-policy goal and the law.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Larry Pressler, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 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

A. Q. Khan (right) and Benazir Bhutto (center).A. Q. Khan (right) and Benazir Bhutto (center). [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)After becoming prime minister of Pakistan following the victory of the Pakistan People’s Party in elections, Benazir Bhutto does not play a large role in Pakistan’s nuclear policy, according to US analysts. It is unclear whether she chooses not to do so, or is cut out of it by the military. In her absence the two senior figures overseeing the program are President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army head General Aslam Beg. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Benazir Bhutto, Aslam Beg

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

The US briefs Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan’s nuclear program, and says it has decided to cut off aid to Pakistan in 1990, because US law does not permit aid to nuclear proliferators (see August 1985 and June 1989). However, current President George Bush and his predecessor Ronald Reagan falsely certified that Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons during the Soviet-Afghan war (see August 1985-October 1990 and 1987-1989). The initial briefing is provided by CIA Director William Webster and contains new information for Bhutto, who receives only limited information about her own country’s nuclear program (see After November 16, 1988). To dramatize the extent of American knowledge, Webster arranges for Bhutto to be shown a mockup of a Pakistani nuclear bomb. Mark Siegel, an associate of Bhutto, will later say she experienced feelings of disbelief: “The briefing was more detailed” than any information she had received from her own military and “showed that the military was doing it behind her back.” The next day, President George Bush tells her that in order to continue to receive US aid, she must assure the White House that her government will not take the final step of producing nuclear-bomb cores. Bush says he will still allow the sale of sixty more F-16 planes needed by to Pakistan, even though Pakistan has fitted such planes with nuclear weapons in the recent past, despite promising not to do so (see 1983-7). Despite this, the sale will not go through. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, Central Intelligence Agency, Mark Siegel, Benazir Bhutto

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

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1991.Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1991. [Source: BBC]Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto tells a joint session of the US Congress: “[W]e do not possess nor do we intend to make a nuclear device. That is our policy.” The statement receives “thunderous cheers” from members of both houses. However, Bhutto has been aware of Pakistan’s nuclear program for some time (see After November 16, 1988) and recently received a detailed briefing on it from the CIA (see June 1989). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Benazir Bhutto

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

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

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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