U.S.-Israel Relations: A Crumbling Commitment

William Northrop - NEW DIMENSIONS Magazine - August 1992

[Justice4JP Note: This article appeared appended to the feature article:
Just About Everybody Vs. Jonathan Jay Pollard, by Northrop and Kupelian]

Since Israel's rebirth in 1948, the Middle East's only democracy has enjoyed a "special relationship" with the U.S., based on shared values, strategic cooperation, and for many, a feeling spiritual camaraderie. America's support of Israel has served as a protection for the tiny Jewish state surrounded by Arab nations that refuse to accept its very existence. In recent years, however, that special relationship has eroded dramatically, giving way to a very different U.S. foreign policy.

The Reagan Administration, under then-Defense Secretary Weinberger, pushed through Congress a modernization program for the Egyptian Army, including the cooperative production of the American M-1 Abrams main battle tank in Egypt. Congressional critics of the program were assured by the administration that the Egyptian buildup was necessary due to the threat Egypt faced from Libya. However, those same administration officials had in their possession a Top Secret Egyptian planning paper stating that the Egyptian Army, when equipped with the M-1 main battle tank, would require only half as much time to deploy in Sinai for a strike against Israel as the time period normally associated with such and action. This accelerated readiness could be critical since it requires 48 to 72 hours for the Israeli Army to fully mobilize. The Egyptian planning paper did not mention Libya as a threat requiring the M-1 tanks.

The U.S. upgraded the Saudi Arabian LANDSAT (observation satellites) ground station with a military-quality photo enhancement device, affording the Saudis direct access to U.S. satellite intelligence on Israel. Israel's request for the same access was repeatedly denied, which prompted Israel to develop and launch its own satellites.

When the Reagan Administration sold advanced F-15 "Eagle" fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia, it assured both Israel and congressional critics that the planes would pose no threat to the Jewish state. The Saudis offered guarantees that this advanced weapons technology would be safeguarded and that none of the aircraft would be based on the northern Saudi Arabian bases, near Israel. In fact, the Saudi Arabians not only housed the majority of their new fighters at their northwestern bases, they allowed a contingent of Syrian pilots to study and fly the aircraft and copy the technical manuals. The U.S. was aware of this breach of Saudi guarantees, but failed to inform either Congress or the Israelis. Another windfall for Soviet military intelligence.

With the Israeli army besieging the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut in 1982, the United States was persuaded to intervene. An international force, including American Marines, was deployed to maintain order and separate the warring factions. On October 23, 1983, an Arab terrorist drove a truck bomb into the barracks outside the Beirut International Airport, killing 242 marines and critically injuring many more.

Israel immediately placed the trauma staff at Rambam Hospital in Haifa on alert. Tasked to handle all casualties, both Arab and Jewish, injured in Lebanon, Rambam's trauma staff was second to none, and only a few minutes' flying time from Beirut. Weinberger, however, ordered the Marine casualties flown to American Armed Forces Hospital in Weisbaden, West Germany - some four hours away from Beirut-in deference to presumed Arab sentiment. Two young Americans died en route.

By far the most ominous suppression of information concerned the Iraqi effort to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons. Incredibly, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta sent West Nile Fever Virus to Iraq, which was used by Baghdad in biological weapons experimentation. Furthermore, Iraq obtained from sources within the U.S. such nuclear "no-no"s as Uranium-bearing "yellow cake," chemicals like "red Mercury," and atomic triggers called Pulse Neutron generators - apparently with the permission of the U.S. government. Indeed, in instances where American law enforcement officials uncovered this trade, their investigations were, in most cases suppressed. In some instances where Congress investigated the export licensing through the Department of Commerce, the subpoenaed records were changed.

During the Iraq-Iran War, the Americans began to detect Iraqi efforts in the chemical weapons field. Washington was approached by its erstwhile allies, the Arabs, who claimed that only by the use of poison gas could the Iraqi army contain the vast legions of Iran. If the Iraqi defenses were breached, the Iranians would sweep into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Weinberger's Defense Department bought the idea, just as it had bought the premise of the "level playing field."

By 1983, President Reagan signed a secret "finding" allowing clandestine support for Iraq. (Republicans now claim this finding was rescinded three weeks later, but there is no evidence of this.) And when, in the spring of 1984, the Israelis made a direct inquiry to the United States about the Iraqi poison gas buildup -about which American intelligence was well aware- they were told that there was no evidence of such a buildup's taking place.

In the wake of both the Pollard affair and the Persian gulf war, the U.S. government was hard pressed to explain this particular bit of mischief. The reason, it stated, for withholding this intelligence from Israel was that the Americans would have had to turn over KH-11 satellite imagery, and its resolution capability might have been compromised to the Soviets. U.S. officials did not mention that the entire KH-11 system had been compromised in 1978 when William P. Kampiles, a former CIA employee, sold the technical manuals to the Soviet Union. They also failed to mention that the Reagan Administration had provided the Iraqis with KH-11 imagery during its war with Iran.

They did, however, claim a second justification. Knowing Israel to be sensitive about poison gas, the Reagan Administration was very concerned about a preemptive strike if Jerusalem learned of Baghdad's chemical weapons program. But the Israelis knew all about the Iraqi poison gas threat-thanks to Jonathan Pollard -and chose not to strike.

William Northrop is the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of New Dimensions Magazine - The Psychology Behind the News. David Kupelian is the Managing Editor.

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