Iran Nuclear Issue ‘On Steroids’ After Ukraine War, Israeli Ex-intel Chief Says

Putin could adopt increasingly brutal tactics in Ukraine and a military strike should be a 'last resort' against Iran, Israel's former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin tells Haaretz

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IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, during their meeting in Tehran, March 5.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, during a meeting in Tehran. Credit: /AP

The war in Ukraine has strengthened Iran’s ambition to develop nuclear weapon capabilities, Israel’s former head of Military Intelligence said Monday on the new episode of the Haaretz Weekly podcast.

"The Iranians' nuclear issue is on steroids after the war in Ukraine," retired IDF general Amos Yadlin explained on the program.

He added that since Ukraine gave up on nuclear capabilities as part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, Iran looked at Kyiv’s current situation as a warning of what could happen to it unless it joins the nuclear club.

What Iran Learned From Ukraine: LISTEN to Former Israel Intel Chief

Yadlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “losing the war he planned” to fight in Ukraine, but warned against declaring a Russian defeat, or Ukrainian victory, at such an early stage. Putin, he said, was using “barbaric” tactics against Ukraine, and after realizing that his soldiers will not “march into Ukraine and be greeted as liberators,” he could adopt increasingly brutal tactics against the neighboring country.

Yadlin also discussed Israel’s response to the war, stating that it was a mistake not to align with the West more clearly in the early stages of the fighting. “Our strong interest,” he said, “is to be with our allies.” He said that Putin was “surprised” by the show of Western, and particularly European, unity against his attack on Ukraine, and by the harsh sanctions that were placed on his economy. “He thought he was sanction-proof because of the energy market,” the former intelligence chief explained.

Amos Yadlin at a conference in Reichman University in Herzliya, in November. Credit: Hadas Parush

In reply to a question from host Amir Tibon on Israel’s current ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear program via airstrikes, Yadlin, a former Israel Air Force pilot, replied that “this is the one issue I don’t comment on in public,” and agreed only to say that he “hopes” it is doable. Yadlin added that a military strike should be Israel’s “last resort” against Iran, and that other courses of action, from negotiations and economic pressure to sabotage and cyber operations, should be exhausted before such a decision is taken.

Regarding the U.S.-Israel relationship, Yadlin expressed support for the new Israeli government’s decision not to publicly confront the Biden White House, even when there are disagreements on issues like Iran. “The music coming from Israel is the same regarding the Iran nuclear talks,” Yadlin explained, “but the tone is different.” He said that returning to the 2015 Iran deal in 2022 would be a mistake, and that Israel was right to convey that message forcefully to Washington in professional, diplomatic channels.

But at the same time, he emphasized that Israel has no alternative superpower to work with on this issue: “China and Russia are allies of Iran. The only world power who can help Israel and our Middle East allies on this issue is the United States.”

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