Thursday, November 7, 2013
http://www.tolonews.com/ The Jirga has played an important role in Afghan history as a traditional style of community decision-making used for issues both small and large. Today, the practice, in varying forms, continues to have a central influence on politics and governance in Afghanistan. A Jirga in its original sense is a gathering of tribal elders, but in the modern context, Jirgas are often composed of government officials. In fact, the persistence of the Jirga practice in Afghanistan is one of the most obvious cases in which tribal traditions have fused into the country's modern state governing system. Although the two chambers of the Afghan National Assembly in Kabul often go by the English titles of Upper House and Lower House, or Senate and House of Representatives, they also retain the names Meshrano Jirga – elders' Jirga – and Wolesi Jirga – people's Jirga. The Loya Jirga, expected to convene this week to determine the fate of the Kabul-Washington Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), is the biggest of the gatherings in today's Afghanistan, reserved for particularly salient national issues. But these are forms of formal, centrally authorized Jirgas, organized under auspices of the Constitution. There remain today small-scale and independent Jirgas regularly convened on the provincial, district and village level throughout the country, and without the imprimatur of officials in Kabul. The history of Jirgas in Afghanistan is long, garnering the country the nickname "the land of jirgas." The practice has rarely been seen outside of Afghanistan and certain Pashtun-dominated areas of western Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban rejected the idea of peace talks with the government after electing hardline commander Mullah Fazlullah, whose men shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last year, as their new leader on Thursday. The rise of Fazlullah, known for his fierce Islamist views, by the Taliban Shura council follows the Killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the previous leader or ameer, in a U.S. drone strike on November 1. Mehsud and his allies had been tentatively open to the concept of ceasefire talks with the government, but Fazlullah's emergence as the new chief changes that picture. "There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government," Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location in neighboring Afghanistan. "All governments play double games with us. In the name of peace talks, they deceived us and killed our people. We are one hundred percent sure that Pakistan fully supports the United States in its drone strikes." The Pakistani Taliban insurgency is fighting to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government and impose Sharia law in the nuclear-armed nation. Attacks have been on the rise since Sharif came to power in May promising a negotiated end to violence, a concern for global powers already unnerved by the possible security implications of the withdrawal of most U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014. No meaningful talks have taken place since Sharif's election and Fazlullah's rise could signal the start of a new period of uncertainty and violence in the already unstable region. Speaking to Reuters, Shahid said the new ameer had taken over the decision-making process within the Taliban with immediate effect and would soon decide whether to avenge the death of Mehsud with a new campaign of bombings and killings. MULLAH RADIO Nicknamed Mullah Radio for his fiery Islamist radio broadcasts in Swat valley, Fazlullah is considered hardline even within the Pakistani Taliban movement itself. Born in 1976, he gained prominence in 2004 when he set up an underground FM radio station in the deeply conservative Swat valley to promote fundamentalist and anti-Western ideas. He and his fighters took over the valley in 2009 and imposed strict Islamic rule. Fazlullah opposes polio vaccinations which he has described as a Jewish and Christian conspiracy to harm Muslims, and ordered the closure of girls' schools. Malala, who openly criticized the Taliban and campaigned for womens' right to education, is a symbol of everything he has been fighting against. Outraged by the Taliban, the then-11-year-old kept a blog under a pen name and later launched a full-fledged campaign for girls' education. Fazlullah's men shot and wounded her last year, instantly turning Malala into a global hero. She was airlifted to Britain for medical treatment and now lives with her family in the northern city of Birmingham. The Taliban have said it will kill her if she came back. Fazlullah's troops melted away across the mountainous border into Afghanistan in 2009 after a military offensive by the Pakistan army which now controls the area. Fazlullah is believed to be in Nuristan province.
Two Christians who own a fireworks store in a village near the northeastern Pakistani city of Wazirabad were accused of blasphemy after wedding guests discovered that their fireworks were wrapped in pages of the Qur’an, according to an AsiaNews report. The guests immediately destroyed the store. “We do not manufacture fireworks, we buy them from a factory near Gujranwala and we do not know what materials they use,” said Tariq Masih, one of the owners. “Moreover, these factories are owned by Muslims and no Christian works inside there.” “We have not even touched the pages of the Qur’an,” he added. “The idea of using these pages for fireworks is beyond all imagination because we are well aware of the consequences.” UCA News reported that police have arrested the other store owner, Arif Masih, and have detained another brother of Tariq Masih until he turns himself in.
