Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, has a stark message for Iran:

“Whoever doubts Israel’s capability will be surprised. The military option that the [Israel Defense Forces] has prepared is genuine and credible.”

Yadlin shoudl know, he was one of the pilots who, in 1981, destroyed the Iraq nuclear reactor at Osiraq, he was part of the team that planned the successful bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, and in his years as head of military intelligence he studied, analyzed, planned and assessed the Iranian nuclear program and threat.

Yadlin’s first interview since retiring his post in 2010 is instructive.

Yadlin does believe that Israel has a credible military option against Iran and that the damage such an attack would cause would be serious. He agrees with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Iran can’t get the bomb. Yadlin is also less concerned about the results of an Israeli attack. He explains that “an attack on Iran won’t cause the Middle East to go up in flames and won’t cause Israel to incur a mortal blow.”

But this is not to say Yadlin favors an immediate attack on Iranian nuclear sites.

In his estimation, there is time to deal with Iran in 2013 or even 2014 and what Israel needs is backup from the Americans for after the initial bombing. But he is careful to say that he thinks it is possible to get this promise of American support by simply talking more. He doesn’t seem to feel there should be a problem with whoever is in the White House.

Given reports from Bob Woodward’s book of how terrible Barack Obama is at making decisions, though, and given the already frayed fabric of relations between the two administrations, it is hard to see how it isn’t a plus for Israel to have a change in leadership in Washington.

The most troubling part of the Yadlin interview is the use of the term “legitimacy” to describe what Israel needs from the rest of the world.

“The international community believes there is still time for diplomacy and sanctions. Consequently, our legitimacy battery is almost empty. Above all, we must cease butting heads with the United States and try to reach a strategic understanding with it. Israel must shape a policy and take action to ensure that, if we are compelled to attack, the world will be behind us on the day we do so.”

If Israel bases its decision on whether to strike on this calculation, get ready for a nuclear Iran.