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Israel, Iran and us

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 7:50 PM

I watched Lesley Stahl's 60 Minutes interview with former Mossad Director Meir Dagan with interest March 11. Raising the probability of a planted question from the Israeli government, Stahl emphasized Dagan's dismissal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a publicity fiasco surrounding the Mossad's apparent Jan. 19, 2010, assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. This Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (in Hebrew, HaMossad leModi'in ule Tafkidim Meyuchadim) has an enormous mystique and Dagan's characterization of Netanyahu as "stupid" for threatening to attack Iran was unusual. When Stahl suggested Dagan was retaliating for Netanyahu's replacement of him with Tamir Pardo in January last year, Dagan said the Iranian nuclear threat had worsened since then.

The interesting part was the surprisingly affable old spy's assertion that Iranian leaders "are very rational." It seemed logical to ask, rational in what way, but that tack was not extended. There's some contention they may actually be up to what they claim, developing nuclear power for electricity; but it's hard to see practicing such a high level of brinksmanship for that. I don't believe the Iranians' pious denials, given their fixing of President Ahmadinejad's 2009 re-election. There is the counter-interpretation that they want "to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth," which lacks credibility because Iran wouldn't need nukes to jeopardize Israel.

I had thought when this controversy first developed that Iran was unsettled by our occupation of Iraq -- like Iran, an oil power -- and its leaders were saying in effect, don't try it with us! They probably always considered our involvement in Iraq to be about stabilizing its oil production, not al-Qaeda or terrorism, and I still think that's what this nuclear tap dance is about. It's regretable that 60 Minutes missed a chance to clarify this important issue.

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James R. Campbell
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