Why is the U.S. Okay with Israel Having Nuclear Weapons but Not Iran?Posted: May 13, 2014
I guess I just missed this when it came out back in December, but this is a good piece by Max Fisher in the Washington Post about a question that nonproliferation expert Joe Cirincione says in the piece comes up in every lecture that he gives on nonproliferation and the Middle East. Many others of us have had similar experience. And indeed it is omnipresent whenever any discussion about the proposed WMD Free Zone in the Middle East is had.
The piece offers some nice, concise history, along with useful quotes from good people like Cirincione, and the leading authority on Israel’s nuclear weapons program, Avner Cohen.
I’ve written before here on the topic of the double standard in Western, and particularly US, policy toward Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile, and specifically in the context of the ME WMD FZ.
But one thing I think this WP article usefully does, and this is an observation made previously by Russ Wellen, is to point out that it’s really only natural that Israel in particular would be deeply suspicious of elements of Iran’s nuclear program that could be used to make nuclear weapons clandestinely, while the government lied through its teeth to the international community about their intentions, because this is exactly what Israel itself did. As Fisher writes in the WP article:
When U.S. intelligence did finally discover Israel’s nuclear facility, in 1960, Israeli leaders insisted that it was for peaceful purposes and that they were not interested in acquiring a nuclear weapon. Quite simply, they were lying, and for years resisted and stalled U.S.-backed nuclear inspectors sent to the facility. (This may help shed some light on why the United States and Israel are both so skeptical of Iran’s own reactor, potentially capable of yielding plutonium, under construction at Arak.) The work continued at Dimona.
Again, as I’ve written before, I can understand why Israel developed a nuclear weapons program, and why it wants to maintain its stockpile now. If I were in their shoes, I’d do the same thing. So I’m not morally judging Israel. But what gets me time and time again is how Israeli officials, and their patrons in the USG, wax moralistic in their condemnation of Iran for its nuclear weapons related experiments and capacity development, and for its refusal to cooperate with international inspectors to the extent they think it should. That is just pure, unadulterated hypocrisy, when viewed in the light of Israel’s own nuclear history, and the acceptance and diplomatic protection of Israel’s nuclear weapons program by the US.