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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Israel

Time for Arms Talks? Iran, Israel, and Middle East Arms Control

Dalia Dassa Kaye

The Middle East has all it takes to frustrate international arms control regimes. Key regional actors do not recognize one actor’s right to exist, let alone share diplomatic relations. Countries in the region perceive their own security as requiring the insecurity of others, leading them to adopt offensive military postures. At the same time, there is virtually no regional arms control culture or constituency.

The ongoing showdown between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran is a case in point, underscoring the limitations of global nonproliferation norms in addressing regional proliferation. Despite Tehran’s stated commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as the IAEA’s success in uncovering a pattern of Iranian violations, the violations themselves raise many questions about the adequacy of the NPT in blocking determined states from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities. Even strengthened verification measures under the Additional Protocol do not address the broader political and security context of proliferation problems in unstable regions such as the Middle East.

Without such consideration, even the best orchestrated international diplomatic efforts will fall short. Because effective arms control follows political relationships and is dependent on the broader security environment, current diplomatic efforts focused on Iran must take place in conjunction with attempts to create a more favorable regional climate for arms control. This will require altering political relationships and establishing new regional processes that focus not just on international disarmament goals but also on regional confidence-building measures.

Although solving current proliferation challenges such as Iran is not dependent on the creation of new regional security structures, strong political support for such processes by the United States and its Western allies could create a more favorable regional climate and provide some cover for regional actors to make concessions in the proliferation area. That said, the creation of a regional security dialogue should be viewed primarily as a long-term process to address the underlying motivations and security vulnerabilities that lead to the type of crises we are facing today with countries such as Iran.

Consequently, the United States and Europe need to work together, preferably in conjunction with Russia and other Western allies such as Japan, on three levels: first, rein in the Iranian nuclear program; second, involve Israel, the one nuclear power in the region, and its Arab neighbors more actively in regional and global nonproliferation efforts; and third, revive multilateral regional security talks. On none of these points are there reasons to be sanguine about the prospects for success, but neither are such efforts futile, particularly if international coordination and willingness to exert political capital on the Middle East proliferation problem increases.

Dealing With Iran

Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons must be addressed quickly and resolutely. No other proliferation challenge would more dramatically disrupt the regional balance of power and escalate the regional arms race, not to mention undermine the credibility of the NPT, than an Iranian nuclear weapons capability. The potential for nuclear breakout among other Middle Eastern states, in addition to the horrifying risks of such technologies reaching terrorists, would create a proliferation nightmare several times worse than previous threats to the NPT regime.

Indeed, the prospect of a nuclear Iran is one of the few issues currently generating transatlantic agreement, even if tactics differ. Compared to the Europeans, the United States considers sanctions against Iran more favorably and prefers a shorter timeline for imposing them if Iran does not comply with IAEA demands. Both sides are in agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle, which could enable Iran to produce enough weapons-grade material for a small arsenal within a short period of time.

The specter of Iranian acquisition of nuclear capabilities is so troubling that Israel predictably has not ruled out a preventive military strike. Such a military option would be much more difficult (militarily and politically) than the Israeli strike against Iraq’s Osirik facility in 1981. Worse still, it could prompt an Iranian military response, further destabilizing the region.[1] Still, the Israelis are leaving the option on the table, issuing statements and pursuing actions that are preparing the ground for such an attack, even if such preparations are solely for deterrent purposes.[2]

Although the IAEA has postponed a decision on whether to refer Iranian safeguards violations to the UN Security Council until its Board of Governors meeting on Nov. 25, Iran’s hard-line position since a September IAEA resolution called on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities raises the prospects for escalation. Iran’s refusal to fully abide by its previous commitment to the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to suspend all enrichment activity and hints that it might consider withdrawing from the NPT are raising the stakes.

Generating agreement in support of sanctions will be difficult given the importance of Iranian energy supplies to Western countries, particularly with oil prices at an all-time high.[3] Nevertheless, in the face of continuing Iranian defiance, such a course of action is possible, even though it may take place outside the UN Security Council context. Unfortunately, as the India and Pakistan cases demonstrated, international sanctions that are not pursued through a broad multilateral process over a sustained period of time (as was the case with Libya) are not always an effective instrument in persuading determined states to reverse course.

Time is running out, but the contours of a transatlantic approach are apparent, providing some hope for a nonmilitary solution. Such a strategy, most clearly and forcefully outlined by Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration, essentially calls for the United States and Europe to switch roles, with Europe becoming the “bad cop” and the United States becoming the “better cop.”[4] The idea is to change the cost-benefit analysis of the Iranian leadership to the extent that pursuing the nuclear path will be viewed as too costly.

In practice, this translates into tougher and more credible European threats to isolate Iran politically and economically if it does not reverse course (i.e., using sticks instead of simply the threat of deferred carrots). At the same time, the United States will need to indicate what Iranian nuclear capabilities would be acceptable even under the current regime (e.g., nuclear technology that did not allow for an indigenous fuel-cycle capability and would require the return of all spent fuel to approved third parties). Recent discussions between the United States and the Europeans on a package of incentives for Iran, including imported nuclear fuel, suggest the United States and its allies may be moving in this direction.

Even more significantly, the United States would need to drop its regime-change rhetoric and explore the improvement of bilateral relations, beginning perhaps with limited dialogues focused on issues of mutual concern such as Iraq and Afghanistan.[5] Improved relations with Iran will face tremendous domestic resistance in the United States, but an increasing number of voices are calling for such a shift. Indeed, an altered U.S.-Iranian political relationship is the linchpin for any other efforts to address regional proliferation; rethinking this relationship should be the top priority for whichever U.S. administration comes to office this January. The outlines of a Western strategy to resolve this crisis may be clear, but the political will to carry it out, both in Washington and European capitals, is still questionable.

Israel and Its Neighbors

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear challenge could gain momentum if other regional parties, particularly Israel, take steps to boost the nonproliferation agenda and improve the regional security environment. Accusations of double standards must be evaluated in the context of the existential threat Israel faces and its belief that nuclear weapons offer a valuable deterrent in warding off any attack. Iran’s recent parading of its Shahab-3 missiles, capable of reaching Israel and covered with banners calling for Israel’s destruction, only contributes to this security perception, even though Iran’s motivations for nuclear weapons capabilities are complex and extend beyond the Israeli factor.[6]

Still, the perception among Arab parties and others in the developing world that the West applies double standards when it comes to “acceptable” and “unacceptable” proliferators is real and needs to be addressed. The recent U.S. focus on the Iranian nuclear threat in the context of the Bush administration’s lack of commitment to global arms control treaties such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has only reinforced this perception of double standards.

Some specific steps by Israel could thus improve the climate in the Middle East. Expecting Israel to join the NPT or alter its policy of nuclear ambiguity is a nonstarter; efforts pressuring Israel in this direction will only backfire.[7] Still, Israel could move forward with other arms control measures, such as ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the CTBT (building on its recent signing of a facilities agreement with the CTBT Organization) and joining the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). At the 2005 NPT Review Conference, Israel could also reaffirm its commitment to join the NPT in the future if certain security conditions are met, such as peace treaties with all of its neighbors and the establishment of a verifiable weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-free zone (WMDFZ)—to include long-range missile capabilities—throughout the region.[8] The United States should encourage Israel to take such steps by offering assurances that renewed political attention to regional arms control will extend beyond a focus on the weapons themselves to include the broader agenda of transforming the security environment and nature of political relations in the region.

Moreover, because one cannot divorce nuclear arms control from other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, a comprehensive approach is necessary if arms control is to be a serious endeavor in the region. In particular, Egypt and Syria should be encouraged to join the CWC. Even if Syria is unlikely to move forward on the CWC until Israel’s posture on the NPT changes, Syria could take other nonproliferation steps, such as ratifying the BWC and the CTBT and subscribing to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.

