Former Israeli Intelligence Chiefs Keep Door Open On Iran Talks


Efraim Halevy

Efraim Halevy

CREDIT: Haaretz

With news out of Geneva this week of a possible interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, “those dedicated to maintaining perpetual hostility toward [Iran],” security expert Paul Pillar wrote on Friday, “are facing their most challenging week in some time.”

Indeed, the details of what any agreement may look like have not been publicized and yet some of the various groups here in the U.S. that have been working hard at trying to scuttle any potential deal are calling it a bad one. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the chorus on Friday, saying “the international community got a bad deal,” while Iran “got the deal of the century.”

“The agreement in Geneva,” said Netanyahu, (which has yet to take place), “annihilates the possibility of peaceful resolution with Tehran.”

Others, however, are urging caution. Those include former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who is now the head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. Yadlin, in a seeming rebuke of Netanyahu’s posture, told Israeli radio according to Reuters, that Israel “needs to influence the talks but the question is whether more influence can be brought to bear through adopting extreme positions or through heart to heart talks that create trust.”

Yadlin, who has said that it would be “reasonable” to allow Iran some kind of uranium enrichment capabilities as part of any long term deal, added: “There needs to be a scrutiny of the details before determining whether the ‘holy of holies’ was destroyed today.”

And just days before reports of a possible interim deal with Iran, Israel’s former top spy told Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen that he sees a good opportunity:

I come away from this with a sense of possibility, by no means a certainty, that there might be an opening, in which one can turn around the thorniest problem of all: the deep-seated rejection of Israel by the current regime in Iran,” Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli intelligence service the Mossad, told Al-Monitor in interviews on the sidelines of a conference on Middle East security issues in Istanbul this week convened by the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. “This will not be obtained overnight.”

Netanyahu and others say they won’t accept any deal that, for example, allows Iran any enrichment capabilities. But former Obama administration State Department official Robert Einhorn in a recent press call hosted by the Israel Project dismissed such propositions as “not achievable.”

“I don’t think any Iranian government could sell that deal at home,” he said, according to the New York Times. “I think we would pay a price in terms of the unraveling of sanctions if it looked like we, and not the Iranians, were the cause of the impasse.”

Meanwhile, the prospects for at least an interim deal are heating up as a number of high level officials are heading to Geneva. Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly just arrived in Geneva “to help narrow differences,” according to a State Department official while the Russian Foreign Minister is rumored to be on his way and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog announced that Director General Yukiya Amano will travel to Tehran next week “with the aim of strengthening dialogue and cooperation.”