History Our Guide In Middle East Predictions For Israel, Iran, Nuclear, Terrorism

Here is an excerpt of an interview in Washington Jewish Week  by journalist David Holzel with the authors of Spies Against Armageddon, Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman:

Why does former Mossad chief Meir Dagan oppose an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites?

Israel intelligence, israel covert operations, Dan Raviv, spies against armageddonDan Raviv: I think we have a nuanced understanding of what Dagan is saying. Because there are two parts that probably have an impact on us as Americans. One is, Dagan believes there is a lot more to do covertly against Iran, some of it inside Iran. So when it comes to assassination or sabotage or computer viruses, he believes there are a lot more potential targets and methods, and he believes that war would be unwise, in part because the retaliation would be so severe it would really hurt the Israeli people. That’s Dagan’s opinion, and he was a man who was very militant during his army career. He isn’t afraid of fighting. He just thinks covertly there’s a lot more to do.

The second thing is, and he’s not alone in this, the Israeli leadership would like the United States to act. Dagan has said openly that he wants the United States to act if anyone does bomb Iran. At a practical level there are so many targets. They’re hardened and they’re well-buried. And the United States has many more planes and missiles and bunker-busting bombs. To do that you have to keep America’s attention. So we contend that during his eight years as Mossad director, one of Dagan’s goals was to have a non-stop campaign to keep America’s attention, in part to show that the Iranian threat is so severe that the American president should pay attention, despite the huge distractions of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

There is the implicit Israeli statement: if you don’t act, we will, and you don’t want us to act.

Some people have likened that to a crazy man on the edge of a building threatening that he’ll jump, and you don’t want me to jump, so you should squash that bug that’s on the sidewalk instead.

I don’t find any of it crazy. It’s a very delicate game, and a lot of it involves bluffing. And this is a very high stakes game in which you don’t want anyone to call anyone else’s bluff. But if Iran doesn’t budge at all on its nuclear program, despite the diplomacy that still continues, then the Israelis are going to believe that someone’s got to act – within the next year, year and a half – I will admit that schedule keeps slipping. Eight years ago they said was urgent.

In contrast to Dagan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are threatening an imminent Israeli attack.

Well, very little of this is said in public. That’s our understanding of their attitudes. Netanyahu really does have the big picture, including the sweep of Jewish history and his own responsibility as a leader of the Jewish community and the leader of the Jewish state. While Ehud Barak is more of a strategist and is certainly one of the leaders in Israel who says we cannot live with Iran having a nuclear bomb, we’re never going to learn how to live with a nuclear-armed Iran. So you get less from Ehud Barak about the Holocaust. It’s not so schmaltzy. But they find it unacceptable that Iran have a nuclear bomb. Let me underline that Meir Dagan also finds it unacceptable. It’s just that his methodology now would be different.

When I was reading the chapter about Israel developing its own nuclear weapons, I found a lot of the story was similar to what we’re experiencing now with Iran – the lies, the obfuscation, the delays.

I agree that there are parallels. The Israelis have never admitted having a nuclear weapon, but we feel that we’ve established that they set up an agency, which ended up being the same Lakam [agency] which ran Jonathan Pollard as a spy in 1985. And its original intention was to acquire for Israel everything that was needed for the nuclear program. And also to protect the secrecy of the program.

And so we write in great detail about the first leader, Binyamin Blumberg, and what a secretive man he was, and how they set up dummy corporations abroad, how they had shipping offices and shipping lines, and ways of moving things from place to place, making uranium disappear. And I’d say the Iranians could only wish they could be so good at it. But sorry to say, the Iranians apparently have acquired what they need, too. But the Israelis obviously have a good understanding of what Iran has done, I think in part because of Israel’s own experience.

You write about a lot of actions the Israelis take with the purpose of sending a message.

Even the [1972] post-Munich [Olympics] killings. You would think that’s to send a message: “You must never attack the Olympic Games again” or “Don’t pick on our athletes” or you might think the message was to Palestinian terror groups. But again, looked at in a nuanced way, at the way we frame it, and it’s the Israeli sending a message to European governments: “If you’re not going to take care of this, and pursue and capture and punish and imprison Palestinian terrorists, then we’re going to take care of it our way on your soil. And we know you – the European governments – won’t like it, but that’s what we need to do, so start doing your job. Because every time you’ve captured some PLO terrorist, the PLO hijacks an airplane and you let the terrorist go. ”

So we think that’s one of the biggest messages – assassinating Palestinians believed to be involved in terrorism in various places in Europe mainly as a message to the Europeans.

What are the chances of Israel attacking Iran?

Yossi Melman: I would say the following: If there is a military attack, it will be by the Obama administration, if he’s re-elected. I think Obama is committed more than ever to stop Iran from having nuclear weapons, mainly for American interests. With nuclear weapons Iran would be the regional superpower in the Gulf and Central Asia, where 60 percent of the oil supplied to the West is coming from. And the second reason why America can’t tolerate nuclear weapons is the N-factor. Once Iran has nuclear weapons, other nations will have nuclear weapons – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey. And we see already signs that they are laying down infrastructure for their nuclear programs. Which also means the end of the non-proliferation regime.

So for these two reasons Obama will have to stop a nuclear Iran, and there is a good chance that he will do the job. If he doesn’t, then it would be the most existential decision facing an Israeli leader, whether it’s Netanyahu, or anyone else, to attack or not to attack.

Israel has limited capabilities, militarily speaking. There are voices saying if Iran is attacked by Israel it would strengthen the [Iranian] regime – even those who oppose the regime will rally around it out of a sense of patriotism and nationalism.

So even if the attack is successful, Iran would probably rebuild its nuclear program within two-to-three years. You cannot kill their know-how. I think they already know how to assemble a bomb. If I were to judge the decision-making process rationally, I would tend to say that Israel would not attack Iran. But maybe the leaders of Israel, Netanyahu and Barak, will reach the conclusion that despite the risks, which are tremendous, they are worth taking, regardless of the results.

August 19, 2012

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