Be ‘very worried’ about Iran deal, says ex-Shin Bet head

Likud MK Avi Dichter says pact would make Tehran nuclear threshold power, terms Islamic Republic ‘favorite son’ of the West

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

MK Avi Dichter (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
MK Avi Dichter (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

A former head of the Shin Bet security agency said Tuesday that Israel has “good reasons to be worried, even very worried” about a potential nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers known as the P5+1.

Avi Dichter, who has also served as public security minister and who is re-entering Knesset Tuesday as a member of the Likud party, told the Walla news site that the agreement would effectively make Iran a nuclear threshold state. He also said Israel would launch a military strike if necessary.

Dichter made his comments before news came out Tuesday that Tehran and the P5+1 were preparing to issue a general statement agreeing to continue negotiations in a new phase aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord by the end of June, according to AP.

The Likud MK emphasized that Iran’s regional standing in the Middle East is also troubling. Iran has “moved from a position of isolation, of losing its northern axis — Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” he said, and “suddenly becomes the favorite son of the West in general, and the US in particular.”

Despite promises by US President Barack Obama, Dichter said, “when we look at the agreement we see that it is effectively building up Iran as a nuclear threshold state….Within a few months it would be able to cross this threshold.”

Israel must retain the ability to prevent an agreement using military force if needed, Dichter said. If the agreement “gains skin and ligaments, then Israel will be required, when the day comes, to have offensive capabilities as well as defensive.”

During the term of prime minister Ehud Olmert, Dichter was the only minister to abstain from voting for a strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor, according to The New Yorker.

Earlier Tuesday a former head of the IDF’s military intelligence branch said that the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran would be a “bad deal,” if it is indeed finalized around the terms that have been made public.

Former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin  in Jerusalem, February 22, 2015. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin in Jerusalem, February 22, 2015. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

However, said Amos Yadlin in an interview to Israel Radio, three “core technical issues” are still not agreed upon by Tehran and the P5+1 powers – research and development, the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, and the shipping out of fissile material to a third-party country.

“Without the export of the 7-8 tons of low-enriched uranium, the Americans do not have the goal they set” of keeping Iran a year away from enough fuel for a nuclear weapon, said Yadlin, the Zionist Union’s pick for defense minister during the recent elections, who currently runs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Yadlin had some criticism for the way Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handled disagreements with the US over the nuclear talks. “We needed to sit with the Americans, and discuss what are the parameters that define a year to breakout. What do the Americans mean when they say ‘No deal is better than a bad deal?’ These things were not done with the Americans. What is the way to verify that the Iranians, who are known for violating agreements, are breaking or not breaking the agreement.”

“And in my eyes the most important thing for agreement between Israel and the US, what will the US response be, and what support will they give for Israeli reactions, to violations of the agreement?”

But Yadlin indicated that displeasure with the Obama administration from other quarters forced the US to harden its positions. Criticism from Arab partners, and the potential of a nuclear race in Arab world, were especially important factors, as was public dissent from nuclear experts not generally critical of Obama.

The advance of Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen also affected the American position, Yadlin said.

Obama understood that without the threat of new sanctions legislation from Congress, the Iranians would keep introducing new demands, Yadlin argued.

Yadlin spent 33 years in the Israeli Air Force, including at the helm of the IDF intelligence directorate, and as Israel’s military attache in Washington.

The former fighter pilot, one of eight who raided the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981, said there were “many alternatives between a bad deal and military action,” such as new harsher sanctions and covert action.

After 18 months of tortuous talks, foreign ministers from Iran and the P5+1 are in marathon negotiations to try to reach an accord to end the standoff that has been threatening to escalate dangerously for 12 years, with a deadline for a preliminary deal approaching at midnight Tuesday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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