James ActonUS-Israel Deal for CTBT Ratification?

After the US-India deal and the possible China-Pakistan deal (which, the US is now officially opposing, by the way), a US-Israel deal was always going to be a possibility. The price? Unknown, but CTBT ratification appears to be part of it, the latest CTBTO newsletter gleefully reports:

Mark Hibbs of Nucleonics Week reports that if the U.S. Senate ratifies the CTBT, Israel will follow suit in an effort to get the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to lift its trade embargo against Israel. According to diplomatic sources, senior officials have urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ratify the CTBT to help make the point that Israel’s nonproliferation credentials are stronger than India’s. The latter has received an NSG exemption thanks to strong U.S. backing, but has yet to sign and ratify the CTBT.
Nucleonics Week, Volume 49 / Number 48 / November 27, 2008, p. 7 (subscription only)

Incidentally, I’m not entirely sure what this newsletter is (it’s not Spectrum) but it just started showing up in my inbox and usefully contained a story I had heard about on a not-for-blogging-basis.

Anyway, the prospect of a US-Israel deal in return for CTBT ratification might leave the CTBTO very happy, but I’m not sure their neighbours in the IAEA feel exactly the same way.


  1. mark hibbs (History)

    There will very soon be more to read in our pages on this topic. What happens appears to be contingent in large part upon some specific personnel issues in Israel, possibly, but not necessarily, connected with the February election. And NSG parties will have their say as well.

  2. James (History)

    I called it in the India Deal thread: Israel and Pakistan want their weapons programs given official sanction by the NSG, both see their opportunity, and both have superpower patrons backing them.

    What about Japan? What about South Korea? How about Brazil and Germany? At what point will Russia reverse course and speak up for Iran?

    There is nothing in the NPT that allows the NSG to license weapons programs but they just went ahead and did it anyway. It does not require much imagination to see that the NPT signatories who are NOT NSG members (meaning the majority) will soon start to wonder whose treaty it is.

    The India deal was a dangerous precedent that offered the NPT structure precisely zero gain in exchange for dramatically weakening the one carrot the international community has to offer nations that forego proliferation. It was done solely for purposes of greed (on the part of the NSG members) and strategic calculation (on the part of the US, which has successfully displaced Russia as India’s primary ally).

    Now we reap the whirlwind. Israel will get its way (when has it not gotten what it wanted from the US?) and the Arab states will withdraw their support from the NPT. Iran will be vindicated in retrospect and free to begin an open weapons program on the grounds that the strategic circumstances have changed and the NPT agreements are voided.

    The US seems to honestly believe that force alone can stop proliferators. It seems we will get a chance to test that theory now that the treaty system is crumbling.

  3. b (History)

    Hmm – Israel’s strong

    nonproliferation credentials

    The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa’s development of its nuclear bombs.

    Not knowledgeable on that issue but some may add here …

  4. MT (History)

    I dont think that a US-ISRAEL deal is going to be as smooth ( for comparisons sake ) like the US-INDIA Deal. While majority of them are non-Islamic ( careful ) nations, yet many countries, in particular China, ( which recieves about 20% of its fuel stock from Iran, will be more resilient that it was towards India. Other than that Turkey will have to follow suit, as a face saving exercise, it being an Islamic nation.

    Plus there will be the entire Islamic world ( although not each one is opposed individually), maybe call it OIC ( organization of islamic coutries ) will be the major roadblock.

    Plus there are many european countries too, that may be not will to escalate tensions by allowing this deal to go through.

  5. Mark Gubrud

    I don’t know much about Israeli-South African nuclear cooperation, but I understand it was extensive.

    That said, the extent of South Africa’s nuclear arsenal was 7 gun-type uranium bombs. I think they could have done it without any help from the Israelis.

  6. Yossi

    James, I’m not sure the India deal ensured that the US displace Russia as India’s primary ally. The Indians may think that saying “thank you Uncle Sam” is enough. The Bush administration probably thought that kindling the competition between China and India will somehow benefit the US in the future but this could well be yet another strategic mistake.

    Quoting the quote from the CTBTO newsletter:

    “if the U.S. Senate ratifies the CTBT, Israel will follow suit in an effort to get the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to lift its trade embargo against Israel”

    A few comments:

    * What’s the price for Israeli ratification? Israel needs power reactors and a replacement for its old military one. Israel doesn’t need the US extending the nuclear umbrella.

    Prof. Maoz showed that the Israeli military nuclear program didn’t benefit national interest. Actually it made a lot of damage, e.g. probably causing the 1967/1973 wars, fostering hubris, preventing civilian nuclear development etc. However, there are mistakes that once made create a dynamics that is difficult to reverse.

    * Will the US ratify the CTBT? I don’t think we can assume the new US president will do it. If he doesn’t then a promise conditioned on US ratification could be just a clever trick played on the NSG.

    * The USIC is probably right to think that CTBT advocates underestimate the potential of monitoring evasion scenarios. A technological breakthrough in this area may have occurred and is naturally kept highly classified. Note that Israel’s willingness to ratify the CTBT will probably increase after a successful test.

    * The Israel/India military technology sharing may have included also “non-proliferation credentials”?

  7. James (History)

    The price of lifting the NSG’s embargo should be the same that South Africa and Libya paid: terminating the weapons program and making a full declaration of past activities. Anything less undermines the NPT. At that point, Israel would need and, in my view, should get, an extension of the US nuclear umbrella.

    The CTBT has political value, in that it demonstrates the commitment of the nuclear states to arms control, and has technical value in that it makes it very difficult for would-be proliferators to try out their bomb designs. In both cases, it is primarily useful as a tool to prevent proliferation. Acquiescing to proliferation in order to attain a CTBT commitment is fundamentally backwards.

  8. Sek


    “The USIC is probably right to think that CTBT advocates underestimate the potential of monitoring evasion scenarios. A technological breakthrough in this area may have occurred and is naturally kept highly classified.”

    Could you be any more specific??

  9. Yossi (History)

    Sek, I wrote that comment at a very late hour and naturally my wording got a little imprecise. Looking at it again I see that it can be interpreted in quite a strange way. I don’t claim to know more than the famous 2002 NAS report, certainly not about any specific incident.

  10. Anonymous

    How about getting France and Britain, two semi-national entities, off the UNSC? Then we can talk.