Memorandum submitted by Sir Cyril Townsend, Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding

  The Council has grave concerns about the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East region. We have called for a region Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and support the EU position on this issue. We believe that in a region that still is racked by conflict, tensions and anger, all efforts must be made to bring this about. Efforts at restricting proliferation may soon be too late, as the region has to adjust to having several states that may have WMD potential.

  Furthermore, the economies in the region cannot support financially an arms race. In order to promote regional stability and prosperity a climate must be created whereby funds should be channelled away from defence to the investment in the poorer sections of society. Therefore it is highly regrettable that the Arms Control and Security working groups were absent at the resumption of the Multilateral Steering Committee Meetings on 1 February in Moscow.

  This paper will focus on two key regional players known to have a WMD potential.


  At present there is one nuclear power—Israel. It is estimated that it possesses in the region of 200-300 nuclear weapons. The American Department of Energy places Israel sixth in the atomic big-league with 300 to 500 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium. There appears to be no sign of any slow down in their programme.[53]

  Formally the Israeli government maintains a policy of ambiguity, but in reality there is no denial of possession, or the figures cited. The French built the reactor between 1957 and 1964 and, as later revealed, the separation plant, essential in acquiring the weapons grade plutonium, which was finished around 1965. Professor Francis Perrin, former head of the French nuclear programme, confirmed French collusion to The Sunday Times (12 March 1986) the week after Mordechai Vanunu's disclosures were published.[54]

  In addition to its nuclear capacity, it has a known chemical and biological capacity with a missile system more advanced than anything else currently in the region. The newest version of the Jericho missile has a range of over 3,000 miles.[55]

  There are concerns at the following levels with the Israeli WMD programme.

  1.  Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. So far it has refused to respond to the Syrian demand that peace negotiations include the dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction.

  2.  There is a lack of proper scrutiny even within Israel of its nuclear arsenal. Obviously there is little or no debate as to its size, or security of the sites concerned. There is no discussion as to the circumstances in which weapons might be used.[56]It was only this month that the Knesset debated Israel's nuclear policy for the first time in its history, although it was an Arab member of the Knesset, Issam Makhoul, who had to raise the issue. When he claimed, as do most foreign newspapers, that Israel had around 300 nuclear weapons, there was a mass walkout of Members of the Knesset. There are extremist factions and groups who may wish to gain access to the weapon's grade material, but there are no published security procedures. As Issam Makhoul stated:

  Similarly the military correspondent of the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, Ze'ev She'v commented: "One cannot, of course, exclude the possibility of a suicidal use of nuclear weapons in the case of an Israeli defeat . . ." (2 June 1975)

  3.  The Dimona nuclear reactor is 40 years old and out of date. As it lies in a major earthquake area, there is an inherent environmental risk.[57]A key demand of environmentalists is to know where and how waste from Dimona is disposed. Yet again there is little or no debate allowed on safety at the reactor. There have been numerous reports of leakages, and health problems of workers at Dimona, but little public debate is permitted. The reactor should be open to international inspection. This should also apply to any new nuclear reactor as the Israeli government is examining options to purchase a second reactor to be installed at Shivta, also in the Negev desert.

  4.  The possession of Israeli nuclear weapons does act as a spur to other powers to seek WMD for their own security. Iran is a case in point, whilst Syria is also believed now to have chemical weapons. Egypt has raised the issue of the treaty on many occasions calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. Although an Israeli signature on the treaty amounts to little without proper enforcement (states such as North Korea and Iran have signed but still allegedly pursue the nuclear weapons option), it would at least be a start and an indication of a revised Israeli attitude.

  5.  The Israeli acquisition of three German manufactured submarines has allowed it to ensure a second strike capability that also has raised fears in the region.

  6.  Israel's role in proliferation of WMD with other states. The transfer of technology to India has been a matter of great concern. There is also a considerable body of evidence which shows that Israel and South Africa co-operated on a nuclear weapons programme.

