Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned the United States against pulling out of the international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, a day before U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to decertify the 2015 agreement in an address to Congress.
According to Barak, who also served as defense minister and is known for his hawkish views on Iran, scrapping the deal would not only play into Tehran’s hands, it would also harm Washington’s credibility in the eyes of North Korea.
He explained that since Tehran is holding up its end of the deal, Trump disavowing the agreement “would give the Iranians a pretext for resuming their drive toward a nuclear “breakout” capability.
A renewed nuclear drive in Tehran and “an unconstrained North Korea” would then set off a chain reaction in east Asia and the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Japan and South Korea all under pressure to up their nuclear game.
Barak’s opinion is in stark contrast with the stance of the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who all of a sudden found himself at odds with the security team over Iran deal. If Trump moves to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s nationalist government can be expected to be the loudest – and perhaps only – major player to applaud.
But the true picture is more complicated than what Netanyahu might portray: there is a strong sense among his own security establishment that there are few good alternatives, that the deal has benefited Israel, and that U.S. credibility could be squandered in the turbulent Middle East in ways that could harm Israel itself.
After Netanyahu declared at the United Nations last month that it was time to “fix it or nix it,” the prevailing attitude among security experts seems to be that fixing it is the best way to go.
“It seems to me that the less risky approach is to build on the existing agreement, among other reasons because it does set concrete limitations on the Iranians. It imposes ceilings and benchmarks and verification systems that you do not want to lose. Why lose it?,” said Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu.
Yoel Guzansky, a former Iran specialist on the Israeli National Security Council, said that sending the deal to Congress is a “hasty” decision that could backfire. According to him, the best way to gain leverage over Iran and alter its behaviour is through concerted international action. Working together, he said, the international community could pursue various options, including diplomacy, a U.N. resolution or even threatening military action.
“We need to build an international coalition, which we lack right now. No one except Trump and Netanyahu, with all due respect, is supporting this move right now. I really hope the two gentlemen have a program,” said Guzansky, a senior fellow at INSS, a prominent Israeli think-tank .
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest foe, citing its decades of hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups and its development of long-range missiles. Israeli decision-makers see a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.