Phil Weiss was bugged by the same Obama fib I was: why couldn’t he say anything remotely like the truth in answer to Helen Thomas’s question? Thomas’s query was “Do you know any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?” Though Obama said he didn’t want to “speculate”, everyone knows the answer, and the underlying and quite important issue is to what extent does Israel’s considerable nuclear arsenal make other countries feel compelled pursue nukes themselves for deterrence purposes.
President Kennedy worried deeply that Israel’s Dimona reactor would set off a Middle East nuclear proliferation race, and a good deal of his diplomatic intereaction with Israel involved trying to impose an international inspection regime on the program. Israel successfully resisted Kennedy’s efforts (“We are the experts in argumentation” boasted one Israeli official involved in the Israeli-American talks on the issue. “We know how to turn people around and around until they despair.”)
After Kennedy’s assassination, America pushed the issue less. Forty years later clearly Iranian diplomats seem to be trying to emulate the Israeli talk-the-issue-to-death strategy, all the while creating a weapons program under the guise of research.
But the question is, why does Obama have to pretend that he doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to speculate, about Israeli nukes? Israeli hawks actually talk openly about Israel’s various nuclear first strike options in the American press. So why does Obama play dumb?