Mitt Romney’s oped in today’s Washington Post claimed — without offering any evidence — that Iran has a “nuclear-bomb program” and that the Islamic Republic is “racing to build a nuclear bomb.” Currently, U.S. intelligence and the IAEA do not believe either of these claims to be true.
But Romney’s disregard for the facts was noticed not just in Washington. Former Israeli Mossad director Efraim Halevy said that Romney’s militaristic talk could induce the Iranians to rush to acquire nuclear weapons in order to deter an attack if the former Massachusetts governor were to assume the presidency in January 2013. Halevy warned that Romney is effectively “telling the Iranians, ‘You better be quick about it,’” in an interview with the Huffington Post. Halevy explained:
If I’m sitting here in the month of March 2012 reading this, and I’m an Iranian leader, what do I understand? I have nine more months to run as fast as I can because this is going to be terrible if the other guys get in.
Halevy went on to observe, “In the effort to demolish the president [Romney] is making the situation worse.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said an attack would only delay Iran’s nuclear program and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey warned that military action “could carry unforeseen risks.”
The bellicose rhetoric of the campaign trail, which often incorporates accusations that Obama has been insufficiently protective of Israel’s security in the face of an Iranian nuclear threat, has stood in stark contrast to the messages coming out of Israel’s intelligence and security communities. Indeed, the IAEA has expressed concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program but neither U.N. nuclear inspectors nor U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Iran has restarted its nuclear weapons program.
In February, former Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan disagreed with the characerization of Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel and current Israeli intelligence chief Tamir Pardo reportedly told a gathering of Israeli ambassadors in December that Iran doesn’t pose an “existential threat” and “the term existential threat is used too freely.”
Also in February, Israeli Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak reported that the Israeli military’s leadership doesn’t support a strike on Iran and the AP disclosed that Israel’s incoming air force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel is “less enthusiastic about a possible attack on Iran” than the current air force chief, according to defense officials.
The White House also noticed Romney’s efforts to beat the war drums. Speaking today, Obama challenged Iran-hawks to “explain to the American people exactly why [we should launch a war] and what the consequences would be.” A growing number of defense and intelligence elites in Israel seem to think the costs of war with Iran far outweigh the consequences to the Jewish state.