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21 Years Ago Today: US Rips Up ABM Treaty With Russia, Starting Slow Slide Toward Current Crisis

Samizdat – 13.12.2022

Tuesday marks the 21st anniversary of the decision by then-US President George W. Bush to quit the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a landmark 1972 agreement which limited the anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the US and the USSR (and later Russia). The move became the canary in the coalmine of trouble in relations between Russia and the US.

“I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government’s ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attack,” President Bush said, speaking to reporters at the White House Rose Garden on December 13, 2001. “Today I have given formal notice to Russia… that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost thirty year old treaty,” he said. Six months later, on June 13, 2002, the agreement was history.

The ABM Treaty, signed by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and US President Richard Nixon in May 1972, limited Moscow and Washington’s ability to build ballistic missile interceptors, and was designed to slow the expansion of the superpowers’ arsenals of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and to prevent either country from trying to gain an advantage over the other which would upset the global strategic balance.

What Did Russia Say and Do at the Time?

Vladimir Putin, then just starting his first term as president, told his US counterpart that Moscow was not surprised by the US decision, but considered the move an “erroneous one,” given that the treaty had served as a “cornerstone” of world security and stability.

A month before that, on November 13, 2001, during a state visit to the US, Putin informed his hosts that Russia and the US had “different points of view about the ABM Treaty,” but would “continue dialogue and discussions… to develop a new strategic framework that enables both of us to meet the true threats of the 21st century as partners and friends, not as adversaries.”

Publicly, Washington maintained at the time that terrorists, or so-called “rogue states” like North Korea or Iran (which the Bush administration labeled as members of an ‘Axis of Evil’) might create or obtain missiles to attack America or its allies.

Behind the scenes, Moscow suspected that the US was bluffing, and that the true purpose of new expanded American missile defenses would be to disarm Russia’s nuclear deterrent, which at the time was one of the only remaining factors standing in the way of total US global hegemony and the ‘new world order’ declared by President Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, in late 1991.

To prove it, Putin and Sergei Lavrov (who became Russia’s Foreign Minister in 2004), concocted a diplomatic maneuver to test Washington’s sincerity. In July 2007, on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Germany, Putin threw Bush a curve ball by proposing the deployment of a joint missile defense system in Azerbaijan. The plan outlined the use of an X-band radar in the post-Soviet republic to guide anti-missile interceptors, and, if approved by the US, would confirm that Washington’s missile shield plans really were aimed at so-called “rogue states,” not Russia.

“This will make it impossible – unnecessary – for us to place our offensive complexes along the borders with Europe,” Putin said, referring to US plans at the time to create a series of radar systems in the Czech Republic, along with missile interceptors in Poland.

The Bush White House politely declined the proposal. “This is a serious issue and we want to make sure that we all understand each other’s positions very clearly,” Bush told Putin.

In April 2008, at a meeting in Sochi – their final one before Putin stepped down as president and became Russia’s prime minister, and less than a year before the end of Bush’s presidency, the leaders failed to come to an agreement on missile defenses. “This is an area we’ve got more work to do to convince the Russian side that the system is not aimed at Russia,” Bush said, speaking to reporters. “I want to be understood correctly. Strategically, no change has taken place in our… attitude to US plans,” Putin responded.

(Re)Birth of Russia’s Hypersonics Program

Still recovering from the catastrophic geopolitical and economic fallout of the collapse of the USSR, and watching closely as NATO expanded into Eastern Europe in several waves between 1999 and 2004, Moscow appeared to have gained the vague impression that behind the US rhetoric of friendship and partnership, Washington had not truly given up on its vision of Russia as an adversary after 1991.

In September 2020, during a meeting with Gerbert Efremov, the former director and chief designer at the legendary NPO Mashinostroyenia rocket design bureau – responsible for the creation of some of Russia’s new hypersonic weapons, Putin revealed that the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty was the singular moment which prompted Moscow to develop these cutting-edge armaments, which the USSR had tinkered with at the twilight of the Cold War.

“America’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 forced Russia to start developing hypersonic weapons. We had to create these weapons in response to the deployment of the US strategic missile defense system, which would have been able to neutralize and render obsolete our entire nuclear potential,” Putin said. Russia’s hypersonic designs, gave Russia, for the first time in its modern history, “the most modern types of weapons, superior in terms of their force, power, speed and, very importantly, in terms of accuracy, compared to all which existed before them and exist today,” Putin said.

Putin returned to the fateful US decision on the ABM Treaty in remarks in October 2021, saying that Washington’s move opened a Pandora’s box of a new global arms race, and demonstrated that America was not looking to defend itself, but trying to “receive strategic superiority, effectively eliminating the nuclear potential of a potential rival.”

