Obama, Nuclear Arms Reduction, and the Immense Power of the Israel Lobby

Obama, Nuclear Arms Reduction, and the Immense Power of the Israel Lobby

Saturday, October 3, 2009 5:41 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”

As the US berates Iran for its nuclear program–though there is no
substantial proof that Iran even intends to develop nuclear weapons–the
United States intentionally overlooks Israel’s existing nuclear arsenal so
that it will remain free from international inspection.  As an article in
the “Washington Times”  by Eli Lake (October 2)  points out,  Obama has
apparently pledged to Israel that the US will continue this
“head-in-the-sand” approach towards Israel’s nuclear arsenal despite his
pontificating about the need for a nuclear-free world.

As Lake’s article indicates, this secret agreement between the US and Israel
was initially made in 1969, and Israel successfully sought to have Obama
reiterate it.  Obama has, in fact, put this agreement on much firmer ground
since no formal record of such a previous agreement actually exists.  

Undoubtedly, such a secret agreement makes a mockery of Obama’s idealistic
talk of a nuclear-free world as well as his call for government
transparency.  It is quite reminiscent of the idealistic preaching of the
Allies in the World War I period about a just peace based upon national
self-determination and “open treaties openly arrived at” while at the same
time having secret treaties to enable the victors to carve up the spoils of
war among themselves.  When revealed, this hypocrisy caused popular
disillusionment with the post-war peace settlement and helped pave the way
for  World War II.  

Is Obama simply a hypocrite, with his anti-nuclear arms preaching being only
empty rhetoric?  The nations of the world can see the obvious double
standard, making any real international agreement impossible.  However, even
if Obama were totally indifferent to improving the world, which I don’t
think is the case, he would derive personal benefits (e.g., international
acclaim)  if his nuclear arms reductions proposals achieved some type of

Why does Obama, the head of the most powerful country in the world, allow
the parochial interests of a small foreign country, Israel,  to stand in the
way of his global agenda for the reduction of nuclear armaments?    As one
Senate staffer told the author of the “Washington Times” article:  “the
president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to give
regarding Israel’s nuclear program.”  Let’s emphasize and then analyze those
key words: “POLITICALLY HE HAD NO CHOICE.” The Senate staffer (and it should
be noted that Senate staff make their living by understanding political
reality) presented this lack of choice as an objective fact, not a
subjective fear on Obama’s part.  It is not simply that Obama fears the
power of Israel and the Israel lobby; rather, according to the Senate
staffer, if Obama went against the interests of Israel on the nuclear issue,
the Israel lobby would wreck his presidency and prevent his re-election.
This would explain why Obama did not even dare to try to get the Israeli
government to make any compromise on its position of ambiguity regarding
nuclear weapons, such as declaring itself a member of the nuclear club and
allowing inspections. 

While the idea of a powerful Israel lobby is vociferously denied by the
mainstream and is often excoriated as an example of “anti-Semitism,”  the
power of the Israel lobby over the president of the United States in this
case underscores  the very immensity its political influence.  Of course,
the Israel lobby is so powerful that every significant mainstream figure who
wishes to remain in an august position must never publicize its real power.
This is not to say that the power of the Israel lobby is unlimited. Israel
and the Israel lobby have not yet demonstrated the power to directly force
the United States into a war on Iran.  And the war on Iraq required
skillful propaganda manipulation by the neoconservatives who were
strategically ensconced within  the Bush administration.  Israel and its
lobby’s inability so far  to pressure the United States to attack Iran is
largely due to resistance from the old foreign policy establishment and the
military, along with the general realization of the likely catastrophic
consequences of such military action.   However, Israel and its lobby have
been able to get the US to pursue policies that bring the US close to war,
and without that pressure the relations between the US and Iran would be far
more tranquil.  (See, for example, the CFR-sponsored report “Iran: Time for
a New Approach,” 2004, discussed on p. 259 of “The Transparent Cabal”)

Unless greater resistance to the Israel lobby is demonstrated by
politicians, especially the president, it is quite likely that the United
States will eventually drift into  war with Iran.  And effective resistance
to the Israel lobby would require politicians to take positions that could
lead to their political destruction.   Perhaps this is not possible. 

(For the background of the neoconservatives’ effort to push the US into war
on Iran, see my book  “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda,
War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”
Website:  http://home.comcast.net/~transparentcabal/
Amazon: http://tiny.cc/zNV06

My recent article “Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran” has been edited
and posted at: http://www.thornwalker.com/ditch/sniegoski_back_door.htm    )

Stephen Sniegoski



Washington Times

October 2, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Obama agrees to keep Israel’s nukes secret

Eli Lake

President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has
allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international
inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.

