tirsdag 12. oktober 2021

AQ Khan: The most dangerous man in the world?

On December 11 2003, a group of CIA and MI6 officers were about to board an unmarked plane in Libya when they were handed a stack of half a dozen brown envelopes. The team were at the end of a clandestine mission involving tense negotiations with Libyan officials. When they opened the envelopes on board the plane, they found they had been given the final piece of evidence they needed: inside were designs for a nuclear weapon. Those designs - as well as many of the components for an off-the-shelf nuclear programme - had been supplied by AQ Khan, who has just died aged 85.

Khan was one of the most significant figures in global security in the last half-century, his story at the heart of the battle over the world's most dangerous technology, fought between those who have it and those who want it. Former CIA Director George Tenet described Khan as "at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden", quite a comparison when bin Laden had been behind the September 11th attacks.

The fact AQ Khan could be described as one of the most dangerous men in the world by Western spies but also lauded as a hero in his homeland tells you much about not just the complexity of the man himself but also how the world views nuclear weapons.