More examples of the double standard in the Middle East

It is quite amazing how casually some Americans can talk about using nuclear weapons against Iran, given what we know about the long-term, drastic, and indiscriminate effects of such weapons. Usually they shy away from saying so directly and couch it in terms of saying that “all options are on the table” or “no options are off the table”.

But not everyone is so circumspect about language. The latest is Congressman Duncan Hunter of California who is openly calling for using such weapons. But he was preceded by Sheldon Adelson, a big donor to the Republican party and a huge supporter of Israel. Adelson strongly opposes practically everything on president Obama’s agenda but he was willing to support him on one thing, and that was to attack Syria. No doubt he was disappointed that diplomacy won out there.

But rather than being treated as pariahs, with listeners recoiling with outright horror and revulsion, these people are given a respectful hearing. This is, of course, the result of the usual double standard that the US applies to nuclear weapons in that region. But that double standard is being increasingly questioned publicly even in mainstream forums. As Max Fisher writes in the Washington Post:

Iranian officials sometimes respond to accusations that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability by replying that, not only do they not want a bomb, they’d actually like to see a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East. Yes, this is surely in part a deflection, meant to shift attention away from concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities by not-so-subtly nodding to the one country in the region that does have nuclear weapons: Israel.

But could Iran have a point? Is there something hypocritical about the world tolerating Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which the country does not officially acknowledge but has been publicly known for decades, and yet punishing Iran with severe economic sanctions just for its suspected steps toward a weapons program? Even Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its implacable enemy and made its accommodations with Israel long ago, often joins Tehran’s calls for a “nuclear-free region.” And anyone not closely versed in Middle East issues might naturally wonder why the United States would accept Israeli warheads but not an Iranian program.

“This issue comes up in every lecture I give,” Joe Cirincione, president of the nuclear nonproliferation-focused Ploughshares Fund, told me. The suspicions that Israel gets special treatment because it’s Israel, and that Western countries are unfairly hard on Israel’s neighbors, tend to inform how many in the Middle East see the ongoing nuclear disputes. “It is impossible to give a nuclear policy talk in the Middle East without having the questions focus almost entirely on Israel,” Cirincione said.

The dilemma for Israel is that, should Iran ever develop a nuclear warhead, Israel will surely feel less unsafe if it has its own nuclear deterrent. But, ironically, Israel’s nuclear arsenal may itself be one of the factors driving Iran’s program in the first place.

“History tells us that Israel’s position as the sole nuclear-armed state in the region is an anomaly — regions either have several nuclear states or none,” said Cirincione, of the nonproliferation Ploughshares Fund. “At some point, for its own security, Israel will have to take the bombs out of the basement and put them on the negotiating table.”

The US should take the lead in pushing for such talks.


  1. colnago80 says

    Prof. Singham once again, by equating the Israeli nuclear arsenal, which may be as large as 500 devices (according to the Reverend John Steinbach) with the budding nuclear arsenal of Iran. Israel hasn’t threatened to wipe Iran off the map while Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Now, I expect that the good professor is convinced that the ayatollahs are just blowing smoke. Well, Charles Lindbergh, amongst others, thought that Frankenberger was just blowing smoke in the 1930s. Prof. Singham, living in Cleveland, OH, and Colnag80 living in Northern Virginia, well out of range of Iranian missiles and aircraft (at least as we sit here today) can be blase’ about the ayatollah’s threats but folks living in Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Amman, etc., well within range of Iran’s missiles, can not be so blase’. Given the experience in Nazi Germany, one can hardly blame them for not being willing to take any chances.

  2. Brian E says

    That’s just the double standard Prof. Singham was highlighting. Are you posting just so it’s clear? I.e. Israel with bombs = good, Iran with bombs = bad?

  3. sawells says

    I see that colnago has (a) still not learned Hitler’s name, a strange oversight, and (b) believes the line about “wiping Israel off the map”. Does he also believe that Krushchev was threatening the US with “We will bury you”? Bad translations are no basis for international relations.

    I also see that colnago doesn’t give a fuck about people living in range of _Israel’s_ missiles.

  4. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    In discussions about nuclear proliferation, the one thing that almost never gets discussed is the nuclear states’ obligation under the NPT to disarm. Without that, all that’s left is “We can have them, but you can’t” i.e. hypocrisy. This is not sustainable.

    How long do they expect to keep ~70 years old military technology out of everybody else’s hands, anyhow?

  5. says

    one can hardly blame them for not being willing to take any chances.

