Israel, U.S. Have Different Timetables For Iran

Robert Siegel speaks with Amos Yadlin, the director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. General Yadlin says he hopes President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will create a "zone of trust" when they meet next week. He says the issue is that Iran's nuclear program may soon progress past a point where Israel has the capability to stop it. The question is whether the United States will promise to take out Iranian nuclear facilities — or provide Israel with the means to do it — if Israel agrees to wait for further diplomacy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Amos Yadlin is a former chief of Israeli military intelligence. He was also one of the pilots who, back in 1981, struck at Iraq's nuclear facilities. This week, he wrote in The New York Times about the two timetables for airstrikes against Iran: Israel's timetable and the United States' timetable. They're different, he says, because Israel's arsenal is more limited than Washington's. And he argues that U.S. appeals for Israeli forbearance require an American guarantee that if sanctions fail to deter Iran, then the U.S. will strike. Amos Yadlin joins us now. Welcome.

AMOS YADLIN: I'm very glad to be with you.

SIEGEL: And first, what is the difference between the weaponry that Israel could use in a strike on Iranian nuclear sites and the weapons that the U.S. could use?

YADLIN: I don't want to go into the operational plans, but anybody who know the armament of the two very good air forces understands that a small country like Israel have a limited capability compared to the formidable air force that the only superpower in the world can operate in the future operation.

SIEGEL: What exactly is happening or will be happening in Iran that would make nuclear targets there, targets that a superpower's arsenal could strike at and Israel couldn't strike at?

YADLIN: You come to the point that some people in Israel are describing as the zone of immunity. When the Iranians dug into the ground to bunkers, to tunnels that a conventional air force cannot hit, when you have more armament, when you have more bunker busters, you can still penetrate and destroy the Iranian program even if it is under the ground in a later date than a smaller air force can do.

SIEGEL: And is that date now nearing? I mean, does Israel see the hardening of protections for Iran's nuclear sites taking place now so that the point in which Israel's own air force couldn't knock them out is fast approaching?

YADLIN: If you have listened very carefully to our defense minister, this is exactly what he is claiming the last couple of months.

SIEGEL: Well, then put us in the room at the White House next week with President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. What is the prime minister asking? Is he saying if we don't strike now, will you, the U.S., guarantee us that you will, or that you will give us weapons to do it? Or what is Israel's demand of the U.S.?

YADLIN: I don't think it's an Israeli demand. It's vice-versa. What is transmitted from the United States is, don't do it. It is not the right time. But I want the two of them to move into the zone of trust, that they will trust each other that if Israel will not attack and nobody want the military attack. Everybody want it to be only the last resort. But if any other strategy will not work, then the prime minister should trust the president that he will stand behind his promise.

SIEGEL: Yes. You wrote, hoping that a zone of trust is established in these meetings between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I wonder, is there some way in which they split the difference? That is, if Israel says, if you want us not to strike, we have to understand that you will strike if it's necessary. Is Israel also saying, well, if you committed to us the use of a particular kind of bunker buster ordinance, that would satisfy us that we, if necessary, would be able to do it if you wouldn't.

YADLIN: I think that the United States is supporting Israel capability to protect itself, so I guess this will be discussed also, maybe to make the Israeli deadline going forward a little bit on the timeline.

SIEGEL: That line could be, as we say, fungible if, indeed, the U.S. were committed to giving Israel more weapons, better weapons.

YADLIN: Yeah. I think this is like - this is good.

SIEGEL: Mr. Yadlin, thank you very much for talking with us.

YADLIN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Amos Yadlin, retired Israeli major general. He used to be chief of Israeli military intelligence. He's now the director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies.

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