The Kingdom is turning to Pakistan to train Syria’s rebels. It’s a partnership that once went very wrong in Afghanistan. Will history repeat itself?Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, along with the CIA, also supported the Afghan rebels against the Soviet-backed government during the 1980s. That collaboration contains a cautionary note for the current day: The fractured Afghan rebels were unable to govern after the old regime fell, paving the way for chaos and the rise of the Taliban. Some of the insurgents, meanwhile, transformed into al Qaeda and eventually turned their weapons against their former patrons.While the risk of blowback has been discussed in Riyadh, Saudis with knowledge of the training program describe it as an antidote to extremism, not a potential cause of it. They have described the kingdom's effort as having two goals -- toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy to Washington, said in a recent interview that the mainstream opposition must be strengthened so that it could protect itself "these extremists who are coming from all over the place" to impose their own ideologies on Syria. The ramped up Saudi effort has been spurred by the kingdom's disillusionment with the United States. A Saudi insider with knowledge of the program described how Riyadh had determined to move ahead with its plans after coming to the conclusion that President Barack Obama was simply not prepared to move aggressively to oust Assad. "We didn't know if the Americans would give [support] or not, but nothing ever came through," the source said. "Now we know the president just didn't want it." Pakistan's role is so far relatively small, though another source with knowledge of Saudi thinking said that a plan was currently being debated to give Pakistan responsibility for training two rebel brigades, or around 5,000 to 10,000 fighters. Carnegie Middle East Center fellow Yezid Sayigh first noted the use of Pakistani instructors, writing that the Saudis were planning to build a Syrian rebel army of roughly 40,000 to 50,000 soldiers. "The only way Assad will think about giving up power is if he's faced with the threat of a credible, armed force," said the Saudi insider. A State Department official declined to comment on the Saudi training program. Saudi Arabia's decision to move forward with training the Syrian rebels independent of the United States is the latest sign of a split between the two longtime allies. In Syria, Saudi officials were aggrieved by Washington's decision to cancel a strike on the Assad regime in reprisal for its chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburbs this summer. A top Saudi official told the Washington Post that Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan was unaware of the cancelation of the strike. "We found about it from CNN," he said. As a result, Saudi Arabia has given up on hopes that the United States would spearhead efforts to topple Assad and decided to press forward with its own plans to bolster rebel forces. That effort relies on a network of Saudi allies in addition to Pakistan, such as Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and France. As Sayigh laid out in his Carnegie paper, Saudi Arabia is attempting to build "a new national army" for the rebels -- a force with an "avowedly Sunni ideology" that could seize influence from mainstream Syrian opposition groups. In addition to its training program in Jordan, Saudi Arabia also helped organize the unification of roughly 50 rebel brigades into "the Army of Islam" under the leadership of Zahran Alloush, a Salafist commander whose father is a cleric based in the kingdom.Given the increased Islamization of rebel forces on the ground, analysts say, it only makes sense that Saudi Arabia would throw its support behind Salafist groups. These militias "happen to be the most strategically powerful organizations on the ground," said Charles Lister, an analyst with IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. "If Saudi Arabia does indeed follow such a strategy... it could well stand to become a major power player in the conflict." In calling on Pakistan to assist in toppling Assad, Saudi Arabia can draw on its deep alliance with Islamabad. The two countries have long shared defense ties: Saudi Arabia has given more aid to Pakistani than to any non-Arab country, according to former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, and also allegedly helped fund Islamabad's nuclear program. In return, Pakistan based troops in Saudi Arabia multiple times over three decades to protect the royals' grip on power. The current Pakistani government, in particular, is closely tied to Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power in 1999 by a military coup - the Saudis allegedly brokered a deal that kept him from prison. Sharif would spend the next seven years in exile, mainly in Saudi Arabia. "For the Saudis, Sharif is a key partner in a key allied state," said Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute. But despite close collaboration in the past, Saudi Arabia may find its old allies chafing at the sheer scope of its ambitions in Syria. One Pakistani source with close ties to military circles confirmed that Saudi Arabia had requested assistance on Syria over the summer -- but argued that Pakistani capabilities and interests were not conducive to a sweeping effort to train the rebels. Pakistan is already grappling with its own sectarian bloodshed and must mind its relationship with Iran, while its foreign policy is focused on negotiations with the Taliban over the future of Afghanistan and its longtime rivalry with India. "They have their hands full," the source said. "And even if they want to, I don't think they'll be able to give much concrete help." Jordan is also reportedly leery about fielding a large Syrian rebel army on its soil. The ambitious Saudi plan would require a level of support from Amman "that is opposed within the security and military establishment and is unlikely to be implemented," according to Sayigh. As the Saudis expand their effort to topple Assad, analysts say the central challenge is not to inflict tactical losses on the Syrian army, but to organize a coherent force that can coordinate its actions across the country. In other words, if Riyadh hopes to succeed where others have failed, it needs to get the politics right -- convincing the fragmented rebel groups, and their squabbling foreign patrons, to work together in pursuit of a shared goal. It's easier said than done. "The biggest problem facing the Saudis now is the same one facing the U.S., France, and anyone else interested in helping the rebels: the fragmentation of the rebels into groups fighting each other for local and regional dominance rather than cooperating to overthrow Assad," said David Ottaway, a scholar at the Wilson Center who wrote a biography of Prince Bandar. "Could the Saudis force [the rebel groups] to cooperate? I have my doubts."
THE government wanted it and the opposition has granted it, but no one has quite been able to explain any of it: talks with the Taliban are to be attempted again, but how, when and on what terms? The only thing that is clear since last weekend’s drone strike is that Hakeemullah Mehsud is dead and that the political class wants the public to believe that his killing has dealt a major blow to the talks process. Beyond that, nothing is clear. Even Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan’s claim that a three-member delegation was set to travel to the tribal areas the day Mehsud was killed remains unsubstantiated — and there is some reason to be sceptical of it. The problem is the government appears unwilling or unable to address any of the obvious problems with its dialogue strategy. Start with the obvious. The killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud could not have in and of itself ended the possibility of dialogue, as the government appeared to suggest in the aftermath of the drone strike. For if the TTP can continue its attacks going into peace talks — set aside the attacks whose provenance is for whatever reasons disputed and that still leaves the killing of an army general in Upper Dir that was explicitly and in video evidence claimed by a branch of the TTP — then why does an attack on the TTP necessarily scuttle peace talks? If the TTP can talk about talking while still fighting, why is the political class so afraid to claim the state’s right to do the same? Surely, signalling fear and meekness so publicly to the TTP cannot possibly help the negotiating process. Or does the government intend to submit to whatever the TTP wants short of disbanding the government and scrapping the Constitution altogether? More problematic still is if the government and pro-talks lobbies are taken at their word when they claim that the spate of attacks, since it was agreed that dialogue with the TTP will be pursued first, are the doing of anti-peace and hostile elements. If that is in fact true, then what is the point of talking to the TTP at all? For even if the TTP has kept its guns silent and temporarily put away its suicide vests, bombs and IEDS, there has still been an unacceptable level of violence in the country the past few months. So what kind of peace can the TTP guarantee anyway, even if dialogue is successful? Mystery and confusion, thy names are Pakistan, at least at present.
