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Obama ducks question on Israel's nuclear capability but expresses concern over Iran's nuclear program

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali, February 12, 2009

President Barrack Obama's first press conference was dominated by economy issue that was the main objective of the event. Out of 13 questions, 8 were related to economy, while three dealt with foreign policy: Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan's FATA region. The President's responses to the issues of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan's FATA region were very vivid and clear. However, when it came to Israel, though the question was indirect and implicit, his response was ambiguous and dubious.
The White House veteran journalist, Helen Thomas, asked: "Do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?"
Although former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in July 1998 that Israel "built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo," President Obama declined to answer the question by saying:
"With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don't want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger."
He went on to say: "And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally. I think that it's important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this. And you know, I've mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the conversation, about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way, so that."
It is an open secret now that Israel is the world's sixth most powerful nuclear state, with a stockpile of more than 100 nuclear weapons and with the components and ability to build atomic, neutron and hydrogen bombs. (The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control's Risk Report of July 1996)
The first public revelation of Israel's nuclear capability (as opposed to development program) came in the London based Sunday Times on 5 October 1986, which printed information provided by Mordechai Vanunu, formerly employed at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, a facility located in the Negev desert south of Dimona. After being abducted from Italy, Vanunu was tried in Israel and sentenced to 18 years in prison for treason and espionage. Although there had been much speculation prior to Vanunu's revelations that the Dimona site was creating nuclear weapons, Vanunu's information indicated that Israel had also built thermonuclear weapons. (Wikipedia)
According to the Federation of American Scientists by the late 1990s the U.S. Intelligence Community estimated that Israel possessed between 75-130 weapons, based on production estimates. The stockpile would certainly include warheads for mobile Jericho-1 and Jericho-2 missiles, as well as bombs for Israeli aircraft, and may include other tactical nuclear weapons of various types.
The US had been hypocritical about Iran, approaching it with very different standards than it has for Israel, India or even itself.
The US is seeking to prevent Iran having a uranium enrichment program, even though there is no evidence that it is being used for weapons production. By contrast, the US has never said boo to Israel for having a nuclear weapons program and for manufacturing actual nuclear devices. And Pakistan and India are allies of the US, despite having acquired nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In this matter, double standards abound.
At the same time as it is demanding that Iran abandon uranium enrichment, the US is offering India access to nuclear materials and equipment for the expansion of its nuclear power program. This offer reverses a 30-year old US policy of denying nuclear materials and equipment to India, which was prompted by India's first nuclear weapons test in 1974. If the deal goes through, India will acquire the status, and the privileges, of a "nuclear-weapon" state like the five official "nuclear weapon" states. This is going to happen, even though India has never signed the NPT and can't sign it now without giving up its nuclear weapons – which it isn't going to do.
The supreme irony is that part of the payback the US expects for this deal is India's support on the International Atomic Energy Agency Board in denying Iran its "inalienable right" under the NPT to uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes.
The U.S.-India nuclear deal exempts India from the NPT's restrictions and permits it to keep its 50 to 120 nuclear bombs and build more. And the United States will start selling India sensitive nuclear technology.
In September 2008, Foreign Policy magazine editor Moisés Naím wrote: Double standards have always been a part of U.S. foreign policy. He asked readers to tell him which double standard in U.S. foreign policy bothers you the most? Readers' comments were published in October 2008. Here are some of the comments:
- As long as the United States perceives utility and purpose in maintaining and improving a large nuclear weapons stockpile, then there is no reason in the end why other nations should not also want to do the same.
- North Korea's and Pakistan's human rights records are abysmal, but Pakistan is a strategic partner and North Korea is a pariah. International law is important, yet the United States can sign a deal with India, undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- If America were truly pursuing a policy of bettering the world and serving a practical lesson of justice for the entire world to see, then how can we explain its reluctance in signing the Rome Statute and becoming a state party to the International Criminal Court at The Hague?
- Assertions of support for democracy, human rights, and self-determination for all peoples, while frequently overthrowing democratically elected governments to install right-wing dictators who not only have no respect for those proclaimed values, but actively undermine them, with brutal, even lethal results, to which the United States turns a blind eye and even offers covert support.
- The United States uses lack of religious freedom and democracy to oppose Iran, while supporting the same in Israel. Israel is a selective democracy (if that can be called democracy), where 50 percent of the population under its control does not have any citizenship or rights and 20 percent of the rest are second-class citizens who have to accept the majority's dominance and superiority.
- The Israeli-Palestinian double standard where Israel can do no wrong. The United States should make a list of all of its vetoes of U.N. sanctions against Israel, and that list alone would convince rational Americans that Arabs do not just "hate our freedoms" but have real grievances the United States refuses to redress and refuses to let anyone else (including the United Nations) redress.
- Palestine/Israel. We would never tolerate being occupied in America; we would never tolerate roads for "whites only"; we would never tolerate a wall on our property that divides our communities and contributes to 70 percent unemployment; we would never tolerate checkpoints; and we would never tolerate collective punishment (I don't get thrown in jail or missiles fired at my home from helicopters when my neighbor does something wrong). Why is it OK when it comes to the Palestinians?
- Promoting democratic elections, and then ignoring the results if we don't like them, e.g., Gaza and Hamas.
- Any government in the world that tries to care more for its people than for American business interests finds itself in trouble with the United States. The military or the Central Intelligence Agency, or both, will intervene with disastrous consequences.
- The most disgusting double standard from the USA is the one that says "we're a Christian nation" and then the world sees the most un-Christian activities conducted under the guise of "democracy" and "liberalism."
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: email:

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