tv Former Israeli Ambassador on Iran CSPAN January 3, 2022 11:51pm-1:06am EST
a head but certainly is reaching some sort of point that's becoming extremely serious. they are getting very close where they have enough enriched uranium. people have different redlines about what they want to preventt iran to reach and raise in the past so they do not seem to be making a lot of progress as we speak right now. the israeli defense minister was in washington a couple of weeks ago and one of the requests
[inaudible] this is something that has been very focused on. the detail about these issues. there's been a lot of reporting and is royal. given where the state of the escalation is, a number claiming that it was a mistake for president trump to withdraw from thee jcpoa and the ambassador that this was [inaudible] why
no country is more threatened and it is blocking the path so it doesn't do that. we understand an issue opposed to it and as to the contrary of the nuclear deal did not freeze the program. some people said we are going to kick this can down the road and that wasn't true either because the deal was allowed to do research and development so the nuclear deal with iran enabled iran to advance the program for the international community and essentially gave a stamp to
moving on the path for the entire nuclear arsenal because in year 12 according to that deal that's not what i said were with the prime minister at the time said. it's what barack obama said on npr it seems like we've got the numbers flying around as some people say to traditionally break out as the material that's when they say they reached the
status. that has to deal with the weaponization and different estimates over how long it could take but depending on your assessment we found that iran had advanced the program that many people believed this was the archive taken from the heart if you're gone in 2018, so we knew everything about the weaponization and we have a full view of where they are. what i hear a lot is by pulling out of the deal okay my first question f to them is in five
years from now, iran will be closer than they are today. remember the problem with the deal is that it's not by violating the deal but by keeping the deal with an entire nuclear arsenal and effectively at zero. the main concern was contrary and didn't block the path. it ultimately guaranteed but he iran is going to become a nuclear power so they solved the one problem everybody wants to solve which is the nuclear and it made the regional much worse because iran builds from a
headwind of sanctions to now the relief that allows them to feel more aggression throughoutel the region and fuel their campaigns and proxies against israel so the nuclear deal was disastrous because it didn't solve the problem it was meant to solve. it created a false sense of security to think we have solved it and it also made of the other problems worse. and what i said at the time of 2015 is a nuclear deal is to put us on cruise control heading over a cliff, and when people said the deal was working, that to me was saying [inaudible] the question is what do you do about the cliff. he veered the call, he took it off of cruise control.
that doesn't means there's nota cliff or that we don't face dangers but it was necessary. what you needed to do after doing that is have a clear threat and reach out to the iranian people. it's important to understand because there's also been talk and maybe we will get to this maximum pressure campaign the nuclear deal was done in 2015, so for about a year and a half we had to the obama administration under the nuclear deal and continued the campaign throughout the region with very little pushback by the united states because they were afraid they would walk out of the deal
and when trump came in in january he didn't walk out of the deal right away then you had an additional eight months or so where he withdrew from the deal but iran was still to sell about a million barrels of oil a day. you had the sanctions from about may of 2019 and within a few months iran was reduced to about 300 billion barrels of oil they had about 2.3 million reduced to
300,000 barrels a day and they were under enormous pressure. but hope was given to the iranians becausese unfortunatel, you had a political debate in the united states that virtually all the candidates on the other side of the aisle including the person elected they all said they are going to go back into the deal so from the point of view they had to withstand that for a longer period of time so thee crippling sanctions congrs for two and a half years and it happened in 18 months with the perception that a rescue ship was on the way with massive sanctions. the other things in terms of the credible military threat you
didn't have that for a very long time. may of 2019 to go back to the facts as i said they were taken away. what happens then, iran starts to lash out and they go after the oil facility and start rationing there aggression in the region largely in my view to get the united states to change its policy. so somebody lashing out at all these things and there was the incident of the drone and trump pulled back from responding and that undermined u.s. credibility even more. all of that changed at the beginning of 2020. that was the point the u.s. also had a credible military threat so now you have threat and
sanctions. reaching out in a significant weight but now you're gone was under u serious pressure and tht all changed when a new administration was going back to the future were forwarded to the past whatever way you want to look at it they went back to the policies regarding air on and i don't think people can look at the decision on whether or not president trump's decision to withdrawal of course was the right decision because it took d us off the cliff but it wasn't in and of itself that had to be followed by the policy for the united statespo and israel in having a policy that would dismantle the nuclear capability. we haven't gotten there so that's why we are still in the danger zone we have been for a number of years but the jcpoa wasn't part of the solution it was part of the problem and it's a good thing that he withdrew.
