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)
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
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.
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