Ex-Spy Chief: Iran-US Talks are Good

Former Head of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin: if the talks fail, there will be legitimacy to attack Iran.

Gil Ronen,

Amos Yadlin
Amos Yadlin
Flash 90

The former head of the IDF's Military Intelligence, Major General (reserves) Amos Yadlin, advises Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyhau not to try and prevent the US from talking to Iran and reaching an agreement with it regarding its nuclear program.

Yadlin, who is currently the head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), published an article on the institute's website in which he explained that the talks have positive potential for Israel. If they succeed, Iran's nuclear weapons program will be halted. If they fail – Iran's deception will be exposed and there will be renewed legitimacy for a military strike against it.

Netanyahu “faces a tough mission,” assesses Yadlin – who, perhaps relevantly, was one of eight IAF pilots who dropped bombs on Iraq's Tammuz nuclear plant in 1981.

"Israel pressed long and hard for harsh sanctions: now that the sanctions have proven themselves as an effective tool for a possible agreement, Israel should not regret the option of solving the crisis by an agreement. Now the focus must be on the contents of the agreement rather than the process,” Yadlin says.

It is unclear what statements like Ayatollah Khamenei’s call for “heroic flexibility” mean, Yadlin explains. “Do these signal a willingness to forfeit a military nuclear capability, or yet another attempt to attain this option at the lowest possible cost?”

“For its part, Israel must guarantee that a diplomatic deal is sound enough, and ensure that diplomacy yields more than just a respite for Iran as its nuclear project progresses.”

Yadlin says that Israel must be familiar with the details of negotiations between the US and Iran and make its position on them clear.

“Iran may well reject the Prime Minister’s demands (zero enrichment, removal of all the enriched material from Iran, the suspension of activity at the underground facility in Fordow and the reactor at Arak),” he concedes, but he believes that even if there is a certain risk that Iran could break out to military nuclear capability “either under or in violation of the deal,” this would still represent “a significantly smaller threat than the dangers inherent in the status quo, which is likely leading to an Iranian bomb or to a military move to forestall it.”

In addition, explains Yadlin, it must be assumed that the agreement could be unilaterally abrogated by Iran, and in such a case, “it is incumbent upon Israel to make sure that the Iranians are years rather than months away from a nuclear bomb,” and to agree with President Obama on the West’s response to such a future Iranian violation of the agreement.

There must be a strict limit on the number of centrifuges spinning in Iran, he adds. Enrichment must be limited to 3.5 percent, removal of all enriched material from Iran, and return of enriched material to Iran only in a form that cannot be used in nuclear bombs. The Fordow enrichment facility and the Arak nuclear reactor must not be in a state that can serve as a springboard to the bomb should Iran declare the agreement null and void.

Yadlin states clearly that “an agreement that freezes Iran’s program at its current extent – more than 10,000 active old centrifuges, thousands of more modern centrifuges with a higher output, and material that if enriched to a military level will be enough for seven to nine bombs – is a bad agreement and is unacceptable.”

“The Iranians are master negotiators,” warns Yadlin; “their counterparts must be just as artful as they. Despite all the moderation on display, the Iranians have not conceded a thing: experts at taking without giving, they have repeated their traditional positions, albeit with less inciting rhetoric.”

Perhaps the only reason for the Iranians’ more conciliatory posture is the heavy weight of the sanctions. He suggests that it can be agreed at the first stage of the negotiations that the sanctions will be lifted, but only as a promise to be fulfilled once Iran has and actually reduced the scope of its nuclear program.

“A (good) agreement must be given a chance,” he sums up, “even if it seems that the Iranian move is an exercise in deceit. Exposing the deceit can yield strategic benefits. Negotiations between the United States and Iran could go in three directions, two of which could be positive for Israel: a good agreement that would keep Iran far from the bomb, or a resounding failure that would grant legitimacy to other actions designed to stop the project.

Yadlin's full article appears on the INSS website.