Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Pakistan Nuclear Nightmare

With the repetitive rhythm of a bad dream, Pakistan keeps jarring America's sense of security, this week with the Washington visit of President Asif Ali Zardari, who will arrive with the usual assurances of stability while begging for more helicopters to fight off extremist insurgents.

As always, anonymous senior US officials warn they are "increasingly concerned about new vulnerabilities for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport or to insert sympathizers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities."

Yet, at his press conference last week, President Obama was confident that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were in safe hands with "strong military-to-military cooperation," while back in the Swat Valley Islamabad's deal with the Taliban was unraveling, and the sense of alarm in Washington obviously growing.

Somewhere in the background of this mess is the figure of A. Q. Khan, their former top scientist, who was jailed for selling technology to Iran and North Korea, among others, but released by Pakistan's Supreme Court in February to do who-knows-what in the proliferation black market as his country keeps expanding the size and number of its nuclear plants.

At the Washington summit this week, along with Afghanistan's tower of strength Hamid Karzai, Zardari will be assuring the White House and Congress that the upcoming $7.5 billion in aid, with perhaps a little more military hardware thrown in, will keep everything quiet in their neighborhood.

We have heard all this over and over again ever since 9/11, and it keeps ringing more and more hollow as time goes on. If the Obama Administration has some new formula of carrots and sticks, now is the time to use it so we can all stop having those bad nuclear dreams.

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