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Context of '1985: Arrest of Pakistan Proliferator Endangers Program of US Aid to Mujaheddin'

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The arrest of a Pakistani agent attempting to buy components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the US starts a crisis that could potentially lead to the cutting off of US aid to Pakistan, and an end to US support for the mujaheddin in the Soviet-Afghan War. When Stephen Solarz (D-NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs and an opponent of Pakistan, learns of the attempted purchase—of Kryton high-speed triggers that are used to fire nuclear weapons—he calls for hearings to look into the affair. The crisis passes, but it is unclear exactly how. Author George Crile will attribute the resolution to threats made to Solarz by Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-TX), a strong supporter of US involvement in the war: “Wilson understood that this was a battle that could not be won with debating points; reportedly, he went to Solarz armed with certain classified intelligence about India’s nuclear program. He is said to have suggested that India might be more exposed than Pakistan when it came to the issue of the bomb.” (Crile 2003, pp. 463-4)

Congressman Stephen Solarz.Congressman Stephen Solarz. [Source: AP]The “Solarz Amendment” to the Foreign Assistance Act is passed by the US Congress and becomes law. The amendment, championed by Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), cuts off all military and economic aid to purportedly non-nuclear nations that illegally export or attempt to export nuclear-related materials from the US. (Hersh 3/29/1993) There are subsequently several examples of Pakistan exporting nuclear weapons technology from the US, but they are not punished until the end of the Soviet-Afghan War (see August 1985-October 1990).

Despite the passage of two amendments dealing with Pakistan’s nuclear program in August 1985 (see August 1985 and August 1985), the Reagan and Bush administrations will fail to keep Congress properly informed of incidents related to Pakistan’s acquisition of components for its nuclear program, even though such notification is required by law. Senator John Glenn (D-OH), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Chairman of the House Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, will later say that they are not formally briefed about any significant Pakistani procurement, with the exception of one case (see July 1987 or Shortly After), during this period. For example, Glenn will later say he should have been briefed about a nuclear scare involving Pakistan and India in 1990 (see January-May 1990) (Hersh 3/29/1993)


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