“What should we have done in response? I have spoken on this subject many times,” Putin said. “We could have either created a similar system, which would cost immense amounts of money, and it would be unclear in the end if it would work effectively or not. Or we could have created a different system which would definitely overcome missile defenses. I said that we would do this. The response from our American partners was that ‘our missile defenses are not directed against you, do whatever you want, we will proceed from the fact that your projects are not against us.’ We built our systems. What claims do they have against us now? Now they don’t like them,” Putin said.

Russia unveiled a series of new strategic weapons systems in 2018, with the arms, including the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the Kinzhal aero-ballistic air-to-surface missile, the Sarmat ICBM, and the Poseidon nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed autonomous torpedo, designed to assure that even if Washington did successfully build a missile shield, Russia would still be able to retaliate to hypothetical US aggression.

What Other Treaties With Russia Has the US Unilaterally Ripped Up?

The ABM Treaty wasn’t the only security agreement with Moscow that Washington had unilaterally quit in recent years. In 2018, the United States pulled out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – an agreement banning the deployment of ground-based strategic missile in the 500-5,500 km range. In 2020, the US left the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies – which allowed 35 partner nations to perform military reconnaissance overflights over one another’s territory using specialized aircraft. Moscow was forced to follow suit in 2021.

What’s Left?

In January 2021, the incoming Biden administration agreed to renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), an arms control treaty which obliges the two countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed warheads. The Trump administration intended to let the clock run out on the agreement, demanding that China’s modest nuclear arsenal be added to any strategic treaties. The Biden administration agreed to extend it to February 2026.

With the collapse of the ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies, New START is now the last major security treaty between Russia and the United States. But there are two other international agreements, the Outer Space Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which both Moscow and Washington are parties, whose future has also been threatened by US behavior.

The resolution was merely a political declaration, and no means exist to enforce it. However, in 2008, Russia and China recommended a binding agreement – the Proposed Prevention of an Arms Race in Space (PAROS) Treaty – outlining specific measures to ban the deployment of space-based weaponry, anti-satellite spacecraft and other technologies which could be used for military purposes, in orbit. Successive US administrations have spurned the proposed treaty, and in 2019, the Trump administration formalized the creation of a new branch of the US military called ‘Space Force’, signaling that Washington will has no plans to rein in its space-based military activities.

Space Force, and other US efforts to militarize space (such as the deployment of large networks of dual-use commercial communications and surveillance satellites), may be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty, a 1967 agreement signed by 112 countries, including the United States, which prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space, restricts the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes, and forbids military bases, weapons testing and military exercises in space.

US scholars of international law have outlined a series of arguments on how the US may be in violation of the Outer Space Treaty, ranging from former President Trump’s statements about the need to assert US “dominance” in space, to Washington’s designation of space as a new “war-fighting domain.”

“These assertions violate major Outer Space Treaty principles, including the prohibition of establishing sovereignty in space and using space only for peaceful purposes. The creation of the US Space Force can also be seen as a ‘threat of force’ based on its history of aggressive and dominant remarks,” explained Rachel Harp, an associate member of the University of Cincinnati Law Review.

Finally, there is the Chemical Weapons Convention, another arms control treaty to which both the United States and Russia are parties, but where question marks remain regarding Washington’s commitment to the agreement. While Russia completed the destruction of the last of its Soviet-era chemical weapons in September 2017, under the watchful eye of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the United States has consistently revised deadlines to destroy its own chemical arms stockpiles.

Washington originally promised to eliminate the last of its deadly chemical agents by 2012, but now promises to do so by late 2023. With nearly 650 tons of chemical agents and munitions remaining in its arsenal, the United States now has the largest declared chemical weapons stockpile in the world.

December 13, 2022 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US vows to destroy its chemical weapons… despite being 5yrs behind schedule

RT | September 28, 2017

The US is already more than five years past its initial deadline for eliminating its chemical weapons arsenal, but doesn’t plan to complete the job before 2023. Russia, which had a similar amount of toxic agents, has just destroyed them all.

The US and Russia both declared some 40,000 tons of chemical weapons when they joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the late 1990s

The Americans pledged to destroy their stockpile by the end of April 2012, but still have two sites storing toxic agents, the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. As of 2015, the Colorado site had about 780,000 World War II-era artillery shells containing 2,611 tons of mustard agent. Their disposal is expected to be completed by 2019. The site in Kentucky stores over 500 tons of sarin, VX and mustard agents. A disposal facility there is scheduled to go online next year.