    Iran has a substantial conventional army. By your reasoning (“they are nuts therefore suicidal” …) Why haven’t they already launched suicidal conventional attacks against Israel? Oh, because they’re not that crazy, huh?

  6. says

    t almost never gets discussed is the nuclear states’ obligation under the NPT to disarm

    Nobody takes that part seriously. Any more than you see the UN acting against Israel for being a rogue nuclear state and proliferating to South Africa.

    The NPT’s terms, in a nutshell, were “we, the nuclear club, say we won’t use our nukes on you first, as long as you promise not to try to build any.” It’s a textbook example of nuclear extortion.

  7. colnago80 says

    The Pennsylvania poppycock apparently is rather ignorant of a map of the Middle East. Iran and Israel are separated by several hundred miles of desert, namely Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The are also prevented from attacking Israel from the sea by the presence of the US fleets in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. Of course, Israel is in the same position. Neither side can attack the other directly by invasion. They can only attack each other via aircraft or missiles. However, Iran can use their wholly owned subsidiary Hizbollah to launch terrorists attacks against Israel, although Hizbollah is currently bogged down in Syria and under attack by Sunni Muslims in Lebanon.

  8. colnago80 says

    Khrushchev later explained that he meant that Communism would bury Capitalism. Besides, he was not a raving lunatic like the Ayatollah Khamenei. He famously said that after a nuclear exchange that the living would envy the dead.

  9. colnago80 says

    It may be 70 year old technology but placing nuclear weapons in the hands of the mad mullahs that run Iran is like pouring gasoline on a fire.

  10. colnago80 says

    Contrary to the beliefs of many on this and other blogs, Frankenberger, Schickelgruber, or Heidler are just as good surnames for Adolf as Hitler. His paternal grandmother was Maria Schickelgruber, which surname his father was christened with. His biological paternal grandfather could have been Heidler or Frankenberger, or some other poor sucker; his father Alois birth certificate shows no father’s name. Considering that he was the apotheosis of evil, who cares what he chose to call himself.

  11. Dunc says

    Of course, this illustrates that “all options” are very much not on the table. Multilateral disarmament is clearly not on the table, nor is an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, but a nuclear first-strike against a non-nuclear nation apparently is. Remind me, who’s supposed to be the insane aggressor here?

  12. sawells says

    Did anyone in the Wehrmacht ever say “Heil Frankenburger”? No? Do you see the problem now? HIs name was Hitler. Move on with your life and stop being pretentious.

  13. colnago80 says

    What the fu*k dos that have to do with anything. In the first place nobody in the Wehrmacht, other then maybe a very few top generals ever heard of Leopold Frankenberger. When I was an undergraduate a million years ago, we used to say heil Schickelgruber.

  14. sawells says

    Hitler’s name was Hitler because everybody called him Hitler and he called himself Hitler. This is a concept called a “name”. You seem to be having trouble with it.

  15. says

    Apparently you’d rather pretend there haven’t been any ground wars in the past between arab states and Israel than defend your absurd “arabs be crazy” position.

    What is the range of the current Iranian cruise missile, if they were feeling suicidal? The Shahab-3 – 1000km. Sorry to inject real-world facts into your bluster-stream but someone’s gotta call bullshit on you. If the crazy arabs were willing to choose suicidal attacks against Israel they could have made that choice yesterday.

  16. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    ..Israel will have to take the bombs out of the basement ..

    Israel has a basement now?

    Wouldn’t Israel getting its Bombs out be what a lot of people fear most anyhow?

    Double standards? Yes I see some of those here but probably not the one’s (even the reverse of the ones) Mano Singham and some of the commenters think are there. I think the double standards generally operate against Israel and hurt it.

    There seem to be those here who are (almost? Actually? Kind of?) cheering on the Iranian Bomb program (or should we stick with the fig leaf and keep calling it nuclear?) and even claim that it will be safer for the region whilst ignoring the same logic supports Israel’s case to a Bomb program even more.

    As a kid I grew up in the shadow of the Bomb. End of the Cold War era. I spent many nights, had many dreams and thoughts of what it might be like if WWIII broke out and the Bombs fell. A Bombs, H-Bombs Neutron Bombs. Children of the Dust*, Nuclear apocalypse.

    I hoped that era was over when the Wall came down.

    I hoped that Humanity was past the worst of that risk.

    Now, we see the danger increasing again. Maybe the chances are small? But the consequences!

    Iran must not be allowed to get the Bomb.

    That’s not “double standard”, that’s (rare?) common sense.

    * Title of a great kids book :

  17. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    D’oh! First line there was supposed to be a quote. Blockquote failon my part, mea culpa.

