The new nuclear deal with Iran gives Tehran full legitimacy to engage in further atomic work and will set off a regional nuclear and conventional arms race, a senior Israeli official warned on Friday.
Ram Ben Barak said Iran was plainly still determined to break out to the bomb at a time of its choosing, and that its insistence in the deal on preventing inspectors from gaining instant access to suspect facilities, and on winning the right to continue R&D on fast-enrichment centrifuges, demonstrated that the regime remains committed to attaining nuclear weapons.
Ben Barak, who is director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry and a leading candidate to be the next head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, told Channel 10 that the 10-year deal between the US-led P5+1 world powers and Iran signed Tuesday, which is aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for lifting harsh international sanctions, is “very bad.”
Ben Barak is one of three candidates vying for the coveted position of Mossad chief, contending with current National Security Council chair Yossi Cohen and an unnamed deputy to current Mossad chief Tamir Pardo. Pardo is slated to step down in January 2016.
“This is a very bad deal,” he told Channel 10, “mainly because it gives Iran legitimacy to engage in nuclear work. Also, in 10 years from now, Iran will be able to enrich uranium to whatever grade it wants and however much it wants, without any limitations.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said, realized in 2013 that the sanctions were becoming a real threat to his rule and abruptly changed tack, allowing the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani to run for president, and win.
“The charm offensive began and the Iranians effectively led the world powers to negotiations after which they found themselves exactly where they wanted to be,” Ben-Barak said.
“They’ve reached a point [thanks to this deal] where they can decide the time and place to break out to the [nuclear] bomb,” he went on, outlining the flaws inherent in the deal, including the powers’ major concessions on the inspections mechanism — which gives Iran 24 days to prepare for an inspection at a given site — and the process of the easing of sanctions.
He said the very nature of the problematic clauses in the accord, and Iran’s insistence on forcing the world powers to compromise over them, underline that the Iranians “want to get to the bomb at the moment of their choosing.”
“All the problematic elements in the deal show that the Iranians are interested in reaching breakout capacity. If they really had no intention to secretly develop their program, they wouldn’t have had to insist [during negotiations] on this issue, which threatened to blow up the talks: In the end, the Americans conceded and the Iranians have 24 days to prepare for inspections, Ben Barak said, instead of the 24 hours originally demanded by the world powers.
Similarly, Iran’s insistence on the right to continue R&D and testing of the still-in-development IR-8 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium 20 times faster than the current IR-1s, underlined the regime’s unchanged ambition to attain nuclear weapons, said Ben Barak. There would be no need for the IR-8s if, as Iran claims, they only seek to enrich uranium to low levels, “for peaceful purposes,” he said. “But if you want to set up a secret facility, he said, in order to work toward the bomb, “it has to be small.” Fewer, faster centrifuges would therefore be necessary. “So you see that their intentions are not exactly pure,” he said dryly.
The prospective Mossad candidate described the world powers’ behavior in the negotiations as too conciliatory and problematic.
“There were two sides [in these negotiations]. One side came to the table after suffering from crippling sanctions — you can say they came on their knees to the negotiating table. The other side, the world powers, came to the table with many strengths. By the end of it, Iran got everything it wanted and the powers conceded on all their red lines,” he charged.
“The deal will set off a nuclear arms race and a conventional arms race,” he warned.
When asked what the alternative was, a question the US has challenged Israel to answer, Ben-Barak said the other option “was and remains engaging in negotiations that lead to a better outcome.”
Asked whether Israel still has the military means to thwart Iran, he said, “Israel is a very strong state. It can do almost anything it wants. It has the capabilities. Whether it uses them or not is a decision for the political echelons.”
The Israeli official was echoing some of the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the deal. Netanyahu has been a vocal opponent of the negotiations with Iran and the accord itself, charging that the agreement leaves Iran a nuclear threshold state and accusing the world powers of making far-reaching concessions that endanger the State of Israel.
Under the deal signed between the world powers and Iran Tuesday, international sanctions will gradually be lifted while Iran adheres to multi-year restrictions on enrichment and nuclear research and development. Tehran will also submit to an international inspections mechanism, with 24 days’ notice. The deal also sets out a so-called “snapback” mechanism to put the old sanctions back in place. It establishes a joint commission which would examine any complaints if world powers feel Iran has not met its commitments under the accord.
The United Nations Security Council is expected to endorse the 10-year deal next Monday.
Earlier this month, Ben Barak warned that a nuclear deal with Iran would empower it to take over the Middle East.
He said the lifting of sanctions would give Tehran “an ocean of money,” allowing it to buy influence across the Middle East and “advance to a position where no one will be able to threaten it and it will acquire control wherever it pleases.”
Ben Barak noted that there is “almost no area in the Middle East today where Iran remains uninvolved: Iraq, where Iranian interests are in line with US interests, Lebanon, where Hezbollah is effectively an Iranian division, and Yemen, which was mostly conquered by Iran.”