Former Mossad Chief Halevy On Nuclear Iran: 'Greatest Victory Is One Achieved without Firing a Shot."
September 2, 2012 • 12:43PM

In a rather extraordinary interview with Ha'aretz, former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy, not only speaks against a war with Iran, but calls for what is, in effect, a Peace of Westphalia approach to Iran. We include here extensive quotes from the interview. [http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/ magazine/former-mossad-chief-an-attack-on-iran- likely-to-foment-a-generations-long-war.premium-1.461760]

Halevy was a close collaborator with slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and played an instrumental role in organizing a peace agreement with Jordan. He has been very critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's drive for war against Iran. While in this interview he refrained from attacking them directly, he nonetheless ruthlessly attacked their scare tactics, especially their abuse of the Holocaust. While Netanyahu likes to fancy himself the Winston Churchill of Israel, Halevy, who was a child in England during the war, said Churchill never used such tactics and always stressed that Great Britain would prevail over Hitler.

Halevy does make clear that a nuclear Iran is indeed a grave matter and destabilizing to the region, and that everything should be done to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, nonetheless he insists even a nuclear Iran is not an existential threat to Israel.

Halevy calls on Israel to "to step out of the box now and stop thinking in binary terms, and recruit our best brains to think of a way to stop the Iranian nuclear project without engaging in an all-out war. Because an attack on Iran is liable to foment a generations-long war with Iran, it is our duty to do all we can to prevent a bomb and prevent bombing and resolve the crisis creatively."

Halevy continues:

"What we need to do is to try and understand the Iranians. The basic feeling of that ancient nation is one of humiliation. Both religious Iranians and secular Iranians feel that for 200 years the Western powers used them as their playthings. They do not forget for a moment that the British and the Americans intervened in their internal affairs and toppled the regime of Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953. From their perspective, the reason why, to this day, there is no modern rail network and no modern oil refineries in Iran is that the West prevented that. Thus, the deep motive behind the Iranian nuclear project — which was launched by the Shah — is not the confrontation with Israel, but the desire to restore to Iran the greatness of which it was long deprived.

"I believe that if the West could find a way to propose to Iran alternative methods to acquire that sense of greatness, Iran would forsake the nuclear road. If Iran were offered trains and oil refineries and a place of honor in regional trade, it would consider this seriously. You say carrots? The carrots offered to Iran until now were not big enough. Maybe the sticks were not thick enough, either.

"There should have been cooperation with Turkey vis-à-vis Iran. There should have been action against Iran in Syria. The Russians should have been brought into the picture. If Israel had adopted a creative, active policy, and if the international community had held up to the Iranians a far richer package of threats and enticements, I think there would have been a chance to dissuade the Iranians from embarking on the dangerous road they have taken. And I believe it is not too late. The sanctions are very painful. The negotiations have not yet been exhausted. The threat of an American military option can also be more concrete. If instead of focusing on a military solution, Israel were to succeed in mobilizing the international community for complex and sophisticated political-economic action, I believe that the results might be surprising.

"We have to take into account the possibility that if we attack Iran's nuclear facilities, there will no longer be a political horizon in regard to Iran or sanctions against Iran. We have to deploy for the possibility that while the immediate result of the operation will be Israel's glorification in the Sunni Arab world, the later result will be a sharp anti-Israeli public wave in the spirit of the Arab Spring. We need to understand that after the attack, a deep Israeli complex will develop in Iran, one that crosses parties and opinions and communities, because we will become the symbol of those that humiliated Iran and prevented it from restoring its greatness. We need to remember that we are very much dependent on the United States and not utter boastful slogans that we are sovereign and therefore will take our fate into our hands.

"I was in our embassy in Washington during the Yom Kippur War and I saw how much we needed the airlift and how hard it was to organize an airlift, even when the U.S. administration was extremely sympathetic. I saw what happened when the president threatened Israel toward the end of the war that the United States would lift its protection. I suggest to all of us not to go back to that place and also not to repeat the mistake we made in 1956 when we went into the Sinai Operation without informing the Americans.

"I am not Chamberlain. I am not proposing peace with honor or peace in our time, but a realistic view of the situation. It is true that the present Iranian regime does not want Israel to exist. But that desire is not their top priority, and they themselves know that it cannot be realized. The Iranians are afraid of us no less than we are afraid of them. What they did in the past 20 years is to use the Israeli-Palestinian issue cynically to gain popularity and influence in the Middle East. But what is happening now is that the rhetoric of Israel as a cancer is gradually drawing them into an increasingly acute confrontation with us. We, for our part, are treating them like Hitler and are being drawn into a confrontation with them from which there will be no way back.

"That is a pity. Iran does not have a common border with us and there is no direct conflict of interest between them and us. A full-scale confrontation between us is unnecessary. I am not naive and I am not ready for the Iranians to deceive us. But what I recommend is trying to calm the Iranian-Israeli conflict and not escalate it. It is possible that, in the end, we will have no choice and will be forced to attack. If so, we will all have to stand behind the government that makes the decision and stand together in the campaign. In war, one acts as in war and shows solidarity. But before venturing on such an extreme and dangerous action, I suggest making a supreme effort to avoid it. We must not hem the Iranians in and we must not push them into a corner. We have to try to give them an honorable way out. It's always worth remembering that the greatest victory in war is the victory that is achieved without firing a shot."