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Context of 'Early 1976: US Intelligence Finds Pakistan Has ‘Crash Program’ to Build Nuclear Bomb'

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Alexander Haig, President Nixon’s chief of staff, is briefly staying on at the White House to ease the transition into the new, hastily assembled Ford staff. Haig, knowing that President Ford will not consider retaining him in the position, believes that Donald Rumsfeld, the US ambassador to NATO, might be the person Ford needs to head his staff (see August 9, 1974). (Nixon held Rumsfeld in grudging admiration, referring to him as a “ruthless little b_stard,” but had sent him to Europe and NATO headquarters because he did not like Rumsfeld’s obvious ambition.) Although Ford is not sold on having a chief of staff at all, Haig believes Ford needs someone with Rumsfeld’s “strong personality and fine administrat[ive skills]” to help him establish himself. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whom Ford is retaining, sees Rumsfeld as, in Kissinger’s words, an exemplar of a “special Washington phenomenon: the skilled full-time politician bureaucrat in whom ambition, ability, and substance fuse seamlessly.” Ford has a good relationship with Rumsfeld, who in the 1960s led an insurgency among House Republicans to replace Minority Leader Charles Halleck with Ford. He views Rumsfeld as something of a maverick, and wants someone not beholden to the entrenched Nixon loyalists remaining in the White House as well as someone with a good relationship with Congressional Republicans. Rumsfeld fits the bill. Rumsfeld, a former Navy pilot, will later write that Ford “had to provide sufficient change to make the transition from what many perceived to be an illegitimate White House and administration to a legitimate administration. It was a bit like climbing into an airplane, at 30,000 feet, going 500 miles an hour, and having to change part of the crew.” [Werth, 2006, pp. 60-61; Unger, 2007, pp. 49-52] (Rumsfeld will, in turn, ask his own former assistant, Dick Cheney, to once again join him as his assistant in the Ford White House—see 1969). Ford’s longtime aide and speech writer Robert Hartmann will be equally blunt in his own recollections: “The Nixon-to-Ford transition was superbly planned. It was not a failure. It just never happened.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 26]

Entity Tags: Robert Hartmann, Nixon administration, Henry A. Kissinger, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr, Donald Rumsfeld, Alexander M. Haig, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger circulates National Security Decision Memorandum 292 on “US-Iran Nuclear Cooperation” outlining the administration’s negotiating strategy for the sale of nuclear energy equipment to Iran. The document states the government would permit “US material to be fabricated into fuel in Iran for use in its own reactors and for pass through to third countries with whom [the US has] agreements.” According to the document, the administration would “[a]gree to set the fuel ceiling at the level reflecting the approximate number of nuclear reactors planned for purchase from US suppliers,” but would consider increasing the ceiling “to cover Iran’s entitlement” from their proposed $1 billion investment in a 20 percent stake in one of the private US uranium enrichment facilities that would be supplying Iran. The strategy paper also explains under what terms the Ford administration would be willing to grant Iran approval to reprocess US supplied fuel. [US National Security Council, 4/22/1975; Washington Post, 3/27/2005] Three decades later, Kissinger will tell the Washington Post that the Ford administration was never concerned about the possibility of Iran building nuclear weapons or the potential for proliferation. “I don’t think the issue of proliferation came up,” he will recall. “They were an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction. We didn’t address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Kissinger, Ford administration

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

US intelligence discovers that Pakistan has begun a “crash program” to build a nuclear weapon. The weapon is to be a plutonium bomb made using fuel from a reprocessing plant that will be built in Pakistan by the French and financed by Libya. The Ford administration attempts to pressure Pakistan to give up these attempts, and in a meeting in August 1976 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will offer Pakistan over a hundred fighter planes in return for its giving up the efforts. He will also threaten to “make a horrible example” of Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan will not respond to these threats, but will eventually abandon this program in favor of attempts to build a uranium bomb by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62-63]

Entity Tags: Ford administration, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Henry A. Kissinger

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

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