Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Real Danger of Pakistan's Chaos
It is clear that Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf has serious problems on his hands, and that his decision to impose marshal law is a setback for democracy.

But the real long-term danger, as noted by Bruce Riedel in Newsweek is that ""If you were to look around the world for where Al Qaeda is going to find its bomb, it's right in their backyard."

The facts on the ground in Pakistan pose serious challenges, and those challenges spill over in lethal form to neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban is slowly but consistently edging closer to Kabul and maintaining a presence on the economic arteries of the country, including the opium trade.

But the most dangerous element of Pakistan's chaos is its secret nuclear program and unauthorized proliferation, which did not stop with the house arrest of A.Q. Khan in 2004. The ISI and Pakistan's nuclear agents remain loyal to the highest bidder, with a predisposition toward radical Islamist movements.

Musharraf's inability or unwillingness to purge the ISI, the intelligence service's continued support of the Taliban, and the growing presence of radical Islamists in the mid-level ranks of the nation's intelligence services, mean that an uncertain situation is much less certain.

It even less clear now that it was a few months ago who is really in control in Pakistan and who controls the nuclear arsenal. There is certainly no guarantee that secularists or moderates have any control at all over the arsenal.

A.Q. Khan himself remains an ardent Islamist who has shown no hesitation in arming the worst elements of the world, be they secular (North Korea) or Islamist (Libya when he started, Iran, and Pakistan, among others). His network, active from Europe to Dubai, China to Latin America, was never dismantled.

Al Qaeda and its related groups have made no secret of their desire to possess a nuclear weapon to use against the West. The best chance these groups have is through its friends in Pakistan, where the relationships from the days of jihad in Afghanistan against the USSR remain strong.

The realization of the nightmare scenario is closer now that Musharraf has chosen to plunge Pakistan even further into chaos. He has managed to alienate just about everyone, from Islamists to moderates.

Military and foreign efforts necessarily center on reaching some sort of stability while mitigating the abuses of the civilian population. But that attention means less attention elsewhere, including on nuclear issues.

There is little between the Islamists and the bomb. That has been the case for some time. Now there is even less.

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