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A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The A. Q. Khan Network's Operations Concerning Iran

Project: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF

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A delegation from Pakistan’s foreign ministry holds its first talks about possibly selling the nuclear technology and know-how it has acquired with representatives of the Iranian, Syrian, and Libyan governments. The talks, ostensibly about the wider topic of strategic co-operation, follow on from a conscious decision by Pakistani leaders to sell what they have (see (Early 1985)).
No Qualms - Although it is possible the US would be angry if it finds out, and could cut off significant aid to Pakistan, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “no one at Army House in Rawalpindi perceived it as immoral or considered the risk too large to take.” General Khalid Mahmud Arif will say: “Having seen the US so flexible in the past, everyone doubted that it would sanction us at all. Also, few of us held the NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty] in high regard. We referred to it as a monopoly, to service the West’s interests. There were so many countries that had been allowed to arm and proliferate—Israel, South Africa, Argentina—countries that slotted into the US’s foreign policy requirements and were allowed to do as they please.”
Shia Iran Not a Problem - Although the Pakistanis want to sell the bomb to other Muslim countries, Pakistani leader General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, a hardline Sunni, is wary of sharing it with Shia Iran. However, according to Levy and Scott-Clark, because Iran is currently at war with Iraq and threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan, it is not perceived as such a threat at this time: “The Shias were a contained and localized minority, the underdogs to the US-backed Sunni elite of Islamabad, Amman, Cairo, and Riyadh. No one contemplated a time when that Sunni strength and wealth would be threatened by war in Iraq and a Shi’ite awakening with its epicentre in Iran.” Nevertheless, Pakistan will not sell completed nuclear weapons to Iran, only technology for enriching uranium. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 133-134]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Khalid Mahmud Arif

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Iran, Libya, Progress with Pakistani Nukes

Around this time, the network set up by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan to purchase components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons begins to sell the technology and know-how it has acquired to other nations, including Iran, North Korea, and Libya. A US analyst predicts this will happen (see Mid-1989), but neither the US nor its allies takes action against the network for some time. [Guardian, 10/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Countries, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Progress with Pakistani Nukes, A. Q. Khan's Career

In Dubai, Sri Lankan businessman Mohamed Farouqand and German engineer Heinz Mebus meet with as many as three Iranian officials, presenting them with an offer to sell Iran the expertise and materials needed to develop a nuclear weapons program. Both Farouqand and Mebus are connected to A. Q. Khan, the head of Pakistan’s nuclear program who also operates a network of nuclear manufacturers and suppliers located in more than 30 countries. According to two Western diplomats interviewed by the Washington Post in 2005, the offer lays out a five-step plan which would begin with the provision of technical drawings for Pakistani centrifuges. In phase two of the plan, the network would supply Iran with a starter kit of one or two centrifuges. This would be followed by the sale of as many as 2,000 centrifuges, which could then be used to enrich uranium. In the final phases of the plan, Iran would be provided with auxiliary items for the centrifuges and enrichment process as well as reconversion and casting equipment for building the core of a bomb. It is not known whether or not the Iranians accept this particular deal; however, at some point the Iranians do eventually obtain centrifuge parts from Khan (see March 10, 2005). [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Heinz Mebus, Mohamed Farouqand, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran

Soon after people involved in the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring start to meet with Iranian representatives (see 1987 and 1987), Israeli intelligence becomes aware of these contacts. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment that the Israeli intelligence community studies “the Pakistan-Iran nuclear pact since its inception in 1987.” One of the key elements in the Israeli effort is Unit 8200, an intelligence component of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which will crack the encryption used in communications between Pakistan and Iran at some point in the next few years. The intercepts suggest that Pakistan may have given the Iranians what Levy and Scott-Clark will call “a nuclear weapons factory.” Future IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon will say of the period in the mid-90s: “Pakistan was broke. Khan was flying around the world alongside his military escort. Our people overheard him dealing and many of these deals came back to Iran, to whom he was offering KRL stock.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 256]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Unit 8200, Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Defense Forces

