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Israel's nuclear weapons

The centrepiece opinion item in today's Telegraph argues for a nuclear free Middle East, and runs with the idea that if Israel closed Dimona etc etc there would be a US guarantee of Israel's safety, integrity and a preparedness to take out any attempted nuclear proliferation by its neighbours. Alistair Horne then goes on to ask what the Israelis are actually deterring.

It seems to me that he does not understand Israel's historic nuclear strategy. Israel had a rough and ready nuclear arsenal as far back as the 1970s, and I suppose one would think that the obvious targets would have been Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and so forth. This would be wrong, the target were a good deal further North: for missiles the southern Caucasus and for plane mounted weapons, Moscow. The underlying idea was that Syria, Egypt etc would only ever go as far as Moscow permitted them, and therefore Israeli nuclear strategy addressed the organ grinder rather than the monkeys.

Moving towards more modern times, the Russian Federation has little or no clout in the region, but as we see with Iran, Israel has plenty of foes further afield and Teheran is the hand inside the Hizbollah glove puppet. Horne seems to think that Israel would only go to DefCon One in a war that had already got the Americans thinking the same way. Again, I think the writer is barking up the wrong tree. Looking at Gulf War I, the aim of Saddam in firing missiles at Israel was to bring Israel into the war and to fracture the anti-Iraq coalition, but Saddam was not prepared to launch chemical weapons at Israel precisely because of nuclear weapons. Sounds like a job well done to me. What I consider to be the most seriously wrong headed in the writer's scheme is that a nuclear-free zone would extend only so far as to Iran's eastern border. While Iran is seeking to lead the Islamic world and is certainly making the most noise at the moment, it is hardly the only contender. Moving a little further to the east we have Pakistan, currently a less than stable state, and it is hardly outlandlish to envisage a less than friendly regime in Islamabad some years hence that decides that just the thing it needs to establish its credentials is to attempt to incinerate Tel Aviv.
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