Washington’s failure to fulfill its obligation was highlighted on Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Russia eliminated the last few artillery shells filled with chemical weapons.

“Historically, Russia was one of the largest holders of chemical weapons and the US remains one. Unfortunately, the US is not observing the deadline for disposing of its chemical weapons. They have pushed the date back three times, citing a lack of funding. This, frankly, sounds strange,” Putin said.

Responding to the Russian president’s criticism, a US State Department spokesperson said the country is committed to completing the disposal of chemical weapons by 2023.

“The US government continues to focus on destroying the remaining portion of the chemical weapons stockpile stored in Pueblo, Colorado, and Richmond, Kentucky,” Sputnik cited the unnamed US official as saying. “The United States remains committed to the complete destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile by the end of 2023.”

The OPCH, the watchdog of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), marks its 20th anniversary this year. Currently, 192 nations are parties to the convention, with the exceptions being UN members Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan. Myanmar was the latest nation to join in 2015.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Destruction of Last Chemical Munition in Russia is ‘Historic Event’ – Putin

Sputnik – September 27, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the destruction of the last chemical munitions in the country a “historic event.”

The last kilogram of Russia’s 40,000-tonne stockpile of chemical warfare agents, which was contained in two artillery shells, was destroyed on Wednesday at the Kizner facility in Udmurtia.

Attending the event via video link, Putin said that it is “a huge step towards” a more balanced and secure world, stressing that Russia had held the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. Putin also said Russia was working closely with partners to save mankind from the threat of the use and spread of chemical weapons.

“In this regard, I would like to recall the key role of our country in solving the problem of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said.

The president pointed out that Moscow is fulfilling all of its obligations under the non-proliferation treaties and expects that other countries, including the United States, will follow in Russia’s footsteps.

“As is known, Russia was the largest holder and possessor of chemical weapons, and so far the United States, which unfortunately does not fulfill its obligations on the timing of the destruction of chemical weapons, has already three times postponed the destruction on the pretext of lack of funds, which sounds very strange,” he pointed out.

The elimination of chemical materials was conducted under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an arms control treaty that prohibits the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. The treaty, which came into force in 1997, has been signed by 192 states as of April 2016.

Russia joined the CWC in 1997 and was initially expected to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles by December 31, 2018.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

The elephants in the room: Israel’s weapons of mass destruction

By David Morrison | Friends of Lebanon | November 19, 2013

Israel is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  It signed the Convention in 1993 when it opened for signature, but it has never ratified it.

Now that Syria has become a party to the Convention, Israel is one of only 6 states in the world that are not. They are: Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and South Sudan [1].

As a matter of fact, Israel isn’t a party to any of the three “weapons of mass destruction” treaties, that is, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) [2] and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) [3], in addition to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) – and it is the only state in the Middle East that isn’t a party to any of them.

Almost all states in the Middle East (including Iran) are party to all three, the exceptions being:

NPT              Israel

BWC              Israel, Egypt, Syria

CWC              Israel, Egypt

What is more, Israel is the only state in the world (apart from South Sudan, which only came into existence in 2011) that isn’t a party to any of these treaties. Since it also holds the world record for being in breach of Security Council resolutions that require action by it and it alone, unkind people might say that it deserves the title of a rogue state.

(North Korea isn’t party to either the BWC or the CWC. Having joined the NPT as a ‘non-nuclear-weapon’ state in 1985, it withdrew in 2003, but its withdrawal has not been formally accepted and the UN still lists it as a party [2].)

Mainstream media carried very little

The mainstream media carried very little about this during the controversy about Syria’s chemical weapons, when one might have thought that Israel should have been asked to explain why it was refusing to become a party to the CWC, while being enthusiastic about its Syrian neighbour doing so. Could it be that it didn’t want to give up its chemical weapons?

Fox News did run a story called Syria deal shines light on suspected Israeli chemical weapons program on 16 September 2013 [4], in which a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Paul Hirschson, is quoted as saying that “Israel could not ratify the treaty in such an uncertain environment”.  He continued:

“These things are regional and we’re not going to go out there on our own.”

That is close to an admission that Israel does possess chemical weapons – which will only be given up when all other regional players have given up theirs. Syria has done so. Presumably, the Israeli spokesman had Egypt in mind.  Like Israel, it is suspected of having chemical weapons (and of using them during its intervention in the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s).  Like Syria, Egypt has linked its refusal to join the CWC to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons and refusal to join the NPT.

