WikiLeaks Cables: The Matter of Pakistan and the Enriched Uranium

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Pakistan gives Defense Secretary Gates a headache. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some of the myriad facts that emerged from today's daily dose of WikiLeaks (Subject: Pakistan) are more revelatory than others. Surprise, even President Asif Ali Zardari is scared of his country's real power base — its military and intelligence leadership — telling Vice-President Biden that he worried that Pakistan's military might “take me out.” The cables also confirmed that despite increased cooperation — like letting American special ops soldiers deploy with Pakistani troops along the Afghan border — Pakistan is reluctant to cut ties with some of the region's strongest militant groups. They see it "as insurance for the inevitable day that the United States military withdraws from Afghanistan — and Pakistan wants to exert maximum influence inside Afghanistan and against Indian intervention," says the Times. Then there was the candid cable from former ambassador Anne W. Patterson, who dissented from prevailing sentiment in Washington to warn officials that improving our ties with India “feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir focused terrorist groups.” A possible upside from the leak: sympathy for Barack Obama. But perhaps the most intriguing thing to come out of the Islamabad cables is the local media's role in sustaining Pakistan's nuclear capabilities.

Less than a month after President Obama "testily assured" reporters in 2009 that the country's nuclear materials would "remain out of militant hands," Ambassador Patterson sent a cable concerning a stockpile of highly enriched uranium that had sat for years near an old nuclear reactor in Pakistan. There was enough material to build a number of dirty bombs or, possibly, a nuclear one. In the May 27, 2009, cable, Patterson said that the Pakistani government was taking too long to follow through on an agreement to remove the material made two years earlier.


She wrote to senior American officials that the Pakistani government had concluded that “the ‘sensational’ international and local media coverage of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time.” A senior Pakistani official, she said, warned that if word leaked out that Americans were helping remove the fuel, the local press would “certainly portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

The fuel is still there.

Sometimes five little words can say so much. We're just happy it wasn't the liberal media establishment's fault this time.

From Pakistan, Diplomats Wrote About a Vexing Ally [NYT]