Still Pretending on Israel’s Nuke Arsenal

The United States has blocked a conference aimed at banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East, thus shielding Israel from criticism for keeping a rogue nuclear arsenal even as it threatens to attack Iran for the mere “capacity” to build a bomb. This latest move is counterproductive, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

This was supposed to be the month for an international conference to discuss a possible weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. The concept of such a zone has been addressed in past review conferences of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT), sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, and meetings at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The official convenors of the conference would be the United States, United Kingdom and Russia, the depository states for the NPT. The gathering was to have been hosted by Finland, with preparatory work having already been done by Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava.

A photograph of a control room at Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons plant in the 1980s. (Photograph was taken by nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who was later kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel as punishment for revealing its secret nuclear arsenal, which Israel still refuses to acknowledge.)

But a couple of weeks ago the State Department announced that “the conference cannot be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference.” The principal objector was Israel, which, notwithstanding its vociferous agitation about what it contends is a drive by Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, has always said that weapons-free zones in its region need to await a regional peace.

Postponing the conference was a missed opportunity. And this matter was not like, say, trying to get the Israelis to stop building settlements in occupied territory, which requires a positive Israeli action to accomplish anything.

As one of the convening powers, the United States, along with its British and Russian partners, could have simply gone ahead and convened the conference as scheduled. Israel could decide whether or not it would attend. The conference would be better with Israeli attendance, but could still do some good even without it.

No one believes creation of a nuclear- or WMD-free zone in the region is feasible any time soon. No signs suggest Israel is about to part with its arsenal of nuclear weapons. But the postponed conference was only going to discuss such a zone, not create one. Such discussion can be part of a long-term process beneficial to security in the region.

Nuclear weapons-free zones are a proven and well-established concept. They exist, among other places, in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The State Department announcement and the usual Israeli objections suggest that other types of conflict resolution must precede international agreements restricting categories of weapons.

But beneficial spillover effects can work in the other direction as well, just as during the Cold War strategic arms limitation agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union not only achieved reductions in nuclear arsenals but also became a tool of, and an impetus for, a larger process of detente.

Among the existing nuclear weapons-free zones, the one in Latin America is especially instructive in this regard. The treaty establishing it was negotiated before Argentina and Brazil had fully given up their nuclear weapons ambitions. The treaty established a framework for hastening that process and achieving broader reconciliation in South America.

Discussion of such a zone in the Middle East would help to move away from double standards and the hypocrisy that goes with it. The Iranians have a legitimate gripe in being subject to enormous pressures over the mere suspicion that they might someday use their current nuclear program to make a nuclear weapon, while their principal accuser and antagonist in the region has had a sizable nuclear weapons arsenal for decades.

Any Israelis legitimately concerned about the direction Iran might take on nuclear matters ought to realize that ending the double standard would be the best possible way to take away whatever wind is in Iranian sails. In any event, it is in the interests of the United States not to be involved in such hypocrisy.

Discussion of such a zone would be a step toward a long-term security regime that would be in every regional state’s interests, including Israel’s. With its overwhelming conventional superiority over its neighbors, Israel would be no less secure in a region in which no one, including itself, has nuclear or other unconventional weapons.

A thoughtful case can be made that Israel’s nuclear arsenal has not bought it any additional security in the past either.

A related matter concerns Israel’s refusal to acknowledge that arsenal, a refusal that precludes useful examination of Israel’s security needs even in private conversations with its benefactor, the United States.

Israel maintains the public position that it will “not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East”, an outright lie, unless “introduce” refers to some strange and meaningless formality. (“Region, I’d like you to meet my nuclear weapons.”)

At least the Syrians, in responding to the recent outside concern about possible use of their chemical weapons, avoid a direct lie by using conditional phrasing and saying “if such weapons exist in Syria, we will not…” The leading historian of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, Avner Cohen, argues it would be in Israel’s interest to stop the silly opacity and acknowledge the existence of its arsenal.

Meanwhile, refusal to talk about any of these matters does not make the issue go away. A reminder of this came earlier this week when the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Israel to join the NPT without delay and to open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the IAEA.

