Mock-up of an Israeli Bomb (courtesy Mordechai Vanunu
History repeats itself: a Middle Eastern country launches its own nuclear
program. The international community suspects it is a cover for building atomic
weapons. The United States calls for the country’s nuclear sites to be
inspected. Another government urges the country to scrap its nuclear plans.
It is answered by defiant boasts that the nation's sovereignty will not be compromised.
The country in question is not Iran in 2006, but Israel in 1969. The
current dispute over Iran's
nuclear program has shocking parallels with the tensions sparked off by
Israel’s attempts to acquire the
nuclear bomb in the 60s. The only major difference is that the U.S. decided
at the time not to curb the Israeli
nuclear program. Recently declassified documents reveal that the
Nixon administration reached a secret understanding with the Israelis in 1969
that allowed them to pursue their nuclear
program as long as they maintain a policy of deliberate ambiguity.
In fact, this understanding paved the way for Israel, the 4th largest military
power in the world, to be the only nuclear
power in the Middle East and the world’s sixth country to acquire
a title its government has never admitted nor denied, according to an article
on AFP. Despite its policy of ambiguity, Israel’s
nuclear arsenal is estimated between 200 and 300 warheads. According to
Eldridge, editor in chief of Jane's Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense,
this estimate "is based on the production capacity of the country's reactors.”
Meanwhile, the International Institute of Strategic Studies estimates the number
of warheads that Israel possesses as being "up to 200". And the Nuclear
Threat Initiative, a U.S. advocacy group co-founded by Ted Turner, the founder
of CNN and a former senator, believes that Israel’s arsenal "is comparable
in quality and quantity to that of France and the United Kingdom."
With French assistance, Israel built a nuclear
weapons facility at Dimona in the Negev desert in 1958. The Dimona site
has a plutonium/tritium production reactor, an underground chemical separation
plant, and nuclear component fabrication facilities. In the early years of its
Israel may have used French testing data to confirm its own weapon designs.
Moreover, recently declassified British documents show that Britain helped Israel
in making its nuclear
bomb forty years ago, when it sold the Jewish state 20 tonnes of heavy water,
a key substance for the production of atomic bombs. Experts suggest that the
Israeli Defense Forces had their first
nuclear weapons ready before the Six-Day War.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona, revealed to the media
evidence that Israel possessed and produced nuclear
weapons. At the time of Vanunu's arrest, The Times reported that
Israel had material for approximately 20 hydrogen bombs and 200 fission bombs.
According to AFP, an unspecified number of ground-to-ground missiles,
comprising short range Jericho 1 and medium range Jericho 2 missiles, forms
Israel's strategic force. At the end of the 1990s, the Jewish state also acquired
three diesel-powered, Dolphin-class submarines, capable of launching nuclear-armed
cruise missiles. Moreover, the Washington Post recently reported that Israel
has succeeded in modifying U.S.-made cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear
warheads to be launched from submarines.
Unlike Iran and North Korea, Israel has never signed the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, designed to prevent the global spread of nuclear
weapons. As a result, it is not subject to inspections and the threat of sanctions
by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has repeatedly asked Israel to give up
its secret nuclear arsenal to avoid an arms race in the Middle East.
U.S. intelligence agencies often omit Israel from semiannual reports to Congress
identifying countries developing weapons
of mass destruction to protect the Jewish state from any economic or military
sanctions. On the other hand, the U.S. is leading an international campaign
against Iran over its nuclear
program, which Tehran insists is for generating power.
Israel also stepped up rhetoric against Iran. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon
Peres warned on Monday that Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off
the map, should bear in mind that his own country could also be destroyed.
Although Peres didn’t say who should attack Iran, he implied that military
action should be led by the U.S., pointing to the wars in Afghanistan
The U.S. is striving to get a UN
Security Council resolution demanding the Islamic Republic to halt uranium
enrichment activities. But the truth is that Tehran hasn’t violated the
Treaty (NPT) or any other international obligations.
“Let me remind everybody that nothing Iran is accused of doing is illegal,”
said Scott Ritter, the former UN
weapons inspector who challenged the Bush
administration's drive to Iraq
War. “We’re condemning Iran for doing that which is permitted
under a treaty which it has signed and entered into in force, and has UN
inspectors on the ground verifying Iranian compliance.”
It is obvious that Israel, which already possesses nuclear
weapons, poses danger to Middle East stability. The U.S.--the only nation
to have ever used nuclear weapons against human beings-- should bear in mind
this fact before it presses Tehran over its nuclear
ambitions. Washington’s refusal to consider Iran’s proposal
to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone shows what all the U.S. hype about
program is really about. It simply doesn’t want to eliminate nuclear
weapons in the Middle East as long as they remain in the hands of an ally.