“I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.” My latest in FP:
“You can make a dirty bomb, which would be perfect for the Islamic State,” an arms smuggler is quoted as saying to a potential buyer in Moldova in an Associated Press report published Wednesday. “If you have a connection with them, the business will go smoothly.”
Arms smugglers, says the report, are specifically targeting Islamic jihad groups, principally but not solely the Islamic State, to sell them material for bombs – including nuclear material. One explained: “I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.”
Another seller, a former KGB informant named Teodor Chetrus who had come into the possession of some uranium, “said multiple times that this substance must have a real buyer from the Islamic states to make a dirty bomb.” Chetrus, it seemed, had retained a Cold War-era hatred of the United States, and hoped to aid the jihadis in taking down his old enemy.
Yet another seller who had material that could be used to make a dirty bomb explained to middlemen that he wanted to sell it to the Islamic State: “They have the money and they will know what to do with it.”
The FBI has reportedly foiled four attempts to sell nuclear material to the Islamic State, and there will no doubt be more. Certainly the Islamic State is a willing buyer. Last May, its magazine Dabiq (which is itself named after the northern Syrian town where Islamic prophecy holds that the final military showdown between the Muslims and the non-Muslims will take place) included an article entitled “The Perfect Storm,” purportedly written by the Islamic State’s hostage-cum-propagandist John Cantlie, and predicting that the self-styled caliphate would be a nuclear power within a year.
In the article, Cantlie bragged that the Islamic State had captured “tanks, rocket launchers, missile systems, anti-aircraft systems” from both the United States and Iran, and said that it was now working assiduously to obtain nuclear weapons.
Cantlie sketched out a scenario by which the Islamic State could get nuclear material: “Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table. The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilāyah [province] in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region.”
This scenario, Cantlie boasted, was “the sum of all fears for Western intelligence agencies and it’s infinitely more possible today than it was just one year ago. And if not a nuke, what about a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive? That’s easy enough to make.”
And once it had this material, Cantlie wrote, the Islamic State would be “looking to do something big, something that would make any past operation look like a squirrel shoot, and the more groups that pledge allegiance the more possible it becomes to pull off something truly epic.”
Reminding his readers of the rapid growth of the Islamic State since its declaration of the caliphate on June 29, 2014, Cantlie added: “Remember, all of this has happened in less than a year. How more dangerous will be the lines of communication and supply a year on from today?”
But not to worry: Barack Obama is on the case. White House spokesman Josh Earnest declared: “The United States government is committed to counter the threat of nuclear smuggling, and ensuring that terrorist groups who may seek to acquire these materials are never able to do so. Seizures of nuclear and radioactive materials in Moldova demonstrate the Moldovan government’s commitment to countering these tactics.”
Given Obama’s spectacular success in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, these are words every American can take as ironclad. In the real world, however, the various candidates for President should be making their plan to increase efforts to stop nuclear arms smuggling a centerpiece of their campaigns. That none are doing so is testimony to the impenetrable fog of unreality that envelops both parties’ response to the Islamic State threat.
Unless and until that fog of unreality is dispelled, the likelihood continues to increase that it will one day bring to America a quite different atmospheric phenomenon: a mushroom cloud.