  The continued detention in solidarity confinement of Mordechai Vanunu[58] represents a serious human rights violation. Pressure must be applied to gain his immediate release making it known that his kidnapping and subsequent trial in camera were both in violation of international law.


  Iraq is cited as the region's greatest threat to peace. In terms of its conventional weapons capability, currently it is of little danger to neighbouring states given:

  It is Iraq's WMD programme that is of concern.

  Ever since the Gulf War of 1991, the UN Security Council, in particular the United States and the United Kingdom, have been locked in battle with Iraq over the latter's WMD capability. Iraq has to carry out its disarmament obligations as stipulated under UNSCR 687. This is the prime reason for maintaining the embargo against Iraq. As such Iraq is presented as a major threat to regional, even global security. Whilst this is the case, the attitude of Iraq is not the only threat to regional stability and cannot be considered in isolation from other regional trends.

  It was clear that Iraq had ambitions to obtain WMD capability. The International Atomic Energy Agency has just completed a routine inspection visit to Iraq. However, the main concerns in Iraq surround the chemical and biological weapons programmes in addition to the Iraqi missile programme.[59] By October 1998 UNSCOM stated that "the disarmament phase of the Security Council's requirements is possibly near its end in the missile and chemical weapons areas." The problem remains that Iraq will always have difficulty in proving that it no longer has any WMD capacity, and the onus must be on the UN to prove otherwise.

  CAABU, whilst supporting the need for a monitoring and verification regime, is concerned that the current policy in Iraq has undermined the ability to carry this out especially as Iraq does not appear willing to accept a replacement regime.

  Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 was carried out over four days ostensibly over Iraq's refusal to allow UNSCOM inspections. But the results of the bombing, other than severe loss of Iraqi life and further damage to the civilian infrastructure, were only too predictable, and resulted in there being no inspections or monitoring since 14 December 1998. During this period, the Iraqi regime would have had time to develop in secret their programme and rebuild it. This was referred to in the special UN disarmament panel report of March 1999 "The panel noted that the longer inspection and monitoring activities remain suspended, the more difficult the comprehensive implementation of Security Council resolutions becomes, increasing the risks that Iraq might reconstitute its proscribed weapons programmes or retain proscribed items."

  It should be pointed out that it is well known that Iraq's borders have been highly porous during this period so the regime has had the ability to procure banned items (dual use and so forth). This has increased according to US administration officials since August 1999. In January 2000, a record number of ships evaded searches by travelling through Iranian territorial waters.[60] This does undermine the rationale for the embargo.

  During this period there has been little expression of international concern over this, and no sense of great urgency. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, has hardly involved himself in the issue of Iraq.[61] All this feeds the view that the US administration prefers containment of the Iraqi regime, rather than actually having an inspection regime in Iraq, which could lead to Iraq being given a clean bill of health on the weapons programme leading to the lifting of sanctions. Statements to the effect that sanctions could only be lifted in a post-Saddam Hussein era have also contributed to a hardening in the position of the Iraqi regime.[62]

  With this in mind, we hope that the US and UK will be fully supportive of the new UNMOVIC and not undermine it particularly through the employment of individuals from national intelligence agencies.[63] As much as possible it should be decoupled from the humanitarian agenda so that the people of Iraq do not suffer any further. The more UNMOVIC can be de-politicised and be seen as an independent monitoring body the better.

  We welcome the fact that the members of UNMOVIC will be more accountable to the UN Secretary-General than individual member states.


  The most successful means to ensure that chemical and biological weapons are not deployed in Iraq is that of deterrence. Such weapons were not used during the 1991 conflict almost certainly because it was made quite clear by James Baker, the then US Secretary of State, that this would mean a disproportionate US response. There can be no doubt that the Iraqi regime is aware that this threat is still alive and valid today.