The vote, 174 to 6, with 6 abstentions, was even more overwhelming than the vote on Palestinian statehood. This time the only “no” votes that Israel got besides itself and the United States were Canada and those Pacific powerhouses, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post  at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

22 comments for “Still Pretending on Israel’s Nuke Arsenal

  1. paschn
    December 14, 2012 at 03:11

    I wonder why the Blow-Flies in D.C. don’t just slap stars of David over those on the U.S. flag?

    the majority of Bush’s cabinet dares not travel abroad for fear of arrest for war crimes and blatant whore-ing of a sovereign nation, (sarcasm). If all states secede en mass, the filth would have no place to run w/o risking arrest….Wouldn’t it be sweet justice for a betrayed nation to watch that bunch marched up the steps to the gallows, screaming like little girls, crying….offering their blood money to save their useless asses, messing themselves before the drop? Now, that would be a video worth watching a few times when you take into account the millions they’ve helped slaughter and the trillions they gave to Israel’s mentor, Rothschild and his usurous Central banks. Me thinks it is too much to hope for, unfortunately. But we CAN still secede before D.C.’s masters order “our boys” into Iran and cause WW3.

  2. ferry
    December 10, 2012 at 01:22

    At last a voice from the West to condemn the duplicity and dual behavior towards Iran and know, It truly rankled! Thank you!

  3. eileen fleming
    December 9, 2012 at 08:18

    In response to the postponed Helsinki conference and the U.N. General Assembly’s overwhelming support of a resolution calling on Israel to open up its nuclear facilitates for inspection Israel’s Nuclear whistle Blower, Mordechai Vanunu replied:

    “Those who are controlling world History, Found themselves miscalculating world events!

    “The 2012 Helsinki Conference for the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction- is NOT happening as planned. The conveners -US, UK, UN, Russian Federation- issued statements claiming, “regret that the conference will not be convened this year.”

    “Why? What make them regret?…”

    I responded:

    “The ‘regret’ I take to mean that hypocrites in high places-from Peres to Obama, Bibi and Congress- and ALL states in between who play along with Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity/DECEPTIONS very much REGRET any more light shining on Israel’s WMD.”

  4. Jay
    December 9, 2012 at 03:58

    Don’t mess with Gods chosen people is all I have to say , in Jesus name !!!

  5. Boris Velakowsky
    December 9, 2012 at 02:38

    The medievalist arabs have never tolerated Israel and they are willing to bring it down in any way possible.

    I hope the Arabs succeed! Even if only to shut up dumb people like you, fanatic, Borat!
    Who likes Zionist Israel? List a few nations, please!
    To my knowledge, almost all nations, who have any integrity, do not agree with Israel’s politics. I wonder why???

    • paschn
      December 12, 2012 at 22:35

      Well, except for their colony in the West…..AmeriKa.

  6. majeed
    December 9, 2012 at 02:32

    No one has the authority to hold Nuclear weapon ,there should be unanimous decision to eliminate all these dirty bombs , I certainly tell to you that the holder of these bombs are jeopardizing the life of their own people.I do not want to go further than that.

  7. Boris Velakowsky
    December 9, 2012 at 02:18

    The US is run by intellectually inferior people.

  8. Greywolfe
    December 9, 2012 at 02:05

    “Israel maintains the public position that it will ‘not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East…'”

    The meaning is quite clear: Israel will not be the first country in the Middle East to use nuclear weapons. That’s been clear for the past 50 years, ever since the self-appointed “experts” like Mr. Pillar here decided that despite the lack of any real proof, Israel has a nuclear arsenal.

    Since all such “expert” opinions are liberally seasoned with the expressions “… it is believed that…”, “Experts estimate that…”, “interpolation indicates that…”, and other similar ones, the only real logical conclusion they can give, IF they were to tell the truth, is “We think that Israel MAY have nuclear weapons, but there’s no real proof we can point to.”

    Aside from that, with all due respect, the CIA doesn’t exactly have a sterling record when it comes to intelligence analysis. They’ve been wrong far more times than they’ve been right, and spent the first three decades of the agency’s existence deposing democratically elected leaders and replacing them with despots and tyrants without a thought for the people under those tyrants, solely because the elected leaders were “too red” for the US State Department.

    This is NOT an agency whose words I would accept without independent verification.

