Originally Published 2005-01-18 11:05:45 Published on Jan 18, 2005
I read with great interest your article titled "THE COMING WARS: What the Pentagon can now do in secret" carried by the "New Yorker" in its issue dated January 24, 2005, which is already on sale. The article is about US preparations for a possible covert operation against Iran's suspected military nuclear installations set up with Pakistani complicity.
Iran: An Open Letter to Seymour Hersh
Dear Mr. Hersh,

I read with great interest your article titled "THE COMING WARS: What the Pentagon can now do in secret" carried by the "New Yorker" in its issue dated January 24, 2005, which is already on sale. The article is about US preparations for a possible covert operation against Iran's suspected military nuclear installations set up with Pakistani complicity.

I particularly noted your findings about the role of the Pakistani intelligence in the preparations being made by the US. You have said: "Some of the missions involve extraordinary cooperation. For example, the former high-level intelligence official told me that an American commando task force has been set up in South Asia and is now working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists and technicians who had dealt with Iranian counterparts. (In 2003, the I.A.E.A. (the International Atomic Energy Agency) disclosed that Iran had been secretly receiving nuclear technology from Pakistan for more than a decade, and had withheld that information from inspectors.) The American task force, aided by the information from Pakistan, has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground installations. The task-force members, or their locally recruited agents, secreted remote detection devices-known as sniffers-capable of sampling the atmosphere for radioactive emissions and other evidence of nuclear-enrichment programs.

"Getting such evidence is a pressing concern for the Bush Administration. The former high-level intelligence official told me, "They don't want to make any W.M.D. intelligence mistakes, as in Iraq. The Republicans can't have two of those. There's no education in the second kick of a mule." The official added that the government of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President, has won a high price for its cooperation-American assurance that Pakistan will not have to hand over A. Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, to the I.A.E.A. or to any other international authorities for questioning. For two decades, Khan has been linked to a vast consortium of nuclear-black-market activities. Last year, Musharraf professed to be shocked when Khan, in the face of overwhelming evidence, "confessed" to his activities. A few days later, Musharraf pardoned him, and so far he has refused to allow the I.A.E.A. or American intelligence to interview him. Khan is now said to be living under house arrest in a villa in Islamabad. "It's a deal-a trade-off," the former high-level intelligence official explained. "'Tell us what you know about Iran and we will let your A. Q. Khan guys go.' It's the neoconservatives' version of short-term gain at long-term cost. They want to prove that Bush is the anti-terrorism guy who can handle Iran and the nuclear threat, against the long-term goal of eliminating the black market for nuclear proliferation."

"The agreement comes at a time when Musharraf, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat, has authorized the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear-weapons arsenal. "Pakistan still needs parts and supplies, and needs to buy them in the clandestine market," the former diplomat said. "The U.S. has done nothing to stop it." (Citation from Mr.Hersh's article ends)

Mr.Hersh, Musharraf's clandestine co-operation with the USA against Iran started in February 2002. In return, the USA did not act against him for the complicity of his Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the journalist of the "Wall Street Journal." After Mr.Abdul Sattar resigned as Pakistan's Foreign Minister in June 2002, I had pointed out in an article that one of the reasons for his resignation was his unhappiness over Musharraf's clandestine co-operation with the USA against Iran. I had referred to this in some of my subsequent articles also.

I had made a detailed reference to it in an article on Iran written by me in June 2003, which was carried by the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG), accessible at http://www.saag.org/papers8/paper719.html, as well as by Asia Times Online on June 21, 2003.

Let me quote in detail from that article: "Effective covert action demands bases from which one could relay broadcasts and telecasts, disseminate printed propaganda, interact with dissident elements inside Iran without their having to travel to the West for this purpose, and train the surrogates in clandestine operations. The CIA was hoping to use Iraqi and Pakistani territory for this purpose. The deterioration in the internal security situation in Iraq has ruled out the use of its territory for the present.

"As a result, the importance of Pakistan has increased manifold in the CIA's perception. That is why the CIA strongly advised its Government to tickle the ego of Gen. Pervez Musharraf by receiving him in Camp David instead of in Washington and to shower him with the kind of honours no other Pakistani leader had received before--not even Zia-ul-Haq during the Afghan war of the 1980s.

"Since his last bilateral visit to the US in February last year, Musharraf has already ordered his Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to covertly collaborate with the US intelligence agencies for the collection of intelligence about Iran. It was unhappiness over this, which led to the resignation of Abdul Sattar, his Foreign Minister, ostensibly on health grounds.

