Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Four More Years

by Elliott Abrams
January 7, 2011

Israel's PM Netanyahu hugs Meir Dagan, the outgoing director of Israel's spy agency Mossad, at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (Ronen Zvulun/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday the legendary Meir Dagan retired after eight years as head of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. Having had some opportunity to work with Dagan while in the U.S. Government, I take his opinions and judgments very seriously—including his newest predictions about the Iranian nuclear program.

Dagan now believes that Iran will not have a bomb until 2015. That the date keeps receding is, presumably, due in part to Dagan’s own efforts and those of his organization. If he is right, we have four more years to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

In those four years, Iran will face another election for president and parliament (in 2013) and may well face a succession crisis. Rumors of Khamenei’s poor health have circulated for years. Moreover, increasing sanctions may damage the Iranian economy in ways that create additional political tension. So with a four year time line, the notion that this regime may become unstable or even fall becomes thinkable, as does the notion that faced with doom the regime might be willing to compromise its nuclear program away to concentrate on survival.

The new Republican leaders of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committees—respectively Buck McKeon, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Mike Rogers—ought to make this their first order of business. They should be asking right now what more the United States and our allies can be doing to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program, make our sanctions more effective, and support democratic dissidents in Iran. If Dagan’s information and his analysis are right, the time horizon has moved back. The question now is whether we will take advantage of the time we have.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by TheBigHenry

    I think the more fundamental question is whether the current administration is inclined to take advantage of anything to stop Iran from going nuclear. I am not at all persuaded that it is.

    If there has been any indication that Obama is seriously committed to stopping Iran, I must have missed it.

  • Posted by MJ

    Meir Dagan should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. It would be a chance for the President to help undo the legacy of his previous choices in giving the medal to the Israel-bashing Mary Robinson who was responsible for the antisemitic UN sanction World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001 and in presenting the award to the odious and reprehensible Desmond Tutu.

  • Posted by Tom Davey

    @TheBigHenry: I think you missed it. In July 2010 Obama signed into law a tough new round of economic sanctions against Iran. In June 2010 the Administration also led the Security Council into passing its toughest round of sanctions yet. Obama even persuaded the Chinese and the Russians to go along.

    As Abrams says, ” . . . increasing sanctions may damage the Iranian economy in ways that create additional political tension . . . ” Those increasing sanctions are thanks to Obama.

  • Posted by TheBigHenry

    @Tom Davey, January 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm:

    I am aware of the sanctions you mentioned. But I do not view these self-proclaimed “tough” measures as evidence of a serious commitment by Obama.

    Unless Obama turns out to be the impetus behind the Stuxnet attack, which is the putative cause for Iran’s delays, I doubt that Obama is interested in more than an appearance of opposing Iran’s nuclear ambition. Nothing that Obama has taken credit for has made any meaningful difference to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    Nevertheless, I am not advocating that whoever is responsible for Stuxnet reveal themselves. I see no advantage in doing so.

  • Posted by Shingo

    Nothing that Obama has taken credit for has made any meaningful difference to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    Does the fact that no evidence exists for “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons” exist, or is that beside the point?

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