Monday, 24 May 2010

We need action on Israel's nuclear weapons

Imagine if you picked up a newspaper today and read that Iran had been in possession of nuclear weapons since the 1970's and tried to sell them to one of the world's more brutal and morally corrupt regimes. There would, quite rightly, be outrage and calls for international sanctions to ensure that Iran is tied into nuclear proliferation treaties.

Well, today's Guardian carries exactly that story. Except the culprit is not Iran but Israel. According to declassified South African government documents Israel attempted to sell apartheid South Africa nuclear warheads for possible use against other African states.

It has long been Israeli policy to neither confirm or deny that it possess nuclear  weapons while stating that if they did have such weapons, they would be 'responsible' and not misuse them. Both these fictions have been exposed. But don't expect any international hue and cry. Israel is the regime in the Middle East the United States trusts the most to best protect its interests. So while there is one rule on the development of nuclear programmes for countries who are subservient to American power, there is another for those, like Iran, who are not.

The growing proliferation of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat. Nine countries, that we know of, have nuclear weapons and another forty have the means to build them. With the increase of nuclear weapons the threat of their usage, whether by states or terrorist groups, also increases. The anti-nuclear campaign group Global Zero report 'there are over 20,000 total weapons and enough nuclear materials worldwide to build another 100,000.  We cannot persuade terrorists to stop seeking nuclear weapons. The only solution is to eliminate the weapons themselves: to drain the swamp.'

A good place to start would be the Middle East. It is about time that the country with the largest nuclear stockpile in the region, Israel, is held to account and forced to be transparent about its nuclear weapons programme.

Photo: Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu who who spent 18 years in jail for exposing Israel's nuclear arsenal, and who has been jailed again for 'unauthorised meetings'.