This is the first of several excepts exclusive to WND from WND senior staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi’s new book entitled “Why Israel Can’t Wait: The Coming War Between Israel and Iran,” available from WND Books.
“For us, a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat,” Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon told the author in a private audio-recorded interview in his Jerusalem office on June 14, 2009. “We have to be ready to defend ourselves.”
What I was next told by Yaalon was confirmed to me by virtually all Israeli officials in the Netanyahu government that I interviewed: Iran’s nuclear weapons program is an existential threat to the survival of Israel, to the extent that Israel is reluctantly prepared to launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran, with or without the approval of the United States, as early as the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010, if the United States and the world community fail to stop Iran.
Today, Yaalon is the second highest official in the Israeli government, outranked only by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Shimon Peres serves as Israel’s ceremonial head-of-state.
Yaalon has both the military background and experience at the highest levels of the Israeli government needed to judge realistically the threat represented by Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Drafted into the IDF in 1968, he served in the Nahal Paratroop Regiment. In the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Yaalon served as a reservist. Following this, he returned to active duty in the IDF and served in the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces, dedicated to gathering field intelligence and conducting top secret operations, typically behind enemy lines.
Sayeret Matkal is perhaps most famous for conducting the Operation Thunderbolt raid on the Entebbe Airport on the night of July 3 and the early morning of July 4, 1976, in which Israel rescued more than 100 Air France airline passengers being held in Uganda by PLO terrorists. In this operation, Sayeret Matkal lost Lt. Col. Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu, the younger brother of the prime minister.
Lt.-Gen. Yaalon held several command positions in the IDF Paratroop Brigade and was wounded in the 1982 Lebanon war. He was named head of Military Intelligence in 1995, after which he served as the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 2002 to 2005. Vice Prime Minister Yaalon serves as a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, from Likud, the party of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
When I interviewed Yaalon on June 14 in Jerusalem, he had just returned from an intense week of meetings in Washington.
I asked him whether Israel has a chance to convince the White House of its position in the narrow window of opportunity before Iran had nuclear weapons capability.
“The appeasement road is not going to work with Iran,” he replied. “It will be Israel and the reality of the situation that will convince Washington. I cannot see any U.S. administration ready to submit to radical Islamic jihadism. President Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu at their last meeting that he was committed not to allow a military nuclear Iran, and I hope he will keep his word.”
I asked Yaalon directly whether he would like to tell the world in precise and unequivocal words that Israel will not accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, even if that involved Israel launching an attack on Iran without the White House giving a green light for a military strike.
He responded equally directly: “As bad as launching a military attack on Iran would be, the only worse choice would be to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. One way or another, Iran must be stopped from developing military weapons. A nuclear Iran represents a clear and present danger to the state of Israel, to the Middle East and to the entire world. Israel expects the international community under the leadership of the United States to take all the necessary steps to halt this grave threat. Although it prefers that the international community prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, Israel reserves the right to defend itself and protect its citizens.”
How much more time does Israeli intelligence estimate that Iran will need to develop nuclear weapons capability?
“In the 1990s when I was in military intelligence, we spoke about a decade,” he answered. “Today we are speaking about months, certainly not more that a couple of years.
“Each day, Iran advances its uranium enrichment technology,” he explained. “Each day, Iran moves closer to having the quantity of enriched uranium needed to produce one bomb. That’s not enough to have a true nuclear weapons capability, but Iran is well along the way.”
What is the Iranian strategy?
“The Iranian strategy has always been to have the indigenous capability to produce all components needed for a nuclear-weapons program,” he answered. “This involves not just the ability to enrich uranium, but also the missile technology needed to develop a nuclear weapon.
“Today, Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade and to produce missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon. Iran wants ultimately to have missiles that could reach the United States and eventually Iran will possess that capability as well.”
Would a nuclear-armed Iran be a threat to the continued existence of Israel?
“For us, a nuclear armed Iran is an existential threat,” he stressed. “We live here and we want to live here. We have to be ready to defend our citizens and our country.”
From Yaalon’s point of view, Iran achieving a nuclear weapons capability is a game changer in the Middle East that Israel cannot afford to tolerate.
My research for ‘Why Israel Can’t Wait’
To prepare for writing this book, I spent three weeks in Israel, from May 26 to June 16. During that time, I conducted numerous interviews with top Israeli government officials, members of the Knesset, two former heads of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, as well as several high-ranking military officers from Israel Defense Forces military intelligence.
