- Published: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 7:31 AM
- Tags: FordowIAEAIranIsraelMoshe Ya'alonParchinSobh e-Sadeq
Last Friday the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz published a lengthy interview with Moshe ‘Boogie’ Ya’alon, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs.
Most of the interview dealt with Iran and the possibility that Israel will launch a military strike on the nuclear facilities of the Islamic Republic.
Ya’alon is a member of Israel’s security cabinet and was Chief of Staff of the IDF during the Second Intifada. During the interview Ya’alon stated that when Israel has to choose between Iran having a (nuclear) bomb and bombing Iran, it will opt for the latter.
He also made clear that for Israel the red line is Iran’s capability to produce a nuclear weapon and not Khamenei’s order to produce a bomb. He also told Ha’aretz that there is disagreement with the US administration on this issue.
Ya’alon added that Israel is not bluffing when it comes to decisive action to stop Iran and does not need an American ‘green light’ for a military strike .
Ya’alon furthermore predicted that the Iranian crisis will culminate in the coming months.
A translation (by IMRA) of the full interview which was published in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz can be read below.
The interview with Ya’alon came at the eve of a new round of talks between Iran and five world powers scheduled to take place on Monday in Moscow. It is now generally believed that these talks will not succeed in stopping the Iranian nuclear program.
The Israeli news site YNET, citing a New York Times report, reported that Iran has made dramatic progress in its nuclear program. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is growing quickly and the covert war against the nuclear program has not been successful.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reported on June 15th that Iran will have enough 19.75 % low enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb by the end of 2012.
Earlier The Times of Israel reported that inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency had found particles of enriched uranium up to 27 % at the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran.
That is higher than declared by Iran and closer to the weapon grade material used to produce a nuclear weapon.
This news was followed by the discovery that Iran recently had razed two buildings on the Parchin Explosive testing complex. The IAEA has repeatedly demanded access to the Parchin complex but so far Iran refused. The atomic agency suspects that Iran has conducted high explosive tests pertinent to the development of nuclear weapons at the site.
Other evidence about Iran’s defiance came in the form of an editorial in Sobh e-Sadeq, the mouthpiece of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The editorial headlined “ The importance of the Moscow Conference for Iran and Obama”, warns US president Obama “that not Iran’s time is running out but his. When Obama will not recognize Iran’s nuclear rights Teheran will simply bide its time and wait for his successor”.
Full Ha’aretz interview with minister Ya’alon :
Q: Moshe Ya’alon, could a war break out this year?
A: …for the righteous, their work is done by others. But obviously we are
preparing for any eventuality. If I am not for me, who will be.
Q: If you must now provide comprehensive intelligence assessment, would you
say the probability that war will break out next year is remote, low, medium
A. Likelihood of an attack initiated by Israel is low. I do not see an Arab
coalition armed from head to toe parked on our borders – not this year or
next year or in the foreseeable future. Despite the trend of Islamization in
the Middle East, we enjoy security and peace of relations across borders.
But the challenge Number one is the Iranian challenge. if someone will
attack Iran, it is clear that it will work against us. if someone, anyone,
decides to act militarily against Iran’s nuclear program, there is a high
probability that Iran will respond against us and shoot missiles at Israel.
It is also likely that Hezbollah and Islamic elements in the Gaza Strip will
work against us….
Q: …on the Iranian issue we are close to the moment of truth.
A: Absolutely. When I was head of intelligence in the ’90s, Iran had one
kilogram of enriched uranium. Today it has 6,300 kg of uranium enriched up
to 3.5% and 150 kg of uranium enriched to 20%. When I was COS in the 2000s,
Iran had several hundred centrifuges, many of which were not functioning.
Today in Natanz, and Qom 10,000 centrifuges, enriching about eight kilograms
of uranium per day. Since the beginning of the term of this government to
the present the number of centrifuges in Iran almost doubled and the amount
of enriched uranium increased by six. The significance of this data is that
Iran already has enough enriched uranium to produce five nuclear bombs. If
it is not curbed, within a year it will have enough enriched uranium for
seven – eight nuclear bombs. In addition, the Iranians apparently have
weapons systems which they hide from the international monitoring mechanism.
Iranians also have 400 missiles of various types covering the territory of
Israel and even reaching some parts of Europe. These missiles were built to
carry nuclear warheads. So the picture is clear. Five years ago, even three
years ago, Iran was not close to the nuclear threshold. Today Iran is at the
edge of the nuclear threshold…
Q: But to produce a nuclear bomb Iran need enriched uranium to 90% or more.
Now it is not there yet.
A: It’s true. But …it has the ability to enrich uranium to over 90% within
two months – three. …in six months from the decision to act it could
possesses at least one primitive – dirty bomb.
Q: If so, maybe it’s too late. Iran won the battle and we lost and we must
accept that soon Iran will have nuclear weapons.