  The status quo with Iraq is not a policy position the UK should support. The Iraqi people are suffering a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the policies of the regime, the sanctions that have lasted since 1990, and the effects of two wars on the country. Non-military sanctions do not serve the purpose of preventing the Iraqi regime from obtaining WMD potential, and therefore moves toward their suspension, at least in part, should be considered.

  The situation will deteriorate drastically if crucial changes are not made.


  The model of attempting to control proliferation by force as in the case of Iraq has not worked, not only since 1990 but also in June 1981 when the Israelis destroyed the Osirak reactor. In both cases, these actions have tended to strengthen the resolve of the Iraqis to acquire such weapons. Acquiring WMD has now become in some areas a matter of national pride and strength.

  There must also be greater consistency in condemning possession of WMD. It hinders efforts to bring about disarmament when one state's programme is overlooked, whilst other states are punished.

  Therefore, different approaches to regional disarmament must be adopted. The most effective way forward is to advance moves towards regional disarmament, economic development, and genuine moves towards peace with respect for human rights.

53   Harold Hough (Jane's Intelligence Review, November 1994) stated that according to satellite imagery, Israel's missile base at Kefar Zekharia was still undergoing expansion. This would indicate that there has been little or no slow-down in weapons production. Back

54   In October 1986, The Sunday Times published the statements of Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli technician who worked at the Dimona Nuclear Reactor for nine years from 1976-85. He confirmed to the paper that Israel had developed nuclear weapons. Vanunu substantiated what experts had suspected for years about the real purpose of the plant. His 57 photographs of Dimona revealed the first direct proof that Israel had the bomb. Amongst his startling revelations, largely ignored by the world media at the time, was that Israel possessed the hydrogen bomb. Atomic experts, after debriefing Vanunu, estimated that Dimona was producing something in the region of 40 kilogrammes of plutonium every year, enough for 8-10 Hiroshima-size bombs a year. Nuclear experts, such as Dr Frank Barnaby and Theodore Taylor (a major pioneer of the US nuclear programme) regarded this evidence as both sound and conclusive. Back

55   Missile launches have been reported on several occasions. An Iranian general claimed to have been present at the first test of the Jericho II in 1977 (New York Times, 1 April 1986). According to the BBC (Newsnight, 11 July 1985), the Jericho II has been tested in South Africa. A further test almost certainly was carried out on 14 September 1989, when an intermediate missile test was conducted in the Mediterranean. A missile was launched landing to the west of Crete, a distance of 800 miles. However, as with their nuclear capability, Israel has never acknowledged the existence of either the Jericho, or the Jericho II missile. Back

56   Mounting evidence suggests that Golda Meir's government considered the atomic option during the first 48 hours of the war of October 1973. Some 13 bombs were made ready for use as Egyptian and Syrian forces made early gains during the war. This allegation appeared most prominently in a Time magazine article of 12 April 1976. Back

57   According to Vanunu, airborne pollution and radioactive gases were routinely released into the atmosphere when the wind was blowing towards Jordan. A reported fire at Dimona in 1991, and a waste water leak into the Little Crater Nature Reserve in April 1993 which contaminated the surrounding area, also give cause for concern. Back

58   Mossad agents drugged and kidnapped Vanunu on 30 September 1986, whilst he was in Rome, and then took him to Israel where, after being tried in secret, his courage was rewarded with an 18 year prison term in solidarity confinement charged with "treason". He is now in his fourteenth year of captivity, an imprisonment condemned by human rights groups world-wide. Back

59   Iraq must give up all missiles with a range greater that 150 km. Back

60   See New York Times, 1 February 2000. Back

61   See New York Times, 1 February 2000. Back

62   In March 1997 Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State said: "We do not agree with those nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted." The US congress is also actively financing the Iraqi opposition with the hope that this will help bring about the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Back

63   UNSCOM weapons inspector, Scott Ritter admitted having links with Mossad. See also Independent: 25 January 1999 "MI6 officers worked in Iraq as UN inspectors". Back