In the wake of Pakistan's nuclear tests last month, the Central Intelligence Agency put out an all-points bulletin to its agents around the world: Be alert for the possible transfer of Pakistani nuclear technology to Arab dictators and terrorist groups.
Arab strongmen like Libya's Muammer Qaddafi and Syria's Hafez Assad are secretly putting pressure on Pakistan to share nuclear technology with its Islamic cousins, knowledgeable CIA sources told our associate Dale Van Atta. Even a more moderate Arab government - Saudi Arabia - has been asking the Pakistanis for nuclear information.As you surely know by now, India set off five nuclear blasts over a three-day period last month. The new nationalist government wan-ted to establish itself as a nuclear power. In response, India's archenemy and next-door neighbor, Pakistan, set off six nuclear tests of its own two weeks later.
Much of the international response to the tests has been focused on fears of a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India. The two have fought three wars in the last half century. Religious differences were the primary causes of two of those wars, as the Hindu India battled the Muslim Pakistan.
There is currently serious worldwide intelligence concern that Pakistani nuclear officials will respond favorably to requests from fellow Muslim countries asking for a piece of the nuclear action. Unfortunately, Pakistan is in debt to some of the nations asking for secret nuclear assistance.
Unquestionably, Libyan oil money helped Pakistan steal technology from the West, which enabled the Muslim nation to build its nuclear-weapons development complex in Kahuta, Pakistan. Financing from Libya and other oil-rich Arab nations was crucial to the work of Abdul Qadar Khan, the Western-trained Pakistani who is the father of the Islamic bomb.
It was Khan who had access to the secret designs and technology of a sophisticated uranium-enrichment plant in the Netherlands during the 1970s. He allegedly stole some of the Dutch plant's blueprints, plus a list of contractors. Using dummy corporations, Pakistan has been quietly buying the materials needed for its own enrichment plant, which is based on the Dutch model.
Under Khan's guidance, and with the help of the 1979 Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Abdus Salam, the Pakistanis were able to develop the bombs that were exploded recently - as well as bombs still in their arsenal.
None of this could have been done without Arab financial help. These Arab financiers are now looking to be paid back.
So far, the CIA has been unable to determine the extent of the "payback" to countries like Libya and Saudi Arabia that Pakistan has offered on the nuclear front.
CIA sources say Pakistan is unlikely to share any of its weapons-grade uranium. Pakistan is so worried about India that its leaders want to build a much larger nuclear arsenal of their own before they consider selling or giving material to Arab governments.