Israel Defence — June 1, 2014
The agreement between the West and Iran is dangerous to Israel,” said former Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan. Dagan analyzed the implications of the agreement with Professor Meir Litvak, Director of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies (ACIS) at Tel-Aviv University, at a special symposium organized by the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) and IsraelDefense on May 9. The symposium was hosted by Brig. Gen. (res.) Amnon Sofrin, formerly the IDF Chief Combat Intelligence Officer and Head of the Mossad’s Intelligence Division. IICC Chairman, Professor Brig. Gen. (res.) Tzvika Stauber and IICC DG, Brig. Gen. Dudu Tzur, also took part in the panel discussion, whose highlights are outlined below.
In response to Sofrin’s question of what had led the Americans to reach an agreement with Iran, Meir Dagan said that in his estimate, the agreement was, of all things, the outcome of the threats made by Israel to attack the Iranian nuclear installations.
“The Americans conducted a situation appraisal in view of the sabre rattling heard in Israel and in view of the threats. In fact, the (US) government was forced to conduct a situation appraisal as to what would happen if Israel attacked. They reached the conclusion that an Israeli strike will be detrimental to US interests in view of the fact that the USA has not yet achieved energetic independence and concerns that US objectives in the region would be attacked in response to the Israeli attack.
“This reality had accelerated, in my estimate, the American decision to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, the timing was premature and (the signature of the agreement) took place just before the Iranians were about to actually collapse as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on them.”
Meir Dagan revealed that contrary to prevailing beliefs “The Americans and the Iranians have been communicating for many years. For example, Iran and the USA have quite a few overlapping interests in Iraq, and they are communicating regularly on that matter. In my estimate, the Americans had reached the conclusion that they should neutralize the Israeli strike threat through an agreement with Iran.”
In response to Sofrin’s question of whether the superpowers really believe that there is a chance that the Iranians would relinquish their nuclear aspirations, Dagan said: “I do not think that is the situation. Timing is everything in life, and the Iranians gained immediate profits at the outset of the negotiations, when the sanctions imposed on them were slackened, while the West received nothing tangible in return. The West operates according to the logic of confidence-building steps initially, but we’ll have to see what happens in the next stage.”
Professor Litvak said at the symposium that, in his estimate, “The Americans feared that the severe sanctions were about to exhaust themselves when they opted for the agreement.” According to him, “The chances that the Iranians would relinquish their nuclear dream are very slim indeed.”
“In fact, owing to the agreement, the Iranians were granted a permit to maintain centrifuges and an established status of a threshold state. As far as they are concerned, it is a significant accomplishment. During the agreement period, they will retain their nuclear capabilities and knowledge. The agreement depends entirely on their good will. If they decide not to uphold it – the world will realize that there are more holes in this agreement than in Swiss cheese.”
Dagan added that “In a crisis situation, within a short timetable of one to two years, the Iranians would be able to achieve a nuclear capability. Even if that does not amount to military nuclear capabilities, it will be a sufficient deterrent.”
According to him, “This is a problematic agreement for Israel. Israel faces a dilemma. What is that dilemma? The Prime Minister decided on a policy of zero or one, namely – all or nothing at all. Because of this policy, Israel is not a part of the process vis-à-vis Iran. If I were in his vicinity today, I would recommend to him that outwardly, the Israeli position, which totally rejects the agreement, would not change, but in effect we must try and get the best out of this agreement.
“Israel has a few other concerns – for example, the neutralization of Iran can also affect Israel’s strategic capabilities, which is another reason why Israel is trapped in a catch. I think that the right way out of this catch is to object to the agreement but assimilate relevant points into it.
“For example, the agreement obviously lacks any aspects of supervision of military installations, contrary to civilian nuclear installations, and contains no details regarding the sanctions that will be imposed on Iran if it violates the agreement. They say that in such a case all of the options will be open, but a clear statement is required…
“The only advantage in the agreement, as far as Israel is concerned, has to do with the fact that it positions Israel alongside other countries in the region, in a partnership of interests associated with the Iranian threat as well as with the war in Syria.”
Referring to Professor Tzvika Stauber’s remark according to which the attempts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state have, in fact, failed – Meir Dagan said: “In my estimate, if the Iranians decide to break out of this threshold and become a fully nuclear state, the entire world will have a sufficient early warning because of the supervision, but Israel must assume that Iran is, in fact, a nuclear threshold state.”
Regarding the northern front, Meir Dagan said: “The status of the General Secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, within the Arab world has been eroded, while Syria, even if Bashar al-Assad survives, will be forced, in the coming years, to deal with reconstruction and rehabilitation and with the continued survival attempts of the members of the Alawite community.”
Professor Litvak said that in any case, Syria will emerge from the civil war “a weakened and ruined country. On the other hand, it will depend more heavily on Hezbollah while the weakness of Hezbollah increases that organization’s dependence on Iran, namely – the Iranian influence in the region will increase, if anything.”
With regard to the danger posed by the Global Jihad organizations deployed close to Israel’s borders with Egypt and Syria, Meir Dagan said that “Those who shout ‘Al-Qaeda (men) are on the fences!’ are exaggerating, in my view. The Salafists have failed in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan and the foreign elements in Syria are finding themselves drawn into a dual confrontation: against the local population and against the government forces. The Syrian population is far from being extremely religious. The chances of a Jihadist ideology adopted by the regime that will consolidate its hold in Syria are not realistic. At the same time, there is the risk of these groups executing terrorist attacks against Israel.”
“The Israeli threats had accelerated the American decision to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, the timing was premature. The agreement is problematic for Israel”, Dagan added.