March 2005

05TELAVIV1580 2005-03-17 10:10 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001580


EO 12958 DECL: 03/15/2010

Classified By: Pol/C Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer for reasons 1.4(b) an d (d).

¶1. (S) Summary: Mossad Chief Meir Dagan told CODEL Corzine March 13 that Israeli and U.S. thinking on Iran largely tracks, adding that he believes the EU dialogue with Iran will ultimately fail. Dagan said that Israel has evidence that some foreign fighters have returned home from Iraq, perhaps indicating that the tide may be starting to turn in the U.S. battle against the insurgency there. He worried however, that these militants’ countries of origin — in particular Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan — are ill-equipped to control the returning jihadis, who might then pose a threat to stability in the region and, ultimately, to Israel. End Summary.


¶2. (C) Senator Jon Corzine, accompanied by Senate staff member Evan Gottesman, the Ambassador, Pol/Res and Poloff (notetaker), met with Mossad Chief Meir Dagan March 13. Acknowledging that there are at times differences in analysis of the facts, Dagan stressed that it is similarities rather than differences that are at the heart of the GOI-U.S. intelligence relationship, particularly on Iran. The facts themselves are not in dispute, Dagan continued, adding that the U.S. and Israeli assessments of Iran’s intentions and plans are largely in accord. Iran has decided to go nuclear, Dagan said, and nothing will stop it. Dagan predicted that the EU dialogue with Iran will not succeed and that the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions would eventually go to the UN
Security Council.

Iraq – Foreign Fighters Heading Home?

¶3. (S) In response to the Senator’s question, Dagan said that the tide may be starting to turn in Iraq with regard to foreign militant activity. Dagan said Israel has evidence that foreign fighters originating from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Syria and Yemen have arrived back in their home countries, and he assumes that some had returned to Saudi Arabia as well. Dagan predicted that, as with men who fought in Afghanistan during the 80’s and 90’s, these returning militants would stay in touch with each other, forming a network based on their common experiences in Iraq.

¶4. (S) Stressing that Israel has no assets in Iraq other than a friendly relationship with the Kurds, Dagan said that Israel’s interest is more in the impact the jihadis from, for example, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will have once they return to their countries of origin. Although he predicts Egypt and Jordan will “do all right,” Dagan said he is less confident that governments in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and Sudan are sufficiently well-equipped to face down the domestic challenge these returning militants will pose. The combination of their military training and the absence of strong governments willing and able to confront these men could have a devastating impact on Israel by causing chaos in their home countries, he added. Dagan predicted that these jihadis will have less of a direct impact on Palestinians, because Palestinians are already well aware of militant views and opinions via Internet chat rooms. Furthermore, Dagan said he feels that most Palestinians are not searching for “foreign flags,” such as al-Qaeda, under which to rally, because those inclined to do so are already being well-mobilized under existing groups in the West Bank and Gaza.


¶5. (C) Dagan opined that Hizballah will never make the transition to a purely political party in Lebanon, since the organization remains very dependent on its jihadi orientation. Noting that even the recent Hizaballah-sponsored march in Beirut has not deterred the Lebanese from pressing for a full Syrian withdrawal, Dagan advised the U.S. to remain firm in its demand for a complete pullout, and attributed the willingness of the Lebanese people to rise up to U.S. action in Iraq.

——————————————— ————-
Essential to Use All Assets in the Fight Against Terrorism
——————————————— ————-

¶6. (C) Dagan said it is essential to combine all types of intelligence assets, rather than relying exclusively on human intelligence or signal intercepts, to counter terrorist threats. Terrorist organizations have been seeking to obtain WMD as a matter of course and, unlike countries that wish to acquire these weapons as a deterrent, non-state actors would be more inclined to actually use them, in Dagan’s opinion. Asked about the relationship between illicit activities such as narcotic or arms trafficking and terrorism, Dagan confirmed that terrorist organizations try to fund their activities by criminal means, adding that credit card fraud and counterfeiting are also methods favored by these groups. Weapons originating from Yemen and Sudan are smuggled into the territories through Egypt for sale, as well as for use by militants, Dagan said.

¶7. (U) CODEL Corzine did not have an opportunity to clear this message.
********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website:
You can also access this site through the State Department’s Classified SIPRNET website. ********************************************* ******************** KURTZER

05TELAVIV1593 2005-03-17 14:02 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 001593


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2015

REF: STATE 26053

Classified By: Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer; Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D).

¶1. (S) SUMMARY: Israel sees Iran as the primary threat to
its security and sees the enrichment cycle as the “point of
no return” for Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. The GOI
believes that diplomatic pressure with teeth, such as
sanctions, can affect Iranian behavior, and is lobbying the
EU-3 and IAEA on details of a permanent suspension agreement.
The Israelis support a unified international front but are
concerned that the USG may move toward the EU position.
Despite the GOI’s focus on the diplomatic track, public and
private speculation about possible Israeli air strikes
continues. In weighing the military options, the GOI is
aware of significant differences from its successful strike
against Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981, including an
uncertain and dispersed target set, the presence of coalition
forces in Iraq and the Gulf, Iranian capabilities to
retaliate through Hizballah and terrorism, and the changed
strategic environment. END SUMMARY.

