Interview with ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan


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. The former Mossad director argued that the government of Syria would also be tempted to join Iran in a war against Israel, in order “to divert attention from its internal problems by focusing on an [external] threat”. Third, an Israeli military attack on Iran would instantly unite Iran’s fragmented civil society and cause it to rally behind the country’s leadership while at the same time providing Tehran with a pertinent justification for intensifying its nuclear program, according to Dagan. In commenting about the differing views of the current Israeli leadership, as typified by politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Mossad director said simply that “the fact that somebody is a Prime Minister taking a decision does not necessarily mean that he is taking the right decision”. A video with some excerpts from Dagan’s interview, which was conducted in English, is available here.

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