Expectations in Europe that Syria may follow the Libyan model of completely ending its WMD programs may be unwarranted,[9] but the growing European attention to Syria in relation to weapons of mass destruction, especially its chemical weapons program, in conjunction with increasing U.S. pressure should continue. The European refusal to conclude its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Syria until Damascus accepted the EU’s new standard nonproliferation clause is a welcome step.[10] Europe’s new Neighborhood Policy, which promises closer economic, political, and security relations with the EU’s neighbors in exchange for progress on a variety of “priority” areas including nonproliferation, may also prove a useful lever for European influence on these issues. The Neighborhood Policy, initiated after the EU’s enlargement in May 2004, applies to all non-EU participants in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or Barcelona process, including key actors in the regional proliferation context such as Israel, Syria, and Egypt.[11]

Renewed Regional Security Dialogue

Specific steps taken by individual Middle Eastern actors can improve regional security, but ultimately the region needs a multilateral regional security process to address the interrelated web of security perceptions and vulnerabilities and the underlying sources for proliferation in the region. Such a process should work toward the creation of a WMDFZ in the long run, along the lines of the nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America. Given the political and security realities in the Middle East at present, however, a more realistic short-term agenda could focus on practical confidence-building measures in areas such as conflict prevention, misperception, and limitation of damage should conflict occur.

The short-lived history of the only official multilateral security experiment to date in the Middle East—the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group of the Arab-Israeli multilateral peace process—demonstrates that such an agenda is possible.[12] Established with the Madrid peace conference in 1991, the ACRS process accomplished more than many thought was possible in this region, even if it ultimately collapsed in 1995. As the co-sponsor of the group, the United States sought to structure the ACRS group based on previous arms control experience in the European and U.S.-Soviet context, suggesting that incremental approaches to arms control tended to precede formal arms control measures, such as the banning of certain military activities or actual reductions in capabilities.

Consequently, the ACRS group focused on incremental confidence-building measures to encourage cooperative security norms rather than on a more advanced arms control agenda. After the Oslo breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian relations in 1993, the ACRS group engaged in a number of conceptual and operational confidence-building activities, such as the drafting of a declaration of principles for regional security and arms control; the creation of a regional security center; the establishment of a communications network; the production of a Pre-notification of Certain Military Activities agreement; an Exchange of Military Activities document; and a number of maritime confidence-building measures such as Search and Rescue (SAR) and Prevention of Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) agreements.

Despite this active agenda, the ACRS group’s demise was brought about largely by the dispute between Israel and Egypt over the Israeli nuclear issue. Egyptian pressure on Israel to sign the NPT increased tension in the group and essentially held all other activities in the process hostage to this issue. Its progress was also limited by setbacks on the bilateral peace process tracks as well as by the exclusion of key regional parties from the process, most notably Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

The ACRS experience underscores that regional security dialogue can be fruitful and confidence-building measures in a variety of areas are possible. Future efforts, however, will need to adequately address Egyptian and other Arab concerns over the Israeli nuclear arsenal while assuring the Israelis that this will not be the sole focus of such discussions. The ACRS process thus demonstrates the need to work both on longer-term disarmament goals as well as shorter-term regional security confidence-building and cooperative activity. Moreover, a renewed regional dialogue must include the actors who were absent from the ACRS group if the process is to be comprehensive and address the full range of regional security relationships and concerns.

After the demise of the ACRS process, the prospects for a renewed, regional arms control dialogue appeared dim, despite a variety of unofficial track-two dialogues.[13] Yet, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, which highlighted weapons of mass destruction and made clear that Iraq desired to maintain a nuclear deterrent even though it did not actually possess such an active weapons program after 1991,[14] attention is once again being focused on a regional arms control agenda. The ongoing crisis with Iran as well as the positive developments with Libya have only further fueled interest in re-establishing some sort of official regional process.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei underscored the critical need for a regional security dialogue during his visit to Israel in July 2004. As a result, ElBaradei secured the agreement of regional parties, including Israel, to participate in an IAEA conference this January, which will examine how negotiations established WMDFZs in other regions and what lessons these efforts might offer the Middle East. This meeting is a one-time event, however, and, although useful, cannot replace a more durable regional dialogue process with a broader agenda.

The recent Euro-Med agreement to start a dialogue on weapons of mass destruction is also a positive step. It will include both Israel and Syria, which participate in the Barcelona process. But it cannot replace a dialogue that includes key extra-regional actors such as the United States and critical regional parties in the Persian Gulf that are not part of the Barcelona process. In order to improve understandings of mutual threat perceptions and engage in confidence-building measures in such areas as surprise attack, transparency, conventional stockpiles, and the like, in addition to longer-term disarmament goals, a comprehensive regional security process is essential.

Many will argue that the creation of a multilateral regional security dialogue is impossible absent a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Few can doubt that progress on the Middle East peace process would create a more favorable climate for regional arms control, as occurred in the early 1990s with the ACRS process. A successful Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, for example, could generate momentum and provide political cover for the resumption of a regional arms control process, as would serious Israeli commitment to dismantling settlements deep inside Palestinian territory. Yet, the absence of progress on the peace process also should not provide an excuse for doing nothing. The WMD revelations in Iraq, the recent Libyan decision to dismantle its WMD programs, the growing vulnerability felt by Syria, and the current focus on the Iranian nuclear issue provide an opening for moving a regional arms control agenda forward even in the current environment, as the emergence of recent initiatives suggests.

A new regional security process can work toward a WMDFZ in the long run while maintaining a more pragmatic agenda in the short term. The fact that even under the best political conditions a WMDFZ in the Middle East may never fully transpire should not lead the international community and the region itself to avoid confronting the proliferation crisis and taking steps now to avoid further destabilization. Ultimately, a transformation of political relationships and the creation of a broad, durable, and effective regional arms control process will be key to meeting the proliferation challenges from the Middle East that so threaten stability today.

ENDNOTES

1. For an assessment of the risks regarding a use of force option, see Michael Eisenstadt, “The Challenge of U.S. Preventive Military Action,” in Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, eds. Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, January 2004).

2. On statements by Israeli leaders not ruling force out in response to the Iranian threat, see Aluf Ben, “Waiting to Bomb Iran,” Ha`aretz, September 29, 2004. On one relevant defense acquisition, a purchase of 500 bunker-busting bombs from the United States, see Maggie Farley, “Powell Denies U.S. Plans to Attack Iran,” Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2004.

3. See George Perkovich and Silvia Manzanero, “Plan B: Using Sanctions to End Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, May 2004.

4. See Robert J. Einhorn, “A Transatlantic Strategy on Iran’s Nuclear Program,” The Washington Quarterly 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2004): 21-32.

5. See “Iran: Time for a New Approach,” 2004 (report of the Council on Foreign Relations task force co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert M. Gates). Ray Takeyh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev similarly argue that, because regime change does not appear imminent, we have the opportunity to engage more pragmatic elements within the conservative camp who might find improved relations with Washington in their interest. See Ray Takeyh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev, “Pragmatism in the Midst of Iranian Turmoil,” The Washington Quarterly 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2004): 33-56.

6. See Ray Takeyh, “Iran’s Nuclear Calculations,” World Policy Journal 20, no. 2 (Summer 2003).

7. Indeed, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s revelations regarding Iranian violations and growing capabilities have only reinforced the Israeli rationale for maintaining its current nuclear stance. See Emily B. Landau, “ElBaradei’s Message to Israel: Regional Security Dialogue,” Tel Aviv Notes, no. 106, July 15, 2004.