  18. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Do I need to point out the more Bombs there are and the crazier and worse the leaders that have them the worse its is for all of us? Really?

  19. says

    I bet if someone characterized the nuclear armed Israeli leaders as “mad rabbis” you’d scream “anti semitism” wouldn’t you??

    The leaders of Iran are obviously not mad or nihilistic because they backed away from a US and Israel-inspired bit of nuclear blackmail just now. So you can’t keep calling them “crazy” – they are, in fact, acting quite rationally. Fortunately for them and everyone else, though I’m sorry to see the rationality of overwhelming force being applied by a country that I live in(*)

    What we’re seeing is that Israel (Europe’s colony in the middle east) is reluctant to lose its nuclear monopoly because that will mean having to negotiate instead of simply launching air-strikes at any country that they feel is possibly building up an ability to resist their hegemony. Of course that’s a threat. Of course it’s an existential threat because Israel exists through brute power and is an oppressive ruler. Of course there are people who want to see Israel go away. That’s what happens when you invade and displace people from their homes and establish a new apartheid state in the middle of their lands. Yes, it’s an existential threat to Israel that anyone in the middle east might be able to require them to negotiate from less than a position of overwhelming strength. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there are those of us who think violence is always the only solution. Backing Israel out of the middle east and/or turning it into less than a rogue nation is going to be very difficult for the world. It took a long time to do with South Africa and Rhodesia and it’s going to take a longer time with Israel thanks to the additional tribalism and religion that complicate the problem. You complicate the problem. You, and people who think like you do, are a huge part of the problem.

    (* I do not control the US’ actions in any significant way, or they wouldn’t be doing that)

  20. says

    Wouldn’t Israel getting its Bombs out be what a lot of people fear most anyhow?

    Judging from the analysis of the Vela Incident of 1979 it looks like Israel’s bombs are the most horrible and inhumane weapon ever fielded – neutron bombs. Designed to kill without doing a lot of damage to valuable real-estate; a genocide-weapon that the nazis would have drooled over. That’s what it’s come to that Israel bases its foreign policy on such monstrous weapons as a deterrent. And people like colnago/slc1 talk about “mad mullahs” as if they know what madness is!

    The terms of the NPT are horrific in that they amount to nuclear blackmail. But why are there no sanctions against Israel, a nation that developed an arsenal of secret neutron bombs, and even propagated nuclear weapons technology to South Africa (a bit of proliferation that was fortunately stopped using the most amazing tool: diplomacy!)? I don’t care if it’s mad mullahs or mad politicians, we humans need to realize that nationalism and tribalism, “othering” and political manipulation and lies – that is what causes the use of these terrible weapons.

    Neitszche was wrong about many things but he was right that “as you gaze into the abyss… the abyss gazes back into you.” We become monsters because of our fear of monsters. The first step toward monsterhood is to “other” your opponent into being so convinced that they’ll do something horrible that you have to do it to them, first. In such a world, nobody is ever safe.

  21. colnago80 says

    Apparently the Pennsylvania poopyhead has a reading comprehension problem. The discussion was about Iran. The two Arab states between Israel and Iran, namely Jordan and Saudi Arabia are a lot more worried about Iran and what’s going on in Syria then they are about Israel.

    The reason why Iran hasn’t launched any of their Shahab-3 missiles at Israel is that they currently have only conventional warheads while Israel’s Jericho -3 has a range of 4000 Km and can carry nuclear warheads. This is in addition to Dolphin Class submarines in the Israeli navy that can fire nuclear tipped cruise missiles. The mullahs are mad but even they can recognize when they are seriously out-gunned. However, an Iranian nuke creates a whole new ball game and the mad mullahs might decide to take a flyer thinking that they could absorb a nuclear strike by Israel and that Israel can’t.

  22. colnago80 says

    Sawells, like the Pennsylvania popinjay has a reading comprehension problem. Khrushchev was relatively sane, except, perhaps when he was drunk. The ayatollah Khamenei is a raving lunatic.

  23. colnago80 says

    If the Pennsylvania pissant thinks that the mullahs in Iran are sane, rational folks, then he is seriously naive.

  24. colnago80 says

    Re sawells

    So if Adolf called himself Jesus Christ, you would have no problem with it, n’est pas?

  25. colnago80 says

    Except that Bibi, despite his many faults and they are legion, is basically a secularist. I would note that he presides over a government that has no religious parties in it.

    The Pennsylvania pissant makes the same mistake that all other critics of Israel make, namely assuming that if only the Government of Israel applied Neville Chamberlain’s theories of international diplomacy, the Arab states would suddenly become reasonable and accept it in the Middle East. You just don’t understand Islam. Islamic philosophy says that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine.