Category Tags: Iran, Israeli Attitude to Pakistan Nukes

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sells uranium enrichment equipment to Iran for $3 million in cash. Sri Lankan businessman Bukhary Syed Abu Tahir, Khan’s key associate, arranges for two containers containing used centrifuge units to be delivered from Pakistan to Iran via an Iranian-owned merchant ship. [BBC, 2/12/2004; Associated Press, 2/20/2004; Washington Times, 9/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran

People of various nationalities are seen at guest houses associated with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan in Kahuta, near his main research facility. Muhammad Shafiq ur-Rehman, son of Khan’s military aide Sajawal Khan Malik, will say: “The two guest houses beside the lake were chock-a-block with foreigners. It was Babel. We were up to our necks in North Koreans, Chinese, Iranians, Syrians, Vietnamese, and Libyans. Dr. Sahib [Khan] never ceased to amaze me how he got these people in and out with no questions asked.” Peter Griffin, a British businessman who is a key supplier for Khan’s nuclear proliferation network, will confirm the presence of the North Koreans. Based on interviews with Griffin, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will write: “[T]eams from [North Korea] were semi-permanently lodged at the guest house next door [to Khan’s residence]. Griffin frequently saw them when he was supplying building materials to Khan in the mid-1990s, although the North Koreans spoke insufficient English to take part in any conversation.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 255, 277]

Entity Tags: Peter Griffin, Muhammad Shafiq ur-Rehman

Category Tags: Iran, Libya, North Korea

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan supplies Iran with blueprints for an advanced P2 centrifuge, used to produce weapons-grade uranium. Iran already has some technology for centrifuges and spare parts provided by Khan in the 1980s (see 1987), but discovers that what it has is out of date. The new, German-designed P2 centrifuges are better than the earlier P1 versions, as they have rotors made from specialty steel and are more reliable. Khan also makes other deliveries of nuclear weapons technology to Iran around this time (see 1994). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 256]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Iran

Category Tags: Iran

On a visit to Iran, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto quietly asks Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani about possible nuclear weapons transactions between their two countries. The question is prompted by rumors Bhutto has heard about some kind of nuclear weapons deals between them, and is put to Rafsanjani at a meeting with Bhutto and Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari. Bhutto will later say: “I asked Rafsanjani: ‘Is there something going on? Is there a nuclear exchange?’ Rafsanjani looked surprised. He said he suspected it too but he said he knew nothing.” Bhutto will add that she later learns the Revolutionary Guard is the organization responsible for the deal in Iran, indicating Rafsanjani’s profession of ignorance may be genuine. The timing of this meeting is not entirely clear, as Bhutto visits Iran twice around this time, in December 1993 and November 1995. However, she is known to meet with Rafsanjani on November 7 during her second visit. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 255, 511]

Entity Tags: Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Benazir Bhutto

Category Tags: Iran

British and American intelligence agencies warn their governments of Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation activities, according to senior sources at the British Foreign Office and the CIA. One of the warnings states that Pakistan is “readying itself to sell or [is] selling already” to North Korea and possibly Iran. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]

Entity Tags: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Iran, North Korea, Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes

The Bundesnachrichtendienst, a German foreign intelligence agency, informs the US that Pakistan and Iran are cooperating on weapons purchases. According to the Germans, Pakistan has set up what authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will call a “network of dummy export companies” on behalf of the Iranians, and these companies are being used to purchase weapons bound for Iran. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 512]

Entity Tags: Bundesnachrichtendienst

Category Tags: Iran, Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes

In an interview with a Pakistani satellite channel, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan denies allegations that he was involved in selling nuclear secrets or equipment to Iran. “I am being accused for nothing, I never visited Iran, I don’t know any Iranian, nor do I know any Iranian scientist,” he says. “I will be targeted naturally because I made the nuclear bomb, I made the missile.” [Guardian, 1/31/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors say they have found designs for an advanced P-2 centrifuge used to enrich uranium in Iranian hands. The designs, which Iran should have declared to the IAEA, match drawings of enrichment equipment that were found in Libya and supplied by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Associated Press, 2/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, International Atomic Energy Agency

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran, Libya

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begins investigating a 1987 meeting (see 1987) where two associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran nuclear technology and materials. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, International Atomic Energy Agency

