(JTA) – Former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell said in a private email exchange that Israel has 200 nuclear warheads.
The exchange last year from Powell’s private Gmail account was leaked late last week by hackers, The Associated Press reported.
Powell told the AP Friday through a spokeswoman he was referring to public estimates of Israel’s nukes.
Powell is a retired Army general who has served as White House national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is not known whether he still retains a national security clearance. He resigned as secretary of state in November 2004, the last time he served in public office.
“Iranians can’t use one if they finally make one,” Powell, discussing nuclear weapons, wrote to Democratic donor Jeffrey Leeds, a hedge-fund founder who serves on the board of the Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York. “The boys in Tehran know Israel has 200, all targeted on Tehran, and we have thousands,” read the email, one of thousands of his messages posted earlier this week to the website DCLeaks.com.
“Gen. Powell has not been briefed or had any knowledge from U.S. sources on the existence and or size of an Israeli nuclear capability,” said a statement issued by his spokeswoman, according to the AP. “He like many people believe that there may be a capability and the number 200 has been speculated upon in open sources.”