  9. Hillary
    December 8, 2012 at 21:52

    Anti-Zionist orthodox Jews protest in London against Israel atrocities

    Condemning the Israel’s massacre of Palestinians, the protesters said they believe the violations of human rights committed by the Israeli regime is a major factor in rising anti-Semitism around the world.

    The rabbis said the apartheid regime of Israel has never and never will present the Jewish people and demanded Britain and other countries to cut their diplomatic ties with the Israeli regime.

    • Greywolfe
      December 9, 2012 at 01:53

      “The rabbis said the apartheid regime of Israel has never and never will present the Jewish people…”

      Neither do these Ultra-Orthodox Jews. They believe that Israel can only come into being through the hand of God, not by any human act. They also claim that the Holocaust was God’s warning to Jews against integration and assimilation. Obviously, the flaw in that is that their own followers were almost totally obliterated at the same time.

      At no time have these Ultra-Orthodox Jews ever counted for more than 10% of the world’s Jewish population, and their numbers seem to shrink every year.

      • Boris Velakowsky
        December 9, 2012 at 02:52

        They believe that Israel can only come into being through the hand of God, not by any human act.
        “After all the represent the opinions of about 10% of the world’s Jewish population.”
        They will just have to join the waiting list for their “God”.

        …”The Holocaust was God’s warning to Jews against integration and assimilation.”
        What utter nonsense!
        Medieval? Worse. Plain stupid and superstitious, behaving like people in the stone age.

    • paschn
      December 11, 2012 at 02:05

      As long as there is ONE nation, whether Christian OR Muslim, with a Rothschild Central Bank, you won’t see any progress towards reigning them in or ATLEAST having them join the Human Race. They have been booted out of countless empires/nations for their treachery and, (what seems like), a genetic propensity for evil and corrupting things around them but because of their banking tentacles in other countries they were always able to re-cultivate, (insert buy off), connections, cause revolutions/wars etc which,( backed with an abundance of Central Bank currency, always gave them the political clout to regain access/control. This global,(thanks in large part to the West), Central Banking Cabal has got to be eliminated from ALL countries and (somehow), prevented from again becoming a tool to enslave the world to demonic bankers and the whore-ish politicians it employes.

  10. F. G. Sanford
    December 8, 2012 at 19:14

    Great article. The author mentions the seeming contradiction of Israel’s double standards, and the obvious hypocrisy it implies. Certainly, its nuclear arsenal has not gained it any additional security in the past either. But this begs the question: Does Israel really want security?

    That double standards exists is obvious, unless one is willing to pretend otherwise. Israel exists on the one hand as a theocratic democracy, where all the inhabitants have human rights. It also exists as a colonial occupation, where none of the inhabitants have any rights. It claims to want peace, but continues its inexorable march to aggrandize territory at the expense of people it blockades, sanctions, collectively punishes and terrorizes, all acts of war or overt war crimes.

    That Israel wants security or peace can only be regarded as a fantasy. It has carefully constructed a two-tiered reality based on word games which seem childish when examined in totality, but in the fragmented language of diplomatic policy statements become sound-bites which cannot be refuted unless tedious rebuttals are employed. This constant obfuscation and dissembling has clearly been effective at handicapping rational discourse. A “two state solution” is becoming impossible due to “facts on the ground”. By the same token, a “one state solution” would not be compatible with “existence” as a “Jewish State”.

    What history demonstrates is an implacable progression toward ethnic cleansing based on lack of “defensible borders”, which justifies maintenance of a state of siege in order to maintain “security”, which in turn provides justification for continued colonial expansion.

    What Israel wants, and what its theocratic fanatics have always maintained to be their goal, is “Greater Israel” based on a Biblical myth. Israel ultimately covets everything between the Nile and the Euphrates. The double standard must be maintained in order to guarantee the slow, but relentless progress toward that goal. To give up nuclear weapons would compromise the instability which serves as a constant distraction to what would be called “genocide” anyplace else in the world. And that’s the last thing Israel wants.


  11. Benny Attar
    December 8, 2012 at 17:56

    Nuclear arms in the hands of a US ally (Israel) are not a threat tot the US. Nuclear arms in the hands of a radical Islamic anti-western nation are a threat to the US. Do you really need it spelled out to you in simple words every time the subject comes up?

