"I never discussed the operational aspects" of a possible military strike on Iran, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said Sunday in response to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz's criticism of the "baseless" public discourse on the nuclear threat emanating from the Islamic Republic.
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Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University on the situation in the Middle East, Dagan said, "The heart and soul of democracy is the debate on issues of war and peace.
"Why should it be any different from the debate on the Palestinian issue, which has been going on for 30 or 40 years? The war in Lebanon was also the subject of public debate, and Israel is strong enough so that such a debate does not weaken it," he said.
The former Mossad chief, who has repeatedly voiced his opposition to an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, which, according to him, may "lead to a regional war within five minutes," told the conference that he agrees with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that the international community is "too soft" on Iran.
However, Dagan stressed that he "cannot rule out the possibility" that the negotiations between the West and Iran would yield "positive results."
Last week Gantz said, "There is a lot of public chatter about the (Iranian) issue, by people who used to know (things about Iran's nuclear program), but no longer do.
"The Iranian issue is dynamic and very few people know what is there and what is not there; what is possible and what is impossible. Quite a few people boast about knowing things that they don't know. There is a big gap between the professional dialogue that should be held in the right forums and the public chatter that is taking place," he stated.
During Sunday's conference, Dagan predicted that Iran's influence in the region would diminish in the coming years. "A military strike must be the last resort, and definitely not the fist option. From the Iranians' perspective, their new capabilities are aimed at preventing foreign intervention in what is happening in Iran. They learned the lesson from North Korea, where there is no foreign intervention in domestic affairs due to the (country's) nuclear availability."
Dagan said Iran's nuclear program could be curtailed by "exerting economic pressure, fomenting domestic unrest (in Iran) and challenging the regime's continuity.
"I believe this would force (the Iranian regime) to decide whether it wants to (discontinue the nuclear) project or pay the price," he argued.