Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks to Forbes magazine editor-in-chief Steve Forbes.
(Central Israel) — Are Israeli leaders actively considering preemptive military strikes to neutralize Iran’s nuclear threat, now that the world powers have struck a deal that gives Iran nearly everything it wants and puts Tehran on a legal pathway to The Bomb?
I was asked this last night during an interview on an American radio program. The host knew that I had once worked for Netanyahu, and that I stay in touch with his team and other Israeli national security experts. He also knew that I had written a series of political thrillers several years ago — The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative and Damascus Countdown — that imagined what might happen if an Israeli prime minister ordered such an attack, despite pressure from an American president not to do so.
Here are some thoughts.
- First, let me be clear: I have no inside knowledge of what Israeli leaders are preparing to do. I haven’t spoken to Mr. Netanyahu in quite some time. Indeed, having just returned to Israel on Tuesday, I haven’t been in contact with any Israeli officials yet so I’m only sharing my own personal thoughts and observations.
- Israel has used surprise military force twice to neutralize foreign nuclear programs. In 1981, the Israeli Air Force attacked and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear facilities. Then in 2007, the Israelis attacked and destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility being built with the help of the North Koreans. An attack on Iran’s facilities would be far more complex, and the possible retaliatory blowback could be horrendous. But yet, the Israelis certainly have the capability to do what they need to do, and they’ve been preparing for years for that moment. Given Israel’s historic track record, it is possible Israeli leaders will come to the point of feeling they have no choice but to launch attacks on Iran.
- I am certain Israel’s leaders want to find every possible avenue short of war. They certainly would like to see Congress derail this dangerous — indeed, insane — nuclear deal that gives Iran everything they want and more. This will be the first focus. The Israelis could also potentially use covert means to sabotage or slow down Iran’s pursuit of The Bomb. Meanwhile, the Israelis are quietly working with the Saudis and others Sunni Arab states to figure out ways to neutralize the Iran threat short of war, if at all possible.
- That said, support for war is rising here. The latest polls indicate that 74% of Israelis say this deal won’t stop Iran from getting The Bomb, and 47% of Israelis now support unilateral strikes against Iran, if need be, while only 35% oppose such strikes.
- What’s more, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an interview to my old boss, Steve Forbes, indicating that the prospect of war — including a “nuclear war” — has just become much more likely because of this deal. You will find the full text of the interview (and a link to the video) below. I would encourage you to read it and study it carefully. Please be praying for peace, praying for wisdom for Israeli and other regional leaders, pray for Congressional leaders to do the right thing, and keep praying for President Obama and his team, as well, that their hearts and actions might be dramatically changed and soon.
Here is the interview in full — or watch it here:
STEVE FORBES: Prime Minister, President Obama has said that if there isn’t a deal with Iran it will mean war. What we’ve learned about the deal is not reassuring. What’s your take on this?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think if the deal goes through we’re in danger of war, and it might be the worst kind of war we can imagine. Because this deal will open the way for Iran not to get a bomb but many bombs. Within a decade it will be free to enrich uranium on an unlimited basis. And it will be able to make the fissile core for dozens of bombs–indeed, hundreds of bombs–which it can then put on the hundreds of ICBMs it already has.
Under this deal Iran is going to get $100 billion to $300 billion, which it will be able to use to fund its terrorism and its aggression in the region–its aim being to destroy Israel. Given Iran’s history of aggression, I’d say that this double bonanza of a guaranteed pathway to a nuclear arsenal and a jackpot of money to continue its aggression actually makes the danger of war, even nuclear war, a lot greater.
SF: You make a very important point. Even if Iran sticks to the deal, which is highly problematical, in a decade it will be a major global nuclear power, and it will have ballistic missiles.
BN: Iran is producing them, and guess what? Within a few years they will be able to reach the Eastern seaboard of the United States. And then every point in the United States. But this deal will also enable Iran to tip those missiles with nuclear weapons, with atomic bombs. And I think it’s a huge mistake to allow the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, Iran, to have nuclear weapons, as well as the capacity to give such weapons to its terrorist surrogates. This is a big, big mistake. Not only endangering Israel and the entire Middle East but the entire world, specifically the United States. The mullahs, the dictators in Tehran, they call us the little Satan; they call America the big Satan. You are their ultimate target, and you should not give such a terrorist regime the weapons of mass destruction. Because I think the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. Here you have a militant Islamic state, Iran, arming itself with nuclear weapons and receiving a huge cash bonanza in the bargain. That’s a mistake.
SF: The prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power is going to set off a nuclear arms race in this part of the world, is it not?
BN: It is. The greatest danger in this deal is not that Iran will violate the agreement. That’s a danger — and it’s probably a certainty, given its record of cheating. The fact is that within ten years Iran won’t have to violate anything; it can just walk into the bombs. Into many bombs. The Iranians are openly saying that they won’t have the 6,000 centrifuges they’re allowed under this deal, they can have 190,000 centrifuges. Which is a vast amount.
They’ll be able to take yellow cake, put it into those centrifuges, spin it and make the material needed for nuclear bombs within weeks–and on a vast scale. And they don’t have to violate the agreement. They merely have to keep it to get a nuclear arsenal.
And that’s why countries in the region — Iran’s Arab neighbors and others — are saying, “Well, if Iran is going to be given a license to produce an atomic bomb arsenal, then we have to do that, too.” So this deal will spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East tinderbox.
And, you know, this could be the deal that will be the ultimate nuclear proliferator, that more than anything else in history will cause the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That’s bad news for everyone.
SF: Iran clearly wants to become the dominant power in the Middle East. We see its proxies operating everywhere. Iran seems, ultimately, to have its eyes on Saudi Arabia’s oil, not to mention Iraq’s.
BN: And the holy places.
SF: And the holy places. Putting aside the nuclear issue, how do we counter Iran’s ambitions in the region, which have global implications?
BN: Well, don’t give Iran the $100 billion to $300 billion to fund its proxies and its own arms industry–its rockets, its drones and its submarines. Why give the most dangerous regime on Earth the power to further its aggression? This is a big, big mistake. So, the first thing is: Don’t give Iran the funds to multiply its aggression 10 times, 100 times over.
Second, resist Iran and its proxies. Support your allies, support those who are resisting Iran. And the principal ally, the best ally that the U.S. has in this region is Israel. I think that America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than America. And we should stand together against Iranian aggression, and against ISIS’ aggression. Both of them are our enemies. You shouldn’t strengthen one and weaken the other; you should weaken both.
SF: What happens if Congress doesn’t derail this deal?
BN: We always have the right and the duty to protect ourselves against a regime that, while denying the Holocaust, is planning another Holocaust against the six million Jews of Israel. That will not happen. We won’t let it happen.
SF: Is this like the 1930s?
BN: No, it’s worse, because we have the example of the 1930s, which wasn’t available then.