Iran is facing one of its most difficult periods since its war with Iraq in the
1980s, making the current period conducive for reaching a potential deal, former
Mossad chief Meir Dagan said on Thursday.
Addressing the Iran at a Cross
Roads conference at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel
Aviv, Dagan said that economic troubles caused by sanctions, growing ethnic
tensions within Iran (such as discord among Azeris and Baluchis), and conflict
with the Sunni world have all contributed to Iran’s difficulties.
is the most comfortable time to gain achievements in talks with Iranians,” Dagan
said, citing high levels of hostility developing against the regime inside and
outside of Iran.
He stressed, however, that the Islamic Republic “hasn’t
changed its policies because of Rouhani’s election. The president does not set
the policies in Iran.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei retains
all decisions on matters of war and peace, Dagan said, adding that it is
impossible to disconnect Khamenei’s conservative personality from the regime’s
During talks with the West, Iran will seek to buy time and
safeguard its nuclear capabilities, and the outcome of the current diplomatic
drive remains uncertain, Dagan said.
Israel, for its part, must safeguard
the military threat as a credible option, and advise the international community
on how to engage the Iranians, he added.
Iran’s nuclear program is
intended to prevent outsiders from interfering in its affairs, and to bolster
its ambitions to become a leader of the region and the Islamic world, he
It is also intended to serve as a protective layer for Iran’s
proxies, such as Hezbollah as Islamic Jihad, Dagan stated.
conference, former special adviser to the US Secretary of State and Brookings
Institution analyst Robert Einhorn warned that a military strike on Iran could
cause it to decide to get nuclear weapons.
“Some in Iran might welcome an
attack which might provide a pretext for crossing the nuclear threshold and
entering weaponization,” he said.
The Iranians are prepared to live
without an agreement, especially if they calculate that the US and its partners
would be blamed for an impasse, and that sanctions would erode before very long,
“Like us, the Iranians believe that no deal is better than a
“The ideal agreement is not achievable. The key question is:
Can an agreement that falls short of the ideal be better than a non-diplomatic
outcome?” Einhorn said.
The former adviser said that the US is “acutely
conscious” of the need to refrain from lifting critical key oil and banking
sanctions before seeing tangible concessions from Iran.
He added that an
interim agreement in which some minimal sanctions are lifted could pave the way
for a comprehensive deal and also test Iran’s intentions.
INSS head and
former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said that the trauma of the Iraq
and Afghanistan wars have caused US military chiefs to focus on “unintended
consequences” when assessing military action in Iran, to the point of
overestimating Iran’s willingness and ability to spark a regional war in
response to an attack.
Yadlin said it would be a mistake to launch
strikes too soon, but that it would also be a mistake to fail to act in
“Iran has had, for the past three years, all the components needed
to break through to nuclear weapons in a time period that varies according to
estimation, but in this institute’s assessment, within six months to a year,”
Yadlin said. In places outside of the range of Iranian missiles, in Virginia,
the estimation is that it’ll take them a bit longer,” he added.
Iranians just have to decide. They haven’t decided yet because they don’t want
to get to the bomb as quickly as possible but as safely as possible, Yadlin
“But we are in a place where, for first time in a decade, the
Iranians are wondering whether it’s right to broaden their program for a fast
breakthrough... They’re wondering whether maybe they should stop,” Yadlin
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, director of politicalmilitary affairs
at the Defense Ministry, said, “I think that the Iranians are determined to
obtain the ability to decide to get nuclear weapons. If Khamenei talks to [the
head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi], he wants to
hear ‘Yes we can.’”
Describing claims that Khamenei issued a fatwa against
nuclear weapons as a lie, Gilad said, “When you look at the full picture, there
is a clear government directive to prepare for reaching the ability to
“They stopped the program in 2003 and 2013, due to an existential
threat to the regime. Apparently, they love themselves more than their own
“I’m surprised by the influence of sanctions. Apparently, they are
more severe than what some of us thought, strong enough to convince Khamenei to
see an existential threat,” Gilad said, citing reports of food shortages,
inflation and unemployment in Iran.
Rouhani’s goal is to lift the choke
hold around Iran’s neck, and he is an “excellent public relations agent to
accomplish this,” Gilad said.
“We must not miss any opportunity to make
sure that Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons,” Gilad said.