Examination of Witnesses (Questions 27
TUESDAY 16 MARCH 2004
Chairman: Welcome to Dr Gary Samore from
the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who regularly
helps our Committee, and to Dr Zafar Cheema, who is a visiting
fellow at St Antony's College in Oxford. Gentlemen, we are going
to deal with the Pakistan problems of the nuclear black market.
Later we will have two experts on Afghanistan. Before we do that,
because of the importance of the atrocity in Madrid this week,
I would like to ask Mr Maples to begin the questioning on that.
Q27 Mr Maples: I wonder if you could
both separately tell us whether you think what happened in Madrid
tells us anything new about al-Qaeda or is it just part of a pattern
that went from Bali to Casablanca to Turkey to Madrid, as we all
feared could happen in European capitals, or does this tell us
anything new about their ability to do things?
Dr Samore: I think it tells us
something very frightening about the extent to which al-Qaeda
is apparently trying to tailor its attacks to manipulate public
opinion and to divide the West. You have to assume that this bombing
was deliberately intended to affect the outcome of the election
and was designed to bring to power a Socialist government, which
al-Qaeda hoped would pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. If you operate
on the assumption that this is not a random attack, that it is
opportunistic, but that the attack was designed to achieve a political
purpose and if that purpose succeeds, then I think we have to
expect that al-Qaeda will plan future attacks in order to influence
elections and domestic politics and divide the Western Alliance.
Dr Cheema: With great respect
to my friend, Dr Samore, I have a slightly different opinion on
that. First, let me frankly acknowledge that I have no great expertise
in European politics. I know more about south-east Asia, and so
I will respect his opinion, despite my difference. It has yet
to be conclusively established whether al-Qaeda or ETA did the
bombing in Spain. I also do not agree with him about the capability
of al-Qaeda to manipulate European politics from a political perspective
to the extent that he has said. I do not think they have that
level of expertise and the basic infrastructure to do that. I
think the answer has to be that perhaps, in my opinion, it is
the result of European politics rather than an influence or interference.
Q28 Mr Maples: Does it tell us anything
about their capabilityand forget whether it was manipulation
of the election agendato launch such attacks, or is this
just an example of what we had all feared, that sooner or later
it was going to happen, whether in London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt,
or wherever, that it is just part of that sort of pattern, or
does it tell us anything new, 13 bombs and not using suicide bombers?
Is there some difference in the capability or technique here?
Dr Samore: I do not see any technical
demonstration of proficiency over and above what they have demonstrated
in other cases.
Q29 Mr Olner: Picking up on what
Dr Samore said right at the start, what about if Prime Minister
Aznar had blamed al-Qaeda right from the start? Would that have
made a difference to the general election result?
Dr Samore: I am not an expert
in Spanish domestic politics but I did speak to a friend of mine
who is Spanish and who I think certainly understands better than
I do. His view was that either way the government, the ruling
party, would have suffered because there is such a strong view.
Q30 Mr Olner: That is disturbing.
Dr Samore: I think there is such
a strong view in the Spanish public that the Iraq war was wrong
and I think al-Qaeda was trying to capitalise on that by selecting
Spain as a target. I think one has to anticipate that they will
try to use similar tactics to try to influence other governments
that were part of the Coalition.
Q31 Mr Chidgey: I have two questions,
Dr Samore. Does this attack in Madrid tell you anything about
the current capability of al-Qaeda in terms of its ability to
mobilise human resources rather that specifically financial resources,
as has been seen in the past? My second question is: do you subscribe
to the view which is put about by some of the press that this
is an example of franchised operations where al-Qaeda expertise
has been used to train, mobilise and support existing terrorist
Dr Samore: When I say "al-Qaeda",
I am using that as shorthand for the very loose collection of
Islamic jihadist terrorist groups.
Q32 Mr Chidgey: Is that from a central
base anywhere in the world?
Dr Samore: It is hard to imagine
that Osama bin Laden is sitting in a cave in north-west Pakistan
issuing orders. I do not think it is that carefully orchestrated,
but I do think there is a number of groups in different Islamic
countries that share the same objectives and to some extent there
is some co-ordination. I cannot tell you exactly who gave the
order to set off the bombs in Madrid when they did. I just do
not have that information. Unfortunately, in all of the Muslim
communities in Europe there are very small numbers of sympathisers
who are probably willing to carry out these kinds of operations.
It does not take a lot of technical proficiency to place bombs
on a train. I think we have to assume that al-Qaeda has, or that
Islamic jihadists have, the capability to carry out similar operations
in every major city in Europe. I want to make one point. I hope
that Dr Cheema is right but if I am right and this is part of
a calculated campaign, it seems to me absolutely critical that
al-Qaeda not be in a position to claim victory. Therefore, I think
it is important that we try to work with the new Spanish Government,
either to establish political conditions for the Spanish to keep
their forces in Iraq so that it does not look like the bombing
campaign paid off, or to find some alternative measures that the
Spanish Government can take in order to demonstrate that they
are with the West or the Western Alliance in the fight against
terrorism, even if they decide to pull their troops out of Iraq.
I hope that Washington and London, and frankly I think Paris and
Berlin have the same interest, will try to find a way to make
sure that this new government in Spain is part of the Coalition
and does not do or say things that appear to reward al-Qaeda for
Dr Cheema: In my view, al-Qaeda
has the capability to unleash violence and the kinds of terrorist
activities which have taken place in Spain. In order to escape
pursuit, they have divided themselves, to my understanding, into
small splinter cells that are active and which are then having
a huge influence on where the directions are being issued. I would
reiterate my opinion that they do not have the ability to influence
political outcomes in European politics.
