April 08 17:41 2016
By Christina Harvey
FILE- In this Monday In Baghdad the government cabinet is being reshuffled as part of an anti-corruption reform drive on the part of Abadi which has been sped up by pressure exerted by Iraq’s Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who recently staged a sit-in inside the Green Zone to demand an end to government corruption.
His aim is to free Iraqi ministries from the grip of a political class that has used the system of ethnic and sectarian quotas instituted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to amass wealth and influence.
He added that the secretary of state, on his first visit to Iraq since 2014, would discuss US-led support for Baghdad’s efforts to battle the Islamic State jihadist group. The United States, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in 2011, has redeployed several thousand as part of a coalition it is leading against Islamic State. “We will continue targeting and taking out (IS’s) leaders, and we will train local forces to take and hold more ground”, Kerry told journalists in Baghdad.
Mosul has been dominated by ISIS for almost two years now, and the Iraqi military’s offensive against it stalled with the capture of only three villages, with the military since announcing the operation to be on hold pending the arrival of reinforcements. As well as meeting Abadi, Kerry plans talks with Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and with the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, the State Department said.
Through his visit to Iraq, Kerry seeks to encourage the Iraqis not to lose sight of the important need to keep an eye on fighting against ISIS, by the time they’re dealing with the cabinet reshuffle, stressing on the need “to plan steadily and carefully” to retake Mosul.
By Jon Lee Anderson
The radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has never held elected office but has established himself as a key power broker in Iraq. Credit Photograph by Alaa al-Marjani / REUTERS
Beyond the gruesome military showdown with ISIS, politics in Iraq, such as it exists, revolves around a small cabal of former insurgents. All of them were political players long before the U.S. invasion of 2003, and they variously endured imprisonment, torture, exile, assassination attempts, and all-out warfare for their opposition to Saddam Hussein, and then survived to compete for the spoils of power. Some gained control of vast resources through their authority over lucrative government ministries. Some command their own militias as well as portions of the country’s security forces. The original list of players included the Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Mustafa Barzani, the secular Shiite politicians Iyad Allawi and the late Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite Islamists Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nuri al-Maliki, and the late clerical Shiite brothers Muhammad Bakr and Abdulaziz al-Hakim. One of the most intriguing additions to this group is the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, an arriviste of forty-two who has never held elected office but who now commands thousands and has established himself as a key power broker in the country.
A chunky, black-garbed, bearded man with a perpetually baleful countenance, “Moqtada,” as his followers call him, is a remarkable character. The son of a revered cleric who was murdered on Saddam’s orders, in 1999, Sadr forced his way into the political scene, when he was still in his twenties, with a calculated act of violence. On April 10, 2003, three weeks into the U.S. invasion, Abdel Majid al-Khoei, a moderate Shiite cleric, whom the Americans had brought into the holy city of Najaf, crucial to the country’s majority Shiites, in the hopes that he would somehow help manage the city’s influential religious community, was stabbed to death. The word went out quickly that the assassination, which occurred in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses, had been carried out by one of Sadr’s lieutenants, on his orders. The murder coincided with the appearance, on the streets of Najaf and Baghdad, of an armed rabble who called Sadr their leader and themselves his Mahdi Army. Within days, they had taken over the vast Shiite slum of Saddam City, which was renamed Sadr City.
As the blundering American occupation got under way, in the spring and summer of 2003, Sadr built up his power base. Then, in April 2004, coinciding with the Sunni rebellion that began in Fallujah, Sadr’s Mahdi Army rose up and attacked coalition soldiers in Najaf, Baghdad, and across southern and central Iraq and inside Baghdad, as well. The uprising had been sparked by the American arrest of one of Sadr’s aides, who was accused of Khoei’s assassination. As coalition troops and Sadr’s followers clashed, the Americans said that Sadr himself was wanted for the murder, and sent a large number of troops to surround Najaf. Sadr threatened to launch a full-fledged jihad if they entered the city. A standoff ensued. In the face of spreading violence, the Americans eventually backed off.
Coalition forces fought the Mahdi Army several more times, always without resolution. Sadr’s soldiers were heavily implicated in the brutal sectarian violence of 2006 to 2008, but he has since renamed his army the Saraya al-Salam—the Peace Brigades—and now controls a big bloc in parliament as well as his own political party. When two of his government ministers were accused of corruption, he ordered them to resign from their offices and to present themselves to the Iraqi courts. He is Shiite but has taken pains to show himself to be non-sectarian, embracing the Sunni-led “Arab Spring” demonstrations of several years ago, and more recently forming a committee, made up of secular Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish intellectuals, to come up with a “national plan” for Iraq.
