In an August 17 meeting, Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan thanked Under Secretary Burns for America's support of Israel as evidenced by the previous day's signing of an MOU that provides Israel with USD 30 billion in security assistance from 2008-2018. Dagan provided his assessment of the Middle East region, Pakistan and Turkey, stressing Israel's (a) concern for President Musharraf's well-being, (b) view that Iran can be forced to change its behavior, and (c) sense that Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are unstable with unclear futures ahead of them.
Assessing the region, Dagan said Israel sees itself in the middle of a rapidly changing environment, in which the fate of one Middle Eastern country is connected to another. Dagan then said he was concerned about how long Pakistani President Musharraf would survive: "He is facing a serious problem with the militants. Pakistan's nuclear capability could end up in the hands of an Islamic regime." Turning to Iran, Dagan observed that it is in a transition period. There is debate among the leadership between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad and their respective supporters. Instability in Iran is driven by inflation and tension among ethnic minorities. This, Dagan said, presents unique opportunities, and Israelis and Americans might see a change in Iran in their lifetimes.
Dagan said that Jordan has successfully faced down threats from the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and that Egypt is struggling with the question of who will replace President Mubarak. He said he sees no hope for the Palestinians, and that Israel looks at Syria and Lebanon, and sees only instability. Further afield, it looks at Turkey and sees Islamists gaining momentum there. The question, he asked, is how long Turkey's military -- viewing itself as the defender of Turkey's secular identity -- will remain quiet.
7. (S) If Israel's neighborhood were not unstable enough, Dagan observed, it did not help that Russia is playing a "very negative role" in the region. He observed that all of these challenges have to be addressed globally -- they could not be dealt with individually. Returning to Jordan as an example, he noted that the more than one million Iraqi refugees in Jordan were changing Jordanian society, and forcing it into a new relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is evidenced by Saudi King Abdullah's recent visit to Jordan, which implies greater understanding between the Jordanians and the Saudis.
10. (S) Dagan led discussion on Iran by pointing out that the U.S. and Israel have different timetables concerning when Iran is likely to acquire a nuclear capability. He clarified that the Israel Atomic Energy Commission's (IAEC) timetable is purely technical in nature, while the Mossad's considers other factors, including the regime's determination to succeed. While Dagan acknowledged that there is still time to "resolve" the Iran nuclear crisis, he stressed that Iran is making a great effort to achieve a nuclear capability: "The threat is obvious, even if we have a different timetable. If we want to postpone their acquisition of a nuclear capability, then we have to invest time and effort ourselves."
11. (S) Dagan described how the Israeli strategy consists of five pillars:
A) Political Approach: Dagan praised efforts to bring Iran before the UNSC, and signaled his agreement with the pursuit of a third sanctions resolution. He acknowledged that pressure on Iran is building up, but said this approach alone will not resolve the crisis. He stressed that the timetable for political action is different than the nuclear project's timetable.
B) Covert Measures: Dagan and the Under Secretary agreed not to discuss this approach in the larger group setting.
C) Counterproliferation: Dagan underscored the need to prevent know-how and technology from making their way to Iran, and said that more can be done in this area.
D) Sanctions: Dagan said that the biggest successes had so far been in this area. Three Iranian banks are on the verge of collapse. The financial sanctions are having a nationwide impact. Iran's regime can no longer just deal with the bankers themselves.
E) Force Regime Change: Dagan said that more should be done to foment regime change in Iran, possibly with the support of student democracy movements, and ethnic groups (e.g., Azeris, Kurds, Baluchs) opposed to the ruling regime.
12. (S) Dagan clarified that the U.S., Israel and like-minded countries must push on all five pillars at the same time. Some are bearing fruit now; others would bear fruit in due time, especially if more attention were placed on them. Dagan urged more attention on regime change, asserting that more could be done to develop the identities of ethnic minorities in Iran. He said he was sure that Israel and the U.S. could "change the ruling regime in Iran, and its attitude towards backing terror regimes." He added, "We could also get them to delay their nuclear project. Iran could become a normal state.
16. (S) On Pakistan, Dagan said that President Musharraf is losing control, and that some of his coalition partners could threaten him in the future. The key question, Dagan said, is whether Musharraf retains his commander-in-chief role in addition to his role as president. If not, he will have problems. Dagan observed that there has been an increase in the number of attempts on Musharraf's life, and wondered whether he will survive the next few years.
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