Friday, January 11, 2008

CIA Knew About Israeli Nukes In '74

By Cernig

Via the Arms Control Wonk, comes a piece in Haaretz.
The Central Intelligence Agency, backed by bodies including the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Defense Intelligence Agency, determined in August 1974 that Israel had nuclear "weapons in being," a "small number" of which it "produced and stockpiled."

Israel was also suspected of providing nuclear materials, equipment or technology to Iran, South Africa and other then-friendly countries.

This top secret document, consigned to the CIA's vaults for almost 32 years, was suddenly released to the public this week, during U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Israel and on the eve of his trip to the Persian Gulf.

...In both the original 1974 document and the 1975 State Department paper (in which it was retyped), the entire intelligence community determined, "Israel already has produced nuclear weapons." This analysis was based on "Israeli acquisition of large quantities of uranium," in part covertly; on Israel's ambiguous efforts to enrich uranium; and on the huge investment in the "Jericho" surface-to-surface missile "designed to accommodate nuclear warheads." Short of a grave threat to the nation's existence, Israel was not expected to confirm its suspected capability "by nuclear testing or by threats of use."

While Israel's nuclear weapons "cannot be proven beyond a shadow of doubt," several bodies of information point strongly toward a program stretching back over a number of years, the document states.

The 1974 document describes the Jericho project, from its inception in France through its migration to Israel to the replacement of the original inertial guidance system by an Israeli design "based on components produced in Israel under licenses from U.S. companies."

...The authors of the NIE wrote that the U.S. helped France expedite its nuclear program, France in turn helped Israel, and much like France and India, Israel, "while unlikely to foster proliferation as a matter of national policy, probably will prove susceptible to the hue of economic and political advantages to be gained from exporting materials, technology and equipment relevant to nuclear weapons programs."
Only a few months ago a portion of the document had been released under an FOI request "as an attachment to a 1975 State Department paper ostensibly disputing the the portrayal of Israel's nuclear weapons as a fact. This served the Department of State's effort to avoid addressing Israel's nuclear status in response to a query by Congressman Alan Steelman." Now the whole document has been released and Dr. Lewis at Arms Control Wonk has helpfully converted it to a PDF.

Haaretz speculates that the release of this information may be blowback for Israel's harsh words over the recent NIE on Iran, but it seems to me that it's just as likely to be pressure designed to bring Israel to the negotiating table with Arab states, who have been increasingly vocal of late about the pass afforded by the U.S. to the single actual nuclear power in the region when it comes to nonproliferation issues.

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