Gauging the Iranian Threat


In a recent interview with the Canadian news magazine Maclean’s, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy offered fascinating, expert insight into Israel’s current security situation.

Unsurprisingly, his interview focused largely on the questions of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians and the threat posed by Iran. On the Palestinian question, Halevy said that the prospect for peace between Israelis and Palestinians hinges upon the ability of the Palestinians to forge their own state, without relying on foreign benefactors to do it for them. (Left unsaid is that such a Palestinian state would have to renounce the fanatical hatred of Israel that has consumed it for three generations.) But the real crux of the interview is Halevy’s thoughts on the threat posed by Iran.

When asked about Iran developing a nuclear strike capability, Halevy responded with words worth quoting at length:

“It is a serious threat. It is not an existential threat. It is not within the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel — at best it can cause Israel grievous damage. Israel is indestructible. I believe that Israel has a sufficient capability, both offensive and defensive, to take care of any threat, including the Iranian threat.”

Few can match Halevy’s expertise. Yet, when he says that Iran at best can “cause Israel grievous damage,” one has to wonder exactly how much damage he means. When discussing the prospect of being attacked with nuclear weapons, what level of destruction would Israel be willing to absorb before it deemed itself destroyed, rather than merely virtually destroyed? And if Iranian-issue nuclear bombs are exploding in Israeli cities, meeting the technical definition of “not destroyed” would hardly be a consolation for the Israeli populace.

It is true that nuclear weapons are not quite as powerful as shown in popular culture. A bomb exploding ten miles away will not instantly and painlessly kill every living thing. The nuclear weapons that Iran is developing would likely be fairly crude designs, not much more powerful than the weapons that America dropped on Japan in 1945. Even so, the difference is academic. A country with a majority of its citizens still alive, but its centers of culture, governance and commerce destroyed, may cling to existence, but the state of Israel, a modern, advanced liberal democracy, would be lost in the scramble to merely survive. It is odd in the extreme to hear Halevy sound so unconcerned with the prospect of a nuclear attack upon his home.

Halevy’s comments on Israel’s ability to fend off an attack, or retaliate against one, are also of interest. Israel is a leader in the development of missile defense technology. Indeed, its Iron Dome system was tested successfully just last week. And while never having publicly admitted to possessing nuclear weapons, Israel’s nuclear stockpile is a known secret. If Iran drops a bomb on Israel, it can expect to receive dozens if not hundreds back. Perhaps, then, Halevy’s words are not meant for journalists or magazine readers, but for the Iranian regime. If so, Halevy’s meaning becomes clearer: “You cannot destroy us, we can and will protect ourselves and we don’t take you as seriously as you do us. Consider that before you mess with us.”

But Halevy’s most noteworthy comments are his observations on the corner into which the Tehran regime has painted itself. “By its own doing,” he said, “Iran has created a situation whereby it cannot reach an ultimate accommodation with the U.S. without relinquishing its active pursuit of the destruction of Israel — because the U.S. would never permit this to happen.” Halevy’s hope is that Iran, when it realizes that it is in an untenable position, will seek a truce with Washington by backing off its threats to Israel.

Halevy could be right that a solution to the Iranian threat is just a matter of time. Recent events, however, give little cause for optimism. Iran is once again in the midst of a brutal crackdown on dissidents. The recent death of a prominent reformist cleric has led to renewed protests and a subsequent assault by the Iranian state upon its own people. Hundreds have been arrested for protesting, cast into a prison system known for its systemic abuses of human rights. The arrested include reformists, journalists and members of the Bahai faith. Other journalists have already been sentenced to jail or exile. Iran’s reformist leader, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has paid a personal price for his opposition to the Ahmadinejad regime. His young nephew, Ali, is among the latest protesters to be killed by Iranian security forces.

As if this isn’t troubling enough, Iran continues to provoke the West through outright belligerence. Next month it will hold large-scale military exercises, designed to prepare the country’s armed forces to resist an armed attack by foreign enemies, a rather transparent euphemism for America and Israel. The absurdity of this hardly needs to be pointed out: if Iran would simply behave responsibly as a cooperative, transparent member of the international community, such provocative exercises would be unnecessary, as there would be no reason for Iran to fear attack. If Iran accepts any of the numerous international agreements already proposed as an alternative to its continuing to developing its nuclear program, the threat of war would vanish overnight.

Despite former Mossad chief Halevy’s confidence that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel, Iran seems to be doing its best to convince the world otherwise. At this date, it is hard to know who is right. But when a country as provocative as Iran presses ahead with its nuclear program, and shows no signs of backing down, it’s hard to share Halevy’s optimism.

