Wednesday, May 06, 2009

US To Israel: No Nukes For Iran? You First!

Eli Lake, reporting for The Washington Times, has an exclusive:
EXCLUSIVE: Secret U.S.-Israel nuclear accord in jeopardy

President Obama's efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel's nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say.

The issue will likely come to a head when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Mr. Obama on May 18 in Washington. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to seek assurances from Mr. Obama that he will uphold the U.S. commitment and will not trade Israeli nuclear concessions for Iranian ones.

Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, speaking Tuesday at a U.N. meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said Israel should join the treaty, which would require Israel to declare and relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

"Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, ... remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Ms. Gottemoeller told the meeting, according to Reuters.

She declined to say, however, whether the Obama administration would press Israel to join the treaty.

A senior White House official said the administration considered the nuclear programs of Israel and Iran to be unrelated "apples and oranges."

Asked by The Washington Times whether the administration would press Israel to join the NPT, the official said, "We support universal adherence to the NPT. [It] remains a long-term goal."

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. [emphasis added]
Read the whole thing.

On the one hand, based on the article there seems to be no consensus on demanding that Israel join the NPT and get rid of its nuclear weapons. On the other hand, there are people suggesting that such a demand is in the air and backing such a move:
"What the Israelis sense, rightly, is that Obama wants to do something new on Iran and this may very well involve doing something new about Israel's program," said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a Washington think tank.

Bruce Riedel, a former senior director for the Middle East and South Asia on the White House National Security Council, said, "If you're really serious about a deal with Iran, Israel has to come out of the closet. A policy based on fiction and double standards is bound to fail sooner or later. What's remarkable is that it's lasted so long." Mr. Riedel headed the Obama administration's review of strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan but does not hold a permanent administration position and has returned to private life as a scholar at the Brookings Institution.
It is difficult to believe though that such a suggestion is a purely humanitarian one that does not have Israel in mind at all:
John R. Bolton, a former U.N. ambassador and undersecretary of state, said Israel was right to be concerned.

"If I were the Israeli government, I would be very worried about the Obama administration's attitude on their nuclear deterrent," he said. "You can barely raise the subject of nuclear weapons in the Middle East without someone saying: 'What about Israel?' If Israel's opponents put it on the table, it is entirely possible Obama will pick it up."
Among those raising the subject are Arab countries in the region who, though they may be 'allies' of the US, definitely do not have Israel's interests at heart.
U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia also have pressed the U.S. to link Israel's weapons to Iran's as part of a plan to implement a nuclear-free Middle East.

A proposal to introduce a Security Council resolution declaring the Middle East a nuclear-free zone and calling for sanctions against those countries that did not comply was broached in a 2006 strategic dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the United States, said Turki al-Faisal, who was Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

"When I talked to American officials about that when I was ambassador here, and before that to British officials in the U.K., the immediate response was, 'Israel is not going to accept,' " Prince Turki told editors and reporters of The Washington Times last month. "And my immediate response was, 'So what?' If Israel doesn't accept, it doesnt mean its a bad idea."
The point is that Israel has never used its nuclear weapons as a club to threaten its Arab neighbors and has never used the kind of language that Ahmadinejad has used regularly in reference to Israel. Nuclear weapons for Israel have always been for defensive purposes.

Unfortunately, when it comes to making demands on nuclear arms, Israel is the one that gets the pressure. Unlike Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, Israel is the one considered most receptive to that pressure--as opposed to the cajoling that other nuclear or wannabe nuclear powers get.

Ed Morrissey notes the implications behind Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller statements on Israel's nuclear disarmament:
The Obama administration appointed Gottemoeller, fully cognizant of her thinking on this issue. One has to assume that her appointment to the senior position at State constitutes an endorsement of those positions. It wouldn’t be the most radical thinking about Israel from this administration; Samantha Powers, who works between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, once called for a Western occupation of Israel and forced disarmament of their entire army.

Gottemoeller’s speech had to have been cleared by the Obama administration, and so appears to represent their foreign-policy position.
While Israel has still not signed the NPT--and this angers the treaty's supporters, who want the treaty "universal"--as with all treaties, governments are free not to sign. What governments are not free to do is sign, receive the foreign (civilian) nuclear help to which signing entitles them, and then try to build a bomb secretly, as Iraq under Saddam Hussein tried to do. Israel may very well possess a large nuclear arsenal, but being a nuclear-armed power is not, by itself, a breach of international law and it has been doing nothing wrong. In light of what is going on in the region, Israel should not be penalized and deprived of its defensive capabilities.

More at Memeorandum

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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