Sadr knows how to choose his moments, and earlier this year he was back in the news, after a long and unexplained hiatus. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s failure to go through with promised reforms, including an overhaul of the government and new approach to tackling rampant official corruption, had been the focus of growing public discontent for some time when, in late February, Sadr resurfaced to demand action, and a hundred thousand of his followers joined him in one of Iraq’s biggest public demonstrations ever.
Sadr gave the government forty-five days to come clean, and as the clock ticked down thousands of Sadrists, a boisterous crew made up mainly of Shiites, camped noisily outside the Green Zone. Sadr threatened to storm the enclave with his followers if their demands were not met, but, in the end, he and the government agreed on a Solomonic denouement: Sadr alone stormed the Green Zone, allowed in by guards, who greeted him affectionately. Last Thursday, the Abadi government came up with an eleventh-hour planned government proposal, and the crisis ended. Sadr and his retinue departed, crowing victory, in a long convoy of S.U.V.s, which headed back to his stronghold in Najaf. Iraq’s parliament must vote on the proposal before next week. Depending on the outcome, Sadr, clearly, will keep his own counsel or hit the streets again.
Abadi, who acquiesced to Sadr’s latest show of force, is a more inclusive figure than his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, who was hated by Sunnis and forced out in 2014, after the ISIS takeover of most of Sunni Iraq. How long Abadi survives, however, remains to be seen. At the least, he knows he will have to contend with Sadr in order to retain stability on Iraq’s streets, and power for himself. In the rumbustious mosh pit of Iraqi politics, knowing how to survive is everything. At the rate he is going, Moqtada al-Sadr could well end up as the last man standing.
BY Mohammed A. Salih
Even by the standards of the ever-dramatic world of Iraqi politics, today’s stakes are at a current high. On March 31, Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi proposed a near complete reshuffle of his cabinet, with a list of 10 candidates chosen on the basis of “professionalism, competence and integrity” for ministerial positions. He wants to reduce the number of ministers from 22 to 16.
The slated cabinet overhaul by Abadi had come on the back of last month’s massive street protests and sit-ins in front of the main government compound, known as the Green Zone, that hosts Iraq’s major state institutions. The crowd was mostly made up of followers of the once-shunned—but now powerful—Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. On March 27, Sadr had called for a sit-in, inside the Green Zone. A day later, in a moment of high drama—and while declaring himself “a representative of the people”—Sadr entered the Green Zone to demand an end to the chronic corruption that has crippled state institutions. He and other protesters said they wanted nothing short of radical reforms that would shake up Iraq’s dysfunctional political system. And well they might; Iraq had fared 161 out of 168 nations on Transparency International’s corruption index in 2015.
The herculean task of setting Iraq on a new path largely rests on the shoulders of an embattled Abadi. When Abadi unveiled his cabinet overhaul proposal in front of Iraq’s parliament on March 31, it was something of a sop. Sadr made a victory speech of sorts, and then called on protesters to go home. He and Abadi then exchanged mutual praise during separate speeches.
Both the prime minister and Sadr had called for a cabinet of technocrats and independents, hoping to improve governance practices. But in a country gripped by conflict, deep sectarian and ethnic divides and constant political strife, such ambitious reforms are no easy task.
Even someone such as Dhiaa Al Asadi, the head of the Sadrist bloc in parliament, admits such calls for fundamental reforms are “idealistic.” “But what is important to us is whether this vision of reforms will save the country or worsen it? We believe it will improve the situation,” Asadi tells Newsweek Middle East.
Asadi warns that after years of government mismanagement and incompetence, Iraqis are more radical in their views than those espoused by his group.
“In the past, protests used to call for the collapse of the government,” he says. “Today we are not demanding that. We want to reform it. We are trying to salvage Iraq.”
Despite the concurrent push by Abadi and Sadr for change, the two do not necessarily share the same visions for what reforms should exactly entail, and the strategy under which they should be carried out is still largely vague. Ideas for reform have been generally confined to broad outlines such as fighting corruption, justice and accountability. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 by the United States and its allies, Iraq has had no shortage of such slogans while seeing corruption grow and the country’s situation further deteriorate. Whereas Sadr insists on reforms with or without the blessing of political factions, the prime minister seeks a national consensus for his efforts. In mid-February, Sadr threatened Abadi with impeachment if he failed to actually enact change. Unsurprisingly, that push for reform has further fragmented the Iraqi political scene.