8. For a similar list of recommendations, see Universal Compliance: Strategy for Nuclear Security, George Perkovich et al (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2004).

9. See Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Europe, Syria, and Weapons of Mass Destruction,” PolicyWatch, no. 824, January 8, 2004, pp. 204-38.

10. In December 2003, the European Union adopted a nonproliferation strategy and has since agreed to include a nonproliferation clause in all agreements with third parties; the Syrians were the first to put this clause to the test. For the text of the nonproliferation clause, see http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/st14997.en03.pdf.

11. For the European Neighborhood Policy, see http://europa.eu.int/comm/world/enp/policy_en.htm.

12. For information on the Arms Control and Regional Security working group, see Bruce W. Jentleson and Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Securing Status: Explaining Regional Security Cooperation and Its Limits in the Middle East,” Security Studies 8, no. 1 (Fall 1998).

13. See Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Track Two Diplomacy and Regional Security in the Middle East,” International Negotiation 6 (2001): 49-77.

14. For the conclusive report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including assessments of Iraqi strategic intentions and perceptions, see “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD,” September 30, 2004, found at http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/iraq_wmd_2004/.


Dalia Dassa Kaye is currently a visiting professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam. Kaye has published many articles on Middle East security issues and is author of Beyond the Handshake: Multilateral Cooperation in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process.

Israel, Iran Flex Missiles

Wade Boese

Israel and Iran spent the last weeks of the summer conducting missile tests and exchanging verbal volleys about their determination to match each other’s weapons capabilities.

On July 29, Israel, for the first time, successfully tested its Arrow-2 missile defense system against what was widely reported as a Scud ballistic missile. U.S. and Israeli officials would not officially confirm that the target was a Scud—a mainstay of the Soviet missile arsenal that has spread around the globe, including to Iran—but a Missile Defense Agency spokesperson implied as much, commenting Aug. 13 that the target was a “liquid-fueled short- to medium-range ballistic missile.”

The joint U.S.-Israeli test took place off California’s coast to provide a more realistic test scenario. Israel’s territory is too small and densely populated to fire the Arrow-2 against targets at ranges that would replicate a real attack.

The Arrow-2 system failed Aug. 26 to replicate its earlier success, missing an air-launched target off the coast of California. Although U.S. and Israeli officials said they did not know the cause of the failure, they reaffirmed their confidence in the system, which has been tested a total of 13 times but never used in combat. Israel has deployed two Arrow batteries and is seeking to deploy more of the interceptors.

Unlike U.S. missile interceptors that are designed to destroy enemy targets through collisions, the Arrow-2 carries a conventional explosive warhead. Israel Aircraft Industries, which works with U.S.-owned Boeing Corp. to build the Arrow-2 system, said the July 29 test marked “an important step in proving the system’s operational ability and its response to the existing and growing threat of ballistic missiles in our region.”

With Iraq and Libya currently out of the ballistic missile business, Syria and Iran were clearly the intended audiences. Iran was paying attention. Tehran announced Aug. 11 a successful test of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which is estimated to be capable of reaching Israel.

Speaking a few days earlier, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Iran intended to match Israeli military advances with its own missile improvements. Iran declared the Shahab-3 ready for operations last year but is believed only to possess a handful of the estimated 1,300-kilometer-range missiles.

Iranian officials indicated that the August test sought to verify enhancements to the missile’s range and accuracy, but they were vague about whether the test was a flight or ground experiment. A U.S. official refused to comment on that aspect of the test.

The Department of State released an Aug. 11 statement warning that the United States has “serious concerns about Iran’s missile programs” and that it “will continue to take steps to address Iran’s missile efforts, and to work closely with other like-minded countries in doing so.”

In July, Congress approved $155 million in fiscal year 2005 for the Arrow system. Since 1988, the United States has funneled $1.2 billion to the program, the total cost of which is estimated to reach $2.2 billion by 2010.

The missile tests occurred against a backdrop of growing tension in the region surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington and Tel Aviv charge is intended for weapons purposes and Tehran defends as a civilian energy project.

Israeli Subcommittee Faults Intelligence on Iraq

An investigation into Israel’s failure to provide accurate intelligence on Iraq’s weapons capabilities found that Israeli intelligence agencies suffered from a closed “information loop,” as well as other failures.

The conclusions are the result of an eight-month investigation by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services that questioned intelligence officials, military officers, and Cabinet members. On March 28, the subcommittee released an 81-page declassified report pending the completion of a longer, classified version.

The report criticized Israeli intelligence agencies for a number of failures, concluding that the agencies overestimated Iraq’s ability to strike at Israel directly. Likud Knesset member Yuval Steinitz, who headed the investigation, cited an “escalation” between 1998 and the beginning of the war in the number of missiles believed to be possessed by Iraq for which there was “no explanation.”

The subcommittee found that Israeli intelligence agencies used information from foreign intelligence services without recognizing that the other states obtained the data from Israel in the first place. The result, according to Steinitz, was that speculation was passed in circles “without any substantiation from the field.” However, Steinitz rejected suggestions that the Israeli agencies intentionally misled the United States and others in hopes of encouraging them to go to war against Iraq, a longtime enemy of Israel.

Steinitz criticized Israeli agencies for their failure to develop sources of hard data within Iraq, noting that the United States and the United Kingdom were able to obtain superior intelligence because of their direct access to Iraqi airspace.

Vanunu Released From Prison

Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison on April 21, 18 years after his arrest for revealing secrets about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Vanunu offered details and pictures of Israel’s Diamona nuclear reactor to The Sunday Times in 1986, undermining Israel’s policy of “nuclear ambiguity” and leading analysts to conclude that Israel possessed between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons. Before the article was published, he was abducted in Rome by Mossad and convicted of treason in Israel in a closed trial.

Upon his release, Vanunu said he was proud of his actions and condemned his treatment in prison, where he spent more than 11 years in solitary confinement. He called on Israel to open up the Diamona nuclear reactor to international inspections, saying Israel has no need for nuclear weapons.

Fearing that he would reveal further secrets, the Israeli government placed severe restrictions on Vanunu following his release, forbidding him from leaving the country, restricting his movements within Israel, and limiting his foreign contacts. Vanunu said he had no more secrets to reveal.



Israel, India Sign Major Arms Deal

Wade Boese


With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.

Under the contract inked March 5, Israel will install its Phalcon system on three Russian-supplied aircraft for future delivery to India. The Phalcon is an advanced communications, electronic intelligence, and radar system able to provide simultaneous long-range tracking of multiple air and surface targets. The first of the three aircraft will be transferred to India within three to four years.

Israel has been marketing the Phalcon system overseas for several years but has met stiff U.S. resistance. In July 2000, Israel cancelled the proposed sale of four Phalcon systems to China under extreme pressure from Washington, which worried that the system might tilt the military edge in the Taiwan Strait away from Taipei and too much in Beijing’s favor. The United States further called upon Israel to delay a possible deal with India but dropped its objections in 2002 as relations improved between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani government officials expressed their displeasure with the new deal but did so in more reserved tones than usual. One Pakistani diplomatic source told Arms Control Today March 22 that the sale would exacerbate the already asymmetrical conventional-force balance between India and Pakistan and would compel Islamabad to look at ways to lessen the deal’s impact. It is too early to know what those measures might be, the source said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.

Israel, India, and Pakistan: Engaging the Non-NPT States in the Nonproliferation Regime

Marvin Miller and Lawrence Scheinman

The problem at the top of the global nonproliferation agenda today, particularly as viewed by the Bush administration, is how to thwart the nuclear weapons ambitions of Iran and North Korea. However, to achieve this goal the administration needs to pay more attention to the three de facto nuclear-weapon states that are outside the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT): Israel, India, and Pakistan.

