EXCLUSIVE – Dr. A.Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and a widely suspected supplier of nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea, told Fox News Tuesday that the Islamic republic’s recent nuclear deal with the United States and its negotiating partners may have saved Iran from disaster, either in the form of an internal coup or external attack.
In an email to FOX News, the Pakistani scientist said the Iranian leadership has “very wisely and pragmatically saved their country from a very bad situation --- call it a disaster, if you like.”
Khan said that if Iran had not agreed to the deal, “ongoing chaos would have left the field open to a military coup sponsored by the West, just as has happened in Egypt.”
Simon Henderson, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, noted that in the email “Khan avoided any reference to his own involvement in supplying Iran with uranium enrichment technology. The 5,000 plus IR-1 centrifuges, which Iran is being allowed to keep in operation, are copies of Pakistan’s own P-1 centrifuge type.”
The Pakistani link remains a “perhaps crucially interesting dimension” of Iran’s nuclear program worthy of greater investigation, Henderson said.
As a scientist, a metallurgist, and strong willed bureaucrat, Khan remains a popular figure in Pakistan. He has long been suspected of being at the center of a worldwide nuclear arms trafficking network, earning him the nickname “Nuclear Johnny Appleseed.”
Iran, China, Libya and North Korea are believed to have paid millions for Khan’s nuclear expertise for their illicit programs. Khan insists all his activities were approved by successive military and civilian administrations in Pakistan.
In 2013, Khan told FOX News in a phone interview that he had developed a missile program with North Korea.
That interview occurred after North Korea’s February 11, 2013 nuclear test. Experts described that test to FOX as a miniaturized atomic bomb of six to seven kilotons mounted on a Nodong missile. This was technology brought to Pakistan from North Korea by Khan in the early 1990s.
“Officially we had a program with them," Khan said in the interview. "I went there twice…we had a missile program.”
It has been widely reported Khan visited North Korea more than a dozen times to secure the Nodong missile design, which he renamed the Ghauri.
Pakistan first demonstrated its successful nuclear detonation in Chagai in May 1998 under Khan’s supervision.
Published reports, including reporting by FOX News, have long noted that Iranian officials met with Khan associates in the late 1980s.
Henderson described his own meeting with Khan in which, “he told me of how on one occasion in the 1980s a senior Iranian flew to Pakistan with the hope of picking up three nuclear bombs from the Pakistani military.”
At the time, Henderson said, a senior Pakistani officer persuaded the Iranian envoy there had been a “misunderstanding.”
Henderson said the Iranian involved, Ali Shamkani, is now a close adviser to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In the July 27 issue of “The New Yorker,” journalist Steve Coll wrote that Khan maintained a secret office in Dubai above a children’s store called Mummy & Me. There in 1987, for approximately $10 million, Coll wrote that “the Iranians received a one-page document that included the offer of a disassembled centrifuge, along with diagrams of the machine.”
Pamela K. Browne is Senior Executive Producer at the FOX News Channel (FNC) and is Director of Long-Form Series and Specials. Her journalism has been recognized with several awards. Browne first joined FOX in 1997 to launch the news magazine “Fox Files” and later, “War Stories.”