Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is in Washington D.C. to meet with top Biden administration officials for talks centered on Iran as well as the Gaza Strip and other security-related matters. As expected, Lapid warned US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that Iran is on brink of becoming a "nuclear threshold state".
Lapid's office issued this statement after the Sullivan meeting: "The foreign minister shared with the national security adviser Israel’s concerns about Iran’s race toward nuclear capabilities, as well as that Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold state," according to The Times of Israel. "Lapid also discussed with the national security adviser the need for an alternative plan to the nuclear agreement."
As nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers have remain stalled in Vienna, a key question at center of debate over whether the US should seek a restored JCPOA deal with Iran remains just how close is Iran to acquiring a nuke?
Apparently even within the Israeli national security state, there's a deep divide over the question, despite hawks sounding the alarm for decades that Iran is ever "on the brink" of obtaining a nuke. Or also, it could be that internally Israeli intelligence knows the Iranians are not actually close, while the politicians publicly take a very different position for propaganda purposes, and to keep up the international pressure on Tehran.
The influential former Mossad director Yossi Cohen suggested this precisely in Tuesday comments that raised eyebrows. The Israeli intelligence veteran commander said in reality that Iran is "not even close" to getting a nuclear weapon - though he chalked this up largely to Israeli's sabotage and espionage efforts targeting the Iranians.
"I think that Iran, to this day, is not even close to acquiring a nuclear weapon... This is due to longstanding efforts by some forces in the world," he said in response to a question by Jerusalem Post intelligence reporter Yonah Jeremy Bob, which included references to Israeli covert actions in the Islamic Republic.
Cohen added that due to Israeli intelligence efforts, Iran has "less foreign support for what [it is] doing than in the past."
The merely obvious https://t.co/BUzve5Pe3T— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) October 12, 2021
He called for a "completely refurbished" nuclear deal, or else warned that the Islamic Republic would indeed become more likely to develop a bomb. Here's more according to The Jerusalem Post:
If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, Israel must be able to stop it on its own, Cohen said.
Asked if that would be possible without bunker-buster bombs, he responded: "We have to develop capabilities to allow us to be absolutely independent, doing what Israel has done twice before" – bombing nuclear reactors in Syria and Iraq.
He further threatened that "They should not sleep quietly in Iran." For much of the past few years Israel has been bombing what it frequently describes as 'Iranian assets' inside Syria.
The nuclear reactor reference the former Mossad chief made is to the 2007 Israeli bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor that was under construction allegedly with the help of North Korea. The attack on the Al-Kubar facility near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria was belatedly admitted to by Israeli officials in 2018.