When the United States sent the B-29 Superfortress bomber, Elona Gay, to drop “Little Boy” on an unwary Hiroshima and ushered in the nuclear age, its administration neglected to plan for a major concern; how to prevent nuclear proliferation. America could not effectively deter the Soviet Union and China from developing a nuclear capability and maybe it did not want its British and French allies from feeling deprived. Nevertheless, all of those nations, with the United States in the lead, had the power to cower India and Pakistan into being content with conventional armaments. Belatedly and ineffectively, the U.S. tried to discourage Pakistan in its bomb-making activities by terminating economic and military aid in Oct. 1992. The bluster did not work. Not containing the atomic arsenals of the two arch foes of the India continent is one of the major foreign policy and military policy blunders of the post-war era.
How could the U.S. behave so recklessly, not realize it was responsible for the atomic arms race and for allowing and even moving others to obtain the bomb? Why does it not consider in its policies the argument that those most likely to use the bomb are more important than those who have the bomb? Answers to both these questions expose an almost purposeful U.S. policy to drive others to obtain the “doomsday explosive” and, if we concede the Islamic Republic is developing a bomb, give meaning to Iran’s determination to develop a nuclear weapon. A simple proposition can deaden that determination, and not only for Iran; the world’s major powers can give any nation that entertains a “first strike” a rethink: do it and get demolished.
The consequence of not facing down to India and Pakistan defines the real arms race; nuclear weapons in the military depots of nations that contain extremist elements who kill mercilessly and, if able to obtain the weapons, would apply them worldwide, including at the United States. Iran’s possibility of obtaining a nuclear capability is conjectural and not as significant as the actual; Pakistan has many bombs and Pakistan is politically stable. The laxity is emphasized by the lack of control on previous actions by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s (in)famous nuclear physicist.
In 2004, Dr. Khan indicated he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs and centrifuge technology to aid in nuclear weapons programs. Where was the CIA when Khan roamed the world? Pondering about Iran, no doubt, and developing policies that have driven North Korea to develop a nuclear deterrent and motivating Iran to do the same.
Noting U.S. intensive hostility towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), coupled with its extensive military presence in Japan and South Korea, shouldn’t the Pyongyang leaders be apprehensive? Their apprehension inspired them to welcome previous treaties.
In October 1994, President Clinton negotiated the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework:
North Korea agreed to freeze its existing plutonium enrichment program and be monitored by the IAEA;
Both sides agreed to replace by 2003 North Korea’s reactors with light water reactors, financed and supplied by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO);
The United States agreed to provide heavy fuel oil to the DPRK for energy purposes until atomic energy was available;
The two sides agreed to move toward full normalization of political and economic relations;
Both sides agreed to work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula; and
Both sides agreed to work together to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.
What happened to this anxiety relieving treaty? The charges, countercharges, truths, and distortions are difficult to unravel.
Not debatable is that the George W. Bush administration signaled North Korea with unfriendly intentions. Despite it being the most significant milestone in the treaty, the first reactor, promised for delivery by 2003, was pushed up until 2008 at the earliest. A leaked version of the Bush administration’s January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review mentioned North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons.
After starts and stops, self-destruction of nuclear facilities and reconstruction of the same facilities, the DPRK proceeded to definitely develop nuclear weapons. Their arguments for this posture had validity. The United States did not meet its most important commitment, President George W. Bush designated North Korea as part of an “axis of evil,” the State Department continually equated not having a peace treaty with Pyongyang violations of human rights, and Washington carelessly inferred that, if hostilities developed, North Korea could expect a nuclear attack. What did the Bush administration expect of the ‘hermit state’ leaders? The U.S. State Department evidently imagined, by being conciliatory, Kim Jong IL would take advantage and secretly develop an atomic bomb. However, by not being conciliatory, it assured the DPRK would be provoked into securing a nuclear weapon.
Except for the United States’ offensive attack against Japan, the nuclear club nations that signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty developed the weapons as deterrents. The Soviet Union needed to neutralize USA power. Great Britain and France requisitioned a nuclear arsenal to defend against the Soviet Union. China had the greatest fear; it was surrounded by a world of enemies.
Of those who have not signed the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons — India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel — all, except Israel had deterrent as an immediate reason. India feared China, Pakistan feared India and North Korea feared the United States. When Israel allegedly started nuclear weapons developments in 1963, none of its antagonists were even thinking nuclear.
The United States claims that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons because Iran’s developments will provoke a Middle East nuclear arms race. However, by allowing Israel to develop the weapons, the U.S. and friends already stimulated the Middle East arms race. It is mainly due to the United States, Great Britain, and France that Israel has nuclear capability. As a consequence, Middle East nations sought means to neutralize the Israel bomb.
Saddam Hussein clearly expressed this dilemma in a speech he made at al-Bakr University, 3 June 1978.
“When the Arabs start the deployment, Israel is going to say, ‘We will hit you with the atomic bomb.’ So should the Arabs stop or not? If they do not have the atom, they will stop. For that reason they should have the atom. If we were to have the atom, we would make the conventional armies fight without using the atom. If the international conditions were not prepared and they said, “We will hit you with the atom,” we would say, “We will hit you with the atom too. The Arab atom will finish you off, but the Israeli atom will not end the Arabs.”1
France started Israel on the road to nuclear capability with the sale of a nuclear reactor and uranium fuel.
