Photo: EREZ HARODI - OSIM TSILUM
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on Monday laid out a stark scenario in which he described an Iran in possession of dozens of nuclear warheads ten years from now.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center, Steinitz said that the nightmare scenario would likely be the result of Western powers signing a "bad deal" with Iran on its nuclear program.
He said that in the event that the P5+1 group of world powers - US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - sign an unsatisfactory deal with Iran that does not dismantle its nuclear program, the Islamic Republic could have 50-100 nuclear warheads by the year 2024. In addition to the nuclear bombs, Steinitz warned Iran would also possess ballistic missiles with the ability to reach western Europe and the east coast of the United States ten years from now.
Steinitz said in this scenario, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Turkey, and perhaps other Middle East states, would begin their own nuclear weapons programs in answer to Iran.
"It is a difficult scenario, but not an impossible scenario," Steinitz stated.
Steinitz explained that allowing Iran to remain on the threshold of making a nuclear bomb would also constitute a "bad deal."
He said that the P5+1 has to ask itself what will happen 5-10 years down the line, not just in the next year or two.
Steinitz cautioned against the belief that any deal is better than no deal. He warned of the consequences of giving Iran legitimacy while allowing it to remain a nuclear threshold state.
He said that today Iran is already a threshold state, but it is considered an illegitimate state. The international sanctions regime hurts its economy, which loses some $100 billion annually. The Likud minister said that this serves as a deterrent to other states with nuclear aspirations.
"If other states in the Middle East consider competing with Iran in the nuclear arena, they know that there is consequences," he said.
A terrible agreement that gives Iran legitimacy while leaving it a threshold state, will pave the way for other states to demand the same thing, he added.
Israel is not against a diplomatic solution to the Iranian threat, Steinitz said. "We are in favor of this, if it is a satisfactory, complete deal. But we do not support a shortsighted deal."
Steinitz addressed the possibility that talks could be extended beyond their July 20 deadline.
"We don't like the idea of adding six months to the negotiations, however if the alternative is to rush to sign a deal at any cost, we prefer extending the talks in order to close all of the holes in a bad deal," he stated.
Steinitz said that Israel is looking at the nuclear talks "with hope, mixed with great worry. We hope the powers will fulfill their responsibility to prevent dangers to us and our children in Israel and the world in 10 or 20 years."
The Likud minister said Israel was frantically attempting to convince the world powers not to sign a bad nuclear deal with Iran.
"This is what we are working on now. The destiny of the world for the coming decades will be determined in the coming weeks," he said.