A: Absolutely not. … We can not and must not accept Western Iranian
nuclear bomb. what I say is not just rhetoric or propaganda. nuclear Iran is
a real threat to world peace.
Q: But you yourself told me that the Iranians had crossed most of the red
lines. They swept across the point of no – return. Is the result that we
already face the cruel dilemma of a bomb or to bomb?
A: We’re not there. I hope that we get there. The international community
can still act firmly and decisively. There may be other developments too.
But if the question is a bomb or to bomb answer is clear: to bomb”.
Q: The answer is obvious to you but not obvious to me. We survived the Cold
War. Also survived Pakistan’s nuclear program and North Korea. Israel is
attributed to a strategic capability that can create decisive deterrence
against Iran. Is it not fair to say that just as Europe lived in the past
with the Soviet bomb we could live in the future with the Shiite bomb?
A: No and no. First answer to your question is that if Iran becomes nuclear,
four – five other countries in the Middle East can become nuclear. Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and other Arab states say that if Iran has the
bomb also they need the bomb. The result will be a nuclear Middle East. A
nuclear Middle East would not be stable…Nuclearization of Iran would lead
to nuclear chaos.
The second answer to your question is a nuclear umbrella would allow Iran to
achieve regional hegemony. When they find themselves under an umbrella like
that, the Gulf States will be asking themselves who they prefer: distant
Washington or nearby Tehran. I believe they will choose nearby Tehran.
Nuclear Iran could dominate the Persian Gulf energy sources and a very large
share of world oil supplies. There would be far-reaching international
implications. But a nuclear Iran would also challenge Israel and cause a
series of harsh conventional conflicts within our borders. This would have
serious consequences in terms of the State of Israel.
The third answer to the third to your question is that one day the Iranian
regime might use its nuclear capability it. That does not mean that the day
after they have a bomb they send it on a plane or a missile and drop it on a
western city. But there is a danger of using nuclear weapons by proxy.
Terrorist organization with a dirty bomb could bring it into New York Harbor
or the Port of London or the Port of Haifa. I also do not exclude the
possibility of a direct nuclear weapons attack with missile. The risk is
indeed low but it exists. This extreme scenario is not impossible.
Q: But the Iranians are rational. Use of nuclear weapons is an irrational
act. Like the Soviets, they’ll never do that.
A: A Western observer takes the fantastic aspirations of the Iranian
leadership with a grin. “What do they think, they will convert us to Islam?”
The surprising answer is yes. They think they will convert us. The current
regime in Tehran wants it that in the long run the Western world will become
Muslim. Therefore we need to understand their rationale is completely
different from our rationality. Concepts are different and the
considerations are different. They are in no way like the former Soviet
Union. They are even like Pakistan or North Korea. If Iran enjoys a nuclear
umbrella and the sense of the power of nuclear power we do not know how it
will work. It is impossible to contain a nuclear Iran and achieve stability
under such circumstances. The consequences of a nuclear Iran are
Q: The bombing will have unbearable implications. Regional war, religious
war, thousands dead….
A: Those who experienced war as I have do not want war….But the question
is what choice we have. What the alternative is to war. I told you once and
tell you again: if it is a bomb or bombing, for me it’s bombing. True,
bombing would have a price. We must not underestimate the price and must not
exaggerate it. We should assume that Israel will be attacked by Iranian
missiles and that many will be intercepted by our Arrow system. We assume
that Hezbollah will join in and shoot at us thousands of rockets. There will
also be rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The likelihood that Syria will
enter the fray is low but also this possibility this should taken into
account. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not easy. But when you put all this
against the alternative of a nuclear Iran it is not even a dilemma. Better
to pay the heavy price of war than allow Iran a nuclear weapons capability.
To me it crystal clear. ”
Q: How many casualties will we have? Hundreds? Thousands?
A: I can not estimate the number of dead…But we must be prepared to pay
the price required to prevent Iran from being nuclear. Again: I wish that we
never reach it. I wish it will be done by others. From an Iranian
perspective, Israel is merely Little Satan and the United States is the
Great Satan. But as I told you – If I am not for myself who is for me?
Q: Hezbollah can now hit any point in Israel. Population centers, military
bases, strategic objectives. The scenario of a major missile attack does not
keep you awake?
A: I believe that Hezbollah will enter the fray. But the Second Lebanon War
will not repeat itself. The way to stop the rockets is to make it cost the
other side so much that they seek a cease-fire. We can hit Hezbollah with
150 times what they can hit is with. We know how to do with much more
accuracy. If we are attacked from Lebanon, the Lebanese government will bear
a very heavy responsibility .
Q: …But what about the claim that the bombing would cause a religious war
and that it will unify the Iranian people around the regime. What about the
claim that bombing will break the sanctions and allow Iran to break ranks
and openly rush to the nukes.
