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Israel Double Standard Jeopardizing Nuclear Weapons–Free Zone Talks


May 10, 2012
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

Talks on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East appeared to be thrown in doubt on Tuesday as the Western official organizing negotiations said he could not secure the needed attendance of all countries in the region. Israel has repeatedly objected to giving up its position as the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the region.

http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/08/israel-double-standard-jeopardizing-nuclear-weapons-free-zone-talks/

Israel Double Standard Jeopardizing Nuclear Weapons–Free Zone Talks
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

(May 8, 2012) -- Talks on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East appeared to be thrown in doubt on Tuesday as the Western official organizing negotiations said he could not secure the needed attendance of all countries in the region.

The statement by Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava at a meeting in Vienna did not specify which countries had so far refused to attend, but Israel has repeatedly objected to giving up its position as the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the region.

Media reports are suspecting that Iran also has not agreed to attend the talks, but top Iranian officials have repeatedly voiced their support for a NWFZ. [See story below.]

Iran did attend the Vienna talks on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and, along with several Arab states, repeated criticisms of Israel over its covert arsenal of nuclear weapons which it refuses to open up to inspections, or even to officially reveal.

Israel has not signed the voluntary NPT, so was not represented in Vienna at the time. But the US warned that "continued efforts to single out Israel … will make a (Middle East) conference increasingly less likely." The statement is nonsensical because Israel singles itself out by refusing to sign the NPT and to consider any checks on its nuclear weapons regional monopoly.

The US and Israel have both concluded that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and has demonstrated no intention to start one. Still, each have hurled threats of war in recent months, arguing that a nuclear Iran would endanger the stability of the region. The double standard on Israel is glaring.

If Israel would give up its arsenal and agree to a NWFZ, it could make these persistent tensions moot. It could "be an answer to the Iranian nuclear crisis that threatens to spark regional proliferation and engulf the Middle East in another war" and "remove the sense of double standards over Israel's nuclear program," Mark Fitzpatrick, a director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told Reuters.



Iran FM: We Seek Negotiations and a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

(February 28, 2012) -- Iran seeks peaceful negotiation and a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a statement to the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Salehi said that the majority of Middle East states, including Iran and Egypt, want to establish a nuclear weapon-free zone, but that Israel was the "only obstacle to the creation of such a zone." Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads, but has not officially admitted to it.

Israel has also refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as Iran has. "It is a matter of concern that all efforts to establish a nuclear free zone in the Middle East have not yet succeeded, due to its persistent refusal to join the NPT and to place its nuclear facilities under the IAEA safeguards system," Salehi said.

Despite a consensus in its own military and intelligence community that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and has demonstrated no intention of doing so, the US has kept up harsh sanctions and aggressive postures towards Iran. [See story below.]

Salehi claimed the West applies a double standard, letting Israel develop nuclear weapons, while heaping punitive sanctions on Iran for enriching uranium for merely civilian purposes.

Salehi also reiterated Tehran's stated policy that possessing or even developing nuclear weapons is sinful. "Based on the religious decree issued by our supreme leader, the production, possession, use or threat of the use of nuclear weapons are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin," he said.

Iran's nuclear program is legal and for civilian purposes only, Salehi said, and the international community can deal with that in one of two ways. "One way is engagement, cooperation and interaction, and the other is confrontation and conflict. The Islamic Republic of Iran, confident of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, has always insisted on the first alternative."


Panetta: Iran is Not Developing Nuclear Weapons
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

(February 16, 2012) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that Iran is enriching uranium in a peaceful nuclear program but that Tehran has not decided to develop an atomic bomb.

Top US military and intelligence officials gave separate testimonies in congressional hearings on Thursday regarding Iran, and while they all reiterated the consensus that Iran's nuclear program is purely civilian in nature, they also kept up the tough talk, hoping to satisfy hawks eager to preemptively strike Iran.

