Monday, 3 May 2010

US Targets Israel as Anti-Nuke Conference Begins

The United States is working with both Egypt and Russia to rid Israel of its nuclear weapons, as part of a comprehensive plan to neutralize Iran’s nuclear power.

Reports of this nature are being reported in various news media. The Guardian (London) reports that the US and Russia have drafted an initiative to ban nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, while the Wall Street Journal says the Obama Administration is considering support for a “nuclear-free Middle East.”

The Guardian adds that the proposal involves the appointment of a special coordinator to conduct exploratory talks with Israel, Iran and the Arab states, followed by a regional conference. It is to be a central issue at an anti-proliferation United Nations conference beginning Monday in New York.

According to the Wall Street Journal report, the US is strongly considering opposing Israeli nuclear weapons more strongly than it ever has before. However, the US government has, at the same time, sent Jerusalem a message designed to calm Israeli anxieties on the matter, stating that the U.S. would not take such a drastic approach before it sees significant progress in the peace process between Israel and the Arab nations.

Specifically, Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the conditions are not right “unless all members of the region participate, which would be unlikely unless there is a comprehensive peace plan which is accepted.”

Such a message is actually not very calming, in that it does not state that there must be “peace” before the U.S. would take such a position. Furthermore, it is widely felt in Israel that its nuclear potential is as critical for maintaining peace as it is during times of war.

This may not be Israel’s official position, however – at least according to the Wall Street Journal. An Israeli source is quoted in the report as saying that Jerusalem’s vision is one of a Middle East without weapons of mass destruction, but that this must occur only as the climax of a peace process with all nations of the region.

The UN conference, held every five years, is to begin with an address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose nuclear program and soon-expected capabilities have thrown the region into turmoil. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also address the conference on Monday.

“The last NPT conference in 2005 ended in collapse,” the Journal reported, “but U.S. officials said they have been laying the groundwork for this conference for nearly a year.”

Inspection of Israeli Nukes is Urgently Needed

The Israeli nuclear programme remains shrouded in secrecy. Estimates of the number of nuclear weapons possessed vary, but could be at least as high as 400.

The programme began shortly after the second world war, with the search for uranium in the Negev dessert. The Israeli government received support from French nuclear scientists, and the Dimona nuclear reactor and plutonium separation facility was built with French cooperation, in exchange for the role played by Israel in the Suez crisis. Israel also had access to data from French nuclear tests. The United States and Norway also supplied nuclear materials.

United States inspectors visited Dimona seven times during the 1960s, but they were unable to obtain an accurate picture of the activities carried out there, largely due to tight Israeli control over the timing and agenda of the visits. The Israelis went so far as to install false control room panels and to brick over elevators and hallways that accessed certain areas of the facility. The inspectors were able to report that there was no clear scientific research or civilian nuclear power program justifying such a large reactor - circumstantial evidence of the Israeli bomb program - but found no evidence of "weapons related activities" such as the existence of a plutonium reprocessing plant.

French supplies of Uranium to Israel stopped after the 1967 war, and Israel turned to South Africa as a source of uranium and tritium. However, by this time Israel almost certainly had two nuclear weapons which could have been used during the war. By the Yom Kippur war of 1973, Israel had 13 nuclear weapons based on US made aircraft and Jericho missiles.
In 1979 satellite images revealed what was almost certainly a joint Israeli / South African nuclear test in the Indian Ocean. It is thought that more recently Israel has been cooperating with India.

Mordechai Vanunu provided detailed information on the Israeli nuclear programme in 1985. He was a technician from Dimona who lost his job, and secretly took photographs of the plant before emigrating to Australia. Some of his material was published in the London Sunday Times. He was subsequently kidnapped by Israeli agents, tried and imprisoned. He remains in prison, having spent many years in solitary confinement.

His data shows a sophisticated nuclear programme, over 200 bombs, with boosted devices, neutron bombs, F-16 deliverable warheads, and Jericho warheads. The boosted weapons shown in the Vanunu photographs indicate that the weapons were sophisticated enough to require testing.

He revealed for the first time the underground plutonium separation facility where Israel was producing 40 kilograms annually, several times more than previous estimates. These facts have increased the estimates of total Israeli nuclear stockpiles.
Vanunu not only made the technical details of the Israeli program and stockpile public but in his wake, Israel began to acknowledge aspects of its nuclear programme.

The 1991 Gulf War brought Israel to another nuclear alert. Several Iraqi Scud missiles were fired at Dimona, and the Israeli government threatened to use nuclear weapons against Baghdad if Iraq used chemical weapons against Israel. The use of nuclear weapons was opposed by the United States who offered Israel closer military cooperation in return.

It is likely that Israel is developing low yield nuclear weapons that could be used to destroy airfields, or buried command posts. It is also continuing to develop sea launched nuclear weapons, with the purchase of three German Dolphin Class submarines, suitable for firing nuclear armed cruise missiles.

More Terrorists have Nukes!

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