>> let me zero in on one of the parts you talked about. it wasn't really on the u.s. side of the mission january, 2020. iac went back to read what i wre a month before. trump should try to withdraw. the u.s. was prepared for the iranian escalation which was predicted. as you suggest, from your perspective the term gets used a lot plan b. did you see on the u.s. side a plan b if there was a release on the nuclear d cited that the u.. would prepare to respond your remarks just now suggest it was
only after, which obviously wasn't predicted when trump withdrew in may. did you see on the left side and then we will get to the israeli side after that. >> i don't want to get to specific. as you know the u.s. has enormous military' capability. so there's no question they would have the capability. it's how they do it, when they do it and one of the things that is the single most important is do we have ties and delaying the decision so in the time israel had was different than the time america has so it doesn't mean the day after may, 2018 that immediately -- the pentagon is constantly coming up with different plans for different things and i don't want to get into specifics but the political will to take action in order to stop it and i assume a president of the united states would also ask yourself this question do i need too do it today, can i wait
and one of the things that happened is aired on was moving ahead with its nuclear program for several months after which i would say is the day that is the beginning of the maximum pressure campaign. do not date from january. it's from may 2019. from that day according to the research every couple of months or so in terms of the nuclear program. when he was taken out, there was only one small thing that had to do with march of that year but basically the ten or 11 months between january 2020 and november 2020 iran didn't do [inaudible] they continued to
enrich but they didn't take a lot of the other stuffdi and i think probably they didn't do it because they were afraid of a potential strike and i think they were surprised that trump did what he did in the obligation because what i suspect aired on was trying to do lashing out the are going to keep pushing and assume the united states would go one rung up the ladder. there's going to be some pushback and they will continue tok do that to keep going. but it went about ten rounds up the ladder and that made them very worried that he was somebody that could launch a strike and take out the nuclear facility. the united states has the power to does that. the question is does an american president have the will and here's a couple of differences between israel and the united
states that's important to understand at least from my point of view. for the iranian regime the nuclear program is the clean in this chess game. the only way you are going to u'get iran to give up its progrm peacefully they will only sacrifice the queen to save the king ands this is asymmetry between the united states and israel. let's leave that aside and work on the assumption. no one is going to sacrifice. they will only sacrifice the queen to save the king so the only way to peacefully resolve this issue is for the united states to put a credible military threat. if they can prevent a breakout
we saw that happen in 2012. there were two incidences that we had in 2003 and 2012 you can argue it was a credible military threat as well and the iranians responded but if you're thinking about the nuclear program in 2003, there was no diplomacy, no sanctions because after afghanistan and iraq, they were concerned president bush may do in operation against the program of weapons of mass destruction and they stopped the program according to our intel and everything we know they stopped. when they realized the threat wasn't there then they continued. in 2003 qaddafi got out of the
weapons of mass destruction game as well and you can see that action is something the iranians understand. it makes it harder in a certain sense because having seen what happened when he gave up those weapons it's going to be harder to convince the regime today that they need to do it to ensure their survival. in 2003 credible military threat by the united states stopped the program then you had the example of 2012 when he went to the united2020 nations and drew his famous redline at the united nations. what was that redline? it was that aired on if it moved to 20% whichch is medium level,
10%, 20% and 60% is likely under but 3.5% they had already done. they were moving into 20% of uranium. once they do the 20% the difference between thattw breakt time is so short and may be undetectable that israel isn't going to be able to stop it. now what did iran do when faced with that line it dismantled the nuclear program but didn't cross that line. they were going vertically up the line and then went for a few more j weeks then they started stockpiling many bombs worth so sort of expanding. why do i say that?
it could prevent a breakout but it's not going to get them to dismantle the nuclear capability. they are not going to sacrifice. they won't leave the queen exposed but they are not going to sacrifice the queen so the only ones that can peacefully resolve this issue is the united states and it begins with a credible military threat. without the credible military threat no diplomacy will achieve a positive outcome and nothing you do will achieve a positive outcome and unfortunately i don't see that happening right now and that creates a very dangerous situation because it means without a credible -- much harder today than it was then to convince people the united states is really serious. without that you have that option in front of you.
