The former head of Israel’s nuclear program said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unnecessarily fear-mongering about Iran’s nuclear capabilities and warned that a military attack on Iran would lead to an “all-out war” and serve to unite Iranians around the regime and incentivize it to perhaps make the decision to build a weapon.
“The statements and threats [from Netanyahu] made regarding an attack on Iran did not help,” said Brig. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Eilam, according to the Israeli news website Ynet. Eilam also served as the Director General of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and he is now a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. He added: “We cannot lead the charge on this front. As far as the project goes, Iran’s nuclear facilities are scattered and buried under tons of earth, concrete and steel. This would require more than one strike, such as on the nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria. A strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would in effect be the opening salvo in all-out war.”
Echoing many in Israel’s security establishment, Eilam said that bombing Iran could result in a number of serious unintended consequences.
“[W]hat good would bombing do? It would only unite the Iranian people behind its government, and provide it with an incentive to continue the project, with far more resources. Bombing would achieve the direct opposite of what we desired,” he said.
Netanyahu has called the interim nuclear deal with Iran a “historic mistake,” but Eilam noted that it has so far succeeded in reining in Iran’s nuclear program and that Israel should give the diplomatic process time to work.
“According to reports, the steps Iran has taken are most significant, the primary step being the dilution of more than half of its enriched fuel,” he said, referring to the fact the Iranians are complying with the interim agreement’s provision to eliminate its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium (90 percent is needed for a bomb, 5 percent for civilian energy purposes).
“The main issues are still ahead of us, but it is definitely possible to be optimistic,” he said. “I think we should give the diplomatic process a serious chance, alongside ongoing sanctions. And I’m not even sure that Iran would want the bomb — it could be enough for them to be a nuclear threshold state — so that it could become a regional power and intimidate its neighbors.
“The Iranian nuclear program will only be operational in another 10 years. Even so, I am not sure that Iran wants the bomb.”
Israeli lawmakers have publicly taken Netanyahu to task for hyping the Iranian threat and criticizing the U.S. in its negotiations with Tehran. Eilam agreed. “Netanyahu is using the Iranian threat to achieve a variety of political objectives,” he said. “These declarations are unnecessarily scaring Israel’s citizens, given Israel is not party to the negotiations to determine whether Iran will or will not dismantle its nuclear program.”