Originally published at MintPress News.
JERUSALEM — While the Iran deal is often touted as the only possible solution to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, both U.S. and Israeli intelligence reports suggest that country never intended to build a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, Israel, one of its regional neighbors, possesses not only 80 functioning nuclear warheads but also the capability to use them.
Israel’s nuclear weapons program probably dates back to the 1950s, when U.S. surveillance flights first detected suspicious activity, according to a report from Bruce Riedel, a columnist with Al-Monitor, a news site offering analysis of events in the Middle East.
“President John F. Kennedy pressed Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion very hard not to proceed with a weapons program, arguing it would precipitate a regional nuclear arms race,” noted Riedel. “Under pressure from Kennedy, Israel agreed to American inspections of its French-supplied Dimona reactor, but then systematically blocked any serious inspection process.”
By the time Nixon became President, the United States moved from objecting to Israel’s nuclear weapons to protecting the program. Israel never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as Matt Peppe noted on MyMPN, the MintPress News blog, the U.S. helped Israel block efforts by the U.N. to prevent nuclear conflict in the Middle East.
There was ample evidence in 2013 to allow the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a nonprofit devoted to preventing the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons technologies, to declare that Israel has at least 80 nuclear warheads. Using Defense Department sources, NTI estimates that Israel possessed enough material to create as many as 190 warheads, but halted construction prior to reaching that number.
Although the Israeli government formally refuses to comment on the existence of its nuclear weapons program, it’s become a rarely acknowledged “open secret,” as Julian Borger noted last year in the Guardian. In late 2013, a former speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, shockingly admitted to the program’s existence, leading to calls by Israeli conservatives that he be tried for treason. Western governments, Borger added, also uphold this air of secrecy:
In 2009, when a veteran Washington reporter, Helen Thomas, asked Barack Obama in the first month of his presidency if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to ‘speculate.’
UK governments have generally followed suit. Asked in the House of Lords in November about Israeli nuclear weapons, Baroness Warsi answered tangentially. “Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme.”
According to Riedel, Israel not only possesses dozens of nuclear warheads, but also three separate methods of delivering those weapons to a target. F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, supplied by the U.S. military, “can deliver nuclear weapons anywhere in the Middle East,” adding that “The Israeli air force has a well-deserved reputation as the best air force in the region with the best pilots.”
Riedel reported that Israel can also deliver Nuclear weapons through the “Jericho” midrange missile system, developed by France, and using cruise-missiles on German-built submarines.
Borger, in his report to The Guardian, highlighted the hypocrisy of so many countries supposedly dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation:
The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.