Colin Powell in Leaked Email Says Israel Has 200 Nukes

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks at the eBay headquarters in San Jose, California in February 2010. A leaked email allegedly from Powell sees him say that Israel has 200 nukes in its arsenal, something that Israel rarely talks about. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads, a thorny subject that Israel never comments on, according to an email that Russian hackers leaked earlier this week.

Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, refusing to speak about its rumored nuclear arsenal and never even going as far as to admit that it has possession of nuclear weapons.

But Powell may have given away the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Speaking to Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, he wrote that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon if it was able to develop one. He then stated that Israel has hundreds of nukes and Washington thousands, suggesting that such firepower would deter any Iranian action.

“Negotiators can’t get what he (Netanyahu) wants. Anyway, Iranians can’t use one if they finally make one. The boys in Tehran know Israel has 200, all targeted on Tehran, and we have thousands,” he allegedly wrote.

“As Akmdinijad (sic) [said]: ‘What would we do with one? Polish it?’ I have spoken publicly about both NK (North Korea) and Iran. We’ll blow up the only thing they care about—regime survival. Where, how would they even test one?” he said, referring to the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Hacker group DCLeaks, which has reported links to Russian intelligence, released a slew of emails from Powell Wednesday, which were subsequently reviewed by U.S. foreign policy blog LobeLog. Powell’s aides have confirmed the veracity of the leaked emails. The four-star U.S. general went on to publicly support the Iranian nuclear deal, saying that “it’s a pretty good deal.”

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the Iranian nuclear deal, believing that it could accelerate the country’s path towards developing a nuclear weapon through the releasing of millions of dollars in funds previously held back by an international sanctions regime placed on Tehran’s economy. Iran’s conservative leadership regularly threatens Israel with destruction.

The nuclear deal, signed between Iran and world powers, traded a pulling back of Iran’s nuclear program for a lifting of the sanctions on its economy. Some in the Israeli elite believe that the money that Iran will receive through the lifting of sanctions will be circulated to finance its proxy groups that are at conflict with Israel, such as Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.