Cablegate: Mossad Chief Dagan On Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran

Carol X Weakley 07/27/2006 01:03:02 PM From DB/Inbox: Carol X Weakley


C O N F I D E N T I A L TEL AVIV 02879




DE RUEHTV #2879/01 2051521
O 241521Z JUL 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002879



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2016

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones; Reasons: 1.4 (b and d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Mossad Director Meir Dagan briefed CODEL
Hoekstra on the Israeli campaign against Hizballah and the
greater long term threat posed by Iran. Dagan stated that
the initial aims of the Israeli campaign in Lebanon were
focused on eliminating strategic weapons held by Hizballah
and symbolically striking the organization,s heart. The
current phase is to hit local units in South Lebanon that are
responsible for the firing of Katyusha rockets into Northern
Israel. Dagan said that the GOI is sensitive to the impact
on civilians, and that only Hizballah-controlled areas are
being targeted. Dagan also discussed Iran and its nuclear
program. He described it as the number one threat to
regional stability and laid out a strategy with which to
confront Iran. END SUMMARY


2. (C) Dagan stated that the primary objective during the
first phase of the conflict was to eliminate the threat posed
by Hizballah,s long and medium range missiles, which he
asserted are supplied by Iran and Syria. He went on to say
that these weapons have a range of at least 225km and are
primarily stored around Beirut, and if they were to be
deployed south of Sidon, all major Israeli cities except
Eilat would be in range. The initial campaign focused on
known storage sites and cutting North-South transportation
links, including all major roads and bridges, as well as
routes between Lebanon and Syria. Dagan estimated that
35-40% of Hizballah,s long-range capability has been
destroyed. Dagan also emphasized that the use of these
missiles by Hizballah must be directly authorized by Tehran.

3. (C) Dagan continued by pointing out that another early
objective in the conflict was to target Hizballah command and
control centers to strike a symbolic blow at the
organization,s heart. He stated that Hizballah leadership,
including Hasan Nassrallah, are legitimate targets, but that,
it is extremely difficult to locate individuals hiding among
supporters within the civilian population. The current phase
of the conflict has expanded to targeting local units in
southern Lebanon responsible for firing the short and
longer-range Katyusha rockets into northern Israel.

4. (C) Dagan stated that there is sensitivity within the GOI
for the impact of the campaign on civilians in Lebanon. He
made it a point to stress several times that only areas where
Hizballah is active are being struck. Contrary to what is on
the news, he claimed, that northern Lebanon is peaceful and
non-Shia areas of Beirut are not targets. In response to
questions from the CODEL, Dagan said the strike on the
airport was justified and that runways are easily repaired,
however, in his opinion the strategic value of the strike on
the fuel depot may not have been worth the propaganda cost.

5. (C) Dagan expressed concern over the battle for public
opinion. In response to a question, he said it was a goal of
the incursions to be able to publicly show how Hizballah has
embedded itself in the civilian population and is using
private homes to store weapons and rocket launch sites. He
went on to say that Al-Jazeera is shaping the propaganda war
and pursing an anti-Israeli and anti-American agenda. Dagan
said that Lebanon will need a tremendous amount of support to
rebuild and that it is critical that Iran and Syria not be
allowed to contribute lest they increase their own and
Hizballah,s influence.

Syria, Iran and Lebanese Politics

6. (C) Dagan said that the primary supporters of Hizballah
are not Lebanese, but rather are the governments of Syria and
Iran who are pursuing their own agendas. Syria desires to
control every aspect of Lebanese society and needs an armed
body to exert its influence. This has allowed Syria until
recently to control political appointments such as that of
President Emile Lahud and reap economic benefits such as
construction contracts that provided the largest source of
foreign currency for the Assad government. According to
Dagan, Iran is using Hizballah to project its power into the
Shia community for two reasons: (1) To spread the regime,s
ideology and have a Shia-dominated state (as is their goal in
Iraq) and (2) To create leverage over Israel by funneling
money through Hizballah to the Palestinian Territories to
derail the peace process and prevent Israel from interfering
with Tehran,s nuclear program.

7. (C) Dagan said he is optimistic about the political future
of Lebanon if Hizballah can be neutralized. He said that
factors working in Lebanon,s favor are having the Christian
community unified around Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir,
the Druze community around Walid Jumblatt, the Sunnis with
Prime Minister Siniora and MP Sa'ad Haririand the Shia being
split with an important segment firmly against Hizballah.
When asked about Michel Aoun making a common cause pact with
Hizballah, Dagan said that Aoun wants to be president and it
is like making a pact with the devil to further his political
ambition. Dagan emphasized that Hizballah can not/not be
allowed to emerge from the conflict being seen as a winner by
any measure.

8. (C) Dagan assured the CODEL that Israel has no intention
of occupying Southern Lebanon. The objective of the conflict
is simple: (1) Free the captured soldiers and (2) See the
implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

--------------------------------------------- -
Iran,s Nuclear Program and Regional Stability
--------------------------------------------- -

9. (C) Dagan discussed Iran at length and stated that Tehran
will not stop in its attempt to develop a nuclear weapon.
For Israel it is a question of survival, with the threatening
comments made by Khameini and Ahmedinejad reflecting the
regime,s core philosophy towards Israel. Iran has already
developed the Shihab-3 missile with a range of 1,500 km,
putting every Israeli city in reach. Dagan said that Iran,s
plan to eventually utilize 54,000 centrifuges for uranium
enrichment could only be for military purposes. The arms
race that Tehran is starting will have regional implications,
he said, especially among Sunni-Arab States, such as Egypt
and Saudi Arabia, that are already concerned about Iran's
projection of power.

10. (C) Dagan said that the criticism of Hizballah by Egypt,
Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are a reflection of
the uneasiness caused by Iran. Dagan went on to explain that
Iran is engaged in trying to increase its influence among
Shias in Bahrain, organizing a Hizballah party in Kuwait and
funding armed groups in Yemen, besides the well-known
activities amongst the Shia in Iraq.

11. (C) Dagan said it is wrong to ask when will Iran have the
bomb, but rather when can we stop Iran from acquiring the
bomb, and he said now is the right time. He laid out a
strategy for dealing with Iran that included:

1. Mount political pressure by bringing Iran to the UN
Security Council and asking for sanctions that would be
painful for the regime.

2. Prevent technology and knowledge transfer to Iran.

3. Encourage indigenous opposition groups that favor
democracy within Iran.

12. (C) While not counting on internal disruptions derailing
the regime, Dagan did point to some positives including
wide-spread dissatisfaction among large ethnic communities
including the Azeris, Kurds, Baluchis and Arabs. As Persians
make up less than 50% of the population in Iran, Dagan said
that internal frictions between ethnic communities could
become a destabilizing factor within the country. Dagan said
that these ethnic groups could form the basis for a domestic
opposition and then Tehran could get a taste of its own
medicine. To be successful, however, the opposition needs to
be organized, and have a unified, inspirational leadership.
Both of these aspects are missing. Dagan also said that the
regime is not stupid, and if it senses internal disorder it
will allocate resources to take care of the problem. Despite
this, Dagan said, he believes that if this strategy is
followed, then Tehran will be forced to carefully weigh where
to invest its resources.

13. (U) Besids the House Intellegence Committe Chairman Peter
Hoekstra, the CODEL consisted of Representatives Jane Harman,
Rick Renzi and Darrell Issa, all members of the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The CODEL did
not have an opportunity to clear this message before
departing post.

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