Elements of 1960 CIA Report Hold True Today

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"We do not believe that Israel will embark on the development of nuclear weapons with the aim of actually starting a nuclear war," reads the declassified 48-year-old CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate.

The estimate, publicly released June 5 by George Washington University's National Security Archives, continues, "Possession of a nuclear weapon capability, or even the prospect of achieving it, would clearly give Israel a greater sense of security, self-confidence and assertiveness."

"In any public announcement concerning their nuclear reactor program, the Israelis would almost certainly stress the peaceful nature of their efforts, but they would also, as time goes on, make plain that henceforth Israel is a power to be accorded more respect than either its friends or its enemies have hitherto given it," reads the estimate.

The December 1960 intelligence analysis, which still has elements redacted, is interesting in today's context as the Obama administration confronts the nuclear weapon ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

Does the understanding of why a friendly country seeks a nuclear weapon apply when the analysis involves two countries that are potential U.S. enemies? No, is the safe bet when public reaction is considered.

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Derry G K Nairn - 6/22/2009

Although your query as to why countries seek nuclear capabilities is pertinent in some sense, I have to wonder why a much more directly relevant question was not posed.

Namely, what are the after-effects on regional international relations when a 'friendly' country, as you put it, acquires nuclear weapons? Israel built its secret nuclear arsenal against its allies' wishes and in contravention of international law.

In doing so, the inevitability of its regional allies seeking to do the same thing arose. Of course Iran wants to build weapons - the biggest reason is that its regional rival has illegally held them for three decades - and without a whisper of criticism from the international community. That's the real issue.