Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & The Jerusalem Post & Barak Ravid / Haaretz – 2013-09-18 00:45:24
Syria’s Disarmament Turns
Uncomfortable Focus on Israel’s Chemical Arms
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 16, 2013) — Syria’s ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) brings the number of nations on the planet who aren’t participants down to six, and is bringing some uncomfortable new attention to the one neighboring Syria: Israel.
Israel responded to Syria’s ratification by ruling out doing the same, insisting that they would never agree to abandon even this portion of their WMD stockpile unless every country on the planet agreed to sign permanent peace deals with them.
Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz addressed the situation again today, saying that Syria’s agreement to scrap its chemical arsenal had nothing to do with Israel, and insisting that everyone trusts Israel as a “democratic, responsible regime.”
Israel is on the outside looking in with an awful lot of such treaties, repeatedly refusing to sign the CWC, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the recent ban on cluster munitions, and has often come under criticism for its stances that it uniquely is entitled to spurn international law with regards to such deals.
Israel Rules Out Ratifying Chemical Arms Ban
Syria has promised to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the international community is working on a deal to destroy the nation’s considerable arsenal, meaning one of the world’s last holdouts on the ban is all but on board.
Hopes that this might get the rest of the holdouts to change their policy seems unlikely, however, as Israel has today insisted that Syria’s move will not change their opposition to the treaty.
Technically, Israel signed the CWC in 1993 like most of the rest of the world, but it never ratified the treaty, citing Syria’s arsenal. Without Syria as an excuse, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials now say they won’t ratify the deal until everyone else in the world signs a peace treaty with them.
Israel is believed to have some chemical weapons, but the reality is that they are a relatively minor risk compared to the nation’s massive, uncleared nuclear weapons arsenal. Israel has likewise ruled out signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
Report: CIA Believes Israel Acquired Chemical Weapons Decades Ago
The Jerusalem Post
(September 19, 2013) — Israel is believed to have secretly developed a range of chemical weapons in the 1960s and 70s as further defense against an attack by the surrounding enemy states, according to a report in Foreign Policy, which quotes a “secret 1983 CIA intelligence estimate.”
The CIA document, Foreign Policy says, states that US satellites in 1982 found “a probable CW [chemical weapon] nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert.”
Furthermore, the document is claimed to have said, “Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry.” The CIA document purportedly goes on to say that, “While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents, several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and nonpersistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agentsâ€¦ with suitable delivery systems.”
The article claims that the research and development of these weapons is being carried out at what it brands the “secretive” Israel Institute for Biological Research, located in Nes Ziona, a short distance south of Tel Aviv.
According to Foreign Policy, Work on the project was stepped up following the near disaster of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when attacking Arab armies caught the state by surprise on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
The report also claims that in January 1976, US intelligence was led to believe that Israel conducted a “possible test” of chemical weapons in the Negev desert. The report quotes a US air force intelligence officer, who says that the US National Security Agency intercepted communications, which proved that Israel Air Force bombers conducted simulated chemical weapons delivery missions at a bombing range in the Negev.
The author of the report also claims to have identified a possible site for the storage of chemical weapons in the Negev. After intensive research on Google Maps, the writer surmised that “imagery search found what I believe is the location of the Israeli nerve agent production facility and its associated chemical weapons storage area in a desolate and virtually uninhabited area of the Negev Desert just east of the village of al-Kilab, which is only 10 miles west of the outskirts of the city of Dimona.”
The report comes as the United States government is currently seeking domestic and international consensus for truncated military action against the Syrian regime over its alleged recent use of chemical weapons on its own population.
Israel Adamant It Won’t Ratify Chemical Arms Treaty before Hostile Neighbors
Talk of deal to eliminate Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons sends jitters through Jerusalem; will Israel be next?
Barak Ravid / Haaretz
(September 12, 2013) — With Moscow and Washington now discussing a diplomatic deal that would rid Syria of its chemical weapons, officials in Jerusalem are preparing for the possibility that Israel will be asked to submit to supervision of the chemical weapons that foreign reports say it possesses.
In the past few days, Foreign Ministry officials note, senior Russian officials have repeatedly drawn a connection between Syria’s chemical weapons and Israel’s military capabilities. President Vladimir Putin, for instance, told Russian media outlets that Syria’s chemical weapons exist as a response to Israel’s military capabilities, while Russia’s ambassador to Paris told Radio France that Syria’s chemical weapons were meant to preserve its balance of deterrence against Israel, “which has nuclear weapons.”
Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, but never ratified it. Consequently, it hasn’t agreed to submit itself to international inspections or to refrain from steps that would violate the convention.
Syria, which has one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world, has never even signed the convention, nor has Egypt, which also has a chemical weapons program. Iran, which suffered chemical weapons attacks from Iraq during their war in the 1980s, signed the convention in 1993 and ratified it in 1997. Nevertheless, senior figures at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem claim that Iran secretly maintains a large stash of chemical weapons.
Both Syria and Egypt used Israel as their excuse for not signing the convention. In various international forums over the years, Syrian and Egyptian officials have said their countries would agree to sign only if Israel signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and opened its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspectors.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Haaretz on Wednesday that Israel would not ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention as long as other states in the region with chemical weapons refuse to recognize Israel and threaten to destroy it.
“Unfortunately, while Israel signed the convention, other countries in the Middle East, including those that have used chemical weapons recently or in the past, or are believed to be working to improve their chemical capabilities, have failed to follow suit and have indicated that their position would remain unchanged even if Israel ratifies the convention,” Palmor said in a written statement.
“Some of these states don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and blatantly call to annihilate it. In this context, the chemical weapons threat against Israel and its civilian population is neither theoretical nor distant. Terror organizations, acting as proxies for certain regional states, similarly pose a chemical weapons threat. These threats cannot be ignored by Israel, in the assessment of possible ratification of the convention.”
Despite not having ratified the convention, Israel does have observer status at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that monitors the convention’s implementation, and participates in many of its meetings.
In early 2010, then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent a letter to the OPWC’s director general saying that Israel was interested in increasing its cooperation with the organization. But he also stressed that Israel wouldn’t sign the convention until it has signed peace treaties with all its neighbors and is no longer threatened by its neighbors’ chemical weapons.
US State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks reveal that the American administration held lengthy talks with Israel about the possibility of ratifying the convention, including at a February 2007 meeting in Jerusalem between senior State Department officials and their Israeli counterparts.
An American cable summing up the meeting said that US officials urged the Israelis to move forward on this issue, stressing that Israel is one of only five countries that haven’t yet ratified the convention, with the others being North Korea, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
Alon Bar, then director of the Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, responded that Israel signed the convention in the early 1990s, when the peace process was at its height, and that since then, the situation had changed.
Israel’s chemical weapons policy is overseen by a Defense Ministry panel comprising about 20 senior representatives from the defense establishment and the intelligence community. The committee was established in 1991, dismantled in 2007 and reconstituted in 2009. It meets every few months, but in recent years it has spent very little time discussing chemical weapons.
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