After decades of disagreement and economic sanctions world powers and Iran have reached an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. After a 13-year stand-off, the deal was reached between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
Speaking about this agreement, PM Tony Abbott has expressed his hope the international nuclear deal with Iran will de-escalate tensions in “the most unstable and dangerous part of the world” and lead to the Middle East becoming “nuclear-free’’.
The Prime Minister said:
We certainly want a nuclear-free Middle East. The Middle East is the most unstable and dangerous part of the world, if any country in the Middle East were to get nuclear weapons that would be a horrifying escalation of tension.
Despite his seeming opposition interestingly, Tony Abbott deceptively neglects to mention or criticise the only country in the Middle East that actually has nuclear weapons, Israel. Although it has never confirmed its nuclear military capacity it is a well known fact that Israel possesses these weapons.
Israel maintains a policy known as “nuclear ambiguity.” Israel has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, instead repeating over the years that it would not be the first country to "introduce" nuclear weapons to the Middle East. The "not be the first" formulation goes back to an understanding between Israel and the United States on March 10, 1965, which contained Israel's written assurance for the first time that it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Israel has refused to sign the NPT despite international pressure to do so, and has stated that signing the NPT would be contrary to its national security interests.
Estimates as to the size of the Israeli nuclear arsenal vary between 75 and 400 nuclear warheads. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that Israel has approximately 80 intact nuclear weapons, of which 50 are for delivery by medium-range ballistic missiles and 30 are gravity bombs for delivery by aircraft.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, provided explicit details and photographs to the Sunday Times of a nuclear weapons program in which he had been employed for nine years. Vanunu was later jailed by Israel for18 years, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement for these disclosures.
Israel and numerous Arab states agreed in 2008, to “pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction”. Yet this did nothing to change the situation regarding Israel’s nuclear stockpile.
Iran has constantly said it was not developing nuclear weapons. Yet world powers imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. Now that the West is content with measures to curb any potential for Iran to build a nuclear weapon, it is well beyond time the international community got serious with Israel, to expose its concealed nuclear warfare system and bring pressure to allow international inspectors to examine and rein in its nuclear weapons program.
There will always be the potential for a nuclear arms race is the Middle East, because if Israel has nuclear weapons there will be other countries in the region that will want them. So if Tony Abbott is really concerned about stability and peace in the Middle East, he and the rest of the international community should confront Israel over its rogue possession of nuclear weapons and stop the hypocrisy on this issue.