"During the recent visit of Lt. Gen.Ehsanul Haq, Director-General of the ISI, to Washington, the subject of expanding this co-operation was reportedly further discussed. According to unconfirmed reports, James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA under Clinton, who has been acting as adviser to the Iranian monarchist groups, had called on Haq. This subject is expected to be on the top of the agenda for Musharraf's talks with Bush. It is said that the CIA is interested in re-activating the Sunni Balochis in Iran against the Teheran regime and in shifting the MEK (Mujahideen-e-Khalq) dregs presently in Iraq to Pakistani Balochistan so that they could operate from there without causing embarrassment to the US occupation authority in Baghdad.

" Pakistani sources claim that while Musharraf may be inclined to allow the relaying of clandestine broadcasts and telecasts from Pakistani territory, he is against re-activating the Iranian Balochis which could boomerang on Pakistan's Balochistan and shifting the MEK dregs to Balochistan. The Bush Administration is expected to dangle before him the lollipop of another debt write-off and F-16 aircraft if he went the whole hog in becoming the USA's covert frontline ally against Iran.

"The unhappiness over Musharraf's perceived willingness to collaborate with the USA against Iran is not confined to Pakistan's Foreign Office. Some Army officers such as Gen. Mohammad Aziz, a fundamentalist Kashmiri officer belonging to the Sudan tribe of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), (since retired) have also reportedly expressed their misgivings during discussions at the GHQ. Aziz is presently Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. They have also referred to the dangers of its causing alienation amongst the Shias in the Armed Forces. The Pakistan Air Force, in particular, has a large number of Shias at the lower and middle levels in the cadres of technicians.

"It is reported that he has reassured them by projecting that his present intelligence collaboration with the USA was against the terrorists operating from Iranian territory and not against the Iranian regime. He has described it as part of the war against international terrorism by the international coalition under the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373. He has reportedly reiterated that he would not agree to any other co-operation, which may be directed against the clerical regime. But, their concerns have not subsided. They have noted that since the recent visit of Ehsanul Haq to the US, Musharraf's enthusiasm for a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan has decreased.

"Musharraf wants to go down in Pakistan's history as the leader who achieved Pakistan's objective in Jammu & Kashmir. If he calculates that by collaborating with the USA to bring down the Teheran regime, he might achieve this objective, he may not hesitate to do so. New Delhi and Teheran should be prepared for surprises." (Citation from my article ends)

I had also pointed out in one of my articles on Iraq in 2003 that while the Saddam Hussein regime had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it had some material (probably documents) relating to them which were taken to Syria before the US troops occupied Baghdad and from there got airlifted to Pakistan clandestinely by A.Q.Khan, Pakistan's nuclear scientist.

Thus, one finds:

  • Pakistan clandestinely helping Iran before 2002 in its efforts to acquire a clandestine military nuclear capability in return for Iranian funding of its own military nuclear programme.

  • Since February, 2002, Pakistan has been clandestinely collaborating with the USA in its efforts to destroy Iran's nuclear capability through a joint operation to be mounted by the US and Israel with intelligence supplied by Pakistan. 

  • Pakistan clandestinely helping Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) and the Taliban in acquiring a capability for terrorism for using them against India before 9/11. 

  • After 9/11, it has been openly and clandestinely helping the USA in its operations against them in return for handsome economic and military packages. 
  • Clandestinely helping the survivors of these organisations to re-organise their capability for continued use against India. 

  • Clandestinely helping the Saddam Hussein regime in transfering the evidence of its WMD programmes to Pakistan for safe custody. 

  • Clandestinely co-operating with the USA for strengthening its puppet Alawi regime in Baghdad and for mobilising the Iraqi diaspora in other countries to register themselves as Iraqis and participate in absentee ballotting in support of Alawi in order to get him a respectable total just it had mobilised the Pashtun votes on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in support of Hamid Karzai in return for a US $ 1.3 billion military package from the US. 

All this may sound unbelievably perfidious. But, that is Musharraf in a nutshell for you, Mr Hersh. That is how he has survived and prospered throughout his career. He is now ostensibly co-operating with the US against Al Qaeda. Don't be surprised if he is clandestinely helping Al Qaeda against the US in Iraq in return for its promise to later get J & K for him. 

The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and, Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: [email protected].

Courtesy: South Asia Analysis group, New Delhi, Paper No. 1224, January 18, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.

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