« Straw in the wind - FB Ali | Main | Open Thread - 8 January, 2011 »

07 January 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Patrick Lang


too easy. We don't know what present Pakistani capability is. Neither do the Israelis.

that being the case, why are they not more worked up about it? pl


General Ali,

But there's the possibility that the bulk of armanent's electronics of India are coming from Israel. An Israel knockout could degrade India's electronic infrastructure seriously at least with respect to the military bits. Right from the Phalcons, radar, guided munitions, Lighting pods and UAVs.

If I were Pakistan, I'd keep excellent relations with Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah just for insurance just in case the USA,Israel or UK decide to leave it high and dry.

And since geo politically, the only way to get attention you want is tag your speech with "isreal" "jews", it makes sense to keep all interested parties to be prepared to mollify you.


pl: Possibilities of the top of my head:

  1. Israel has better intelligence than what's publicly available, and Pakistan is not easily able to strike them.

  2. Their intelligence indicates Pakistan is able to strike them, but their public statements about the threat of nuclear arms in the hands of an Islamic state represent a propaganda campaign designed to get the US to strike Iran, rather than any worry about an existential threat.

  3. Their intelligence indicates Pakistan is able to strike them, they are worked up about it, (See Lieberman's calling Pakistan their greatest threat) but are taking a more circumspect approach than they are with Iran, since Pakistan already has nuclear weapons and trying to destabilize Pakistan runs the risk of allowing a hostile Islamic government to come to power, and they lack the capability to do anything about it's nuclear infrastructure.

  4. Israel's intelligence is no better than what's publicly available, they don't know if Pakistan can strike them or not, but they do know that getting worked up about it in public might provoke Pakistan to commit more of it's limited resources to building long range weapons that can strike Israel, rather than just being focused on hitting targets in India.

  5. Israel's foreign policy is not rational, (you can never discount this, with any nation) and they're fixated on Iran at the cost of worrying about other threats.

I don't know enough to be able to say which is more likely.

Clifford Kiracofe

WHERE are the nukes--the warheads?

Are these stored separate from the launchers? Where? Dispersed?

Again, is there a facility near Chitral in which warheads are stored?

And again, DO THE CHINESE have some role with respect to the warheads? Do the Chinese have a veto over the use of the warheads against India? Are there Chinese technicians at the Chitral facility?


Are there any significant Chinese military forces stationed not far from Chitral? How far?


I really don't see a foreseeable scenario where an Islamist government succeeds in taking power in Pakistan in the near-term future.

Such a government would have to purge most of the Army high command. Now we all know that many in the Army believe in Islamism, that they see Islamism as a critical tool to counter India and unify Pakistan's disparate groups - but all see the Army as the most important and preeminent institution in Pakistan. A government based primarily in an Islamist political movement would be viewed (and also view the Army) as a competitor, not an equal or a political superior. One or the other would have to infiltrate, dominate, and then purge the other. An Islamist movement that could do that (and I don't see any that could) would cripple Pakistan's military capability, much like the IRGC has crippled the Iranian military.

The closest thing to such a movement is Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, but the Army hates Sharif even more than it hates the PPP, primarily because Sharif attempted just such a takeover the last time he was in power. If Sharif did actually do anything like the COL's scenario, the Gulf countries who support him would no doubt yank his chain --- I doubt any of them want nuclear weapons going off in the neighborhood.


Col. Lang, this is a very interesting question, you raise, but to understand it, you raise a vast array of possibilities. To start, I would raise a couple of very important questions. Are we talking about capability or perception? It is a strange thing, but perceptions can be more powerful than actual capabilities. The second question would be this, what would be the wisdom of the consequences? Is is a much bigger world than just Pakistan and Israel, just a thought.

Allen Thomson

Walrus: And Polonium210 if they are using it in the initiator - half life 136 days

The polonium-beryllium initiators used in the earliest nuclear weapons have been supplanted by neutron generators. Which, IIRC, also use tritium and so are also a limited life component.


Fred: If that was the case why not build U235 bombs? Though it might have a lower yeild wouldn't it have longer "shelf-life"? Would actual size/weight be that much of a penalty?

The shelf-life problem comes from the tritium, not the actual fission fuel (Pu239 or U235). Generally speaking, Pu239 is preferable for missile applications because of the lower critical mass.


Patrick Lang


Interesting points but the long term effects of an Islamist takeover would not prevent short term employment. pl


Someone mentioned earlier that the Shaheen was based on the Polaris system. That is not true. The Shaheen I is a modified version of the Chinese DF-15 and the Shaheen II is basically a copy of the Chinese M-18.

I did a bit more digging on the range discrepancy regarding the Shaheen II. Specifically, I looked up the Pakistani press reporting for test launches in 2004, 2007 and 2008. In almost all cases Pakistani officials via the Pakistani press put the range at 2000km. A few quoted officials used the 2500km figure. I also looked up some unclassified intelligence community and government assessments and the range is consistently listed at 2500km. I think both figures are accurate and the difference comes from warhead weight - 2500km is associated with a 750kg payload.

