- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2012

The Iranian regime is “very rational” and is moving deliberately in its secretive nuclear program, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency says.

“Maybe it’s not exactly rational based on what I call ‘Western thinking,’ but no doubt that they are considering all the implications of their actions,” Meir Dagan said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.

Asked whether he believes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also rational, Mr. Dagan said yes. “Not exactly our rational, but I think that he is rational.”

Mr. Dagan’s remarks come as the U.S. and Israeli governments tussle over Iran, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favoring a military strike on the country’s nuclear program in coming months.

President Obama said in a speech last week that there is “too much loose talk of war” and that he believes “that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy — backed by pressure — to succeed.”

Mr. Dagan, who retired from Mossad in 2010, sided with Mr. Obama.

“An attack on Iran before you [are] exploring all other approaches is not the right way how to do [it],” he said in the interview.

He said there is “more time” — perhaps as much as three years — to slow Iran’s nuclear program through other means.

Mr. Dagan has angered many in Israel’s political and security establishment by going public with his reservations about an Israeli attack on Iran.

In the interview, he expressed his fear that such a strike would precipitate a “regional war” and would invite large-scale retaliation against Israel from Iran and its proxies.

An attack on Iran’s nuclear program would be extremely difficult because it would involve “dozens of sites,” he said.

Many analysts have said they believe a U.S. strike would be far more effective than an Israeli one due, in part, to a superior arsenal of bunker-busting bombs that could penetrate some of Iran’s heavily fortified sites.

Most Israeli officials say they are skeptical that Mr. Obama has the stomach for an armed conflict with Iran, but Mr. Dagan said he believes the president is sincere.

“I heard very carefully what President Obama said, and he said openly that the military option is on the table, and he is not going to let Iran become a nuclear state,” he said.

Asked whether this meant he was hoping that the U.S. would do the job, Mr. Dagan said, “If I prefer that someone will do it, I always prefer that the Americans will do it.”

• Ben Birnbaum can be reached at 138247@example.com.

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