Israel: The Arab nuclear-arms race has begun

Who could have predicted that the deal John Kerry and Barack Obama cut with Iran would lead to a nuclear-arms race in the region? Well … everyone, really, especially since the deal frees Iran up after 15 years (or less) to openly pursue nuclear weapons, and gives them massive resources to covertly pursue them in the short run, too. Israel’s defense minister Moshe Ya’alon says that unnamed Sunni nations in the region have begun to prepare themselves for a nuclear Iran already, thanks to the deal:

Israel has picked up signs of the beginning of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East as Arab states seek nuclear weapons to counter Iran, the Israeli defence minister has warned.<

Moshe Ya’alon said Sunni Arab nations were not reassured by last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and were making their own preparations for nuclear weapons.

“We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb,” Mr Ya’alon said.

“Acquire” could have two meanings. These immensely wealthy nations — Saudi Arabia, of course, but other emirates in the region as well — could spend money to create a native nuclear-weapons development program. It would be a lot easier to simply buy weapons from Pakistan, which has been a nuclear-armed nation for decades. It’s not as if the Pakistani defense establishment has been shy about sharing their secrets in the past, after all. It would be surprising if the Saudis and others haven’t already acquired the technology for a jump-start on an arms race, especially since it was clear for months that the Obama administration was ready to throw in the towel on isolating Iran.

The Telegraph mentions Israel’s role — of necessity, not choice — in determining just how well Iran adheres to the agreement. That makes them a key player for these same Sunni nations, and Benjamin Netanyahu wants them to acknowledge it. Speaking to a coalition of American Jewish groups, the prime minister insisted that some of these nations are covert allies of Israel, and with the threat from Iran looming, it’s time for those ties to become public:

Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the prime minister maintained that most moderate Arab countries see Israel as their ally, not their enemy, as they share a common struggle against Iran and the Islamic State.

“Major Arab countries are changing their view of Israel … they don’t see Israel anymore as their enemy, but they see Israel as their ally, especially in the battle against militant Islam with its two fountainheads,” he said in English. “Now, this is something that is forging new ties, many of them discreet, some of them open. And I think there too we can expect and should expect and should ask to see a change.”

Er … don’t hold your breath on that one. Most of these Sunni nations have a substantial minority Shi’ite population, and any official link to Israel in opposition to Iran will inflame already-tense internal politics. Far better for Israel to maintain the “discreet” links and stabilize their security rather than risk a further meltdown in the region by demanding alliances be made public. Netanyahu knows this, too; this message is intended to remind Americans of Israel’s increasing strength in the chaos surrounding it, and hopefully to keep pressure on Washington not to interfere with it.