Short of becoming party to the treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states—a remote prospect at this time—these countries need to be more fully engaged in the nonproliferation regime. For example, it is not clear that Iran can be convinced or coerced into giving up its weapons ambitions unless Israel accepts constraints on its unacknowledged nuclear program. Additionally, the transfer of weapons-relevant nuclear items and expertise from the non-NPT states, particularly Pakistan, to North Korea, Iran, and other countries needs to be much more rigorously controlled. Finally, the non-universality of the NPT, and the U.S. view of the nuclear reality in Israel, India, and Pakistan as a situation to be “managed” rather than reversed, weakens the global nonproliferation norm and thus undermines the regime.

However, those charged with formulating nuclear policy in the Bush administration see little connection between the possession of nuclear weapons by the eight existing nuclear weapons states, including the three non-NPT states, and the real danger to international security and stability: the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue regimes and their possible transfer to terrorist organizations who could not be easily deterred from using them against the United States and its allies.

Although the United States has always opposed the proliferation of nuclear weapons, in cases where this could not be prevented the basic determinant of our attitude toward the possession of these weapons by other countries is whether the regime is supportive of or antagonistic to U.S. interests. More precisely, U.S. officials have considered whether there are any conceivable circumstances where they would attack us with those weapons. Israel, India, and Pakistan have never posed such a threat. Thus, our opposition to their nuclear weapons development, although sometimes significant, was rarely sustained and has now evolved into tacit acceptance. Yet, reducing the size and salience of the existing nuclear arsenals, including those in the non-NPT states is crucial if the international community led by the United States is to stem further proliferation to both states and terrorist groups.

In the following, we trace the evolution of the U.S. policy toward the nuclear weapons programs in the three non-NPT states, the potential consequences for the proliferation challenges we now face, and what can be done to confront these challenges.

Getting the Bomb: A Brief History of the Three NPT Outliers

Israel

The United States initially opposed Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, but a secret understanding was reached in 1969 in which the United States agreed to accept the “nuclear facts on the ground” in Israel, while Israel pledged not to test or declare itself a nuclear-weapon state.[1] The reason for this change of attitude by the United States went beyond the perceived futility of continuing to pressure Israel on the nuclear issue in the face of significant domestic support for the Jewish state. President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger viewed the United States and Israel as strategic allies with a common attitude toward nuclear weapons: essential for their own security but a grave danger if acquired by their enemies. To this end and at considerable cost, both states have developed sophisticated nuclear (and conventional) weapons capabilities while seeking to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by their enemies, by persuasion if possible, by violent means if necessary. Despite various “bumps on the road” which have drawn public attention to the nuclear reality in Israel over the intervening years (e.g., “the flash in the South Atlantic”[2] in 1979 and the Vanunu revelations [3] regarding Israel’s nuclear capabilities in 1986), the 1969 understanding still holds.

Indeed, although the first Bush and Clinton administrations tried to interest Israel in signing on to a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), which would place a cap on the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons, the United States did not push very hard. Israel for its part never had much enthusiasm for such a treaty, regarding it as a “slippery slope” toward nuclear disarmament.[4] As a result of this and other problems, proposals for a regional or a global FMCT went nowhere. Since taking office, the current administration has not raised disarmament issues with Israel, contenting itself with continuing the practice of previous administrations of periodically “tipping its hat” to the importance of the universality of the NPT as a long-term goal but deferring any efforts to pressure Israel on this issue until a broader, lasting peace in the Middle East is achieved.

For example, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf told a gathering of NPT signatories in April:

U.S. support for the goal of universal NPT adherence remains undiminished. We do not support and change in the NPT that would accord a different status to states currently outside the treaty. The 2000 NPT Review Conference recognized that universality would depend on successful efforts to enhance regional security in areas of tension such as the MiddleEast and South Asia. We continue to recognize the validity of the goal of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, and we are committed to helping the parties of the Middle East to achieve peace.[5]

Consonant with this view, also embraced by Israel, that peace in the Middle East is a precondition for eliminating nuclear weapons is the Bush administration’s focus on the Israeli/Palestinian “road map” rather than attempting simultaneously to promote some sort of “nuclear road map” for the region including Iran. Indeed, the United States is seeking to forge an international consensus on the need to pressure Iran to curtail its weapons-related nuclear activities, while Israel bolsters its ability to deal with the possible failure of such efforts by investing in missile defense and, reportedly, a second-strike nuclear deterrent.[6]

India and Pakistan

India acquired a nuclear-weapon capability under the cover of an ambitious nuclear power program that received considerable support from the major nuclear suppliers, particularly Canada and the United States, until India detonated a so-called peaceful nuclear explosive (PNE) in 1974. Pakistan’s acquisition and subsequent development of nuclear weapons have been driven by its perceived need to match India in this sphere as well as to compensate for its conventional military inferiority to India in the context of a possible war over Kashmir.

In the aftermath of the Indian PNE, the United States led an international effort to clamp down on further proliferation. One step was bringing the major nuclear suppliers together to agree on a code of conduct (the Nuclear Supplier Guidelines) for nuclear exports that mandated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on nuclear-related items and also urged restraint on the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies. Domestically, the United States enacted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, conditioning U.S. nuclear cooperation on a country’s acceptance of full-scope safeguards. That law led to the termination of U.S. nuclear cooperation with India.

By contrast, U.S. policy toward Pakistan has been much less consistent. Pakistan’s acquisition of uranium-enrichment technology in 1979 resulted in a U.S. cutoff of economic and military assistance. Two years later, however, the United States suspended these sanctions as a result of Pakistan’s cooperation in supporting the effort to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Yet, sanctions were imposed again in 1990 after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and President George H. W. Bush could not (as required by the 1985 Pressler amendment) affirm that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device. The nuclear tests carried out in May 1998 by India and Pakistan resulted in the suspension of military and foreign economic assistance to both countries as well as prohibitions on U.S. bank-backed loans or credits and denial of Export-Import Bank support for exports. Eventually, domestic and foreign policy considerations, accelerated by the need for allies in the war on terrorism after September 11, 2001, led to an easing and ultimate lifting of all sanctions.

Technical and Political Differences


Although all three non-NPT states have acquired nuclear weapons, there are significant technical and political differences among them as well as differences in the way the United States has addressed their nuclear status. On the technical level, there is little reliable information about their nuclear arsenals in the public domain, but most knowledgeable observers give Israel a qualitative edge over India and Pakistan in the sophistication of their nuclear assets. There are strong differences of opinion about how India and Pakistan compare in this regard. As for the size of their arsenals, the consensus view is that Israel has more weapons than India, which has more than Pakistan, although again there are significant uncertainties in publicly available estimates.[7]

The impact of these technical differences on the political level is the perceived need of these states to conduct further testing and production of weapons. The principal political difference between India and Pakistan on the one hand and Israel on the other with regard to nuclear weapons policy is that since May 1998 both India and Pakistan are declared nuclear-weapon states, while Israel’s nuclear status—although aptly characterized by the Economist as the “world’s worst-kept” secret—remains officially unacknowledged by both Israel and the United States. Thus, although the current U.S. administration now appears to regard the nuclear weapons capabilities of India and Pakistan as well as Israel as a fait accompli—to be “managed” rather than opposed—this policy can only be acknowledged with regard to India and Pakistan. For example, Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that he did not expect either India or Pakistan to give up their nuclear capabilities, acknowledging that the world sees little point in trying to reverse “that bit of proliferation,” but no mention was made of Israel.[8]

Delinking Iran and Israel


A significant sorepoint in the troubled relations between United States and the Muslim world is whether the United States in recent years has adopted a double standard that favors Israel. The focus of this debate has been on U.S. policy vis-à-vis a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The charge has also been made, however, that the United States had adopted a “nuclear double standard” in the Middle East, acquiescing in the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel while strongly opposing their possession by its neighbors, with Iran being the most prominent contemporary example. Although there is no legal equivalence between Israel possessing nuclear weapons and Iran attempting to obtain them since the latter is party to the NPT and the former is not, some would extend the lack of equivalence to the moral dimension, arguing that democratic Israel acquired nuclear weapons only to deter any attempt to annihilate the Jewish state, while Iran is presently ruled by autocratic ayatollahs who do not accept the legitimacy of “the Zionist entity” and thus cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons.

