Ex-defense official gives US, Israel 5-year window to unite against Iran

Speaking in DC, Amos Yadlin warns nuke deal only temporarily rolls back Tehran’s capabilities, urges Jerusalem to keep trying to improve it

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Amos Yadlin speaks at an IsraPresse event for the French-speaking community at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem, February 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Amos Yadlin speaks at an IsraPresse event for the French-speaking community at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem, February 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

WASHINGTON — The recently completed deal between Iran and the P5+1 will set Iran’s nuclear program back for five years. But the US and Israel should use the time in the interim to improve coordination and present a united front on Iran, a former senior Israeli defense official said Sunday.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of Military Intelligence and IDF attache to Washington and current director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said the nuclear deal — which went into effect as he spoke — would entail major challenges for Israel, which would need to be addressed with Washington.

“A responsible prime minister will come to the president of the United States and come up with a plan for how to deal with Iran,” he said, explaining that Israel needs to talk with the US to see how they can “compensate for the not-so-good inspections” and other problematic aspects of the deal.

Israel, Yadlin emphasized, “cannot live with Iran, with this regime that calls to destroy Israel, this same regime in 15 years with nuclear capabilities.”

But Yadlin stressed that the only way to deal with the challenges poised by Iran is by bringing US-Israel cooperation closer.

“We have a very problematic deal, but there is a lot we can do with the consequences and we do have time,” Yadlin went on.

Yadlin suggested that “Israel and the US should have review committees that sit and review where this deal is going,” and should include not just reviews of the nuclear program itself, but also of Iran’s regional engagement and of its calls for the destruction of Israel.

“If the Iranians do not change their conduct” on any of those fronts, continued Yadlin, “the agreement should be abolished.”

According to him, the Obama administration was not entirely on board with Israeli concerns regarding Iran’s non-nuclear activities. “Some in the Obama administration see Iran not as the problem, but as the solution” to regional challenges. Yadlin, however, said that the US and Israel “have to deal with the nuclear and the non-nuclear issue together.

“The grand strategy for Israel is to see how to cooperate with the United States,” he surmised. Yadlin supports reaching parallel agreements with the administration regarding policy toward Iran, and renewing the 10-year strategic memorandum that is currently the focus of renewed talks between Washington and Jerusalem.

Meetings recommenced this week after a long break that coincided with the peak of tensions between the two administrations. Efforts, he said, should include increasing Israel’s defensive capabilities, including the joint US-Israeli missile-defense projects, as well as working toward combating Iran’s regional influence.

In the same five years, Yadlin recommended that the US and Israel draw together on presenting what he described as a “credible military option.” While acknowledging that there are “better choices” than a military option — which Yadlin sees as a last resort — Yadlin stressed that “the military option must be there, because there are only two leverages with Iran. There are biting sanctions… and, second, a credible military option.”

Iran today, Yadlin warned, does not see a military threat on the table. Without directly criticizing the US administration, Yadlin said that the Iranians believe “that the US has the capability but no will, and that Israel has the will but no capability.”

In the coming years, he suggested, the two countries should come together to rectify those gaps.

In his talk before a morning plenary of the Israel American Council’s annual conference, Yadlin also gestured to the ongoing attacks conducted by Palestinians against Israelis, tying the situation to Israel’s ability to create an international consensus around containing Iran.

“The Sunni [states] and Israel wake up in the morning and see the same threat [from Iran],” he explained, “but there is only one problem — the Palestinians.” To that end, he proposed that Israel engage in regional communication.

“The leadership needed today is proactive — policies that see the opportunities and not only the threat,” he argued. “There are very strong opportunities and we need to know how to go forward.”

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