WASHINGTON (Oct. 30)
Two studies made public this week assert that Israel has the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons and may have actually done so already.
Leonard Spector, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a book, “Nuclear Proliferation Today: The Spread of Nuclear Weapons 1984, ” the first in a series of Carnegie Endowment annual reports on the subject, claims that Israel may have some 20 untested nuclear weapons “or their easily assembled components.”
Warren Donnelly of the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service, in another report on proliferation, maintained that Israel poses the greatest “threat” among five non-nuclear states to test or produce weapons. Other states that pose a danger to non proliferation are South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Argentina, according to Donnelly, who made his report at the request of Sen. William Proxmire (D. Wis.).
However, both Donnelly and Spector said they believe that Israel will continue its present position of not acknow ledging it has nuclear weapons. Israel had publicly maintained that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.
In his book, Spector said that he doubts that Israel would disclose it has weapons since this would increase pressure on the Arab states to acquire their own weapons or to seek Soviet guarantees of nuclear retaliation should Israel use nuclear arms. It would also hurt Israel’s position in the U.S. where, Spector maintains, Israel’s “ambiguous posture” has allowed U.S. officials to overlook its nuclear capabilities when providing arms to Israel.
INCREASING DANGER OF NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
Spector, who as chief counsel for the Senate Energy and Nuclear Proliferation subcommittee helped draft a 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the quarterly, Foreign Policy, that the danger of nuclear proliferation “intensified significantly” over the past year.
He said that in addition to the five “full-fledged” nuclear powers — the U.S. the Soviet Union, Britain, Frace and the People’s Repblic of China — Israel, India, and South Africa have the capability to produce nuclear weapons and Pakistan may soon acquire it if they have not already done so.
Spector said that although Iraq and Libya have been trying to acquire nuclear capabilities, it “does appear very unlikely” they will be able to do so in the near future. He noted that it was revealed this year that Iraq for several years has been seeking to buy 34 Kilograms of plutonium, enough for perhaps six nuclear weapons, from a 30-member Italian black market arms-smuggling ring whose members were indicted in Italy recently.
SPECTER OF LIBYA AS A NUCLEAR POWER
Libya has concluded an agreement with Belgium allowing it to buy a specialized uranium processing plant which could possibly be used in nuclear weapons development, according to Spector. Last May it was revealed that Libya sold Argentina $100 million in weapons during the Falklands War in 1982. Nine months later a 45-member Argentine delegation visited Tripoli to discuss Argentine nuclear and arms exports to Libya. Spector said he did not know if this apparent quid pro quo still existed under the new government in Argentina.
Libya is also believed to have financed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program at least in part. But Spector said that while it is unlikely that Pakistan would share its weapons with another country, “given its increasingly visible Islamic orientation, a Pakistani nuclear bomb could serve at least as a symbolic counterweight to Israel’s capabilities.”
ISRAEL’S STATUS OUTLINED
On Israel, Spector said that the Central Intelligence Agency has leaked information over the years confirming that Israel has produced plutonium from its nuclear reactor in Dimona which is not under international inspection. He said it is believed that the reactor has been expanded recently, which means Israel’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons has been increased. Spector noted that computers now make it unnecessary for a country to test a nuclear weapon before it decides to produce them as part of its weapons stockpile.
Spector warned that the most serious danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons is that their use in a regional conflict could “trigger some kind of super-power confrontation.” He noted that it was “alleged”that during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel considered using nuclear weapons against Sovietbacked troops in Egypt. If that had happened, it would have made for “very very difficult choices” for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he said.
Spector added that “even if we were lucky” and a nuclear conflict was confined to a regional war, “the impact would be staggering. A handful of weapons anywhere in the Middle East could wipe out a Middle East country for all intents and purposes; a couple of weapons could have a tremendous impact on the availability of oil to the West, wreak havoc with our economies and not to mention the possiblity of extraordingary levels of casualties if they were used in some of the densely populated cites.”