Monday, March 23, 2009

D'oh! US Military Spills the Beans on Israel's Nuclear Program

On November 25, 2008 that US Department of Defense released its Joint Operating Environment (JOE) assessment and basically confirmed one of the worst kept military secrets: Israel possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Page 37 of the report flatly states, "[T]here is a growing arc of nuclear powers running from Israel in the west through an emerging Iran to Pakistan, India, and on to China, North Korea, and Russia in the east."

This apparently inadvertent confirmation of Israel's nuclear program has several implications.

First, Defense Tech reports that a confirmed nuclear weapons program would jeopardize the flow of US aid to Israel because of the Symington Amendment. The Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 essentially bars US economic and military assistance to countries that deliver, receive, acquire, or transfer nuclear enrichment technology. Thus, because Israel has an independent nuclear weapons program, the US would be required to stop the multi-billion dollar economic and military aid packages it provides to Israel each year. However, the US has made it this far giving aid to Israel despite the nuclear weapons program, and there is no reason to really doubt that this will stop now that the program has been made public.

Second, Iran's list of reasons for suspending its nuclear weapons program just got one shorter after this information was divulged. If Iran hadn't been feeling under enough pressure with the US waging war on two of its borders, it surely will feel more with this announcement. Of course, Iran has undoubtedly suspected the Israeli nuclear threat and has long known that the US would likely retaliate (possibly in kind) if Iran attacked Israeli with nuclear weapons. So, at its root the announcement doesn't do much to change the dynamics in the region, but it does give Iran addition ammunition when stumping for its nuclear weapons program on the international stage.

Overall, the US must be cautious when putting together reports with sensitive information. This report echos back to Senator Feinstein's comments about US predator drones stationed in Pakistan. Either it was a carefully calculated move aimed at deterrence, or it was simply another blunder which we must guard against.

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