Monday, May 24, 2010

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons.

Secret South African security documents reveal that Israel offered to sell the Apartheid regime nuclear warheads; offering the first ever documentary evidence that Israel does, indeed, possess nuclear weapons, despite it's stance of "nuclear ambiguity".

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence.

The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa's post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week's nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.

Israel, whilst refusing to confirm or deny her nuclear status, has, nevertheless, always claimed that she is a "responsible" power- unlike Iran - and that she would never misuse nuclear weapons.

But here we find evidence of Israel planning to sell nuclear weapons to the Apartheid regime of South Africa, a regime which was denying rights to millions of it's black citizens.

The documents show both sides met on 31 March 1975. Polakow-Suransky writes in his book published in the US this week, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's secret alliance with apartheid South Africa. At the talks Israeli officials "formally offered to sell South Africa some of the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal".

Among those attending the meeting was the South African military chief of staff, Lieutenant General RF Armstrong. He immediately drew up a memo in which he laid out the benefits of South Africa obtaining the Jericho missiles but only if they were fitted with nuclear weapons.

The memo, marked "top secret" and dated the same day as the meeting with the Israelis, has previously been revealed but its context was not fully understood because it was not known to be directly linked to the Israeli offer on the same day and that it was the basis for a direct request to Israel. In it, Armstrong writes: "In considering the merits of a weapon system such as the one being offered, certain assumptions have been made: a) That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured in RSA (Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere."

But South Africa was years from being able to build atomic weapons. A little more than two months later, on 4 June, Peres and Botha met in Zurich. By then the Jericho project had the codename Chalet.

The top secret minutes of the meeting record that: "Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload being available." The document then records: "Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice." The "three sizes" are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.

The use of a euphemism, the "correct payload", reflects Israeli sensitivity over the nuclear issue and would not have been used had it been referring to conventional weapons. It can also only have meant nuclear warheads as Armstrong's memorandum makes clear South Africa was interested in the Jericho missiles solely as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

Israel has been pressuring South Africa not to declassify these documents, but the ANC have no reason to protect the dirty secrets of the Apartheid regime which oppressed them.

The reporter who got hold of the documents states:
"The Israeli defence ministry tried to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was sensitive material, especially the signature and the date," he said. "The South Africans didn't seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and handed it over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting the dirty laundry of the apartheid regime's old allies."
There are several points which arise from this.
  1. How can the US and others expect to be taken remotely seriously whilst pretending that we don't know Israel's nuclear status?
  2. Why should Iran desist from nuclear weaponry when there is clear evidence that one of it's neighbours possesses them and there is simply no serious pressure to get them to disarm?
  3. How can there be any attempt to ensure a nuclear free Middle East whilst we continue to ignore this elephant in the room?
  4. If Israel would consider selling nuclear weapons to a regime as foul as the Apartheid one in South Africa, how can we pretend that this is a country which will always be responsible when it comes to nuclear weaponry?
The timing of this revelation could not possibly be more embarrassing for the Israelis as talks begin in New York on the subject on nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East.

Click here for full article.

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