Interview with ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Israel’s most revered intelligence agency has given an extensive interview on why he believes a military strike against the Iranian nuclear program “should be the last option” for Israel. In November 2010, Meir Dagan stepped down from his post as the head of the Mossad after having led the agency for over eight years —the longest tenure of any Mossad director. During his leadership, the Israeli intelligence agency augmented its notoriety by assassinating Imad Mughniyah, security chief of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and allegedly killing Islamic Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The Mossad is also said to have played a role in Operation ORCHARD, the 2007 Israeli air attack on what is thought to have been a secret nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar, Syria. However, when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, the 67-year-old retired spy is adamant that the military option would be a strategic error of gigantic proportions. Last year, Dagan admonished calls by hawkish Israeli politicians to bomb Iran as “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. In an interview with Reuters news agency published on Thursday, April 5, Dagan said the word “stupid” was “a harsh expression” and “not something [he is] very proud of”. But he insisted that the military option should be last on the table, and said that it would be a mistake for Israel to lead international action against the Iranian nuclear program. Instead, the “Iranian problem” should be “left in the hands of the international community”, said Dagan. The Mossad veteran went on to identify three main problems with the military option. To begin with, he said, military action, no matter how damaging in the physical sense, “cannot disarm the core factor of the Iranian program: knowledge” about how to build a nuclear device. Second, Dagan argued that, even if a military strike managed to eliminate a considerable portion of the Iranian nuclear program’s infrastructure —which is not at all assured— it would likely cause a significant backlash. That backlash would culminate in “a regional war” that would involve simultaneous actions by non-state forces allied with Iran, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #701

Mohammed MerahBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Ex-NASA scientist gets 13 years for spying for Israel. Former US government scientist Stewart Nozette was once on the cutting edge of space exploration, but he will spend 13 years in prison for trying to sell some of his country’s most closely guarded secrets. In 2009 Nozette sought to sell classified information to someone he thought was an Israeli Mossad officer but was in fact an FBI agent in an undercover sting operation. As intelNews explained back in 2010, Nozette was not simply a Mossad agent-wannabe, but had actually passed information to Israel in the past.
►►French intel under fire over Toulouse gunman. The French government went on the defensive last week amid questions over why its intelligence service had failed to deal with Mohammed Merah. The self-confessed al-Qaeda militant died in a police assault on his flat last Thursday, where he was tracked down after murdering seven people, including three children and three soldiers, in a series of attacks. With hindsight, Merah’s past appears to make him an obvious suspect —he had at least 15 criminal convictions, some with violence, had become a radical Islamist and travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. One press report said that in 2010 Merah forced a youth to watch videos of al-Qaeda hostage beheadings. When the boy’s mother complained, Merah allegedly attacked her, putting her in hospital for several days.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Israel will know when Iran begins producing nukes. Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said he believes Israel will be aware when Iran moves to the stage of nuclear weapon production —for example, enriching uranium to a degree of 90 percent. Dagan said that at that stage Israel would have to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international community does not stop its program. Dagan said he believed the Israeli Air Force has the capability to significantly damage Iran’s nuclear sites, yet repeated previous warnings that such a strike will have serious repercussions.

News you may have missed #693: Israel edition

Meir DaganBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►India soon to announce Iranian role in New Delhi bomb attack. The Delhi Police has cracked the Israeli embassy car blast case and traced the conspiracy to Iranian secret agents. According to sources privy to the investigation, it has now been “conclusively established” that Syed Mohammad Kazmi, the freelance journalist recently arrested in the case, was in touch with an Iranian intelligence officer and had even visited Iran as part of the conspiracy. Sources in the Indian security establishment said that the breakthrough in the February 13 blast on an Israel diplomat’s car, will be announced by the New Delhi Police in a “day or two.” They added that another couple of detentions have been made in the case.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Iran’s response to attack would be devastating. An Israeli attack on Iran would lead to a missile attack on Tel Aviv that would have a “devastating impact” on the ability of Israelis to continue their daily lives, Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, said on Monday. Dagan said that Iran doesn’t have only four nuclear sites, but it has “dozens” of them. He seemed quite skeptic over the effectiveness of an Israeli attack on Iran, saying that no military attack could halt the Iranian nuclear project. “The attack could only delay it”, he said.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Iran regime is ‘very rational’. The Iranian regime is “very rational” and is moving deliberately in its secretive nuclear program, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency says. “Maybe it’s not exactly rational based on what I call ‘Western thinking’, but no doubt that they are considering all the implications of their actions”, Meir Dagan said in an interview with CBS‘ 60 Minutes that aired Sunday.

