The fact of the matter is that just as the 20th century arms race between the United States and Soviet Union did not result in the dropping of any nuclear weapons, the effective end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) signed in 1988 by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, will almost certainly not result in anyone losing their lives in a nuclear attack. Instead, the decision by the US which has been reciprocated by Moscow to abrogate the terms of the treaty which banned medium range nuclear missiles is more about allowing a 21st century arms race to carry on from where the old one left off in the late 1980s.
As such, the doctrine of mutually assured destruction which prevented the 20th century’s Cold War from going nuclear, still applies today in respect of the main three military superpowers (USA, Russia, China). Likewise, the concept of mutually assured destruction is also the factor keeping India and Pakistan from using their nuclear weapons to settle their disputes. Finally, even before the current peace process in Korea, it was largely assumed (as was inline with official DPRK policy) that the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal was more of a deterrent than anything that could have been used as an aggressive weapon, whilst French and British weapons are thought be little more than auxiliary American weapons on European soil.
Therefore, there is one remaining nuclear elephant in the room and this is of course Israel. Israel’s illegal stockpile of nuclear weapons is thought to be around 80 nuclear warheads. This is over five times more than the amount of warheads in the DPRK. By contrast, according to US intelligence, the United Nations, China, Russia and the European Union, Iran has zero nuclear warheads and with the exception of the US and Israel, every other major state as well as the United Nations agrees that Iran is not building any nuclear weapons.
And yet, apart from the United States, no nuclear armed nation has been to war as many times since the invention of nuclear weapons as has Israel. Furthermore, unlike the US, most of Israel’s wars have been against its poorly armed neighbours including Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and occupied Palestine, whilst in 1981, Israeli forces illegally bombed nearby Iraq.
Even beyond Israel’s record of aggression against neighbouring and nearby states which have few less sophisticated weapons and no nuclear weapons, in 1991, the award winning American journalist Seymour Hersh authored The Samson Option, a book which detailed the size, scope and nature of Israel’s illegal nuclear stockpiles. In the book, the late Israeli Prime Minister and General Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying: We are much more important than (Americans) think. We can take the Middle East with us whenever we go“.
This is to say that, Israeli leaders themselves are on record stating that they are willing to launch a nuclear weapon against Israel’s helpless neighbours even if this means defying Washington. Given this context and given Israel’s military record, it is difficult to see how anyone could be more worried about the US and Russia abrogating an old treaty than about the fact that Israel’s illegal and un-monitored nuclear arsenal. Given Israel’s history of aggression and given the revelations regarding the so-called samson option whereby Israel will drop a nuclear weapon should it feel that its conventional arms are not up to the task, Israel is nothing short of the world’s biggest and most worrying nuclear problem.
Just because the US, Russia and others have more nuclear weapons than Israel, this does not mitigate the potential devastation that Israel could cause to its neighbours should it feel the need to use nuclear weapons as a last resort against regional resistance to Israel aggression and the occupation of Arab lands.
While the back-and-forth between the United States and Russia regarding the INF is making headlines, the real story when it comes to the danger of a nuclear war begins and ends with Israel. Therefore, any proposed peace deal between Israel and Palestine that does not mandate Israel’s de-nuclearisation on the Korean model, is not a genuine peace deal but instead is a dangerous farce.