There is merit to this argument, but it is also true that the acquisition of nuclear weapons for reasons of status and security has been a goal of Iran for decades, dating back to the time of the shah.[9] Iran’s self-image as a regional superpower and the inheritor of a great cultural and intellectual tradition as well as the heart of the Shi`a branch of Islam would make it difficult to live without the bomb. These views are reinforced by Iranian concerns about the future nuclear ambitions of a Saddam Hussein-less Iraq and the fact that Iran’s Sunni-dominated neighbor and rival, Pakistan, already has nuclear weapons. Moreover, a more Western-oriented government in Tehran might view Israel’s nuclear capability as less menacing. Nevertheless, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons outside the NPT remains a thorn in the side of the dominant states of the Islamic world, particularly Iran and Egypt, and the weight of opinion across the Iranian political spectrum is opposed to its giving up its quest for nuclear weapons without some reciprocity on the part of Israel.

Iran has now agreed to accept an additional protocol to IAEA comprehensive safeguards and to suspend temporarily its enrichment of uranium to reassure the international community about the peaceful intent of its nuclear program. However, this surely reflects a pragmatic assessment of current global politics and its national security interests rather than a commitment to forgo the acquisition of nuclear weapons forever.[10] Pressure needs to be maintained on Iran to remain a non-nuclear-weapon state-party to the NPT, but its incentives to obtain nuclear weapons, including their possession by Israel, also need to be addressed. Thus, in the long term it will be difficult if not impossible for Israel to maintain its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East without courting potentially catastrophic consequences. Israel should now consider, and the United States should support, stronger engagement in the nuclear nonproliferation regime short of the total elimination of its weapons as a means of reducing the risk of their further proliferation and possible use. (The same is true for India and Pakistan with regard to further vertical proliferation and possible use.) The important point is that implementation of various means to this end should not be hostage to the coming of a “just, stable, and enduring peace” to the region.[11] On the contrary, there can be a positive synergy between arms control measures and progress in the political arena.

Arms Control Under Ambiguity

Can nonproliferation measures be implemented if Israel maintains a policy of ambiguity with regard to its nuclear arsenal? The case that such a policy is a significant impediment to arms control and nonproliferation was made some years ago by McGeorge Bundy, William Crowe Jr., and Sidney Drell. They observed that, although the pretense that Israel is not a nuclear-weapon state may make relations with the United States and other states less troublesome, it prevents the Israeli government from making a convincing argument that no state need fear a nuclear Israel unless it attempts the destruction of the Jewish state. Moreover, it is very difficult to discuss constraints on a weapons program that does not officially exist.[12]

The basic counterargument is that nuclear ambiguity has served both Israel and the cause of nonproliferation well by enhancing deterrence against any military threat to Israel’s existence, while not providing the added incentive for any of its Muslim neighbors to acquire the bomb that might result from an open declaration of its nuclear status. It has also given Israel leverage in obtaining advanced conventional weapons and other military assistance from U.S. administrations concerned that Israel might resort to nuclear weapons without them. In addition, no declared nuclear-weapon state has ever given up its weapons, the implication being that acquiring and relinquishing nuclear weapons are most easily accomplished under conditions of ambiguity.[13] Finally, the policy of ambiguity is integral to Israel’s 1969 secret agreement with the United States, and it is difficult to imagine any significant shift in this policy without some new nuclear understanding between Israel and the United States. This in turn might lead to a wider public debate on such fundamental issues as who is entitled to have nuclear weapons, an outcome unlikely to be welcomed by either the U.S. government or that of the other weapon states.

Still, Bundy, Crowe, and Drell raise important concerns. Although other democracies such as the United States also restrict public access to sensitive information about national security in general and nuclear weapons in particular, Israel is unique in suppressing any public debate about a number of questions such as: Under what circumstances would Israel use the bomb, and who are the nuclear decision-makers? What change in nuclear policy might be needed in the event that states such as Iran also acquire nuclear capability; and how adequate is physical security on and command and control of Israel’s weapons? These are important issues and not just for Israel.

For now, however, it is more important to focus on reducing political tensions in the Middle East and engage Israel more fully in the nonproliferation regime rather than in a divisive debate about the ambiguity surrounding its nuclear status. No state, even the United States, has unlimited political capital, and efforts should be focused where there is a chance that some progress might be made.

NPT Article IV

1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.
2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

North Korea and Pakistan

Another, more direct link between the three non-NPT powers and the so-called axis of evil is what the nonproliferation community views as a pattern
of nuclear weapons cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea and possibly also Iran. There have been disturbing reports in the nonproliferation community that Pakistan has transferred centrifuge enrichment technology and perhaps also weapons design information to Pyongyang and perhaps Tehran.[14] This is a serious matter that arguably is intrinsic to Pakistan’s non-NPT status. Although the NPT does not explicitly prohibit a non-nuclear-weapon state party from assisting another state in acquiring nuclear weapons, it is clear that to do so would fundamentally violate the normative foundation and rationale of the treaty.

However, not being a party to the NPT need not exacerbate the problem of limiting nuclear technology transfers that facilitate a recipient’s access to nuclear weapons. France demonstrated that, by participating in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) from its inception and endorsing a charter for responsible nuclear cooperation involving constraints on national behavior even while eschewing participation in the NPT (to which it adhered only in 1992), it is possible to maintain an independent posture on one’s own nuclear program while supporting international efforts to forestall nuclear proliferation. As a charter member of the NPT and a country with substantial leverage on Pakistan, the United States also bears substantial responsibility for bringing pressure on Pakistan not to assist non-nuclear-weapon states in acquiring nuclear weapons.

Engaging the Outliers


There are a variety of means for the non-NPT states to engage more fully in the nuclear nonproliferation regime while staying outside the treaty.[15] Besides implementing rigorous export control policies, all three non-NPT states could provide strong evidence for their claim to be responsible actors by supporting efforts to strengthen the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, to which they are already party. Efforts have been under way for some time to extend the convention’s provisions to cover physical protection of nuclear material for peaceful purposes in domestic use, storage, or transport and to prevent sabotage of such material and the facilities in which they may be located. Given the threat of terrorist access to weapons-useable nuclear materials and the presence of such materials in the three non-NPT states, this is a matter of urgency and common sense.

There are other measures outside the NPT per se relating to nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament in which the non-NPT parties could constructively engage. Of particular importance would be support for the FMCT, which was singled out in the Principles and Objectives decision document that was part of the 1995 agreement to extend the NPT indefinitely. It has remained on the NPT review agenda ever since.

The FMCT is the counterpart of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that constrains the development of and confidence in the performance of nuclear weapons beyond simple fission bombs. India and Pakistan have thus far refused to sign the CTBT but continue to observe unilateral nuclear testing moratoria. Israel, which has signed but not yet ratified the CTBT, is an active participant in all preparatory activities for the treaty’s international monitoring system and the development of procedures for on-site inspections. In September, Israel along with Iran (another CTBT signatory) reiterated its support for the early entry into force of the CTBT.

