The Central Intelligence Agency, backed by bodies including the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Defense Intelligence Agency, determined in August 1974 that Israel had nuclear “weapons in being,” a “small number” of which it “produced and stockpiled.”
Israel was also suspected of providing nuclear materials, equipment or technology to Iran, South Africa and other then-friendly countries.
This top secret document, consigned to the CIA’s vaults for almost 32 years, was suddenly released to the public this week, during U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to Israel and on the eve of his trip to the Persian Gulf. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — For several decades, Israel has adopted a position of so-called “nuclear ambiguity,” asserting that it would not be the first state to introduce atomic weapons to the Middle East. The United States has colluded in allowing this claim to rest unchallenged — even though it is widely understood that Israel does in fact possess a nuclear arsenal estimated to range from 70 to 400 warheads.
The first indications that the United States’ position might change occurred during Robert Gates’ confirmation hearings in which he included Israel among the nuclear states that surround Iran. Documents released by the Nixon Library a few weeks ago confirm that in 1969, Henry Kissinger warned President Nixon about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and that the “Israelis, who are one of the few peoples whose survival is genuinely threatened, are probably more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons.” A year ago, Ehud Olmert provoked a storm of criticism inside Israel by being the first Israeli prime minister to make reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
It seems to be a matter of time (months or even weeks?) before Israel decides to unambiguously come out of the nuclear closet. If this happens, the nuclear equation changes across the whole region. Will it trigger a Middle East nuclear arms race? Will it help empower those who argue that the only effective way of challenging Iran’s nuclear program is through turning the whole region into a nuclear-weapon-free zone? Or will the United States attempt to contrive a policy that claims that Israel has a unique “right” to possess nuclear weapons and exempt itself from international treaties?