Kurdish parties in parliament have unanimously rejected any overhaul of the cabinet that would usurp political factions. They insist parliamentary blocs should get to nominate new individuals if Abadi insists on shaking up his current cabinet. There are currently two Kurds among the 10 ministers Abadi has proposed.
In a sign of establishment’s influence over the fate of the reform process in Kurdistan, Nizar Numan Doski who was Abadi’s Kurdish candidate for the powerful Ministry of Oil announced that he will not take the coveted office if Kurdish parties do not endorse his candidacy.
“What is the point of such [cabinet] change,” Arez Abdullah, a Kurdish member of Iraq’s parliament, tells Newsweek Middle East. “We have asked Abadi to give us names of ministers who have not been competent so we can change them. He says they are competent but he still wants to change them.”
“We don’t think just by changing ministers you can achieve reforms. If he has anything against them [serving ministers] we are ready to take action, even let them be put on trial,” he adds.
Regardless of whether Abadi is actually satisfied with the performance of the Kurdish ministers, Abdullah’s remarks illustrate the extent of Kurdish opposition to his reform efforts. In a meeting of Kurdish political groups in Baghdad on March 27, they demanded that Kurds should get no less than 20 percent of ministerial portfolios in any new cabinet, a ratio that they believe is proportionate to their share of the Iraqi population.
A statement in the name of Iraqi Kurdistan’s leader Massoud Barzani questioned the wisdom of an expected cabinet reshuffle branding it as “not important because the principle of partnership in the Iraqi government has been violated and rendered meaningless.”
Going even further, Ala Talabani, a Kurdish MP, said appointing Kurdish ministers without consulting Kurdish political blocs would be a duplication of Saddam’s method of appointing minority representatives in his government that had no popular support. As it stands now, Kurdish groups might even suspend their participation in the Iraqi government if Abadi does not heed their demands.
But it’s not only the Kurds who are alienated by Baghdad’s passion for reform. Many in the country’s Sunni Arab community are just as dubious.
Much of Iraq’s Sunni areas are still dominated by Daesh and hundreds of thousands have been displaced as a result of the militia’s growth. The Sunni community feels more desperate than ever and many fear the reforms will actually affect their representation in national institutions.
“Abadi himself is a politician. He has been born out of the womb of the [Shiite bloc] Iraqi National Alliance. How can he chair a technocratic cabinet?” asks Mohammed Nasir, a parliamentarian from Anbar. “His ideas to overhaul the cabinet are just impractical. Parliament blocs have to vote on any reforms or cabinets. Any cabinet reshuffle without parliament blocs will only result in complications and hurdles.” On the day he presented his list of ministers to parliament, Abadi gave MPs 10 days to investigate his choices and vote on them.
Amid the ado over reforms, the question of practicality weighs heavily on the minds of many. Given the myriad challenges ahead, and with many stemming from political factions who have deep roots in the state institutions and oppose major changes, how far can reforms go?
“It’s difficult for Sadr’s calls to be enacted,” says Ahmed Ali, a fellow at the Institute of Regional and International Studies at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani. “The political system is entrenched in Iraq and slow-changing.”
Abadi also seems to have given in to Kurdish pressure and has said Kurdish blocs in Iraqi parliament can nominate their candidates for three ministries to be given to Kurds. Other blocs might want to follow the example of Kurds and insist that their nominees be placed in ministerial positions.
With Daesh on the back foot in Iraq, many groups in the country are positioning themselves to gain the most from a post-Daesh order. Hence many see the current battle for reforms in Baghdad as a subtle manifestation of political rivalries and the desire for a larger piece of the pie.
“The current political environment is about competition among Iraqi [Shiite] parties as well in the upcoming post-Daesh stage,” explained Ali about the political scene in Iraq. “The Iraqi [Shiite] political groups are more fragmented now with different visions.”
With conflicting views for reforms at loggerheads, the concern among many Iraqis is just how much pressure the system can withhold before matters spiral out of control. Many political blocs are not happy with the changes and mass protests—if they were to emerge again—would consume much of the energy of the government and security forces in Baghdad.
Nasir, the Sunni MP from the Muttahidun bloc, says he has spoken to fellow MPs and political leaders about such a possibility.
“What are the guarantees that in the event of the Green Zone’s collapse, the fighters in the frontlines will continue fighting as they have so far in areas like Anbar and Salahaddin,” Nasir asks. “We fear the collapse of the political process might pave the way for Daesh to expand to other areas.”