A: First things first. About religious war – …is not a religious war
against us? About unification of the people behind the regime – I do not
agree. I think that such action could even undermine the government. I
estimate 70% of Iranians will be happy to get rid of the mullahs’ regime.
Third, on the core issue of the day after the bombing, I want to answer in
more detail. The who focus the discussion on the the narrow technology side
claim that an attack would only delay Iran by a year – two years, not much
more. … But the question is far wider. An important factor here is to
convince the Iranian regime that the West is determined to keep it from a
nuclear capability. What shows more determination than the application of
force? Therefore we should not look at the military action and its
consequences only from an engineering perspective.
I want to remind you that at the cabinet meetings held before the Israeli
attack on Iraq, experts claimed that Saddam Hussein would get a new reactor
within a year. They were right from an engineering perspective but erred in
…We are in agreement with the United States on the goal, intelligence and
close cooperation. But disagree over the red line. For the Americans the red
line is the order of Khamenei to produce a nuclear bomb. For us the red line
is the ability to Iran producing a nuclear bomb. We do not accept the
American approach for three reasons. First, because it strongly suggests
that Iran may be at the superpower threshold since that as long as it does
not produce actual nuclear bombs it may have the capability to produce these
kinds of bombs. Second, because we believe there is no certainty that it
will be possible to intercept in time the information that Khamenei gave the
order to produce a bomb. Third, there is a gap between the threat and the
urgency of Jerusalem and the sense of threat and urgency in Washington. ”
Q: Does the fact that we are in an election year in the United States affect
Washington’s policy toward Iran?
A: I’ll tell you how the Iranians see it. Iranians believe that the West is
very sensitive to oil prices and therefore deterred from coming to a
confrontation with them. Are …This sensitivity is particularly high in the
United States and therefore before November 2012 they believe nothing will
happen. So the Iranians are convinced that during this year sanctions will
be carefully applied and not an American military option. They also estimate
that in this sensitive time the U.S. will prevent an Israeli attack. This
situation is certainly tragic. It makes the Iranians feel no real pressure.
Q: But at the end, to act, Israel needs an American green light. In the
foreseeable future there will not be an American green light. So the whole
thing as we have talked about in the last hours is science fiction. Could
A. The United States never gave a green light or red light. If it did it
would take responsibility – one way or another. Right now there is yellow
light with different shades. Americans know how to clarify whether the
yellow is closer to red or closer to green. But as the President United
States said, Israel has a right to defend itself by itself. He expressed a
consistent U.S. policy. That at the end the decision, if a decision is made,
is an independent Israeli decision…
Q: And yet the world and do not really believe in you. The feeling is that
Israel cries wolf, is playing a sophisticated game of “hold me back”.
A: There is one thing that tells you in English because it is very important
that speakers of English understand it: We are not bluffing. If political
and economic pressure fails and other alternatives exhaust themselves and
Iran continues to race toward the bomb, it will require decisions.
Q: There is a danger the Iranian crisis will culminate in the coming year?
A: Once we talked about a decade. Then we talked about for years. Now we’re
talking about months. …
Q: Boogie, what happened to you? You we a Mapainik, kibbutznik and Rabinist
from Oslo. What the hell are you doing over in the right?
A: The question is not what happened to me, but what happened to the camp
where I grew up. In the labor movement were Tabenkin, Yigal Allon and
Yitzhak Rabin. Even Rabin, of Oslo, was never a” Peace Now “. Month before
his assassination, he speaking before the Knesset for a united Jerusalem
forever and the Jordan Valley under Israeli sovereignty and an entity which
is less than a state for Palestinians. Rabin supported the Allon Plan in the
broad sense and was strongly opposed to the withdrawal to the ’67 lines. ”
Q: But I ask you. You were one of us and became one of theirs. Is it not
strange for you to wake up and discover you’ve Likudnik?
A: I really grew up around Mapai with Davar newspaper…and a blue shirt and
sandals and kibbutz. Even today I believe that human life is more sacred
than soil. If we would be able to finally be safe with peace by giving up
some ground – I’m for it. But what turned out to me when I was head of
intelligence is that it is not the case. Saving a life takes precedence over
land, but practically, giving up land endangers lives. This is the reality
we live. This is truth, however brutal.
…I really thought that the Palestinians were willing to compromise and
make peace. I wanted the Allon Plan, and I believed that the Palestinians
would agree to adjusted 67 lines. The late ’90s made me question this. I saw
that it was when Ehud Barak was going to peace, Arafat was for war. The only
explanation for this was that the Palestinians did not want an agreement and
did not want peace and would not accept a Jewish state within the 67 lines.
