Ex-IDF intel chief backs nuke deal as vital to delay Iranian program, prepare strike

Tamir Hayman says pact with world powers will hinder Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb until 2030, ‘buy time’ to get set for precision attack against its facilities if needed

File: Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, chief of Military Intelligence, at the Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, in Tel Aviv, January 28, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
File: Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, chief of Military Intelligence, at the Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, in Tel Aviv, January 28, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

The former head of Military Intelligence says a deal between world powers and Iran is necessary to keep Tehran from building a nuclear bomb, despite flaws in the proposed pact.

Tamir Hayman’s comments, which broke with the Israeli government’s opposition to the agreement, came as reports indicated that the US and Iran were moving closer to restoring the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Heyman tweeted Friday that the current proposal for a return to the nuclear deal was a “bad agreement,” but was crucial to “withdraw Iran from the situation in which it is at (almost a [nuclear] threshold state).”

“The signing of an agreement will definitely ensure that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon at least until 2030, and also after that forbid it from developing military nuclear capabilities,” said Heyman, who is now managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies think tank in Tel Aviv. “All of this is subject to international supervision, and under the wary eyes of Israeli intelligence.”

He indicated that Israel needed “to buy time” until it had the capacity for a strike on Iran significant enough to make an impact but precise enough to keep an all-out regional conflict from breaking out.

Heyman said an Iranian violation of the agreement would increase the chance of a military strike against its nuclear facilities by a coalition of Western powers, and legitimize an attack by Israel.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani (L) leaves after talks at the Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna on August 4, 2022. (Alex HALADA / AFP)

In May, Hayman also lent his support for a return to an arrangement with Iran, telling Channel 12 news that “a framework of agreements” was the “least bad” option for Israel at the moment.”

While Israel’s government has lobbied Western powers not to sign a deal with Iran, the country’s defense community is reportedly split over whether a pact is the best course forward.

On Thursday, a senior Israeli official criticized the European Union for its last ditch bid to revive the 2015 pact.

“The Europeans sent Iran a final offer, which doesn’t even meet the demands that the Americans committed to, and established that this offer was ‘take it or leave it,’” said a senior Israeli official at the highest level of decision-making on Thursday.

On July 26, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell submitted a proposal to Iran on returning to the nuclear deal, with a deadline for it to respond by midnight Monday night.

According to a Politico report citing a senior Western official, the Iranian response was received Monday evening Brussels time and focused on remaining questions related to sanctions and “guarantees around economic engagement.”

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency offered no details on the substance of its response, but suggested that Tehran still wouldn’t take the European Union-mediated proposal, despite warnings there would be no more negotiations.

“Iran turned down the offer, and the time has come to get up and walk away,” the senior Israeli official said. “Anything else sends a strong message of weakness.”

Top Israeli officials have warned their counterparts in the US and Europe against the deal and called for the negotiators to give up on the talks. On Thursday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid made the case in a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country is a party to the talks.

Then-foreign minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Jerusalem, March 2, 2022 (GPO)

Lapid also spoke about the deal Thursday with US Ambassador Tom Nides and Florida congressman Ted Deutch, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism.

Lapid will continue to make calls to Western leaders and diplomats, the Israeli official said.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata will head to Washington, DC, next week to conduct a series of meetings with US officials on the Iran nuclear program.

Recent reports have indicated that the US is prepared to make sanctions concessions to Iran as part of a return to the deal. The White House denied the claims.

Iran signed its nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the accord and said he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.

EU-coordinated negotiations on reviving the JCPOA began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March and picking up again in August. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it believes diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis.

Israel believes Iran wishes to build a nuclear bomb, has revealed intelligence it says exposes the Iranian weapons program and has reportedly carried out sabotage operations within the Islamic Republic to delay the development of such a weapon.

Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its program is designed for peaceful purposes, though it has recently been enriching uranium to levels that international leaders say have no civil use.

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