ARE AGENTS OF PROLIFERATION " FAIR GAME" IN THE WAR ON TERROR ?
The NYT just ran an article on the activities of alleged nuclear black marketeer and probable ISI agent B.S.A. Tahir
which raises the question of how American policy regards such individuals in the context of the War on Terror.
Proliferation of nuclear weapons capability, technology, expertise and materials remains the gravest threat to national security and world peace. This problem was one justification for the Iraq war, the extreme tensions with North Korea, international pressure on Iran and it aggravates Pakistani-Indian clashes over Kashmir. Documents and other evidence siezed in Afghanistan by American forces indicate al Qaida has had a long term interest in acquiring some kind of nuclear or radiological bomb capability
( also here
With that in mind, how should the United States deal with shadowy individuals like Mr. Tahir who operate under the protection of authoritarian or corrupt regimes or their intelligence services ? In states not under the rule of law - which would be most nations outside of the West, Japan, South Korea and Israel such figures are only arrested not for criminal activities but because of intense outside political pressure. Even then, as in the case of Pakistan's Khan, the arrest may only be a charade and nominal concession. Given the gravity of this threat and the paucity of legal options ( unless proliferators are operating from an allied state with a functioning and reliable justice system) to deal with perpetrators like Tahir and Khan shouldn't the objective of the United States be suppression and deterrence ?
States that shelter such individuals should face high and painful costs, particularly to the personal interests of key political supporters of the regime as was done with Serbia in the Kosovo war. Ultimately, proliferation is a decision of state leadership either by ignoring it or directing it for profit or strategic advantage but risk taking middlemen like Tahir make the WMD black market function. Individuals like Tahir and Khan, where no legal remedy exists, should be treated in much them same vein as al Qaida leaders and have their activities interdicted by any effective means ranging from confiscating their assets to being treated as a military target. Generally, quieter is better for the United States but making examples of several high profile proliferators will serve to deter many other arms dealers from trafficking in nuclear technology. Why risk getting your head blown off or your bank account being sequestered when you can quietly sell less catastrophic merchandise without attracting American attention ?
Israeli arms merchant on trial for nuclear sales
Nuclear black market in Kazakhstan