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Why They Listen to Dagan

Former Mossad chief is Netanyahu’s new unofficial domestic opponent

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Meir Dagan in 2003.(Dan Balilty/AFP/Getty Images)

The chief opposition to the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu within Israel appears not to be formal leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni, who heads the Kadima Party, but rather recently retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan. In recent weeks, Dagan has said several times that military action against Iran would be a terrible idea, and this week suggested that Israel has failed for far too long to make peace with the Palestinians.

His new outspokenness should be understood in the context of the recent retirements of three top, ostensibly nonpartisan security chiefs—Dagan as well as the head of Shin Bet (essentially Israel’s FBI) and the military chief of staff—and Dagan’s sense that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (himself a former prime minister) no longer have people on the inside who can dissuade them from their current policies, which could include future military action aimed at Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program. Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit, one of Israel’s most influential pundits, tells the Times, in reference to the threatened statehood vote at the United Nations, “Dagan is really worried about September. He is afraid that Israel’s isolation will cause its leaders to take reckless action against Iran.”

Given that Dagan looks to become an increasingly prominent figure in Israel’s political scene—he is barred from running for office for nearly three years, but he is clearly capable of shaping the debate even without a formal position—this weekend might be a good time to read Haaretz spy correspondent Yossi Melman’s January profile of Dagan for Tablet Magazine. Knowing just how successful Dagan’s eight-year stint heading Israel’s foreign intelligence agency was (the bombing of the Syrian reactor, anyone?) is useful for grasping the weight his words carry now.

Former Spy Chief Questions Israeli Leaders’ Judgment [NYT]
Related: Uncloaked [Tablet Magazine]

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Here, for what it’s worth, is my take on what would occur if Israel bombed Iranian nuclear facilities. Diffuse and dug-in as they are presumed to be, Israel would likely not achieve the kind of one-off, clean knock-out punch that might retroactively justify the mission, as seen in Syria for example.

That being the case, all of the morally opportunistic countries now tenuously restrained from supplying parts, weapons and technical expertise to Iran by American strong-arming would now have a pretext for ending the embargo, namely Israeli belligerence, and would resume their profitable relationship without compunction.

With a wave of material and moral support, Iran could reconstruct overtly what is now being done in secret, enlisting its new allies to serve as a kind of international shield against any further Israeli incursions, on pain of going to war with the likes of China. The program might achieve critical mass, figuratively speaking, at a faster pace than the current effort.

Worse, an Israeli attack would provide hard liners throughout the region with a unifying message with cross-border appeal, stifling reformers, and empowering and encouraging Iran to retaliate with greater resources than it had previously, leading to a regional war.

Israel, beleaguered from all sides, would be left appealing to a U.S. whose President they have alienated, and a population already tired of waging war in the Middle East, and reluctant to commit further troops.

I think Israel does not have good options at this point, but a bombing campaign whose outcome is uncertain would be the worst of them.

James Price says:

Bad idea: preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear arsenal, including its long-range rockets.

Good idea: standing inertly and being incinerated by Iran’s nuclear arsenal while an oil-dependent world yawns.

I don’t think a regime bent on it own survival at any cost would risk initiating a war it would be certain to lose, devastatingly. What’s more, the preemptive attack would have what kind of shelf-life before Iran reconstituted its arsenal?

Redouble efforts, if they exist, at helping the opposition there overthrow the government. Secular Iran had good, if sub rosa, relations with Israel.

Assure Iran that, in the case of a nuclear strike against Israel, the United States would give Israel all necessary support to retaliate, with no limits on their response.

Mutually assured destruction has worked pretty well to restrain adversaries from using nuclear weapons, not only the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but Pakistan and India as well, where the enmity between the two states exceeds that between Israel and Iran.

if Israel attacks Iran, Iran will definitely destroy israel in 2 hours. :D
Israel is just a barking dog specially BiBi.
they should listen to Dagan

Lou Adams says:

Lot’s of Israelis with opinions, not smart or aware of the consequences of shooting their mouths off but what the heck, the world can always use more proof Jews have big mouths and think short term.

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Why They Listen to Dagan

Former Mossad chief is Netanyahu’s new unofficial domestic opponent

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