JERUSALEM, Israel – In a teleconferencing call Wednesday morning, former Israeli national security advisor Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Nagel said on a scale of 1 to 10, he would rate US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, "more than 10."
Speaking in a TIP's conference call, Nagel said it wasn't that President Trump needed Israel's affirmation, "but we are saying that this agreement is a very bad one…."
You can listen to the interview here:
Like many senior Israeli officials, Nagel's pragmatism prevailed in his assessment of the president's announcement.
"Some Israelis, Americans, Europeans, others are not allowing the facts to confuse them," he said.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) presented some of those facts earlier this week in Part II of a series entitled "Insights Following Exposure of Iran's Military Nuclear Program" earlier this week.
"Israel's exposure of Iran's military nuclear program is justification for a suspension of the JCPOA agreement pending a comprehensive investigation, unconditional and without restrictions on Iran's part, of Iran's military nuclear activity, at every site about which information on such activity has been discovered. If Iran does not allow such an inspection, this will mandate a return to the pre-JCPOA sanctions on Iran," the authors stated. They stressed the importance of investigating the IAEA's conduct, a point Nagel also made. He said IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) investigators "got everything they wanted, but they didn't want anything."
Asked if last week's presentation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the documents and CDs smuggled out of Tehran by the Mossad (Israel's secret service) impacted Trump's decision, Nagel said "it wasn't the deciding factor."
"It was a very, very important Mossad operation," he said. "It will help him [Trump] more from now on, especially sharing the data with the IAEA. It will help impact the future."
Nagel said even some representatives of the European Union weren't happy with the deal, but they kept it to themselves.
"Nothing is happening tomorrow," he predicted. "In the end, the Europeans will figure out what to do."
Nagel said, "no agreement is better than a bad agreement," not the other way around. "We need to have a better agreement to make sure all the holes in the agreement will be closed."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today. Prior to their meeting, Netanyahu took part in the parade commemorating victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serb President Aleksandar Vucic at the parade in Moscow commemorating victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago, Photo, GPO, Amos Ben-Gershom
Nagel said the meetings between the two leaders "are in a very good atmosphere, a warm atmosphere."
"Things are not under the table," he said. "They are on the table to make sure that the Russian side understands that their interests are very close and correlated with our interests. If they want to move toward stabilization, Iranian forces cannot embed themselves in Syria."
Asked if he were an optimist on the Iranian issue, Nagel responded, "I'm an Israeli so you must be an optimist," chiding, "a pessimist is an optimist with experience."
"I think it was a good step that Israel liked," he said. "It will take time."
But what Nagel admires most is Trump himself.
"He took leadership. He talked as the president of the United States – sharp, to the point. I was listening and I heard a leader," he said. "Now the people under him and all other people should go to work. It's not going to happen tomorrow. It will take time," he said.
Nagel doesn't think there will be a war – at least not immediately because "everyone wants to stay in peace."
But Israel will do whatever it has to do, he said.
"Israel is a strong country. We have the ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. Iran is not an Israeli problem. It is a problem of the world," he said.
On Trump's plan to reinstate economic sanctions, Nagel said he's glad if the Iranians "are pushed" because that's what brought them to the negotiating table in the first place.
"We don't want to push the Iranian population," he said – a point Netanyahu has repeatedly stated – "but there are better things to do with money than terror operations and the nuclear program."
Both Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked Trump for his courageous and "historic" decision.
"Israel fully supports President Trump's bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran. Israel has opposed the nuclear deal from the start because we said that rather than blocking Iran's path to a bomb, the deal actually paved Iran's path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years' time. The removal of sanctions under the deal has already produced disastrous results. The deal didn't push war further away, it actually brought it closer. The deal didn't reduce Iran's aggression, it dramatically increased it, and we see this across the entire Middle East. Since the deal, we've seen Iran's aggression grow every day- in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Gaza, and most of all, in Syria, where Iran is trying to establish military bases from which to attack Israel.
"Despite the deal, the terrorist regime in Tehran is developing a ballistic missiles capability, ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads far and wide, to many parts of the world.
"And as we exposed last week, since the deal, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear weapons program.
"So if you leave all of this unchanged, all this combined is a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world.
This is why Israel thinks that President Trump did an historic move and this is why Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, not today, not in a decade, not ever."
President Rivlin issued the following statement:
"The decision made by the President of the United States constitutes an important and significant step in ensuring the security of the State of Israel, the security of the region and the security of the entire free world. Alongside the nuclear threat we do not, for a moment, forget the arms race Iran is leading on our borders, and we follow the developments closely and responsibly in order to protect the security of our citizens. The threat of Iranian consolidation is not a threat to the State of Israel alone, and therefore international pressure is necessary in the struggle against this danger."
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