Looking at Israel's Nuclear History as US Sabers Rattle

As the Obama administration coordinates a global PR campaign of scare tactics for the possible upcoming attack on Iran, eerily reminiscent of the Bush Administration's lies of WMD's to justify its invasion of Iraq, it comes as no surprise that the US Congress has added its voice, in repayment for the Israel lobby's $3 million during the 2010 election cycle, to ban any communication between US and Iran government officials.

Intensifying the drums of war with over-the-top statements that Iran, with an inferior set of missiles and a vastly inadequate Navy, represents "the greatest threat to world peace" and that "the actions and policies of Iran threaten the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States" ignore the inconvenient reality that US intelligence has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons capacity in Iran.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who needs to cut back on the coffee, recently told 60 Minutes that Iran has "reached a point where they can assemble a nuclear bomb in a year or less" only to have Pentagon press secretary George Little set the record straight: "we have no indication that Iran has made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon." Update: Leon Panetta later admitted that Iran has not yet committed to a nuclear arsenal and said "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No," while refusing to rule out a pre-emptive strike.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently contributed her opinion that "recent days have brought new evidence that Iran's leaders continue to defy their international obligations and violate international norms," yet Clinton makes no mention of Israel, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for 40 years, continues to deny access of IAEA inspectors to their Dimona facility as it did in 2004 and continues to reprocess spent nuclear fuel into weapons-grade plutonium -- all in defiance of "international obligations" and in violation of "international norms". (Only India and Pakistan along with Israel have refused to join the world community as signers of the NPT.)

At the same time, the Inter Press Agency reported that while Panetta failed to obtain agreement from Israel that it would not attack Iran without first informing Washington, Obama has shirked any responsibility for Israel's action in that he "had no say" over Israel "as a sovereign country."

The president's recent Executive Order increasing economic sanctions stated that "illicit nuclear activities of the government of Iran, along with its development of unconventional weapons and ballistic missiles and its support for international terrorism, threaten the security of the United States" is disingenuous and that "all options are on the table" defies the reality that Iran's modest military budget (1.8% of GDP) is no match for Israel (6.3% of GDP) or that the US (4.7% of GDP) never created an international crisis when Russia or China or India or Pakistan or any other nation 'went nuclear' just as it has, over the last 40 years, allowed Israel to become a dominant nuclear military power without international safeguards and allowed Israel's interests to dictate US foreign policy.

Former White House analyst on Iran Gary Sick has called US sanctions that would block Iranian shipments through the Strait of Hormuz "little more than a military blockade" that could be considered an "act of war." The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea III ratified in 1994 by 154 countries, signed but not ratified by the US and Iran while Israel has done neither, sets a 12 nautical mile territorial water limit.

It is curious that the most powerful man in the world representing the most powerful military in the world who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize defending "just" wars without condemnation of the neocon concept of preemptive war, who exhibited tremendous drive and ambition to be elected president but now has "no say" over $4 billion annual military aid to Israel. Just as Obama has allowed the Republicans to dance rings around him, he, no doubt, has already discovered that the Israelis play a much rougher game than any Republican.

It is inexplicable that there is zero discussion amongst the mainstream media about Israel's "illicit nuclear activities" with estimates of between 200-400 nuclear warheads (exact number is uncertain) and all the US-supplied tanks, submarines, fighter jets, guns and assorted weaponry and implements of destruction that $4 billion from the US taxpayer can buy.

As if US orchestration of war was not menacing enough, the Jerusalem Post has reported that Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc met with his Israeli counterpart to plan an "unprecedented" missile defense exercise dubbed "Austere Challenge" this Spring involving the "deployment of thousands of American soldiers to Israel." In addition, the Post further reported that Chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey is expected to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli officials in mid-January as the "US escalates its rhetoric regarding US military preparations to attack Iran's nuclear facilities." The Jerusalem Post articles represent a deliberate, if reckless, attempt by the United States and Israel to escalate tensions with Iran regardless of the very real possibility of war with nuclear weapons.

But the threat of a nuclear attack is not from Iran, which the most recent IAEA report certified has not "diverted any nuclear fuel for military purposes." US intel agencies agreed with IAEA conclusions and the Arms Control Association, a US think-tank, said that a "nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable" while Israel's well-known hair trigger is worrisome to international experts.

Even as Israel continues to neither confirm nor deny its own nuclear capacity and makes its case for military action with world peace in the balance, its accusations against Iran must be viewed in the context of a country that preaches one set of principles and yet does not follow those same principles for itself as well, as its own sordid nuclear history of lies, deceptions, evasions and total disregard for the international Rule of Law.

