And Then There Were Six

President Obama's Official Visit To Israel And The West Bank Day One

Given Syria’s public agreement to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, it’s worth looking at the rogue countries who remain outside this norm. There are six of them, many highly predictable: Angola, North Korea, South Sudan, and Burma. Then we come across two startling exceptions: US allies, Egypt and Israel. As president Obama has said, almost 98 percent of the world’s population live in countries who have signed the Convention. But of the six countries representing 2 percent of the world’s population, two continue to receive military aid from the US.

How credible is it for the US to take such a strong stand against the possession and use of chemical weapons – even threatening war – while actually sending aid to two non-compliant countries? Could not further military aid to those countries be premised on full acknowledgment of their stockpiles and a commitment to their destruction? If not, why not? And I do not mean with respect to the interests of Israel; I mean with respect to the interests of the United States.

And if we are also about to go head-to-head with Iran over its nuclear program, how bizarre is it that Israel’s arsenal of nuclear warheads be completely ignored as well?

After all, one of Iran’s strongest arguments for developing nuclear weapons is deterrence against Israel. If we could insist on Israel’s decommissioning of its nukes, wouldn’t our case be much, much stronger with Iran? And wouldn’t a successful outcome render Israel’s multiple nukes redundant?

There is, of course, no way the Israelis will give up their nukes or chemical weapons (the Israelis treat such international conventions as definitionally not applying to them) – but the US president has every right to note and criticize the possession of such stockpiles, especially as we are decommissioning them right next door in Syria.

Or to put it another way: Why are the standards for Israel so much lower than for Assad?

(Photo by Marc Israel Sellem-Pool/Getty Images)