Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army General Colin Powell claimed that Israel is in possession of 200 nuclear weapons in an email reportedly leaked by Russian hackers on Sept. 13.
In an email Powell sent to Jeffrey Leeds, a U.S. Democratic party donor and Powell’s business partner, Powell cast doubt upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s belief that a nuclear deal with Iran would “pave the path” to nuclear weapons, according to comments Netanyahu made in his March 2015 speech to Congress.
“Negotiators can’t get what [Netanyahu] wants.” Powell wrote. “Anyway, Iranians can’t use [a nuclear weapon] if they finally make one. The boys in Tehran know Israel has 200, all targeted on Tehran, and we have thousands.”
A non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has previously kept quiet about the size and existence of its nuclear weapons program, Newsweek reports. Powell’s email near doubles the perceived amount of nuclear weapons held by the Jewish state, according to a 2014 report by the Federation of American scientists, who previously estimated the figure was closer to 80. The Times of Israel attests that Powell’s figure as a former chairman of the joint chief of staff potentially outweighs approximations made by sources cited in the FAS report.
Powell’s email goes on to indicate he believes the arsenal is substantial enough to stop any retaliation by Iran in its tracks, in further criticism of Netanyahu’s speech.
“As [Ahmadinejad said]: ‘What would we do with one? Polish it?’” he wrote, referring to the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “I have spoken publicly about both [North Korea] and Iran. We’ll blow up the only thing they care about—regime survival. Where, how would they even test one?”
The exchange between Powell and Leeds, among others, were reportedly leaked by Hacker group DCLeaks in their pursuit to "respect and appreciate freedom of speech, human rights and government of the people” according to The Washington Post. However, analysts at cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect have cast suspicion upon the site's true intentions, after The Wall Street Journal reports the group traced its web and hosting data to a known Russian military intelligence hacker group known as Fancy Bear.
Since the leak, Newsweek reports Powell’s aides have confirmed the authenticity of the emails. Statements made within the emails are consistent with Powell’s public statement to NBC on Sept. 6, when he called the Iranian agreement “a pretty good deal,” reports Lobe Log.
Prior to the discovery of the nuclear exchange, Powell received attention from CNN for his leaked emails regarding presidential candidates in the 2016 race that claimed "everything [Hillary Clinton] touches she kind of screws up with hubris," and blasted Donald Trump as “a national disgrace.” Time will tell if Powell’s own hubris provides Iran a window to develop nuclear weapons, as Netanyahu suggested in his March 2015 speech.