Meir Dagan
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan Photo by Nir Keidar
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Meir Dagan, who retired from his post as Mossad chief on Thursday after eight years, does not believe Iran will have nuclear capability before 2015.

In a summary given to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dagan said Iran was a long way from being able to produce nuclear weapons, following a series of failures that had set its program back by several years.

Dagan handed over the job to his successor, Tamir Pardo, in the Prime Minister’s Bureau Thursday morning, after having parted from the ministers during last Sunday’s cabinet session.

The former Mossad chief had said on various occasions in the past that Israel should go to war only if attacked, or if in immediate danger of survival.

Dagan concluded his term saying Iran was still far from being capable of producing nuclear weapons and that a series of malfunctions had put off its nuclear goal for several years. Therefore, he said, Iran will not get hold of the bomb before 2015 approximately.

According to a Wikileaks report, Dagan told a senior American official that it would take a series of coordinated moves to stop the Iranian nuclear program. He reportedly suggested increasing the economic sanctions against Iran, preventing the export of products required for the nuclear project to Iran, covert warfare, and encouraging minority and opposition groups to topple the Iranian regime.

Dagan’s work with Pardo over the past several weeks included trips abroad to present his successor to counterparts around the world. Their trip to England did not reflect the crisis between London and Jerusalem over the Mossad’s alleged use of British passports in the assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last year in Dubai.

President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior defense and security officials will soon attend a farewell event for Dagan as well. Such events have become customary since 1995, when the government decided to expose the identity of the heads of both the Mossad and the Shin Bet security service.

Reputation restored

During his term, Dagan restored the Mossad’s reputation as an omnipotent organization whose reach extends to the ends of the earth − a myth that has contributed to Israel’s deterrence. Under his command, the espionage agency also regained its dominant status in the Israeli intelligence community and became a central player in the international arena. This was demonstrated in the numerous tete-a-tetes Dagan held with former U.S. President George Bush and other state leaders in Europe and the Middle East.

Dagan’s term centered around two main issues: the Iranian nuclear program; and the assassinations of Hezbollah and Hamas leaders and Iranian scientists, most if not all of which have been attributed to the Mossad.

The Israeli intelligence community’s assessments of Iran’s nuclear capability have changed during Dagan’s tenure. In 2003, Israeli intelligence officials thought Iran would have its first bomb by 2007. In 2007, they thought it would be 2009, and a year later they put it at 2011. Now the date has moved to 2015. These adjustments were not the result of mistaken evaluations, but due to the difficulties Iran has encountered in advancing its program, largely because of the Mossad’s efforts.