WASHINGTON -- A former head of Israel's intelligence service, in an interview with The Huffington Post, slammed a recent op-ed by Mitt Romney as causing "serious issues" for the effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
Efraim Halevy, who was the director of the Mossad in the early 2000s and later the head of Israel's National Security Council, told HuffPost that by forecasting his military intentions -- and claiming that Obama would not act in the same way -- Romney is effectively "telling the Iranians, 'You better be quick about it.'"
"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 said.
In the op-ed, published Tuesday in the Washington Post, Romney described Obama as "America’s most feckless president since Carter" and said his rhetoric on Iran "has not been matched by an effective policy."
If he took office, Romney would take aggressive action that Obama was incapable or unwilling to do, Romney promised:
I will take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom. I will make clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security and survival is absolute. I will demonstrate our commitment to the world by making Jerusalem the destination of my first foreign trip.
Most important, I will buttress my diplomacy with a military option that will persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Only when they understand that at the end of that road lies not nuclear weapons but ruin will there be a real chance for a peaceful resolution.
To Halevy, this read as a clear message to the Iranians to expedite their nuclear efforts.
"This means to an Iranian, if you will wait until another few months and there is a change in the White House, then maybe there will be trouble, so the lesson is, Let's redouble our efforts to do it as quickly as we can," Halevy said. "In the effort to demolish the president he is making the situation worse."
Halevy also took issue with the opening anecdote in Romney's op-ed, in which he claimed that after Jimmy Carter "fretted in the White House" for months over the Iranian hostage crisis, the hostages were released only because the incoming president, Ronald Reagan, had "made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior."
"I'm not sure this is the way this actually unfolded," Halevy said dryly. The hostages were released after months of grueling negotiations by the Carter administration.
And Halevy criticized Romney's suggestion that he would sent warships into the Mediterranean Sea as an unnecessary provocation to not only Iran but also Russia.
"Is that what we want -- to renew the Cold War in the Mediterranean? Is that what's going to help Israel?" Halevy said.
In the interview, Halevy emphasized that he didn't particularly care who wins the American election but was increasingly finding the rhetoric of the primary season unsettling and destabilizing.
"I don't want to go into the affairs of the campaign, but by doing this he is not just telling the American public that they can or cannot trust Obama," Halevy said. "Everybody reads what he says, not only citizens of the united states."
"I think people have to be extremely careful with the way they speak," he added. "I don't have any bones about who wins the election, but what Romney has done is a serious problem here. It causes serious issues here."
Halevy has long downplayed the imminent danger posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon, saying late last year that Iran "is far from posing an existential threat to Israel."
A war against Iran, he said at the time, could end up being devastating for Israel and the entire region.
Asked about the progress of nonmilitary solutions for Iran, Halevy told HuffPost that sanctions were having an effect, if not quite fast enough for his preference.
"I don't want to say I'm optimistic or pessimistic," he said. "I think sanctions are biting and biting bitterly. Are they biting enough? No they are not biting enough."
But he also anticipated that impending money-transfer restrictions will have an even greater effect. "I'm not saying it's enough, but things are happening."
"For Iranians, the No. 1 concern is not the bomb; it is to preserve their regime," Halevy said.
CORRECTION: This piece has been updated to reflect that the embassy hostages in Iran were released after a long period of negotiations by the Carter administration not after an arms exchange by the Reagan administration. The Reagan administration later traded arms for hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Lebanon.
BEFORE YOU GO
06/19/2012 9:05 AM EDT
Moscow talks make little progress.
MOSCOW — A top Russian official made a last-ditch effort to save talks over Iran's nuclear program from collapse Tuesday, holding a meeting with Iran's chief envoy.
But diplomats said the negotiations remained deadlocked as they went into a second and possibly final day, with the presidents of the United States and Russia urging Iran to agree to curb nuclear activities that could be turned toward arming warheads and Iran demanding a lifting of sanctions crippling its oil industry.
Read more on HuffPost World.
