Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak rejected the “bad” deal signed in Vienna Tuesday, and said it would likely see Iran become a nuclear state within the next 10 years.
In an interview with Channel 2, the former chief of staff (and defense minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous cabinets) said the deal legitimizes the Islamic nation as a nuclear threshold state.
“It is very likely that Iran, walking in the footsteps of North Korea and Pakistan, will become a nuclear state sometime in the next decade,” he said, echoing remarks made earlier by Netanyahu. “It’s a bad deal,” he said. “Netanyahu is right in this respect.”
Barak, who retired in 2013, warned that the deal would irreversibly alter the geo-strategic map in the Middle East, and that the West was turning Iran into a regional power, although he stressed Israel remains the strongest country in the area. “Israel is still the strongest country in the Middle East, military, strategically, economically, politically, if we act sensibly,” he said. “We are not (helpless) Europe in the 1930s.”
He insisted that rebuilding a good “working relationship” with the White House was now an imperative, and that intelligence cooperation with the US was vital to expose any Iranian violations of the agreement. “Intensive dialogue behind closed doors” with the US must be held, he added.
Israel must maintain its military option, he said, and also called on Netanyahu to engage in dialogue with Israel’s neighbors, and initiate talks on regional security arrangements with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states and even Turkey.
As defense minister, Barak was a strong supporter of using military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. Since retiring from office, he has repeatedly criticized the prime minister for his “pessimistic, passive and anxious” mindset in tackling regional threats.
Earlier, Netanyahu slammed the world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran as a “stunning historic mistake,” while maintaining that Israel was under no obligation to adhere to it.
“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves,” Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.
He later reiterated his comment over a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama, expressing Israel’s concerns over the deal and maintaining that the Islamic Republic will obtain nuclear weapons with or without the agreement.
“The prime minister emphasized that the deal raises two main dangers: It will allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons — if it keeps to the deal, at the end of the 10-15 years, if it breaks it, before then,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
“In addition, it will pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the Iranian terror and war machine which threatens Israel and the entire world,” the statement quoted Netanyahu as telling Obama.
The deal was finalized after more than two weeks of furious diplomacy in Vienna. Negotiators blew through three self-imposed deadlines, with top American and Iranian diplomats both threatening at points to walk away from the talks.
It comes after nearly a decade of international diplomacy that until recently was defined by failure. Breaks in the talks sometimes lasted for months, and Iran’s nascent nuclear program expanded into one that Western intelligence agencies saw as only a couple of months away from weapons capacity.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.