(The Fox News article also quoted from former Israeli Defense Minister, and Labour Party leader, Amir Peretz, on the issue. He said the international community’s attitude toward Israel is “different” from Syria, because “it’s clear to everyone that Israel is a democratic, responsible regime” – that has invaded every one of its neighbours, in its short life, and has occupied large tracts of territory not its own for nearly half a century, and annexed East Jerusalem and a bit of Syria, he might have added.)

Has Israel got chemical and biological weapons too?

Nobody seriously doubts that Israel has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, perhaps as many as 400 of them, though it refuses to confirm or deny this. But does it also possess chemical weapons? There are strong suspicions that it does and that it has biological weapons as well. See, for example, Israel’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Overview (2008) by Professor Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies [5], which was published in 2008.

Recently, on 9 September 2013, Foreign Policy magazine published an article entitled Does Israel Have Chemical Weapons Too? [6]. This quoted from a 1983 CIA intelligence estimate which said that Israel had a “probable chemical weapon nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert”.  It continued:

“several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and nonpersistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, matched with suitable delivery systems.”

Of course, none of this constitutes conclusive proof that Israel had a chemical arsenal in the 1980s let alone now. Nor does conclusive proof exist that it possesses biological weapons. But, given its distinction as the only state in the world (apart from South Sudan) that isn’t a party to any of the three “weapons of mass destruction” treaties, one might expect a little more media attention to the matter.

Monumental double standard

For more than two decades, Israeli political leaders have claimed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and demanded that the world put a stop to it, otherwise Israel would have to take military action to do so.  As long ago as 1992, the present Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, predicted that Iran was 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon – and that the threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the US” [7].

While insisting that Iran must not have nuclear weapons, Israel has continued to enhance its own nuclear weapons systems. This is a double standard of monumental proportions. But, in all this time, the mainstream media have rarely drawn attention to the fact that Israel has a nuclear arsenal, let alone challenged Israeli leaders to justify the application of this double standard.

The two exceptions to the latter that I am aware of were both on the BBC Today programme recently, the first on 14 June 2013 [8] (and that was down to Jack Straw) and the second on 26 September 2013.  See my article The BBC spreads untruths about Iran’s nuclear activities [9] for transcripts of these.

Mainstream journalists know that Israel has nuclear weapons and it is clearly newsworthy that Israel is applying a monumental double standard by demanding that Iran must not acquire what Israel itself already possesses in large numbers. So why is the question rarely put? Presumably, because mainstream journalists are simply too craven to put it for fear of the consequences from their employer or from Israel itself.

Since it is Israeli policy neither to confirm nor to deny that it has nuclear weapons, it is impossible for Israeli spokesmen to answer such a question if it were put.

1969 Nixon/Meir deal

The same is true of US spokesmen, since it is also US policy neither to confirm nor deny that Israel has nuclear weapons.

The US took a vow of silence on this issue over 40 years ago: to be precise, on 26 September 1969, when President Nixon made a secret, unwritten, agreement with Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, in a one-to-one meeting in the Oval Office in the White House. Since then, the phrase “Israel’s nuclear weapons” has rarely if ever come out of the mouth of a US spokesman.

Under the Nixon/Meir deal, the US agreed not to acknowledge publicly that Israel possessed nuclear weapons, while knowing full well that it did. In return, Israel undertook to maintain a low profile about its nuclear weapons: there was to be no acknowledgment of their existence, and no testing which would reveal their existence. That way, the US would not be forced to take a public position for or against Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons.

(For the fascinating story of how this came to be US policy, see Israel crosses the threshold by Avner Cohen and William Burr, published in the May-June 2006 issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists [10]).

US refuses to discuss Israel’s nuclear weapons

In accordance with the Nixon/Meir deal, the US has refused ever since to acknowledge that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. This leads to the absurd situation in which US discussion of nuclear matters has to proceed without Israel’s nuclear weapons being mentioned.

Thus, for example, in his speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, when Obama announced “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” [11], Israel’s nuclear arsenal was off limits. This led to an amusing exchange at a press briefing onboard Air Force One en route to Prague between a journalist and a White House briefer, Denis McDonough (now Obama’s Chief of Staff). The dialogue included the following [12]:

Q Have you included Israel in the discussion [about a world without nuclear weapons]?

MR. McDONOUGH: Pardon me?

Q Have you included Israel in the discussion?

MR. McDONOUGH: Look, I think what you’ll see tomorrow is a very comprehensive speech.