Unlike the NPT, both accords are universally applicable, nondiscriminatory agreements that represent a significant step in the effort to minimize further proliferation and create conditions in which existing nuclear weapons programs could be terminated or at least frozen.

The draft FMCT considered by the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in the mid-1990s applied only to future production and hence “grandfathered” the existing stocks of weapons-useable material in and out of weapons in NPT and non-NPT weapons states. Despite this, as previously noted, the treaty was opposed by Israel on the grounds that it constituted “a slippery slope” to the elimination of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, as well as by Pakistan because of its perception that its stockpile of fissile material is much smaller than that of India. Although the CTBT is moribund because of opposition by the Bush administration, the administration has previously expressed support for an FMCT that “advances U.S. security interests.”[16] However, the CD had not been able to take up the FMCT for years primarily because of a dispute between the United States and China on the latter’s position that there be concurrent negotiations on preventing an arms race in outer space. More recently, the United States announced that it is reviewing its position on the FMCT.[17] Resolving this disagreement and then moving forward toward the successful negotiation of a treaty will require continued support for the FMCT and stronger leadership by the United States, for example, in convincing the Israeli and Pakistani governments that such a treaty also advances their security interests.

Importance of NPT Universality

The importance of the universality of a treaty is that it consolidates the normative strength of the treaty and the regime that it anchors while the absence of universality weakens the strength of the norm. Universality also raises the costs of noncompliance by increasing the prospect of collective response to noncompliance and for enforcement of treaty and regime norms, rules, and principles.

In particular, accepting the non-NPT weapons status of Israel, India, and Pakistan weakens support for the treaty among its non-weapon state signatories in two ways: it strengthens the hand of those who argue that it is impractical to contain nuclear proliferation, and it erodes the value of the carrot provided by the NPT’s Article IV provisions that permits the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology to responsible states. The slippery slope of “nuclear realism” can be seen in the arguments of such experts as Middle Eastern security analyst Geoffrey Kemp when he argues that, when it comes to Iran:

[I]f the forces of moderation were to gain more power in Tehran and show that they are willing to be cooperative with the West and to resolve their outstanding differences with the US over terrorism and the Arab-Israeli peace process, then it might be easier to tolerate some form of legal nuclearization of Iran, particularly if other aspects of the relationship are going well.[18]

Although this might seem far-fetched at the moment, recall that the United States and the other major nuclear suppliers were quite supportive of the shah’s grandiose plans to build a vast nuclear enterprise in Iran in the 1970s. Of course, this enterprise was advertised as being strictly peaceful, but there is considerable overlap in the materials, technologies, and training required in peaceful and military applications of nuclear energy. As the Swedish physicist Hannes Alfven observed long ago, “[A]toms for peace and atoms for war are Siamese twins”—a position that the Bush administration now recognizes with regard to the “peaceful” nuclear assistance provided to Iran by Russia and other countries as well as the aid that the IAEA has doled out under the auspices of its Technical Cooperation Program.

The case for permitting peaceful nuclear technology to be transferred to New Delhi is usually made by India and its supporters in the United States who stress the importance of strengthening ties with the “world’s largest democracy” that is also an ally of the United States (and Israel) in the war against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. Moreover, they argue that, because the United States has accepted Indian nuclear weapons development as a reality, there is little point in continuing to penalize India by denying it the benefits of nuclear technology transfer, especially if it might offer to accept international safeguards on some of its indigenous nuclear facilities and perhaps other constraints on its nuclear activities as a quid pro quo.

The acceptance of safeguards on some or even all indigenous non-weapons-related facilities in the non-NPT states—like the acceptance of safeguards on similar facilities on a voluntary basis by the NPT weapons states—has politically important symbolic value. However, permitting the transfer of nuclear technology on this basis, even if coupled with their endorsement and implementation of rigorous export control arrangements such as the NSG guidelines, as some advocate, would blur the distinction between NPT parties and nonparties and thus undermine the treaty. In the case of the United States (and other major nuclear suppliers), such a trade-off would contradict national law and the NSG guidelines that require acceptance of full-scope safeguards as a condition for nuclear technology transfer. For this reason, such a trade-off is not prudent. Further discussion and debate should be encouraged, however, on the appropriateness of other quid pro quos for the willingness of the non-NPT states to engage more fully in the nonproliferation regime as suggested above.[19]

NPT Article VI

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

A New and Improved “Grand Bargain”

The major current proliferation problems are the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, and thus they deserve the concentrated attention they are receiving from the United States and other countries. However, the possession of nuclear weapons and the non-NPT status of Israel, India, and Pakistan is also a serious problem that is relevant to curtailing the North Korean and Iranian problems and to the long-term viability of the nonproliferation regime. Leadership by example is required from the United States in strengthening nonproliferation norms. Specifically, the United States should encourage the non-NPT states to participate more fully in the nonproliferation regime by (1) engaging constructively in FMCT negotiations; (2) implementing strengthened export controls and physical protection of nuclear materials and technologies; and (3) responding positively to the request by the IAEA Board of Governors to negotiate additional protocols to their item-specific safeguards agreements. For its part, the United States should also (1) reconsider its rejection of the CTBT; (2) complete ratification of its additional protocol agreement, which awaits Senate action; and (3) make a commitment to accept both state-of-the-art safeguards as well as some degree of multinational involvement in new centrifuge plants planned in the United States.[20]

Although the NPT has been a major bulwark against nuclear proliferation and has provided the legal and evidentiary basis for cases of noncompliance, the Iranian and North Korean situations have underlined several of its known deficiencies, in particular the ability of non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to misuse Article IV to acquire weapons-relevant materials and technology, foil verification attempts, and then withdraw from the treaty by invoking Article X. Potential remedies that have been proposed recently by

various individuals and groups[21] include requiring states not only to accept the Additional Protocol but also to justify their plans for a peaceful nuclear program to independent expert groups. These groups would likely be skeptical of plans for the construction of a uranium-enrichment plant under national control when secure supplies of enriched fuel at competitive prices are available on the international market.

However, in order to persuade states-parties to accept such changes in the interpretation of the treaty, the weapons states should be willing to move more quickly and forcefully to fulfill their obligations under Article VI, including providing the resources required to secure and then dispose of the large excess stocks of weapons-useable material. The amount of excess material stocks hopefully will grow over time as disarmament progresses, but they already constitute a considerable risk of diversion by nonstate actors, particularly in Russia.

In sum, although the existence of three de facto states outside the NPT is not high on the current nonproliferation agenda, they need to be engaged more fully in the nonproliferation regime in order to address the Iranian and North Korean problems as well as to maintain the viability of the treaty itself. Whatever measures a given state may take against proliferation on its own, the task of reducing nuclear risks including further proliferation lies beyond the capacity of any single state. Leadership in mobilizing and institutionalizing the needed collective effort and action is today in the hands of the United States.

NPT Article X

1. Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.
2. Twenty-five years after the entry into force of the Treaty, a conference shall be convened to decide whether the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods. This decision shall be taken by a majority of the Parties to the Treaty.

NOTES

1. Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), pp. 396-397.

2. The reference is to a signal picked up by one of the Vela satellites—the United States’ primary means of detecting aboveground nuclear explosions—that originated about 1,500 miles southeast of Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Although a blue-ribbon panel of scientists convened by the Carter administration to investigate the signal concluded that it was probably not of nuclear origin, there is a considerable body of evidence that lends credence to the proposition that the flash resulted from an Israeli nuclear device detonated in a joint Israeli-South African test exercise. Stephen Green, Living by the Bomb (Brattleboro, VT: Amana Books, 1988), pp. 111-134.

