President Barack Obama was asked twice at his initial prime time press conference on Monday February 9 by Helen Thomas whether there were any countries in the Middle East that had nuclear weapons. This courageous reporter, who was essentially banned by the Bush administration from asking questions at press conferences, knew precisely what she was doing.
America’s political elites, in the grip of fear to challenge the Israel lobby or its client state, Israel, will not concede what is absolute fact. Israel is a major nuclear power with both fission and thermonuclear weapons. While I admit the latter is not 100% verifiable, the existence of Israel as a nuclear state is. There is not one arms control specialist or nuclear weapons’ expert who does NOT know that Israel, with the help of the French and Americans, has developed a nuclear arsenal. Dimona is their primary nuclear research center. They even jointly tested in 1979 a nuclear device in the South Atlantic with then-apartheid South Africa.
While this blog would not be adding much to the public knowledge in reiterating the tens of thousands of reports on Israel’s status as a nuclear power, it is essential that President Obama muster the courage to speak truth to the American people. His response to Ms Thomas was, “I will not speculate,” and glossed over the question. Part of the reason for this lack of candor is Iran. If the United States concedes that Israel is a nuclear-weapons state, it would diminish its argument that Iran, a Muslim state, should not be allowed to develop a fission device. It would render the hypocrisy in attempting to thwart a Muslim bomb in the region while ignoring the fact that a “Jewish” bomb exists. It would reveal the inconsistencies of counterproliferation.
While the Obama administration should be lauded for its tone and willingness to engage in dialogue with Iran, it should seek a nuclear weapons free zone. No nuclear weapons in the Middle East should be U.S. policy. Of course that would antagonise the Israel lobby for daring to concede that Israel must make concessions in bringing peace and stability to the region, but the primary purpose of an American president is to protect the national security of the American people. America’s interests in a denuclearised region are served by reducing horizontal proliferation. With a hectic arms race whereby Muslim states are attempting to match Israel, little is served except continued tension. I am sure Iran is acutely aware that a non-nuclear Iraq was invaded and that a proto-nuclear state of North Korea was not.