the only way we move into this option that is powerful begins with the u.s. establishing that credible military threat and like i said it's harder for them to do it today than it was a few months ago. >> let me ask you on the israeli side because as you just said they might be able to prevent a breakout but they can't dismantle. there've been reports also recently that when he was pre- minister the chief of staff went in and asked for the defense budget and israel and netanyahu declined and i bring that up because on the israeli side we have of course historically it's very unusual they are highly critical of the israeli
government and with this withdrawal should israel have strengthened itself and prepared better for the breakout because you knew after the withdrawal the iranians would escalate. could you address that issue or this idea did israel prepare itself to allocate the necessary resources for that? >> in all the years since the 12 years he was pre- minister i had never seen one request that would have israel confront iran in any significant way where he
denied something to that request. there is a lot of budget negotiations and they say we need all of this extra money to do this mission and that doesn't mean you can't diverge somewhere else to deal with it so when it comes to budget negotiations there were several years we got around the negotiations obviously some headline in the newspaper that says if it doesn't get a certain budget there will be no funding. so this game has been played a long time. i've never once seen someone come to him with an operation plan with the resources necessary where he denied those resources so i would take those
reports and i don't know the context but i think that i saw netanyahu do everything he could for many years in different capacities to prepare israel to deal with t this threat. there was a situation since 2019 when he didn't have a government in israel. we went from election to election. may of 2019 is when the campaign really started and from the end of december israel went from one to another to another and finally had a government after about 16 months and it didn't last that long which affected the budgetary process and everything else but what i don't understand about a lot of the criticism because it seemsit toe directed to the best of my
recollection it goes back the last three defense ministers going back to 2018 as i understand it in our system it is the job of the defense minister to ensure they deal with the challenges so it is hard for me to understand if this is what they are saying. the criticism is coming from the defense minister. mind you he is not the commander-in-chief. he's a prime minister. hehe sets the policy and it's te job of everybody else including the military to make sure they have the means available. i do not believe he ever denied the means as i said to have a confrontational policy and to be prepared for any possible scenario. it's against everything i saw with my own eyes all the years.
>> let's turn to today. that backgroundk is important there's a lot of media attention on those issues. where we stand today and how you see the u.s. policy given the impasse of what we see in vienna and briefly what we've been seeing for a year aside from the withdrawal from afghanistan i think working to get back to the jcpoa has been the highest foreign policy priority and that hasn't happened yet. things seem to be going the other direction. >> first you have to recognize what the policy is and it's true in the obama and biden administration it's not a policy of prevention it is a policy of
containment and that is a very critical difference. the policy is to prevent air on from ever developing nuclear capability. i'm not saying obama or biden [inaudible] the policy is contained. why do i say that? because if you would ask the senior members of the y administration and all the countries if you were left with only two choices and military confrontation or a nuclear armed iran which of the two scenarios is worse? for israel it is clear which one is worse. a military confrontation with iran is bad particularly because of hezbollah in the north and the danger that could lead to a larger conflict. but in the case of the u.s. under obama and biden yet of the
european powers and china and russia there is a military confrontation from their point of view. they've rationalized it and say this will only send the program back two or three years. i've heard that many times and i use to tell people in the administration to the best of my knowledge when they make the decision in 1981 and of course it's a very different situation than today but i understand the estimate that was given was two to three years that he was going to set it back and now we are 40 years and counting so they have this belief that the worst possible scenario that you could have and because of that, that's what led to the jcpoa. if you are in containment, if your policy isay containment to try to delay this for ten, 15 years in the hope may be some
people in the interim if your policy is prevention it's a disaster you just basically said okay maybe it will prevent them from in this but we guarantee they wills have a nuclear arsenl in the next. it's decided it's not your policy and your moving to contain so it's happening now it doesn't supply at all because all they are trying to do is avoid a confrontation. i do not see a plan b at all because for them the military confrontation is am, bad outcome and what you saw in those reports that came out recently that suggested the actions, suppose it, alleged actions stopped the program and they were counterproductive which is the governing idea that it
