Makes Israel weapons of mass destruction

Weapons of mass destruction

With the help of France, a nuclear research reactor was built in Dimona in the Negev desert in Israel in 1956. An underground reprocessing plant was added later, producing plutonium for bomb construction. Israel is said to have had the first operational nuclear warheads as early as 1967 (Bar-Joseph 2012, p. 94). Today it is assumed that it has between 80 and 200 nuclear warheads and corresponding delivery systems - aircraft, ground-based and submarine-based missiles - (Arms Control Association 2012). The Israeli government does not officially admit to being a nuclear power, nor does it deny it.

Nuclear weapons were viewed by Tel Aviv in the 1950s and 1960s as the last "security" against the supposed conventional superiority of jointly operating armies of Arab states. The current Israeli government takes the position that disarmament in the region can only be negotiated after a comprehensive peace solution in the Middle East. Critics object that Israel today does not need nuclear weapons for its security against its Arab neighbors because it is conventionally superior to them (Bar-Joseph 2012).

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, this is required by a large majority of the states of Israel, for example in resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations such as of December 3, 2012, in which a corresponding resolution was adopted with 174 for, 6 against and 6 abstentions (UN General Assembly, GA / 11321). A conference on a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction, called for by the 189 member states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, did not take place in December 2012, as originally planned, because Israel refused to take part.

The US and many other western states are not worried about the country's nuclear weapons. Instead, they see the main threat in the region in an Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran began a nuclear program in the 1960s with US support. After a revolution in 1979 overthrew the Shah regime, which was a close ally of Washington, the US tried to prevent the construction of any nuclear facilities in the country. This was justified with the danger that the Islamic Republic of Iran, which the USA sees as an opponent, could use civilian facilities as a springboard for nuclear weapons ambitions.

Since the 1990s, Israeli and some Western politicians have warned that Iran could have atomic bombs in a few years. Such alarmistic predictions have not yet come true. In 2011, Iran commissioned a civil nuclear power plant built with the help of Russia. Iran also has uranium enrichment plants in Natanz and Fordow. Theoretically, not only weakly enriched uranium for civilian nuclear fuel rods in nuclear reactors, but also highly enriched uranium - the material required for nuclear weapons - could be produced there. So far, Iran has only produced weakly enriched uranium. With further enrichment, the fissile material for about five atomic bombs could be obtained from it. The plants are under constant control by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This has confirmed that no nuclear material has yet been diverted from them for military purposes.

Iran hid nuclear research activities for many years prior to 2002, in violation of IAEA safety regulations. He also reported the uranium enrichment plants to the IAEA shortly before commissioning. This has given the international community cause for suspicion. The Islamic Republic also does not meet all the control requirements of the IAEA. Therefore, the UN Security Council decided in 2006 that Iran, inter alia, must stop any uranium enrichment. But Tehran is not complying with this demand because it considers it illegal. As a member state of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the “inalienable right” to civilian use of nuclear energy - and thus also to uranium enrichment for civil purposes.

There is no clear evidence that Iran is striving for nuclear weapons, such as the production of highly enriched uranium. The US secret services are sticking to their 2007 assessment that Iran discontinued its structured nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not yet made a decision to restart it. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta put it accordingly in 2012: “Is Iran in the process of developing nuclear weapons? No ”(Leon Panetta). However, Iran is in principle technically capable of producing nuclear weapons, estimate the US secret services. However, according to the US government, the attempt to produce bombs would be quickly discovered by the IAEA and the CIA.

Iran rejects the suspicion of running a nuclear weapons program before 2003, as well as the allegation of seeking nuclear weapons in general. The religious head of state of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared in a fatwa, an Islamic legal principle, the development of nuclear weapons as "illegal from the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence". Nuclear weapons are also "useless and dangerous. Therefore we will never strive for them ”(Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). Other Iranian politicians also argue that the possession of some nuclear weapons would not do anything against the nuclear superiority of the USA and would encourage an arms race in the Middle East that would run counter to Iranian security interests. It cannot be ruled out that such statements are pure propaganda on the part of the Iranian leadership. The distrust of Iran's possible intentions is also fueled by the fact that Iran did not report all of its nuclear facilities to the IAEA long before production began and that it did not respond satisfactorily to IAEA questions about the possible military dimensions of the nuclear program.

Since the limited sanctions against Iran against Iran decided by the UN Security Council did not induce Tehran to give up uranium enrichment, the USA and the European Union imposed drastic economic sanctions in 2012, which hit Iran's main source of income, oil and gas exports, as well as all financial transactions make it difficult for Iranian banks. In addition to economic sanctions, computer viruses were also smuggled into Iranian nuclear facilities and Iranian nuclear scientists were murdered in targeted attacks. According to media research and reports, for example the “New York Times”, these actions are said to have originated in Israel or the USA.

At the same time, negotiations have been going on for years between the six powers USA, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany on the one hand and Iran on the other. But these have so far remained fruitless. Responsible for this are both Tehran's refusal to stop its uranium enrichment in accordance with the demands of the UN Security Council and the unwillingness of the USA to accept internationally controlled uranium enrichment for civil purposes in Iran and to lift sanctions in return for Iranian concessions.

Israel in particular, but also the USA, are threatening a military attack against the Iranian nuclear facilities. But that could have "catastrophic consequences," warn experts such as the former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (Robert Gates). There is also agreement that an attack would set the Iranian nuclear program back by a few years at best, but that Tehran would then probably decide to manufacture nuclear bombs as quickly as possible - secretly. If an attack takes place without the approval of the UN Security Council - and such approval is not expected - it would be “a clear breach of the UN Charter” (Carl Bildt, Erkki Tuomioja), as the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland put it.

Sources and further information

  • Arms Control Association (2012): Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Israel.
  • Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany: Conflict over Iranian nuclear program.
  • Bar-Joseph, Uri (2012): Taking Israel’s security interests into account: deterrence policy in a changing strategic environment; in: Kubbig, Bernd W. and Sven-Eric Fikenscher (eds.): Arms Control and Missile Proliferation in the Middle East, London / New York 2012, pp. 89 ff.
  • Bertram, Christoph (2008): Partners not opponents. For a different Iran policy. Hamburg.
  • Bildt, Carl and Erkki Tuomioja (2012): The only option on Iran; in: International Herald Tribune, p. 6.
  • Gates, Robert (2012): "The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world". In Bill Sizemore (2012): Ex-defense chief says hit on Iran would be disastrous; Virginia pilot.
  • Khamenei, Ali H. (2012): Supreme Leader’s Speech to Nuclear Scientists.
  • Norris, Robert, S., Arkin, William M., Kristensen, Hans M. and Joshua Handler (2002): Israeli Nuclear Forces, 2002; in: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists September / October 2002, pp. 73ff.
  • Panetta, Leon (2012); in Kevin Hechtkopf (2012): Panetta: Iran cannot develop nukes, block strait. CBSNews.
  • Sommer, Jerry (2012): Iran - How can you stop the clocks of war? In: Schoch, Bruno, Hauswedell, Corinna, Kursawe, Janet and Margret Johannsen (eds.) (2012): Friedensgutachten 2012, pp. 306-320.
  • UN Security Council resolutions on Iran
  • UN General Assembly, GA / 11321, December 3, 2012, Resolutions Aim to Neutralize Nuclear-Weapon Threat, Open Passage To Multilateral Negotiations; Israel, Iran, Syria, South Africa Explain Votes; a corresponding resolution was passed with 174 for, 6 against and 6 abstentions.

BICC 01/2013