Ex-IDF Chief: Military Option Against Iran Still Exists

Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, who announced last night that he will be running for the Knesset on Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud list, said earlier yesterday that the military option for an attack on Iran still exists.

While Western forces are capable of attacking Iran, Israel should be prepared to go it alone if necessary, Ya'alon said. He stressed that keeping the military option on the table was a vital element of a wider strategy of politically isolating the Tehran regime, and imposing "smart" international sanctions.

Asked if, as a last resort following talks and sanctions, Iraq's nuclear program could be stopped through military means, Ya'alon told a panel discussion of the United Jewish Communities General Assembly, "I believe that most of the Western armed forces, especially air forces, have the right capabilities to deal with the Iranian regime, where it comes to intelligence, precise munitions, the ability to launch air strikes, penetrating defense systems, targeting the right facilities. Technically speaking, there is a military option."

According to Ya'alon, who served as head of IDF military intelligence before becoming chief of the general staff during the Palestinian uprising in 2002, "Israel should aspire to international determination to deal with it, but Israel should be ready [as though it were] the only one to deal with it."

Military action should concentrate on targets tied to the regime, with an eye to regime change, and avoid civilian casualties if at all possible, he said.

Ya'alon cited the November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which said that Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003, as evidence that the Tehran regime was amenable to pressure from a credible military threat - in the 2003 case, the possibility of Western attack following U.S.-led offensives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While military action should be seen as a last resort following talks and sanctions, Ya'alon said "it is not the end of the game. Then, we should follow it up with a viable, sustainable military operation to target the facilities [serving] the regime's interests, and not allow the regime to rehabilitate itself. And, of course, a follow-up of political and diplomatic elements, to convince, first of all, the Iranian people to go a different way."