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A Tribune Exclusive
A.Q. Khan’s nuclear escapades: CIA helped
him get visa
by K. Subrahmanyam

THE latest report from Vienna talks of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) informing its Board of Governors that Iran had turned over to the IAEA fresh documents that give details, for the first time, about technology that Iran was offered in 1987 by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the proliferator from Pakistan. According to this report, included in the engineering drawings and other technology offered to the Iranians were diagrams about how to form uranium metal into “hemispherical spheres”, a description that would suggest the basic steps toward creating bomb cores. Such spheres are needed for the Hiroshima type of atomic bombs.

It is to be noted that this cooperation from Iran has come about after the September 24 IAEA resolution. In the previous 30 months of investigation and inspection by the IAEA, Iran did not produce similar evidence. The new documentation will reveal that Dr Khan’s proliferation started as far back as 1987.

The US and British authorities, including President George W Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and former CIA chief George Tenet, claimed that Dr Khan’s activities came to their notice only around 1998 and they busted the Khan proliferation ring in 2003. There is, however, new evidence to indicate that Dr Khan had been protected by the CIA since 1975. This disclosure comes from an unimpeachable source, Dr Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch Prime Minister.

In an interview to VPRO Argos Radio on August 9, 2005, Dr Lubbers revealed that Dr Khan was arrested in 1975 for espionage and in 1988 for illegal entry into Holland. On both occasions he was allowed to go scot-free because of the CIA’s intervention.

In 1992, according to Dr Lubbers, Dr Khan wanted to visit Holland to see his ailing father-in-law (his wife is a Dutch). While he was for refusing visa to Dr Khan, the case for visa was sponsored by no less a person than the head of the Dutch secret service, BVD, Arthur Dokters Van Leeuwen. A BVD person received Dr Khan on his arrival at Schipol airport. The BVD was presumably acting under instructions from American intelligence agencies.

Dr Lubbers said: “If you were to study the archives, you would find that the American intelligence agencies — I am absolutely certain of it — kept a record of how closely they watched the man and what he was upto, etc. They thought as such they were doing a terrific job.”

When it was pointed out by the presenter of the programme that still Dr A Q Khan continued, Dr Lubbers replied, “Yes, but that is the shortcoming of the management. And yes, that’s when we saw it was the leader of the free world. And we do take quite seriously the fact that they did a lot of good things. But they were not able to subdue the monster of proliferation, to put it that way.”

Complimenting the Dutch secret service, on doing a good job, Dr Lubbers concluded, “The BVD reported it to its counterpart in Washington. The counterpart in Washington then follows a course that amounts to let him go and we will gain more information. And that is where things start to go wrong.”

He added as a final thought: “It also indicates the peculiar situation that important problems are handled by the intelligence agencies. There is something unhealthy about it.”

Contrary to what Mr Bush, Mr Blair and Mr Tenet said, Dr Khan was not only under close watch of the CIA during the period he was proliferating to Iran but was also helped by the CIA and the Dutch secret service to get entry visa to Holland in 1992. That would indicate that there has been considerable economising of truth in regard to the CIA’s relationship with Dr Khan by both US and British leaderships going back to 1975.

One can understand why Pakistan and China do not want Iranian proliferation to come up before the Security Council since their conduct will be scrutinised. Presumably, the Americans thought by pressing the IAEA for a vote on the resolution they would increase pressure on Iran and compel it to accept a compromise which will make Iran give up uranium enrichment. Now that there is a risk of Dr Khan’s story coming out with the likely disclosures of his connections with the CIA, the US enthusiasm for a resolution to refer the Iranian issue to the Security Council appears to have cooled somewhat. Latest reports indicate that the US is in favour of a compromise and allowing more time to Iran.

It is expected of some of our leftists to show interest in preventing a resolution for the referral of Iran to the Security Council from being adopted because of their ideological loyalty to China, the arch nuclear proliferator. In the process, they are also helping the CIA to bury its connections with Dr Khan and its responsibility for nuclear proliferation. No doubt, the CIA would be very grateful to our left for the services they are rendering to it. In the US establishment there are many pro-China and pro-Pakistan nuclear ayatollahs. Some of them looked the other way when they were told by Gen Aslam Beg that Pakistan would share its nuclear technology with Iran. The North Korea-Pakistan deal of exchange of nuclear centrifuge technology for missiles was hushed up by some of the nuclear ayatollahs during the Clinton Administration. Dr Khan was the central figure in that deal.

China, over the years, has developed significant influence over sections of the US establishment. It would be a legitimate question to ask why our left should help the CIA. In international politics, stranger things have happened like the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact or the Nixon-Mao deal.

So, students of international politics should continue to keep this issue under close study. In this connection, it may be recalled that the Chinese Communist Party paper, Renmin Ribao, recently condemned the Indo-US civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement and supported the stand taken by the American ayatollahs, who are attempting to blackmail the Bush Administration that if such a deal goes through China would intensify its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan (as if it is not already doing it!)

What is in our national interest? Surely, bringing out and exposing Dr A Q Khan’s simultaneous links with the CIA and China and Pakistan’s role as a state proliferator. This is what our vote of September 24 indicated. India should continue to persist with its principled policy on this issue.


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