Former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff and Air Force Lieutenant General Dan Halutz extended his previous criticisms of hawkishness on Iran on Monday afternoon, worrying that setting “red lines” for Iranian progress that would trigger a military strike (as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefers) would be counterproductive.
Halutz’s remarks came at a press event held by J Street. Halutz worried that setting specific conditions that would trigger military action might limit American and Israeli flexibility in addressing Iran’s nuclear program:
I don’t believe in red line policies, because when you’re stating something at time 1, it might not be the same at time 2…when you are saying red line, you’re claiming you can draw a line based on what the other side is doing…for each and every thing that’s part of the redline, when it comes to the decision, someone will come up with an excuse. You still need a coalition.
Halutz’s point was that setting lines now that are supposed to bind policymakers in the future can prevent them from adapting if conditions on the ground change. Moreover, so called red lines may not actually trigger international action against because the states who are supposed to be bound by them may disagree about whether or not Iran has actually made the level of progress in question.
The Lieutenant General also downplayed the risk that Israel would strike Iran unilaterally in the short term, saying that “I don’t think that anyone in Israel thinks we should attack immediately in spite of all the noises recently” but warning observers “not to underestimate” the IDF’s capability and willingness to attack. He also said he supports the Obama administration’s Iran policy, saying “diplomacy, sanctions, and stick on the table (military option) is the right approach” and that he believes President Obama “means what he’s saying” on his willingness to strike Iran. He added that sanctions “are working. There’s no doubt they are working. The question is how long it will take” to make Iran change its calculus.
When asked about the issue of red lines Monday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is not “setting deadlines” for any type of military action.
Halutz echoed the administration’s view that Iran’s nuclear program posed a serious threat, though it should also be noted that a strike would also carry with it significant downsides. Since informed analysts like Halutz and other American and Israeli analysts suggest there’s still time to resolve the crisis, the Obama administration believes diplomacy is the “best and most permanent” way to address the issue.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said setting red lines for the Iranian program was “not useful.”