07 April 2013

Why Is Everyone Worried About Iran But Not Pakistan?

I have been reading about North Korea's threats and media speculations about Pyongyang's use of nuclear weapons against its southern neighbor. Even native son Ban Ki-moon got involved to warn everyone that the crisis had gone too far.

In this instance, I can at least understand the reasoning behind the reporting. For decades, North Korea has been opposed to joint military maneuvers on the peninsula and whenever these take place (usually once a year) they issue threats in colorful language.  I (and most international observers) seriously doubt that Pyongyang will do anything stupid, but since they own a few warheads, I see the point of mentioning those threats.

What I don't get at all is the continuous coverage of Iran's nuclear program and the hyperventilating discussion about the threat they pose to the countries in the region, primarily to Israel.

In the last couple of years, I wrote a few times about Iran and Israel to explain why, in my humble opinion, an Israeli attack on Iran was extremely unlikely. I also maintained that there was no evidence that their nuclear program had military objectives and most US intelligence estimates were in agreement with my assessment. More importantly, even if the Iranian mullahs have been planning to convert their nuclear know-how into a stockpile of warheads, I believe that they are far too rational to use them: They know that Israel has far superior nuclear weapons and any attack will mean collective national suicide. In fact, Israel doesn't even have to respond directly since the US has a significant nuclear arsenal at the Incirlik military base in Turkey and they can annihilate Iran within minutes while allowing Israel the ability to perpetuate the myth that it does not even have nuclear weapons.

What is even a bigger deterrent for Iran is the knowledge that any nuclear attack would be very unlikely to reach Israel since there are twin US missile defense systems set up both Turkey and Israel continuously monitoring Iranian airspace They would quickly intercept any launched missile and open Iran up to a very destructive retaliation.

But I don't feel nearly as sanguine about Pakistan.

If you have been aware of this humble soapbox, you might remember that I posted a couple of pieces about Pakistan, as I felt that no one was paying any attention to the land of the ISI.

Recently, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent research unit attached to the US Congress, issued a report [pdf] which concluded that Pakistan has been studiously adding to its nuclear stockpile.
“Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, and deploying additional delivery vehicles. These steps could enable Pakistan to undertake both quantitative and qualitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal,” the recently released CRS report noted.
According to the same report, India has only 60-80 nuclear bombs.

To me, that is really worrying.

And this was not even reported by big media outlets. Just Google it, you'll see.

Let me put this whole situation in starker terms: The US and Europe have been pressuring Iran through crippling sanctions and extensive talks about its nuclear program even though they have no nuclear weapons, are unlikely to develop them in the near future and would be unable to use them even if they managed to put them together.

On the other side of the ledger, the same forces have been ignoring completely another country that has been feverishly adding to its nuclear arsenal. And that country has a seriously paranoid military which is obsessed with its larger neighbor and willing to do anything, including supporting Taliban and cutting off American supply lines to Afghanistan in its quest to undermine India.

Why does everyone ignore this situation?

Incidentally, general elections is Pakistan are scheduled in a month's time (11 May). So far, secular parties have not been allowed to organize rallies and to campaign openly. They have been declared as legitimate targets by the Pakistani Taliban. You could say that, in the past, these parties were blocked by the powerful military and the ISI and now this job is handled by the Pakistani Taliban.
For many, the situation is becoming more like the 2002 elections, when the military regime of Gen Musharraf forced the main political leaders into exile, creating conditions for religious forces and conservatives to sweep the election. 
Often those with the largest vote, the secular political forces have in the past had their wings clipped repeatedly by a powerful military establishment which finds an Islamic image of the state more suited to its security needs. 

Now that job is being done by the Taliban.
What do you think will happen if these secular parties do poorly and conservative and Islamist parties take up most of the seats?

Speaking of Pervez Musharraf, you may be interested to know that, recently, he has returned to Pakistan from his five-year exile and even though he is facing very serious charges in two pending cases, he was allowed to enter the country without any difficulty.

And as of yesterday, he was given the official go-ahead to run in the upcoming elections.

Could anyone tell me why we are worried about Iran and not about Pakistan?

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