Nuclear Iran ‘not an existential threat to Israel’, says Mossad chief

Tamir PardoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The director of Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, the Mossad, has said that it would be wrong to consider a nuclear-armed Iran an “existential threat” to Israel. For years, senior Israeli politicians and American military planners have described the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran as an “existential threat” to the Jewish state. But this widespread belief is apparently not shared by Tamir Pardo, head of Israel’s revered Mossad intelligence agency. Pardo outlined his view while speaking yesterday before an audience of over 100 Israeli ambassadors and consuls general, at a conference dealing with diplomatic security issues and public affairs. Lectures at the conference, which is held annually at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, are given behind closed doors. But Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted three Israeli ambassadors who attended Pardo’s talk; they confirmed that the Mossad director rejected the view that Israel’s existence would necessarily be endangered by an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and dismissed the maxim “existential threat” as a “term used too liberally”. The Israeli newspaper quoted Pardo as saying: “Does [a nuclear-armed] Iran constitute a threat to Israel? Certainly. However, if we were to claim that a nuclear weapon in Iran’s possession was an existential threat [to Israel], it would simply mean that we would have to terminate [our operations] and go home. But this is not the case. The term [existential threat] is used too liberally”. The unnamed ambassadors told Ha’aretz that Pardo’s comments did not imply that the Mossad would stop its covert war on Iran, nor that Israel would accept the prospect of a nuclear Iran as inevitable. “However, what [Pardo’s] remarks undoubtedly imply is that he does not view a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to Israel”, they said. Pardo’s comments closely echo those of his predecessor, Meir Dagan, who last May condemned a possible Israeli attack on Iran as an act that would be “patently illegal under international law” and “the stupidest thing [he had] ever heard”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #643 (Israel edition)

Mosab Hassan Yousef

Yousef/Joseph

►►Hezbollah uncovers more Israeli spy devices. Lebanese media reported on Friday that two people were wounded in a blast that occurred in the south of the country, between the towns of Srifa and Deir Kifa. According to some of the reports, the blast targeted espionage devices which were destroyed by Israel after being exposed by Hezbollah. This is not the first time such devices have been discovered in Lebanon: see here and here for previous such incidents.
►►PLO subpoenas Palestinian who spied for Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization served Mosab Hassan Yousef, who says he is a former spy for Israeli domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, with a subpoena in the United States last month. The Palestinian group says it wants his notes and details of his spy work for the Israeli government.
►►Analysis: The complex relationship between the Mossad and Israeli media. “Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s crusade this week against an Israeli strike on Iran took on a new dimension with his several media interviews. His campaign also reflects the Mossad’s attitude toward journalists, something along the lines of respect them, suspect them and use them. The degree shifts from one Mossad head to the next”. An enlightening analysis by veteran Israeli intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman.

News you may have missed #640

Amos Yadlin

Amos Yadlin

►►Chinese defector says Canada right to worry about spying. Li Fengzhi, a former intelligence officer for China’s Ministry of State Security, who defected to Canada in 2003, has told a conference that Canada should be concerned about relationships between senior politicians and journalists from China, saying Beijing is targeting lawmakers everywhere. He was referring to the case of senior Conservative MP Bob Dechert, who was enveloped by controversy in September over amorous e-mails he sent to Shi Rong, a Chinese government journalist based in Toronto. After the Dechert controversy broke, the journalist recalled to Beijing to meet with her superiors and has not returned to her Canadian posting.
►►More intel officials warn against airstrikes on Iran. Meir Dagan, the former head of Israeli spy agency Mossad, is not alone in warning against the possibility of Israeli attacks against Iran’s nuclear program. He has now been joined by Major General Amos Yadlin, who until recently headed Israel’s Military Intelligence directorate. Speaking at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, Yadlin doubted that airstrikes could threaten Iran’s numerous, distant and well-defended nuclear facilities. Another intelligence official, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also cautioned last week against any attacks on Iran, saying that “there are other non- military policy alternatives, as yet unexplored, that could have the desired result without the unwanted consequences”.
►►GCHQ challenges code breakers via social networks. Britain’s signals intelligence agency, the General Communications Headquarters, has launched a code cracking competition to help attract new talent. The organization has invited potential applicants to solve a visual code posted at an unbranded standalone website. The challenge will also be ‘seeded’ to social media sites, blogs and forums. A spokesman said the campaign aimed to raise the profile of GCHQ to an audience that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

Blast reported in Isfahan, site of major Iranian nuclear facility

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Iranian media are reporting a blast in the city of Isfahan, in central Iran, which is home to one of Iran’s most active nuclear facilities. News reports, including one from Iran’s state-operated FARS News Agency, say that the blast was heard across the city at 2:40 p.m. on Monday, and that an investigation is currently underway to determine its cause. With a population of nearly two million, Isfahan, capital of the province by the same name, is Iran’s third largest city. It is also home to one of the country’s premier nuclear research facilities, which includes a nuclear plant that produces uranium pellets for use in nuclear reactors. Intriguingly, after an initial period of silence, regional government officials in Isfahan appeared to downplay reports of the explosion. Speaking to Iran’s Mehr news agency, the Deputy Governor of Isfahan, Mohammad-Mehdi Ismaeli, said characteristically that reports of an explosion were “unfounded”, and speculated with a dose of sarcasm that “maybe someone’s water heater blew up”.  But Western reports from Iran, including one by United Press International, interpret the media attention given to the Isfahan blast as an indication of “how the country is being spooked by cover operations against its nuclear program”. Reports of the alleged blast come only weeks after a major explosion at a military base 25 miles west of Iranian capital Tehran killed 17 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, including Major General Hassan Moqqadam. The late General was described by Iran’s state media as the “founder of Iran’s missile program” and a pioneer in the country’s missile development after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Meanwhile, the former Director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Meir Dagan, has reiterated his warnings against plans by Tel Aviv to attack Iran. Speaking on Israeli television on Tuesday, Dagan cautioned Israel Read more of this post