Israeli Security Experts Offer Divergent Views on Iran Nuclear Deal

Not All Agree With Benjamin Netanyahu's Assessment

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By Nathan Jeffay

Published November 29, 2013.
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Yadlin said that the agreement can only be weighed against two other possibilities: the absence of any agreement, and the draft agreement that was being discussed a few days earlier which was more favorable to Iran. The Geneva agreement is better than either of these alternatives, he said — even though he believes that it will only slightly set back the Iranian nuclear program.

“If there were not an agreement Iran would continue to enrich uranium to 20%; Iran would go on to install more centrifuges; and Iran would continue to advance with its plutonium program at Arak,” he said.

Regarding what some analysts see as the agreement’s shortcomings, he said: “We would have all been happy if this agreement now would have taken Iran backwards in accordance with the decisions of the [United Nations] Security Council, but we see it wasn’t possible.”

Yadlin believes that the Geneva deal would have been “very bad” if it were a permanent deal, but stresses that it is an interim deal. A permanent deal should look far better from Israel’s perspective, he said, and could lead to the removal of low-enriched uranium.

He rejected the concern that the interim agreement could morph in to something more permanent. “The final agreement will not be this agreement and there is no way that this agreement will be extended for another six months and another six months, said Yadlin. “Rather, if after six months there is no agreement the Americans will nullify the relaxation of sanctions.”

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Soli Shahvar, one of the foremost Israel-based experts on Iranian politics, thinks that a permanent accord could harm Israeli interests by boosting Iranian-funded terrorists.

Increased Iranian prosperity as the result of a deal with the West would lead to Iran having more money to invest in groups like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, predicted Iranian-born Shahvar, director of the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa.

“A byproduct of improving relations with Iran is giving them more possibility of increasing support for these organizations,” he said.

Shahvar thinks that while the West would continue to categorize these groups as terror organizations, it would oppose them less aggressively, in an unofficial move to “appease Iran.”

In contrast to Landau, he believes that Iran will stick to the rules during the interim period — in part to disprove Israeli claims that it is untrustworthy. “I don’t think they will be stupid enough to lose this opening given to them for six months,” Shahvar said. He expects Iran, in the short term, to even stop work in secret facilities that he believes exist.

What should Israel do during this period? It should soften criticism of the current agreement and lobby for a best-case scenario permanent agreement that prevents a nuclear military option; however, he finds it “hard to believe” that Iran will destroy any facilities that are already built. He thinks that a “surgical attack” by Israel could theoretically yield “some positive results,” but he is opposed because of what he considers the inevitable loss of civilian life.

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For Mordechai Kedar, in Geneva the international community waved goodbye to a golden opportunity to end the Iranian regime.

“If sanctions remained, it may have led to the toppling of the regime, and now the regime can last forever,” said Kedar, who worked for 25 years in military intelligence, specializing in Islamists.

In his assessment, the Iranians “can cross the line whenever they want, and they are on the threshold of becoming a nuclear state.” The agreement slows their advance toward this nuclear line “but doesn’t take them backwards.”

Kedar thinks the deal will be ineffective for two reasons. First, he thinks there are undeclared facilities where Iran will continue to race toward a nuclear bomb despite the deal, and second, he thinks that provisions in the deal for inspections are hollow because it is easy to obfuscate and limit access. “What they show is what they show,” he said.

Kedar believes that in the current climate, Israeli diplomatic pressure on the West to shape the permanent deal that could follow the six-month interim period is “a waste of time.” Israel’s most promising option is sabotage, said Keder,. Though he didn’t specify particular operations, the 2010 Stuxnet virus, widely attributed to Israel and the United States, caused chaos at Iran’s Natanz plant, impairing uranium manufacture and temporarily stopping centrifuges.

Sabotage would not need to be cyber, in Kedar’s view. “If one morning we learn a reactor or plutonium facility blew up in a mysterious way, this could be done regardless of any agreement,” he said.

The other promising possibility, according to Kedar, relies on gathering intelligence to undermine the deal. “What Israel should do is increase its intelligence efforts to show the world over the next six months that Iran didn’t do what it said it would do.”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com


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