IDF General to Bahraini Paper: If Iran Nuke Talks Fail, Israel ‘Must Be Prepared for Other Scenarios’

In the first interview of an IDF official to Bahraini media, the officer said that Israel prefers a diplomatic option over a military one in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
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Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, 2016.
Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, 2016.Credit: Shai Naveh
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

Israel believes that there is a diplomatic solution for ending the Iran’s nuclear escalation and that Tehran can be brought back to the negotiating table, but Jerusalem understands it “must be prepared for other scenarios,” a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told a Bahraini newspaper this weekend.

Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, who is commander of the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, and is tasked with planning Israeli strategy vis-a-vis Iran, told the daily Al Ayam that a high-level strategic dialogue and close military cooperation between Jerusalem and Manama are needed to confront the Iranian threat.

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In the first-ever interview in the Bahraini press by an IDF officer, Kalman stated that while the Abraham Accords have created an opportunity for establishment of a moderate bloc that could deter Tehran, he did not rule out the use of military force. Although Israel is not actively seeking open conflict, he added, it will not shirk from confronting an enemy that wants to “wipe Israel off the map.”

The Islamic Republic’s aggression is “something that concerns not only Israel, but all of Israel’s partners and friends in the region,” he said, calling Iran “a global problem.”

“At the end of the day, if Iran achieves nuclear capabilities, there will be a nuclear race in the Middle East,” Kalman noted. “We, in turn, seek to prevent this in many ways, including diplomatically, economically, as well as militarily. And part of my job is building Israeli plans and capabilities for conflict with Iran. We do not want conflict, and we do not want war. We want to solve this problem through diplomatic means. But when we have an aggressive party building its military capabilities, we must be prepared for other scenarios.”

Returning to the theme of Israel’s emergence from isolation, he said that “if in the past, Israel relied on the principle that we should defend ourselves by ourselves, we have now adjusted our strategy to cooperate with our partners. Today Israel is surrounded by friends, and potential friends in the future, as we look forward to having future agreements with them.”

Kalman noted that the Abraham Accords – the normalization agreements Israel signed last year with the Gulf states – had strengthened Jerusalem’s strategic position in the region, and he added that “joint defense agreements” would serve to “create a balance between an extremist regime that is trying to support terrorism and build military capabilities, and regimes that have strong stability and great capabilities in the military and economic fields.”

“We want to establish strong relations with Bahrain, learn from Bahrain, and establish a joint dialogue at the strategic and military level,” including intelligence-sharing, Kalman continued, noting that there is a chance that Israel would join a “multilateral structure in the region” dedicated to securing freedom of maneuver but that it would be a “gradual process.”

Ultimately, Israelis “still believe in the necessity of a diplomatic solution” and “Iran can be brought back to the table for negotiation,” Kalman said. “We are preparing for all scenarios, and we now realize that if we have a clash with Iran, it is not only with Iran, but with some of its proxies. This is the scenario for which we are preparing our forces.”

Although international efforts to renew nuclear talks with Tehran are underway, the Israeli government has ordered the defense establishment to prepare for an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites – in case negotiations fail and the Islamic Republic continues to advance toward a nuclear bomb. These preparations include acquisition of special equipment, development of advanced intelligence capabilities, as well as other more general improvements. 

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