Israel Tried To Derail the Pakistan Nuclear Horn

The Karachi nuclear power plant site in Pakistan (Image: CNNC)

Israel Tried To Derail Pakistan Nuclear Program In 1980s – OpEd

January 5, 2022

The Karachi nuclear power plant site in Pakistan (Image: CNNC)

Reportedly, Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad is suspected of detonating bombs and issuing threats to German and Swiss companies in the 1980s that helped Pakistan in its nascent nuclear weapons program. 

Lately, the prominent Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) reported on the findings. According to the paper, “The suspicion that the Mossad might be behind the attacks and threats soon arose. For Israel, the prospect that Pakistan, for the first time, could become an Islamic state with an atomic bomb posed an existential threat.”

The paper reported that Pakistan and Iran worked closely together in the 1980s on the construction of nuclear weapons devices. According to the NZZ, the intensive work of companies from Germany and Switzerland in aiding Iran’s nuclear program “has been relatively well researched.”

The paper quoted the Swiss historian Adrian Hänni who said the Mossad was likely involved in the bomb attacks of Swiss and German companies added, there was no “smoking gun” to prove the Mossad carried out the attacks.

The Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia, a previously unknown entity, claimed credit for the explosions in Switzerland and Germany.

The NZZ reports on the role of the late Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic weapons program. He crisscrossed Europe during the 1980s to secure technology and blueprints from Western institutions and companies. The paper wrote that Khan met in a Zurich hotel with a delegation of Iran’s Organization for Atomic Energy in 1987.  The Iranian delegation was led by the engineer Masud Naraghi, the chief of Iran’s nuclear energy commission.

Two German engineers, Gotthard Lerch and Heinz Mebus, along with Naraghi, who earned his PhD in the USA, met with Khan’s group in Switzerland. Additional meetings took place in Dubai.

With the fast-moving efforts by Pakistan to jumpstart its nuclear weapons program, the US government sought, without success, to get the German and Swiss governments to crack down on companies in their countries that were aiding Pakistan. Suspected Mossad agents allegedly took action in Switzerland and Germany against the companies and engineers involved in aiding Pakistan.

According to the NZZ, “A few months after the unsuccessful intervention of the US State Department in Bonn and Bern, unknown perpetrators carried out explosive attacks on three of these companies: on February 20, 1981 on the house of a leading employee of Cora Engineering Chur; on May 18, 1981  on the factory building of the Wälischmiller company in Markdorf;  and finally, on November 06, 1981, on the engineering office of Heinz Mebus in Erlangen. All three attacks resulted in only property damage, only Mebus’s dog was killed.”

The paper highlighted, “The explosives attacks were accompanied by several phone calls in which strangers threatened other delivery companies in English or broken German. Sometimes the caller would order the threats to be taped. ‘The attack that we carried out against the Wälischmiller company could happen to you too’ – this is how the Leybold-Heraeus administration office was intimidated. 

Siegfried Schertler, the owner of VAT at the time, and his head salesman Tinner were called several times on their private lines. Schertler also reported to the Swiss Federal Police that the Israeli secret service had contacted him. This emerges from the investigation files, which the NZZ was able to see for the first time.”

Schertler said an employee of the Israeli embassy in Germany named David, contacted the VAT executive. The company head said that David urged him to stop ‘these businesses’ regarding nuclear weapons and switch to the textile business.

Swiss and German companies derived significant profits from their business with the Khan nuclear weapons network. The NZZ reported “Many of these suppliers, mainly from Germany and Switzerland, soon entered into business worth millions with Pakistan. Leybold-Heraeus, Wälischmiller, Cora Engineering Chur, Vakuum-Apparate-Technik (VAT, with the chief buyer Friedrich Tinner) or the Buchs metal works, to name a few. They benefited from an important circumstance. The German and Swiss authorities interpreted their dual-use provisions very generously. Most of the components that are required for uranium enrichment, for example, high-precision vacuum valves, are primarily used for civil purposes.”

The NZZ reported that recently the National Security Archive in Washington published diplomatic correspondence from the US State Department from Bonn and Bern in 1980.

“This shows how the US resented the two countries’ casual handling of the delicate deliveries to Pakistan. In a note from an employee, Bern’s behavior was described as a ‘hands-off approach’ – the local authorities were accordingly accused of turning a blind eye. In the now released dispatches, which were previously classified as secret, those companies are listed for the first time that the US has accused of supporting the Pakistani nuclear weapons program with their deliveries. The list included around half a dozen companies each from Germany and Switzerland

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