7. (C) In his meeting with CODEL Casey, Barak said the GOI believes its "keystone" relations with the USG remain strong. He described the integral role the USG plays in preserving Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME), especially when faced with threats posed by Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas. He noted that the GOI's positions on Iran are well known, and described North Korea's recent nuclear test as a "second wake-up call" (the first being the AQ Khan network). Barak asked rhetorically how a lack of firm response to North Korea would be interpreted by Iran's leadership, speculating the USG would be viewed as a "paper tiger."
8. (C) In both meetings, Barak said "no option should be removed from the table" when confronting Iran and North Korea; engagement will only work in conjunction with a credible military option, he said. Barak said he was
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personally skeptical that engagement would lead to an acceptable resolution, and argued in favor of a paradigm shift to confront the triple threat posed by nuclear proliferation, Islamic extremist terrorism, and rogue/failing states. He said a strategic partnership with China, Russia, India, and the EU is essential in facing these threats. Barak argued that failure to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran would result in a nuclear arms race in the region as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia look to acquire nuclear weapons.
9. (C) When asked if the USG and GOI have fundamental differences of opinion when assessing Iran's nuclear program, Barak said we share the same intelligence, but acknowledged differences in analysis. He suggested that the USG view is similar to presenting evidence in a criminal court case in which a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. As such, USG standards are tougher -- especially following the failure to find WMD in Iraq -- while end-products such as the 2007 NIE unintentionally take on a softer tone as a result. Barak said the fate of the region and the world rests on our ability to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons -- as such, the standards for determining guilt should be lower as the costs are higher.
10. (C) In both meetings, Barak described Iranians as "chess, not backgammon players." As such, Iran will attempt to avoid any hook to hang accusations on, and look to Pakistan and North Korea as models to emulate in terms of acquiring nuclear weapons while defying the international community. He doubted Tehran would opt for an open, relatively low-threshold test like the recent one in North Korea. Rather, Iran will seek ways to bypass the NPT while ensuring its program is redundant and well-protected to prevent an irreparable military strike. Barak estimated a window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable. After that, he said, any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage. He also expressed concern that should Iran develop nuclear capabilities, other rogue states and/or terrorist groups would not be far behind.