Security and Defense: ‘It’s not time to warm up the engines’

Israel should enter into regional cooperation with Sunni powers threatened by the Iran nuclear deal, says former IDF deputy chief of staff Uzi Dayan.

Uzi Dayan (photo credit: REUTERS)
Uzi Dayan
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Vienna nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran is “intolerable” for Israel, but the time has not come to order a military strike on Iranian nuclear sites, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan told The Jerusalem Post this week.
In an extended interview with the Post, Dayan, a former IDF deputy chief of staff, suggested a plan of action for Israel to navigate the grim aftermath of the agreement, while acknowledging that some of the problems created by the deal have no clear solution.
“I don’t think we need to warm up the engines now,” he said, referring to the military strike option.
“There is a capability for an operation. We have to safeguard and develop it.”
Israel should put the world on notice, once again, saying that it will defend itself in case Iran breaks through to nuclear production, that “we are not a side to this agreement and are not bound by it,” he added.
But rather than ordering the fighter jets and missiles to Iran at this stage, Israel should take a series of diplomatic and intelligence-related steps to deal with the immediate aftermath of the nuclear deal, Dayan stated.
Dayan, currently the chairman of the National Lottery of Israel and the president of the Security Council for Israel, a nonprofit organization, has been warning about Iranian designs for nuclear capabilities for a very long time.
In 2001, when he was head of Israel’s National Security Council, Dayan held meetings with senior officials from the administration of George W. Bush and warned them that Iran plans to go nuclear.
“The American officials asked me when I thought this might happen. I told them, in at least 10 years,” Dayan recounted. “Then it’s too early [to act],” the Americans replied.
That answer did not stop Dayan from coming back with another warning. “One day, you might wake up and find that it’s too late,” he said.
Now, 14 years later, the Post asked Dayan whether he thought it is too late to prevent the damage set in motion by the deal, and whether Israel erred by counting on American diplomacy to save the day.
While offering devastating criticism of the agreement, Dayan also said that without the US-led diplomatic drive, which included waves of biting sanctions on Iran, Iran could have already have gone nuclear.
“Iran is still not nuclear, and this an achievement.
However, the deal is bad for Israel. The deal is intolerable for Israel. It comes at a time when regional war rages, something that did not exist in the past. Iran is the leading terrorist state, and received international approval to be a nuclear threshold state, despite the knowledge that Iran seeks to have nuclear weapons later on,” Dayan said.
The Vienna agreement’s level of inspections is far from what is desired, and the deal allows Iran to possess a level of nuclear infrastructure that belongs to a threshold state, he said.
“Inspections do not deter Iran. They allow it to cheat,” he added.
In fact, the deal is really part of an Obama-devised plan to encourage moderate forces in Iran, he said.
“That’s not something one builds an important, strategic agreement upon.”
The mechanism described in the deal for identifying and declaring Iranian violations “does not lead anywhere,” said Dayan.
Additionally, it fails to prevent Iran from receiving conventional weapons, particularly ballistic missiles, while encouraging the Iranians to back terrorism and wars even more so than they have until now.
The arrangement has real potential to spark a nuclear arms race, Dayan said, as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are more likely to explore their own nuclear ambitions. The Sunni powers are “a little less vocal, but think the same as Israel does on this agreement,” Dayan said.
“Those who trusted the US for a good deal – there’s nothing to trust. All of the states in the Middle East do not trust Washington for their security,” he added.
In light of the ultra-grim picture he painted, what should Israel do? Dayan said Jerusalem should not, for the time being, give up on the diplomatic effort to abort the agreement, despite the low chances of this effort succeeding.
Israel should not go about this alone but, rather, include “everyone who will harmed by the deal – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan and even Turkey – for a diplomatic push against the agreement,” Dayan said.
“I’m not talking about an alliance but, rather, about concrete cooperation. Sunni countries have to be more clear about how this agreement is a danger to the whole region,” he said.
In the medium-term, should the agreement be ratified and implemented, Israel will have to take on the responsibility of warning about Iranian nuclear violations if they occur, according to Dayan.
Simultaneously, Israel should improve relations with the US administration, tighten intelligence cooperation, and establish ground rules about what should and should not be done in case of an Iranian violation.
Dayan said he would not accept an American defense package to compensate Israel.
Instead, he said, he’d “raise points of principle, if this becomes possible, to deal with the status of the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley. The Americans are our strategic friends. Let’s have a strategic conversation.”
By not attacking Iran’s nuclear sites, Israel has in recent years proven itself to be responsible and democratic, as it has not ordered military action before the Israeli public reaches a conclusion that there is no alternative.
But if Iran is found to violate the agreement, Dayan said, “the whole picture changes.” At that stage, if warnings go unheeded, “We can return to the military option as a last resort,” he said.
Striking now is “not the right thing to do. We can only do it when there is no choice. We can seriously harm the Iranian nuclear program, but we can’t strike like the Americans for three consecutive months,” he added.
No matter what Israel does, the agreement creates problems that have no solutions. Iranian “forward posts” such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, will be strengthened.
The Palestinian Authority will be weakened. Moderate elements in the wider region will also suffer, as Iran grows stronger at their expense.
The Vienna accord pushes Israel into a space in which the country must defend itself without coordination with the free world, Dayan said with concern.
Referring to the belligerent speech delivered by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in recent days, which included chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” Dayan suggested that Iran’s aggressive posture be taken at face value.
“This is not fake. What you see is what you get,” he said.
“It is fortunate that we are sufficiently strong to defend ourselves,” Dayan said.