The Three Tenors

By Yossi Melman

For the first time since the question of bombing Iran – or living with Iran having The Bomb – became a burning question for Israel and the world, there was a chance to see and hear the former Mossad director Meir Dagan, the former head of Aman (military intelligence) Amos Yadlin, and the former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gabi Ashkenazi, on stage together.

yossi melman, spies against armageddon, every spy a prince, israel spy This joint appearance of the “Three Tenors” – at retired General Yadlin’s Institute of National Security Studies (in the Tel Aviv suburb, Ramat-Aviv) – highlighted the stand taken by leaders of Israeli defense and intelligence, giving opinions they used to give in private to Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu.  It can only be assumed that the successors to Dagan, Yadlin, and Ashkenazi – respectively Tamir Pardo at the Mossad, Aviv Kochavi at Aman, and Benny Gantz heading the military – agree, more or less, with their predecessors.

The positions enunciated by the Three Tenors can be contrasted with the public positions pronounced by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak.

The tenors agreed on most points.  Their starting point, as Yadlin put it, is:

-The strategic goal of Iran’s nuclear program is to produce nuclear weapons.

-Israel does not have to be the leader in the campaign against Iran, and it would be better for Israel to hang back “in the rear,” rather than at the front of this battle.

-The Iranian nuclear program is a challenge to the international community.

-Time should be given to crippling sanctions to do the job, when it comes to pressuring Iran.

-There is a need to continue with secret activities, aimed at disrupting, delaying, and damaging Iran’s nuclear program.

-The possibility of a military strike on Iran should be weighed seriously, so that a credible threat can be presented.

In that regard, Yadlin praised Ashkenazi, because he “prepared for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) a credible military option.”

The three tenors also share the assessment that there is still time to act against Iran, and so there is no need to hurry with a military strike.  In that, they differ from Defense Minister Barak, who likes to talk about a “zone of immunity”: Iran reaching a significant stage in its uranium enrichment, at the facility near Qom that is buried so deep – that Iran would be immune from great damage in a military strike.  The facility is understood to be 70 meters (about 220 feet) underground, and even the U.S. Air Force does not have bombs that could reach all the way down there.

Barak has generally made it sound like time is running out, until that “zone” where Israel would not be able to do much against Iran.

While Barak has made it sound like Israel may have to attack Iran now, Yadlin and Ashkenazi – and certainly Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief – believe that “the zone of immunity doesn’t have to dictate the date” of an attack, as Yadlin put it.

There are differences, however, that divide Yadlin, Dagan, and Ashkenazi.   Dagan emphasized that a military strike on Iran “will not stop the project,” and it might only speed up Iran’s nuclear work.  The ex-Mossad chief also says the Iranian people, if their country is attacked, may stand solidly behind their Islamic radical rulers.

Ashkenazi and Yadlin, however, believe that Israel would not be able to live in the shadow of “the Iranian nuclear umbrella.”  So, to them, if sanctions don’t persuade the Iranian regime to change its mind – and if the United States does not attack Iran – then Israel would have to do it. But, as Ashkenazi put it, a military strike would be neither “a picnic” nor a “surgical” operation.  It would be an enduring battle.

(Adapted from an article on the Israeli news website Walla!)

June 1, 2012

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