Former army chief speaks out against Iran strike

US is far more capable of eliminating the Iranian threat, reasons Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, and there’s no imperative for action this autumn

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, died on Wednesday at age 68 (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, died on Wednesday at age 68 (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Ehud Barak’s successor as IDF chief of the General Staff on Tuesday joined the chorus of ex-security chiefs campaigning against an imminent Israeli military strike on Iran.

Lt.-Col. (ret) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who was chief of staff from 1995-1998 and then briefly entered politics with the short-lived Center Party, said he saw no reason for an urgent solo Israeli attack of the kind that Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are reportedly close to ordering. Far better, he said, to have America lead the battle to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive, he said.

“We will still have the option [of striking Iran] even after the elections in America and therefore we shouldn’t rush — we shouldn’t present it as though it must happen in the autumn, as I read in the papers,” Shahak said, at a ceremony in Tel Aviv marking 20 years since the swearing-in of the 1992 Rabin government. “It would take a lot of courage to decide to attack Iran in the autumn,” he added wryly.

The upcoming US presidential elections should not be a factor in the considerations, he said. The US “has a much greater military capacity… more capable of eliminating the threat” posed by Iran.

Shahak said Israel’s continued talk of the need for an Israel-led attack implied a lack of faith in the US capacity and will to thwart the Iranians. Personally, said Shahak, “I believe in the Americans.”

Referring to the reported differences of opinion between serving security chiefs, who are said to oppose an attack, and the two political leaders who are said to be close to approving it, Shahak said: “I assume that the decision makers have the same information as the heads of the security establishment… [and so] I ask myself how is it that the security officials and the politicians can arrive at such different conclusions?”

Siding firmly with the defense establishment, he added: “I have complete faith in the security officials and give a lot of weight to their opinion.”

Shahak lamented the tensions between the US and Israel over the Iranian issue. “I don’t understand why the political echelon doesn’t share the same intimacy with the Americans as the military and intelligence hierarchies do,” Shahak said.

Shahak joins other former senior officials from the Mossad, the Shin Bet and the military in his public opposition to a strike.

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