Might the Obama administration’s calls for stricter nonproliferation efforts find Israel in its crosshairs? Probably not, but it’s still an issue worth watching.
Israel practices “nuclear ambiguity”: It has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty …but has pledged not to become “a nuclear power” … but is basically known for certain to possess nuclear warheads, though it has not declared it. (By contrast, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are non-signatories that have in effect declared their nuclear statuses; all other nuclear powers are signatories.) Israel’s status has rarely been any sort of issue, but one of the few times it has been is, well, just now. President Obama’s recent nuclear summit brought out some anger out of Mideast states like Egypt over the fact that their ostensibly “nuclear-free zone,” which they are trying to prevent Iran from spoiling, actually already has a de facto nuclear power. In fact, it was reported yesterday that some NPT signatories, led by the Phillipines, have introduced a U.N. draft resolution that would call on “all states in the Middle East that have not yet done so to accede to the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states so as to achieve its universality at an early date.” Hint, hint.
Meanwhile, perhaps the policy most emphasized by the Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy is nonproliferation. “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global nonproliferation regime that has frayed as more people and nations break the rules,” it states. “We will pursue a broad, international consensus to insist that all nations meet their obligations,” it declares. “And we will also pursue meaningful consequences for countries that fail to meet their obligations under the NPT or to meet the requirements for withdrawing from it.”
North Korea, which has developed nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT, and Iran, which is widely believed to be developing them in violation of the NPT, are frequently cited. But could this include Israel too?
Definitely not, nonproliferation expert Jeffrey G. Lewis emails. “This refers to Iran and North Korea (which it does by name), and not Israel, which strictly speaking has no obligations under the NPT,” he explained to me. “I do not believe that this statement, even in a veiled manner, in any way is supposed to refer to Israel.”
The real test, it seems to me, would be if some sort of resolution with strong bearing on Israel ever makes it to the Security Council. At which point we could expect a U.S. veto.