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Israeli Security Experts Agree: The Trump-Netanyahu Approach Has Failed Disastrously

'It Was a Strategic Mistake'

When President Trump chose in May 2018 to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the JCPOA agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program, a wide range of leading American and Israeli security experts warned that he was making a terrible and deeply unnecessary mistake. At the time, it was crystal clear that the JCPOA was working as intended to comprehensively restrain, monitor and inspect the Iranian nuclear program, ensuring that Iran could not and would not approach the level of enrichment needed to make nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, along with Trump’s own military and intelligence agencies, confirmed that Iran was in full compliance with the terms of the agreement. General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that “‘Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations.” Trump’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress in late 2017 that continuing to comply with the agreement was in the best interests of the United States.

In a public letter, 26 former top-ranking Israeli military and security officials urged the United States to maintain the agreement. They warned: “American abandonment of the agreement would undermine not just the deal, but Israel’s security as well….Should US abandonment of the agreement lead to the pact’s demise, the consequences for Israeli security could be even more dire. Iran could resume the full scope of its former nuclear activities — or advance well beyond them ahead of time — unrestricted and unmonitored.”

These warnings, which Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netayahu ignored, have proven to be completely correct.

In response to the US violation of the agreement, Iran has heavily increased its nuclear enrichment levels and stockpiles of enriched uranium, and is now far closer to the threshold for developing a nuclear weapon than they ever were under the JCPOA. While the JCPOA successfully pushed Iran’s breakout time to a full year, since the US withdrawal from the agreement that time has moved closer to one month. The threat of another dangerous and costly Middle East war is high. A wide range of veteran Israeli military experts — including some critics of the original agreement — now agree: Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement has been a complete disaster.

“A return to the JCPOA is critical to Israel’s national security… Symbolic issues, such as removing the Revolutionary Guards from the terrorism list, cannot be allowed to cloud our judgment.”

Yair Golan

Former Deputy IDF Chief of Staff and Current Deputy Minister of Economics and Industry

“The JCPOA certainly entailed painful compromises, but the argument that we are better off with no deal at all is patently absurd. International pressure, in the form of a return to the deal, is the only obstacle to an Iranian decision to move from its current status, as a de facto nuclear threshold state, to an operational capability.”

Chuck Freilich

Former Israeli Deputy National Security Advisor

“What happened in 2018 was a tragedy. It was an unforgivable strategy, the fact that Israel pushed the United States to withdraw from the agreement ten years early. It was a strategic mistake.”

Tamir Pardo

Former Director of Mossad (2011-2016)

“If we want to be honest what postponed Iranian progress towards achieving nuclear weapons was the nuclear agreement — and not military action….[Iran] are closer now than they have ever been before. And that is because of the very wrong policy taken by the State of Israel…They were years away from achieving nuclear weapons. And that is a much better achievement than we would’ve been able to make with military action.”

Amos Yadlin

Former Chief of IDF Military Intelligence, 2006-2010


“Make no mistake, any nuclear agreement, even a carbon copy of the 2015 agreement, is better than the position Trump’s unilateral withdrawal has put us with the egging on of Israel.”

Ofer Shelah

Former Member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee

“Looking at the policy on Iran in the last decade, the main mistake was the withdrawal from the agreement…it gave them an excuse to go ahead [with enrichment]”

Moshe Ya’alon

Former Defense Minister (2013-2016)

“The fact that the US withdrew in 2018 [from the Iran nuclear deal] released Iran from all restrictions and inspections in the deal, even if there were holes, and brought Iran to the most advanced position today with regard to its nuclear program.”

Gadi Eisenkot

Former IDF Chief of Staff (2015-2019)

“[JCPOA withdrawal] was a delusional decision that allowed the Iranians to move forward quickly in the direction of becoming a nuclear threshold state.”

Ehud Barak

Former Prime Minister and Defense Minister

“The agreement — with all of its flaws — rolled back the Iran nuclear program significantly, more than any other clandestine activity that was aimed at doing the same…[Withdrawal from the JCPOA] was a catastrophe…It’s a failure because we pushed the US side to leave the agreement when there are no other options….I think that through the adoption of a failed policy, we’ve put ourselves in a situation with Iran that is the direst that it’s ever been.”

Danny Citrinowicz

Chief of Israeli Military Intelligence’s Iran branch (2013-2016)

“Netanyahu’s efforts to persuade the Trump administration to quit the nuclear agreement have turned out to be the worst strategic mistake in Israel’s history. We need to end the negativity and encourage the U.S. to conclude a deal that focuses on the main thing…Blocking the imminent Iranian acquisition of a bomb.”

Major General Isaac Ben Israel

Former Chief of Israeli Air Force Intelligence and current Chairman of the Israeli Space Agency

“[JCPOA withdrawal enabled] Iran to accumulate a lot more material, work on advanced centrifuges, and maybe other things that we don’t know about, all which brought Iran closer than ever before [to a nuclear weapon]…The nuclear deal was flawed, but at least it put a lid on Iran’s advancement, which we don’t have now.”

Yoel Guzansky

Former Head of the Iran Desk at Israel’s National Security Council

“Today, it’s clear that maximum pressure did not yield its political objectives.”

Raz Zimmt

Iran expert, Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies

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