Ex-Mossad chief Yatom: Israel still alone with Iran despite new US forces

Former chief spy says US withdrawal from Syria trumps new deployments.

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June 5, 2019 00:16
2 minute read.
DANNY YATOM

DANNY YATOM. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom made it clear on Tuesday that he views Israel as mostly alone in dealing with military threats from Iran, despite new US deployments. Yatom focused his comments on how the “US withdrew forces from the region” in Syria and elsewhere.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post after his speech at the International Defense, HLS & Cyber Expo (ISDEF) by Avnon Group in Tel Aviv, Yatom clarified that he viewed all of the new announced US deployments as weak. He said that many of them had not even occurred yet and were only intended deployments.

Further, he said that previously the US had large forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, including serious ground troop commitments, all of which have been withdrawn.

Recently, the US deployed additional naval vessels and aircraft to deter Iran from attacking US forces in the region as part of the nuclear standoff between the countries.

In addition, the US announced that it would be introducing 1,500 troops into the region.

However, none of the troops has been transferred here and clarifications by US defense officials indicated that they were intelligence and missile defense support personnel, not ground forces.

Yatom’s point appeared to be that the forces were deployed only to protect US personnel in the region, and that Israel would still be solely responsible for dealing with Iranian conventional military threats from within Syria via Hezbollah and from potential future nuclear threats.

“It looks as if crippling sanctions, maybe for the first time, are going to have an effect because the economic situation in Iran is becoming worse and worse,” Yatom said, addressing the Iranian nuclear issue more broadly. “The value of the rial is getting lower and lower.”

Still, Yatom’s biggest concern was Iran’s attempt to establish a new front against Israel from within Syrian territory, as well as its efforts to form a land bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon to make it easier to transfer heavy weapons to its main proxy for fighting Israel.

The former spy chief also made brief comments regarding a protest near Tel Aviv Expo, where the conference is being held.

Regarding “the demonstrators, they can continue to shout,” but this was only because “we are responsible for their normal life, security and safety,” implying that without a strong IDF, Israeli protesters would not be safe from the country’s enemies.

Solemnly, he added that though when he joined the army in the early 1960s he had believed that Israel would reach peace with its neighbors in his lifetime, he now believes the country will need to continue defending itself nonstop for the foreseeable future.

Along the same lines, Yatom warned that it was foolhardy for some to say that ISIS is fully beaten following the falloff of its capitals in Syria and Iraq.

Rather, he said that ISIS has merely shifted its tactics to employing and sponsoring violence like a more traditional terrorist organization without significant territory.

Despite the lack of significant territory, Yatom said that ISIS’s scope to carry out terror attacks runs from Indonesia to Europe to Africa to the Sinai Peninsula, and even to threatening Israel.

“We need to think very seriously about cooperating between ourselves,” he added. “There is a terrorist front all over the world. The answer from an organizational point of view is to create a defensive, offensive and democratic wall against terror.”

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