Security expert doubts direct linkage between peace talks and possible US attack on Iran

Former deputy nat’l security adviser Freilich: Obama prefers diplomacy with Tehran.

August 1, 2013 02:06
2 minute read.

CHUCK FREILICH 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Chuck Freilich, a former deputy national security adviser in Israel and today a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, says he doubts there is explicit “linkage” between the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Iran.

“Don’t expect linkage between Iran’s nuclear program and the peace process,” Freilich told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday during an interview in Herzliya, adding that US President Barack Obama did not want to take military action at this time, nor did he want Israel to.

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On Monday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon hinted that secret considerations had gone into the country’s recent decision to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a way to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Ya’alon did not elaborate.

Freilich does not see Israel bombing Iran this year, as the US is probably going to make a major outreach effort to Tehran in order to reach a diplomatic solution. The military option might delay Iran’s nuclear program for a few years but it would be “at a great cost to us,” he said, adding that “Iran and Hezbollah will hit us hard.”

If Obama can reach a last minute deal with the Iranians to freeze the program, even temporarily, he explained, it would buy a few more years and probably be better than the military option.

“Obama does not want to get involved in the Middle East,” he told the Post.

Freilich said the US president’s reluctance was obvious when looking at the fact that even while thousands were being slaughtered in Syria, he was not doing anything. The fact that Syria had crossed his “red line” by using chemical weapons without drawing a tough response, he said, was adding to Israel’s worries over US attitudes toward Tehran.

When asked what would happen should Obama’s outreach efforts fail, Freilich said that “he will face the moment of decision, his cards largely used up.”

The American leader, he said, has been trying to negotiate with Iran for over four years. If he still can’t after the relatively moderate president-elect Hassan Rouhani takes over, “sanctions will be seen to have failed and it will come down to military action or a policy of deterrence and containment, which the president has specifically rejected.”

Everything depends on what the Iranians do, Freilich said. Will they go for a breakout or continue the current policy of stopping just short of achieving nuclear capability? He added that the US was more comfortable than Israel in allowing Iran to continue its current policy, although Obama had gone on record as agreeing with the consensus in the US that Iran could not be allowed to go nuclear.

“There are some people close to the president who believe that Obama would take military action,” Freilich said. “The attractiveness of this option grows if the peace process makes any progress, giving Obama diplomatic cover in the Arab world and international community.”

Freilich went on to state that it was well established that the US had greater capabilities than Israel to launch an attack against Iran, and that experts believed that if it came to military action, the US should be the one to do it.

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