“Franco-Israeli nuclear cooperation is described in detail in the book Les Deux Bombes (1982) by French journalist Pierre Pean, who gained access to the official French files on Dimona. The book revealed that the Dimona’s cooling circuits were built two to three times larger than necessary for the 26-megawatt reactor Dimona [supplied by France] was supposed to be — proof that it had always been intended to make bomb quantities of plutonium. The book also revealed that French technicians had built a plutonium extraction plant at the same site. According to Pean, French nuclear assistance enabled Israel to produce enough plutonium for one bomb even before the 1967 Six Day War. France also gave Israel nuclear weapon design information.”2
Great Britain paved the road for Israel to reach the bomb. When he was UK prime minister, Harold Wilson supplied Israel with plutonium.
“In Harold Macmillan’s time the UK supplied uranium 235 and the heavy water which allowed Israel to start up its nuclear weapons production plant at Dimona — heavy water which British intelligence estimated would allow Israel to make ‘six nuclear weapons a year.'”3
The United States looked the other way.
“After the United States discovered the Dimona reactor in 1960, U.S. nuclear specialists inspected Dimona every year from 1965 through 1969, looking for signs of nuclear weapon production. It is not clear what they found, but in 1968 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported to President Lyndon Johnson its conclusion that Israel had already made an atomic bomb. In 1969, Israel limited inspection visits by U.S. scientists to such an extent that the Americans complained in writing. Without explanation, the Nixon administration ended the visits the following year.”2
After tacitly agreeing to Israel’s nuclear weapon developments and permitting India and Pakistan to go nuclear, the United States engages Iran in a similar manner to its engagement with North Korea — provoking Iran to develop a bomb in another “lose-lose” situation.
Blind to the effects on Iran’s posture, the U.S. stages its military in adjacent nations to Iran, constantly harangues Iran about its human rights record and its despotic government and accuses Iran of all sorts of terrorist activities. None of the activities are specified nor does the charge consider that Iranians are mysteriously getting assassinated, their facilities are blowing up, their computers are attacked by the Stuxnet virus, and CIA spies are being uncovered and arrested by them and Hezbollah. Who are doing these nefarious activities? Aren’t they terrorists?
Although insurgents in Iraq carry U.S. weapons, the U.S., without proof, accuses Iraq of arming them. In Afghanistan, the U.S. rails against alleged Iranian assistance to the Taliban, although the Taliban is an enemy of Iran and is interfering with a myriad of business deals the Iranians are arranging with the Karzai government, with whom it is friendly. By deeds the U.S. is telling Iran: “If you want to survive, get yourself a deterrent.” The U.S. policies towards Iran, similar to most State Department policies, are counterproductive and push Iran to invest in nuclear weapons.
Shouldn’t the U.S. State Department consider in its policies the argument that those most likely to use the bomb are more important than those who have the bomb? Great Britain has the bomb, but there is no possibility it will use the weapon. There is little probability that even if about to be defeated, the DPRK will use the bomb — against whom, their own brethren? Only Pakistan radical elements and Israel can effectively use the bomb in an offensive manner; the former because they have suicidal tendencies, and the latter because it does not face nuclear retaliation.
Pakistan’s present government won’t use it, but it is entirely possible that anarchy in Pakistan can deliver bombs to radical groups that have no compunction against using the deadly weapon.
If Israel faces defeat, it could use the bomb. In several wars, especially during the December 2008 invasion of Gaza, Israel demonstrated a disregard for enemy life. Even if an engaged nation had a nuclear weapon, and presently none of Israel’s foes have a mass destruction device, Israel’s small size and closeness to Arab peoples give it an advantage in a nuclear war. The possibility of inflicting severe damage to innocent Arab populations hinders a retaliatory action. Israel’s principal reason to have the bomb is for the threat, real or imagined, it poses to any nation that counters its policies, including Iran, who is concerned about the possible loss of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and is disturbed about Israel’s expansion and oppression of the Palestinian people.
In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel faced possible defeat, a fear existed that unless the United States assisted Israel with more armaments, Israel might use nuclear weapons against its adversaries. A large U.S. airlift of military aid finalized the battle in favor of Israel. A French official explained the situation.
In 1986, Francis Perrin, high commissioner of the French atomic energy agency from 1951 to 1970, was quoted in the press as saying that France and Israel had worked closely together for two years in the late 1950s to design an atom bomb. Perrin said that the United States had agreed that the French scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project could apply their knowledge at home provided they kept it secret. But then, Perrin said, ‘We considered we could give the secrets to Israel provided they kept it a secret themselves.’ He added: ‘We thought the Israeli bomb was aimed against the Americans, not to launch it against America but to say ‘if you don’t want to help us in a critical situation we will require you to help us, otherwise we will use our nuclear bombs. ‘4
The Islamic Republic cannot use nuclear weapons for an offensive purpose. Any attempt to do that and Iran’s enemies will extinguish the Islamic Republic in a flash of the radioactive light. Its bomb can only neutralize other bombs.
Which leads to the only ways to halt nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — either dismantle all existing bombs or neutralize them.
Better yet — signal that a first nuclear strike by any nation will be met by a severe strike on that nation with conventional weapon from the great powers of the United Nations Security Council. Give them an offer they can’t refuse. Not far fetched!
- Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) Record No. SH-PDWN-D-000-341, “Speech at al-Bakr University,” 3 June 1978 [↩]
- Israel’s Nuclear Weapon Capability: An Overview, The Risk Report, Volume 2 Number 4, July-August 1996 [↩] [↩]
- Secret sale of UK plutonium to Israel, Meirion Jones, BBC Newsnight, 10 March 2006 [↩]
- Ibid [↩]