Friday, December 24, 2010

The "five pillars" of Israel's strategy towards Iran

DE RUEHTV #2652/01 2431245
P 311245Z AUG 07
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 TEL AVIV 002652 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/24/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones.  Reasons: 1.4 (b)(d). 
1. (S) In an August 17 meeting, Israeli Mossad Chief Meir 
Dagan thanked Under Secretary Burns for America's support of 
Israel as evidenced by the previous day's signing of an MOU 
that provides Israel with USD 30 billion in security 
assistance from 2008-2018.  Dagan provided his assessment of 
the Middle East region, Pakistan and Turkey, stressing 
Israel's (a) concern for President Musharraf's well-being, 
(b) view that Iran can be forced to change its behavior, and 
(c) sense that Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are 
unstable with unclear futures ahead of them.  Dagan probed 
for more detail about XXXXXXXXXXXX U.S. military assistance
to the Gulf  states, and -- while signaling agreement with the
U.S.  approach to the Gulf states vis-a-vis Iran -- cautioned that 
they may not be able to absorb significant military  assistance.
Dagan reviewed Israel's five-pillar strategy  concerning
Iran's nuclear program, stressed that Iran is  economicall
 vulnerable, and pressed for more activity with  Iran's
minority groups aimed at regime change.  Dagan urged 
caution in providing assistance to the Siniora government in 
Lebanon, noting Syrian and Iranian efforts to topple the GOL. 
2. (S) Under Secretary Burns cited the MOU as tangible 
evidence of the USG's commitment to Israel, and stressed that 
the U.S. would support all of its friends -- Arabs included 
-- in the Middle East, and will remain engaged in the region 
for the long term.  He described U.S. efforts to support the 
Musharraf and Karzai governments as they face opposition from 
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and explained that the Gulf 
Security Dialogue is meant to bolster Gulf states facing 
threats from Iran.  The Under Secretary reviewed U.S. efforts 
to isolate Iran and increase pressure on it, stressing that 
the U.S. is currently focused on the diplomatic track.  He 
shared USG thinking about the Siniora government in Lebanon, 
and urged that the U.S. and Israel continue to consult on 
Lebanon.  END SUMMARY. 
3. (S)  Dagan observed that the signing of the MOU on 
security assistance could not have come at a better time, and 
stressed that Israel appreciated America's support.  The 
Under Secretary agreed about the timing, noting that the 
U.S., Israel and like-minded countries were facing multiple 
threats around the world, and that the Middle East is a very 
dangerous region.  He said that the MOU serves as a concrete 
reminder that the U.S. stands by its long-term security 
commitments to its friends, and is ready to help them with 
their needs.  The Under Secretary noted that the Middle East 
is now at the heart of American interests.  Because Egypt 
also plays a vital role in the region, the U.S. would also 
renew its security assistance commitment to that country. 
U.S. relations with the Gulf states were longstanding, and 
America would stay true to those friendships, as well.  The 
Under Secretary stressed that the USG is committed to 
Israel's QME.  He noted that the majority of systems and 
equipment that the U.S. would sell to Egypt and other Arab 
partners would replace items that had been sold to those 
countries in the past. 
4. (S) Assessing the region, Dagan said Israel sees itself in 
the middle of a rapidly changing environment, in which the 
fate of one Middle Eastern country is connected to another. 
Dagan then said he was concerned about how long Pakistani 
President Musharraf would survive:  "He is facing a serious 
problem with the militants.  Pakistan's nuclear capability 
could end up in the hands of an Islamic regime."  Turning to 
Iran, Dagan observed that it is in a transition period. 
There is debate among the leadership between Rafsanjani and 
Ahmadinejad and their respective supporters.  Instability in 
Iran is driven by inflation and tension among ethnic 
minorities.  This, Dagan said, presents unique opportunities, 
and Israelis and Americans might see a change in Iran in 
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their lifetimes.  As for Iraq, it may end up a weak, federal 
state comprised of three cantons or entities, one each 
belonging to the Kurds, Sunnis and Shias. 
5. (S) Dagan said that the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia are 
concerned about the growing importance of Iran and its 
influence on them.  They are taking precautions, trying to 
increase their own military defensive capabilities. 
Referring to the Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD), Dagan warned 
that these countries would not be able to cope with the 
amount of weapons systems they intend to acquire:  "They do 
not use the weapons effectively." 
6. (S) Dagan said that Jordan has successfully faced down 
threats from the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and that Egypt 
is struggling with the question of who will replace President 
Mubarak.  He said he sees no hope for the Palestinians, and 
that Israel looks at Syria and Lebanon, and sees only 
instability.  Further afield, it looks at Turkey and sees 
Islamists gaining momentum there.  The question, he asked, is 
how long Turkey's military -- viewing itself as the defender 
of Turkey's secular identity -- will remain quiet. 
