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Former Israeli spy chief talks down strike on Iran nuclear sites as 'stupidest idea'

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan gave a lengthy interview to CBS's 60 Minutes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Washington to drum up support for an Iran nuclear strike.

By Staff writer / March 9, 2012

In this January 2011 file photo, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r.) hugs Meir Dagan, then outgoing Mossad chief, after thanking him at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. In a lengthy interview to CBS's 60 Minutes yesterday, recently retired Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan said that Israel must consider alternatives to a military strike on Iran.

Ronen Zvulun/AP/File

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In his first American television appearance yesterday, recently retired Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan said that Israel must consider alternatives to a military strike on Iran. His pronouncement came just days after Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, in which the Israeli prime minister worked to drum up American support for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program, which Mr. Netanyahu considers an existential threat.

“An attack on Iran before you are exploring all other approaches is not the right way how to do it,” Mr. Dagan told CBS news, according to the transcript of the interview. CBS says that Dagan, who led Israel's Mossad from 2002 to 2011, “knows more about Iran’s nuclear program than just about anyone, because it was his job to stop it.” The Iranians suspect that under Dagan, the Mossad was responsible for assassinations, faulty equipment, and computer viruses that set back their nuclear program, according to CBS, which will air Dagan's full interview on 60 Minutes this weekend.

But on the same day as his CBS interview, Netanyahu indicated to TV reporters in Israel that an Israeli strike is still very much an option in his mind. While he prefers a diplomatic solution, he said, the time frame for an Israeli strike on Iran is “not a matter of days or weeks, but also not of years,” Haaretz reports. “The result must be a removal of the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran’s heads,” he said.

According to a separate Haaretz report, Dagan made clear in his interview that he thought there is time to pursue options other than a strike, including encouraging regime change in Iran. He also said that he trusted the Obama administration to choose the right strategy for handling Iran, even as Republican presidential candidates and legislators painted President Obama as weak for not being willing to advocate for a strike.

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