JERUSALEM The Israeli military sees potential security benefits in an expected international deal curbing Iran's nuclear program, a senior officer was quoted as saying on Thursday in an unexpected analysis of the issue.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has presented the planned deal as a threat to Israel. But in a closed-door briefing to Israeli reporters published in part by local media, the officer said the deal - if agreed by its June 30 deadline - could provide clarity on whether Iran is on course to a bomb.
Western powers share Israel's fear that the Iranians harbor ambitions to get nuclear weapons - something Tehran denies - and years of negotiations backed by sanctions have aimed to eradicate any such capability.
The senior Israeli officer said that, for now, measures sought by international negotiators such as stepped-up inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities and scaling back of its uranium enrichment "allow for the supposition that, in the coming period of years, this is a threat in decline".
A military source confirmed the authenticity of the quotes to Reuters. They reflect wider thinking in Israel's armed forces, where senior staff have recently made clear they were more worried about the dangers posed by Iran's guerrilla allies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza than its nuclear program.
Looking longer-term, the Netanyahu government argues that a nuclear-armed foe would threaten Israel's survival and has lobbied for comprehensive caps on Iranian projects with bomb-making potential.
"The deal is going to allow Iran to actually become a military nuclear threshold state ... whether it be (in) 10 years or whatever," Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Israel is widely assumed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal.
Like Israel, Gulf Arab Sunni states are also concerned about a possible deal between the major powers and Tehran.
However, speaking in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Qatar's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah struck a conciliatory tone with its regional neighbor and said Western states had given assurances that any deal would be solid.
"For the sake of Iran and its people, we would like to see this agreement happening and maybe they can focus on development and prosperity for the region, which we would all like to see," he said.
"The parties discussing this agreement are discussing it with the intention that we have a solid agreement. We have no doubt about our allies. We have this assurance by the Americans and the French as well."
(Writing by Dan Williams; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Tom Heneghan)