Even Israel would benefit from a nuclear weapons-free Middle East

Scott McConnell writes: Faced with a contest between an arms-control intellectual—soberly pointing that a deal reducing Iran’s enrichment capacity and placing its remaining centrifuges under international inspection will do far more to ensure that Iran doesn’t build a nuclear weapon than continued sanctions and no deal at all—and a Nentayahuite screaming about Hitler and Munich and making racist comments about Iranians, the most attentive and educated slice of the population will favor diplomacy. But I suspect that more flamboyant arguments register more deeply with more of the American population. Obama risks having diplomats left high and dry without the backing of mass public opinion.

In fact, more emotive arguments to defend an Iran deal are available and shouldn’t be left in the closet. Take the obvious one. It is political malpractice that the administration’s allies, including those in Congress, fail to question the role Israel’s nuclear arsenal has played in the development of the current crisis. What role do Israel’s nukes play in pushing other Middle East states to take massive risks to develop their own nuclear technology? M.J. Rosenberg recently reminded readers of John F. Kennedy’s long and ultimately futile effort to monitor Israel’s nuclear program, constructed with blatant deception and dishonesty by French engineers at Dimona. Kennedy and the diplomats of the era pointed out again and again that by introducing nukes into the region, Israel risked setting off a cascade of nuclear proliferation. JFK was, of course, correct. If you speak to average Americans, there is an implicit assumption that the golden rule is a fair guide to thought and action, and there is something rather odd about Israel, stuffed to to gills with nuclear rockets and submarines, insisting that no one else can ever have them. But no one on Capitol Hill raises this point. What do they fear would happen to them?

(It’s a rhetorical question; I know they would face AIPAC-generated opposition. But I’m not sure AIPAC would know what to do if 40 members of Congress suggested exploring a nuclear free Mideast).

Farah Stockman writes: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that Iran’s plutonium reactor at Arak be completely dismantled because it has “no peaceful purpose,” he is speaking from experience. Israel had built a similar plant, and engaged in similar deception, at Dimona.

That’s what spooks Israeli policymakers: Iran’s nuclear playbook feels all too familiar.

“When Israel looks at Iran, they see Iran as if Iran is like Israel 50 years ago,” said Avner Cohen, professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and author of “Israel and the Bomb” and “The Worst Kept Secret.”

If you look at things that way, the Iranian bomb feels downright inevitable.

But Iran isn’t Israel, Cohen points out. There are plenty of reasons the Iranian program could turn out differently.

Israel had a much deeper reason to seek the bomb. Surrounded by hostile neighbors bent on its destruction, Israel felt that nuclear weapons were the key to the Jewish state’s very survival. Iran faces no such existential threat.

And, unlike Israel, Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran is therefore subject to far stricter inspections than Israel ever allowed at Dimona. If Iran does decide to try to start producing weapons-grade fuel, the world is likely to discover it in time to stop it.

And while Johnson’s administration pressed Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, he looked the other way when Israel refused. Drawing attention to Israel’s refusal would have doomed the treaty. Arab countries would have jumped ship. At the end of the day, Americans could live with an Israeli bomb, as long as Israelis didn’t advertise it by testing it. Iran can’t expect the same deal.

“I think Iranians know the world is not going to allow them” to have a nuclear weapon, Cohen said.

Instead, he said, Iran appears to be trying to keep its nuclear options open, inching as close to the ingredients for a bomb as the Nonproliferation Treaty allows, while refraining from actually building one. [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “Even Israel would benefit from a nuclear weapons-free Middle East

  1. Norman

    There’s something odd about Israel being stocked to the gills with Nuclear Rockets & Submarines. . . . . what would A.I.P.A.C. do if 40 U.S. members pf Congress suggested exploring a Nuclear free M.E.? Let’s just hope that the U.S. Nuclear Submarine Fleet is keeping tract of those Israeli Submarines, especially if/when they get within range of the continental U.S.A. With the ranting and raving Netanyahoo and others in the Liquid are blabbing, anything is possible.

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