06/18/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Iran, West start nuclear talks.
MOSCOW, June 18 (Reuters) - World powers began two days of talks with Iran on Monday to try to end a decade-long stand-off over Tehran's nuclear programme and avert the threat of a new war in the Middle East.
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran would be prepared to stop enriching uranium to a higher level - a process that could be used to make nuclear arms - if the six powers agreed to meet its needs for the fuel. But it is not clear how much influence Ahmadinejad has over the negotiations and whether his remarks reflect Tehran's position in the talks.
Read the full article on HuffPost World.
06/13/2012 6:50 PM EDT
All proposals on the table.
TEHRAN, Iran -- Proposals from both Iran and the group of six world powers will be on the table for nuclear talks in Moscow next week, not just the West's demand to halt Iran's highest level uranium enrichment, Iran's top negotiator said Wednesday.
Read more on HuffPost World.
06/08/2012 10:20 AM EDT
New round of nuke talks.
VIENNA, June 8 (Reuters) - Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog began a new round of talks on Friday in an attempt to seal a deal to resume a long-stalled probe into suspected atomic weapon research in the Islamic state.
Read the full story on HuffPost World.
06/08/2012 7:33 AM EDT
Ahmadinejad: 'Iran won't build nuclear bomb.'
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's president says Iran has no intention of building nuclear weapons, but fear would not deter it if it decided to make them.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments suggest a toughening of Iran's position ahead of June 18-19 talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear program.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany want Iran to shut down its highest level uranium enrichment facilities. Ahmadinejad's remarks suggest Iran would refuse.
Ahmadinejad made the comments during a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday in China. His remarks were posted on his website.
The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment. (AP)
06/06/2012 12:03 PM EDT
Smuggling of epic proportions
The BBC reports that $20 billion worth of goods -- the equivalent of nearly 30 percent of the country’s annual official trade -- are smuggled into Iran's borders every year.
Watch the full story here.
06/03/2012 3:11 PM EDT
Clinton draws no conclusions
STOCKHOLM — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she's not drawing any conclusions about what effect the latest hash words from Iran might have on the potential success of upcoming nuclear talks in Moscow.
05/31/2012 2:08 PM EDT
Iran's Forrest Gump.
Iranian-born Reza Baluchi is a regular Forrest Gump. Ten years ago he ran away from Iran. He’s run across the United States twice since then, once around its perimeter. Yet now he’s planning his biggest journey of all, CNN reports, a run around the world that will take him through his home country once more.
It started when he ran away from home at the age of eight. Later he ran away from his homeland, Iran, and spent seven years on a bicycle, pedaling 49,700 miles across 55 countries.
In 2002, he reached America. He now lives in a tent in Death Valley.
It's been nearly 10 years since Reza Baluchi escaped from Iran. He has run across the United States twice and around its perimeter once. He sets out on every journey with the same mission: to spread a message of world peace.
Read the full story here.
05/31/2012 2:01 PM EDT
Jackson Pollock painting returned.
After being seized by Iranian customs over a monetary dispute, a painting by Jackson Pollock has been returned to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran, the BBC reports.
Mural on Indian Red Ground was seized by the country's customs service on 11 May after being on loan to Japan.
The service said it confiscated the work over money owed by the Ministry of Culture, which runs the museum.
The ministry said the painting had been returned "after negotiations.”
Read the full story here.
05/29/2012 7:24 PM EDT
Dissident blogger in Iran.
Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, a 26-year-old Iranian dissident blogger, has spent the past 13 months in solitary confinement at Iran’s Evin Prison, BBC Persian reports.
International Business Times reports that Maleki has written a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, including the following passage:
“Leader of the Islamic Republic,
We must admit that judicial independence is not possible with the existence of so many intelligence and security entities.
We must admit that the society is facing a great explosion, and the current superficial peace is basically due to oppression, intimidation, imprisonments and suppression.
We must know that the thoughts of freedom seekers cannot be enchained! Ideologies cannot be tortured! Truth cannot be suppressed!”