The Iraqi forces had a successful year in 2015 rolling Daesh back in parts of Anbar, Salahaddin and Nineveh provinces. Despite his stated desire for bringing about change, Abadi is well aware of the risks. He has pledged his government’s priority will be to secure the nation, and made it clear he will not change defense or interior ministers who run the country’s security forces.
“We reiterate to our people that the government gives the main priority to the war against Daesh terrorists because it’s an existential war for Iraq,” PM Abadi said in a televised speech on March 29. “Until a decisive victory, this war will be our major concern.”
The coming days and weeks will prove crucial for Iraq’s future direction, a country that is no stranger to upheavals, but at the same time possessed of an enduring resilience. This could be Iraq’s make or break moment.
The Nightmare Scenario Facing Iraq – and the US
© Ahmed Saad / Reuters
By Riyadh Mohammed
April 5, 2016
Just as the Iraqi government announced the beginning of the operations to liberate Mosul, the country’s second largest city, Iraq’s internal political turmoil threatens to reverse what has been achieved against ISIS.
The Iraqi army launched an offensive 12 days ago to capture a group of villages south of Mosul. The battle of Mosul is being led by the Iraqi army’s 15th and 16th divisions; both are newly formed and contain a majority of Shiite soldiers. While Sunni tribes, Kurdish forces and U.S. airstrikes are supporting the effort, the outcome will be determined by the effectiveness of the Iraqi armed forces. Results so far have been mixed, with reports of stiff resistance from ISIS.
Equally troubling is the growing political crisis in Baghdad.
Since last summer, thousands of Iraqis have been demonstrating against government corruption and the lack of public services. Despite the fact that Iraq made about $550 billion in oil sales between 2006 and 2014 under the leadership of the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the country is virtually bankrupt thanks to corruption, mismanagement and the collapse of oil prices. Iraq has no reliable armed forces to protect its people from terror groups and lacks basic services like electricity, clean water and a functioning healthcare system. The government struggles to pay its seven million employees and pensioners.
While the demonstrators who initially organized sit-ins in public squares across the country were mostly liberal or leftist seculars, their movement has been taken over in recent weeks by the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Sadr’s militia fought for years against U.S. troops and government forces in Iraq and was involved in the sectarian violence that raged in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Sadr fled to Iran in 2007, returned to Iraq in 2011 and is now fighting against ISIS. Sadr’s ministers have been a major part of every Iraqi government since 2005 and are as corrupt as the others.
Still, Sadr ordered a protest to force the government to implement much needed reforms—including the formation of a new government. There’s no doubt that Sadr wants a seat at that table again.
Last Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi presented 16 names of supposed technocrats to the parliament to fill his new cabinet. But many Kurds, Sunnis and even al-Abadi’s own party – controlled by former Prime Minister al-Maliki — have expressed their doubts about the new government, indicating it is unlikely to be approved. This could lead to the renewal of Sadr’s protest.
The weak al-Abadi has fired thousands of government officials, from vice presidents to army generals, but the deeply rooted corruption hasn’t been eradicated. Al-Abadi’s predecessor’s men are still in control of much of the country, and the other political parties are all involved in the corruption that is draining Iraq’s resources.
The power of both Sadr and al-Maliki is increasingly evident. Both have strong militias; both have enormous influence on the Iraqi army and police. Sadr has threatened to withdraw his support for al-Abadi if a new cabinet is not approved. If the al-Abadi government falls and Iraq is split between supporters of Sadr and al-Maliki, the country would face one of these three possible scenarios over the next few months:
The Iranian revolution scenario: If the new technocrat government isn’t approved by the parliament and Sadr orders his men to break into the Green Zone and seize the government — and if the Iraqi army allows that to take place — Iraq could go down a path similar to the one that swept Iran during the revolution of 1979: a complete meltdown of the government and absolute control of the country by a radical Shiite cleric.
Several incidents indicate how influential Sadr is inside the ranks of the Iraqi army: The commander of the Iraqi army in Baghdad allowed the demonstrators to approach the Green Zone (and was fired for his decision). The commander of the Iraqi army units which guard the Green Zone was seen on camera kissing the hand of Sadr. (His troops were replaced by the units from the anti-terrorism forces that are Iraq’s only reliable force opposing ISIS.) The ministry of interior issued a strong warning against its staff, threatening them with execution in case they disobey their orders.
