Bhutto’s assassination: A deal killer
Here was the “deal:” (1) The recent reelection of pro-Western, Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, would be validated by the Pakistani Supreme Court; (2) Musharraf would step down as head of Pakistan’s armed forces in favor of pro-Western General Ashfaq Kayani; (3) Musharraf and Kayani would continue the U.S.-funded, $100 million program that keeps Pakistan’s nuclear weapons out of the hands of al-Qaeda and the Taliban; (4) Former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, would be forgiven previous corruption charges and allowed to return home; (5) Mrs. Bhutto, as head of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPK), would be elected to parliament this January, resume her role as Prime Minister, and try to lead Pakistan along a path to some form of democracy, albeit not Jeffersonian.
Here is what happened: The Musharraf-packed Supreme Court validated the pro-Western Musharraf’s reelection. The pro-Western General Kayani took over the armed forces from Musharraf. The joint Pakistani/U.S. nuclear-weapons custody program remained in place. So good, so far.
But, on December 27, 2007, Mrs. Bhutto was assassinated by radical Islamists who did not want her to steer Pakistan toward democracy. For the radical Islamic terrorists, the assassination of Mrs. Bhutto was the essence of logic because democracy would have stood in the way of what the radical Islamists want to do: Take over the only Muslim country that has nuclear weapons.
Earlier, the radical Islamists thought they could take over Iraq, reconstitute Saddam Hussein’s former nuclear-weapons program and have all the benefits of being a nuclear-armed, nation-state instead of just being a bunch of bomb-making, religious zealots bumping across the deserts in aging Toyota pick-ups. Despite sabotage by the anti-American Left, the success of the surge suggests that Iraq isn’t likely to fall to the radical Islamists anytime soon. At least not until after November 4, 2008. And, maybe, not even then.
That put Mrs. Bhutto squarely in the sights of the radical Islamists. Because the joint PPK-U.S.-Pakistani Grand Strategy is now in disarray, the January, 2008, elections will likely be postponed to March, 2008, or later. Until inflamed passions cool, a period of martial law is also likely.
Meanwhile, the government of nuclear-armed India is watching all these events with a heightened level of concern. India and Pakistan exist, side-by-side, in a state of nuclear, mutually-assured destruction – like two scorpions in a bottle.
At the same time, Iran is taking all the logical steps toward the possession of its own nuclear weapons. The first logical step is to create an effective air-defense system around what are almost surely to be their nuclear-weapons sites. Recall that former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took the logical first step of installing air-defense missile batteries (SAMs) around the places in Cuba where he planned to install missiles that could reach the key population centers of the United States. But, before the SAM sites were operational, U.S. spy cameras caught them on film. When President John F. Kennedy threatened military force, Khrushchev backed down.
Fast forward. Iran just struck a deal to purchase a state-of-the-art air-defense system from Russia. Why? Because Iran must be planning on creating some high-value targets that need air-defense protection. The only targets of high value to Israel or the United States would have to be nuclear-weapons sites.
The Iranian-Russian deal, a la the Cuban Missile Crisis, increases the likelihood that Israel and/or the U.S. will preemptively remove Iran’s nascent nuclear capabilities. If President Bush thinks a Democrat will win the White House, it is conceivable that John F. Kennedy will serve as a role model for President Bush before he leaves office. If the Iranian Mullahs won’t do a Nikita Khrushchev, George W. Bush may go beyond John F. Kennedy and do a Harry S. Truman.
Meanwhile, lest he suffer Mrs. Bhutto’s fate, President Musharraf would be well-advised to oust the jihadists from his government and allow U.S./NATO forces free reign to chase the Taliban and al-Qaeda back into Afghanistan.
Syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He is also the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.