Iran - The Next Israeli Domino
By Terrell E. Arnold

According to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, "Iran is fast approaching the point of no return in its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons capability," and as reported September 2 by AFP, he considers this a "nightmare scenario". That could be so if, as Shalom appears to assume, the most likely target for an Iranian nuclear weapon is Israel. His solution is to call on the world community to use the processes of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency to pressure Iran into systematic inspections by IAEA of the country,s nuclear facilities with the goal, of course, of deterring Iranian weapons development.
The whole world should view with concern the possible development of nuclear weapons by any new country, including Iran, as well as the possession of nuclear weapons by any country, including the United States. But the Israeli posture on the matter is a supreme irony. Beginning immediately after World War II and the founding of Israel, the Israelis began a nuclear weapons development program. Under President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program they acquired knowledge and technology that, contrary to the Atoms for Peace rules, they parlayed into a nuclear weapons program. With the help of the French they developed a reactor and, it is said, with the help of South Africa, the Israelis successfully tested a weapon in the late 1960s.
They have since accumulated a stockpile variously estimated at 250 weapons, how many nuclear and how many thermonuclear is not clear. Their nuclear facilities at Dimona in the Negev Desert are off limits to all visitors.
They admit nothing to the international community. They have not joined the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). With their not so secret weapons stockpile they have become the driving energy for nuclear weapons development programs by Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and others.
It is now obvious, if not admitted by Washington,s neo-conservative hawks, that much of the so-called intelligence about Iraq,s nuclear program under Saddam Hussein was based on Iraqi exile and Israeli, meaning Mossad, reports. On the basis of such tenuous truths the United States launched an unprovoked war against another nation and put 150,000 young Americans and others in harm,s way in Iraq. At the present rate, the US will spend many billions of dollars and thousands of American, Iraqi and other lives to clean up the resulting mess. Given the Iraq record, the neo-conservatives would be complete fools to attack Iran based on Israeli or Iranian exile information.
Since its acquisition of nuclear weapons, Israel has stalked aggressively behind a double standard. While refusing to take a position one way or the other on its own weapons and ignoring international criticism, Israel has successfully used its considerable influence in US and European affairs to get any development of such weapons by its would be enemies on an international taboo list. The problem is that Israel has the weapons; everybody knows it; other governments accept the possibility that provoked, Israel may use such weapons against them; those governments seek to develop such weapons at least in their own defense; and this is the operative formula for the long-term Middle East arms race.
Israeli nuclear weapons are at the center of this problem. It will not be resolved by efforts to suppress weapons development in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt or any other regional country. It might be disrupted by an absolute ban on the export of nuclear related technologies to any of those countries, but do not count on agreement to or enforcement of such a ban. If Israel succeeds in conning the United States, the European Union, perhaps the UN, and of course the Iranians into stopping weapons development in Iran, the next Israeli domino will be Pakistan, a Muslim country that already has tested weapons that, like the Israelis, are outside the purview of the non-proliferation treaty. The Israeli weapons are at their very least an attractive nuisance, and they will remain so unless destroyed.
The grown up elephant in the room is the existence of nuclear weapons anywhere. Israeli weapons represent a grown up offspring, because with 250 or more weapons, Israel at least rivals China for pride of place in the nuclear club. But the newest driving forces are the plans of the main nuclear power, the United States. Far from acquiescing in the destruction of nuclear weapons, the United States already uses UN-banned depleted uranium weapons and has announced plans to upgrade and develop new battlefield nuclear weapons, including bunker busters to take out the deepest enemy safe-havens. As the history of arms races has shown for millennia, that plan will inspire others to the same excesses.
Israel,s plan to keep its own weapons while using the international system to keep its potential enemies from developing them will not work. Rather, at least sixteen, some say more countries will continue basically underground efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and delivery systems that fit protection needs against perceived enemies. Developed countries will continue to abet this process by providing either approved, e.g., electric power generating, or "dual use" materials and equipment.
Survival is a powerful urge, and Israeli nuclear weapons are a blatant threat. It appears, probably realistically, that Islamic countries perceive Israeli weapons as a greater threat than any or even all of the weapons in the official club. That positions Israel at the vortex of a potential horrific storm. The bad news is that most people do not pay much attention to this problem. US officials mostly treat it like the headlights of an oncoming car, looking right by it. The good news is that a growing number of Israelis are concerned about the future of Israel, and nuclear weapons are only part of the cloud over it.
The writer is a former Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State. He will welcome your comments at




This Site Served by TheHostPros