Warnings from current and former Israeli intelligence chiefs and statements by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak suggest the biggest danger from a rogue government armed with nuclear weapons comes not from Iran, but from Israel. The intelligence and history show that Iran would not use nuclear weapons except as a deterrent even if it developed them and that Israel’s fear is not a nuclear strike but Iranian political influence and it’s conventional military alliance with Israel’s Arab enemies. Even Barak admitted in a speech in 2010 that Iran’s nuclear programme does not threaten to destroy Israel which is a regional “superpower” which won't be destroyed(1).
Barak and Netanyahu have been trying to persuade other Israeli government ministers to support their plan for military attacks on Iran and have already persuaded their Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman (2).
Barak recently cited India not responding militarily to Pakistani military intelligence involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks because Pakistan has nuclear weapons as evidence that Iran’s response to Israeli attacks would be ‘muted’, as Israel has nuclear weapons already (3).
Barak’s bizarre reasoning ignores the fact that if Iran would be deterred from responding to Israeli attacks by Israel’s nuclear arsenal, then it would also be deterred from using any nuclear weapons it developed itself against Israel for fear of a massive nuclear or conventional response from the much stronger forces of Israel or the US and it’s allies, making the planned attack pointless.
That's unless the aim of the plan to bomb Iran isn't to avert a threat to Israel, but so Iran can't prevent Israel bombing it or threatening to bomb it in future by getting it's own nuclear deterrent.
My last post quoted the current head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, saying Iran developing nuclear weapons would not be an ‘existential threat’ to Israel (4). Pardo and the current head of Shin Bet Yoram Cohen are against attacking Iran, as is the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (5). Pardo and Cohen were appointed by Netanyahu because of opposition to his plan to go to war on Iran from the previous heads of Mossad and Shin Bet (Israeli Military Intelligence) Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin, who were sacked for leaking those plans to the media (6).
Dagan (pictured in the photo at the top of this post) says Iran won’t have nuclear weapons till 2015 (partly due to sanctions and Israeli assassination campaigns), assuming it wants them; and that bombing Iran would lead to retaliation, by both Iran and Iranian armed Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, costing many Israeli lives, so should be a last resort if all other pressure fails (7) – (8). Dagan is no soft-line liberal. He was appointed as head of Mossad under serial war criminal and hard liner Ariel Sharon and also served under Olmert during the brutal ‘Gaza War’– neither Prime Minister had any complaints about him.
A third former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy, says Iran is “far from posing an existential threat” to Israel and has also warned military attacks on Iran would result in heavy casualties in Israel, as has former Shin Bet (Israeli military intelligence) head Shlomo Gazit, who says Israel would likely be greatly weakened by such a war. They estimate that Israel would lose at least a third of whatever air forces it sent to attack Iran and would take further losses in Israel itself from retaliatory missile attacks (9) – (10).
Dagan, Halevy, Gazit and another former Shin Bet head Yakov Perry all warn that air strikes or threatening to attack Iran can’t prevent it eventually getting nuclear weapons – and may even make them decide to make nuclear weapons and put more resources into making them more quickly even if they weren’t planning to make them already. Perry has said that the Iranian and US governments should be talking directly with the Iranian government but so far haven’t done so (11).
Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld and former US commander in the Middle East General John Abizaid both say Iran would only want nuclear weapons as a deterrent against attack (12) – (13).
Retired Major General Uzi Dayan, another former head of Shin Bet and a former adviser to Ariel Sharon has also said that "While not an existential threat, Tehran's nuclear program is an unacceptable threat,”, but believes sanctions can dissuade the Iranians from building nuclear weapons (14).
The only former Mossad or Shin Bet head believing that if Iran got nuclear weapons it might destroy Israel and supporting attacking Iran is Danny Yatom, who was only head of Mossad for two years under Netanyahu from 1996 to 1998 and had a long political career as a hardliner. Yatom is working with his mentors and allies Barak (who he was an adviser and spokesman for for several years after having served under him in the Israeli army) and Netanyahu, to try to blackmail the US and its allies into attacking Iran on Israel’s behalf (15) – (19).
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami also says Iran would only want nuclear weapons to deter attacks from the US and Israel – and that if Israel wants to reduce growing Iranian influence in the Middle East the best way to do it would be to make a comprehensive peace with it’s Arab enemies – especially the Palestinians (including Hamas) , Hezbollah and Syria, so that they will no longer look to Iran for arms, funding and support against Israel (20).
Even Ehud Barak himself admitted in a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010 that “We are a strong country to which the whole world attributes nuclear capabilities, and in regional terms we are a superpower.” He also said he disliked people comparing Iran’s nuclear programme to the Holocaust , “because it cheapens the Holocaust and stretches current challenges beyond their proper place. There is none that will dare to destroy Israel.” (21)
Yet the Obama administration are so influenced or cowed by the Israel lobby in the US that they have repeatedly said that “no option is off the table” on preventing Iran getting nuclear weapons and that this “includes military action”. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has dutifully parroted the American line, saying in mid-January that the UK may go to war on Iran too (22) – (24). As in Iraq sanctions may well be not an alternative to war but part of the propaganda to prepare for it, by saying ‘we tried sanctions and they didn’t work’.
