Transfer of Power Elevates Mossad Insider
It is the time of the changing of the guard of the guardians. Chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan has retired as Tamir Prado began his term as Chief on January 6, 2011. Dagan enjoyed many successes during his administration, though several may have been more visible than desired. He led the secretive force, the mission of which is to be an effective deterrent to Israel’s enemies, for more than 8 years – almost 15% of its modern history. His work is recognized and praised – even by notoriously tough Israeli journalists. A former deputy, Ilan Mizrahi, called him “one of the best directors, if not the best one, Mossad has had in our 60 years or so of existence…Meir restored Mossad’s reputation and brought the organization to new levels.”
Dagan directed operations in (among others) Iran and Syria, as well as the Dubai action that resulted in the elimination of Hamas rocket specialist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The Dubai operation garnered extensive – and unwanted – press. Dubai’s police commissioner, General Dahi Khalfan, publically blamed the Mossad, supporting his accusations with names and photographs.
His “hidden legacy” includes activities that may have slowed Iranian and Syrian nuclear programs, and eliminated some of Israel’s terrorist enemies. Under his administration, Mossad’s staff and operations expanded, and the agency’s ability to eliminate threats increased significantly. Actions included the destruction of Syria’s hidden reactor, done with the apparent tacit approval of the United States, and the subsequent elimination of General Muhammad Sulliman, its probable designer, who was shot dead by a sea based sniper a year later.
A child of survivors, the Russian born Dagan grew up in Bat Yam, By the early 1970s, he was commander of Sayeret Rimon, an undercover commando unit charged with combating Palestinian insurgence in occupied Gaza His achieved the rank of General and by 2002, was appointed chief of Mossad by Ariel Sharon, who Dagan is said to regard as a spiritual father. Said Shabtai Shavit, the Director of Mossad from 1989 to 1995, “Dagan managed with determination to change Mossad’s priorities and to focus on two major fronts: Iran’s nuclear program and its support for terrorist groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, and on the global war against Islamist terrorism inspired by Osama Bin laden and his al-Qaida….Dagan (had) unprecedented determination and succeeded to direct there all the organizational energy and effort, knowing how to distinguish between the hard core of the problems and the less important ones.”
Dagan has said that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon before 2015—an estimate shared with U.S. intelligence – and is known to have worked with American presidents and international security services (CIA, British MI6, German BND, and the French DGSE). Mossad is cited for the assassinations of several Iranian nuclear military scientists killed by bombs in Teheran. (All Mossad operatives are said to have returned home, however during the past week, Iran claims to have arrested and hung one of its nationals, accused of spying for Israel.)
Dagan has had a notably successful administration. Recent rumor says that during Dagan’s administrations, even the creatures have been recruited by Mossad. When asked about these supposed clandestine spies, former Mossad deputy Ilan Mizrachi characterized the accusations as “a good joke. In the Middle East, seeing the Mossad behind every corner adds to the concept of the terrorist.” He considers such statements based on “not enough logical thinking.” Commenting on a more serious topic, the activities of Iran, Mizrachi says “The Iranians are going full steam ahead trying to have the bomb and long-range missiles…. They will do the best to do it as soon as possible.” He acknowledged that the Stuxnet computer worm, along with diplomatic and economic sanctions, have significantly slowed the progress of the weapons program. The news Chief of Mossad will have to contend with the ongoing threat of Iran.
On January 6, Meir Dagan handed that leadership to Tamir Pardo. The choice of Pardo appears especially positive: as a thirty year veteran of the agency, he is well schooled in its culture. During the past several weeks, the two have visited multiple Western capitals where Dagan has introduced his successor to his international counterparts. Of special note was the collegial reception received in London, which only last year had condemned Israel for supposedly using British passports in the Dubai operation.
At 57, Pardo has two stints as Deputy Director behind him. He entered the Mossad organization following his IDF service. A Tel Aviv University graduate, he is married, has a son and a daughter, and is the granddaughter of one. During his IDF service, he was communications officer in Sayeret Matkal, an elite commando unit once headed by Yoni Netanyahu. His Mossad responsibilities have focused on international operations including the use of state of the art technology. Pardo is said to be less experienced in “HUMINT, intelligence gathered by human agents,” although he has served in administrative position within the Mossad.
Pardo was Deputy Chief from 2002 until 2005, took a brief leave to serve as a special operations advisor to the IDF, and returned to the agency until his brief retirement in 2009. The selection of an “insider” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen as morale building appointment. “Pardo has vast experience in the Mossad that spans over decades, and is the right person to lead the organization over the next few years, in light of the complex challenges facing the State of Israel” said the PM.
Whether Prado will enjoy the financial support that allowed his predecessor the ability to significantly enhance the ability and activities of the Mossad remains to be seen. At the time of his appointment, then Defense Minister Ehud Barak congratulated Pardo saying “I have known Tamir for many years, back from when we went on daring operations together. He is a professional man with vast operational experience, who is deserving of the job.” His colleagues called him “a very honest man, very ‘square,’ …one of the bravest men in the Mossad.” “He is the salt of the earth” they said.
Prado has a nearly perfect professional history. Only his involvement in the Galant case, during which a forged document was stopped before it reached the media, shadows his record. When he spoke with Israeli media gathered outside his Tel Aviv area home following the November 29, 2010 announcement of his appointment, his brief comments on initial meetings were only that they had “gone as they should.”
Israel’s spy-in-chief was, understandably, reticent.