    Of course, it appears we are heading toward a Shiite/Sunni religious war, which will be far more destructive then the religious wars of the 17th Century between Catholics and Protestants because the weapon systems available in the 21th Century far exceed in lethality those of the 17th Century. If Tilly, Adolphus, and von Wallenstein had 20th century weapon systems available , Central Europe would have been depopulated and many of us would not be here today.

  26. doublereed says

    What is the goal of our policy exactly? I feel like that should clear things up.

    Is the goal to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons? Then maybe Israel’s nukes should be on the table, if only to make our case stronger. How do we go about doing it? But other questions arise, like whether we actually can prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. If we can’t, what is a good way to deal with the situation?

    Whether the Ayatollah are crazy shouldn’t matter. What do we want? What’s the most effective way to get what we want?

  27. colnago80 says

    The US has also developed neutron bombs, although I don’t know if there are any still in the arsenal. From the description in Wiki, it would appear that the Vela incident, if it was a bomb, was probably a neutron bomb as there did not seem to be an explosion that could be heard nor the usual mushroom cloud.

    Israel has developed very low yield nuclear devices (<1Kt) which may, in fact, be neutron bombs. As I understand it, they were designed to be used against nearby targets on which conventional nukes could not be used because of collateral damage inside Israel. However, aside from the low yield, a neutron bomb would be ineffective against hardened targets such as the Iranian nuclear facilities are believed to be. For those you want to maximize the explosive power in order to damage or destroy the facility. 15 megaton bombs are the ticket. Better ye, Tsar bombs.

  28. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ doublereed :

    Is the goal to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons?

    Yes or at least I think it very definitely should be!

    Then maybe Israel’s nukes should be on the table, if only to make our case stronger.

    I’m not sure how it would really make our case that much stronger – focus should be kept on Iran and not diverted into anything else.

    Tthe problem is the nuclear deterrent may be one thing holding back yet another massed Arab (& Persian, Islamist generally) attack on the world’s only Jewish nation. Israel has a lot more justification and need for a deterrent than Iran or any Islamic nation. After all, Israel doesn’t talk about planning to wipe other nations out whereas that sort of rhetoric is very popular among Islamic dictatorships and theocracies.

    Whether the Ayatollah are crazy shouldn’t matter.

    What the ..?!?

    Of course it matters!

    Would you simply hand over a loaded gun – let alone The Bomb – to a raving dangerous lunatic if they asked for one versus giving that same gun to a sane person who you trusted to use the weapon wisely and for good not evil purposes?

    Israel can be trusted because we know it is a sane, free democratic nation.

    Iran is a totalitarian Islamic theocratic dictatorship run by brutal extremist religious zealots whose sanity is highly dubious and thus cannot be trusted.

  29. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @Félix Desrochers-Guérin :

    How long do they expect to keep ~70 years old military technology out of everybody else’s hands, anyhow?

    I don’t know but the longer the better clearly!

    I think its a a real shame in fact that any powers beyond the USA, UK and France ever got The Bomb. Imagine an alternative world in which Communist and Islamist totalitarianism had been nipped the bud and not metastatised into the murderous cancers they became.

    Imagine a world without radical Islamist terrorism today – which is mostly the result of Iranian sponsorship and the lingering refusal of the Arab world to accept Israel’s existence.

    Imagien aworld where Communism had failed post WWII and Russia missed the weosrt of Stalinism and Chian remained a Communist free zone.

    Imagine a world of prolonged and less troubled Pax Americana – more peaceful, prosperous and happy. If only..

    If only we could have kept the Bomb in purely US and British hands all these years.

    Now imagine the other extreme alternative you suggest you almost support where every tinpot dictatorship from Syria to Zimbabwe has the Bomb starting from say the late 1950s. Yikes!

    Imagine how much more dangerous, unstable and awful such a world would be. Imagine leaders like Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad having The Bomb. No thanks!

    Let’s keep that dystopia as far and remote a prospect as possible eh?

  30. says

    Iran The US is a totalitarian Islamic Christian theocratic dictatorship run by brutal extremist religious zealots whose sanity is highly dubious and thus cannot be trusted.

    Fixed it for you.

    Signed, a neighbour of the abovementioned theocratic nutbars

  31. says

    I’m at my phone at lunch, so I’ll expand when I get home, but in brief: Fuck you, you ignorant racist roadie of the USA and Capitalism. The problem of the last 50 years was not the end of colonialism.

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