The Middle East has had a secretive nuclear power in its midst for years By George Monbiot

Dandelion Salad

By George Monbiot
11/20/07 “The Guardian

When will the US and the UK tell the truth about Israeli weapons? Iran isn’t starting an atomic arms race, it’s joining one

George Bush and Gordon Brown are right: there should be no nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The risk of a nuclear conflagration could be greater there than anywhere else. Any nation developing them should expect a firm diplomatic response. So when will they impose sanctions on Israel?

Like them, I believe that Iran is trying to acquire the bomb. I also believe it should be discouraged, by a combination of economic pressure and bribery, from doing so (a military response would, of course, be disastrous). I believe that Bush and Brown – who maintain their nuclear arsenals in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty – are in no position to lecture anyone else. But if, as Bush claims, the proliferation of such weapons “would be a dangerous threat to world peace”, why does neither man mention the fact that Israel, according to a secret briefing by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, possesses between 60 and 80 of them?

Officially, the Israeli government maintains a position of “nuclear ambiguity”: neither confirming nor denying its possession of nuclear weapons. But everyone who has studied the issue knows that this is a formula with a simple purpose: to give the United States an excuse to keep breaking its own laws, which forbid it to grant aid to a country with unauthorised weapons of mass destruction. The fiction of ambiguity is fiercely guarded. In 1986, when the nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu handed photographs of Israel’s bomb factory to the Sunday Times, he was lured from Britain to Rome, drugged and kidnapped by Mossad agents, tried in secret, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He served 12 of them in solitary confinement and was banged up again – for six months – soon after he was released.

However, in December last year, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, accidentally let slip that Israel, like “America, France and Russia”, had nuclear weapons. Opposition politicians were furious. They attacked Olmert for “a lack of caution bordering on irresponsibility”. But US aid continues to flow without impediment.

As the fascinating papers released last year by the National Security Archive show, the US government was aware in 1968 that Israel was developing a nuclear device (what it didn’t know is that the first one had already been built by then). The contrast to the efforts now being made to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb could scarcely be starker.

At first, US diplomats urged Washington to make its sale of 50 F4 Phantom jets conditional on Israel’s abandonment of its nuclear programme. As a note sent from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to the secretary of state in October 1968 reveals, the order would make the US “the principal supplier of Israel’s military needs” for the first time. In return, it should require “commitments that would make it more difficult for Israel to take the critical decision to go nuclear”. Such pressure, the memo suggested, was urgently required: France had just delivered the first of a consignment of medium range missiles, and Israel intended to equip them with nuclear warheads.

Twenty days later, on November 4 1968, when the assistant defence secretary met Yitzhak Rabin (then the Israeli ambassador to Washington), Rabin “did not dispute in any way our information on Israel’s nuclear or missile capability”. He simply refused to discuss it. Four days after that, Rabin announced that the proposal was “completely unacceptable to us”. On November 27, Lyndon Johnson’s administration accepted Israel’s assurance that “it will not be the first power in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons”.

As the memos show, US officials knew that this assurance had been broken even before it was made. A record of a phone conversation between Henry Kissinger and another official in July 1969 reveals that Richard Nixon was “very leery of cutting off the Phantoms”, despite Israel’s blatant disregard of the agreement. The deal went ahead, and from then on the US administration sought to bamboozle its own officials in order to defend Israel’s lie. In August 1969, US officials were sent to “inspect” Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant. But a memo from the state department reveals that “the US government is not prepared to support a ‘real’ inspection effort in which the team members can feel authorised to ask directly pertinent questions and/or insist on being allowed to look at records, logs, materials and the like. The team has in many subtle ways been cautioned to avoid controversy, ‘be gentlemen’ and not take issue with the obvious will of the hosts”.

Nixon refused to pass the minutes of the conversation he’d had with the Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, to the US ambassador to Israel, Wally Barbour. Meir and Nixon appear to have agreed that the Israeli programme could go ahead, as long as it was kept secret.

The US government has continued to protect it. Every six months, the intelligence agencies provide Congress with a report on technology acquired by foreign states that’s “useful for the development or production of weapons of mass destruction”. These reports discuss the programmes in India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and other nations, but not in Israel. Whenever other states have tried to press Israel to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the US and European governments have blocked them. Israel has also exempted itself from the biological and chemical weapons conventions.

