This instance might have be brushed aside as clumsily worded, but the rest of Sanders’ words leave nothing to the imagination; ‘Just as South Africa and Ukraine did in the early 1990s, these states should foreswear nuclear weapons and accept IAEA safeguards on all nuclear activities to join the treaty. At the same time, we recognize that progress toward universal adherence is not likely in the foreseeable future. The United States continues to support the goals of the Middle East resolution adopted at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, including the achievement of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction."
Almost concurrently, another State Department official, Mark Fitzpatrick made similar comments Fitzpatrick speaking at a security conference of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Both spokespeople made it look as if the US is starting a harsher line on Israel. US official recognition of its nuclear arsenal is certainly a fact now. At least, that’s how the message is taken in Israel, where the Al Haaretz newspaper reports a ‘[contradiction] in the custom of senior administration officials to avoid any possible confirming reference to Israeli nuclear weapons. Instead of referring to Israel’s ‘nuclear option’, officials placed the country on par with the similar nuclear powers of India and Pakistan, thereby bluntly referring to Israel’s estimated arsenal of an estimated over 20 nuclear bombs as its ‘nuclear capability’.
The officials though low and mid level ranking, could very well be indicating a change in stance by Washington. The call on Israel to ‘accept international Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all nuclear activities’ lacks any urgency, but then it would. If the US foreign policy were to clearly steer in this direction, possibly to reduce Iranian risks, its early start would only be very subtle like this.
Applying pressure on Israel now does make sense because it would capitalize on the momentum achieved in Iraq and Libya, which has direct bearings on the credibility of telling Iran to stop what it is doing. Both Libya and Iraq have recently disarmed, Libya voluntarily in what’s cited as a major coup d’etat for the International Atomic Energy Agency and UK and US diplomats. Israel’s nuclear weapons also are the pretext for Arab nations to continue their efforts to create a nuclear device and their disposal would create trust.