Cablegate: Aphsct Townsend Takes Stock of Bmena Region With

Published: Thu 26 Jul 2007 01:01 PM
DE RUEHTV #2280/01 2071352
P 261352Z JUL 07
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 002280
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Classified By: Charge d'affaires Gene A. Cretz for reasons 1.4 (B/D).
1. (S) SUMMARY: Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the
President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (AFHSC),
met Mossad Director Meir Dagan on July 12 for a general
discussion of regional security threats. On the Iranian
nuclear program, Dagan proved surprisingly optimistic about
the effects of United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
resolutions and their impact on Iranian elites. On most
other fronts, however, Dagan expressed deep skepticism
regarding any near-term solutions. Dagan believes that the
Syrians were emboldened by the Second Lebanon War, and argued
for a concerted international effort to enforce UNSC
resolutions in Lebanon as a means of removing Syria from
Iranian influence. In Dagan's personal opinion, present
attempts to prop up the government of Prime Minister Salam
Fayyad will fail, and "an entirely new approach" with the
Palestinians is required. Dagan and Townsend surveyed
political developments in North Africa, Turkey, and the Gulf,
and shared concerns about Pakistan's ability to withstand the
challenge of Islamic radicals. END SUMMARY.
Financial Sanctions Offer Hope on Iran
2. (S) Mossad Director Meir Dagan began his two-hour meeting
with Townsend by expressing satisfaction with sanctions
against Iran. Dagan said UNSC Resolutions 1737 and 1747
caught the Iranians off-guard, and were having an impact on
the Iranian elite and financial community. The resolutions
had been particularly successful through their indirect
consequences, explained Dagan, by stigmatizing Iranian
businesses and discouraging risk-averse Europeans from being
connected with Iran. Dagan praised ongoing GOI-USG
cooperation on this front, and added that domestic economic
problems were creating additional pressure on the regime.
3. (S) With regard to their nuclear program, Dagan said the
Iranians are attempting to convey a "false presentation" that
they have mastered the uranium enrichment process. The
reality is that they are not there yet, said Dagan, and they
are paying a heavy political price (sanctions) for something
they have yet to achieve. Dagan noted growing antipathy in
Russia towards Iran and its nuclear program, and said the
Iranians were shocked by Russian statements accusing them of
supporting terrorism against the United States. In Dagan's
view, there is no ideological conflict within the Iranian
leadership (all wish to see the destruction of Israel), but
there is a growing divide on tactics with some supporting a
retaliatory position against the West and others favoring new
policies of moderation. Recognizing the growing strength of
the moderate camp, Dagan said that the militant followers of
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are now trying to target
supporters of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as spies.
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Gulf States Await Action (From Others) on Iran
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4. (S) According to Dagan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf
States all fear Iran, but want someone else "to do the job
for them." Townsend and Dagan discussed the current state of
affairs in the Saudi royal court, where the Mossad Chief
accused Foreign Minister Saud bin Faysal of playing a "very
negative role." He also pointed to the recent visit of the
Saudi King Abdullah to Jordan as a historical first and
turning point for relations between the two countries.
Townsend agreed, and said that the Saudi king has a sense of
urgency on the political front. Dagan characterized Qatar as
"a real problem," and accused Sheikh Hamid of "annoying
everyone." In his view, Qatar is trying to play all sides --
Syria, Iran, Hamas -- in an effort to achieve security and
some degree of independence. "I think you should remove your
bases from there...seriously," said Dagan. "They have
confidence only because of the U.S. presence." Dagan
predicted, with some humor, that al-Jazeera would be the next
cause of war in the Middle East as some Arab leaders
(specifically Saudi Arabia) are willing to take drastic steps
to shut down the channel, and hold Sheikh Hamid personally
responsible for its provocations.
Syria Taking Dangerous Risks
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5. (S) Dagan echoed other reports that Syria expects an
Israeli attack this summer, and has raised its level of
readiness. Despite the fact that Israel has no intention of
attacking, said Dagan, the Syrians are likely to retaliate
over even the smallest incident, which could lead to quick
escalation. Dagan believes that Syria's strategic alliance
with Iran and Hizballah has not changed, and that Assad views
these policies as both "successful and just." There is a
tendency to assume that Syria can be separated from Iran,
said Dagan, and that this offers the key to weakening
Hizballah. Dagan argued that the opposite is true: by
enforcing UN resolutions on Lebanon and increasing efforts to
disarm Hizballah, the international community can remove the
glue that binds Iran and Syria. Enforcing the resolutions
would put additional pressure on Assad, who fears being tried
for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri
above all else. The advantage of such an approach, continued
Dagan, is that the legal ground is already in place for
action by the UNSC. This credible threat could sufficiently
frighten Syria away from Iran and towards more natural allies
in the Arab League.
Deep Pessimism on Relations With Palestinians
6. (S) Departing from official GOI policy, Dagan expressed
his personal opinion that after more than a decade of trying
to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians,
"nothing will be achieved." Only Israeli military operations
against Hamas in the West Bank prevent them from expanding
control beyond Gaza, lamented Dagan, without which Fatah
would fall within one month and Abbas would join his
"mysteriously wealthy" son in Qatar. Offering what he
believed to be a conservative estimate, Dagan said that USD 6
billion had been invested in the Palestinian Authority since
1994. "What did it accomplish, other than adding a few more
people to the Fortune 500?" asked Dagan. Although he
expressed his personal faith in Salam Fayyad, Dagan said that
the Palestinian Prime Minister had no power base. Fatah as a
party would have to completely reorganize itself in order to
regain credibility, argued Dagan, but instead they have
turned once again to the "old guard." The Mossad Chief
suggested that a completely new approach was required, but
did not provide Townsend any additional details.
Pakistan...and Other Regional Concerns
7. (S) Townsend and Dagan then embarked on an informal tour
of the region, comparing notes on countries critical to
combating terrorism. Dagan characterized a Pakistan ruled by
radical Islamists with a nuclear arsenal at their disposal as
his biggest nightmare. Al-Qaeda and other "Global Jihad"
groups could not be relied upon to behave rationally once in
possession of nuclear weapons, said Dagan, as they do not
care about the well being of states or their image in the
media. "We have to keep (President Pervez) Musharaf in
power," said Dagan. In North Africa, Dagan contended that
Qaddafi needs to be pushed more in order to put Libya on the
right track. Qaddafi faces little domestic pressure, said
Dagan, but has traditionally responded to outside threats and
runs foreign policy based on his emotions. The only reason
Qaddafi moderated his position to begin with, said Dagan, was
that he feared that he was "in the crosshairs" for regime
change. Dagan viewed the situation in Algeria as more
serious, with the south of the country becoming increasingly
dangerous and the leadership uncertain as it faces radical
Islamic forces. Morocco is coping better with these issues
"in spite of the king," said Dagan, who appears to take
little interest in governing. In Turkey, Dagan said that
Islamists there are not of the same cloth as others in the
region, but he does fear that they are slowly breaking down
the secular character of the state and could become more
radical over time. Dagan argued that if the Turkish military
received more direct support from the United States, it would
be better able to prevent the rise of Islamists.
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