By refusing to sign these treaties, Israel ensures it needs never be inspected. While the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors crawl round Iran’s factories, put seals on its uranium tanks and blow the whistle when it fails to cooperate, they have no legal authority to inspect facilities in Israel. So when the Israeli government complains, as it did last week, that the head of the IAEA is “sticking his head in the sand over Iran’s nuclear programme”, you can only gape at its chutzpah. Israel is constantly racking up the pressure for action against Iran, aware that no powerful state will press for action against Israel.

Yes, Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dangerous and unpredictable state involved in acts of terror abroad. The president is a Holocaust denier opposed to the existence of Israel. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran responded to Saddam Hussein’s toxic bombardments with chemical weapons of its own. But Israel under Olmert is also a dangerous and unpredictable state involved in acts of terror abroad. Two months ago it bombed a site in Syria (whose function is fiercely disputed). Last year, it launched a war of aggression against Lebanon. It remains in occupation of Palestinian lands. In February 2001, according to the BBC, it used chemical weapons in Gaza: 180 people were admitted to hospital with severe convulsions. Nuclear weapons in Israel’s hands are surely just as dangerous as nuclear weapons in Iran’s.

So when will our governments speak up? When will they acknowledge that there is already a nuclear power in the Middle East, and that it presents an existential threat to its neighbours? When will they admit that Iran is not starting a nuclear arms race, but joining one? When will they demand that the rules they impose on Iran should also apply to Israel?

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3 thoughts on “The Middle East has had a secretive nuclear power in its midst for years By George Monbiot

  1. Being a democracy does not automatically mean that Isael will not use those weapons against palestinians or anyone else attacking them. Israel is constantly in state of war with the entire Muslim world. The only reason US and UK are not so “nervous” about Israel having nuclear weapons is that Israel will not use them against the West. To say it straight, they are frogs in the same pond, allies on the same side. Iran is something strikingly different. That’s “second class world” which should never obtain that kind of power – for the West to be able to control it.
    By the way, Iran’s nuclear program corresponds to IAEA norms and is strictly controlled by international officials. There are hardly any weapons which are possible to produce on that equipment they have.

  2. Israel may have nuke bombs or may have not. No one really knows if there are at all and if there are, how many, how fierce and so? Why? Because Israel is a democracy and quite very tolerant state which not lives daily by threats and threatening to annihilate others.

    Iran is quite the opposite. Iran is controlled by a fanatic clerical and mobilized regime which exports a permanent Islamic Shiite revolution at home and abroad. That “export” lays mainly on a vast terror infrastructure in Lebanon, Bosnia (in the 90′ Bosnian war) and for the last few years it has been spread into Gaza strip’s Hamas terror state. Iran and especially its lunatic president never stopped threatening to destroy Israel, Europe and the US, while they prepare the tools to do so.

    It’s quite a different situation which should be confronted by the western alliance democracies, before Iran gets the Nukes!

  3. Yes, Israel has nuclear bombs.

    Back in 1997, The U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama,issued a report showing that even then, Isrtarel had 400 nuclear bombs, some of them H- bombs, each having 1000 times the energy of the bomb that wiped out Hiroshima . There is evidence that, since then, it trippled that number.

    Israel is a small country yet is a super power, and had to become one because the Moslem jihadists wowed to push its Jews into the sea.

    Israel can wipe out ALL its enemies in one strike, and can itself absort a first strike before it does this because many of its nukes are on submarines and other vessels. Israel is not using these weapons but I repeat that it could make short shrift of its enmies within two hours.

    It would be best for its enemies to realize the following in their very bones: if any of them throws a nuke bomb on Israel, it will use its enormous arsenal of atomic and hydrogen bombs on ALL its known enemies without trying to first find out which of them was responsible for that act . Its leaders know that they have no time to make such a determination, and survivors of such an attack wold demand this.

    In addition, the crews of the Israeli submarines and other vessels have orders to launch a strike against the known foes of Israel, and will autmotically do this if Israel is nuked.

    This is not 1939. Jews will not go into other types of Dachaus or Buchenwalds, or be thrown into the sea. as the jihadist and the president of Iran proclaim .

    57 percent of the scientists who developed the atomic bomb were Jews. The Germans did not come close to even build a a reactor with sustainable fission, but the U.S had it in 1942. The patent for nuclear reactors that could produce energy while turning U238 into weapons grade PU239 was isued to the Jewsih scientist named Schilard, and Italian scientist named Fermi.

    Israel has other weapons in addition to nukes and its Moslem foes best realize this, lest they be sent to the 72 virgins reserved for each of them who tries to annihilate the Jewish state.

    Moses Olitzki

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