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Leaked Cables on Iran: Israel's Assessment of Iran's Nuclear Intentions

(May 13, 2009)

Classified U.S. diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contain accounts of a meeting between Israel's military intelligence chief, Major General Amos Yadlin, and U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida) in which they discuss Israel's assessment of Iran's nuclear intentions.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009, 12:20
S E C R E T TEL AVIV 001060
EO 12958 DECL: 05/13/2019
Classified By: DCM Luis G, Moreno, Reason 1.4 (b) (d)

1. (S) Representative Robert Wexler (D, Florida), accompanied by Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Rogin and DCM Moreno, met with Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Chief, MG Amos Yadlin, on Sunday 10 May 2009. MG Yadlin focused his discussion on the preparations for the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United States and the Iranian nuclear program. MG Yadlin informed Rep. Wexler that the PM was preparing intensely for his upcoming visit to Washington. In addition to hours of policy review, the PM had been provided significant amounts of intelligence from the IDI and Mossad on Iran's nuclear program. The intelligence presented included assessments of the current status of the Iranian program; timelines, effects of sanctions; views of the international community; and outcomes of engagement. The differences that exist between the intelligence community in interpretations of the Iranian nuclear program as well as the relationship between Iran and the Palestinians were also presented. MG Yadlin indicated that the IDF had presented its information last week, leaving the cabinet on Friday 08 May 2009 to consider policy options and how information will be presented during the upcoming visit to Washington. Although no direct feedback was provided, MG Yadlin opined that the PM appears determined on Iran.

2. (S) Rep. Wexler asked MG Yadlin to expand on the differences in the interpretations of the intelligence. MG Yadlin explained that until 2003, Iran had violated the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty by having a weaponization group and although Iran could show civilian uses for a missile program and a fissile program, there was no justification for a weaponization group. He went on to say that Iran halted its program in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq, but reinvigorated the program in 2005. He expressed that some in the US agree with this and others do not. He went on to explain that Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001.

3. (S) MG Yadlin explained that Israel tries to be more precise than the US in estimating Iran's intentions and timeline for obtaining a nuclear bomb. Iran is in the position of wanting to pay only a minimum cost for its current program. It does not want to be North Korea or what Iraq was before 2003. Iran intends to keep resolutions and sanctions at a certain manageable level and continue to produce low enriched uranium until there is enough for several bombs. MG Yadlin stated that Iran could decide to produce a bomb by 2010, but Iran is waiting for the right time in the future and that there are some who will always doubt it despite the evidence.

4. (S) Rep. Wexler then asked about the prospect of engagement. MG Yadlin said he does not oppose engagement, and in fact gave a speech approximately six months ago expressing that Israel needed to find a way to find positives in engagement. He feels there needs to be an agreed upon deadline; a measure for success or failure; and a plan B if engagement does not work in order for engagement to have any chance. He also expressed strongly that engagement should have already started. MG Yadlin outlined four possible outcomes of engagement. Two good outcomes would be the Iranian nuclear program stopped or a failure of engagement that allows Russia and China to see the US made all efforts to prevent the program diplomatically and allows for greater cooperation in the future. Two bad outcomes would be Iran playing for time with no claim of failure on the part of engagement or a bad bargain that still allows Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb even if in a longer timeline. Rep. Wexler went on to discuss that there is a third good option in that the President may have better leverage with the American public to support action if engagement efforts are attempted and failed. Rep Wexler recommended that the Israeli people need to consider the US perspective and public opinion. MG Yadlin responded that he is not recommending the US enter a third front, but it has to be understood that Israel sees things differently and that Israel has to be ready and can not remove the military option from the table. Rep Wexler stated that he expected Israel would be pleasantly surprised by the President's acceptance of all possible options in regards to Iran.

Sources: Wikileaks