The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because
they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to
maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu at the White House in May.

Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its
nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which
could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs.

Israel had been nervous that Mr. Obama would not continue the 1969
understanding because of his strong support for nonproliferation and
priority on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. and
five other world powers made progress during talks with Iran in Geneva on
Thursday as Iran agreed in principle to transfer some potential bomb fuel
out of the country and to open a recently disclosed facility to
international inspection.

Mr. Netanyahu let the news of the continued U.S.-Israeli accord slip last
week in a remark that attracted little notice. He was asked by Israel’s
Channel 2 whether he was worried that Mr. Obama’s speech at the U.N. General
Assembly, calling for a world without nuclear weapons, would apply to

“It was utterly clear from the context of the speech that he was speaking
about North Korea and Iran,” the Israeli leader said. “But I want to remind
you that in my first meeting with President Obama in Washington I received
from him, and I asked to receive from him, an itemized list of the strategic
understandings that have existed for many years between Israel and the
United States on that issue. It was not for naught that I requested, and it
was not for naught that I received [that document].”

The chief nuclear understanding was reached at a summit between President
Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that began on Sept. 25, 1969.
Avner Cohen, author of “Israel and the Bomb” and the leading authority
outside the Israeli government on the history of Israel’s nuclear program,
said the accord amounts to “the United States passively accepting Israel’s
nuclear weapons status as long as Israel does not unveil publicly its
capability or test a weapon.”

There is no formal record of the agreement nor have Israeli nor American
governments ever publicly acknowledged it. In 2007, however, the Nixon
library declassified a July 19, 1969, memo from national security adviser
Henry Kissinger that comes closest to articulating U.S. policy on the issue.
That memo says, “While we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli
possession, what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli
possession from becoming an established international fact.”

Mr. Cohen has said the resulting policy was the equivalent of “don’t ask,
don’t tell.”

The Netanyahu government sought to reaffirm the understanding in part out of
concern that Iran would seek Israeli disclosures of its nuclear program in
negotiations with the United States and other world powers. Iran has
frequently accused the U.S. of having a double standard by not objecting to
Israel’s arsenal.

Mr. Cohen said the reaffirmation and the fact that Mr. Netanyahu sought and
received a written record of the deal suggest that “it appears not only that
there was no joint understanding of what had been agreed in September 1969
but it is also apparent that even the notes of the two leaders may no longer
exist. It means that Netanyahu wanted to have something in writing that
implies that understanding. It also affirms the view that the United States
is in fact a partner in Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity.”

Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined
to comment, as did the White House National Security Council.

The secret understanding could undermine the Obama administration’s goal of
a world without nuclear weapons. In particular, it could impinge on U.S.
efforts to bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the
Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, two agreements that U.S. administrations
have argued should apply to Israel in the past. They would ban nuclear tests
and the production of material for weapons.

A Senate staffer familiar with the May reaffirmation, who asked not to be
named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, “What this means is
that the president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to
give regarding Israel’s nuclear program. However, it calls into question
virtually every part of the President’s nonproliferation agenda. The
president gave Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the
step was less injurious to U.S. policy.

“I think it is par for the course that the two incoming leaders of the
United States and Israel would want to clarify previous understandings
between their governments on this issue,” he said.

However Mr. Kimball added, “I would respectfully disagree with Mr.
Netanyahu. President Obama’s speech and U.N. Security Council Resolution
1887 apply to all countries irrespective of secret understandings between
the U.S. and Israel. A world without nuclear weapons is consistent with
Israel’s stated goal of achieving a Middle East free of weapons of mass
destruction. Obama’s message is that the same nonproliferation and
disarmament responsibilities should apply to all states and not just a few.”

Israeli nuclear doctrine is known as “the long corridor.” Under it, Israel
would begin to consider nuclear disarmament only after all countries
officially at war with it signed peace treaties and all neighboring
countries relinquished not only nuclear programs but also chemical and
biological arsenals. Israel sees nuclear weapons as an existential guarantee
in a hostile environment.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International
Security, said he hoped the Obama administration did not concede too much to

“One hopes that the price for such concessions is Israeli agreement to the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and an
acceptance of the long-term goal of a Middle East
weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone,” he said. “Otherwise, the Obama
administration paid too much, given its focus on a world free of nuclear

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