We should make it clear that the UK will take no part in any military attack on Iran and will not give political approval for an Israeli or US attack either. Even most of those Israeli intelligence heads and former heads who support military strikes to try to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons do not believe Iran would risk it’s own destruction by Israeli or US forces by using nuclear weapons on Israel. They fear a shift in the balance of power in the Middle East that would make it impossible for Israel to make direct attacks on Iran in future and might make Iran less worried about supporting proxy wars on Israel through further arming Hezbollah or Hamas with conventional weapons.
If some hot-headed, trigger happy, Israeli politicians want to attack Iran for their own ends, which are about Israeli power in the Middle East, not Israel’s survival which is guaranteed by it’s own military and economic strength and it’s ally the US, they must be made to realise that they will be left to deal with the disaster that would result themselves and must take full blame for it.
They should not be allowed to blackmail the US, the UK and France into attacking Iran out of fear that Israel will if they don’t. British soldiers and British civilians should not die to help Israel and the US dominate the Middle East, nor to secure profits for oil or arms firms or to get control of oil reserves we could buy anyway if we lifted sanctions on Iran.
(1) = Project Syndicate 03 May 2010 ‘The Abuse of History and the Iranian Bomb’ by Shlomo Ben-Ami’, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/benami41/English
(2) Haaretz 02 Nov 2011 ‘Netanyahu trying to persuade cabinet to support attack on Iran’, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/netanyahu-trying-to-persuade-cabinet-to-support-attack-on-iran-1.393214
(3) = Independent 28 Jan 2012 ‘Israel warns time is running out before it launches strike on Iran’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-warns-time-is-running-out-before-it-launches-strike-on-iran-6295931.html
(4) = Israel National News 29 Dec 2011 ‘Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran Not an Existential Threat’,http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/mossad-chief-nuclear-iran-not-necessarily-existential-threat-to-israel-1.404227
(5) = Ynet News (Israel) 28 Oct 2011 ‘Amos Gilad: Iran is massive threat that must be dealt with’, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4140625,00.html , ‘According to a Nahum Barnea article in Yedioth Ahronoth, published on Friday, the heads of the armed forces – Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo, Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen share the opinion of their predecessors and are opposed to taking action against Iran at this time.’
(6) = Guardian.co.uk 03 Nov 2011 ‘Israeli PM orders investigation into Iran leak’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/03/israeli-pm-investigation-iran-leak
(7) = Reuters 7 Jan 2015 ‘Israel: No Iran bomb before 2015’, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/07/us-iran-nuclear-israel-idUSTRE70612X20110107 , ‘Israel believes Iran will not be able to produce a nuclear bomb before 2015 and a top Israeli official has counseled against pre-emptive military strikes, intelligence assessments published on Friday said…."Iran will not achieve a nuclear bomb before 2015, if that," Dagan said ….Dagan, who in June 2009 told Israeli lawmakers that Iran could have its first nuclear warhead by 2014, attributed his valedictory timeline to a variety of factors including domestic ferment in Iran and the bite of international sanctions….Iran's enrichment drive has also suffered...foreign sabotage in incidents such as …the Stuxnet computer worm….Western intelligence agencies similarly say Iran could make a bomb by the middle of the decade, should it choose to…..Dagan, a former general whose eight-year tenure as spymaster ….said any Israeli military action against Iran should be last-ditch only…..Such attacks could spur Iran to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and pursue its program entirely free of U.N. inspections, he said."’
(8) = Ha’aretz (Israel) 01 Dec 2011 ‘Former Mossad chief: Israeli attack on Iran must be stopped to avert catastrophe’, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/former-mossad-chief-israeli-attack-on-iran-must-be-stopped-to-avert-catastrophe-1.399046 ; ‘Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan warned Thursday against an Israeli attack on Iran, saying such a move would likely lead to a regional war involving Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria.." …."I have to assume that the level of destruction, paralysis of every-day life, and Israeli death toll would be high." ….Dagan said he was worried about Barak's past comments on Iran, saying Barak believes Israel has less than a year to carry out an military strike. …"I am very concerned," he said. "My understanding of Barak's comments is that Israel must act within this timeframe, but I don't believe this is accurate."
(9) = Ynet news (Israel) 04 Nov 2011 ‘'Iran far from posing existential threat'’, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4143909,00.html, ‘Former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy warned against an Israeli strike on Iran, saying that the results of a confrontation could be devastating for the Mideast. "The State of Israel cannot be destroyed," he told Ynet on Friday. "An attack on Iran could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years."… The former head of the Israeli secret service said Thursday during an army boarding school reunion that while Iran should be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, its capabilities are still "far from posing an existential threat to Israel."
