The UAE recently announced that it has commenced operations in the first of four reactors at the Barakah nuclear power station. However, Israel has not issued any public statement against the reactor or raised any concerns, knowing the fact that it vehemently opposes any project in the region that endangers its security.
Israel has been actively involved in maintaining its regional nuclear superiority with two key strategies: developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and simultaneously denying its enemies any opportunity to develop one. This has shifted the balance of power in the Middle East almost completely towards Israel.
Recently, as reported by EurAsian Times, a fire broke out at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran last month. Iran claims it was a cyberattack organised by Israel or the US who have pledged to wipe out the Iranian nuclear program and eliminate all potential threats emanating from the Islamic nation.
Writing for The Hill, Simon Henderson, a veteran researcher, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes that the explosion at Natanz has put the facility out of commission, and the Islamic Republic probably doesn’t have an alternative to manufacture the advanced centrifuges.
When questioned about Israel being behind the attacks in Iran, PM Benyamin Netanyahu ignored the question while Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel was not necessarily behind every incident in the region.
Israel’s Operation Opera
The first clandestine operation by Israel against its neighbours’ strategic nuclear assets can be traced back to the late 1970s when Israeli notorious spy agency – Mossad tried to sabotage the manufacturing of centrifuges in France – which were to be delivered to Iraq after an agreement was signed between two governments in 1974.
France agreed to build two nuclear reactors in Iraq, which had to be used for peaceful purposes. However, several intelligence inputs indicated Iraq’s dangerous ambitions: building a hot cell laboratory to separate plutonium from radioactive rods and subsequent production of military-grade nuclear fuel.
This prompted Israel to take further military actions, launching Operation Opera in which surprise airstrikes were launched to destroy the [under-construction] Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.
Operation Opera laid the foundation to counter-proliferation preventive strikes, which were made acceptable in Israel’s policy and is commonly known as “Begin Doctrine”.
Operation Outside The Box
The second time this doctrine was followed and implemented was in 2007 when Israel conducted similar airstrikes against a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in Deir Az-Zor named ‘Operation Outside The Box’.
Israel only confirmed in 2007 that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria in 2007. The military said fighter jets bombed the al-Kibar facility in Deir al-Zour province, 450km north-east of Damascus, as it neared completion.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was determined to prevent its enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons. “The Israeli government, the Israel Defense Forces and the Mossad prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability. They are worthy of full praise for this,” he had then tweeted.
“Israel’s policy was and remains consistent – to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons.”
A notable feature about this operation was the lack of any international criticism or comments regarding the clandestine mission, however, Syria registered a formal complaint with the United Nations.
Currently, Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to have Nuclear weapons, although it has never formally accepted or denied its existence.
Additionally, in October 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had reportedly authorized the activation of 13 nuclear warheads and their distribution with IAF units, to be used against Egypt and Syria, in case Israel was overrun.
The USSR was speculated to retaliate against Israel if nuclear weapons were used; dragging the United States into nuclear war against Russia as Washington had vowed security assistance to Israel.
During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, India reportedly planned airstrikes against Pakistani nuclear facilities at Kahuta with Israeli assistance using Gujarat’s Jamnagar airbase to launch its operations. The attack was given a green light by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi but was shelved due to reports leaking in international media.
This alerted Pakistani air defences around the Kahuta plant, which lost the element of surprise for the Indian Air Force.
Even in 1998, Israel was suspected to plan airstrikes against Pakistani facilities after its nuclear tests in May. Pakistan claimed to have spotted Israeli F-16s twice in its airspace days before the tests. It sparked fears of another Israeli airstrike on hostile nuclear facilities, a claim later rejected by Israel.
Nuclear Power Plant in the UAE?
The United Arab Emirates announced the commencement of operations at one of the four reactors at Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi. However, Israel has not issued any public statement against the reactor and is unlikely they will do so in the near future.
Although Israel-UAE relations don’t exist officially, Israel does not see the latter as a threat to its sovereignty. The UAE has still not recognized Israel and denies its citizens entry into the country.
However, both nations do agree on international stages against a common adversary, i.e. Iran. The UAE is also engaged in a proxy war against Iranian-supported Houthi militia, backing the Southern Transitional Council forces in Yemen. It also mediated meetings between Mossad and Khalifa Haftar to negotiate Israeli military aid to LNA in Libya.
The relations among both nations have been boosted in recent years. An official diplomatic mission was opened by Israel in Abi Dhabi to aid in technologies related to renewable energy, in 2015. The UAE, Saudi Arabi and Israel are perceived by many to be in one group against the common adversary – Iran.