A major general in the Israeli army said the Jewish state would launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as a last resort, if sanctions fail and no other steps are taken to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons.
“If you’re asking me, if nothing is done would Israel have to make its move? The answer is yes,” Gen. (Res.) Uzi Dayan told the Chronicle.
That said, Dayan a former deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, former chief of Central Command and former national security advisor to Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, still advocates giving sanctions a chance, but with an implicit threat of force to back them up.
“Sanctions can be very effective, but sanctions will never work if there is not a pointed gun,” Dayan said. “What is the Iranian way of thinking? ‘OK let’s suffer for one, two, three, four more years under sanctions. Then, once we got nuclear [weapons] they will respect us.’
“The only way [to prevent a nuclear Iran] is to turn the screws on sanctions,” he continued, “and at the same time put an ultimatum, say there is a deadline for it, there is a closing time. This is very effective, and this hasn’t been done.”
If it’s not done this way, he said, Israel should prepare a military strike.
Dayan, a nephew of famed Israeli war hero Moshe Dayan, was in Pittsburgh last week to be the featured speaker at the Jewish National Fund’s Tree of Life Annual Dinner honoring David J. Malone, president and CEO of Gateway Financial.
These days, Dayan is the lay leader of Green Horizons, a 35-year-old Zionist-oriented wilderness program, supported by JNF, that teaches teamwork self-sufficiency and leadership to Jewish youth by taking them into the woods — away from their smart phones and tablets — and developing a bond between them and their country. More than 20,000 Israelis are alumni of Green Horizons.
But as a military man, Dayan, who pointedly noted how he commanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for three years when the PM was in the army, said there are three significant threats posed by a nuclear Iran: a threat to Israel, a threat of exporting nuclear arms to terrorist organizations, and a threat of other Middle Eastern states developing their own nuclear weapons — what he called “equalizers” — to check Iranian power.
In fact, Dayan — who recently spoke with Egyptian leaders, including some from the Islamic Brotherhood, while on a mission for the prime minister — said they told him their country would go for a nuclear weapon if Iran developed one of its own.
“They say we can’t afford a nuclear Shiite country,” Dayan said. “It’s the same with Saudi Arabia, the same with, I tell you, Iraq.”
That means there is a danger of a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile parts of the world, he warned.
As Israel’s national security advisor, Dayan said he warned U.S. administrations as early as 2002 that Iran was going nuclear, but the American timetable is longer than Israel’s, he said, and U.S. officials believe they can wait longer before acting. Conversely, Israelis believe any strike by them would be less effective the longer they wait.
But Dayan also criticized his own government for keeping the possibility of an Israeli strike in the media instead of remaining silent and attacking without warning.
“If Israel wouldn’t make a big deal out it, nobody would have cared; everybody would be silent. Then you wake up one morning and it’s too late.”
He discounted the suggestion that an Israeli strike on Iran would drag the United States — against its will — into its third war in the region in a single decade.
“If you have to strike, you have to strike,” Dayan said. “No country is dragged to a war if they don’t want it, but you understand this is a serious matter.”
But he emphasized, “Israel will strike only as a last, last, last choice; this decision hasn’t been made yet.”
Israel, by itself, cannot destroy Iran’s nuclear program, Dayan admitted, but it can deal the regime a significant setback, which could give rise to other possible resolutions.
“Israel can buy a lot of time,” he said, “and time is very important here.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)