(MintPress) – A set of partially declassified FBI documents show that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S. The seven pages detailed a number of front companies associated with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. While it is well known that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, little is known about the number and […]
(MintPress) – A set of partially declassified FBI documents show that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S. The seven pages detailed a number of front companies associated with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. While it is well known that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, little is known about the number and type of weapons the small Mediterranean country has in its arsenal.
The report builds upon a previous cache of documents released, including material that provided the backbone of the tell-all book entitled, “Confidential: the Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon.” Arnon Milchan, Hollywood producer and author of the book, claims he was recruited as a member of Israel’s economic espionage division (LAKAM).
As an agent for LAKAM, Milchan learned how to set up front operations, fraudulent bank accounts and phony businesses. The operations took place as early as 1972 and continued through the most of the 1980s, mostly in Israel and in Los Angeles, Calif. The operations include a somewhat convoluted web of American and Israeli contacts set up to help expand the Israeli nuclear program.
The documents show that Milchan worked extensively with Richard Kelly Smyth, a California engineer with the capability and knowledge to acquire components necessary for building nuclear weapons.
Additionally, the documents reveal that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked for the Heli Trading Company, an Israeli firm now revealed to be a front for obtaining nuclear technology.
The exchange between clandestine American and Israeli contacts may seem like the stuff of Hollywood, but much of the details came to light after Smyth was captured in Spain in 2001. Smyth had fled the U.S. after being indicted for violating the Arms Export Control Act in the 1980s.
Once detained, he was interrogated and convicted of exporting 800 nuclear triggers, called “krytrons,” to Israeli sources. The information provided by Smyth has given U.S. intelligence crucial information regarding the intimate relationship between Israeli and American business partners in the illicit arms trade.
The release of this information is salient given the increased hostilities between Israel and Iran at a time of fierce debate over Tehran’s supposed nuclear aspirations.
Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East
Israel remains the lone nuclear power in the Middle East, possessing an undisclosed number of nuclear warheads. Estimates range from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons.
David Ben Gurion, one of the founders of the Jewish state, placed great importance on obtaining nuclear weapons during his time as the first Prime Minister of Israel in the 1950s. Ben Gurion, like many of the founders of Israel, had palpable memories of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe just a few years earlier. As a result, Ben Gurion and his cohort believed that creating a well-armed state would prevent another Holocaust from occurring.
While Israeli development of a nuclear weapons program is known to the international community, little is known about the number and type of weapons because Israel has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear program. This demand is one that Israel and the United States, among others, have put forth as a non-negotiable demand of Iran, a country that is suspected of enriching uranium for weapons use.
Israel has been engaged in a protracted war of words with Iran for over a year, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to strike Iran should the country develop the capability to develop a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials have insisted on numerous occasions that their nuclear program is only for peaceful, non-threatening civilian projects.
While the topic of nuclear disarmament may seem like an impossible one to broach, a full 64 percent of Jewish-Israelis would support making the Middle East a nuclear free zone, even if that meant giving up their own weapons, according to a New York Times poll.