It is rare for journalists to ask the US administration awkward questions about Israel’s nuclear arsenal. However, at the President’s press conference on 13 April 2010 after the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Scott Wilson of the Washington Post asked:

“You have spoken often about the need to bring US policy in line with its treaty obligations internationally to eliminate the perception of hypocrisy that some of the world sees toward the United States and its allies. In that spirit and in that venue, will you call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if not, why wouldn’t other countries see that as an incentive not to sign on to the treaty that you say is important to strengthen?” [13]

President Obama replied:

“… as far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their program.”

That’s the Nixon/Meir deal in action 40 years after it was done.

Israel stood outside the international non-proliferation regime

Iran was one of the original signatories to the NPT on 1 July 1968 as a ‘non-nuclear-weapon’ state, forbidden under Article II of the Treaty to acquire nuclear weapons. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, when the Islamic Republic reviewed all its international treaty commitments, the new rulers continued its adherence to the Treaty.

Over the past 20 years, there has been a continuous stream of accusations from Israel, the US and others that Iran was engaged in nuclear weapons development, contrary to its NPT commitments, but there has been little in the way of hard evidence to that effect. Even its detractors agree that it hasn’t got any nuclear weapons today, let alone an operational nuclear weapons system.

In their book, Going to Tehran: Why the US must come to terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran published earlier this year, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett (who both served on the US National Security Council in the first Bush administration until 2003) put it this way:

“American, Israeli and other Western intelligence services have claimed since the early 1990s that Iran is three to five years away from acquiring nuclear weapons; at times, Israel has offered more alarmist figures.  But twenty years into this resetting forecast, no Western agency has come remotely close to producing hard evidence that Iran is trying to fabricate weapons. In Russia, which has its own extensive intelligence and nuclear weapons communities and close contacts with the Iranian nuclear program, high-level officials say publicly that Iran is not seeking to build nuclear weapons – a judgment echoed privately by Russian officials knowledgeable about both nuclear weapons and Iran’s nuclear programme.  Mohamed ElBaradei, who served as director general of the IAEA from 1997 to 2009 … has said on multiple occasions that there is no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.” (p81-2)

Unlike Iran, for more than 40 years, Israel has stood outside the international non-proliferation regime, refusing to join the NPT so that it could be free to develop nuclear weapons. Today, it has the ability to deliver them by aircraft, ballistic missile and submarine-launched cruise missiles (using submarines supplied at knockdown prices by Germany [14]). It is in a position to wipe off the map every capital in the Middle East (and probably much further afield). It is guilty of nuclear proliferation on a grand scale.

It introduced nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Without this, the Middle East would be a nuclear weapons free zone today.

Yet, it is Iran that has been treated as a pariah state and subjected to fierce economic sanctions by the US/EU and their allies, while Israel is showered with largesse by the US/EU. It receives over $3bn a year in military aid from the US, more than any other state in the world, even though its GDP per capita is on a par with that of the EU.  And, since 2000, it has enjoyed privileged access to the EU market for its exports. Not only that, Germany has subsidised the enhancement of Israel nuclear weapons systems by supplying it with submarines.

Iran and other Israeli neighbours can withdraw from NPT

Clearly, Iran made the wrong choice in 1968 by signing the NPT. Had it taken the same route as Israel and refused to sign, it would have been free to engage in any nuclear activities it liked in secret, including activities for military purposes, without breaking any obligations under the NPT.

In fact, given Israel has acquired a nuclear arsenal since Iran signed the NPT in 1968, under Article IX of the NPT, Iran would be well within its rights to withdraw from the Treaty and remove the constraints upon it due to NPT membership (and so would every one of Israel’s neighbours). Article IX says:

“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.” [15]

By any objective standard, Iran (and other neighbours of Israel) has good grounds for withdrawing, because of the build up over the past 40 years of an Israeli nuclear arsenal directed at them. There could hardly be a better example of “extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty”, which “have jeopardized [their] supreme interests”.

Thanks to Germany, Israel has second strike capability

A further point: the impression is often given, not least by the Israeli leadership, that Iran’s possession of even one nuclear weapon would put Israel’s existence as a state in jeopardy. But, once account is taken of Israel’s possession of a nuclear arsenal, this proposition loses its force, especially since, thanks to German generosity with submarines, it is impossible for any aggressor to destroy Israel’s nuclear weapons systems in a first strike. Thanks to Germany, Israel has second strike capability.

The plain fact is that if Iran were ever foolish enough to make a nuclear strike on Israel, it is absolutely certain that Israel would retaliate in kind and overwhelmingly and, as a result, many Iranian cities would be razed to the ground. The rulers of Iran know that to be the case and are not suicidal.