  • xyz

    We've got Iran saber rattling and rubbing elbows with drug dealer Chavez to our south. Mexicans are smuggling AlQaeda over our border. Korea is testing missiles in our direction. Egypt is killing off its Christians. Pakistan is killing off all of its non-Muslim peoples. Europe is selling out its own culture and people. Americs is bankrupt and China holds the mortgages on all her assets. Muslims are running rampant across Asia, again, killing off all their non-Muslim populations. Obama is widening the visas to America from Muslim countries while he is shoving a piece of legislation that no one but the fully committed Communist would approve of that would give him the power over 20% of our economy, what's left of it.

    If you are not out there with the Tea Parties then you are either complacent, a communist, or brain dead.

    If you love America stand up and stop this insanity or bow down 5 times a day to Mecca whille the Muslims rape your female relatives.

    • Stephen D.

      XYZ. Excellent comment! You sohuld point to a web site for us to sign up or othrwise support for those of us that agree with you. I sure do!

  • GXH

    I read this interview in "Israel Today" and it is surprising – hard to understand H's motives – while Israel is hard at work trying to wake up the west regarding Iran, H. seems to think the threat is not so bad – and if anyone knows what's going on behind the scenes, it's him.
    It is strange, and we the sheeple who don't have the inside knowledge cannot understand it. What is true, is that Iran is the only other democracy in the middle east, and there is a surprising amount of freedom. Now the Iranians are trying to overthrow their alte kakker government – throughout history they have overthrown regimes countless times and doubtless will succeed this time as well.

  • Serena Butler

    I agree, we are all ignorant regarding all the details and do not have the full information to understand it fully

  • Robert

    Iran is an international threat. Not just a threat to Isreal and the United States but to the entire Muslim world. Undeniably Iran wants to move the center of the Muslim world from Saudi Arabia to Iran; which puts it in direct conflict with all countries on the Arabian pennesula including Iraq, Lebenon, Jordan and its ally Syria. The acquisition of a necular weapon is considered essential to Iran in oder to intemidate the states Sunni Muslims.

  • USMCSniper

    Elan Journo says:
    Iran is a leading sponsor of jihadists and the self-identified role model for exporting its Islamic revolution to other countries. It is the sworn enemy of the West. We should take seriously its call to bring "Death to America!"–because it has already done so.

    This fear-the-weapon-not-the-killer mentality refuses to understand the threat posed by Iran right now. This view holds that only the concrete facts about Iran's arsenal have any practical significance, while its abstract, ideological goals and character can be disregarded with impunity. But whether Iran uses one nuke, or attacks with more conventional weapons, its victims are still dead.

  • SAM000

    Help us, we can stop this threat with no cost for you.

    You have seen how we are fighting with empty hands against this regime in all the corners of Iran.We are ready to die for democracy, and the democracy can be achieved only and only with the death of the Islamic regime in IRAN.

    Help us, we can free ourselves and we can free the world from the Islamic threat.

    Help us,

    We don't need your military engagement,
    we don't need your money,
    we don't need your arms and weapons,

    Just we need you to stop your President and his Administrations to help the Mullahs.

    Your President is behaving exactly like Chamberlain,

    Your President is transforming a subhuman thug (Ahmadinejad) to HITLER.

    Stop your Presudent, we will stop the Islamism threat.

    • bushlikesdick2


      According to a recent Gallup pole, Obama's foreign policies are taking a tremendous effect in your region of interest for the good of my country.

      This is what they have found:

      “DOHA, QATAR — Approval ratings of U.S. leadership increased in 10 of 12 Arab League countries that Gallup surveyed twice in 2009. Between the first survey period from February to March and the second survey period from July to October, U.S. leadership enjoyed the highest approval jump in Bahrain (33 percentage points), Mauritania (22 points), Kuwait (19 points), and Comoros (15 points).”——

      • bushlikesdick2

        Like I have tried to explain to you before, we are in the M.E. representing the interests of the United States of America — not Iran's.

        As you have eloguently tried to explain to me is that Iran in the wrongs hands is not in the United States best interest.

        My rebuttal to your claim is two fold — (a) we can't make much difference on a diplomatic level if we are not willing to pull an alliance together and as you stated, you don't need our military, money, or weapons.

        • bushlikesdick2

          Your claims that we are somehow helping the Mullahs in some sort of covert way has no substance and you seem to be not willing to share your reliable sources with any specific citations.

          Obama is intelligently repairing the years of damage of self serving agendas of the likes of oil mongers that Bushlick represents.

          • bushlikesdick2

            Bush was interested in one ally and that was Israel: for the purpose of aligning the right wing Christains with the conservative Jews to maintain the ill premise of defending the Holy land thus creating enemies to build the case to go to war over oil and not terrorism like many idiots like FPM want them to believe.

          • bushlikesdick2

            Unfortunately, If you are an ally of Israel, that is the only ally you can have in the M.E. because everyone else in the area literally hates Israel .

            All other relationships we have in the M.E. are driven by shallow agendas for the purpose of making profit and frankly, that is one of the main sources of Al Queda's fuel of disiminating hatred towards us.

