One of the side effects of the Iran Deal debate is that Israel’s nukes are also being discussed. There are signs of pressure on Israeli nukes inside the US media and government. In this article, Phil Weiss will summarize the recent news, and Grant Smith, the lead investigator of the Institute for Research Middle East Policy, follows with a report on a gag order affecting disclosure of US federal information about the Israeli nuclear program. Weiss first.
Last week the State Department released historical documents that detail Nixon-era attempts to get Israel to join the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.
The Jerusalem Post speculated on the State Department’s fascinating timing in a piece saying that Israel is said to have as many as 100 nuclear warheads (maybe more, others say).
The State Department’s publication of documents on Tuesday detailing US-Israel discussions on the Jewish state’s nuclear program comes amid public disagreement between the allies over the Iran nuclear deal….
The publication of the documents comes as part of a routine release of historical information by the State Department. However, the timing of the revelations against the background of the disagreement between Israel and the US over the nuclear deal with Iran, lends them extra meaning.
There are those who would claim that the timing of the release is not a coincidence, and is in fact intended to embarrass Israel, which staunchly opposes the deal with Iran, and embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues his efforts to challenge the Obama administration and influence Congress to reject the deal.
According to the documents, which cover events from 1969 to 1972, Israel was asked to provide a written obligation neither to arm its [ten newly produced] missiles with nuclear warheads nor to deploy them.
The documents show that Israel was trying to skirt American demands re its nuclear program, and the U.S. was going in on the hypocrisy. It was leaving Israeli actions up to the Israelis’ “conscience,” according to this report to President Nixon from national security adviser Henry Kissinger in 1969:
The Israelis had promised in signing the Phantom contract “not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.” [Ambassador to the U.S. Yitzhak] Rabin had informally defined “introduce” to mean“not test and not publicize.” [Under Secretary of State] Elliot Richardson on July 29 asked him to accept our definition of “not introduce” as “not possess.” … [Richardson] defined “possess” for our own internal purposes as “Israeli activity short of as- sembly of a completed nuclear explosive device.” In short, we tried to put ourselves in a position where we could act as if we assumed the Israelis do not have completed weapons while leaving to the Israelis’ conscience the stage short of completion where they would stop… Instead of accepting our words “not possess,” Rabin simply says they “prefer” to say they will “not become a nuclear power. When I asked how a state could become a “nuclear power” without “possessing” nuclear weapons, he simply said they “prefer” their formulation.
Last week, too, Lobelog published “The Next Middle East Nuclear Challenge: Israel,” an eloquent piece by Peter Jenkins, a career British diplomat, saying that the P5+1 should now start working to get Israel to give up its nukes.
[T]he five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the EU High Representative, fresh from their diplomatic achievement of consolidating Iran’s commitment to the NPT, embark on a similar process of engagement with Israel.
The goal of the process would be to define an action plan that would enable Israel to feel confident that acceding to the NPT would not entail any compromise to Israeli security.
The Israeli government may well say that it does not wish to engage the P5 and EU on such an issue. If so, the P5+1 would be wrong to take “no” for an answer. They pride themselves on having “brought Iran to the negotiating table.” They should look for ways of bringing Israel to the table. It would be surprising if they needed to resort to measures as drastic as those employed in Iran’s case.
Middle East states deserve the security that NWFZs [nuclear weapon free zones] have brought to Latin America, Africa, South East Asia, the Pacific, and Central Asia.
Two weeks back Grant Smith’s Institute for Research Middle East Policy continued its effort to undermine the official hypocrisy, picking up a radio interview in which Colorado Congressman Jared Polis said, “everybody knows [Israel] they have nuclear capabilities, not declared for some technical reason.” Polis is undeclared on the Iran Deal.
And last March, William Greider echoed Smith’s exasperation over the hypocrisy in the Nation:
While the Washington press corps obsessed over Hillary Clinton’s emails at the State Department, reporters were missing a far more important story about government secrets. After five decades of pretending otherwise, the Pentagon has reluctantly confirmed that Israel does indeed possess nuclear bombs, as well as awesome weapons technology similar to America’s.
Early last month the Department of Defense released a secret report done in 1987 by the Pentagon funded Institute for Defense Analysis that essentially confirms the existence of Israel’s nukes. DOD was responding to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Grant Smith, an investigative reporter and author who heads the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy. Smith said he thinks this is the first time the US government has ever provided official recognition of the longstanding reality.
Now here is Grant Smith’s report on his experience: “The secret federal gag order that prohibits informed debate about Israel’s nukes”
On August 20, 2015 the Department of Energy released under the Freedom of Information Act its “Guidance on Release of Information Relating to the Potential for an Israeli Nuclear Capability.” (PDF) The Orwellian title of the year 2012 document, designated WNP-136, seems to suggest that Israel might not yet even have nuclear weapons. This is in stark contrast to the public opinion of 63.9 percent of Americans polled who believe it does. Interestingly, it covers only Israel and not the other non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty such as India, North Korea and South Sudan.
The official reason for promulgating the gag order, its history and development, bureaucratic champions and most of its redacted contents remain unclear. What is clear is that it is one of the reasons federal employees and government contractors, and sometimes even the President, equivocate and run for the exits whenever they are asked to make substantive remarks. The Israel nuclear gag order answers the question posed last week by McClatchy, “Why is Israel’s nuclear arsenal not mentioned in Iran deal debate?” Because any federal employee who does can be summarily fired and possibly go to prison.
Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013. After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification officials for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched, and he was fired.
Aside from prohibiting any informed input in the run-up to the September congressional vote on the Iran nuclear deal, the secret gag order has a far more costly function—it makes enforcement of the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the 1961 Foreign Aid Act impossible.
Time has cracked the edifice of silence. State Department documents (PDF) released this week add color to previous accounts about the maneuvering of Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s, functioning as Israel’s lawyer, to secretly exempt the arsenal from safeguards demands the US and international community imposed on others—as well as Nixon’s intense fear of an Israel-lobby backlash.
In February this year the Pentagon released its chartered study from 1987 about how Israel’s nuclear weapons development facilities already paralleled American national laboratories even as the country raced for hydrogen bomb capabilities. However the gag order outlaws any current releases about the true nuclear balance of power in the Middle East when it would matter most. This buttresses Israel and its lobby’s attempts to keep a focus on Iran, but harms Americans positioned outside of the Israel affinity ecosystem.
The Symington and Glenn laws prohibit US foreign aid to any country found trafficking in nuclear weapons technology outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. An estimated (considering inflation and assumed value of US intelligence support) $234 billion in taxpayer-funded aid has been delivered to Israel since their passage. But absent unencumbered, informed and authoritative public information from the federal government on the state of Israel’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, the law is impossible to enforce.
Whether such subversion of taxpayer rights and foreign aid laws is the gag order’s core intent remains to be seen in the upcoming FOIA appeal and public interest legal actions.
Grant Smith is now undertaking that FOIA appeal process.