The Israeli leadership is well aware of this. In February 2010, when he was Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barack said:

“I don’t think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, [would] drop it in the neighbourhood. They fully understand what might follow. They are radical but not totally crazy. They have a quite sophisticated decision making process, and they understand reality.” [16]

What he is saying – obliquely, since he doesn’t want to state openly that Israel possesses nuclear weapons – is that Iran would not make a nuclear strike against Israel if it had the capacity to do so, because its leadership is fully aware of the awful consequences.

NPT signatories agree to Middle East WMD free zone

The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference (attended by all parties to the NPT and therefore excluding Israel) passed a resolution calling for the creation of WMD free zone in the Middle East – to be precise, “an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems” [17]. It also called for all states in the region to accede to the NPT as soon as possible. This resolution was co-sponsored by the US, UK and Russia.

Nuclear weapons free zones have come into existence in other areas of the world since the late 60s (for example, in Latin America & the Caribbean and in Africa), where states in the area have agreed to ban the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons.

The creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East had been the subject of resolutions in international fora since the mid 70s, when evidence began to emerge that Israel was developing nuclear weapons. In December 1974, for example, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 3263 (XXIX) [18], proposed by Iran and Egypt, calling for the establishment of such a zone and for all states in the region to adhere to the NPT.  The resolution was adopted almost unanimously, with only Israel (and Burma) abstaining.

Security Council Resolution 687, the resolution passed at the end of the Gulf War in April 1991, which demanded the destruction of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”, also called on UN member states “to work towards the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of such weapons.” [19].

NPT signatories agree to conference on Middle East WMD free zone

The 1995 NPT resolution calling for a WMD free zone in the Middle East was reaffirmed at the next NPT Review Conference in 2000. However, needless to say, there was no progress whatsoever on its implementation.

In December 2003, when Syria was a member of the Security Council, it introduced a resolution reiterating the clause from the Iraq disarmament resolution calling for a WMD free zone in the Middle East, but the US threatened to veto it and it was never voted on [20].

The 2005 NPT Review Conference failed to agree a final consensus declaration, a sticking point being the lack of progress on implementing the 1995 resolution. The US had refused to put its name to any text which involved taking additional measures to induce Israel to give up its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT.

The Obama administration was anxious to avoid a similar outcome at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. This time, a coalition of the 118 states in the Non-Aligned Movement, led by Egypt, lobbied strongly for progress on this (and other) issues. In order to achieve a final consensus declaration, the US had to agree to “a process leading to full implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East”, to quote from the conference final document [21] (p30).

Specifically, in a resolution on the Middle East, the Conference agreed that,

“The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the co-sponsors of the 1995 Resolution [the US, UK and Russia], in consultation with the States of the region, will convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon States. The 2012 Conference shall take as its terms of reference the 1995 Resolution;”

The resolution also specifically stated that Israel should accede to the NPT as a “non-nuclear weapon” state (ie that it should give up its nuclear weapons) and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards (p29/30). Iran’s nuclear activities weren’t mentioned in the resolution. Surprisingly, the US put its name to this, since it effectively calls for Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.

US postpones conference

The proposed conference, which was supposed to be held in 2012, has yet to take place. At one point it was scheduled to be held in Finland in December 2012, with Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava as the facilitator. But, the US called it off at the last moment, a statement issued by the State Department on 23 November 2012 saying:

“As a co-sponsor of the proposed conference on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (MEWMDFZ), envisioned in the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final Document, the United States regrets to announce that the conference cannot be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference.” [22]

At that time, one state in the Middle East was refusing to attend. No marks for guessing that the odd man out was Israel.

At the time of writing (7 November 2013), the conference has not been rescheduled.

US accords Israel veto over holding conference

It wasn’t a surprise that the US called the conference off because Israel didn’t want to attend, because immediately after the US had put its name to the consensus declaration on 28 May 2010, President Obama’s National Security Advisor, General James Jones, stated that the US had “serious reservations” about the proposal for the conference [23]. He went on:

“The United States has long supported such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment.”

So, as far as the US is concerned, it is OK for Israel to keep its nuclear weapons until there is a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East

General Jones continued:

“As a co-sponsor charged with enabling this conference, the United States will ensure that a conference will only take place if and when all countries feel confident that they can attend. Because of [the] gratuitous way that Israel has been singled out, the prospect for a conference in 2012 that involves all key states in the region is now in doubt and will remain so until all are assured that it can operate in a[n] unbiased and constructive way.”

So, within hours of the 189 signatories of the NPT, including the US, agreeing to the conference being held, the US unilaterally accorded Israel a veto over whether the conference would be held.