the economic pressures they don't face t that today, they don't see a credible military threat they will advance the program because they are not facing a potential so they are going to wait a little bit wlonger if there is some sort f turning point and to let people live under the illusion it's going into some positive territory they've decided to
break out now under the biden administration because there is no credible military threat from theom united states. maybe they think there is no threat coming from israel which is a different discussion and so they think now is the time. that means they would get closer and closer and not what they perceive to be the red line because there really are no red lines, get closer and closer as if they are going up a cylinder and getting closer and closer and hovering closer than they decided to break out and maybe they see as an opportunity for some other issue like russia or china or something happening somewhere else in the world so we rush out as they are advancing the weaponization. that's the possibility that you
have out of the united states were making the decision they can wait and see what happens and they are going to respond to the different pressures and what the administration is doing is the opposite of what they should be doing. instead of adding more leverage to the negotiating table and the military threat instead of providing israel all the tools it needs to conduct and you mentioned this in the article that you wrote about instead of doing all these things and increasing the leverage and good faith and atmospherics is going to get them far i believe very much in good faith among friends. they haven't put themselves in the position for any positive outcome because again the one thing they want to avoid is a military confrontation and once that's your policy, there will
be no good outcomes to these discussions and no outcome that will get them to dismantle the nuclear capability. >> to respond to one thing you said about the delay. israel it seems in the two times it seemed to wait until the last moment it had a certain line it couldn't be crossed. the problem of the iranian nuclear it delayed things and liquid also happened with the delay. look at the region around israel
versus the '90s which is a bigger problem you have 130,000 or more rockets into syria and a growing threat from hamas and yemen is increasingly a problemm in iraq. as you brought up before you might be able to deal with the nuclear facilities but look what happens to the country nearby. north korea, south korea and in this case, israel.
>> and then even before. >> i think such a decision is very serious andly should not be taken lightly. >> it's not bad of 2007 they show the differences from the different facilities and they are deep underground thoughts a mucher more complicated operations of the bigger difference with has the law and i think for me when i said
several years ago i see the iranian strategy. and that is part of the strategy. what i mean by that is they will put a conventional noose around israel's next to the point where the nuclear deal to build that while they work on that military nuclear capability as they are building theirth ballistic missiles and the embargo goes onid the way side. they can do is patiently put the noose around the neck in lebanon and syria and iraq and yemen so it is to the point where contrary to what was said when the nuclear deal was signed one of the major arguments was in ten years
will have all the options we have today but that's not true because after the sanctions relief after hundreds of billions of dollars and then the iran your facing will be a completely different order of magnitude threat it's not that the united states has the capability to take it is the cost of doing so and also the threat on and tokyo so they want to put us in a position not israel or anyone else because that news will be around israel's neck it's important to understand.
beyond the operation itself. so talk about the potentialon for escalation. only the united states threatens the regime. and then to de-escalate the conflict is if the united states with its actions and its words makes clear that it supports israel and that it delivers and so firing hundreds if not thousands of missiles in downtown tel aviv that the iranian regime itself. and those to make that decision but actually to a
greater escalation miller me to peacefully resolve their program is a credible military threat from the united states or the iranian people to take out the regime that is the best of all possible. >> the critical question for israeli decision-makers is can we afford to wait? can we have another month or two months or three months? and also the national security advisor was the next-door neighbor then when will later be toosk late that's the question is real has to ask and as a senior decision-maker. and then thinking very carefully about when they
when they can nohen they longer take that action and if they reach that point a they have to have support and they have no choice in my view you cannot read and allow a regime we cannot allow that tote happen. and then despite all the coalition they would do what they have too do to secure. it's important for yourr listeners or military officials to understand people have to understand what that means and the president of the united states is in order that supposed to be carried out by the military as the
commander-in-chief. that's not how it works in israel he does not give orders to the military so usually in the prime minister's office and the ambassador we are one of the intelligence agencies but if one wants to do something in another doesn't? what happens then? not just the prime minister makes the decision himself but a lot of times what you have to do is you have to bring it to the security council than the prime minister hashe to get his position through. the way he passes he has a majority in the cabinet it's