Panetta explained emphatically that any move from Iran to develop nuclear weapons is a "red line" for the US "We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," he said. "That is the red line that would concern us and that would ensure that the international community, hopefully together, would respond."

"But the intelligence does not show that they've made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon," Panetta added. This has been a bit of an inconvenient truth for Washington as they continue to heap crippling economic sanctions on Iran supposedly out of suspicion of their nuclear program. They've also continued to support Israel -- and refuse to criticize it -- even while Tel Aviv has supported terrorist operations against Iranian nuclear scientists.

Iran, on the defensive, has made announcements about new, domestically-made centrifuges that were installed at the main uranium enrichment site at Natanz, branding that and other such developments as some nuclear "milestone." But US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday the announcement was "hyped" for a domestic audience.

"Our view on this is that it's not terribly new and it's not terribly impressive," she said.

Panetta also reiterated the oft-repeated euphemism for potential military attack against Iran, "we do keep all options on the table." This helped lend legitimacy for political opportunists in the GOP to fear-monger about an imminent Iranian nuclear bomb, as House Speaker John Boehner did.


The Nuclear Double Standard on Israel is the Main Obstacle to Peace
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

(March 6, 2012) -- While widely recognized in antiwar circles and on the left, the issue of a nuclear weapons double standard in the Middle East is one of the least appreciated when it comes to the Iran nuclear debate. As President Obama curries favor with Israel and AIPAC, he is heaping punitive sanctions on the Iranian people and continuously issuing public threats of preventive war.

Iran's crime? Well, it hasn't committed one, even according to the leadership in both the US and Israel. But they allege Iran is being intentionally opaque regarding the true intentions of its currently civilian nuclear program. This is what people see as a double standard: While Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has publicly pledged its opposition to nuclear weapons development, has subjected itself to thorough international inspections, and in fact has exactly zero nuclear weapons, Israel has done none of the above and has approximately 200 nuclear warheads.

Iran is being severely punished and threatened with attack, Israel is supported with unparalleled economic, military, and diplomatic support.

It's a classic double standard. Fear-mongers who warn against an Iranian nuclear weapon point to the fact that its an oppressive and aggressive regime and would not only use its possession of nuclear weapons to be a regional bully, but would spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East.

But Israel, who militarily occupies and oppresses the Palestinian people [1]and who has started several wars [2] of late, can have nuclear weapons, need not sign any international agreements or subject itself to international regulation or inspections, etc.

Now, there is currently a consensus in the US military and intelligence community on the status of the Iranian nuclear program. They assess and have held that Iran's nuclear program is civilian in nature, that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons [3] and has yet to demonstrate any intention of doing so.

However, they also assess that Iran is continuing to develop its program to a point that would put them in the range of developing one rather quickly, should they choose to do so. Adm. Dennis Blair, Obama's former director of national intelligence, told Congress [4] in March 2009, "We judge in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities" but that Tehran "is keeping open the option to develop them."

While Iran is aiming to be "nuclear capable," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in February, "the intelligence does not show that they've made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon." James Clapper, current director of national intelligence, and others have reiterated this conclusion.

This is essentially a defensive posture on the part of Iran, an attempt to have a deterrent without actually having the deterrent. They don't break their international obligations, but they signal to their adversaries (who consistently make public threats of overt military attack) that they can quickly develop nukes in the case that they are attacked.

But, as Micah Zenko pointed out yesterday [5], the double standard is even more glaring than this popular narrative suggests. The history of Israel's development of nuclear weapons is strikingly parallel to Iran in 2012.