          • bushlikesdick2

            Believe it or not, if our military presence was never in the M.E., and we didn't get involved in Israels issues while condemning the creation of the State of Israel while refusing to do business with the likes of the Saudi's and any other Muslim nations that sponsor terrorism, we wouldn't be compromising our liberties by turning our airports into fortresses.

            We were never interested in making Iran's political issues a priority and we never will as long as they are sponsoring terrorists.

            Our policy under the Obama Administration is to delicately negotiate our way out of your problems and the M.E. in general and shift our economic needs in other regions by supplementing our dependence foreign oil with alternative energy.

            Your country needs to solve their own problems and I wish you and Iran the best of luck.

            My prayers will be with Iran

          • SAM000

            Thank you BLD by repeating your understanding from the situation,

            You observe one corner of the situation which is not wrong, but it is not all and do not suffice to analyze the overall geopolitical aspect of the M.E.

            What you are missing in your logic is that you can not admit that your interest is our interest, and when you are doing something wrong, the whole ME people will suffer.

            Attack on Iraq destroyed the geopolitical balance of the M.E., your EX government didn't understood that touching any ME country will embolden and empower the Iran's Mullahs.

            Ahmadinejad says that, the super powers should make a seat for Islamic republic and accepte to share the world with the Islamic power.
            Ahmadinejad, a worm, a thug is so emboldened(by the Iraq war) that wants to share the world with USA!
            Why not, USA made a war on IRAQ, and liberated Iraq from Saddam's dictatorship and offered it to the Mullahs in a Golden plate, and WHY not Arabi Saudit, and Libanon, and Isreal?

            And now, Obama over emboldens this thug and this worm of Ahmadinejad on two domaines.
            a- by inviting and Crying to negotiate with the worm,
            b- by keeping the Iranian people's Resistance in his terror list.

            GWB made an huge mistake by offering Iraq to the Islamic Republic of Iran,

            And Obama is completing GWB's mistake by offering the whole ME to the Mullahs.

            Dear BLD, How much you the USA taxpayers have paid to the IRAQ WAR?, Iran needs IRAQ to move forward and take the other ME countries,
            AFganistan, you are loosing there every day and you are opening the road of Turkmenistan and GHazaGhistan and Mogholistan to IRAN( TOO MUCH URANIUM).

            In Yemen, it is out of control, and the big gates of Arabi Saudit is opening to the Mullahs,
            Hezbollah in Libanon who is able to block the Libanon state, and HAMAS of GAZA, the road will open to get the very small state of Israel and the Egypt and the CANAL of Suez (Wonderful, your oil road).

            AND here we are, the Iranians who want to remove this regime, but you are negotiating with the regime, and you are keeping our ORGANIZED Resistance disarmed and delivered to the regime's killers in ASHRAF CITY.
            BRAVO OBAMA, alone, this Genious OBAMA is preparing the Nuclear WWIII with his big Diplomatic SMILE.

            Dear BLD, this was an small explanation about the exportation of the Mullahs revolution and their agenda.

            Now, tell me please, this is only an Irano/Iranian Business?!

            With this Islamic Agenda, do you think that OBAMA's big Smile can stop it?!

            We know that USA leaded by the new generation do not dare to stand against this threat, That is why we reject politely the offers that will never be done( your military, your money, and your support).

            So, we are offering you a very cheap way to go out from this locked situation.

            At the end, thank you for your encouraging support, your nice words are at the level of your honorable person.

  • gama

    son: Dad, why did they let Iran get the bomb?
    Dad: I don't know son.
    Son: The Iranian mobs kept shouting Death to America. Why did America let them get nuclear bombs?
    Dad: I don't know son and after 9/11 you would think they would have learned something.
    Son: How could they believe the absurdity that Iranian fanatics would be stopped from getting nuclear bombs through unilateral sanctions by the U.S.?
    Father: They didn't want to fight. They wanted to worry about Global warming. Now they have nuclear winter.

  • The Mighty Boosh

    I really wish Boosh was on air! I miss that series.

  • cochavi1

    Maybe E Halevi is just stating a military truth. He is not saying that Iran can't damage Israel. He is saying that physical Iranian attempts to destroy Israel will fail. It is one, informed man's opinion. It is not 'truth' but does contain an element of reassurance. I would take it on that basis and leave it at that.

    By the way, I am afraid I know the answer, but I wanted to ask Priscilla what is with Mike? I have thought of him in these past months, but have not seen the message boards here. Please respond if there is news of any kind…

  • USMCSniper

    bushlikesdick2 is about a sharp as the wet end of a cornflake.

    Iran is a leading sponsor of jihadists and the self-identified role model for exporting its Islamic revolution to other countries. It is the sworn enemy of the West. We should take seriously its call to bring "Death to America!"– because it has already done so. Iran has stated openly thatit intends to anhilate Israe;

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