Two former top Israeli security officials on Sunday expressed cautious optimism about the framework deal between Iran and world powers, with an ex-military intelligence chief saying it could set back Tehran’s program by years, and an ex-Mossad head noting that a military strike by Israel would only temporarily upset the nuclear program.
The comments by former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin and former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy were a departure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fierce criticism of the emerging deal.
Yadlin — the Zionist Union’s intended candidate for defense minister during the recent election campaign — told Israel Radio that the deal could delay the Iranian nuclear program by many years and should not therefore be strictly classified as “a bad deal.”
“There is a chance to set back the Iranians by many years,” Yadlin said. He argued that the final deal, to be finalized by June 30, must address the research and development of the Iranian program, and its military dimensions — issues not addressed in the framework deal. Yadlin added that the deal must be weighed against the other alternatives at Israel’s disposal, and urged the government to coordinate with the US.
In a separate interview with Army Radio, Yadlin noted that despite the current deal, Iran still has a long way to go before it clears its reputation in the international community.
“Iran can’t go back to being a legitimate member of the family of nations if it doesn’t stop all its activities that are not included in the agreement — its subversive activities, its support of terror groups, weapons proliferation,” he said. “The Americans took a strategic decision with the interim agreement, to deal with the nuclear issue as a separate matter and to not tie it to the other issues.”
In an interview on Israel Radio, Halevy disagreed that the Iranian nuclear program posed an existential threat to Israel, and emphasized the “positive” components of the agreement — namely a reduction in the number of centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility, while also limiting the Fordo site for research purposes only. As a result, Halevy predicted, the Fordo facility — sheltered under a mountain protecting it from airstrikes — is unlikely to produce fissile material within 15 years.
Halevy added that while he does not entirely rely on the effectiveness of international monitoring methods laid out in the agreement, they are the most stringent checks to date.
The former Mossad chief also cast doubt on the effectiveness of taking military action, a threat that Israel has hinted at as a last resort in stopping Tehran from obtaining atomic weapons.
“If we think that the monitoring won’t be effective, the only other option is a military campaign that will only set back the Iranians for a limited number of years,” he said.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz took issue with the framework deal, in that it does not completely freeze Iran’s uranium enrichment activities. Steinitz claimed that there is a difference of opinion between Tehran and Washington on exactly what was agreed. The minister said that Israel will continue discussing the matter with world powers, some of which also have their doubts about the deal, notably France.
Iran and the global powers sealed the agreement in Lausanne last Thursday outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program designed to prevent the country from developing atomic weapons. The West has long suspected Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear research is focused on peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.
According to that text, many of the nuclear limits on Iran would be in place for a decade, while others would last 15 or 20 years. Sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program would be suspended by the US and the European Union, and eased by the UN after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran’s compliance.
The fact sheet also says Tehran is committed to significant cuts in centrifuges, the machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads. Of the nearly 20,000 centrifuges Iran now has installed or running at its main enrichment site, the country would be allowed to operate just over 5,000. Much of its enriched stockpiles would be neutralized. A planned reactor would be reconstructed so it produced no weapons-grade plutonium. Monitoring and inspections by the UN nuclear agency would be enhanced.
America’s negotiating partners in Europe strongly backed the result. President Francois Hollande of France, who had pushed the US for a tougher stance, endorsed the accord while warning that “sanctions lifted can be re-established if the agreement is not applied.”
On Friday, Netanyahu said that his cabinet was united in “strongly opposing” the framework deal with Iran and insisted that the agreement “threatens the survival of the state of Israel.”
AFP and Associated Press contributed to this report.