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U.s Refusing to Allow Sales of Supercomputers to Israel

May 25, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

For more than two years, the United States has been refusing to allow U.S. companies to sell supercomputers to Israel, out of fear that they would be used to design nuclear weapons.

As a result, two of the three Israeli research institutions that are affected by that policy say they are losing hope that applications submitted on their behalf — by Cray Research Inc. of Minneapolis and the International Business Machines Corp. of Rockland County, N.Y. — Will ultimately be approved.

Administrators at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa are now working “under the assumption that they are not going to get it,” said Maia Hauser, spokeswoman for the American Society for Technion.

Norman Stein, director of government and foundation relations at American Friends of the Weizmann Institute, said that with the continuing delay, “we are considering canceling the order” because projections reveal that the supercomputer it is seeking, the IBM 3090, will be “obsolete within two years.”

The United States is concerned that “supercomputers can be used for, or would have applications, in the area of nuclear weapons development or missile technology,” said Tom Snead, spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.


To alleviate that concern, the Technion has agreed to allow U.S. officials to inspect the supercomputer at any time unannounced, Hauser said.

Early this year, the United States approved the export to India of a Cray supercomputer. India, like Israel, has not signed the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But in India’s case, the United States accepted Indian assurances that the model would be used exclusively to study monsoons and other weather phenomena.

At the same time, the United States is continuing to deny the sale of supercomputers to Brazil, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Cray, however, has been allowed to sell or lease supercomputers to companies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and wanted to use the computers for oil studies.

A State Department official dismissed a report by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz last month that Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Iraq to link into its Cray 2 supercomputer, which is more advanced than the Cray X-MP the Technion has been seeking since 1988.

Saudi supercomputers “are not used by any unauthorized users, and that would certainly include Iraq,” the official said.

Technion is in the middle of a $3.5 million campaign to pay for the mainframe and computerization equipment that would accompany the Cray X-MP.

The Weizmann Institute has been seeking an IBM 3090 since early 1989. The IBM 3090 is considered less than 20 percent as powerful as the Cray X-MP.

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