It took years, however, for the United States to verify that Israel had developed a nuclear weapon. This uncertainty persisted despite numerous US inspections of the Dimona reactor—carefully stage-managed by the Israeli government to deceive the Kennedy and Johnson administrations—and assurances that Israel would not "introduce" nuclear weapons into the region. On May 1, 1967, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Katzenbach wrote to President Johnson under the heading, "The Arab-Israeli Arms Race and Status of US Arms Control Efforts:"

"Nuclear Weapons. Concerned that over the long run the Arabs will achieve superiority in conventional forces, Israel is carefully preserving its option to acquire sophisticated weapons, including, we believe, nuclear weapons. We have no evidence that Israel is actually making a bomb, but we believe Israel intends to keep itself in a position to do so at reasonably short notice should the need arise. The Israeli reactor at Dimona is capable of producing enough plutonium to make one or two bombs a year, but thus far our periodic inspections of this facility (most recently on April 22, 1967) have uncovered no evidence of weapons activity."

If you replaced the words "Israel" with "Iran," it would largely echo the recent findings of the US intelligence community on the suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program. In a twist of historical irony, Iran's contemporary playbook mirrors the one used by Israel to acquire a nuclear weapon in the 1950s and 1960s.


Even the intelligence assessments are the same. And as Zenko points out, President Obama warned last week [6] that if Iran had a bomb, "It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world's most volatile regions." Zenko: "Concerns regarding a cascade of proliferation instigated by an Iranian nuclear weapon are as likely today as when Israel built the bomb forty-five years ago."

Since the sole claim of Iran's transgression is based on being slightly opaque (arguably) regarding their true intentions for their nuclear program, perhaps we should consider the reason for that opaqueness. Iran is operating out of a perception of threat, just as Israel was when it hid its weapons program from the US in the 50s and 60s.

If the US and Israel stopped making public threats of attack, stopped their covert [7] war on Iran [8], stopped employing economic warfare, might Iran's defensive opaqueness begin to disappear?

And if Israel, Iran's main adversary, agreed to dismantling its vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons and to a deal enforcing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East [9] -- a deal Iran has repeatedly proposed [10] -- might Iran's defense posture expire?

This is the simplest, most complete diplomatic strategy for peace in this conflict, which could threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of people if it actually breaks out one day in the near future. But this peace will not be achieved because there is no political will to dissolve Israel's nuclear double standard.

URLs in this post:
[1] occupies and oppresses the Palestinian people : http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2012/02/27/the-non-issue-agonizing-incremental-israeli-expansion-occupation/&sa=U&ei=mTRWT-XUKMbrggeY09iqCg&ved=0CAQQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNFKkX_MW04h_Si8F1nc8Iqm6KvTRw

[2] several wars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wars_involving_Israel

[3] Iran is not developing nuclear weapons: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://news.antiwar.com/2012/02/16/panetta-iran-is-not-developing-nuclear-weapons/&sa=U&ei=KTRWT4uZHoiCtgfhp-3gCA&ved=0CA4QFjAF&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNHgqzm9mu4Qr5SxM_kMdSw1tH6DGA

[4] told Congress: http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20090310_testimony.pdf

[5] as Micah Zenko pointed out yesterday: http://blogs.cfr.org/zenko/2012/03/05/israels-nuclear-weapons-program-and-lessons-for-iran/

[6] warned last week: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/obama-to-iran-and-israel-as-president-of-the-united-states-i-dont-bluff/253875/

[7] stopped their covert: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://news.antiwar.com/2011/01/16/us-helped-develop-stuxnet-computer-worm/&sa=U&ei=uzNWT5rqI4e-twezlZX2CA&ved=0CAQQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNE2Zeog0fR1H1UNIz7F2GV35r6g9w

[8] war on Iran: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://news.antiwar.com/2012/02/09/us-officials-israel-works-with-terror-group-to-kill-iranian-scientists/&sa=U&ei=5DNWT5rYOY2Utwe9zaj_CA&ved=0CAQQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNGbzReXrzeLxJDquLJstqrr_-66dQ

[9] a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East: http://news.antiwar.com/2012/01/25/saudi-official-calls-for-nuclear-weapons-free-zone-in-mideast/

[10] has repeatedly proposed: http://news.antiwar.com/2012/02/28/iran-fm-we-seek-negotiations-and-a-nuclear-weapons-free-zone/

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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