The former chief of Israel’s vaunted Mossad spy agency, Meir Dagan, has already said that he thinks “an attack on Iran before you’re exploring all other approaches is not the right way to do it.” He has spelled out some of his objections clearly, noting that he doesn’t think Israel faces any “existential threat,” that an attack would “ignite… a regional war,” and that such a strike would only delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions — not halt them.
But today, during a conference at an Israeli think tank closely associated with the country’s security establishment, Dagan further explained his opposition to a strike. He told the audience there — in line with previous U.S., U.N. and Israeli estimates that Iran has not yet made a decision to produce a weapon — that attacking Iran would spur the Islamic Republic into accelerating its nuclear program and push for a bomb. Dagan said:
A strike could accelerate the procurement of the bomb. An attack isn’t enough to stop the project. …
We would provide them with the legitimacy to achieve nuclear capabilities for military purposes.
In a sign of a consensus emerging among former top Israeli security officials, Dagan shares the newly expressed view — that attacking Iran would give the Islamic Republic every reason to boot out U.N. nuclear inspectors, make a “dash” for a weapon, and rally its population to that goal — with other former security chiefs. Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intelligence head Shlomo Gazit and former internal security chief Yuval Diskin have expressed nearly identical sentiments. In addition, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Thomas Pickering has expressed such views as well.
A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and consequences of a strike — not least the one raised by Dagan today — have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis. Perhaps Dagan’s latest comments will lead to a broader discussion about the possible consequences of an attack on Iran.