much harder to defy him. and then the second way and they defy the prime minister that could lead to election this is a strong and powerful prime minister of popular support pushes those decisions through and the problem with the current prime minister has nothing to do with what he wants to do it may have nothing to do with his will and willingness to act but it does have to do not to have populars support and doesn't have the majority inin his cabinet from his own party. he is to ministers he has to
kabul together it would be very important it's always important and they always play a huge role in the decision-making with the establishment but in this case of a different parties and without the military being fully on board then you are talking about the politics a in israel to makema the decision they need to make it is a veryal complicated field and then as i said before one of the calculations to understand our political system but i don't know they see what is happening here there is a threat coming from jerusalem or washington and that concerns me because it may
make down believe that they ocan get away over the next two or three years say just have to keep working and pushing theee envelope and monitoring the situation they don't see push back any pushback even in the us forces in the region it did not affect the regional behavior but it did the nuclear behavior. they don't seeck any pushback and then to the point to take a break. so let me answer you where we
are today. there are two possible ways the iranians could be thinking. with us policy and israeli. that you need to establish a credible military option but if i may, i don't see that the may, i don't see that us. with afghanistan the non- retaliation of the a rainy and back to tax and what the russians are doing with ukrainian border doesn't seemin like countries are fearing us right now. given that, if you are in
israel last month that is a feeling of the senior security establishment. given that, us policy should be focused on given his real the tools besides withdrawing that bad deal in vienna what would you like? >> talk about the us administration and empowering israel independent capabilities to be implicit in that policy is the view when it comes to our military strike it is better but i'm telling you the us current administration does not see that as being a better option think it's a worse option but
it's only for two or three years and ultimately it makes the problem worse and it reminds me there was a cable before world war ii and it's pretty infamous because the british diplomat says you better go easy because the next guy could be worse. there is a view that the policy is for military competition at all cost i don't see them doing that. i think there is very little expectations for the united states i have not seen any evidence they have shifted into prevention and i think as a tactic they are simply appeasing thed iranians hoping to avoid potential confrontation what israel has to do is upgrade the
independent capability to act and also to make something very clear so we understand in this relationship the unitedki states is the superpower but in terms of the relationship at has toto be the united states taking action to prevent israel from defending itself and that has to be said in private conversations i saw what happened in "the new york times" we saw in the past administration became at different times that israel would do a or b. if the united states were decide to embrace the policy that's a decision they have to make it is an independent country. we are threatened by a regime that actively works to destroy
us and then to use whatever means are necessary to develop the nuclear weapons. what we can stack —- expect in the united states but all implicit in your idea ofie the military confrontation is better if itn goes bad mongers better than the other and then to develop the capability to make clear to the united states this up with this in a crisis read between the two countries if they decide to defend themselves. >> experts differ you mention
the red line 2012 and as you noted early 2013 there was a conscious effort. >> that what they did the number was less than half and then they enrich the 20 percent but the redline was that they did not get the quantity of 20 percent they continue to enrich for a little bit and they move that to seven or eight bomb. >> some people think and experts differ that the iranians are reaching a redline of the 90 percent enrichment. are you suggesting that the redline needs to prepare more that israel might need to
prepare more? should the redline be weapon is session on —- weaponization or should it be the 90 percent enrichment? >> it's not a question for me to answer and i will explain why the redline has to be a line where people are no longer able to destroy that program and to study that sufficiently israel no longer has the ability that line is crossed and it actually depends what they have and that we can do it is a function of the capability so we should be a function of the operational capability from
the united states about that redline should be because they have different capabilities and may have but the israeli point of view the question that came up all the time during the discussions and the question was don't you trust obama and i think the mistaken the whole mindset is because the us would have a different redline with greater capabilities and ultimately would reach a point the israeli prime minister cannot act anymore but the american president could and if it would make a decision i cannot act anymore. we will do see that decision.