I also interviewed several think-tank leaders and Israeli journalists who specialize in Iran. I was introduced to Prime Minister Netanyahu and had a short one-on-one meeting with President Peres. I traveled extensively in Israel to see first hand strategically important areas, including the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
This was a historic time to be in Israel: On Thursday, June 4, President Obama spoke in Cairo, Egypt; on Friday, June 5, Obama visited the former Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. On Saturday, June 7, Lebanon held parliamentary elections, with Hezbollah vying to control the legislature. On Friday, June 12, Iran held presidential elections after which Ayatollah Khamenei declared incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the victor, despite claims of widespread voter fraud by the regime. On Sunday, June 14, Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Obama with a speech televised in Israel.
I have been in Israel many times before. This time, I returned to Israel in May and June 2009 because I perceived the time for dealing with a nuclear armed Iran is growing short. I wanted to determine how Iran was being perceived by Israel’s top government policymakers.
I also wanted to understand from Israel’s point of view how the Obama administration’s Middle Eastern policies and support for Israel were being judged.
The decision to publish an electronic book reflects the urgency with which the Iranian nuclear question is coming upon the world. Very likely, 2009 will be “The Year of Iran,” whether we like it or not.
If Iran’s nuclear program continues through the end of 2009, we will have another “Year of Iran” in 2010. Iran and Israel will dominate the news and U.S. foreign policy until the issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons program is resolved, one way or the other.
This is my third book on Iran, having previously published “Atomic Iran” in 2005 and, with Michael Evans, “Showdown with Nuclear Iran” in 2006.
In 2005, I participated in the Iran Freedom Walk in which I walked over 200 miles, from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the White House in Washington, with a group of Iranian expatriates who were determined to restore freedom to their country. We broadcast into Iran via the television and radio stations located in the United States and operated by other Iranian expatriates dedicated to bring a message of freedom and hope to their homeland.
As a senior staff reporter for WorldNetDaily, I continue to follow and report on Iran on a constant basis.
Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily’s Israel-based correspondent and a trusted colleague, assisted me in Israel and was gracious enough to serve as my guide as we toured sensitive areas of the country such as the Golan Heights. Klein has become known for his ability to interview admitted terrorists, and he has direct access to key operatives in Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
My purpose in writing this book
I have always believed a war with Iran is the worst possible solution to stopping Iran from developing a nuclear-weapons program. Always, I have favored peaceful change from within, in which a popular uprising such as the world witnessed in Iran after the 2009 presidential election, would develop into regime change in which Iran’s totalitarian government dominated by Shi’ite religious extremists could be overthrown.
Unfortunately, Iran’s brutal suppression of the post-election protests following the June 2009 presidential election removes for the immediate future any hope that regime change is likely to occur in Iran any time in the foreseeable future.
My prediction today remains the same I made dating back to 2004 when I began writing “Atomic Iran”: Direct negotiations with Iran are doomed to failure, largely because of the Iranian regime’s messianic and apocalyptic revolutionary religious zeal which the United States and the West in general have tended to underestimate. In addition, the West lacks resolve to apply the type of extremely rigorous and severe economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran that have in the past been successfully applied to nations like South Africa during Apartheid. Moreover, Russia and China have remained economically and diplomatically close to Iran despite the U.N. sanctions, with China investing heavily in Iran to obtain access to Iran’s abundant oil and natural gas reserves.
Iran funds and arms Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza, two terrorist organizations that even today remain dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Iran remains a principal terror master in the world and a continuing cause of disorder in the Middle East. Now, with Iran’s nuclear-weapons program proceeding undeterred, Iran is rapidly becoming an imminent threat to the survival of Israel, potentially greater than any threat to its survival that Israel has ever before faced.
When I was in Israel, there was considerable discussion among the top Israeli government leaders whether it was wise to meet with me. As author of “The Obama Nation,” I am widely known as the leading critical biographer of President Obama. The Israeli government realizes the sensitivity of trying to work successfully with the Obama administration, especially after Obama has made abundantly clear the administration’s intent to stop all Israeli developments in the West Bank and to demand a two-state solution be implemented immediately, regardless of the stated intent of Hamas to destroy Israel.
The Israeli government also recognizes me as the author of “Atomic Iran” and understands the degree to which I, a Roman Catholic from birth, have supported the Jewish state of Israel since I was old enough to remember. My concern that Israel survives stems not from evangelical beliefs, but from my conviction as a child that when President Truman allowed the United Nations to partition Palestine in 1948, he correctly understood himself to be making a decision of biblical proportions.
In the final analysis, the government of Israel made a decision during my three-week visit: The State of Israel had something to communicate to the world, and the leaders of Israel decided I would be an acceptable if not appropriate messenger.
The message is simple: Israel will not attack Iran unless Israel feels abandoned by the world at the moment Iran is about to have nuclear-weapons capability. Before attacking Iran, Israel will plead with the West and the moderate Islamic world to help disarm Iran’s nuclear-weapons capability in a meaningful manner.
In the final analysis, however, the Jewish state of Israel reserves the right of self defense and will exercise that right, with or without the prior approval of the United States of America.