3. See Frank Barnaby, The Invisible Bomb (London: I. B. Tauris, 1989), pp. 24-25.

4. There is evidence that Israeli opposition to the FMCT has hardened since the first Bush and Clinton administrations made their initial overtures. For example, according to Aluf Benn, the diplomatic correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, in two letters and several conversations in 1999, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Clinton, “We will never sign the treaty, so do not delude yourselves, no pressure will help. We will not sign the treaty because we will not commit suicide.” See Aluf Benn, “The Struggle to Keep Nuclear Capabilities Secret,” Ha’aretz, September 14, 1999 (Internet edition); Aluf Benn, “Sharon Will Stick to Tradition of Nuclear Ambiguity,” Ha’aretz, February 18, 2001.

5. Wolf’s remarks were to the Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2005 NPT Review Conference, which focused on the actions of “irresponsible NPT parties” that pose fundamental challenges to the NPT.

6. See Reuven Pedatzure, “Completing the Deterrence Triangle,” Carnegie Proliferation Brief 3, no.18 (June 29, 2000).

7. This is mainly due to the lack of hard information on the size and operating history of the facilities used to produce the requisite plutonium and highly enriched uranium as well as the amounts of these materials that are incorporated into weapons. See David Albright, Frans Berkhout, and William Walker, Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996: World Inventories, Capabilities, and Policies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 259-281.

8. Gerald F. Seib and Carla Anne Robbins, “U.S. Win Over Iraq May Do Little to Curb Spread of Nuclear Arms,” Wall Street Journal Europe, January 16, 2003, p. 10.

9. “No Iranian government, regardless of its ideological leanings is likely to abandon programs to develop weapons of mass destruction that are seen as guaranteeing Iran’s security.” Elaine Sciolino, “Nuclear Ambitions Aren’t New for Iran,” The New York Times, June 22, 2003 (quoting CIA director George Tenet).

10. Elaine Sciolino, “Nuclear Accord Shows Iran’s New Pragmatism,” International Herald Tribune, October 29, 2003, p. 9. Although the actual enrichment of uranium will (hopefully) be suspended, there was no commitment to suspend enrichment research and development or other activities such as construction of a heavy-water production plant that raise legitimate concerns about the rationale for Iran’s nuclear program.

11. The phrase is from a statement by the head of the U.S. delegation to the 2000 NPT Review Conference, who noted that “Israel has stated that it is prepared to surrender its nuclear weapons in the context of a just, stable, and enduring Middle East peace.” See Gerald Steinberg and Aharon Etengoff, “Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Developments in the Middle East: 2000-1” (Ramat-Gan, Israel: Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, December 2002), p. 38.

12. McGeorge Bundy, William Crowe Jr., and Sidney D. Drell, Reducing Nuclear Danger (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1993), pp. 69-70.

13. For example, see George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 459-464.

14. David E. Sanger, “North Korea’s Bomb: Untested but Ready, CIA Concludes,” New York Times, November 9, 2003 p. 4; “Islamabad Gave Key Nuclear Help, Admits Iran,” Hindu, November 13, 2003 (Internet edition).

15. Lawrence Scheinman, “Engaging Non-NPT Parties in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime,” Programme for Promoting Nuclear Non-Proliferation Issue Review no. 16 (Southampton, United Kingdom: Mountbatten Centre for International Studies, University of Southampton, May 1999).

16. National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, December 2002.

17. In August 2003, China indicated that it was not opposed to a compromise proposal for a CD working agenda that would permit negotiations on an FMCT while establishing a group dealing both with weapons in outer space and nuclear disarmament without any explicit reference to negotiations. Although the United States has not yet responded to this proposal, the Bush administration’s distaste for any linkage of an FMCT with other issues it does not want addressed is well known. Thus, it seems unlikely that negotiations on an FMCT in the CD will resume any time soon. See “U.S. Reviewing FMCT Policy,” Arms Control Today, November 2003, p. 43.

18. Geoffrey Kemp, “Iran’s Nuclear Options,” in Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Options: Issues and Analysis, ed. Geoffry Kemp (Washington, DC: Nixon Center, 2002), p. 8 (emphasis added).

19. Anupam Srivastava and Seema Gahlaut suggest that, if India and Pakistan agree to make their export control systems identical to that of the NSG as well as the Australia Group and the MTCR, the principal supplier states within these regimes would assist the civilian programs in these countries through technology transfer and co-development. Anupam Srivastava and Seema Gahlaut, “Curbing Proliferation from Emerging Suppliers: Export Controls in India and Pakistan,” Arms Control Today, September 2003, pp. 12-16.

20. See “New Mexico Will Host the $1.2 Billion U Enrichment Plant,” Nuclear News, October 2003, p. 64. Besides the plant in New Mexico, to be built by Louisiana Energy Services using technology developed by the European Urenco enrichment consortium, the United States Enrichment Corporation also plans to build a centrifuge plant in Ohio using technology previously developed in the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy.

21. See Princeton-Stanford Workshop on Arms Control, August 22-26, 2003, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.


Marvin Miller is a research affiliate at the MIT Center for International Studies. He retired from the MIT Department of Nuclear Engineering in 1996. Lawrence Scheinman is distinguished professor of international policy, Monterey Institute of International Studies and adjunct professor, Georgetown University. He served as assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for Non-Proliferation and Regional Arms Control in the Clinton Administration and was a member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Board on Arms Control and Nonproliferation from 1998-2001.

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Israel Allegedly Fielding Sea-Based Nuclear Missiles

Wade Boese

U.S. and Israeli officials have declined directly to address an October news report that Israel was arming U.S.-supplied cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. The news came amid increased international attention to nuclear weapons in the Middle East as the United States and European nations sought to halt Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 12 that two senior Bush administration officials said Israel has modified U.S. Harpoon cruise missiles, which can be launched from submarines, to deliver nuclear warheads. The paper added that an Israeli official confirmed the American statements. All three spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., would not respond to the report. When contacted Oct. 20, he simply reiterated Israel’s long-standing position that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Although Israel refuses to confirm or deny whether it possesses nuclear weapons, it is almost universally recognized as having built up an atomic arsenal. Typical estimates of the arsenal’s size range from weapons numbering in the high tens to a couple hundred. Israel fields medium-range ballistic missiles and U.S.-supplied fighter aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Department of State spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Oct. 14 that he would not look into the Harpoon allegation because “it’s not the kind of subject we readily share information on.” Although Washington routinely condemns countries hostile to the United States for seeking nuclear weapons, it stays mum on Israel’s arms.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which oversees U.S. military sales abroad, told Arms Control Today Oct. 23 that Israel’s contract for Harpoon missiles does not explicitly prohibit Israel from modifying them to carry nuclear warheads but added that “we have had no reason to believe that the government of Israel had any intention to modify or substitute the warheads of these missiles.”

More than 100 Harpoon missiles have been exported to Israel. The United States, according to DSCA, has also sold Harpoons to 25 other countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Robert Algarotti, a spokesman for Harpoon manufacturer Boeing, said Oct. 20 that the company has never studied whether the missile could be armed with a nuclear warhead.

However, a former top U.S. nuclear-weapon scientist and a leading U.S. missile expert interviewed each said the Harpoon could carry a nuclear warhead. They said the issue was whether Israel could build a warhead small enough for the missile, which has a relatively light payload capability of 220 kg and a short range of roughly 100 kilometers.

Israel’s receipt of two Dolphin-class diesel submarines from Germany in 1999 and a third in 2000 was widely perceived at the time as a move to acquire sea-based launching options for nuclear weapons. Past news reports further identified the Harpoon missile, which the United States transferred to Israel several years ago, as the potential delivery vehicle.