——————————————— ———-
The Iranian Threat, “Point of No Return,” and Timelines
——————————————— ———-

¶2. (S) PM Sharon calls Iran “the main threat to Israel” and
has recently expressed concern that some states are “getting
used to” the idea of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Other
senior Israeli officials echo this, cautioning that Tehran’s
nuclear weapons program poses what Mossad Chief Meir Dagan
calls an “existential threat” that alters the strategic
balance in the region.

¶3. (C) In a meeting with congressional visitors in December,
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz described operation of the
enrichment cycle as the “point of no return” for the Iranian
program, a view shared by many senior GOI officials. Mossad
Chief Dagan went a step further, saying that the Iranian
program will be unstoppable once it no longer requires
outside assistance to complete the enrichment process. At
the technical level, the director for external affairs at the
Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) told poloff that the
critical step would be Iran’s operation of a centrifuge
enrichment cascade.

¶4. (S) GOI officials have given different timelines for when
they believe Iran will have full enrichment capability. In
February, PM Sharon told the Secretary that he believes there
is still time remaining to pressure Iran, but that the window
of opportunity is closing quickly. DefMin Mofaz cautioned
that Iran is “less than one year away,” while the head of
research in military intelligence estimated that Iran would
reach this point by early 2007. Technical experts at the
IAEC predicted that Iran would have enrichment capability
within six months of the end of the suspension agreement. A
few GOI officials admitted informally that these estimates
need to be taken with caution. The head of the MFA’s
strategic affairs division recalled that GOI assessments from
1993 predicted that Iran would possess an atomic bomb by 1998
at the latest.

Focus on Diplomacy and Concern with the EU-3

¶5. (S) In the near term, Israel is focused on maintaining
diplomatic pressure on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and
EU-3. Sharon defines diplomatic pressure to include UNSC
sanctions, e.g. on Iran’s airlines and trade, as noted below.
President Katsav has said that Tehran is “very conscious of
international opinion.” Other MFA and NSC officials point to
the current suspension and to Iranian reaction to the Mykonos
case as proof that diplomatic pressure can affect
decision-making in Tehran.

¶6. (S) The Israelis often express disappointment with EU-3
efforts, but see no real alternative at this time. PM Sharon
told reporters on March 10 that Iran uses the negotiations to
“play for time.” In private, Sharon, his Cabinet, and
military leaders have all complained that the Europeans are
“too soft.” Similarly, President Katsav has cautioned that
Iran will “cheat” on any commitments it makes. MFA staff
told poloff that they do not believe that the EU-3 effort
will be successful in obtaining a permanent suspension or
that the Europeans will support effective sanctions against

¶7. (C) GOI technical experts said they have been lobbying the
Europeans and IAEA on several issues. First, the GOI would
like a clearer and more detailed listing of all activities
covered by the suspension, along with timelines for each
step. Second, they want more robust verification measures
and greater focus on Iran’s denial of access to IAEA
inspectors. Third, the Israelis insist that any final
agreement must be endorsed by the UNSC to ensure that
noncompliance will be dealt with at an appropriate level.
Fourth, Israel is pushing the EU-3 to define benchmarks that
would signal a failure of the process, and to identify the
concrete consequences of such failure.

¶8. (C) According to the IAEC, the GOI has urged the Europeans
to examine bilateral or EU sanctions with small, but
noticeable, economic impacts. After telling the press on
March 10 that “it would probably not be advisable to impose
an oil embargo on Iran,” PM Sharon advocated trade and flight
restrictions. Lower-level GOI officials said these steps
could include restrictions on Iranians studying in Europe,
limitations on travel by Iranian scientific personnel, and
suspension of landing privileges for Iranian airlines within
the EU. The goal, according to the deputy NSA for foreign
affairs, is unified pressure from the EU, Russia, and U.S.
for a “complete, full, verifiable cessation of the fuel cycle
program.” In the short term, this means a full suspension of
all enrichment, reprocessing, heavy-water-reactor
construction, and related R&D activities.

——————————————— —
Israeli Preference for USG and UNSC Involvement
——————————————— —

¶9. (C) In light of their uneasiness with EU-3 efforts, the
Israelis are hoping for robust U.S. involvement and action by
the UNSC. PM Sharon has urged the EU-3 to continue its
efforts, but also stressed the importance of preparing to
take Iran to the UNSC. In a meeting with a CoDel on December
12, DefMin Mofaz pushed for the U.S. to take the lead with
the Europeans and pursue all diplomatic solutions, including
sanctions. President Katsav asked the Secretary not to “wait
for the Europeans.”

