Author Archives: eastcourse

Signed, Sealed but Never Delivered: Why Israel did not Receive Nixon’s Promised Nuclear Power Plants

Dr. Or Rabinowitz in The International History Review

In the early 1970s, Israel was on the cusp of launching an ambitious nuclear power programme. It had technical nuclear experience and a pressing need to limit its dependency on imported oil and coal, and interest in nuclear powered water desalination. This nuclear vision enjoyed the support of the Nixon administration, which proposed in June 1974 to export reactors to both Israel and Egypt. But by the end of the decade, under the Carter administration, the plan was all but gone. What was the original US and Israeli rationale behind the reactor deal? How did this initiative relate to other developments such as the Indian nuclear explosion, the Arab oil embargo and the peace talks with Egypt? How important was the Carter administration’s policy shift in determining the outcome of the initiative? This paper will address these questions by analysing newly declassified documents from several US and Israeli archives.

The full journal article can be found on TandFOnline

Stopping the Use of Chemical Weapons in Modern Conflicts, a Chatham House Event


Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Dr Peter van Ham, Senior Research Fellow, Clingendael Institute
Dr Caitriona McLeish, Senior Research Fellow, University of Sussex
Chair: Dr Beyza Unal, Senior Research Fellow, Nuclear Weapons Policy, International Security Department, Chatham House


Recent events in the UK and Syria have forced the international community to re-examine how the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons can be upheld in modern conflict situations and how both state and non-state actors can be made accountable for any violations.

Dr. Beyza Unal from the MENACS network chaired an event on May 25th, 2018, that looked at the lessons learned in the aftermath of the chemical attacks in Salisbury and Douma. In light of the changing nature of warfare and the prevalence of non-state actors in modern conflicts, panelists discussed how the international prohibition against chemical weapons can be effectively upheld, and if there are new ways to re-energize the global norm against the use of chemical weapons.

This event draws on an ongoing research collaboration between the International Security Department at Chatham House and Government of the Netherlands aimed at supporting compliance with and implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This page originally appeared on the Chatham House website.

What Netanyahu’s dramatic speech about Iran’s nuclear program revealed — and concealed

Or Rabinowitz, MENACS member and lecturer in international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, deciphers Israeli PM Netanyahu’s ‘Iran Nuclear Archives’ presentation in The Washington Post, providing a deep-dive analysis into what the presentation reveals about Iran’s nuclear program, as well as about Israel’s Middle East policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no amateur when it comes to appearing on live television. In a televised speech Monday, Netanyahu made bold accusations about Iran’s nuclear record. The speech came ahead of President Trump’s expected announcement about whether the U.S. will continue to participate in the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, on May 12.

Not one to shy away from props, Netanyahu dramatically pulled a curtain to reveal bookshelves containing dozens of files and CDs, copies of original Iranian documents secretly removed from Tehran by Israeli agents in recent weeks. The documents, Netanyahu said, represented Iran’s “nuclear archive” — information on Iran’s 1999-2003 nuclear weapons program. Incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vouched for their authenticity.

Iranian possession of this “nuclear archive” is not a clear JCPOA violation. However, a precedent supports the argument that retaining these documents violates Iran’s obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Did the presentation reveal anything new?

As commentator Joshua Pollack noted, some of the documents contained details hitherto unknown outside the intelligence community. Most notable was the planned Iranian nuclear arsenal’s size: It would have included five nuclear devices with a yield of 10 kilotons each.

But the captured documents refer only to Iranian activities that were finished by 2003 — about which the international community already knew. While Netanyahu implied that nuclear weapons development had continued, he presented no evidence to that effect.

Western reaction was split. The White House welcomed Netanyahu’s presentation as containing “new and compelling details.” European powers maintained that they had learned nothing new.

1. Did Netanyahu prove that Iran was in violation of the JCPOA?

No. Netanyahu accused Iran of lying in 2015 “when it didn’t come clean to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] as required by the nuclear deal.” However, this by itself does not violate the JCPOA. The agreement, signed in July 2015, did require Iran to cooperate with the IAEA in investigating its nuclear past. The deal did not require Iran to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

For the full analysis, continue reading on The Washington Post.

Nuclear Security In An Unstable Age

Zoe Levornik, MENACS member and postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Stanton Nuclear Security Program, writes for The Strategic Commentator on the new and evolving challenges facing nuclear security and the global nonproliferation regime.

The last decade have seen growing concern over nuclear proliferation and nuclear safety. Most of the focus has been given to Iran and North Korea and the question of how to prevent or contain their nuclear programs. It has been an ongoing tradition of cultural bias by the West to view non-Western countries and their leaders as too irresponsible to be allowed to possess nuclear weapons while the Western powers were always looked upon as “good” responsible countries that can be trusted with nuclear weapons (The focus here is only on state actors, assuming that if non-state actors possess any kind of nuclear capability they are not planning of acting responsibly with that capability).This perception can be easily disproved by comparing the record of accidents and near accidents in both Western and non-Western nuclear states. Moreover, in the last decade the men who hold the red button in their hand even in those countries that have always been considered most trustworthy according to Western perceptions are making many of us feel uncomfortable with this particular responsibility entrusted to them.

The U.S., Russia and Israel, all have a long history of maintaining their nuclear arsenals in a responsible way (more or less) and preventing dangerous escalations during crisis. However, in the last decade we find that the leaders of these countries, the men in charge of the bomb, are more short tempered and implosive in their behavior, which makes many wonder if they will be able to prevent a crisis from escalating into a nuclear exchange. Threats of the use of nuclear weapons have been uttered (or twitted). Perhaps more substantial, there has been talk of the need, and development, of tactical nuclear weapons that could be use in a military confrontation. Which raises the question do these men understand the implication of even a small nuclear exchange? First, the risk to human life and the environmental and ecological implication of the use of nuclear weapons. Second, the normative implication of breaking the taboo on nuclear use. Moreover, do they understand the importance of the existing nonproliferation regime? Do they respect existing treaties? Do they work towards strengthening the regime? Do they set the right example for other states?

Continue reading on The Strategic Commentator.