Monday, February 09, 2004

Al Qaeda In the Majors Now

The Seattle Times is relaying (via the AP) this story from London-based al-Hayat newspaper that al Qaeda obtained "tactical nuclear weapons" from the Ukraine in 1998. I have been unable to locate the original al-Hayat story, but Reuters is also reporting the story.

This revelation, on top of A.Q. Khan's admission that he was selling nuclear secrets to a number of states throughout the world, spells double-trouble. All nations must now face the strong possibility that non-state actors have nuclear weapons (not just "capacity and intent," as President Bush is recently fond of saying of Saddam). World security strategy must respond by moving from non-proliferation to disarming these terrorist groups--a far more challenging task.

While I cannot claim to know what approach is best under these new circumstances, it is plain to me that the United States cannot act unilaterally to address this threat. Our intelligence community is not up to it, and our diplomatic capital has been drained. Furthermore, capitulation has failed. The former Soviet states, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia must be brought in line with the universally-shared goal of world security. That pressure must come from all nations together, whether under the auspices of the UN or through a summit organized to address world security.

I recognize the sensitive (im)balance of Pakistani governance but that does not argue for capitulation--rather, the fragile nature of Musharraf's regime favors immediate action. If Musharraf is knocked off by his own people it is highly likely the new leadership will be very opposed to the current global power structure. But Musharraf has already displayed how untrustworthy he is--we have lost the strings of our puppet. The longer the world allows the current scenario to continue the greater the threat becomes. That sense of urgency applies equally to Saudi Arabia and the former Soviet states. It should not be left to state sovereigns to patrol threats that permeate well beyond state borders.

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