The Israeli romance with nuclear weapons began immediately upon Statehood with the French assisting in the construction of the Dimona nuclear facility and supplying its earliest uranium fuel. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion was committed to making Israel a nuclear power creating the Israel Atomic Energy Administration in 1952. Despite Israeli denials, U-2 flights in 1958 reported the existence of the massive Dimona nuclear facility confirming CIA fears that the Israeli government was reprocessing high level nuclear fuel into weapons grade plutonium. After Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN's appointed emissary to mediate the Israel and Arab dispute, was assassinated in 1948 by radical Zionists, President Harry Truman adopted an arms embargo on major weapons to Israel fearing an escalation of violence. That embargo continued through the Eisenhower Administration until the Kennedy Administration agreed to a modest sale of anti-aircraft missiles to counter Russian arms to Egypt.

Increasingly concerned about Israel's determination for nuclear arms, JFK wrote to Ben-Gurion on May 18, 1963 diplomatically protesting that Israel was stalling and that US "scientists" were not being allowed unfettered inspections of the Dimona site. In that same letter, Kennedy suggested that "I see no present or imminent nuclear threat to Israel from there" and further that "Egyptians do not presently have any installation comparable to Dimona, nor any facilities potentially capable of nuclear weapons production." Ben-Gurion avoided responding to Kennedy and retired shortly thereafter.

America's last president to not be intimidated by Israel's aggressive posture, Kennedy followed up in a July 5, 1963 letter to newly elected PM Eshkol with stronger and more insistent language including "visits should be... in accord with international standards, thereby resolving all doubts as to the peaceful intent of the Dimona project." Kennedy continued to push for a specific schedule of inspections stressing the importance that "our scientists have access to all areas of the Dimona site... such as fuel fabrication facilities or plutonium separation plant, and that sufficient time to be allotted for a thorough examination." JFK warned Eshkol that "this Government's commitment to and support of Israel could be seriously jeopardized if it should be thought that we were unable to obtain reliable information on a subject as vital to the peace as the question of Israel's effort in the nuclear field." Clearly, Kennedy understood the potential threat to world peace with the indiscriminate spread of nuclear weapons

With LBJ in the White House, Israel's domination of US Middle East foreign policy can be traced to a shift away from its previous neutrality as Johnson boosted sales of major weaponry to Israel. Despite State Department and Joint Chief objections, Johnson began what has become decades of "unconditional" US support and Israeli dependence on US military shipments. According to former NRC Commissioner Victor Gilinsky in a May 13, 2004 letter to the New York Review of Books, a complicated clandestine scheme featuring multiple "front" organizations and a dramatic mid-sea transfer smuggled 200 tons of uranium ore into Israel in 1968, avoiding European Atomic Energy Commission controls. Gilinisky states that "This was not the first, or last, secret Israeli uranium purchase." Once Euratom discovered what had happened, Gilinsky says it informed the US Atomic Energy Commission and both agencies "sat on the story."

That same year, CIA Director Helms was known to have reported to Johnson that Israel possessed nuclear weapons. Unwilling to risk adoption of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which Israel refused to sign and in deference to Israel, LBJ told Helms to keep the information secret and not inform any member of his cabinet.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger raised the nuclear concern with then-PM Golda Meir who rebuffed them with claiming a previous US agreed-to "don't ask, don't tell" compromise.

The CIA's conclusion in 1968 that 100 kgs of weapon-grade uranium stolen from a US naval nuclear fuel plant had found its way to Israel and produced that country's first nuclear bombs has been written about extensively. Operated by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp., NUMEC was known to have close contacts with Mossad agents and had been visited by representatives of the Israeli government.

On September 22, 1979, a US satellite designed to detect nuclear tests registered a signal over the Indian Ocean that was believed by US intelligence, Federal science agencies and Los Alamos experts to indicate an Israeli nuclear test carried out with South African cooperation. The test, probably of a hydrogen bomb, came at a time when the Carter Administration was attempting to mediate Israeli and Palestinian peace.

In 1986, a Sunday Times of London article revealed that an Israeli nuclear scientist Mordecai Vanunu had publicly confirmed, for the first time, secrets of Israel's nuclear arsenal including its production of tritium and plutonium. An opponent of weapons of mass destruction, Vanunu was kidnapped and imprisoned for 18 years (11 of those in solitary) and after his release in 2004, expressed "near certain indications" that Mossad was implicated in Kennedy's assassination.

In an obscure New York Times 1/1/2012 article entitled "Iran Asks to Resume Talks on its Nuclear Program" and in what may be a futile attempt at rapprochement, Iran's negotiator says he has formally requested the United States and its negotiating partners (Russia, France, England, China and Germany) to begin another round of negotiations "to return to the path of dialogue for cooperation."

Given his lackluster performance to date, there is slim hope that President Obama will show real leadership and take the high road to peace.