Patriot Groups throughout Arizona
April 26, 2012 • 5:30AM
In sharp contrast to the ravings of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says the international pressure on Iran, in the form of diplomatic and economic sanctions, and a credible military option, will prevent Iran from "going nuclear." Like former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, he sees the Tehran regime as acting rationally. "If Iran goes nuclear it will have negative dimensions for the world, for the region, for the freedom of action Iran will permit itself," Gantz said in an Independence Day interview with the daily Ha'aretz.
That freedom of action might be expressed "against us, via the force Iran will project toward its clients: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza. And there's also the potential for an existential threat. If they have a bomb, we are the only country in the world that someone calls for its destruction and also builds devices with which to bomb us. But despair not. We are a temperate state. The State of Israel is the strongest in the region and will remain so. Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility, but without hysteria," Gantz said.
Asked whether 2012 would be decisive for Iran, Gantz said: "Clearly, the more the Iranians progress the worse the situation is. This is a critical year, but not necessarily 'go, no-go.' The problem doesn't necessarily stop on Dec. 31, 2012. We're in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only, or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We're closer to the end of the discussions than the middle."
While asserting that diplomatic and economic sanctions are beginning to bear fruit, Gantz said, "I also expect that someone is building operational tools of some sort, just in case. The military option is the last chronologically, but the first in terms of its credibility. If it's not credible, it has no meaning. We are preparing for it in a credible manner. That's my job, as a military man." Iran, Gantz says, "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn't yet decided whether to go the extra mile."
As long as its facilities are not bomb-proof, "the program is too vulnerable, in Iran's view. If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous."
Commenting on his relationship with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, he said: "We speak a great deal with the Americans. It's not on the level of a discussion, where I want something concrete and he forbids it. We are partners. We and the United States have a large common alignment of interests and relations, but America looks at America and Israel [looks at] Israel. We aren't two oceans away from the problem — we live here with our civilians, our women, and our children, so we interpret the extent of the urgency differently. America says its piece openly, and what it says in the media is also said behind closed doors. It cannot be translated into lights, red or green, because no one is asking them anything in that regard."