Netanyahu outraged at outgoing Mossad chief's assessment of Iran's nuclear progress

13:50, January 10, 2011      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly fuming at ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan's latest assessment that Iran will not obtain a nuclear capability before 2015, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Dagan, who handed over command of the Israeli spy agency to his successor Tamir Pardo last week, said Thursday that numerous malfunctions in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program helped set it back by some four years. His comments suggested that a military assault would be premature before other measures are exhausted.

The assessment was made at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to the Ha'aretz newspaper on Thursday.

Netanyahu, who supports an aggressive approach towards Iran, allegedly rebuked Dagan for his remarks. The prime minister noted that Dagan's comments hamper Israel's efforts to counter Tehran in the international community -- mainly via harsh sanctions, according to a Yediot Aharonot report.

Israeli media reported Dagan's prediction as made in "closed discussions," or "departure talks" made just prior to leaving his post.

Dagan is believed to have played a key role in delaying Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Several mysterious deaths of Iranian scientists in recent years have been linked to the Israeli intelligence agency.

With this in mind, Dagan estimates that Iran is still far from achieving nuclear capabilities and that war would be justified only when Israel has "a sword at its neck, literally cutting into the flesh," according to Ha'aretz.

"The timing of Dagan's remarks, and the way they were said, is unacceptable. Former heads of Mossad did not behave that way on the day of their departure," the report quoted senior sources as saying.

"There's something unprofessional in this. Dagan does not set policy, but only recommends, and his is one of several recommendations," they said.

An official at the Prime Minister's Bureau denied that Netanyahu was upset, saying that "he and Dagan are coordinated" and that the prime minister "appreciates Dagan and expressed that appreciation in the cabinet meeting in which ministers bid him a farewell.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian use, while Israel, Washington and some countries in the Middle East reject such claims are a guise for developing nuclear weapons. The Jewish state sees a nuclear Iran as a threat to its very existence and has not ruled out the possibility of a military strike against its nuclear facilities.

Israeli intelligence assessments of Iran's nuclear capability have changed during Dagan's tenure. Dagan himself predicted in December 2006 that the Islamic Republic would possess a nuclear bomb by 2009.

These adjustments were not the result of mistaken assessments, but rather emerged from the difficulties Iran has encountered along the way in advancing its program, Ha'aretz claimed on Sunday.

Source: Xinhua
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