The coming 12 months will likely see either a military strike or a diplomatic
solution on Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Israeli defense expert told The
Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, a research
associate at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, and a former
director of the Counter- Terrorism Bureau, spoke before the ICT’s World Summit
on Counter-Terrorism, which will begin in Herzliya on Sunday.
assessment is that the coming year will see a milestone in the international
efforts against Iran’s nuclear program. It will either take the form of
offensive actions, or an agreement with Iran.
The year cannot pass
without activities that will significantly change the arena,” Nuriel
Iran might make an 11th-hour concession that will lead to an
agreement with the international community, he said.
Turning to Syria,
Nuriel said that an arms development center near Damascus, which also produces
chemical weapons, would make a natural target in any US strike on the Assad
The Scientific Studies and Research Center, known by its French
acronym, CERS, should be on the US’s target list, he said.
“This is a
center that develops all types of weapons, including nonconventional arms,” he
said. “This is the place where the Syrian regime realizes its fantasies on
military technologies, and therefore it is fit for
Intelligence agencies from various countries have spent
years trying to figure out what is being developed at CERS, Nuriel noted. “It’s
a target,” he said.
Nuriel spent 30 years serving in the IDF, including
commanding the Operations Branch at the Northern Command.
the civil war raging in Syria isn’t terrible for Israel, he said. “The Syrian
army is mired in fighting and its capabilities are being eroded. Hezbollah is
At this time, there is no known sane alternative to Syrian
President Bashar Assad, meaning that there is no clear desired result to the
civil war from Israel’s perspective, Nuriel argued. “If we knew about an
alternative to Assad who had Western backing, alongside a Marshall program that
would create a more successful outcome than in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be
easier to know.
But no one in the world knows what the alternative to
Assad will be.”
Nuriel said he believed there will be no serious
repercussions for Israel from a US strike on Syria.
Assad may order
pinpoint action against Israel that will not force Jerusalem to
“If there is one thing Assad knows, it’s what will happen if
Israel attacks him. He and his regime will physically disappear. He’s not
suffering from a delusion that he can create a coalition against Israel to
divert the fire away from himself, or to get Hezbollah involved against us,”
At the same time, he stressed, “We don’t have the privilege
of not being ready” for Syrian retribution.
Asked if the decision by US
President Barack Obama to delay a strike on Syria
might embolden Iran, Nuriel
said he doubted that would happen.
“The Syrians are really not like the
Iranians. They don’t have the same daring as the Iranians, the same thinking, or
the same goals.
The comparison does not add up. There is no connection
between these arenas.
Nuclear capabilities can’t be compared to chemical
capabilities. Syria’s chemical weapons haven’t made a huge impression. We have
the ability to take defensive and offensive action against them. I would not
extrapolate from what is taking place with Syria to Iran. I wouldn’t advise the
Iranians to take away any lessons from Syria,” he said.
continues to attract radical Sunni jihadi elements, Nuriel warned that
pro-al-Qaida forces are “alive and kicking everywhere” in the region. “In some
places, this is a counter- reaction to extremist Shi’ite jihadists. There’s a
rivalry between the two camps. In the midst of their confrontation, they can
attack Western and Israeli targets, too. The Sunni jihad is already here. It’s
in Sinai, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.”
Asked why Israeli deterrence
against Hezbollah didn’t dissuade the Lebanese terrorist organization from
repeatedly trying to attack Israeli targets overseas, Nuriel said Hezbollah
viewed such operations as running a low risk of Israeli
“Hezbollah is assisting the Syrian regime, and is bleeding
as a result. But it must also raise the flag of ‘resistance’ to justify its
It can’t do it in Lebanon where it’s too
When it looks at its record of overseas attacks, Hezbollah
sees that it hasn’t succeeded, and when it has, nothing has happened,” he
Israeli policy is guided by the results of terrorist attacks,
“If a terror attack abroad kills 50 Israelis, there
will of course be a response. But I don’t know where the line is drawn.
Hezbollah might wake up [after launching an overseas terrorist attack] to find
that some of its people, or storage facilities, are missing.”