The most brutal terrorist is being presented like an apostle of peace who was about to lead his country to the Promised LandIt is rare that a country’s top leaders are seen virtually bawling over the death of its enemy number one. But Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Mr Imran Khan did pull that off. The two leaders have led the national wailing over the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud and his cohorts in a drone attack on his house in Dande Darpa Khel village, North Waziristan Agency (NWA). The two Khans made it sound like a helpful boy scout and not the ringleader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had been assassinated. The most brutal terrorist is being presented like an apostle of peace who was about to lead his country to the Promised Land. And, of course, the big bad US is the vicious villain according to the Interior Minister and his former college mate Mr Imran Khan. The lamentation for Hakeemullah Mehsud and the vitriol against the US is literally a replay of how Pakistan and its leaders had reacted to Osama bin Laden’s 2011 killing. After bin Laden’s death there was a lucid interval of a few days where the then president Mr Asif Zardari and his close aides sought to take the opportunity to make a clean break with Pakistan’s dubious past association with jihadist terrorism. But they could not withstand the drummed up anti-US sentiment and caved in. The leaked bin Laden Commission Report, which has still not been released by Pakistan, essentially identifies the US, not bin Laden or the terrorist outfit(s) he sired, as Pakistan’s enemy number one. The report said that the US had “acted like a criminal thug”, and it termed the US raid on bin Laden’s lair “an act of war”. Similar rhetoric was codified in the September 9, 2013 All Parties Conference’s declaration that condemned the US actions as “illegal and immoral” and responsible for the terrorist ‘blowback’. The same document, which elevated the murderous thugs like Hakeemullah Mehsud to ‘stakeholder’ level and threatened to take the drone attacks issue to the UN, now serves as the guideline for negotiating peace with the TTP. A pathological lack of insight into Pakistan’s own role in creating the terrorist monsters and then dragging its feet in countering them, along with a rabid anti-Americanism, is the centrepiece of Pakistan’s response to Mehsud’s killing. The Pakistani leadership is unwilling to even acknowledge that Mehsud was a ruthless killer, responsible for slaughtering thousands of innocent Pakistanis. In their zeal to take the drone issue to the UN, Pakistani leaders ignore that Mehsud had planned and ordered, from Pakistani soil, the December 2009 attack against the CIA’s Chapman base in Khost, Afghanistan that killed several Americans. The attack was the prime example of collaboration between the TTP, al Qaeda and the Haqqani terrorist network (HQN). The Jordanian double agent, Dr Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi alias Abu Dujana al-Khorasani, trained with the TTP in the areas of NWA under the HQN’s control. Al Qaeda was the first, in January 2010, to applaud the attack but interestingly did not claim direct responsibility, saying that appropriate groups will own the attack. The attack was then claimed by the TTP in a video (http://youtu.be/RTZQTC6ucVI) released by its propaganda wing Umar Media in which none other than Mehsud himself flanked the suicide bomber Abu Dujana. Mehsud also orchestrated the May 2010 Times Square attack by Faisal Shahzad which, according to Bob Woodward, would have entailed a formidable US response had the bomb gone off. Woodward had noted that up to 150 terrorist targets could have been bombed in response to a catastrophe that only luck had averted. Pakistan did little or nothing to put Mehsud out of commission in over two years after the Times Square attack. It appears that Mehsud continued to enjoy sanctuary in the territory virtually ceded to the HQN by Pakistan in a compound not far from an army garrison. The so-called bad Taliban thriving under the wing of the good Taliban a la HQN underscore the problem with Pakistan’s piecemeal fight against terrorism. Combine that with the political shrieking over Mehsud’s death and it is safe to predict that Pakistan will botch another opportunity to rally against the TTP when that terrorist cohort is weak. The leadership transitions in the TTP have never been smooth. When his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack in 2009, the Mehsud faction fought the rival and later his number two, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. Both terrorists were reportedly wounded. Ultimately, Sirajuddin Haqqani arbitrated and Hakeemullah Mehsud became the TTP’s emir. There now is a three-way tussle within the TTP between the Mullah Fazlullah, Khan Said ‘Sajna’ and Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani groups for Mehsud’s slot. Bhittani was tight with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), is among the founders of the LeJ al-Alami, and had masterminded the December 2009 attack on the Muharram procession in Karachi that killed 45. He has been appointed the interim TTP chief. Pakistan had a chance to capitalise on this gain and bolster its negotiating position by further degrading and decapitating the TTP when it is certainly down. But that would have required a resolve not just to take the fight to the terrorist group but to also brace for their retaliation by rallying the nation. The Pakistani political leadership, especially Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, does not appear disposed to taking hard decisions. Mr Sharif has let his Interior Minister and Mr Imran Khan set an extremely harsh anti-American tone, which he will find difficult to scale back. Whether or not the belligerent Mr Khan can block the NATO supply route, he has succeeded in mainstreaming and deifying a merciless killer. Chances are that the sectarian mass murderer Asmatullah Bhittani will get the same white-glove treatment from the Pakistani leaders. Routed in the elections swayed by the TTP, the secular leadership is too weak and fearful to counter the pro-Taliban narrative. Even if some in the military helped take out Hakeemullah Mehsud, the security establishment itself will keep playing footsie with the ‘good’ Taliban. Pakistan’s counterterrorism policy, strategy or even tactics are unlikely to change soon. The US will remain a convenient piñata for a country that does not want to face its own demons. The US must cover all legal bases but should not cave in to the predominantly Punjab-based Pakistani wailing over the most wanted terrorists from Osama bin Laden to Hakeemullah Mehsud. As a Pashtun tribesman summed it up: khas kam, jahan paak (Good riddance to bad rubbish).
