Two senior Israeli defense officials warned of Iranian intentions in Lebanon and Syria, providing a harsh reality for Israel in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilead, who until recently served as director of policy and political-military affairs at Israel’s Defense Ministry, warns that Iran is exploiting a major vacuum in the Middle East.
Speaking at the Annual Herzliya Conference, which takes place from May 8-10, Gilead addressed the recent surge in tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria—prior to Iran’s lobbing some 20 rockets at the Golan Heights from Syria on Wednesday night—stating that Iran is now seeking to add Syria to “Hezbollahstan, which is an entity in Lebanon that is stronger than Lebanon itself.”
“Hezbollahstan has 120,000 rockets pointed at Israel. To this, the Iranians want to add missiles. To this, they want to add Syria,” he said.
“If Israel does not stop this, we will be surrounded by two fronts . . . Iran’s goal is to build an empire stretching to the Mediterranean Sea,” he cautioned. “It is working for them.”
Tehran’s determination to retaliate against reported Israeli strikes on Iranian military assets in Syria is part of a bigger attempt to dictate “new rules of the game” to Israel, he said, adding that Israel must reject those rules, and act to defend itself.
“The Iranians are determined to destroy Israel’s existence,” Gilead stated, adding, “History repeats itself. Ideological, extremist regimes sworn to wiping out the Jews—they mean what they say. Iran is the only threat that can turn existential,” he said, if nuclear weapons are combined with Iran’s radical ideology.”
‘Why are we satisfied’ Iran deal was cancelled?
Gilead similarly blasted the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, describing it as “one of the worst agreements in the world.”
But,” he added, “you need an alternative for everything.”
Gilead is one of a select few former senior Israeli defense figures to openly challenge the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to cancel the Iranian nuclear deal, in opposition to the unequivocal position held by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who backs Trump.
He assessed that Iran will stay in the agreement for now, and that it will be joined by Russia and China, “two great powers,” as well as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, which he said “will all be against the U.S.
That means that the U.S. will be isolated.”
In the next stage, warned Gilead, Iran will feel free to return to the nuclear path, while declaring “with characteristic fraudulence that they respect the agreement. The U.S. is isolated, and the world will support Iran. The Iranians will have the freedom to develop nuclear weapons. That is very bad news. I think this is the wrong decision.”
Gilead, who spent three decades serving in the Israeli defense establishment in various influential intelligence and military roles, said he “does not see the U.S. attacking Iran if the Iranians develop nuclear weapons. And I don’t see the cunning Iranians developing nuclear weapons right now. They can wait for five years. Iran is a civilization with a history of thousands of years. They have time.”
As a result, he continued, the Iranians can reactivate their nuclear program a little further down the road. Under such a scenario, Israel could easily find itself having to deal with that crisis largely on its own.
“In Israel, we supported the cancellation of the deal, and everyone is satisfied. Why are we satisfied? What are the options? We will be alone,” he said. “The Iranians will go down the nuclear path, and the world will support them.”
In 1996, Gilead was one of the first to issue a strategic warning about the Iranian threat during a briefing to the Israeli government in his role as head of the Military Intelligence’s Evaluation Department.
‘If they could have Hezbollah fire at us every day…they would do that’
Also on Tuesday, former Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. (Res.) Moshe Ya’alon said that Iran’s religious-strategic doctrine and attempt to create regional Shi’ite hegemony sees the existence of a Jewish entity in the Middle East as a thorn in its side.
Iran’s strategy is therefore to seek Israel’s destruction, which could also be attempted “by attrition,” Ya’alon warned. “If they could have Hezbollah fire at us every day or to conduct severe terror attacks . . . every day, they would do that.”
Israel enjoys military superiority over its adversaries, and this has caused its remaining foes, led by Iran, to opt for rocket and missile threats, targeting Israel’s home front, noted Ya’alon.
To deal with these modern threats, Israel has been fighting a “a War Between Wars,” acting around the clock to target developing threats in a manner that delays the next war for as long as possible.
“We’ve been able to do this for a long time,” Ya’alon said. “It requires intelligence superiority and accurate firepower.”