They even rejected Olmert’s generous offer in 2008. So I suddenly realized
that for years I lived in self-deception. The conflict is not about the
borders of the State in Israel but on its very right to exist. As a result,
even when I was in uniform, my voting patterns changed and I personally
identified with the Likud’s way. ”
Q: Suppose you’re right. Suppose that there is no “land for peace”. But
there is “land for Zionism”. Land for our ability to maintain a Jewish
A: As long as the other side willing to recognize our right to exist as a
Jewish nation – I’m not ready to give up an inch. I will not talk about
territory. After “land for peace has become “land for terror” and “land for
rockets” I am no longer prepared to bury my head in the sand. The reality of
the Middle East is that what you need is first of all stability. The
stability achieved not by similar agreements on the lawn of the White House,
but through deterrence.
Q: So you can live another 20 years this way?
A: We can live another hundred years this way.
Q: But we are rotting, Boogie. Demographicly – we lose the majority,
politically – we lose the moral world – we lose ourselves.
A: The demographic argument is false. About political legitimacy – I prefer
to take action against an entity that threatens us from the current lines.
As for the moral issue – as long as the Palestinians do not recognize the
right of existence of a Jewish state, they are the aggressor. They do not
even recognize my right to live in Tel Aviv. For them occupation didn’t
start in ’67, but in ’48. Anyone who claims otherwise sprinkles sand in
their eyes or deceives themselves.
Q: What do you suggest for the future? A hundred more settlements? A million
Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria?
A: The establishment of additional settlements involves policy and political
sensitivities. But now it has 350 thousand residents of Judea and Samaria.
If political reality will not change, the number could well reach a million.
Q: If so, what kind of reality will we live in a decade? A million Jews in
Judea and Samaria, the occupation continues and the two populations mixed
A: The Palestinians will have autonomy and they will have a parliament of
their own. … Any other situation would be irresponsible from a security
perspective. You want snipers in Jerusalem? You want rockets on Ben Gurion
Airport? The Palestinians put us in this predicament. I would divide the
country. They are not willing to divide the country and to recognize our
right to exist here in any border. So, because they say it is either us or
them I say us. Until I hear Abu Mazen say that the is a Jewish People with
a connection to the Land of Israel and three year old boy studying in
Ramallah is taught that that Israel has a right to exist – this is the
Q: If so, there is no peace … There will be no two-state solution.
A: As it is the word “solution” is a dirty word. One of our biggest problems
is that we have become “solution-ists” and became “now-ists”and we expect a
solution now. We believe we can do everything and that we can find a
solution to this problem that so plagues us. But I believe that one should
be more modest. You do not need not to find a solution but to look for a
path. There are problems in life that have no solution. The Israeli -
Palestinians is now a problem without a solution. Those who offer such a
solution now do not offer a real solution but an illusion – a golden calf.
Q: Boogie, I understand what you say but with what you say you can not live.
All you offer me is a wall, a wall of iron. There is no hope in your words.
No space. No movement towards some horizon.
A: I’m actually very optimistic. I see where were my grandparents and where
my parents were and where I am and where my children are – and I see that
time is not working against us. Time favors those who know to use it. That’s
the secret of Zionism. Ours is the ethos of building and ethos of the other
side is an ethos of demolition. Our ethos will win. But you have to unlearn
the patronizing the “now-ism” and self-blame. Get rid of the idea that if
you give to the enemy and placate the enemy, that the enemy will give This
thought is an Ashkenazi thought. It is not connected to reality in the
Middle East. ”
Q: Beautiful. But you and your government is so connected to the reality of
the Middle East that you have caused a strategic crisis in relations with
A: The change in trend in Turkish foreign policy towards us started already
in 2004. Is not a result of our actions but a decision of Recep Tayyip
Erdogan to gradually change Ataturk’s secular republic into a Muslim power.
Professor Bernard Lewis, for example, estimated that within a decade or two
of Iran will become Turkey and Turkey will be Iran. Long before this
government was elected, Erdogan attacked wildly on none other than Shimon
Peres at Davos. So enough with the self-accusation. We are not responsible
for everything bad that happens.
The hand of Erdogan was in the Marmara. We know it. And yet, after the
flotilla we tried to restore the relationship and we were ready to express
regret that the people were killed. Erdogan wasn’t really interested, but
wanted to make political capital areas by humiliating the Jews. We would not
agree to that.
Q: But all they wanted we a state apology. Isn’t the policy do not be right,
A: You bring me back to the Ashkenazim. Ashkenazim tend to underestimate the
issue of respect. They do not understand that respect in the Middle East is
a strategic asset. Those who wants to live quietly in this area must
transmit power and deterrence and to stand on his dignity.
Q: The Damascus regime understands this issue well and defended its honor by
killing thousands of innocent civilians. You are not worried sick about
chaos in Syria will cause that chemical weapons will leak out?
A: Currently we see a good control of the Syrians stocks of chemical
weapons. But any sensible person should prepare for the future….