¶10. (C) This desire for U.S. activity is amplified by the
extremely limited options open to Israel on the diplomatic
front. The IAEC’s director for non-proliferation admitted
that the GOI sees “little we can do” to increase pressure on
Iran as long as Tehran abides by the suspension agreement.
The MFA’s office director for the Gulf states said that
Israel would maintain its low-profile diplomatic activities,
such as supplying IAEA members with intelligence material
related to the Iranian program. She said the MFA believes
that any overt Israeli pressure would backfire, leading to a
surge of Arab support for Iran and focusing attention on
Israel’s own nuclear activities.

¶11. (C) Following the recent announcements on Iran by the
President and the Secretary, several Israeli officials asked
if the USG is shifting its policy on Iran. The deputy NSA
for foreign affairs acknowledged that the U.S. move is
probably necessary to build international consensus for
taking Iran to the UNSC. At the same time, he expressed
concern that the USG would be influenced by what he called
the EU’s habit of granting concessions to Iran prior to full
compliance. Mid-level staffers at the NSC and IAEC were also
disquieted by U.S. press reports claiming that the USG is
re-examining its position on Hizballah.

The Military Option: Bushehr is not Osirak

¶12. (S) Despite frustrations with diplomatic efforts, Israeli
officials are understandably reluctant to discuss possible
military options. In public, PM Sharon has stressed the
importance of the “political and economic” track. During a
recent discussion with a visiting USG official, IDF Deputy
Chief of Staff (and CoS-designate) Major General Dani Haloutz
similarly said “we don’t want to go there.” In February,
President Katsav told the Secretary that “the military option
is not necessary — bring the issue to the Security Council.”

¶13. (S) Public speculation about possible military strikes
usually focuses on the differences from the Israeli Air
Force’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981. In private,
GOI officials have acknowledged that several factors would
make any attack against Iran a much more difficult mission.
A senior military intelligence official told the Embassy that
the GOI does not know where all of the targets are located
and said that any attack would only delay, not end, the
Iranian program. The MFA’s office director for the Gulf
states noted that potential target sites are well dispersed
throughout the country, with several located in built-up
civilian areas. The IAEC stressed the importance of Russian
assistance in restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and said
that any attack on Bushehr would likely result in Russian
casualties and endanger Moscow’s cooperation.

¶14. (C) MFA contacts said that the distance to the targets
and the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and the Gulf raise
additional complications. An Israeli assault would
necessitate prior coordination with coalition forces in Iraq,
they maintained, leaving the USG open to retaliation
throughout the Islamic world, especially in Iraq. MFA and
NSC officials acknowledged that any attack would also elicit
a strong response from Arab states and the Palestinians,
effectively freezing the peace process.

¶15. (C) The Israelis realize that Iran would use any military
strike as an excuse to cease cooperation with the EU-3 and
the IAEA. In addition, the GOI is acutely aware of Iran’s
ability to retaliate, both militarily and through attacks by
its regional surrogates. PM Sharon has claimed that
Hizballah has 11,000 rockets (and possibly UAVs) capable of
reaching Israel from launching sites in Lebanon. The MFA’s
office director for the Gulf states said that she believed
that Iran would retaliate by inciting terrorist groups in
Israel and the Occupied Territories.

¶16. (C) Current USG, EU-3, and IAEA focus on Iran also
creates a situation that differs from 1981, when the Israelis
felt that the international community was ignoring the Iraqi
threat. Israelis hope that the others will solve the Iranian
problem for them, or as Vice PM Shimon Peres has said, “I do
not think that the matter of Iran needs to be turned into an
Israeli problem — it is a matter of concern for the whole

——————————————— —
Comment: Diplomatic Solution Preferred, but …
——————————————— —

¶17. (S) COMMENT: The Israelis are focusing on diplomatic
channels in the IAEA and EU-3, and appear to have very real
concerns about the feasibility of military strikes against
the Iranian nuclear program. Nevertheless, the GOI has shown
time and again that it will act militarily if it believes
that its security is threatened, and the IDF is most
certainly keeping contingency plans up to date. The Israeli
press reported that in February PM Sharon’s Security Cabinet
had given “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran. The
press reports cited an unnamed “Israeli security source,” who
claimed that the USG would “authorize” an Israeli attack.
Post notes that it may not be possible to detect preparations
for any military strike. Air defense operations would pose
nearly perfect cover for civil defense and Air Force
activities preceding any attack. Due to both the extreme
sensitivity of the issue and the GOI’s near inability to
prevent leaks, any attack order would be closely held,
probably even from many members of PM Sharon’s Cabinet.

¶18. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: The GOI knows that we share its
interest in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, we should expect continued Israeli lobbying at
the highest levels urging the USG to ensure that the EU-3
effort is on track and backed by a solid international front.
We will also hear Israeli concerns that the U.S. position
may move toward the EU stance. At the same time, we should
recognize that Israeli intelligence briefings will
understandably focus on worst-case scenarios and may not
match current USG assessments.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website:

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************