US President Donald Trump needs to stop wasting energy fighting over renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal and focus on pressuring Iran to reduce its terror in the region, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday.
“Reopening the [nuclear] deal is superfluous, mostly because it is possible to exercise pressure on the Iranian regime already today, without reopening the nuclear deal, on the basis of its violations of UN Security Council resolutions regarding arms sales, terror, its ballistic missiles program and human rights violations,” wrote Ya’alon.
The former defense minister’s provocative position paper for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think-tank makes him the first longstanding right-wing security figure to break with the government line that tossing the deal or fundamentally changing it is the highest priority.
Although some top security figures in the IDF as well as ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden have told The Jerusalem Post that fixing the deal is more of a long-term than near-term priority, none of them had the Israeli right-wing security credentials of Ya’alon.
Ya’alon complimented Trump for his October speech in which the president reset the tone between the US and Iran, putting Tehran on notice that Washington would not keep the deal at any costs if Iranian terror, missile tests and other issues continued unabated.
However, he urged Trump “to avoid wasting time with reopening the nuclear deal now, and instead to take steps as part of an integrated policy of pressures on the [Iranian] regime.”
He said that “Reopening the deal will cause a split between the US and the five partners to the nuclear deal… as opposed to unification and exercising pressure [on Iran].”
Not that he is a fan of the deal or opposes improving it. He did advocate for the US to press for improving the nuclear deal’s inspection regime and for the heaviest possible intelligence focus on Iran’s nuclear activities.
But Ya’alon suggested that the deal should not distract from the more immediate and present threat of Iranian regional terror and from focusing on gaining international support against those activities of the Islamic Republic that other Western allies also oppose.
Another message Ya’alon had for Trump was that US’s Middle East policy needs fewer tough words and more action.
He said Trump’s first year in office was “characterized by the absence of a stable policy” and that his administration must “formulate clear goals for the region and set a strategy” on that basis that will “best cope with all of the extremist actors” in the region.
For example, Ya’alon told the Post on Tuesday, “I understand that Trump has left Syria to Putin and therefore the US is already not a substantial player there.”
He continued, “We saw that the relevant players, like Iran, Turkey and Syria, traveled to Sochi and not to Washington, and that in Sochi there was no US representative,” he continued.
Ya’alon told the Post, “This was a mistake that came out of a lack of long-term US strategy in the Middle East.”
Besides Iran, Ya’alon wrote in the INSS paper that the salafi jihadist threat to the region and to the West presented by ISIS has not disappeared, even as ISIS lost its territorial power.
“The radical organizations may fight from the territorial positions they retain in the Sinai Peninsula, Libya, and Yemen, or by means of terror and guerrilla attacks… and from underground terror infrastructures… particularly in Iraq, Syria and North Africa,” he wrote.
“Given its global scope, the war on salafi jihadist elements requires a concentrated international effort led by the US, with intelligence, operational, economic and political cooperation between all the relevant actors,” he wrote.
With a hard-hitting tone he continued, “The great hopes that many countries in the region hung on the change of administration and a new proactive president… have slowly been eclipsed by a sense of confusion, given us behavior that shows little consistency.”