(10) = Maariv (Israel, Hebrew) 10/06/2011 ‘What will Israel look like the day after an attack on Iran?’ , Ephraim Halevy, former head of the organisation [Mossad…In an interview with the magazine "Time" in July 2008, he held a military strike will result in devastating consequences in the long run. "It can affect us in a hundred years, it will have a negative impact on the Arab world opinion. We need to attack only as a last resort." … This week he says to Mosfsbt that "my opinion has not changed. You may quote my remarks to Time magazine as if it were made today. ..such an attack would impact for generations rather than a hundred years. " ….Shlomo Gazit, former head of Military Intelligence, agrees with Halevy. "Attacking Iran's nuclear reactors will bring the destruction of Israel. We cease to exist after such an attack. The result we were hoping to achieve such an attack, sabotage of Iran's nuclear program, would be exactly the opposite. …."Iran will publicly a nuclear state, and we will be victims of missiles coming at us from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran even switch the oil weapon to the UN Security Council would impose on us a decision to return to the '67 borders, and the Security Council will have to impose on us such a decision would include, of course, Jerusalem ". http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/248/965.html , Translated version in English via Google Translate at http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?sl=iw&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nrg.co.il%2Fonline%2F1%2FART2%2F248%2F965.html&act=url
(11) = Jerusalem Post 20 Dec 2012 ‘Talk of Iran strike may speed-up nuclear program’, http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=250159 , ‘Dagan said that…“With the threat of a military attack, they may opt to cross all the red lines and instead of going carefully [toward nuclear capability], go very swiftly to obtain nuclear potential,” he said…. former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yaakov Perry, said Israel should try to open up some kind of lines of communications with Iran. Perry bemoaned that neither Israel nor the US have a channel of communications with Tehran, something he said could increase the chances of a tragic miscalculation.’
(12) = CNN 18 Jun 2007 ‘Retired general: U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran’, http://articles.cnn.com/2007-09-18/world/france.iran_1_nuclear-weapon-nuclear-program-nuclear-fuel?_s=PM:WORLD
(13) = Forward (Jewish Daily) 24 Sep 2007 ‘The World Can Live With a Nuclear Iran’ by Martin Van Creveld, http://www.forward.com/articles/11673/#ixzz1kQQdA2qR
(14) = Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7) 25 Nov 2011 ‘Former Mossad Head Yatom: Israel Can't Afford Not to Strike Iran’,http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/150093#.TyXBiIHGCuI ; ‘Yatom also doubted that sanctions or covert operations could stop the Iranians. "We have only two options: to let Iran get the bomb, or to use military force against their military nuclear program. I think that force will have to be used. But I don't think Israel should lead. This is, after all, a global problem’
(15) = McGeough, Paul (2009) ‘Kill Khalid - The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas’. Quartet Books, p 229. (Yatom was head of Mossad from 1996 to 1998 under Netanyahu’s Prime Ministership and resigned over the Netanyahu government’s failed attempt to assassinate Khaled Meshal, a senior member of Hamas, in Jordan)
(16) = Jerusalem Post 30 June 2008 ‘Barak loses another ally as Yatom quits politics’, http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1214726161693
(17) = BBC News 29 Jan 2001 ‘Barak election hopes fade’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1142483.stm , ‘Mr Barak's security adviser, Danny Yatom, called Mr Arafat's speech "bellicose, inflammatory and intolerable".’
(18) = Haaretz 30 June 2008 ‘Labor MK Danny Yatom slams government, resigns from politics’, http://www.haaretz.com/news/labor-mk-danny-yatom-slams-government-resigns-from-politics-1.248756 , ‘Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor Party suffered a blow on Monday when MK Danny Yatom resigned from the Knesset due to Barak's decision last week not to quit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition….Yatom, 63, served under Barak in the army and then as his chief of staff during the latter's tenure as prime minister.’
(19) = Independent 28 Jan 2012 ‘Israel warns time is running out before it launches strike on Iran’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-warns-time-is-running-out-before-it-launches-strike-on-iran-6295931.html
(20) = Project Syndicate 09 April 2007 ‘A Grand Bargain with Iran’ by Shlomo Ben-Ami, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/benami9/English
(21) = Project Syndicate 03 May 2010 ‘The Abuse of History and the Iranian Bomb’ by Shlomo Ben-Ami’, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/benami41/English
(22) = ABC News 18 Nov 2011 ‘Clinton on GOP Criticism on Iran Policy: ‘Iran Cannot Be Permitted to Have a Nuclear Weapon; No Option Is Off the Table’,http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/clinton-on-gop-criticism-on-iran-policy-iran-cannot-be-permitted-to-have-a-nuclear-weapon-no-option-is-off-the-table/
(23) = The Hill (Washington D.C, US) 08 Jan 2012 ‘Panetta says all options are on the table for dealing with Iran’ , http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/202951-panetta-all-options-on-the-table-for-dealing-with-iran ‘The United States is not ruling anything out when it comes to dealing with Iran, including military options, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.’
(24) = Guardian.co.uk 15 Jan 2012 ‘Iran could face UK military action over nuclear programme, says Hague’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/15/iran-could-face-uk-military-action