Several months after the 2013 election of former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Aviv Kohavi submitted a position paper to then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he pointed to a significant, strategic shift underway in the Islamic Republic.
Kohavi, who currently serves as IDF chief of staff, was the head of the Military Intelligence unit at the time, and he relayed his assessment that Iran was becoming more moderate and willing to negotiate an agreement with world powers that would enshrine restrictions on its nuclear program.
Days after receiving the report, Netanyahu went to New York for his annual speech before the UN General Assembly.
There, he appeared to dismiss Kohavi’s stance, declaring that “when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: [Rouhani’s hardline predecessor Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing and Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.”
Danny Citrinowicz was part of the team that supplied Kohavi with the intelligence that led him to stake a position on Iran that went against the grain of longstanding policy in Jerusalem.
As head of the Iran branch in the Military Intelligence’s Research and Analysis Division, Citrinowicz was charged with analyzing the strategic intents of the regime in Tehran. This was from 2013 to 2016 during the leadup and the immediate aftermath of the signing of the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Military Intelligence chief Aviv Kohavi attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on February 25, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
Citrinowicz was subsequently dispatched to Washington, where he served as the Military Intelligence deputy attaché to the US, coordinating intel sharing with American counterparts for three years during which Netanyahu pushed then-US president Donald Trump to vacate the JCPOA.
In an interview with The Times of Israel, Citrinowicz characterized Jerusalem’s policy on Iran as a “failure,” and lamented his government’s decision to ignore the shift taking place in the Islamic Republic that he and his colleagues had identified. By encouraging the Trump administration to withdraw from the deal and to impose “maximum pressure” sanctions against Tehran, Israel helped dramatically weaken a more moderate force and blunt the impact of that shift, the retired major argued.
Now, Citrinowicz fears that Israel and Iran are on a “collision course,” with Tehran as emboldened and aggressive as ever. [Continue reading…]