UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05794498 Date: 11/30/2015
RELEASE IN FULL
The best way to help Israel deal with Iran's growing nuclear capability is to help the people of
Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.
Negotiations to limit Iran's nuclear program will not solve Israel's security dilemma. Nor will
they stop Iran from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program — the capability
to enrich uranium. At best, the talks between the world's major powers and Iran that began in
Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May will enable Israel to postpone by a few
months a decision whether to launch an attack on Iran that could provoke a major Mideast war.
Iran's nuclear program and Syria's civil war may seem unconnected, but they are. For Israeli
leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader
launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of
both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about -- but cannot talk about -- is
losing their nuclear monopoly. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not only end that
nuclear monopoly but could also prompt other adversaries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go
nuclear as well. The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not
respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.
If Iran were to reach the threshold of a nuclear weapons state, Tehran would find it much easier
to call on its allies in Syria and Hezbollah to strike Israel, knowing that its nuclear weapons
would serve as a deterrent to Israel responding against Iran itself.
Back to Syria. It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in
Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel's security — not through a direct attack,
which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its
proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The
end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel's leadership understands well
why defeating Assad is now in its interests. Speaking on CNN's Amanpour show last week,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that "the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to
the radical axis, major blow to Iran.... It's the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the
Arab world...and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic
Jihad in Gaza."
Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel's security, it would also ease
Israel's understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States
might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that
military action could be warranted. Right now, it is the combination of Iran's strategic alliance
with Syria and the steady progress in Iran's nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli
leaders to contemplate a surprise attack — if necessary over the objections of Washington. With
Assad gone, and Iran no longer able to threaten Israel through its, proxies, it is possible that the
United States and Israel can agree on red lines for when Iran's program has crossed an
unacceptable threshold. In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with
Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria.
The rebellion in Syria has now lasted more than a year. The opposition is not going away, nor is
the regime going to accept a diplomatic solution from the outside. With his life and his family at
risk, only the threat or use of force will change the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's mind.