Lest there be any doubt about this, listen to this from President Obama, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington a couple of months later on 6 July 2010:

“The President emphasized that the conference will only take place if all countries feel confident that they can attend, and that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening such a conference unlikely.” [24]

Israel has to be singled out

General Jones’ assertion that it is gratuitous to single out Israel when talking about a WMD free zone in the Middle East is beyond absurdity.

Israel is the only state in the Middle East that isn’t a party to any of the three WMD treaties. The only state in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons is Israel (and they are the only weapons which merit the name “weapons mass destruction”).

Egypt and Syria (and Israel) may possess other forms, but it is generally believed that their pursuit of them was driven by Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) organisation says of Egypt:

Cairo continues to lead efforts to establish a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East and to criticize Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program, linking its refusal to participate in further arms control agreements such as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to Israel’s nonparticipation in the NPT.” [25]

And of Syria:

“The country’s primary motivation for pursuing unconventional weapons and ballistic missiles appears to be the perceived Israeli threat, as Israel has superior conventional military capabilities and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.” [26]

So, unless Israel is singled out for WMD elimination, there will never be a WMD free zone in the Middle East.

US accords Israel veto over creation of Middle East WMD free zone

However, it is clear that the US is not going to be singling out Israel any time soon. When he met Prime Minister Netanyahu on 6 July 2010:

“The President told the Prime Minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs.” [24]

In that, the Obama administration accepts that Israel has a right to nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes – and the right to decide when, if ever, it no longer needs nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes. That accords Israel a veto over the creation over a WMD free zone in the Middle East – and over the achievement of “a world without nuclear weapons”, which he embarked on rhetorically in Prague in April 2009.

If the US were to apply that principle universally, then every state in the world would have a right to nuclear weapons, if it believed that their possession was necessary to deter aggression. However, it’s likely that the US will restrict the application of this principle to very special friends.




























David Morrison is a Political Officer of Sadaka: The Ireland Palestine Alliance and co-author of A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran (April 2013).  Morrison can be reached at


November 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel stockpiled chemical weapons decades ago – CIA document

RT | September 11, 2013

Israel is believed to have secretly built up its own stockpile of chemical and biological weapons decades ago, reports Foreign Policy, citing a recently unearthed CIA document.

American surveillance satellites uncovered in 1982 “a probable CW [chemical weapon] nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert,” states the secret 1983 CIA intelligence estimate obtained by Foreign Policy (FP). “Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry,” the document adds.

According to FP, US intelligence agencies are almost certain that Israel possesses a stockpile of nuclear weapons that the Middle Eastern country developed in the 1960s and 1970s as part of its defense against a possible attack from Arab neighbors.

The FP report is based on a page from a secret, Sept. 15, 1983, CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate entitled “Implications of Soviet Use of Chemical and Toxin Weapons for US Security Interests.” Part of the document was released in 2009 in the National Archives, but the piece on Israel was extracted from that version.

For years, arms control analysts have speculated that Israel built up a range of chemical and biological weapons to complement its alleged nuclear arsenal.

Experts’ attention, in particular, was focused on the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) at Ness Ziona, located 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. The highly-classified research center operated and funded by the Israel Ministry of Defense is alleged to be a military facility manufacturing chemical and biological weapons.  The IIBR was allegedly involved in several “accidents.” In one of them, according to the British Foreign Report in 1998, authorities were close to ordering evacuation of homes in the area before scientists discovered there was no threat to the population.

However, to date not much evidence has been published about Israel possessing chemical or nuclear weapons. The newly-discovered CIA memo may be the strongest indication yet, FP writes.

“While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents,” the CIA document is quoted as saying, “several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and non-persistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, marched with suitable delivery systems.”

image from http://www.foreignpolicy.comimage from

The “non-persistent agent” mentioned in the secret document was likely sarin – a nerve gas that was allegedly used in the August 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, FP writes. The US blamed the Syrian government for the attack and threatened to launch a military strike in response.

The 1983 CIA memo reveals that US intelligence was aware of Israeli alleged chemical weapons-testing activities since the early 1970s – when they learned from intelligence sources about the existence of chemical weapons testing grounds. It is almost certain that these test areas were located in Negev Desert, in southern Israel, FP writes.

Israel stepped up its research and development work on chemical weapons following the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, according to the CIA document. The war began when Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack against Israel as the nation was celebrating Yom Kippur – the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar.

“Israel, finding itself surrounded by frontline Arab states with budding CW capabilities, became increasingly conscious of its vulnerability to chemical attack,” the document says. “Its sensitivities were galvanized by the capture of large quantities of Soviet CW-related equipment during both the 1967 Arab-Israeli and the 1973 Yom Kippur wars. As a result, Israel undertook a program of chemical warfare preparations in both offensive and protective areas.”