I think it's conceivable the Shaheen II range could be extended a bit beyond 2500km, however there are technical limitations to what can be done with the design (a 2-stage, solid fuel missile, 17m in length and 1.4m diameter). 3000km (a 17% increase) might be possible but 3500km (a 29% increase, which the wikipedia entry alleges) is probably not technically possible without major alterations to the missile design.

I think 2500km is a credible figure for the maximum range of the Shaheen II. Ideally, one would want a little more oomph than that to reliably put Israel at risk and it's certainly possible Pakistan could extend the range a couple of hundred km to do that by making incremental improvements (ie. weight reduction) to the missile. For the purposes of this discussion, I think the Pakistani's are "close enough" that Israel could not and would not ignore Pakistan's capabilities.

Norbert M. Salamon

I greatly enjoyed the above discussion, and have learned a lot.

There is an unmentioned elephant in the room: any attack on Iran might cause [will cause at least in Iran] a serious problem with Hydrocarbon supplies world wide.
Excluding Russia all Nuclear armed nations are dependent on Hydrocarbon IMPORT - the strategic reserves are nothing after 3-4 months].
It is therefore appropriate to consider the blowback in case of Israel and or Israel USA attack on IRan not only from Pakistan, but any Hydrocarbqan importing nation sans USA.

3 bombs [Tel Aviv, Haifa and the Nuclear manufacturijng site at D..] and it is the end of Israel.

If Russia gets upset by Iraqn Attack, write off EUROPE's economy, and consider the possiblity of WWIII with WMD-s

Allen Thomson

> 17m in length

Would stretching one or both stages be feasible?

> For the purposes of this discussion, I think the Pakistani's are "close enough" that Israel could not and would not ignore Pakistan's capabilities.

I agree.

Patrick Lang


Then why are the Israelis seeming to do that? Which theory with regard to that do you prefer? pl

Allen Thomson

> Then why are the Israelis seeming to do that? Which theory with regard to that do you prefer?

I don't really have a preferred theory. Perhaps they're making contingency plans but keeping them really, really quiet. Perhaps they're at a loss for what to do and are just hoping for the best. Perhaps their evaluation of Pakistan's capabilities differ from mine. Perhaps something else -- I really have no insight into what they're thinking.

Charles I

Pat, thanks for the Israeli quietude analysis. Besotted with dreary technical analysis, you open a different door I never would have even seen with your thought provoking question.



Allen Thomson, for the sake of discussion, you write, and quote someone else, “For the purpose of this discussion, I think the Pakistani's are 'close enough' that Israel cannot and would not ignore Pakistan's capabilities.” The question becomes this, what do you think is on their realistic list of options? As I say this, I'm thinking about both Pakistan and Israel. The problem is this, we are now looking at a much larger picture of the players. On either side, you have internal segments of these countries or neighboring countries, who may now see you as vulnerable, because you are distracted. The problem here is both sides have co-belligerents and see this, as the time to take action, when normally he would not. Co-belligerents are not as strong a relationship as an ally. But he sees certain points where they both agree and acts on those points. The important thing is to realize is this, there are certain places where both agree to disagree. Until we begin to understand the culture and society of both Pakistan Afghanistan Iraq and the whole region, nobody can answer the question with any authority.

Allen Thomson

> The question becomes this, what do you think is on their realistic list of options? As I say this, I'm thinking about both Pakistan and Israel.

Aside from some fairly easy technical evaluations (how far can the rockets likely go, can they carry nukes), I'm really not competent to express an opinion. I think that it's a prudent assumption that both Israel and Pakistan could nuke each other using ballistic missiles. Beyond that, I don't have a clue. Would an Islamist-controlled Pakistan be deterrable? Would Israel preempt if it looked like an Islamist government were going to take control of the nukes? Dunno.

As long as we're digressing a bit from the capabilities theme and if the Colonel doesn't mind, I found myself wondering how much religious considerations, as in believing that Allah/Yahweh will intervene on the appropriate side, actually play a part in the strategic thinking of Islamists and conservative Israelis. That could make a difference.


Allen Thomson, I respect a very important principle, that you are showing in your response. “A foolish man knows not that he knows not and the wise man knows said he knows not.” I respect your candor, I believe, there is no one who can give you a factual answer. At best, you can only get an educated guess. So, Welcome to the group!

No matter where you go in the whole region, you will find that the basis of most of the decision-making is, as you stated, religion-based. This being true, it doesn't always make it right.

To get back to Pat Lang's original question, we must consider that Israel and Pakistan are not the only players in this game. We must consider the impact of any action by any one player, will have one any other players, other than these two. Sir Isaac Newton's laws of physics have not been repealed, the second law states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We would find many things, that some would say, “These things might fall under the law of unintended consequences.” I hope the Greater International Community would harvest a great deal of wisdom. Thank You, Allen for your thinking.