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran

An Iranian exile group says it has evidence that Iran is still enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite an agreement it signed pledging it to halt such activities. The group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), also charges that in the mid-1990s, Iran bought the plans for a Chinese nuclear bomb from the global nuclear technology network led by Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan. Khan’s network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has renounced its nuclear ambitions (see December 2003). The NCRI’s Mohammed Mohaddessin says the Khan network also provided Iran with a small amount of highly enriched uranium, though the amount is too small to use for a weapon. While the NCRI provided information in 2002 that helped disclose Iran’s secret nuclear program, many of its subsequent allegations have been proven false.
Claims - Mohaddessin uses satellite photos to show what he says is a new nuclear facility inside Tehran’s Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (CDADT). He says that the CDADT also houses chemical and biological weapons programs, and that Iran began enriching uranium at the site in early 2003. Mohaddessin refuses to provide any evidence for his claims, instead saying, “Our sources were 100 percent sure about their intelligence.” Those sources, he says, are scientists and other people working in the facilities, and local citizens living near the facilities who see what he calls suspicious activities.
Reaction - Many diplomats and arms control experts dismiss the NCRI’s claims, saying the claims are an attempt to undermine the recent agreement Tehran signed with Britain, France, and Germany to restrict its uranium enrichment program. In return, the agreement says, Iran can continue working on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Mohaddessin, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, National Council of Resistance of Iran, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (Iran)

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran

The US sends teams of US-trained former Iranian exiles, sometimes accompanied by US Special Forces, from Iraq into southern and eastern Iran to search for underground nuclear installations. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005; Guardian, 1/29/2005] In the north, Israeli-trained Kurds from northern Iraq, occasionally assisted by US forces, look for signs of nuclear activity as well. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Both teams are tasked with planting remote detection devices, known as “sniffers,” which can sense radioactive emissions and other indicators of nuclear-enrichment programs while also helping US war planners establish targets. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] The former Iranian exiles operating in the south and east are members of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been included in the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997) and included in a government white paper (see September 12, 2002) that criticized Iraq for its support of the group. After the US invaded Iraq, members of MEK were “consolidated, detained, disarmed, and screened for any past terrorist acts” by the US (see July 2004) and designated as “protected persons.” (see July 21, 2004) Initially, the MEK operate from Camp Habib in Basra, but they later launch their incursions from the Baluchi region in Pakistan. [United Press International, 1/26/2005; Newsweek, 2/15/2005] They are assisted by information from Pakistani scientists and technicians who have knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] Pakistan apparently agreed to cooperate with the US in exchange for assurances that Pakistan would not have to turn over A. Q. Khan, the so-called “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb,” to the IAEA or to any other international authorities for questioning. Khan, who is “linked to a vast consortium of nuclear black-market activities,” could potentially be of great assistance to these agencies in their efforts to undermine nuclear weapons proliferation. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] In addition to allowing Pakistan to keep Khan, the US looks the other way as Pakistan continues to buy parts for its nuclear-weapons arsenal in the black market, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat interviewed by Seymour Hersh [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The United States’ use of MEK is criticized by Western diplomats and analysts who agree with many Iranians who consider the group to be traitors because they fought alongside Iraqi troops against Iran in the 1980s. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bush administration (43), People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Iran

Iran hands over documents from a 1987 meeting in Dubai (see 1987) to a International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation (see November 2004). During the 1987 meeting, associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran the technology and materials to build a nuclear bomb. However, the IAEA does not uncover any evidence suggesting that the equipment was used in anything other than Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. The violations are technical and based only on the fact that Iran failed to report the program. Despite its recent findings, the IAEA investigation claims it still lacks a clear understanding of Iran’s nuclear program. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Iran

Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says that the now pardoned A. Q. Khan was involved in black market nuclear arms deals and that he gave the Iranians centrifuge parts. “[Khan] had given centrifuges to Iran in his individual capacity and the government of Pakistan had nothing to do with this,” Ahmed tells reporters. Despite these acknowledgments, Ahmed says Pakistan “will not hand over [Khan] to any other country.” The Pakistani government insists that it had no knowledge of Khan’s activities, but numerous experts have questioned these claims noting that it would have been impossible for him to keep his activities secret. [BBC, 3/10/2005; CNN, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: Other Countries, Iran, A. Q. Khan's Career

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