Middle East in Turmoil – Iran Nuclear Crisis Looms in Background

by Dan Raviv in Washington

Because of the tragic deaths of four Americans, including the courageous and popular Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, media interest in the Middle East is high.  In many large Arab cities, protests aimed at U.S. embassies continue to flare.  The 14-minute “movie” that the crowds may think they are protesting was ridiculous, immaturely done, mean, and — until this furor — barely noticed by anyone.   Yet that video, insulting the Prophet Muhammad, has done its damage.

On CBS TV on Sunday evening (Sept. 16)  “60 Minutes” re-aired Lesley Stahl’s interview with Meir Dagan, the director of the Mossad spy agency who recently retired.  He made headlines by speaking out against the notion of Israel’s military attacking Iran at this time. <That interview: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7401688n >

Our book seeks to explain what Dagan may have in mind.  We believe that he was advocating a lot more sabotage — including covert action inside Iran and more use of sophisticated cyberwarfare.  As we wrote in Chapter 1, “Stopping Iran”:

The Mossad – and Dagan himself – devoted a lot of energy to learning everything possible about Iran’s domestic public opinion and pressures within Iranian society.  While half of Iran’s population was Persian, the country was a multiethnic tapestry with Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, and Turkmen.  The minorities were all oppressed, to one degree or another, and could be seen as weak links in the Iranian chain. 

Such tensions could be exploited by psychological warfare, to stir up discontent inside Iran.  Identifying deeply unhappy citizens also provided a pool of potential paid informants for the Mossad.

 Covert action could take many forms: recruiting high-quality agents in Iran’s leadership and inside the nuclear program, sabotaging nuclear facilities, and assassinating key figures in the program.  The overall philosophy of this comprehensive action plan – in Dagan’s analysis, voiced by him and others in the Mossad – was “to define and use tools to change the mind of a country.”

Top-level Iranians would have to be persuaded, by actions and not just words, that pursuing nuclear weapons would backfire.  They would have to be convinced that it would make their regime less likely to survive, not more.  In the mentality of the Mossad, pressure and persuasion – by no means always gentle – would be a far better strategy than a massive air raid on nuclear facilities.

(end of excerpt from our book)

(The radio magazine show I anchor, CBS News Weekend Roundup, led with news and analysis of how foreign affairs issues invaded the presidential election campaign this past week.  To listen to the 40-minute radio program: bit.ly/O5AdE8  .)

September 18, 2012

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