7. (S) If Israel's neighborhood were not unstable enough, 
Dagan observed, it did not help that Russia is playing a 
"very negative role" in the region.  He observed that all of 
these challenges have to be addressed globally -- they could 
not be dealt with individually.  Returning to Jordan as an 
example, he noted that the more than one million Iraqi 
refugees in Jordan were changing Jordanian society, and 
forcing it into a new relationship with Saudi Arabia.  This 
is evidenced by Saudi King Abdullah's recent visit to Jordan, 
which implies greater understanding between the Jordanians 
and the Saudis. 
8. (S) Turning to the Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD), Dagan 
said that enhancing the capabilities of the Gulf states "is 
the right direction to go," especially as they are afraid of 
Iran.  Such a U.S. commitment will be a stabilizing factor in 
the region.  Dagan clarified that he would not oppose U.S. 
security assistance to America's Arab partners.  He expressed 
concern, nevertheless, about the current policies of those 
partners -- especially with regards to Syria and Iran.  Dagan 
added that if those countries must choose between buying 
defensive systems from the U.S. or France, then he would 
prefer they buy systems from the U.S., as this would bring 
them closer to the U.S. 
9. (S) Dagan observed that the challenge facing the U.S. now 
is how to unite the Gulf states under a shared policy, and 
pointed to Qatar as the weakest link in the chain, trying to 
play all sides.  Under Secretary Burns replied that the U.S. 
is trying to get Qatar and its neighbors to look at issues 
from a regional perspective, and to focus on threats in a 
unified way.  Acting PM Assistant Secretary Mull expressed 
understanding for Israel's frustration with how the region 
looked, but stressed nevertheless that if America did not 
engage the Gulf states through the GSD, the situation would 
become much worse.  It is critical to get the Gulf states 
focused on the Iran threat, and to adopt a regional approach 
to countering it.  Encouraging and supporting their 
counterproliferation efforts would be crucial.  Dagan said he 
agreed with this approach, stressing that the threat of 
radical Islam is real. 
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10. (S) Dagan led discussion on Iran by pointing out that the 
U.S. and Israel have different timetables concerning when 
Iran is likely to acquire a nuclear capability.  He clarified 
that the Israel Atomic Energy Commission's (IAEC) timetable 
is purely technical in nature, while the Mossad's considers 
other factors, including the regime's determination to 
succeed.  While Dagan acknowledged that there is still time 
to "resolve" the Iran nuclear crisis, he stressed that Iran 
is making a great effort to achieve a nuclear capability: 
"The threat is obvious, even if we have a different 
timetable.  If we want to postpone their acquisition of a 
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nuclear capability, then we have to invest time and effort 
11. (S) Dagan described how the Israeli strategy consists of 
five pillars: 
A) Political Approach: Dagan praised efforts to bring Iran 
before the UNSC, and signaled his agreement with the pursuit 
of a third sanctions resolution.  He acknowledged that 
pressure on Iran is building up, but said this approach alone 
will not resolve the crisis.  He stressed that the timetable 
for political action is different than the nuclear project's 
B) Covert Measures: Dagan and the Under Secretary agreed not 
to discuss this approach in the larger group setting. 
C) Counterproliferation: Dagan underscored the need to 
prevent know-how and technology from making their way to 
Iran, and said that more can be done in this area. 
D) Sanctions:  Dagan said that the biggest successes had so 
far been in this area.  Three Iranian banks are on the verge 
of collapse.  The financial sanctions are having a nationwide 
impact.  Iran's regime can no longer just deal with the 
bankers themselves. 
E) Force Regime Change:  Dagan said that more should be done 
to foment regime change in Iran, possibly with the support of 
student democracy movements, and ethnic groups (e.g., Azeris, 
Kurds, Baluchs) opposed to the ruling regime. 
12. (S) Dagan clarified that the U.S., Israel and like-minded 
countries must push on all five pillars at the same time. 
Some are bearing fruit now; others would bear fruit in due 
time, especially if more attention were placed on them. 
Dagan urged more attention on regime change, asserting that 
more could be done to develop the identities of ethnic 
minorities in Iran.  He said he was sure that Israel and the 
U.S. could "change the ruling regime in Iran, and its 
attitude towards backing terror regimes."  He added, "We 
could also get them to delay their nuclear project.  Iran 
could become a normal state." 
13. (S) Dagan stressed that Iran has weak spots that can be 
exploited.  According to his information, unemployment 
exceeds 30 percent nationwide, with some towns and villages 
experiencing 50 percent unemployment, especially among 17-30 
year olds.  Inflation averages more than 40 percent, and 
people are criticizing the government for investing in and 
sponsoring Hamas, saying that they government should invest 
in Iran itself.  "The economy is hurting," he said, "and this 
is provoking a real crisis among Iran's leaders."  He added 
that Iran's minorities are "raising their heads, and are 
tempted to resort to violence." 
