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China arms both sides

Iraq's new government recently concluded a deal with China worth almost $100 million to outfit Iraqi police with Kalashnikov-design assault rifles and other small arms in a move that has U.S. defense and national security officials fuming.

The arms deal shows that Beijing is arming both sides of the Iraq conflict, as recent intelligence reports show that Chinese weaponry is being shipped to Iraqi and Afghan insurgents through Iran. Defense officials said the arms deal with Baghdad was concluded during the visit to Beijing by Iraqi President Jalal Talbani last month.

Brig. General Qasim Ata, an Iraq police spokesman, was quoted recently as saying the contracts with China were for imports of "advanced" Chinese weapons for the Iraqi armed forces.

One Bush administration official called the deal "extremely foolish."

"Buying weapons from China will accelerate the alienation of America," the official said. "Iraq purchasing PLA weapons along with the emerging PRC oil deal will contribute mightily to end game Iraq for the United States." The PLA is the acronym for China's military.

The official said the Iraqi government needs to better understand that the U.S. military is fighting and dying to give their nation the opportunity for a free and open society and government. "It is not the PLA, in fact the PLA is arming Iranians to kill Iraqis and Americans," the official said.

Disclosure of the Iraqi government arms deal with China comes as a U.S. military spokesman this week confirmed the flow of Chinese shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to insurgents, first reported in this paper June 5.

Rear Adm. Mark Fox told reporters Sunday Chinese missiles found in Iraq likely were smuggled into the country from Iran. "We have seen ordnance and weapons that come from other places, but we assess that they have come through Iran," Adm. Fox said. "There are missiles that are actually manufactured in China that we assess come through Iran as well."

China's Foreign Ministry accused the United States yesterday of misleading the public over the Chinese weapons smuggling.

Richard Fisher, a China specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the Iraqi government deal heightens the danger from insurgents.

"Soon we will face two Chinese threats in Iraq, the first from Chinese arms arriving via their Iranian allies, and second from Chinese arms captured from the Iraqi government," he said.

"From oil deals now to arms deals, we are allowing China to benefit from the stability earned with American blood," Mr. Fisher said. "China, let's recall, was helping Saddam to shoot down U.S. aircraft" — a reference to China's supplying fiber-optic communications to Saddam's military.

New nuke strategy

The Bush administration told Congress this week that U.S. nuclear weapons and the infrastructure to support them will be needed for the foreseeable future, as Russia and China continue to build up their nuclear arsenals and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea continue work on nuclear arms.

"We're going to need nuclear weapons for a while and we're going to need to make them safer and more secure," said Steve Henry, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters, in summing up the report to Congress on U.S. nuclear strategy.

The report, "National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence for the 21st Century," is a statement by the secretaries of energy, defense and state.

It stated that "the future security environment is very uncertain, and some trends are not favorable."

"Rogue states either have or seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and the risk of future proliferation cannot be ignored," the report said. "The future direction that any number of states may take, including some established nuclear powers with aggressive nuclear force modernization programs, could have a dramatic effect on U.S. security and the security of our allies."

Mr. Henry said Russia and China both are established powers with nuclear buildups under way that need watching and require the United States to keep nuclear weapons ready and to have a system in place, with both people and facilities, that could respond to any potential unsettling strategic imbalances.

On Russia, Mr. Henry said, "You can't ignore what countries say and their rhetoric, and you can't ignore what they are doing in practice."

The Russians are "aggressively modernizing their nuclear forces," he said, and China is building new strategic nuclear forces and the buildup cannot be ignored.

The United States is "a little bit unsure as to the future of their program," Mr. Henry said. "Today [China's program] is much smaller than the U.S. or that of the Russians, but how do you judge what the future may be?"

Mr. Henry also said the United States is worried that al Qaeda and other terrorists will obtain nuclear weapons, specifically getting nuclear material from rogue states, and that U.S. nuclear weapons can be used to deter those states from supplying terrorists with that material. Such states would be "held accountable" if their nuclear material is used in attacks on the United States, he said.

The report said the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea show the need for the United States to provide nuclear guarantees to key allies.

Mr. Henry said the United States is committed to reducing nuclear stockpiles but must maintain capabilities for security.

One of the most important elements of current nuclear arms strategy is developing the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a newer, safer and more reliable warhead that will be fashioned from existing warheads but will be less expensive to maintain, Mr. Henry said.

The report said without the replacement warhead, the ability of the United States to maintain its nuclear deterrent over the long term will be in question.

The United States plans to have a strategic nuclear warhead arsenal of between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012, the report said.

Tribal area terror

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, provided new details of the battle against terrorists in Pakistan's remote Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan.

In prepared testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Gen. Clapper said the terrorists are using the area to regroup.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has lost some 500 troops fighting terrorists in the region and also tried to use a political agreement with tribal leaders in the region but it "has not been successful," Gen. Clapper said.

Recent events in Pakistan are likely to spur Gen. Musharraf to take much more aggressive action in addressing the problem, he said.

The new steps include increasing funding of counterterrorist operations in the region, providing 25 U.S. helicopters and air-assault training to Pakistani troops, supplying night-vision equipment and giving $110 million in economic aid to the tribal region.

On the recent confrontation at Pakistan's Red Mosque, Gen. Clapper said, "The behavior of the extremists who had been holed up in the mosque highlighted the threat, and extremists based in the border areas have taken both the stepped up Pakistani army presence in the FATA and along the border as well as the storming of the mosque as a pretext for resuming terrorist attacks on the Pakistani security forces."

Also, Pakistani religious leaders are stepping up opposition to extremists, and in one recent meeting declared that suicide bombing violated Islamic law, he said.

Recent internal disputes among tribal leaders recently erupted into conflict between pro-Taliban tribesmen and pro-al Qaeda fighters, he said.

Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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