Israel's former Military Intelligence chief, Amos Yadlin, says that the appointments of John Kerry as U.S. secretary of state and of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense are “a bad signal for those who believe in” U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Speaking within the context of his previously-held position that Obama is capable of ordering an attack on Iranian nuclear installations as a last resort, Yadlin said that the two nominations may have made his argument weaker. Describing the forum of Obama, Biden, Kerry and Hagel as “the four senators”, Yadlin said that they are “like-mind, very cautious, [and] very supportive of a negotiated agreement.”
Nonetheless, Yadlin said that it is ultimately Obama’s decision alone to make, and that he stands by his assessment that Obama may ultimately decide to attack Iran.
Yadlin, the director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, was speaking on a conference call for American journalists organized by the centrist, peace-supporting Israeli Policy Forum organization. Yadlin’s hour-long briefing came 24 hours after he made headlines on Monday by saying that Iran is four to six months away from achieving breakout capability in its quest for a nuclear weapon. He repeated this warning, saying that “in early 2013” Iran will have enough nuclear material to produce its first bomb.
Yadlin said that although Iran has already entered the “zone of immunity” as previously defined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he believes that an Israeli military attack on Iran “is doable”. Nonetheless, Yadlin expressed support for a negotiated settlement with Tehran, provided that it places severe limits on the number of centrifuges and enriched uranium at its disposal. Yadlin said that he is convinced that the United States will put such an offer on the table with Tehran within the coming few months.
Yadlin depicted a relatively stable and secure situation on all of Israel’s borders, saying that the country’s most pressing problem is its growing international isolation. Among other things, Yadlin suggests that a new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts a peace plan on the table for the Palestinians to consider, along the lines of the Clinton Parameters.
He voiced skepticism, however, about whether the Palestinians are able to accept an offer that includes an “end of conflict” and a limitation on the Palestinian right of return to the future Palestinian state.
Yadlin said that the situation in Syria is “positive” for Israel’s national security because it weakens a major radical state in the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis, and neutralizes the powerful Syrian army. Yadlin downplayed the danger of extremist groups such as Al-Qaida getting their hands on chemical weapons, saying they lack the expertise and the equipment needed to deploy such weapons successfully.
Yadlin said that he is not convinced of the imminent downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying that until he sees a Syrian division commander defecting with his division, or Russian support for a “no fly zone”, he won’t change his assessment.