Q33 Chairman: Let us turn to Pakistan
and particularly the frightening revelations which have arisen
from those documents supplied by Iran. We have the greatest proliferation
scandal in history and in Dr A Q Khan, history's greatest nuclear
proliferator. Can you, one or both of you, say what do you believe
is the extent of proliferation from Pakistan, which has been revealed
as a result of the current inquiries, and could it have included
other states apart from those we know; that is, North Korea, Libya
Dr Samore: Certainly in the case
of Libya, Iran and North Korea, there is no question that Pakistan
provided significant nuclear weapons systems, although I think
there are still some uncertainties about exactly what Iran and
North Korea acquired. In the case of Libya, my impression is that
the Libyan Government has fully divulged everything that it obtained
with a lot of detail. There I think we have a full understanding.
There are still some questions with respect to Iran and North
Korea. My understanding is that the Pakistani Government is carrying
out investigations and has promised to share further information
with the US and other governments.
Q34 Chairman: Are other states likely
to be involved?
Dr Samore: I think we know from
documentary evidence that representatives of A Q Khan approached
Iraq in the months leading up to the 1991 war, and that Iraq never
followed up on that offer. That is one case. According to public
reports, supposedly A Q Khan approached both Syria and Saudi Arabia,
both of whom, for whatever reason, decided not to purchase his
services. I think we have to assume that A Q Khan knocked on every
door. We may very well learn that he had contacts with other governments
in the Middle East but whether anybody actually bought anything,
at this point in time, I am not aware.
Dr Cheema: I would like to remove
one word about North Korea, Iran and Libya having significant
nuclear weapons capabilities. I would remove the word "significant"
and then I would agree with that, with the exception of North
Korea. North Korea is a closed environment with greater nuclear
weapons capability as compared with Iran and Libya. On the question
of A Q Khan, I would like you to go back to 1979 when the French
Ambassador got some clue about what was happening in Kahuta and
what kind of facility had been established there and he was beaten
up by the ISI.
The Kahuta laboratories are closely monitored by the Pakistan
intelligence agencies and establishment. To pass on the entire
blame to Dr A Q Khan has to wait for the inquiry which the Government
of Pakistan has established. I happen to know him. He had a great
craze for publicity. He was egoistic and he was known well but
he was not at that time known to be a man who craved for wealth,
at that time at least. I do not know whether recently he is interested
in that or not; he may be. I am not denying that. Therefore, the
second question is important and it is what the inquiry has to
establish. The first question is: is A Q Khan entirely and exclusively
himself responsible for that? Are there other elements from the
Pakistan establishment which are involved along with him? The
establishment itself may not be but there could be elements within
the nuclear establishment, either in the civilian or in the military
establishment, which may be involved.
Q35 Chairman: How far, in the hierarchy
of Pakistan, in your judgment, could this knowledge or concurrence
Dr Cheema: The knowledge is well
known, there is no doubt about that. Secondly, I would say that
if something, as a result of that inquiry, establishes that proliferation
activities have been carried out, as prima facie the case
appears to be, it would not happen without some people individually
in the establishment knowing about that.
Q36 Chairman: You say "the establishment"
but there have been allegations that even the entourage of the
President himself would have known. What is your response to that?
Dr Cheema: He came to power as
President and Chief Executive, you could say, in 1999. Before
that, he had been in various positions. I do not know whether
he knew that or not in his earlier positions, but after he became
Chief Executive and the President, I am sure nothing could pass
him by. Intelligence would definitely brief him about what is
Q37 Chairman: I have one final question
before going on to Mr Olner. What is shown, I guess, is the problem
also of stopping scientists passing on intellectual property.
Is there any way of stopping that?
Dr Samore: Of course the reason
why people sign secrecy laws and commitments is to hold them accountable
if they are found to have divulged classified information. I think
that it is very difficult to analyse A Q Khan's activities as
an individual scientist and his close coterie of friends acting
on a freelance basis. I think it is much more likely that what
we are witnessing is proliferation as a matter of state policy,
that the Pakistani Government felt it had important strategic
interests in providing nuclear assistance to countries like Iran
and North Korea, and Libya's case may in fact have been primarily
motivated by greed. Apparently A Q Khan was able to generate as
much as $100 million from the sales to the Libyans. I think this
is not really a case of individual scientists acting on their
own. I think it much more of a state policy.
Q38 Mr Olner: Apart from countries
gaining these nuclear weapons or experience, Bin Laden has called
it a "duty" to obtain nuclear weapons. Do you think
there is a danger that other Pakistani scientists could have passed
on nuclear technology or equipment to terrorist groups?
Dr Samore: As far as I know, there
is no information that A Q Khan was in touch with any non-state
actors. The package that he was offering was centrifuge designs
and components, nuclear weapons designs and some feed material,
either natural or low enriched uranium hexafluoride. That package
would be of little use to a terrorist group. For a terrorist group
to acquire nuclear weapons, they would either need to obtain ready-made
weapons or sufficient highly enriched uranium to make a crude
nuclear bomb. I am less worried about non-state actors, even if
they did get access to the package that A Q Khan was offering.
Q39 Mr Olner: But, given that, what
it actually uncovered is that there has been a looseness about
passing on the technology. Could there not be a similar looseness
about passing on the finished goods?
Dr Samore: No information has
come to light indicating that Pakistan or A Q Khan provided either
nuclear weapons or highly enriched uranium. It may be that Pakistan
viewed those strategic assets as so vital for its own defence
that they were carefully kept under control. Obviously this is
a matter that needs to be investigated. I am just not aware of
any information that nuclear weapons or large quantities of weapons
grade uranium were transferred as part of any of these deals.
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