The report also claims that in January 1976, American intelligence detected “possible tests” of Israeli chemical weapons very likely to have taken place in the Negev Desert. FP cites a former US Air Force intelligence officer, who told the magazine that the National Security Agency intercepted communications indicating that Israeli air force fighter-bombers carried out a simulated low-level chemical weapons delivery missions at a bombing range in the Negev.

1NIE on Israeli Chemical Weapons

It is unknown whether Israel still keeps its alleged stockpile of chemical weapons. In 1992, the Israeli government signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws such arms. Crucially, however,  Israel has not ratified the agreement.

The author of the FP article claims that after a search on Google Maps, he found what he believes to be “the location of the Israeli nerve agent production facility and its associated chemical weapons storage area” in the Negev Desert east of the village of al-Kilab, about 10 miles west of the city of Dimona.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to FP’s requests to comment on the article.

The CIA document emerged as the US mulls over a possible “limited” military strike against the Syrian regime that President Barack Obama was pushing for following the chemical weapons attack last month.

On Tuesday, Obama the urged the US Congress to postpone a vote to authorize military action, and said he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the ongoing Syrian war. Obama cited the Russian proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control among the reasons for the delay. Damascus has this week agreed to hand over its chemical weapons to international supervisors, and to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

US obstructing global disarmament: Iran

Press TV | May 16, 2013

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi says the United States’ opposition and lack of commitment to various international disarmament conventions are obstacles to advancing the issue of global disarmament.

Pointing to the US’s 16-year opposition to bringing up the issue of disarmament in the UN Disarmament Conference, Araqchi said, “The US has, for all practical purposes, taken the conference hostage and is hindering its effective performance in advancing international peace and security.”

He said that the US opposition to the protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, its non-adherence to its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention to eliminate its arsenal by 2012, and efforts to prevent global denuclearization as well as a nuclear-free Middle East are all part of Washington’s black record of non-compliance with international obligations and disrespect for international mechanisms on global disarmament and security.

Reacting to Washington’s recent decision to boycott the upcoming UN Conference on Disarmament because of its chairmanship by Iran, Araqchi said, “Iran is among the first founders of the [UN] Disarmament Conference, and as an independent country, it has always played an instrumental and constructive role in advancing the objectives of the conference, in particular that of nuclear disarmament.”

In a statement issued on Monday, Erin Pelton, the spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations, said that the US would not send its ambassador to the conference, adding the US believes the Islamic Republic of Iran should be barred from any formal or ceremonial positions in UN bodies.

Araqchi further noted, “Iran has also played a key role in negotiations on international treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Describing Iran as a victim of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the Iranian spokesman said the Islamic Republic of Iran along with other peace-loving nations of the world will continue to tap into all national and international potential to contribute to the creation of a WMD-free world.

Iran proposed the idea of a nuke-free Middle East and is among the flag-bearers of nuclear disarmament, he highlighted.

Iran will accede to the rotating presidency of the 65-nation UN Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, on May 27 and it will hand it over to another country on June 23 in an alphabetical order.

The conference seeks to reach an agreement on global nuclear disarmament and stopping the development of other weapons of mass destruction.

May 16, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on US obstructing global disarmament: Iran

Russia Destroys 62% of its Chemical Weapons

April 29, 2012 – RIA Novosti

MOSCOW – About 25,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 62 percent of Russia’s stockpile, have been destroyed by April 29, the day when the International Chemical Weapons Convention came into force.

In 15 years Russia destroyed about two thirds of its world-largest stockpile of 40,000 metric tons. The goal is to destroy 100 percent of chemical weapons in Russia by 2015.

The 188 states parties to the Convention initially planned to destroy all chemical weapons in the world by 2012. Russia and the United States, who have 40,000 and 27,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, respectively, said they were behind schedule and the deadline was postponed until December 31, 2015.

The U.S. said it had already destroyed about 90 percent of its chemical weapons. The Department of Defense, however, postponed the deadline for destroying the remaining 2,000 metric tons first until 2021 and then until 2023.

As of January 31, 2012, more than 50,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 73 percent of the global stockpile, have been destroyed.

The convention came into force on April 29, 1997, and 188 out of 195 UN member states have joined it. Myanmar and Israel are signatories to the treaty, but are yet to ratify it. Only Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia and Syria are still outside the convention.

The countries that officially admitted having chemical weapons are Albania, Libya, Iraq, India, Russia, the United States and South Korea.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Russia Destroys 62% of its Chemical Weapons