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NETANYAHU DISAGREES WITH MOSSAD ASSESSMENT ON IRAN NUKES, SAYS CREDIBLE MILITARY THREAT VITAL: Have PM’s options been undercut by Dagan, like Bush was with 2007 NIE report?

Netanyahu meeting with foreign reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

 

Lots of news from the epicenter this morning. Stories that are drawing my attention this morning include:

Netanyahu holds press conference with foreign journalists to discuss Iran nuclear threat, outgoing Mossad chief’s assessment, and the peace process (see below) 

Egypt warns Hamas to stop the rocket attacks or risk a new war from Israel 

Hezbollah threatens to topple regime in Lebanon over Hariri probe

Each story is important, but chief among them is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with foreign reporters earlier today. The PM warned that the threat of the Iranian regime acquiring nuclear weapons is still very real, very worrisome, and hinted that Israel is actively considering military action. Indeed, he said that the only way for economic sanctions ultimately to convince the regime in Tehran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons is if those sanctions are backed by a credible military threat. What’s more, Netanyahu distanced himself from last week’s assessment by outgoing Mossad intelligence chief Meir Dagan that Iran won’t have the Bomb until 2015. He called it was one view among many, and implied he disagreed with Dagan.

“The only chance that these sanctions will achieve their objectives would be to couple them

with an understanding from Iran that no matter what…that is if they do not achieve their goal, they will be followed with credible military action,” Netanyahu said. He noted that the only time Iran briefly suspended pursuit of the Bomb was in 2003, after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “When Iran thought there was a credible military option from the United States they temporarily suspended their nuclear weapons programme.”
With regards to Dagan’s 2015 assessment, Netanyahu said: “I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates. They range from best case to worst case possibilities, and there is a range there, there is room for differing assessments.”

Netanyahu and his close aides are privately furious with Dagan for allowing his somewhat generous assessment of Iran’s capabilities to become public. They are concerned that this potentially allows the international community to ease up on pressure on Iran and undercut the Prime Minister’s strategy of intensifying world pressure on Iran. One advisor said, “Dagan should be drawn and quartered.”

“The timing of Dagan’s remarks, and the way they were said, is unacceptable — former heads of Mossad did not behave that way on the day of their departure,” said other senior Israeli sources to a reporter. “There’s something unprofessional in this. Dagan does not set policy, but only recommends, and his is one of several recommendations.”

 

The situation strikes me as similar to the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that stated that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. President Bush and his senior aides at the time felt blindsided by the report which leaked before they had read and processed the assessment. What’s more, Bush disagreed with the NIE. He said publicly that he believed Iran was still a real threat and still determined to acquire nuclear weapons, and later said in his book, Decision Points, the NIE had limited his options and undercut his efforts to build international pressure on Iran. In the end, it has become clear that Iran has reengaged its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, valuable time was lost by the leak of the NIE report.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said he wants to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, but they are simply refusing to sit down and have honest, direct talks. “What is preventing the advent of peace, the advent of peace negotiations is that the Palestinians are doing everything in their power to avoid them,” said Netanyahu. “That is the simple truth….The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. They are not going to get an imposed settlement from the outside, it does not work. The only way to get peace is to negotiate peace….If they are prepared to negotiate then they will find — that this government, my government, this prime minister, me — that I’m prepared and able to achieve historic peace.”

 

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