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L.A. Times: Down the nuclear rabbit hole

Authors: Catherine Collins, and Douglas Frantz
January 3, 2011


Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz explain how, "The damage done by rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's network show that nations must put aside their individual interests to stop proliferation."

Seven years after the U.S. government proclaimed victory over the rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, the seeds of catastrophe he sowed are still sprouting worldwide. Iran's march toward an atomic bomb? We have Khan's nuclear trafficking network to thank. North Korea's continuing development of nuclear weapons? Again, Khan's doing.

Despite putting the world's most dangerous weapons in the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes, not one participant in Khan's network is in jail today. Even the mastermind himself, too powerful for his own government to imprison, was allowed the comfort of house arrest, and now even that has ended. Instead of a strong message of deterrence, shutting down the atomic bazaar resulted in an unseemly mercy for its perpetrators and a new form of cyber proliferation.

By its nature, nuclear trafficking crosses borders. Combating this danger requires international cooperation. Yet at every turn in tracking the Khan network from Pakistan to Iran, North Korea and Libya, national interests trumped counter-proliferation objectives. Decisions by policymakers and intelligence officials in several nations created a calculus in which selling the means to wipe out a city carried less risk of severe punishment than robbing the neighborhood convenience store.

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