Anthony Cordesman, a chairman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, testifies during a 2007 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
HERZLIYA, ISRAEL — US strategic analyst Anthony Cordesman warned June 8 that a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran — despite repeated calls for restraint from its key ally in Washington — “better damn well be successful to an extraordinary degree.”
Otherwise, the veteran scholar told an Israeli audience at the annual Herzliya Conference here, “We’ll have to ask you, ‘What part of the word NO do you not understand.”
Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Israel’s decision to act on its oft-threatened right to attack Iran would have “major impact” on bilateral relations.
“You need to understand that your unilateral action could have a critical impact on US-Israel relations,” he said.
Speaking here as top US State Department officials were engaged in direct talks with Iranian counterparts in Geneva, Cordesman urged Israelis not to assume that the prospective agreement with Tehran “would be a wrong one.”
The US, he said, “can deal very easily with failure of the peace process [with the Palestinians] and with unilateral tactical action by Israel for its own defense.” However, he insisted the US “cannot easily deal with an Israel that assumes this deal is a failure before it is made.”
Speaking at the same June 8 session, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said US President Barack Obama has laid out two “nonnegotiable” objectives vis-a-vis the Iranian nuclear program: “That Iran will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon” and that the agreement provide “credible assurances that Iran’s nuclear program will be peaceful.”
He attempted to ease Israeli angst over prospects that world powers would conclude a deal with Iran, perhaps by the July 20 deadline set for the current round of talks. “We’re heading into a critical period. And we will restate that no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Shapiro insisted, “We’re working on a package, not a checklist.”
Washington could accede only to a “comprehensive agreement that addresses all aspects and meets our objectives,” Shapiro said.
Speaking at the same June 8 session, Ya’akov Amidror, former Israeli National Security Advisor, reiterated Israel’s obligation to be prepared to go it alone against Iran.
Despite repeated US assurances that it would not support a so-called bad deal, Amidror said Washington and other world powers “are ready for almost any type of agreement with Iran.”
Amidror insisted Tehran “is not prepared to give up its nuclear program” and that Israel must be prepared to deal with the consequences of an agreement that does not meet its demands for a full dismantling of Tehran’s nuclear weapon project.
“There is a lack of willingness by many in the world, also in the US” to use force against Iran, Amidror said.
Amidror hailed US-Israel strategic ties and insisted “there is nobody else” that would stand by Israel as Washington has done for decades. Nevertheless, he insisted: “We need to be ready to do things by ourselves.” ■