Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan silenced by cancer
Even though most Iranian nuclear facilities are heavily fortified, ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan says there are ways Israel could target and damage them. / CBS News
This article, written by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, was originally published on IsraelSpy.com.
One of the most important debates on the world scene has gone silent. For more than a year, commentators and politicians worldwide had been discussing: How can Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program be stopped, and should Israel be stopped from bombing Iran?
With Americans voting November 6, and Israelis having their national election on January 22, the debate is mute.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has been an enthusiastic saber-rattler, does not see any advantage in thundering about Iran's nuclear program right now. His most recent big statement came at the United Nations in New York in late September, when he held a cartoonish diagram of Iran's bomb-making progress, but truly illustrated a timeline that seems to delay any military action until mid-2013.
The defense minister in his lame duck cabinet, Ehud Barak, is leading his own small political party and has changed his tone on Iran. Barak is more obvious now in his reluctance to see Israeli warplanes and missiles strike Iran, but Barak has a reputation for saying almost anything for political advantage - so one does not know what he would do, in the remotely possible scenario that he might return to the post of defense minister.
[Back in 2000, he was the prime minister who nearly reached a peace accord with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, when President Bill Clinton brought them together at Camp David.]
One man who might have kept the Iran debate alive is Meir Dagan. After serving as Mossad director from 2002 to 2010 and re-directing the priorities of Israel's foreign espionage agency - featuring secret, daring sabotage and assassination missions inside Iran - Dagan became surprisingly vocal on the subject of Iran's nuclear program.
In December 2010, just before his departure from the Mossad, Dagan invited a few Israeli journalists for an unprecedented briefing at the agency's headquarters north of Tel Aviv. The spy chief claimed credit for delaying the Iranians' work on uranium enrichment and bomb development. And Dagan clearly spoke out against the military option - quite specifically against plans being laid by Netanyahu and Barak.
Within months, Dagan was speaking more frequently about how "stupid" it would be for Israel to launch air force sorties and missiles at Iran. This year, he was interviewed in English on CBS News' "60 Minutes" and warned that Iranian retaliation would make daily life unbearable in Israel. Dagan said Iran's leaders are "rational," in a way, suggesting that they could be persuaded to halt their nuclear work.
The implicit message was also that more covert action could continue to be effective: Anything from assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (actions which our book "Spies Against Armageddon" clearly ascribes to the Mossad) to cyberwarfare (such as the Stuxnet worm, which damaged computer-controlled uranium centrifuges in Iran). [Our book reported that cyberwarfare, probably including more computer viruses, was and is a joint U.S.-Israel project.]
Dagan, as luck would have it, has been diagnosed with liver cancer. According to people close to him, he sought diagnosis and possible treatment at the Sloane Kettering cancer center in New York City. Apparently a liver transplant was recommended, but no donor was available. He found the same dead end in Germany and in India.
In Israel, where a former chief of the Mossad naturally would have some VIP priority (as much as anyone might), no donor was available. Medical policies in Israel discourage liver transplants for any patient older than 65, because senior citizens are not generally likely to benefit (or survive) for long after a transplant. Dagan is 67 years old.
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