from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Four More Years

January 07, 2011

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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.