Geopolitics

Ex-Mossad Chief, Now A Zurich-Based Consultant, Says War With Iran A “Dumb Idea”

The former head of Israel’s secretive Mossad, retired Gen. Meir Dagan, is surprisingly forthcoming when it comes to the subject of Iran. Dagan, now a consultant in Switzerland, thinks Israel would be stupid to attack.

Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan says an Israeli attack on Iran would spark regional war (YouTube)
Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan says an Israeli attack on Iran would spark regional war (YouTube)
Benno Gasser

ZURICH -- People in the geopolitical risk analysis business usually go out of their way not to draw attention to themselves. Which is why it's all the more astonishing that Arcanum (Latin for "secret"), an international consulting firm based in Zurich, revealed Wednesday that its newest consultant is none other than the former head of Mossad, Israel's secret service agency. The new addition, Meir Dagan, headed Mossad for eight years before retiring in January 2011. He is now 67 years old.

The Arcanum job is not full time. "Meir Dagan will be consulted in specific areas such as the defense sector, where his experience as a general is extremely valuable," said company spokesman Thomas Landgraf. Economic interests also underlie the firm's sudden openness, Landgraf added: word of mouth publicity is important to the firm, but occasional media presence doesn't hurt, he said. Arcanum's offices are located in one of Zurich's most prestigious buildings on General Guisan Quai. Mr. Dagan will not have an actual office there.

Attack would lead to regional war

If during his time as secret service chief Dagan was intensely low profile, since his retirement he has been considerably more voluble -- and he warns of the dangers of a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations, calling it the "dumbest idea" he ever heard of. Such an attack would lead to a regional war, he says.

As head of Mossad, Dagan used other tactics to hinder the Iranian nuclear program from pursuing military aims, such as taking out key Iranian nuclear scientists. The introduction of the Stuxnet virus into the program's computer system was in all likelihood also the work of Mossad.

Dagan, who served in the Israeli army for 32 years, was both admired and feared for his bluntness. When he appointed Dagan to the top Mossad job in 2002, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon praised the ex-general's special talent for "separating an Arab's head from his body."

The two men have known each other since the early 1970s, and fought side by side in the Yom Kippur War. Dagan was Israel's longest-serving Mossad boss, and he succeeded in improving the secret service's image. However, towards the end of his tenure the agency was involved in a number of botched jobs. Dagan was sharply criticized in particular for the murder of a Hamas arms dealer in Dubai.

Read the original article in German

Photo - YouTube

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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