Satellite image shows a nuclear facility in Iran.
The intelligence needed to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons is “a puzzle” that constantly needs to be assembled to prevent the Islamic Republic from cheating on the nuclear deal, former IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin told The Jerusalem Post.
Yadlin, currently director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, said that obtaining the right intelligence is one of the prerequisites to catching any Iranian attempt to walk across the nuclear threshold during the life of the deal it signed in 2015 or when the agreement’s 2023, 2025 and 2030 deadlines expire.
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to Iran on Wednesday and announcement on CBS’s 60 Minutes
that he will ask the Trump administration to undo the Iran nuclear pact, most critics assume the real endgame will be catching Iranian attempts to cheat and attempt to obtain nuclear power.
Asked which of the main sources of intelligence were most key to following Iran, Yadlin said that SIGNINT (signal intelligence), cyber (hacking into Iran’s networks and machines), satellite imagery of Iran’s facilities and HUMINT (human spying) were all important.
“You don’t use just one, you are always fusing all of the measures... Whoever relies on one source will fail,” he said.
Yadlin outlined two aspects of intelligence assessments of all issues, including Iran: evaluating an adversary’s capabilities versus their intentions.
Yadlin calls for military contingency plan against Iran
Regarding capabilities, he said: “if your sources are good, you can be 90% or even 100% sure of how many missiles there are, what their range is, the weight of the warheads, how many centrifuges there are, how much enriched uranium there is – the heads of intelligence can tell their political masters: This is what the adversary has.”
Regarding intentions “what they would do with nuclear weapons, how they would react to an Israeli attack” are much harder to estimate, Yadlin said. “By definition, you must be much more humble as you are dealing with “prophecy” and not just technical intelligence,” he added.
Yadlin gave an example from 2008 when he was still head of Military Intelligence in which even if a foreign power could know what was discussed in Israel’s security cabinet meetings they could not have known how it would react to attacks from the Gaza Strip. This was because the meetings included disparate views which were always evolving.
According to Yadlin, Israel will have an indication if Iran is planning to break out to nuclear weapons – even without violating the agreement – by 2030, when a ceiling on possessing more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium is lifted.
A stockpile of 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium is enough to enrich to military-grade uranium, needed for one nuclear weapon. Iran is currently prohibited from possessing more than 300 kilograms. When that ceiling is lifted, Israel and the world will need to be vigilant, Yadlin said.
These sunset provisions which keep Iran from nuclear weapons in the short term, but make it easier in the long term are why Yadlin calls the deal, “acceptable in the short term and a disaster in the long run.”
Yadlin does give higher marks to the current leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency on properly policing Iran as opposed to some past IAEA officials.
But, he added: “our problem is not the IAEA. They look at a lot, but only at what is known. They do not necessarily inspect unknown sites especially the sites where Iran would be developing the weapon itself” (the military dimensions of the program). He said that if the UN nuclear watchdog learned of concealed weaponization programs or enrichment to military grade, it would have authority to inspect. The problem, he added, is that from experience, Iran has a talent at avoiding such detection.
Yadlin does not believe that the Russian-designed S-300 air defense system would make an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities impossible.
According to Yadlin, who served for decades as an air force fighter pilot, the S-300 would make any attack “more complicated, but [it is] not a game-changer. There is no anti-aircraft weapon that cannot be attacked. Attacks are a combination of many things” – though he admitted Israel might need to dedicate more aircraft to an attack as it might lose more craft in an attack in the process of taking out the S-300.
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