Allen Thomson, when you think about options, you say this, “As I say this, I'm thinking about both Pakistan and Israel.” The problem with looking at this region of the world, there are things to remember. This is not like finding a geo-political state with boundaries or borders. This is the problem about discussing this part of the world. As you're thinking about Pakistan and Israel, are you looking at them alone? If these two go to war with each other, what do you think will be the impact upon the region? As I look at the region, I don't see the old British Colonies, with nice neat borders. The things that I see are the Theocratic Sheikdoms based on families and tribes. If your brother lives across a given geo-political line, does that mean he lives in another country? No, he's my brother, so I protect him. This is the problem with the primary question that Lang has raised. There is much more than just two countries, who are talking about de-stabilizing the whole region, to me this is a major concern and should not be disregarded. What happens if China finds itself in a compromised role? This is why I keep pushing the thread away from just a weapon-based attack to a holistic view. warfare seldom finds itself being surgical on many levels.


My take on these issues seems a bit different. I realize what I have to say does not relate to capability, but intentions, which is why I have waited prior to posting.

I assume that Iran is not a threat to Israel due to the nuclear weapons she doesn't have, but do to her support of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Hence, the immediacy of Israel's on-going demonization of Iran (as, in the past, Iraq).

Pakistan is (currently) not supporting Hamas or Hezbollah, hence, Israel has been more relaxed on that issue.

Now, however, that Iran is seriously targeted, and there is very much the sound of a clock ticking, the implications of a war on Iran must include the effect on Pakistan, which is nuclear, and which might be able to target Israel.

I think, therefore, that Israel and the US have now linked (to a certain extent) any direct military attack on Iran with a desire to 'control' Pakistani nukes. This is all in the march of consequences from the ill-advised invasion of Iraq.

I would go slightly further: I would say that Obama's impressive support from the Neocons has been his ability in key meetings to claim Pakistan as the more essential threat, and that he would retarget Afpak as an essential American interest. His arguments were well received... after all, Iran doesn't have nukes and is well surrounded and contained, and time is needed for the sanctions to degrade Iranian industrial strength and political cohesion.

I think, too, that the US has asked for time prior to any Israeli strike on Iran, to "better neutralize" Pakistan. I think Israel appreciates the logic of this, which is why the head of Mossad now confirms that Iran is yet further away from any nuclear weapon (a very safe statement, given that there is no Iranian nuclear weapon program, unless one is under the impression that enrichment is, by definition, a nuclear weapons program, a position which clearly defies the (supposedly) legally binding NPT.

But how to neutralize Pakistani nukes if you're not even sure where they are? That's a separate set of comments.

Again, the clock is ticking on whatever action is being taken or considered in Pakistan, as Israel is planning on re-engaging Hamas and Hezbollah (I believe) within the next 36 months at most.

Patrick Lang


The sheikhdoms in the Gu;f are anything but theocratic. pl


To Pat Lang, you write, “The sheikhdoms in the Gulf are anything but theocratic.” If you had referred to the behavior of the sheikhs, as individuals, I would be compelled to agree with you. But this is not the case, the actual power of these individuals comes from the “Sharia” and its related Court System. The “Sharia” has its roots in the “Old Desert Code”. These Sheikhdoms draw their power from the “Sharia System”, In fact, when there is a conflict between the “Sharia System” and Civilian Law, Sharia always prevails. We must realize that the Sharia is a Muslim-Based document. Therefore, I am compelled to disagree with you and say, In fact, they are theocracies.

As always, you have my respect, but here we disagree.


Castellio, Welcome to the discussion. My second point would be this, “Assume Nothing”. I'm an old Vet, I was taught by my father how to spell the word, “assume”. He explained it this way, I never forgot it. This is the end result of what happens when we, “assume”. It is the same way the Military teach the troops how to spell the word. There is something about “U” and “ME”, I think you can figure the rest out.

Be careful of what you think you know or believe you know. We can chat about our beliefs, but remember, in many ways, this is a different world. I don't think you have made a bad use of this site. I believe this is the reason for this site. I believe that Pat Lang has offered us a place to learn, including one Very Grumpy Vet.


Grumpy: thanks for the welcome and the warning, which I take to heart.

Regarding assumptions, not having an inside view on all the facts I try to understand what assumptions I'm using and then to identify them quickly and clearly.

akram khan

Pakistan is traditionally likely to see threats coming from the east i.e India as potent. It is not so much involved in the Middle East as its being touted.

Pakistan and Israel have theire reason detre as common...both were created in the name of God's religion. I have doubts they would ever fight.

Charles I

Why aren't the Israeli's more upset, that was the pointed question for me back then.

The missile ranges will increase eventually, therefore, who's in charge. I think the real trouble is that Pakistan will likely further proliferate for political or private economic reasons even when governed by nominally stable "friends".

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad