- 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 atomic weapons, 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
- 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 nuclear program, 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 and Iraq.
- 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 Nuclear Non-Proliferation
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 Iran's nuclear 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.