U.S. Ignored Attempted Pakistani Nuclear Smuggling in 1980s: Records

Recently declassified U.S. documents show that the Reagan administration in the late 1980s put Cold War considerations above nonproliferation concerns when it decided to continue providing foreign aid to Pakistan even after the discovery of a nuclear-technology smuggling operation, the Ottawa Citizen reported on Monday.

In summer 1987, a Pakistani-born merchant living in Toronto, Arshad Pervez, was apprehended following a U.S. Customs sting operation. He was planning on acquiring roughly 48,500 pounds of high-quality maraging steel -- a specialized material used in gas-centrifuge uranium enrichment, according to the newly available government records analyzed by George Washington University's National Security Archive.

The import-export businessman was also accused of attempting to acquire beryllium, which is used to increase the force of nuclear-warhead detonations. The believed end user for the materials was Pakistan's nuclear-arms initiative. Pervez was found guilty of scheming to acquire under false pretenses an export permit for the maraging steel and for trying to send beryllium abroad. Pervez's alleged co-conspirator in the plot was retired Pakistani Brig. Gen. Inam ul-Haq, who managed to flee the United States before he could be apprehended.

Arms control officials in the Reagan administration wanted to punish Islamabad by ending the $4 billion in yearly economic and military aid to the government of then-Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq for violating a 1985 U.S. nonproliferation law. However, because Zia was supporting the training and supplying of Afghan forces that were fighting the Soviet Union, the decision was made to overlook the transgression.

"Aiding the anti-Soviet war trumped nonproliferation policy interests," the National Security Archives concluded in its analysis of the incident.

Furthermore, "the high priority given to a close U.S.-Pakistan relationship may have encouraged ... State Department officials to warn the Pakistanis of the imminent arrest of their agents," the analysis states.

November 26, 2013
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Recently declassified U.S. documents show that the Reagan administration in the late 1980s put Cold War considerations above nonproliferation concerns when it decided to continue providing foreign aid to Pakistan even after the discovery of a nuclear-technology smuggling operation, the Ottawa Citizen reported on Monday.

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