At the same time, the difference between the leader of the Iranian revolution, the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah al-Khomeini, and Sadr is immense. Al-Khomeini was in his late seventies when he ruled Iran, with long political experience and the highest degree of Shiite Islamic education. Sadr is far less experienced and knowledgeable. Moreover, al-Khomeini was popular enough to make anyone challenging him an act of political suicide. Sadr lacks that undivided support.
This scenario would mean the end of every U.S. civilian and military presence and influence in Iraq for many years to come. It would be unacceptable to the U.S. after losing nearly 5,000 soldiers and non-military personnel in Iraq and spending nearly $6 trillion.
The massive U.S. embassy – the largest United States embassy in the world – would be closed and the nearly 5,000 servicemen and women in the country would go home. Iraq would be led by a man who is similar to the leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah in his enmity to the U.S., yet with no more experience than the leader of North Korea. ISIS would no doubt take advantage of the turmoil and restore what it has lost over the last year.
The civil war scenario: If Sadr forces his way into the Green Zone and al-Maliki’s men in the army and his militias try to stop Sadr by force, Iraq could experience a civil war similar to that of Yemen today.
In September 2014, the Houthis, an armed Shiite group backed by Iran, gained control of the Yemeni capital after a sit-in around the city. Collaborating with loyalists of the former dictator of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Salih, the Houthis seized control of the government in early 2015. Full-fledged civil war broke out in March 2015, with Saudi Arabia leading an Arab coalition conducting airstrikes against the Houthis. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. The war has further destabilized the region, and opened to the door to al-Qaeda, which now controls a quarter of the country. ISIS is also gaining strength there.
If Iraq’s army and Shiite militias began fighting in Baghdad, the conflict could allow ISIS to not only restore what it has lost, but to march toward the capital once again.
The unstable status quo scenario: A third scenario would be a continuation of the current impasse — or even a brief easing of tensions with the formation of an acceptable technocrat government — that wouldn’t do much to change the state of affairs in Iraq in the long run. This scenario would mean that a large part of Iraq’s security forces would be consumed in monitoring Sadr’s men instead of ISIS, which would give ISIS a chance to breathe and plan its way out of its current defeats.
For the coming few weeks, the most likely scenario is the unstable status quo one. However, this could change quickly and heightened internal conflict is a real possibility. A religious revolution along the lines of Iran could lead to a full scale Shiite civil war between Sadr and al-Maliki. Overall, none of this is good for anyone other than ISIs.
“She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn. It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor.”
“What Hillary will deliver (as president) is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us…American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it.”
Atomic Nightmare: Welcome to Pakistani Nuclear Weapons 101
Five things you need to know regarding one of the world’s fastest-growing nuclear weapons programs.
Daniel R. DePetris
September 26, 2015
Could Pakistan be more of a nuclear security threat to Israel than Iran? Conventional wisdom suggests that a nuclear-armed Iran is the most pressing potential nuclear threat to Israel. It’s a country run by a Shia theocracy espousing invective for Israel on a daily basis. Indeed, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ranted about the possibility of Israel’s forthcoming destruction as recently as this week. However, Azriel Bermant, a research associate at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, offered a different take earlier this year in a column he wrote for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: the real threat might come from Pakistan.
Bermant postulated that despite the worries of both Israeli and American policymakers alike, Iran may not be the nuclear threat that Israel should focus on. After all, Tehran doesn’t have a single nuclear weapon at its disposal. Further, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in July will forestall the Iranians from the nuclear threshold for the next fifteen to twenty-five years. Rather, Bermant argues, “one could argue that Islamabad poses more of a threat to Israel than Tehran does.”
It’s worth considering because the Pakistani government possesses a fairly large nuclear arsenal. Over the years, President Barack Obama has expressed reservations about the continuing growth and stability of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Only three months into his first term in April 2009, President Obama voiced his concerns: “We have huge…national-security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”
Here is why the United States likely continues to have those worries, nearly seven years later:
1. Pakistan’s Growing Arsenal
There are thousands of nuclear weapons in the world today. According to the latest count from the Federation of American Scientists, the five original nuclear powers have a combined 15,465 nuclear weapons between them, most of which are divided amongst the United States and Russia. Yet the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world is not included in this number. While Pakistan has a range of 100-120 nuclear weapons in its possession — a figure that pales in comparison to the United States or Russia — Islamabad has devoted a tremendous amount of its military budget to growing its arsenal and procuring the associated delivery systems that are needed to launch them.
