Former Deputy Head of Mossad Says Iran “Full Steam Ahead” on Nuclear Weapons Program
Some of you are aware of the collapse of the government in Lebanon on Wednesday as Hizbullah ministers resigned, leading to fears of a civil war in that country. Our Director of Communications, Dave Olsson, was on a conference call the same day featuring Ilan Mizrahi, former deputy head of the Mossad, and former head of the National Security Council, who addressed that and other questions. On the call were journalists from around the world; the format of the conversation with Mizrahi was Q&A, with questions submitted prior to the call by journalists. Below are Dave’s notes from the call with all the questions that were asked. You can also read a report of the call, particularly as it relates to the collapse of the Lebanese government. Please be in prayer for that situation, which remains unstable.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Do you agree that Iran won’t have nuclear weapons until 2015? What is Israel doing about it?
It’s not helpful to talk about dates … instead, talk about “process” … Iran is full-steam ahead in developing nuclear weapons … Iranians don’t know when they’ll have missiles / bombs … it depends on political decision of [Ayatollah] Khamenei. Question is, is int’l community committed to several tracks of deterrence: military, diplomatic, economic, operational?
How effective was the Stuxnet virus? The shooting of Iranian scientists?
Israel has good capabilities in Iran, like other intelligence agencies. I do not know who did these things, but the virus was the first time Ahmadinejad admitted damage to their program.
Are there different assessments within Mossad for Iranian weapon readiness? What will incoming Mossad chief do? Will he change tack?
No. He will continue current policies/operations.
How should we interpret recent Iranian announcements of captured spies in Iran?
Might be true, might not. If true, so what? Cannot rule out that it might be a false flag.
Do you think Israel knows more about Iran than US? And what about the Green movement in Iran?
Cannot compare intelligence agencies. Huge respect for other agencies. Green movement: almost destroyed, but still there. Instead of going to streets, they are much more active through Internet. Will not bring down regime or change policies. But long-term, will have an effect. Int’l community's calls to talk about human rights might help. Continue sanctions. But Iranian opposition does not pose a threat to the regime.
What about the government collapse in Lebanon? Hizbullah ministers have resigned. Is Lebanon on brink of civil war?
There will be a deal between Syrians and Saudis ... they will come out with a statement about Hizbullah. Will bring temporary peace, but doesn’t change situation in which Lebanon will be on the brink on civilian war. Hizbullah wants to be dominant … Hizbullah will get upper hand. All the parties will do their best to avoid civil war; will succeed in avoiding, but will pay price to Hizbullah. In this round, Hizbullah has upper hand, and, essentially, has become an organization that has a state.
Is Hizbullah stronger than 2006?
Yes, firepower is stronger because Iran and Syria are cooperating in strengthening them. But note that since 2006, five years of silence on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
How do you assess Israel’s preparedness for conflict with Lebanon/Hezbollah?
All parties have an interest not to start a war in the north. [But] minor events sometimes become major ones. In case Hezbollah calculates that a provocation is in its interest or if Iran thinks it’s in their interest to start a war, they will do it. But for the time being, no one has an interest in another round of war.
Southern border and Hamas: is Hamas in control of other groups, like Islamic Jihad? What’s behind the recent missle attacks?
Hamas is fully in control of Gaza. Sometimes they allow terrorist activity against Israel, especially now to challenge Abu Mazen’s peace efforts. They are 100% in control, and the question is “what is their will to control other groups”? They, too, do not have an interest to provoke Israel.
Operation in Dubai: what has Mossad learned from operational failure? Do you regard as operational failure?
I don’t think it’s a failure at all. It successfully neutralized a target. Message was to Hamas and Iranians. All agents came back safely. Some mistakes made, yes, but not a failure.
Iraq: is post-Saddam Iraq lost to Iran?
Seems like US will pull out from Iraq and it will fall under Iranian influence (not control). Not 100% sure that it will play out that way (Shia Crescent). Iraqis are more loyal to the state than to Iranian Shia brothers. But if I had to guess, chances are greater that Iran will fill the void in Iraq. If they do, and Hezbollah is getting more control in Lebanon, then you have Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon as strong Shia states. Then future of Iraq has great influence in middle east. After US pulls out of Iraq, then image of US will be weaker. Iran will fill the void. How will it affect their nuclear military projects? It will result in conventional weapons race in Middle East. I think also Turkey will come to the conclusion that their interests in the north are threatened. Kurds will move toward independence. Syrians, Iranians, Turks will become stronger allies. I don’t think Iraq will emerge as a united country.
Al Qaeda? What is their strategic threat to Israel and US?
The major radical threat is the Iranians. Al Qaeda is looking for a failed state, which is why they are in Yemen. Threatens their first target: Saudi Arabia, but also looking at African horn … so a strategic and clever choice. Al Qaeda in Gaza, also in Lebanon. I don’t think Hamas and Al Qaeda have much in common. Radical Sunnis, but Hamas has Palestinian agenda, Al Qaeda does not. Al Qaeda threatens Hamas with “competition.”
What about the allegations about sharks and vultures over Islamic regions being sent by Israel? What does that say about Mossad, and these Arab countries?
(chuckles) … next “we’ll switch to tsunamis and earthquakes” … the more they say about Mossad, it adds to concept of deterrence, it adds to suspicion … doesn’t speak to logical thinking. Let them think we’re doing those things. Too bad for them.
Most serious threat in 2011 for US and Middle East?
Most concerned about two issues: 1) Iran going nuclear militarily … grave consequences on international community; 2) Situation in Pakistan (nothing more said due to lack of time)