14. (S) Dagan suggested that more could be done to get the 
Europeans to take a tougher stand against Iran.  Under 
Secretary Burns agreed, and suggested that Israel could help 
by reaching out to the Europeans.  Dagan said that Israel is 
already doing this, and would continue to do so.  Dagan 
reiterated the need to strike at Iran's heart by engaging 
with its people directly.  Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts 
are important, but more radio transmissions in Farsi are 
needed.  Coordination with the Gulf states is helpful, but 
the U.S. should also coordinate with Azerbaijan and countries 
to the north of Iran, to put pressure on Iran.  Russia, he 
said, would be annoyed, but it would be fitting, as Russia 
appears bent on showing the U.S. that it cannot act globally 
without considering Russia. 
15. (S) Under Secretary Burns stressed that the USG is 
focused on Iran not only because of its nuclear program, but 
also because it supports terrorism and Shiite militias in 
Iraq.  The U.S. approach is currently focused on the 
diplomatic track and increasing pressure on Iran through 
sanctions.  Work in the UNSC helps to define the Iranian 
nuclear threat as one that affects international security, 
and not just that of Israel.  While UNSC members Russia, 
China and Qatar will water down efforts to increase pressure 
on Iran, it is still worthwhile to push for a third sanctions 
resolution.  In the meantime, the U.S. will encourage the 
Europeans, Japan and South Korea to implement unilateral 
sanctions against Iran outside the UNSC framework.  The U.S. 
TEL AVIV 00002652  004 OF 005 
will continue to encourage banks and financial institutions 
to slow down their operations in Iran and financially isolate 
it.  Regarding military pressure, the Under Secretary noted 
that the U.S. has deployed 1-2 carrier battle groups in the 
Gulf over the last six months, and that President Bush has 
stated that he will interrupt Iran's activity in Iraq.  As 
for outreach to the Iranian people, the VOA is now 
broadcasting programs in Farsi, and the USG is trying to get 
more Iranian students to visit the U.S. to promote 
people-to-people relations. 
16. (S) On Pakistan, Dagan said that President Musharraf is 
losing control, and that some of his coalition partners could 
threaten him in the future.  The key question, Dagan said, is 
whether Musharraf retains his commander-in-chief role in 
addition to his role as president.  If not, he will have 
problems.  Dagan observed that there has been an increase in 
the number of attempts on Musharraf's life, and wondered 
whether he will survive the next few years.  Under Secretary 
Burns replied that South Asia has assumed vital importance in 
American foreign policy since September 11.  The U.S. is 
committed to denying Afghanistan as a safe-haven for Taliban 
and Al-Qaeda activity.  The USG will continue to support 
Pakistani President Musharraf, and is seeking to boost his 
military defensive capabilities.  At the same time, the U.S. 
is encouraging Pakistan and Afghanistan to work with each 
other militarily.  Turning to India, Under Secretary Burns 
noted that U.S.-Indian economic cooperation is growing, and 
that the USG is working effectively to reduce tensions 
between India and Pakistan. 
17. (S) Dagan urged caution with respect to Lebanon, noting 
that the results of efforts there to bolster the Siniora 
government would impact Syria and Iraq.  The U.S. and Israel, 
he said, are on the edge of achieving something in Lebanon, 
and so cannot afford to drop their guard.  What is necessary 
is finding the right way to support PM Siniora.  "He is a 
courageous man," Dagan said.  Syria, Iran and Hizballah are 
working hard against him.  Dagan noted that much of what is 
animating the leadership of Lebanon to take on Syria is 
personal:  "Hariri, Jumblat and others had their parents 
executed by the Syrians."  This anti-Syrian sentiment has 
forged an alliance based on personal and national interests. 
Siniora has worked well with the situation, but Dagan 
suggested that the odds are against him.  Under Secretary 
Burns replied that the U.S. is trying to give PM Siniora as 
much support as possible, and that we would continue to 
consult closely with Israel on Lebanon.  He noted that he 
would return to Israel in October. 
18, (SBU) Accompanying Under Secretary Burns in the meeting 
-- Ambassador Richard H. Jones 
-- Acting PM Assistant Secretary Stephen Mull 
-- Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International 
Security Affairs Mary Beth Long 
-- NEA/IPA Deputy Director Nicole Shampaine 
-- Embassy Tel Aviv Counselor for Political Research 
-- Embassy Tel Aviv Political-Military Officer (notetaker) 
19. (SBU) Accompanying Mossad Chief Meir Dagan in the meeting 
-- Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Salai Meridor 
-- Advisor to Foreign Minister Livni Omer Caspi 
-- Two unidentified Mossad officials 
20. (U) Under Secretary R. Nicholas Burns cleared on this 
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