The world’s powers continue to mishandle the Iranian nuclear threat – and the
optimal time for striking at Tehran’s nuclear program has long passed –
according to two leading Israeli authorities on Iran’s nuclear
Emily Landau and Giora Eiland – both senior research fellows at
the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University (INSS) – said
in a briefing with a small group of journalists Thursday that while Iran’s goals
are clear, the solutions to its nuclear designs are much less
“We’re in a state of limbo,” said Landau, director of arms
control and regional security at the INSS. “Nothing is happening right now on
Landau contrasted Tehran’s unambiguous nuclear ambitions with the
disparate, often conflicting, interests of the so-called P5+1 Countries – the
five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany, who have led
efforts to confront the Islamic Republic’s nuclear drive.
basically no plan,” Landau said. “Every state in the P5+1 is following its own
national interest. Iran is one part of the national interest of each, and it’s
not necessarily number one – and maybe not number two, three or
“The name of Iran’s game over the last eight years has been
playing for time,” she continued.
It’s clear Iran is pursuing military
nuclear capability, and “it’s less relevant whether Iran wants to develop
nuclear warheads, put them on missiles and deploy them – or whether it’s going
for a Japan model,” Landau concluded.
Though not actively pursuing a
nuclear weapons program, Japan has the technology and know-how to produce
nuclear weapons within about six months, according to experts.
non-proliferation efforts against Iran to progress, Landau said the US will have
to drastically change its diplomatic mindset.
“Negotiating with Iran on
the nuclear issue is not the same as negotiating with it to improve US-Iranian
relations,” Landau said. “This is not about engagement and confidence-building…
The nuclear issue is going to be a hard bargain.”
She listed three
elements to improving US policy in Iran.
First, Washington must apply
more forceful sanctions backed by a credible threat of consequences, should Iran
violate them. Second, she said the US has to show it’s “in the driver’s seat” to
determine the time and place of negotiations – and setting its own terms in
“framing” those negotiations. Third, the US must be clearer about the incentives
it plans to offer the Islamic Republic for ceasing its nuclear
Landau also spoke about containment: the idea that the West can
live with a nuclear Iran as it did with the USSR and China. The problem, she
said, is that deterring a nuclear state from using its weapons depends on the
existence of a credible threat – and US credibility with Iran is at its lowest
point in years.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last week that the
world must make clear that Iran would face “credible military action” if
sanctions do not shut down Tehran’s nuclear program.
In an interview with
CNN, he said it was clear Iran was pursuing its nuclear ambitions despite
international sanctions, and was getting closer to obtaining weapons of mass
“They have enriched enough material now almost for three
nuclear bombs,” he said. “The only thing that will work is if Iran knew that if
sanctions fail there will be a credible military option.”
if military action were taken, he would prefer it be led by the
Eiland, a retired IDF majorgeneral and former national security
adviser, told journalists the most auspicious time for confronting Iran’s
nuclear program was three years ago.
“Most of the important assets were
located in a few key sites, and poorly protected,” he said. “Iran didn’t – and
still doesn’t – have very advanced air defense systems. From a purely
military point of view, the best timing was three years ago. Unfortunately, from
a political point of view, it wasn’t quite so good, and therefore wasn’t
Eiland also outlined four key questions Israel must ask
itself before embarking on a strike of Iranian facilities.
First is a
question of whether Jerusalem has reliable intelligence about Iran’s principal
nuclear facilities and targets. Assuming it does, secondly, he added,
Israel must determine whether it has the ability to send enough sorties to
attack those targets.
Third, it must decide whether it is feasible to fly
over hostile countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
than the other variables, Eiland said, is the question of results.
assume we’re successful in questions one, two and three. Then what?” he
asked. “What would be the real damage that would be caused to the
Iranians? What would be the delay that we would produce for the Iranians in
producing nuclear weapons? If it’s only weeks and months, it’s insufficient. If
years, it may be worthwhile.”