Forward planning must have gone into setting up the CBS 60 Minutes interview with Israel’s leading voice against an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites directly after he week US President Barack Obama spent sparring with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington on this very issue. In his interview with Lesley Stahl airing at prime time Sunday, March 11, the former Mossad spy Chief Meir Dagan will give President Obama timely support for his contention that a window is still open for a diplomatic resolution of the issue – against the prime minister’s assertion “there is not much time left.”
Wednesday, the US President said senior Israeli intelligence officers agreed with him and were warning against a unilateral Israel strike. Although he is retired and pretty much a lone voice in Israel’s intelligence community, Dagan was found to fit the bill.
But even the interviewer was taken aback when the ex-Mossad chief said: “The regime in Iran is a very rational one.” And President Ahmadinejad (who has called for Israel’s annihilation)? “The answer is yes, said Dagan, “but not exactly our rational, but I think he is rational.”
He may have a point from the special perspective of an intelligence mastermind who needs to get his head around the thinking of his antagonist in order to fight him. By delving into an enemy’s personal, national and religious rationale, he may also discover his weak spots. Judged by this cold rule of thumb, Bashar Assad might also be deemed rational when he massacres his people to stay in power – although Dagan doesn’t go that far.
Neither does he apply his reasoning to Israel’s security interests.
If he did, he would have to challenge the premise that the heads of the Islamic regime in Tehran are rational enough to engage in purposeful negotiations for abandoning their nuclear ambitions, an assumption which is the crux of Obama’s Iran policy.
The impact of the Dagan interview will soon fade as one more voice blending in the jangling chorus of point and counterpoint on Iran which is orchestrated by the Obama administration.
Tuesday, March 6, after meeting Netanyahu, Obama said Iran’s nuclear program was not an immediate threat and reproved Republican presidential contenders for being irresponsibly casual in urging military action against the Islamic Republic.
Although his targets were domestic and political, he won plaudits from an unexpected quarter. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei praised US President Barack Obama for “damping down talk of war against Tehran” over its nuclear drive. “This talk is good talk and shows an exit from illusion,” he told a group of clerics.
In apparent contradiction of the US president’s repeated call for more time for sanctions to work, his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday, March 8, that the Pentagon was “absolutely” preparing military options for Iran and stressed the US would outperform Israel: "If they (Israel) decided to do it, there's no question that it would have an impact, but I think it's also clear that if the United States did it we would have a hell of a bigger impact," Panetta told the National Journal.
The next minute, his words were played down by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney who said it was only “a matter of course” for the Pentagon to be preparing "contingency" plans.
On his return home Thursday, Netanyahu did not deny the necessity of preempting a nuclear Iran. When asked when an attack would take place, he said it would not be in weeks or months – and certainly not in years. “If Israel fails to act, there may be no future generations around to hear why.” He was saying, in other words, that this generation faces a nuclear threat of annihilation.
Some reputable nuclear experts contend that the US-Israeli argument is academic because they have missed the boat and it is already too late to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The head of the U.N. agency nuclear agency Yukiya Amano helps keep the seesaw swinging back and forth. Thursday night, “diplomats” at IAEA headquarters in Vienna reported that spy satellite images had shown trucks and earth-moving vehicles cleaning up radioactive traces at the Iranian military facility of Parchin which came from tests of a small neutron trigger used to set up a nuclear explosion.
If the agency already has this evidence, why does Amano insist on sending inspectors to visit the site? His demand only gives Tehran more leeway for haggling and manipulation.
Is there any point to the outflow of conflicting verbiage and cross signals from Washington? Is it orchestrated? And is it an attempt to bamboozle friends or enemies?
debkafile’s analysts draw three conclusions from this tower of Babel:
1. Prime Minister Netanyahu has given President Obama breathing-space for a decision on the timing of an attack Iran.
2. As the latest DEBKA-Net-Weekly issue disclosed exclusively this Friday, Obama wants to meet Netanyahu again in July and is considering a trip to Israel to be combined with visits to other Middle East capitals. He reckons the trip will give his reelection campaign a major boost.
It cannot be said now if this journey will take place before or after an attack on Iran and whether it will be an American, an Israeli or a combined operation.
3. Iran is meanwhile forging ahead with the production of highly-enriched uranium with the help of advanced centrifuges and with the assembly of nuclear weapon components – undeterred by sanctions or diplomatic pressure. What could be more rational than taking advantage of “the window for diplomacy” so freely offered?