    • F. G. Sanford
      December 8, 2012 at 18:09

      Benny, are you talking about the same Israel that stole U.S.A.’s entire communications intelligence program, including codes, satellite secrets, signal encryption and radio communications secrets through its spy, Jonathan Pollard, then sold those secrets to the U.S.S.R.? Or, the same Israel that tried to sink the U.S.S. Liberty? Or, the Israel that used its connections in industry to illegally smuggle nuclear triggers out of the U.S.A.? Or, the Israel that provided bogus intelligence about Iraq WMDs to encourage participation in a war that could only benefit Israel? Which one of those allies are you talking about? Yes, please…how do you spell “liability”?

      • hamid Amiri
        December 9, 2012 at 04:49

        and that Israel has a top secret base on the moon and another in Antartic(for their subs) and Mrs Meir (not her real name) was really a male CIA agent etc.
        Love these replies in Brighton dont you ?

    • Hillary
      December 8, 2012 at 18:34

      Benny Attar on December 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      “Nuclear arms in the hands of a US ally (Israel) are not a threat tot the US.”

      Benny Attar doesn’t seem to see the big picture.

      Every Jewish attack on Arab or Muslim people will cause hate towards the USA.

      Muslims in general like American people but hate American Administrations.

      In Iraq Jewish US Journalist Tom Friedman reported that the US soldiers were referred to as “the Jews”.

      Jews have morphed themselves into being Americans who speak for America.

      A Jewish Nuclear arsenal threatening world stability is a Jewish blackmail device that has forced the USA to obey Jewish demands in the past and continues to do so today.

    • paschn
      December 11, 2012 at 01:54

      Last time I checked, there was no alliance treaty with Israel. They don’t need a treaty with a colony, do they? We are, after all, their colony. One must admit that a people sitting quietly by as their “leaders” “appoint” dual citizenship / 5th column Israelis to VERY sensitive positions within AmeriKa is quite like asking them to please false-flag us again……then again….then again… Michael Chertoff was “appointed”, (insert, ordered put there by AIPAC), head of the “justice” department then ordered the sycophants at the F.B.I. to repatriate, (first class or coach I wonder), the 5 Mossad agents arrested for celebrating as they filmed the collapse of the towers, (2 were hit by something, three collapsed), the “5 dancing shlomos” were then filmed on an israeli talk show discussing how they had been sent there to record the “event”. Hell, they even have Emmanuel sitting in the mayor’s chair in Chicago and the only military he’s ever served was IDF. Do ANY of you get the feeling we’re being “had” or am I simply paranoid? Judging from the roaring silence thus far….don’t answer that.

  12. paschn
    December 8, 2012 at 16:39

    When a person with an I.Q. in the three digits looks at all things happening within the Federal government, with EVERY FACET of our bought and paid for “leaders” corruption/avarice, one must realize the futility of trying to correct it….either in whole or in part.

    The stench of the body count and sewage they spew as they hand over our nation to the murderous Israel/Wall Street/FED RES screams only one virtually bloodless solution; Dissolve the union. the beast has become rabid in it’s corruption, put the beast down. To secede en mass will virtually instantly solve the multi-trillion dollar theft, stop the “all for Israel” slaughter and will give the states time to “clean house” and rebuild, (either alone or with bordering states), a continent of republics MORE managable, less corrupt and will remove the “attack dog” shielding Israel as it pushes the Christian/Muslim world into chaos and probably WW3. To support/push for secession is NOT treasonous! WE are the victims of treason committed by the “Blow-Flies” in D.C. We are the VICTIMS! Stop being treated like penniless idiots! When the dollar finally is removed as world currency, and hyper-inflation ROARS into your psyche it will be an anarchist’s field day complete with domestic slaughter the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Jacob Schiff’s boys ruined Russia, murdered 66,000,000 and started the ball rolling for 2 world wars.

  13. Michel Saint-Mars
    December 8, 2012 at 16:13

    Excellent article! I have bookmarked it. Relieving Israel of its nuclear arms would be the perfect way to rid Iran of theirs.

    • buster
      December 9, 2012 at 03:03

      why don’t you talk about north korea’s arsenal? Why wont Obama negotiate a build down with china or india or Pakistan? Why the hell do they talk like its OK for Pakistan and india to have nuclear weapons?

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