More alarming than Pakistan’s current stockpile is the projected growth of its arsenal over the next decade. In a wide-ranging report for the Council on Foreign Relations, professor Gregory D. Koblentz of George Mason University assessed that Pakistan had enough highly enriched uranium to increase its stockpile to 200 nuclear weapons by 2020 if fully utilized. Percentage wise, this would mean that the Pakistani army would be projected to increase its nuclear weapons arsenal by roughly sixty-seven percent over the next five years. In other words, Pakistan could have as many nuclear weapons as the United Kingdom by 2020. Moreover, Pakistan falls outside the purview of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
To guarantee that they the ability to rapidly expand their stockpile, the Pakistani military is investing in reprocessing plutonium in addition to enriching uranium. In January 2015, the Institute for Science and International Security reported that the Pakistanis opened up their fourth plutonium facility at Khushab, which provides Islamabad with an additional channel to construct nuclear bomb material in a relatively short period of time. “Its expansion appears to be part of an effort to increase the production of weapons-grade plutonium,” the ISIS report (not to be confused with the terrorist group) reads. “Allowing Pakistan to build a larger number of miniaturized plutonium-based nuclear weapons that can complement its existing highly enriched uranium nuclear weapons.”
2. Pakistani Nukes a Major U.S. Intelligence Priority
To say that the U.S. intelligence community is closely monitoring the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program would be an understatement. The U.S. government is doing more than just monitoring: they are actively preparing for a terrible catastrophe and engaging Pakistani officials in the hopes that they will stop pouring resources into the expansion of their program. The last thing Washington wants or needs is a nuclear crisis flashpoint in a dangerous and unpredictable region filled with an alphabet soup of Islamist terrorist groups. The U.S. government under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama has been trying to prevent such a crisis scenario from occurring.
Thanks to the 2010 Wikileaks disclosures, we can glean how seriously the State Department took the problem. In September 2009, on the margins of a nuclear security meeting among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Undersecretary for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher discussed with China’s foreign minister about how intransigent Islamabad had been in implementing the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). In response to Tauscher’s concerns, China’s representative agreed to discuss the treaty problems with Islamabad directly.
The prospect of Pakistan losing control of its nuclear materials has been a persistent headache for the United States. It is a scenario that military planners and intelligence officials have been planning for even before the September 11, 2001 attacks. NBC News ran a long investigative piece on U.S. plans to unilaterally secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if a situation erupted that would put U.S. interests at risk — whether it included nuclear materials being stolen by a terrorist group; extremists infiltrating the ranks of the Pakistani army or a quick escalation of violence between Pakistan and India. The investigation found that “Pakistan’s weaponry has been the subject of continuing discussions, scenarios, war games and possibly even military exercises by U.S. intelligence and special operations forces regarding so-called ‘snatch-and-grab’ operations.”
The safety of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile remains a key action item for the U.S. intelligence community today — so much so that Pakistan-specific analytical cells were created in order to address the lack of information that America’s intelligence professionals were receiving about Islamabad’s proliferation activities.
3. Nukes Have Gotten Pakistan Into Trouble With the U.S.
Pakistan’s high enrichment of uranium is not a new problem — it has complicated the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship since the mid 1970’s, when U.S. lawmakers first enacted a strict set of economic sanctions on Islamabad’s nuclear weaponization activities. The 1977 Glenn amendment added to the Foreign Assistance Act was the first of many congressional efforts to pressure Pakistan (and any other non-nuclear weapons state not party to the NPT) to refrain from conducting a nuclear explosive test. That legislation came in handy in May 1998, when President Bill Clinton enacted sanctions on Pakistan in retaliation for a nuclear test that occurred two weeks after India’s own testing (New Delhi was also sanctioned at the time). Those sanctions prevented the U.S. from sending any foreign assistance to Pakistan — a restriction that was eventually eased later in the year under a new statute.
President Clinton’s predecessor also had his run-ins with the Pakistanis when it came to nuclear proliferation. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush was unable to certify to Congress that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. Because President Bush could not make the certification required under U.S. law, Washington was compelled to substantial cut off military and economic assistance to the Pakistani Government — a provision that was in effect until 1996, when the Brown amendment relaxed the restrictions on economic aid.
All of the country-wide sanctions were in addition to the numerous penalties on companies who violated U.S. arms control export policies, which forbid corporations around the world from delivering “material, equipment, or technology…to be used by Pakistan in the manufacture of a nuclear explosive device.” Dealings between Washington and Islamabad were very tense over the nuclear issue throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. That all changed after 9/11, when Washington enlisted Pakistan’s support against Al-Qaeda.