he or she would not be worthy of sitting off the chair. so exactly where the us redline is not relevant for israeli decision-making because it will be later in the scenario i gave you that's different than the clear and credible military threat i'm not saying you have to spell out exactly what that redline is but they have to meet clear they will not allow that and that they will use military means and what we know from the past from when they believed it and it had an impact so there's no reason not for them to put that aside unless you are avoiding a confrontation at all cost. this will make it harder to reach a deal this will change the atmosphere go down out of
the ledger and see and actually it's hard for people to get rid of this the way it is a change of policy then to shift to confrontation so they have to understand it. so as i said before it was the view that said so we simply have to accommodate that position. so that means we have to ratchet up the pressure it doesn't solve the problem. we have to ratchet up the pressure and there really wasn't a consistent effort to
put massive pressure on iraqa certainly not the case of the obama administration later they use the distinction to rally the other parties around the world but those in congress, every single step of the way sanctions until they passed over the objections but the whole idea of using pressure in order to achieve a good outcome and then to ratchet up the pressure that was foreign to themi thinking of the administration they dismissed out of hand and then misreading i don't know why they believe that it turned out not to be true but i remember at the time one of the arguments that was made during the deal of 2015 the way we got by from the international committee and with sanctions as we offer the
prospect of a diplomatic outcome so in the brink of this terrible deal that if we walk away now we have the worst of all worlds. at the entire a national sanctions regime. we argued at the time publicly and privately it's not true united states is a 20 trillion-dollar economy. you have to put companies facing a choice between doing business for 20 trillion us economy or 400 billion-dollar economy if you face that choice to dosi business with iran. >> they'll oppose the decision and then reducing them not to
1 million barrels a day but just with the united states alone because it enforced the sanctions so there are tools the administration has but it has to change the whole thing i don't see that happening now surrender your options are that israel is forced to take military action with excessive nuclear armed iran which i never happens and then making
comments. and all those are extremely supported in any unprecedented way and then the trumpet policy was notve of containment and each our own ways in different sectors and it was a pretty remarkable thing. but the trump administration is it didn't happen right away contrary to what people thought it wasn't a four-year maximum pressure campaign it was 18 months maximum pressure and that is not a lot of time when you have people believing because the policy denies its will completely change it's a
critical element that we knew that it would change and the reason why they were saying but then they can watch the debate if there had been a bipartisan policy they would continue to hold that line a very different outcome and then maybe they would be facing pressures from the administration with the's members how katie possibly make this decision it was the very opposite of coming with leverage to the table and the
whole idea the administration would get a longer and stronger agreement after going to the jcpoa is absurd saying give me a pair of fours and then i will when my hand you are giving up all of your leverage to go back in and then you use it and what the administration should have done even with ae diplomatic agreement to have a credible threat that leads iranian thinking there is nor consequences whatsoever that's a very bad situation to be in if iranuc gets nuclear weapons would have been could have would've should've.
were facing a completely different strategic situation i completely different security envelope and that is a grave danger to all of us into the united states and also reverse the that we have made but one of the things that opened up the space for the accords to happen with us confrontationor of posture and then to move under us leadership and the saudi's from behind the scene because us administration was confronting so who was next on the abraham accord now you just hit the entire space and then standing up to iran.
and that is what you see happening in the region so this week policy has negative consequences across the board it's making the prospects of or much more likely because they are not showing they are prepared to confront them but they are damaging theof peace process but underneath the surface there is a lot of fear but the public service in peace agreements are being undermined by us policy that is appeasing. >> our next zoom may be next month on the abraham accords
and those that are is also reminding us what we are talking about here so i just want to thank you very much for joining us over the hour we appreciate your extremely candid remarks on this curious matter those on this call should know this is been a long-standing mission joining the organization in 2014 and i suspect next year through 2022 we will be focusing even more than we had before but on a more positive note you are joining us as a distinguished fellow and it has been
tremendous working with you so far more and more on zoom. thank you. >> i love seeing the four -year-old —- across the screen. [laughter] i appreciate everybody and i understand that many members of the border on the call and i got to meet some of you the course the last couple months i look forward to meeting more of you but how appreciative i am there was a clear stand on this issue and i think it is certainly the single most national security issue it says important from the united states russia represents challenges a radical islamic
regime as churchill would call it we cannot allow that to happen never see a policy of confrontation to convey that endangers us and everybody else makes the chances of were greater, not less and with that policy eventually and won't take that to wake us up hopefully that's before we are woken up because it's on a march we have to work together to stop it. >> i am not even sure where we are at the moment for foreign policy and just drifting. but i agree he did say that.
i think he said something like that about democracy. >> we have been through worse we will get through this but when we came back to israel to restore sovereignty we didn't come back to see that sovereignty destroyed and to say too many people with 15170 investors is 195 then washington so those who try to destroy.
>> i hope the united states will do the right thing and do what it needs to do. thank you very much i appreciate everyone so please look out with the iran nuclear issue even more so 2022 so please stay tuned and i wish everybody a happy holiday season and we look forward to an interesting 2022. thank you everybody for joining.