Efraim Halevy, former director of Israeli spy agency the Mossad, said today that he disagreed with the idea of setting so-called “red lines” for Iran’s nuclear program. Talk of placing red lines on Iran’s nuclear program is meant to refer a point at which the Islamic Republic would presumably be met with a military response should it decide to cross. Halevy emphasized a need for leadership from “people who are solution oriented and not war oriented.”
Speaking at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., Halevy said:
“I think the use of the red line creates clarity on the one hand and it also creates a commitment that not always can be met. And therefore, I personally felt that the use of a red line is not conducive to the ultimate aim.”
Halevy’s words come on the heels of comments from Shlomo Brom, a former Israeli army official, who said in an event at the Center for American Progress last Friday that he was against red lines because they “provoke the other party to try and check the limits of his maneuverability…so all they do usually is that they reach the red line and cross it a little bit and see what the direct action is.”
Halevy said that a military strike on Iran should only be a “last resort” and that “our aim should be to win the war without firing one shot.” He added this should be done with: “Sanctions, more sanctions, more sanctions and many other things. … The fact of the matter is the sanctions have not brought the end to the program but sanctions are hurting very much.”
Halevy joins other former Israeli officials who have voiced discomfort with setting red lines. In September, Dan Halutz, a former chief of staff for the Israeli Defense Army, said: “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.”
And the consequences of potential military action in the case that these red lines are crossed are troubling. A bipartisan group of former U.S. military and diplomatic officials recently published a report that detailed the possible consequences of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities:
“Serious costs to U.S. interests would also be felt over the longer term, we believe, with problematic consequences for global and regional stability, including economic stability. A dynamic of escalation, action, and counteraction could produce serious unintended consequences that would significantly increase all of these costs and lead, potentially, to all-out regional war.”
The report says that an attack would not successfully destroy Iran’s program and instead would only delay it and “increase” the chances of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The Obama administration, focused on securing a diplomatic solution, has pursued and enforced crippling sanctions against Iran. The sanctions have had a forceful impact on the Iranian economy. Officials across the world, in the U.S., the U.N. and Israel, believe Iran is not yet made the decision to pursue a nuclear weapon.
Halevy praised the relationship between the Obama administration and Israel, describing it as “very good” and noting that “in the last four years we have had a relationship with the US on the practical issues which are important to Israel; the like of which we have never had with almost any other administration.”