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
By Mark Urban Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight. While the kingdom's quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran's atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic. Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery. Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, "the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring." Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, "we will get nuclear weapons", the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions. Gary Samore, until March 2013 President Barack Obama's counter-proliferation adviser, has told Newsnight: "I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan." The story of Saudi Arabia's project - including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges - goes back decades. In the late 1980s they secretly bought dozens of CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China. These rockets, considered by many experts too inaccurate for use as conventional weapons, were deployed 20 years ago. This summer experts at defence publishers Jane's reported the completion of a new Saudi CSS-2 base with missile launch rails aligned with Israel and Iran. It has also been clear for many years that Saudi Arabia has given generous financial assistance to Pakistan's defence sector, including, western experts allege, to its missile and nuclear labs. Visits by the then Saudi defence minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud to the Pakistani nuclear research centre in 1999 and 2002 underlined the closeness of the defence relationship. In its quest for a strategic deterrent against India, Pakistan co-operated closely with China which sold them missiles and provided the design for a nuclear warhead. The Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was accused by western intelligence agencies of selling atomic know-how and uranium enrichment centrifuges to Libya and North Korea. AQ Khan is also believed to have passed the Chinese nuclear weapon design to those countries. This blueprint was for a device engineered to fit on the CSS-2 missile, i.e the same type sold to Saudi Arabia. Because of this circumstantial evidence, allegations of a Saudi-Pakistani nuclear deal started to circulate even in the 1990s, but were denied by Saudi officials. They noted that their country had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and called for a nuclear-free Middle East, pointing to Israel's possession of such weapons. The fact that handing over atom bombs to a foreign government could create huge political difficulties for Pakistan, not least with the World Bank and other donors, added to scepticism about those early claims. In Eating the Grass, his semi-official history of the Pakistani nuclear program, Major General Feroz Hassan Khan wrote that Prince Sultan's visits to Pakistan's atomic labs were not proof of an agreement between the two countries. But he acknowledged, "Saudi Arabia provided generous financial support to Pakistan that enabled the nuclear program to continue." Whatever understandings did or did not exist between the two countries in the 1990s, it was around 2003 that the kingdom started serious strategic thinking about its changing security environment and the prospect of nuclear proliferation. A paper leaked that year by senior Saudi officials mapped out three possible responses - to acquire their own nuclear weapons, to enter into an arrangement with another nuclear power to protect the kingdom, or to rely on the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. It was around the same time, following the US invasion of Iraq, that serious strains in the US/Saudi relationship began to show themselves, says Gary Samore. The Saudis resented the removal of Saddam Hussein, had long been unhappy about US policy on Israel, and were growing increasingly concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. In the years that followed, diplomatic chatter about Saudi-Pakistani nuclear cooperation began to increase. In 2007, the US mission in Riyadh noted they were being asked questions by Pakistani diplomats about US knowledge of "Saudi-Pakistani nuclear cooperation". The unnamed Pakistanis opined that "it is logical for the Saudis to step in as the physical 'protector'" of the Arab world by seeking nuclear weapons, according to one of the State Department cables posted by Wikileaks. By the end of that decade Saudi princes and officials were giving explicit warnings of their intention to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran did. Having warned the Americans in private for years, last year Saudi officials in Riyadh escalated it to a public warning, telling a journalist from the Times "it would be completely unacceptable to have Iran with a nuclear capability and not the kingdom". But were these statements bluster, aimed at forcing a stronger US line on Iran, or were they evidence of a deliberate, long-term plan for a Saudi bomb? Both, is the answer I have received from former key officials. One senior Pakistani, speaking on background terms, confirmed the broad nature of the deal - probably unwritten - his country had reached with the kingdom and asked rhetorically "what did we think the Saudis were giving us all that money for? It wasn't charity." Another, a one-time intelligence officer from the same country, said he believed "the Pakistanis certainly maintain a certain number of warheads on the basis that if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time they would immediately be transferred." As for the seriousness of the Saudi threat to make good on the deal, Simon Henderson, Director of the Global Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told BBC Newsnight "the Saudis speak about Iran and nuclear matters very seriously. They don't bluff on this issue." Talking to many serving and former officials about this over the past few months, the only real debate I have found is about how exactly the Saudi Arabians would redeem the bargain with Pakistan. Some think it is a cash-and-carry deal for warheads, the first of those options sketched out by the Saudis back in 2003; others that it is the second, an arrangement under which Pakistani nuclear forces could be deployed in the kingdom. Gary Samore, considering these questions at the centre of the US intelligence and policy web, at the White House until earlier this year, thinks that what he calls, "the Nato model", is more likely. However ,"I think just giving Saudi Arabia a handful of nuclear weapons would be a very provocative action", says Gary Samore. He adds: "I've always thought it was much more likely - the most likely option if Pakistan were to honour any agreement would be for be for Pakistan to send its own forces, its own troops armed with nuclear weapons and with delivery systems to be deployed in Saudi Arabia". This would give a big political advantage to Pakistan since it would allow them to deny that they had simply handed over the weapons, but implies a dual key system in which they would need to agree in order for 'Saudi Arabian' "nukes" to be launched. Others I have spoken to think this is not credible, since Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as the leader of the broader Sunni Islamic 'ummah' or community, would want complete control of its nuclear deterrent, particularly at this time of worsening sectarian confrontation with Shia Iran. And it is Israeli information - that Saudi Arabia is now ready to take delivery of finished warheads for its long-range missiles - that informs some recent US and Nato intelligence reporting. Israel of course shares Saudi Arabia's motive in wanting to worry the US into containing Iran. Amos Yadlin declined to be interviewed for our BBC Newsnight report, but told me by email that "unlike other potential regional threats, the Saudi one is very credible and imminent." Even if this view is accurate there are many good reasons for Saudi Arabia to leave its nuclear warheads in Pakistan for the time being. Doing so allows the kingdom to deny there are any on its soil. It avoids challenging Iran to cross the nuclear threshold in response, and it insulates Pakistan from the international opprobrium of being seen to operate an atomic cash-and-carry. These assumptions though may not be safe for much longer. The US diplomatic thaw with Iran has touched deep insecurities in Riyadh, which fears that any deal to constrain the Islamic republic's nuclear program would be ineffective. Earlier this month the Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar announced that the kingdom would be distancing itself more from the US. While investigating this, I have heard rumours on the diplomatic grapevine, that Pakistan has recently actually delivered Shaheen mobile ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, minus warheads. These reports, still unconfirmed, would suggest an ability to deploy nuclear weapons in the kingdom, and mount them on an effective, modern, missile system more quickly than some analysts had previously imagined. In Egypt, Saudi Arabia showed itself ready to step in with large-scale backing following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi's government. There is a message here for Pakistan, of Riyadh being ready to replace US military assistance or World Bank loans, if standing with Saudi Arabia causes a country to lose them. Newsnight contacted both the Pakistani and Saudi governments. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry has described our story as "speculative, mischievous and baseless". It adds: "Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapon state with robust command and control structures and comprehensive export controls." The Saudi embassy in London has also issued a statement pointing out that the Kingdom is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and has worked for a nuclear free Middle East. But it also points out that the UN's "failure to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone is one of the reasons the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejected the offer of a seat on the UN Security Council". It says the Saudi Foreign Minister has stressed that this lack of international action "has put the region under the threat of a time bomb that cannot easily be defused by manoeuvring around it".