4. Pakistan Needs Nukes for its Defense
Pakistan likes to fancy itself as a peer competitor to its historical rival India in the South Asia region. But if we’re going to be perfectly honest, Islamabad cannot compete with India in conventional capabilities. By virtue of New Delhi’s large population, impressive economic growth, and potential to continue improving its GDP in the years ahead, Pakistan will always be second-fiddle to its principal adversary in terms of army strength, battle tanks and combat jets. India spent nearly $50 billion on modernizing and building up its armed forces in 2014; Pakistan spent slightly more than $10 billion. The figures are not even close.
And that is why the Pakistani military views its nuclear weapons with such importance. For Islamabad, ensuring that nuclear weapons of all types — from stand-alone strategic weapons to tactical battlefield nukes — are primed and ready for use in a short period of time is a way to keep a vastly more powerful India in check. Unlike India, Islamabad has refused to accept a “no first use” doctrine, meaning that the Pakistani army is authorized to deploy nuclear weapons on the battlefield if the country’s national security is seriously at risk from an Indian incursion. Keeping the nuclear stockpile on stand-by is a way for the Pakistani Government to deter an India that is more populated, wealthier and has more men in uniform.
5. The Bottom Line
Despite all of the attempts from the nuclear non-proliferation community, Pakistan will continue to develop and strengthen its nuclear deterrent as long as the high brass in the Pakistani military continues to have an India-centric mindset in its defense policy. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since Islamabad’s independence in 1947, and in each case, the Pakistanis were the either the losers are forced into a stalemate before acceding to a ceasefire (the 1971 breakaway of eastern Pakistan, which would later be named Bangladesh, was an especially embarrassing defeat for the Pakistanis). Islamabad hasn’t forgotten these cases ever since. And for the Pakistanis, the lessons of these past conflicts are all the same: we cannot repeat history.
India-Pakistan relations remain a sore spot for both nations, from the ongoing and never-ending Kashmir dispute to allegations of meddling in one another’s domestic affairs (India continues to strongly believe that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate fosters a deep partnership with a number of anti-India terrorist groups, while Islamabad has levied accusations about India’s covert connections with the Pakistani Taliban). With so much bad blood between the two, it’s unfathomable to believe that Pakistan would voluntary cap the number of nuclear warheads or agree to put its entire nuclear program under IAEA supervision. President Obama recognized this dynamic early in his presidency, telling Joe Klein with Time magazine that the Kashmir conflict is a constant irritant to peace in South Asia and that a special U.S. envoy may need to be appointed in order to prod both sides to start negotiating a long-term solution in a serious way. Progress on that front, however, has been nonexistent: violence in Kashmir still flares up occasionally, and with every death, the Indo-Pakistani relationship suffers another blow.
In the current environment, we all better get used to Pakistan becoming the third-largest nuclear weapons state in the world.
Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm, and a freelance researcher. He has also written for CNN.com, Small Wars Journal and The Diplomat.
Five years ago, States Parties to the NPT recognized for the first time the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”. Along with this historic acknowledgement, the 2010 Review Conference Final Document committed nuclear-armed States Parties to accelerating progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament and to take further efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear weapons. This built on the promises made at previous Review Conferences to fulfil the disarmament commitment of Article VI of the Treaty. Yet 45 years after the NPT’s entry into force, there has been little or no concrete progress to fulfilling this goal. In fact, the ongoing modernization of nuclear weapons by some States suggest that their role in security policies is not being reduced.
… until the last nuclear weapon is eliminated, more must be done to diminish the immediate risks of intentional or accidental nuclear detonations.
Since nuclear weapons were first used 70 years ago, the body of evidence of the devastating human cost of any use of nuclear weapons has continued to grow. In the last three years in particular, the inter-governmental conferences held in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons have given the international community a much clearer grasp of the effects that a nuclear detonation would have on people and societies around the globe, as well as on the environment. At this pivotal moment of the NPT, it is crucial that States Parties take into account the new research, risks and perspectives on nuclear weapons that have come to light, draw the necessary conclusions and take concrete action to eliminate these horrendous weapons.
The evidence before us today shows:
that nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power and in the scale of human suffering they cause and that their use, even on a limited scale, would have catastrophic consequences for human health and the environment;
that the effects on human health can last for decades and impact the children of survivors through genetic damage to their parents;
that the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear-weapon detonation would not be limited to the country where it occurs but would impact other States and their populations;
that, in most countries and at the international level, there is no effective or feasible means of assisting a substantial portion of survivors in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation, while adequately protecting those delivering assistance; and finally
that the risk of accidental nuclear-weapon detonation remains a very real danger.
