Issues related to Iran’s ballistic missile development program were never on the agenda in the nuclear talks, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold told members of the Foreign Press Association at a meeting in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel on Tuesday.
Quoting Iranian Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehghan, Gold said that the missile development program would continue to progress.
Gold warned that within five to 10 years Iran will try to have nuclear weapons and Iran’s long-range missiles would be a danger, not only to Israel but to the world. It’s not just an Israeli problem, he said, but a global problem. In the not-too-distant future, he predicted, Iran will have intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit America.
Iran’s Shahab ballistic missile is displayed in military parades bearing a sign reading that Israel should be wiped off the map, he noted. There is concern, he admitted, that Iranian missiles can already reach Israel and Central Europe.
As for the deal reached with Iran, Gold is convinced that Iran will find a way to circumvent the conditions set down in the accord – just as Saddam Hussein had violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 with regard to weapons of mass destruction and the dismantling of Iraq’s chemical, biological and missile programs.
Gold was not troubled about Iran’s declared nuclear sites, but the undeclared ones, which according to the deal require 24 days notice before they can be inspected.
Recalling that Saddam Hussein’s Special Republican Guard had been tipped off about inspections and had cleared sites of non-compliance, Gold had no doubt that, with 24 days notice, Iran would also cleanse sites of nuclear activity.
“Everyone in Israel is concerned about Iran breaking out of restrictions,” he said, declaring the 24-day period to be “the Achilles’ heel” of the agreement.
Another problem in the agreement, Gold said, is that it does not cover Iran’s ongoing funding of terrorist groups, which is certain to increase and will result in more regional chaos as Iran pursues hegemony in the region and beyond.
With such ambitions, he asked, “How can you expect Iran not to try a nuclear breakout and create an atomic bomb?” While Israel is not part of the deal, despite the futile efforts of German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel to get Iran to recognize Israel, Gold said that Israel must expose violations of the deal as they occur and must tell the truth.
Even before the deal was concluded, the Iranians tried to hide radioactivity in suspected sites, said Gold. He gave as examples the digging out of topsoil to a depth of six feet and replacing it with new soil, retiling walls, and laying asphalt over another site to avoid detection of radioactivity.
Despite Israel’s disappointment and dissatisfaction with the deal, Gold nonetheless sees a silver lining in the regional situation. Emerging threats have created similar perceptions and a convergence of interests between Israel and Sunni nations, he said, mentioning a ballistic missile which the Iranians put in Yemen that was fired at Saudi Arabia. Another example was the Iranian takeover of Bab-el-Mandeb, which impacts on the shipping of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
He added that Iran is also trying to undermine Turkey.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian- born analyst who now lives in Tel Aviv and lectures at the IDC Herzliya, took issue with some of Gold’s statements Because Iran is obliged to allow inspection of undeclared sites, it cannot hide nuclear activity, he insisted.
“Nuclear material is extremely difficult to remove from air, land, or water,” he said, and therefore no matter what Iran might do, it would not succeed in hiding its nuclear operations.
The deal is not about trusting the Iranian regime, he insisted. “When it’s not in their interests they don’t keep deals. When it is in their interests they keep deals that others would throw away. Nobody trusts the Iranian regime, but you have to look at their political eco system. It’s not a question about trust. It’s a question about mistrust and verification.”
Javedanfar also made the point that if the Iranians had wanted to make a nuclear weapon, they would have done so before the agreement.
He suggested that what the West does not understand is that “in Iran there is a regime and there is a government, and we have to make that distinction.”
President Hassan Rouhani does not make any decisions without the instructions or approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Javedanfar, who remarked that Khamenei is now distancing himself from Rouhani and letting him take the blame for anything that looks like compromise on Iran’s part in the agreement.
“If you want a moderate Iran, you have to worry about Rouhani,” he said.
Javedanfar left room for hope by saying that “Iran’s image in the region is starting to nosedive.” Iran’s ethnic cleansing of Sunnis is impacting on the region and is contributing to a strong anti-Iran coalition, said Javedanfar.
Talking peace with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would make Israel’s position more acceptable in the region, he added.
As an Iranian who knows the language and the mentality of his former fellow countrymen, Javedanfar was adamant that “the Iranian regime is not an existential threat to Israel. It is a strategic threat.”