The United States is party to the 33-member Missile Technology Control Regime aimed at restricting exports of missiles capable of delivering nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads. Although the regime does not ban such transfers, there is a “strong presumption to deny” them. Washington is further committed in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce” nuclear proliferation.

The United States also endorses the concept of a Middle East without weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. Yet it does not press Israel on the subject, saying such an arrangement must be “freely arrived at” by all the countries in the region.

 

 

U.S. and Israeli officials have declined directly to address an October news report that Israel was arming U.S.-supplied cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

Iran Touts Missile Capability

Wade Boese

In a July military ceremony broadcast on state-run television, Iran announced that the medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile is ready for service. If true, the missile, which has an estimated range of up to 1,300 kilometers, could target Israel.

Israel and the United States have long criticized and tried to stop Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, described the latest development as an “extremely grave concern.”

Iran, which is also assessed by U.S. intelligence as pursuing nuclear weapons and exploring more powerful rockets than the Shahab-3, contends its ballistic missile programs are solely for defensive purposes.

The Shahab-3 is no surprise to Israel and the United States. In an April intelligence report on ballistic missile threats, the United States described the Shahab-3 as being in the “late stages” of development. Appearing July 11 on “John McLaughlin’s One on One,” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon said the Iranians “have not perfected the system yet, but they are working very hard on it.”

Beginning in July 1998, the Shahab-3 has reportedly accrued a mixed record in several flight tests, the last of which took place just weeks before the July 20 ceremony. Tehran described the last test as a success.

Much ambiguity still shrouds the missile. The Shahab-3 is modeled in part on North Korea’s Nodong missile, but U.S. government officials refused to comment on whether Iran could indigenously produce the missile. It is also not public how many Shahab-3s might be available for potential use. The Central Intelligence Agency reported in 1999 that Iran probably had a “limited number” of prototype Shahab-3s that could be deployed in an operational mode.

Israel says it is prepared to defend itself against an Iranian ballistic missile attack. Tel Aviv has deployed two batteries of Arrow anti-missile interceptors and is preparing to field another. Built in cooperation with the United States and designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the Arrow has yet to be used in battle.

 

 




 

In a July military ceremony broadcast on state-run television, Iran announced that the medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile is ready for service...

Israeli Arms Exports to China of Growing Concern to U.S.

Wade Boese

The United States has reportedly increased pressure on Israel about its arms sales to China, and Israel has given assurances that it will not export any item that could harm U.S. security, according to U.S. and Israeli officials in January.

U.S. concerns about Israeli arms sales to China have existed for more than a decade and came to a head in July 2000 when the United States persuaded Israel to cancel the sale of the Phalcon, an advanced, airborne early-warning system, to China. Afterward, U.S.-Israeli differences over arms sales to China publicly receded but resurfaced in early January when the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the United States had recently asked Israel to end all arms sales to China.

U.S. and Israeli officials have not publicly confirmed whether the United States made such a request, but State Department spokesman Richard Boucher suggested that the Israeli-Chinese arms trade is a continuing problem. He said January 2 that it is an “ongoing subject of discussion” between the United States and Israel. He further stated that the subject “comes up regularly” and there is a “need for any suppliers of weaponry to be considerate and concerned about the strategic situation in a region that’s of great sensitivity and importance to us.” The United States is a strong supporter of Taiwan, which Beijing is seeking to reunify with the Chinese mainland.

China, according to the Associated Press, issued a written statement January 3 declaring, “No country has the right to interfere in the developing military trade cooperation between China and Israel.”

When asked whether Israel had halted all arms sales to China, a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Ministry replied January 8, “Defense relations between Israel and China require from time to time consideration of specific issues. This revision [sic] is conducted vis-à-vis China and on concrete issues also vis-à-vis the U.S., bearing in mind American sensitivity.”

Another Israeli official, who asked to remain anonymous, explained in an interview January 8 that Israel is committed to refraining from exports that would harm U.S. security. The official suggested, however, that Israel would continue to sell some military equipment to China that is readily available on the global arms market.

One nongovernmental expert in Washington familiar with the issue, who also wished to remain anonymous, said his impression is that the United States is seeking to curtail Israeli arms sales to China to the greatest extent possible, while Israel is seeking minimum restraint on its exports.

The largest recipient of U.S. aid, Israel first approached China about possible arms deals in 1979, reportedly hoping to win some Chinese restraint in arms sales to Israel’s neighbors and enemies.

The United States has reportedly increased pressure on Israel about its arms sales to China, and Israel has given assurances that it will not export any item that could harm U.S. security...

U.S.-Israeli Policy for Exporting Arrow Missile Undecided

September 2002

By Wade Boese

Top U.S. government officials testified in July that the Bush administration has not yet formulated a policy about the possible export of a joint U.S.-Israeli theater missile defense system, the Arrow, to India or any other country.

The absence of a formal U.S. Arrow export policy came to light when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told senators at a July 25 Armed Services Committee hearing that the administration did not have a “view” about India buying the Arrow system. Two days earlier, The Washington Post had reported on a proposed Israeli Arrow sale to India, the export of which would need U.S. approval because Arrow incorporates U.S. technology.

Appearing before a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee July 29, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Vann Van Diepen and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Marshall Billingslea broadened Rumsfeld’s statement, explaining that Washington had no position on Arrow exports in general.

Van Diepen informed senators that Arrow is classified as a Category I system under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which is a voluntary arrangement of 33 countries, including the United States, aimed at preventing the spread of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. MTCR members are expected to maintain a strong presumption of denial on exports of Category I items, which include whole missiles or major subsystems such as rocket engines.

The presumption of denial, however, is not a ban. Members are to weigh five criteria set out in the MTCR guidelines when considering a Category I export. Those criteria include, among other things, evaluating the importer’s intentions for using the export and whether it poses a potential proliferation risk. The United States has made past Category I exports, shipping Tomahawk and Trident missiles to the United Kingdom and transferring items to European and Japanese space launch programs.

Van Diepen cautioned that Washington needs to be wary about what kind of precedent others might draw from future U.S. exports. Earlier U.S. Category I exports were made to close allies or were destined for nonmilitary use, whereas sending the Arrow to an unstable region with nuclear-armed adversaries would be qualitatively different. “It’s going to be hard for us potentially to say no to a Russian export of Category I rocket technology to Iran,” Van Diepen said, if the United States is making similar kinds of exports.

Billingslea appeared more inclined toward permitting Arrow exports, commenting that the Pentagon believed missile defenses are “inherently stabilizing” and that the United States should explore protection against missiles with both India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, Billingslea added that no conclusion existed about how to balance MTCR obligations with foreign defense cooperation.

Although not specifically indicating whether New Delhi had contacted Washington about the missile defense system, Billingslea suggested that India had not officially requested Arrow. “We also need to hear from the Indians in terms of what they need, what they want, what kind of missile defense systems do they want to have, and for what ends,” he said.

An Israeli official interviewed August 20 denied that Israel is pushing to export the Arrow now. The official remarked that Israel believes that it is logical to make Arrow available to allies and friendly countries but that current tensions in South Asia warrant caution.

Moreover, the official said Israel is focused on producing Arrow for itself with the prospect of war with Iraq looming, rather than shipping missiles to others. Israel is currently finalizing deployment of its second Arrow battery and is aiming to field a third.

Not all theater missile defense systems would necessarily be classified as a Category I item. The U.S. Patriot system is not, and Washington has exported different versions of that missile system to several countries.

U.S.-Israeli Policy for Exporting Arrow Missile Undecided

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