Barak expressed his confidence that the US, despite its reluctance to engage militarily in a Muslim world war, would step up to the plate in a last-ditch effort if Tehran adamantly refuses to cease its development of nuclear weapons..
Speaking to The Daily Beast and Newsweek reporter Christopher Dickey, Barak was asked if Israel could possibly go to war with Iran without involving the United States.
Barak said, “I don’t see it as a binary kind of situation: either they [the Iranians] turn nuclear or we have a fully fledged war the size of the Iraqi war or even the war in Afghanistan. What we basically say is that if worse comes to worst, there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won’t work because the world is determined to block them.”
He added that, “We, of course, prefer that diplomacy will do. We, of course, prefer that some morning we wake up and see that the Arab Spring was translated into Farsi and jumped over the Gulf to the streets of Tehran, but you cannot build a plan on it. And we should be able to do it.” That is, stage a surgical series of strikes.
Saying that he and his American counterparts maintained very different interpretations of what a strike on Iran would look like, Barak recalls his conversations with them: “I used to tell them, you know, when we are talking about surgical operations we think of a scalpel, you think of a chisel with a 10-pound hammer.” He said that under the Obama administration this was not the case, Barak noted that under directives from the White House, “the Pentagon prepared quite sophisticated, fine, extremely fine, scalpels. So it is not an issue of a major war or a failure to block Iran. You could under a certain situation, if worse comes to worst, end up with a surgical operation.”
As Iran’s nuclear technology has been placed on the fast track and its supply of materials for its weaponry continues unabated, the Obama administration has assumed a flinty posture; stating that it will do everything in its power to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapons power. but diplomatic progress toward neutralizing the threat has been extremely slow.
Barak said that while the recalcitrant Iranians are dug in to their position on becoming a formidable nuclear power and does not expect them to compromise, he nonetheless suggested that much more stringent sanctions against Iran need to be applied. Saying that some kind of “quarantine” on imports and exports may prove effective, Barak also acknowledged that getting the Russians and Chinese to give their imprimatur to this at the United Nations would be exceptionally difficult.
Having previously served as Israel’s prime minister during the Clinton administration, Barak still holds the defense and deputy prime minister portfolios in the lame-duck Israeli government. Barak said he was surprised by the outcome of last week’s Israeli elections in which a weakened Netanyahu government will have to negotiate coalition building in the wake of the strong emergence of Yesh Atid (There is a Future), a new center-left party led by TV anchor Yair Lapid and now the second largest party in the Knesset.
During the interview which covered a wide range of subjects, Barak opined that the popularity of Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party was predicated on the impatience of the Israeli populace with the Netanyahu government’s willingness to grant a multitude of exemptions to the Orthodox segment and for not taking concrete measures to make peace with the Palestinians.
Weary of politics as usual, Barak said that the Israeli people possess a powerful desire to “see something new or fresh.”
Reconfirming his strong belief in a two-state solution as the only authentic means in which both Palestinians and Israelis can meet their aspirations, Barak recalled that he labored assiduously to negotiate terms for an independent Palestinian state in 2000, but was not successful.
Barak, however has no interest in taking part in Israeli political life, as he has planned to retire, at least for the time being. With tongue in cheek, Barak quipped, “In Israel it’s never too late to come back. In five years’ time, I will still be 15 years younger than [Israeli President] Shimon Peres, and he will be only 95.”
When queried about how Israeli defense plans have been altered as a result of rapid developments in the Arab world; such as the rise to prominence of radical jihadists, the internecine warfare in Syria, and the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, Barak said, “It’s like trying to make a priority between the plague and cholera.” In an interesting twist, he proffered the suggestion that the failure of the international community to bring the mass killings in Syria to a halt could be a lesson learned for Israel. That lesson he said is that irrespective of all the promises that the world will take action when a certain threshold of atrocity is crossed, sometimes that just doesn’t happen.