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WikiLeaks: tension in the Middle East and Asia has ‘direct potential’ to lead to nuclear war

February 3, 2011

Tension in the Middle East and Asia has given rise to an escalating atomic arms and missiles race which has “the direct potential to lead to nuclear war,” leaked diplomatic documents disclose.

By Heidi BlakeRogue states are also increasing their efforts to secure chemical and biological weapons, and the means to deploy them, leaving billions in the world’s most densely populated area at risk of a devastating strike, the documents show.

States such as North Korea, Syria and Iran are developing long-range missiles capable of hitting targets outside the region, records of top-level security briefings obtained by WikiLeaks show.

Long-running hostilities between India and Pakistan – which both have nuclear weapons capabilities – are at the root of fears of a nuclear conflict in the region. A classified Pentagon study estimated in 2002 that a nuclear war between the two countries could result in 12 million deaths.

Secret records of a US security briefing at an international non-proliferation summit in 2008 stated that “a nuclear and missile arms race [in South Asia] has the direct potential to lead to nuclear war in the world’s most densely populated area and a region of increasing global economic significance”.

The same briefing gave warning that development of cruise and ballistic missiles in the Middle East and Asia could enable rogue states to fire weapons of mass destruction into neighboring regions.

The leaked documents also disclose alarming details of the chemical and biological weapons programs being pursued by rogue states such as Syria and North Korea.

Syria – which backs the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah – is believed to be developing chemical weapons using the lethal nerve agents sarin and VX, which shut down the nervous system in under a minute if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

In December 2008, a company connected to the Syrian WMD programme attempted to buy a shipment of glass-lined reactors, heat exchangers and pumps used in weapons manufacturing from two Indian firms, prompting an intervention by the US.

Condoleezza Rice, then US Secretary of State, sent a strongly-worded cable classified “secret” to the US embassy in New Delhi instructing diplomats to order the Indian government to block the sale.

Threatening sanctions against the firms if they did not comply, Miss Rice urged embassy officials to remind the Indian government of its obligation “to never, under any circumstances, assist anyone in the development of chemical weapons”.

The US has made similar interventions to block the sale of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons materials to North Korea.

In March 2008, US diplomats in Beijing urged the government to investigate a Chinese company which had agreed to sell a deadly chemical to North Korea.

The US has also been advised to make flattering overtures to North Korea to prevent the regime from feeling the need to flex its muscles by advancing its nuclear capabilities.

South Korean politicians told US diplomats last year that the North had made a show of testing nuclear missiles in the early months of Barack Obama’s presidency because it was “feeling ignored and lonely” and was “trying to draw America’s attention”.

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