Iran is “not currently an existential threat,” but the US intent to return to the 2015 nuclear deal “is worrying” because if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapon it could emerge as an existential threat, former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Meir Dagan conference at Netanyahu Academic College, Eisenkot offered a highly nuanced analysis of the threat posed by Tehran.
On one hand, the former IDF chief clearly rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s framing of the severe threat posed by Iran as having the constant ability to destroy the Jewish state.
Still, Eisenkot currently views Iran as a multi-headed serious threat due to its efforts to pursue a nuclear weapon and its efforts to achieve hegemony in the Middle East.
The difference between Eisenkot and Netanyahu is that the former IDF chief believes that Israel’s level of investment in preventing Tehran from these two objectives have been and continue to be sufficient, regardless of what the West does.
However, he said Israel had many gains due to the JCPOA, including freeing up IDF resources to be invested in fighting tunnel warfare in the North and the South.
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Further, by postponing the Iranian nuclear threat for 10-15 years until 2025-2030, the IDF was able to invest more in developing new intelligence and technological capabilities as well as a stronger navy.
From this view, Eisenkot said he believed that a mix of the IDF and the Mossad can contend with Iran with or without a nuclear deal and that there are some benefits to a return to the JCPOA for focusing on other threats.
In contrast, Netanyahu views a nuclear deal as unequivocally enabling and increasing the nuclear threat to Israel.