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India and Israel: Nuclear Non-Proliferation myopia and U.S. Foreign Policy.

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Poll_Blind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-10-06 04:52 PM
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India and Israel: Nuclear Non-Proliferation myopia and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Please refrain from turning this thread into an Israel/Palestine thread with your comments. The questions posed by the posting of this article are: What is the significance of Gates' reference to the Israeli nuclear arsenal in regards to U.S. foreign policy in the region and possible elsewhere? Was it an accident given that Gates is not known for "slips of the tongue" when it comes to security matters? If it was not merely a slip of the tongue, does this imply a change in the U.S. Foreign Policy on Nuclear Non-Proliferation? How does this relate to India's nuclear arsenal? What are the implications for U.S. policy in the Middle East and Asia if these capabilities are recognized and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is broken openly?

Ze'ev Schiff is a military commentator for Ha'aretz. I've probably been reading his analysis pieces for 3 or 4 years now and while I don't agree with him (he's fairly conservative) I have learned that he does, generally, provide an informed analysis. Sometimes it's clearly biased given his political leanings, other times more objective. His piece, which delves into the presumed "deeper meaning" of Gates reference, especially when one considers the United States' recent deal with India, is worth consideration:

From Ha'aretz:

Israeli officials were shocked by Robert Gates' statement to Congress that Israel has nuclear weapons, and they are worrying over why the U.S. secretary of defense-designate made this statement.

In particular, they want to know two things: First, whether this statement was a private initiative by Gates, or whether he coordinated it with the top levels of the American administration. And second, whether he was implying that since Israel has nuclear weapons, it can deal with any nuclear threat from Iran on its own.


Israeli officials were also shocked by Gates' expression of understanding for Iran's desire to obtain nuclear weapons: He listed all the states near Iran that do have nuclear weapons - Pakistan, India and Israel - and noted that not long ago, Saddam Hussein's Iraq also attempted to acquire the bomb. Furthermore, he said, the United States is a nuclear power, and its forces are deployed in Iran's vicinity throughout the Middle East, and Russia, another nuclear power, is also nearby.


Moreover, Gates said nothing about Iran's other possible reasons for wanting nuclear weapons - a desire for regional influence and prestige and to bolster its ability to foment terrorism. Nor did he stress the fact that Iran's quest for nuclear weapons has been accompanied by repeated threats to eradicate another Middle Eastern country - a fact that gives this quest an offensive rather than a defensive character, and thus makes it unique in nuclear history. And he essentially equated Iran with Israel, albeit indirectly: The former wants nuclear weapons, and the latter already has them.


  The United States (and usually the UK) have played a charade with Israel, publicly, for decades which goes something like this "If you pretend you don't have nuclear weapons we'll pretend not to notice that you do. However, if you talk about your nuclear weapons we will be forced to acknowledge that you have them and limitations on those nuclear weapons will become 'fair game' for concessions when it comes to negotiating peace in the region and we will be compelled by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) to sanction you." The game, played out over many U.S. presidents, has not been played so well for the last 20 or so years after an Israeli nuclear whistle-blower provided pictures of the weapons manufacturing facilities to London's "The Sunday Times".

  But the charade has continued. Leading up to and during the Iraq war, some Arab countries expressed upset that Iraq was being singled out by the U.S. for punishment because of the possibility that they may have nuclear weapons when Israel has had them for decades. With fresh U.S. allegations that Iran may develop a nuclear weapons program, the calls of protest again are raised about the treatment of Israel who is the only country in the region who actually possesses them.

  However, Schiff's analysis (fourth excerpted paragraph) seems to indicate, assuming Gates intentionally talked about Israel's nuclear weapons, that U.S. intelligence understands the disparity in it's own foreign policy. A few days ago the Saudi Intelligence chief put it more bluntly indicating that the Israeli nuclear arsenal was provoking an arms race in the region.

  For instance, if Iran were to come forward and state "We will not pursue a nuclear weapons program and you may have access to our facilities, anywhere, any time to check on them. However, the single condition is that Israel dismantle their nuclear weapons program and provide similar transparency." one can imagine how much more complicated this might become for the United States. The proliferation of nuclear weapons in India (especially our disregard of the NAPT for them) and Pakistan or North Korea and how the U.S. has handled (or not handled as the case may be) that situation seems to indicate that the U.S. is fairly impotent at actually stopping nuclear proliferation using the Bush model.

  The first question is: Could the U.S. ever meaningfully exert pressure on Israel to curb or dismantle its nuclear weapons stockpile in regards to some lasting peace in the Middle East?

  I don't think so. Since the beginning of his administration, Bush has essentially taken a hands-off approach to the Middle East when it regards Israel. Even in the Democratic party platform (from 2004) it states that "...we will ensure that under all circumstances, Israel retains the qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense." Qualitative edge. It is stated clearly that the United States will always make sure that the Israelis have more powerful weapons than their neighbors. Those are examples from within our country. Even assuming that there would be a consensus in the U.S. to do it, it's impossible to believe that Israel would willingly give up nuclear weapons after the War of Independence.

  The second question is: Could the U.S. ever meaningfully exert pressure on India to curb or dismantle it's nuclear weapons stockpile in regards to peace in Asia, notably between India and Pakistan?

  Again, I don't think so. The "global partnership" deal which India and the United States have signed essentially makes them the most-favored nation in the region and grants them the same sort of favoritism in Asia (re:NNPT) as Israel enjoys in the Middle East. Unlike Israel, India already has a nuclear foil: Pakistan. It would be equally unlikely that India would ever give up their nuclear weapons because of this and because of the ongoing tensions with Pakistan.

  The third question is similar to the first two but in regards to Pakistan and North Korea and the short answer is "Hell no".

  So Gates' reference complicates U.S. foreign policy a bit in terms of Israel, but only to the extent that such recognition of Israel's nuclear capabilities are recognized in the future. But it could be the beginning of the adoption of the India Model, which openly disregards the Nuclear Arms Proliferation Treaty for favored nations (even those who admit nuclear weapons programs) while sanctioning adversarial nations in the extreme, including the possibility of attack.

  In the mean time, the rest of the world is head-scratching about why we say one thing and do another thing entirely, even when it's fairly obvious that we're aware (vis a vis Gates' reference and the India deal) that the rest of the world sees us as "putting on a show" when it comes to Nuclear Non-Proliferation.

  I'd be interested in any thoughts (including the questions at the top of the post) on how this disregard for the NNPT, once secretive (as in Israel's case) has now moved to a less-concealed stage (as in India's case) and how the next Democratic president might deal with this shift?

  It is not a cat you can easily put back in the bag.

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Printer70 Donating Member (990 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-10-06 08:59 PM
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1. Fascinating
This is fascinating and very well written. Your condensing the article is appreciated, and your questions are very good ones. I never thought about how biased our nuclear non-proliferation strategy has been; and how hypocritical it must seem to people in the Middle East.
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