In the view of the ICRC, these findings should prompt all States to reassess nuclear weapons in both legal and policy terms. We urge NPT States Parties to seize the moment of this Review Conference and heed the 2011 appeal of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for States “to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used”, and “to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations”. Nuclear weapons are the only weapon of mass destruction not explicitly and comprehensively prohibited under international law today. In light of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons, which the NPT States Parties have recognized, filling this gap is a humanitarian imperative.
In a speech delivered to the Permanent Missions of Geneva on 18 February 2015, the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, urged States Parties to make this Review Conference a turning point for decision-making and progress on nuclear disarmament. States Parties can do this by taking concrete steps to fulfil the commitment contained in Article 6 of the NPT and establishing a time-bound framework to negotiate a legally binding international agreement and to consider the form that such an agreement could take. A number of proposals in this regard have been made by States here and in other fora.
And until the last nuclear weapon is eliminated, more must be done to diminish the immediate risks of intentional or accidental nuclear detonations. We urge nuclear-armed States to reduce the number of warheads on high alert and to be more transparent about action taken to prevent accidental detonations. A greater effort must also be made by nuclear-armed States and their allies to reduce the role and significance of nuclear weapons in their military plans, doctrines and policies. Many of these steps derive from long-standing political commitments and the 2010 NPT action plan and should be followed through as a matter of urgency.
In the coming months, the international community will mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This anniversary is a stark reminder of the appalling human costs of nuclear weapons. It should inspire all States to reaffirm their commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons and to take concrete action in this direction. We know now more than ever before that the risks of nuclear weapons are too high and the dangers too real. It is time to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end and we urge this Review Conference to take the bold steps needed to achieve this noble goal.
India’s Cold Start Doctrine gives Pakistan sleepless nights
Stopping a Nuclear Nightmare: How We Can Secure Loose Nuclear Materials
The United States will host the fourth and likely final Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in 2016, and later this month, representatives from over fifty nations will start planning the agenda. They need to overcome the prevailing complacency about the strength of the current security system and its ability to prevent a nuclear nightmare.
The current system suffers from three fundamental weaknesses. It mostly relies on voluntary obligations that nations can take or leave. There are no mandatory international standards that would allow for effective evaluation of security consistency and competency across borders. And, there is no requirement for peer review or even communication among countries about their security strategy and practices. The result is an opaque global patchwork, with the weakest links offering tempting targets for increasingly emboldened terrorists.
U.S. leadership is essential for addressing these problems. The three previous gatherings have yielded important results, in particular the accelerated removal of bomb-grade materials from a variety of countries. But many of the accomplishments plucked low-hanging fruit.
The threat is not remote. In July 2012, three peace activists, including an eighty-two-year-old nun, penetrated multiple security layers at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear facility and spray painted peace slogans on the wall of a building holding weapons-grade uranium. In 2013, a small radioactive device suitable for use as a “dirty bomb” that spews radioactive contamination was stolen from an unarmed truck at a gas station in Mexico. Since the collapse of communism, there have been 664 reported incidents involving the theft or loss of nuclear and other radioactive materials, of which sixteen involved the possession of highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Al Qaeda for years has made clear its desire to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Recognizing that the clock is running out on the high-level summit process, there are five priorities that need to be achieved at the 2016 summit.
First, the global nuclear-security regime must be comprehensive, with full implementation of all elements of the existing system and the demonstration of effective security over both civilian and military materials.
Second, nations must share nonsensitive information about security practices, standards and implementation, including the use of regular peer reviews. These are standard practices in assessing nuclear safety, but not security.
They also must demonstrate and measure the implementation of best security practices and develop common international standards and performance objectives.
Fourth, there needs to be a sustainable mechanism to replace the summits that allows for continuous progress to be made, including new security commitments and resources, and that allows the nuclear-energy industry and international expert community to continue as essential partners in the process.
Finally, the summit must offer plans for eliminating and reducing the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons—highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium.
At the United Nations General Assembly last month, Obama offered that the antidote to increasing global instability is a modernized international system and an integrated response to acute global challenges. Having made this insightful diagnosis, he now must act on it by creating an enduring legacy of aggressive action resulting in a cohesive, strong and resilient security architecture that can ensure a secure nuclear future.
Kenneth N. Luongo is the President of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior advisor for nonproliferation policy to the U.S. Secretary of Energy. The 5 Priorities for the Nuclear Security Summit initiative can be found at http://2016nsspriorities.org