Yadlin: Washington and Jerusalem should end discord over Iran talks

“There is a concern that the initial agreement will turn into the set agreement," former Military Intel chief says.

Amos Yadlin 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Amos Yadlin 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There are deep concerns that the US would be unwilling to activate pressure levers if talks for a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program fail, former Military Intelligence chief and the head of the Institute for National Security Studies, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin said Wednesday.
In a paper published by the INSS, Yadlin called on Jerusalem and Washington to iron out their differences and reintroduce trust between them to jointly stop Iran’s march to nuclear weapons.
He noted that a wide gap exists between the US and Israel on how to achieve their joint goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Both states agree that sanctions and a credible military threat are the only two pressure points that can cause Iran to change its strategy, but disagree strongly on the scope, efficiency, and timing of these pressures, Yadlin wrote.
Stressing that current talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries are aimed at an initial agreement, rather than a final one, Yadlin said the Americans view such a deal as a pathway to talks on a full and final arrangement with Iran, and as a test of the intent of the Iranian leadership.
The current talks can be used to improve the atmosphere and encourage the “moderate” elements in Iran, according to the US’s view.
Additionally, if Iran stops its progress in an initial agreement, that would be preferable to months of further nuclear advancement, in Washington’s eyes. The crux of sanctions on the oil and financial industries in Iran would remain in effect and would continue to have an influence, even after some easing of conditions, according to this view.
Yet Israel views this approach as dangerous and misguided.
In Jerusalem’s assessment, the US is seeking an agreement at any cost, and risks the historic error of missing an opportunity to capitalize on the achievements made by sanctions over the past year, Yadlin stated.
Additionally, Israel is concerned that some easing of sanctions now would lead to a crumbling of the sanctions regime, due to a rush by corporations into the Islamic Republic to do business. In this scenario, the US would be left without leverage during talks for a final agreement, and Iran would return to a full-scale nuclear program, enriching uranium to 20 percent and perhaps beyond, adding thousands of new-generation centrifuges, and activating the heavy water core in Arak, among other steps.
Yadlin said he was deeply concerned by the strong prospect that the US would be unwilling to activate its pressure levers if talks for a final nuclear deal fail.
“It seems they won’t declare the negotiations process with Iran as a failure even if they don’t reach an agreement,” he added. “There is a concern that the initial agreement will turn into the set agreement, and it’s appropriate to label this as a very bad deal. The significance of this is choosing between an activation of the military option – a step the Americans are further from than ever – and the option of increasing sanctions that will ‘push’ Iran, so they [the Americans] fear, to break through to the bomb.”
Yadlin said that the American fear of a “third war in the Middle East, the trauma of long and unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lack of American faith in the operational possibility of an aerial maneuver, focused and surgical, are worryingly eroding the credibility of the military lever against Iran.”
The current mood in Washington is raising concerns in Israel that an acceptance of a nuclear Iran is growing stronger, and that the “contain and deter” approach is gaining currency. A failure to bridge between the breakdown in trust between the US and Israel, and to repair the American pressure levers for reaching a diplomatic solution, will leave an Israeli military option as “the only answer to the challenge of the Iranian nuclear program.”
Yadlin called for a return to US-Israeli strategic and tactical coordination at senior levels to stop Iran. To that end, he called for the discord between the two governments over the “initial agreement” to be ironed out, which could be achieved if Washington makes clear to Jerusalem what sanctions might be eased in the proposed deal.
Transparency and the provision of updated information Israel behind closed doors is essential, Yadlin argued.
Any initial agreement must see the conversion of all of Iran’s 20 percent uranium to material that cannot allow Tehran to break through to a nuclear weapon, cessation of work on the plutonium heavy water core at Arak, and deactivating new-generation centrifuges, he continued.
Otherwise, the Iranian nuclear clock will not be stopped in any meaningful way, Yadlin said. The US should make clear that an initial agreement does not legitimize Iran’s nuclear activities, that it is in effect for only six months, and that both Jerusalem and Washington define the parameters of “success” and “failure” of any final deal.
Furthermore, a “Plan B” must be agreed upon by Washington and Jerusalem in case initial agreement does not materialize, if Iran violates it, or if a final agreement isn’t reached within six months of talks.
Yadlin added that the US should reinstate a credible military threat, and make clear that if talks fail, new sanctions against Iran would be introduced.