JPost One-on-One Zoomcast , Episode 44 - Yonah Jeremy Bob and former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin discuss the Israel-Iranian conflict
Israel may have lost its chance to prevent Iran from completing the uranium enrichment track of making a nuclear weapon, but can still block its weaponization track, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said on Wednesday.
“Israel should make the assumption that maybe we lost the opportunity to stop Iran on the fissile material threat, and we have to concentrate more on the weaponization group, on the weaponization activities – [to] know where they are, when they will be activated and how to stop them,” Yadlin told The Jerusalem Post from Boston, where he is currently a fellow at the Harvard University Belfer Center.
On the current nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Yadlin said he believes that Iran will rejoin a version of the JCPOA including most limitations, “but I am saying these limitations are not as efficient as they used to be between 2015 and 2018, and this is a real concern in Israel.”
He said any new deal won’t mean as much if Washington agrees to allow Tehran to keep its several hundred new advanced centrifuges in storage.
“If they will go back to the same parameters of 2015, Iran is much closer to the bomb, due to the advanced centrifuges, especially if they are not destroyed,” he said. “There is knowledge – you cannot destroy knowledge.”
Tehran is playing hardball in the negotiations to see what additional concessions on sanctions or nuclear limitations it can get out of the US, Yadlin maintains, but that it returned to the negotiating table because it strongly wants to obtain a deal and sanctions relief.
If the Biden administration tells the Islamic Republic that “enough is enough” on some of their exaggerated requests, Iran will eventually “get to a reasonable position” – though even this may take time, the former IDF intelligence chief believes.
Asked to compare his views of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Iran policy with those of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Yadlin said his main criticism of Netanyahu about the 2015 deal was how negative Netanyahu was about the deal.
“It was not a bad bad bad deal, it was a problematic deal” with significant holes, Yadlin said, but he recognized that it halted Iranian nuclear progress for a period of years, and “this was not a disaster compared with the other alternative. I criticized prime minister Netanyahu even more in 2018, when he convinced President Trump to leave the deal without preparing a Plan B... I was convinced [the Iranians] would breach the deal as well, and go forward and then what? So I think Prime Minister Bennett decided not to go against the Americans head-on.”
Yadlin said that it does not make sense to fight publicly with someone powerful who has the same objective of stopping a nuclear Iran.
Rather, he complimented Bennett for trying to coordinate strategy to prevent a nuclear Iran, and “to try to have a better understanding with the Americans.”
“While working groups can build a strategy that can give priority to diplomacy, if diplomacy fails, then you need to have a coordinated Plan B,” he said. “This is the most important issue, and here we don’t know where they are going.”
Yadlin believes that Israel in 2021 has the capabilities to strike even Iran’s underground nuclear facility. Asked if this was of limited value since Iran has reached high levels of knowledge and has so many nuclear sites, Yadlin said that there is still hope, noting that some predicted Iran would have a nuclear bomb in the 1990s and it still has not gotten there.
In that vein, he said, Tehran over the years has made it clear it is not rushing to get a nuclear bomb, but it seeking a way to get there without risking a major fight for doing so.
During the full Zoomcast interview available above, Yadlin also discussed key security issues relating to Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas.•