President Trump’s exit from the Iran deal on Tuesday afternoon could send a signal to the Iranians that Trump is looking for a war. That was the assessment offered by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a live interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, at Washington’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Tuesday evening. But if the Iranians believe Trump is looking for an excuse to bomb them, he suggested, they may tread more carefully in the region.
This means the move is a “good” one in the short term, Barak said, insofar as the uncertainty will “motivate caution, not aggression” on Iran’s part. Still, he admitted to mixed feelings about Trump’s announcement: “It is like when your mother-in-law drives your new BMW over the cliff,” he said.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense minister from 2009 to 2013, Barak was intimately involved in deciding how to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, and he was at one point a proponent of a preventive strike against the regime. In his just-released memoir, My Country, My Life, Barak writes: “Ideally, we hoped the U.S.-led campaign of economic and diplomatic pressure would get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. … There was no doubt in our minds that a nuclear Iran represented a hugely serious threat.”