Petraeus, Yadlin disagree on Trump's willingness to attack nuclear Iran

"Tweeting is not killing anyone," said ex-IDF intel chief Amos Yadlin in debate with ex-CIA head David Petraeus at INSS conference.

CIA Director David Petraeus speaks to members of a Senate (Select) Intelligence hearing on "World Wide Threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington in this January 31, 2012 file photo. (photo credit: REUTERS)
CIA Director David Petraeus speaks to members of a Senate (Select) Intelligence hearing on "World Wide Threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington in this January 31, 2012 file photo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ex-CIA director David Petraeus and ex-IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin disagreed on Monday about whether US President Donald Trump would be ready to attack Iran if it came close to possessing a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at an INSS panel in Tel Aviv, Yadlin said, “The Americans say that all options are on the table, but it is not a credible [statement],” showing he doubts that Trump would be ready to pull the trigger if Tehran was closing in on a bomb.
Yadlin’s point was that US deterrence of North Korea and Iran in some areas was very strong, but that regarding developing nuclear weapons, he thought US deterrence was “weak” because of a lack of will. Rather, he said that Trump was only comfortable using maximum pressure in the diplomatic and economic arenas.
Petraeus, who has close relations with Yadlin, uncharacteristically jumped in to strike a different stance.
He said: “but the question is nuclear deterrence, not other malign activity,” alluding to the Islamic Republic’s global terrorist activities, especially in Syria.
Continuing, he said that “there is no doubt that this administration would take action if Iran approached a nuclear weapon.”
“I hope we will not be there because then I think... Jerusalem will look to Washington and say David [Petraeus]” promised the US would act militarily and “Trump will say to [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]... It’s not a red light, it’s a green light – go ahead,” and attack Iran yourself – but that Trump himself would still not attack Iran.
Petraeus also clashed with much of the panel in his view of the US commitment to the Middle East.
In a panel, which also included former bank of Israel president Stanley Fischer, former ambassador and senior INSS official Oded Eran and other top experts – many were convinced that Trump is continually withdrawing the US from heavy involvement in the Middle East.
In contrast, Petraeus said that the US still has bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar, and that it is not withdrawing from the region.
He acknowledged that the US is drawing down forces in Syria, but said that was not the same as abandoning the Middle East.
The former general and CIA director also said that the key was whether the US kept sufficient forces at a US base at al-Tanf, a potential crossing point for Iran to extend its influence throughout Syria and Lebanon.
“I know the base really well. If we pulled out of that, I guarantee it would be used in some fashion [by Iran],” said Petraeus.
Discussing the peace process, Yadlin said it was crucial for Israel to not let the Palestinians have a veto over the country’s future. He said that this could be avoided by Israel presenting its own diplomatic ideas for moving the situation with the Palestinians away from conflict.
Yadlin also suggested that US presidents who want to make major progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace should go for it in their first year in office, implying that Trump had waited too long to roll out his “ultimate deal.”
Here, Petraeus was more in line with Yadlin and the panel.
He said that “It’s beyond me to imagine political leaders from either side” reaching a compromise under the current circumstances. “Certainly not on the Palestinian side, they are in no position to do this. And, we’ll see what happens with the Israeli elections. I don’t see this as a time to swing for a home run, but maybe we can hit some singles and doubles” to set the stage for a later period when broader peace moves have a better chance.
Yadlin did provide some optimism with satirical remarks about Trump’s Twitter habit, saying, “Tweeting is not killing,” and that the fact that Trump had not led the world into a variety of wars that observers were concerned about a year ago was a positive result.