When former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called his old friend, Major General (Rt.) Meir Dagan to appoint him to the helm of the country's top intelligence agency, Mossad, he told him that they needed an intelligence chief "with a dagger between his teeth".
Indeed, only someone, who would answer that description, could handle the intelligence affairs of a country like Israel, which made room for itself in the Middle East with occupations and massacres. And Meir Dagan was exactly that kind of person.
Turkey's spymaster does not have to "carry a dagger between his teeth". However, he needs to always bear in mind that his country has a 1,200 km border with Middle Eastern countries before he makes any moves. In other words, he needs to be aware that his regional counterparts have daggers clenched between their teeth.
Hakan Fidan is someone who knows it all too well.
It must have been a twist of fate that Fidan was appointed as head of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in spring 2010 - only a couple of months before the breakout of the Arab Spring, which would wreak unprecedented havoc in the entire region.
Heading national intelligence is tantamount to being on a bed of nails, but lying on that bed during the Arab Spring and remaining there for at least eight years is even more of a challenge.
So in that sense, it would not be wrong to say that Fidan is a bureaucrat "hardened with fire".
The legitimacy of his appointment was contested at first since he was not recruited from the intelligence ranks. In fact, it was seen as one of the most risky bureaucrat appointments made by the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Fidan was not unfamiliar with intelligence as a discipline, but ultimately, he was not "from within the Organization". His predecessor Emre Taner did not only come up through the National Intelligence Service (MİT) ranks, but also served in the Organization for 43 years. He was the architect and the executor of the Kurdish Solution Process. His term was not extended for four times for nothing. This was the undersecretary Hakan Fidan inherited the chair from.
Hakan Fidan was not born yet when Emre Taner joined MİT in 1967.
Fidan had a successful track record as the Chairman of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) and later as the Deputy Undersecretary of the Prime Ministry. But was he capable of shouldering such a heavy responsibility? Did he have the necessary skills?
After all, he was getting behind the wheel of Turkish intelligence at the young age of 42.
It was such a risky task that you could end up "burning in fire" instead of "being hardened with it".
Back then no one could have guessed that Fidan would remain in office as the head of MİT for such a long time. Yet, it came as no surprise when President Erdoğan objected to the spy chief's decision to quit five years later. States cannot allow vacuums to form in their ranks and you can always find somebody to fill a vacant post, but sometimes it is not that easy. Erdoğan's opposition to Fidan's departure from office was indicating that Fidan had proven his competence in this position.
But why did he want to leave after five years?
We do not know for certain. He is rumoured to have explained his circumstances to his inner circle with an example from the military: "You do not always put the same soldier on the 3-5am watch in the military. Heading MİT furthermore means being on watch for all remaining hours as well."
Once I was on a plane with an academician and a retired ambassador, who had worked with Hakan Fidan during his diplomatic tenure. The academician asked the ambassador what he thought about Fidan. "Sir, there are some government offices which require particular competence. Unless you have that competence, you cannot keep your chair even for a couple of weeks, let alone a couple of months, no matter how big the support behind you may be. And MİT Undersecretariat is one of those positions," the retired diplomat said.
Acumen, assiduity and loyalty - these were the words a bureaucrat, who had worked in close contact with him, picked to describe him.
Think about it: The region is shaken by a huge geopolitical earthquake with its devastating shocks powerfully felt in your territory. And you are at the top of the most critical defense mechanism of the state at a time when your country is in some way besieged both from within and from the outside.
You are fighting three terrorist organizations, all of which have international connections. Moreover, there is a mastermind at play enabling contact and cooperation between these organizations.
All eyes turn to you after every terror attack, be it a PKK raid in Hakkâri or an ISIL suicide bombing in Ankara.
You are expected to know what is going on in and manage northern Syria, which can be termed as Turkey's "security zone" - a place where hundreds of organizations are running wild.
Your most confidential talks with the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Undersecretary of Foreign Ministry and the Deputy Chief of General Staff are leaked to social media by crypto-Gülenists in a matter of days. This act of espionage is carried out with the help of a recorder planted inside a suitcase which belongs to the Deputy Chief of General Staff. And again, you are the one to blame for this failure.
You have more manpower and financial sources, you have switched to a new organizational model, you have even improved your technological infrastructure significantly, but they are all incomparably limited compared to the massive challenge before you.
The National Intelligence Organization is by definition not an organization which can express itself and talk about its actions. Its achievements are unknown, but its failures are for all the world to see.
The failure to gather intelligence about the July 15th coup attempt is going to haunt Hakan Fidan for the rest of his career. It was not the Unionists (İttihat ve Terakki), who collapsed the Ottoman Empire, but they were the ones who were in charge when the empire fell. It was the same with Hakan Fidan and the July 15th coup attempt. It was Fidan who was at the helm of Turkish intelligence when it happened. And he was further offended when President Erdogan said that 'he got the news not from MİT, but from his brother-in-law'
That he uncovered the communication applications used by Gulenists such as ByLock and Eagle and the role he played in dissolving the organization by clamping down on its members, whose names were apparently already available in MİT archives, will be noted as a plus point in Fidan's track record.
According to Lieutenant General (Rt.) İsmail Hakkı Pekin, who worked with Hakan Fidan during his term as the Head of the Department of Intelligence of the General Staff, Fidan got rid of a considerable number of Gülenists after he took office.
This was probably one of the reasons why the Gülen organization targeted Fidan so intensely and carried out the harshest attrition campaigns against him before July 15. Gülenists tried to confront Fidan more than they did to any other bureaucrat.
Hakan Fidan has been working under such circumstances. If you are an undersecretary with a sense of responsbility, the only thing that your office will guarantee you at a time like this will be non-stop unrest and anxiety.
Being the only bureaucrat, who does not fear losing his chair and maybe even sees it as a desired opportunity, is probably the sole luxury Fidan currently has.