“There would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East because other countries would also want to obtain an atomic weapon,” Kalman said. (According to foreign reports, Israel maintains the Middle East’s sole nuclear arsenal, which it is said to consider an imperative for its continued survival in a historically hostile region.)
In recent months, Iran has dragged its feet on returning to indirect negotiations with the United States about a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which then-US president Donald Trump abrogated in 2018 and Iran abandoned a year later. Last week, Iranian officials said they planned to return to the talks by the end of November, but US President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed growing impatience and threatened to explore “other options” should the negotiations fail.
“We still believe in the need for a diplomatic solution and we believe that with the correct moves, which must be rigid — some of which have not yet been tried and some of which are diplomatic efforts — it is possible to return Iran to the negotiating table,” Kalman said.
But he reiterated that Israel was preparing for alternatives, should Iran and the West fail to reach a deal.
“Part of my job is building Israeli plans and capabilities for a conflict with Iran. We don’t want conflict, we don’t want war. We want to resolve this issue diplomatically. But when you have in front of you a side that is aggressive, which is building military capabilities, we have to be preparing for other scenarios,” he said.
Kalman commands the military’s Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, an outfit that was created last year to focus specifically on the threat posed by Iran. Its name comes from the IDF practice of identifying threats by their geographic proximity, with those of an immediate nature — like Hamas in Gaza, right on Israel’s border — being referred to as the “first circle,” slightly farther-flung enemies like Iranian proxies in Iraq being in the “second circle,” and yet more distant threats like Iran itself being in the “third circle.”