Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has expressed regret over a statement he made last year calling a possible Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities “stupid.” In a recent interview in the Lochem ("Warrior") magazine, Dagan said he still opposed the idea of Israel’s attacking Iran, but his statement was unfortunate and the result of his being distracted.
Last year, asked what he thought about a potential Israel Air Force attack on nuclear facilities in Iran, Dagan said he thought this was "the stupidest thing I have ever heard." Dagan said an effective attack on Iran would be difficult because Iranian nuclear facilities were scattered and mobile, and warned that it could trigger war.
Use of the term "stupid" by Dagan prompted Likud Minister Without Portfolio Benny Begin to call Israeli public debate about a possible strike on Iran "reckless abandon." Begin lashed out at Dagan and said his comments were a "betrayal of trust and an abomination that stem from illusions of grandeur."
Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) told Israel Hayom at the time, "What we have here is someone from within the establishment who is now outside looking in, and is trying to provoke debate by painting only a partial picture of the truth."
In his recent interview, Dagan said those responsible for stirring public debate on the topic of a strike on Iran were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but he too had a right to express his opinion on the matter. "I think that it is permissible to argue in Israeli society. It's something that should be done and must be done," the former Mossad director said.
On the Iranian issue, Dagan said, "If I believed a military strike on Iran would solve the problem, I would support it. But such a strike would not halt its nuclear program, and when you decide to use a military option, you should always consider what may happen after the operation is over ... Any attack on Iran would be considered by the Iranians as an act of war. It would unite them and legitimize their pursuit of a military nuclear program."
Meanwhile, sanctions seem to be having an effect on the Islamic Republic. According to a report by the New York Times, the global boycott of Iranian crude oil has forced Iran to store a reserve of around 40 million barrels of oil aboard 65 ships — two-thirds of its tanker fleet — in the Persian Gulf. The report quotes oil experts saying that although Iran's oil exports have been cut by 25 percent since the beginning of the year, the country continues to produce oil for export and is looking for ways to store it.
European sanctions on Iran were tightened on Sunday when an EU ban on the import of Iranian crude oil went into effect.
According to Reuters, however, the Swiss government announced it would not match EU sanctions on Iran, deciding on Thursday that its own pending set of toughened measures would exclude a ban on trading Iranian oil and defending its traditional neutrality in the face of U.S. pressure.
Switzerland is one of the top centers for physical oil trading and also hosts a branch of the National Iranian Oil Company NICO, although the country does not import oil from Iran.
New Swiss sanctions, which come into force on Friday, will affect supplies for the petrochemical industry, telecommunications equipment, as well as the purchase and sale of precious metals and diamonds, the Federal Department of Economic Affairs said.
Switzerland has faced diplomatic pressure from Western countries such as the U.S. to replicate tough measures against Iran. Not an EU member and traditionally neutral, Switzerland has no legal obligation to follow EU sanctions, although in recent years it has tended to harmonize its laws with those of its main trading partners.
Current Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf defended the country's independent stance, adding that this was helping U.S. interests by allowing communication between Tehran and Washington.
"It's not easy to explain, for example, to the United States why we are not on the same side for this or that measure," she told Reuters this week. "It's worth it to stay in this situation of neutrality, as we help the United States in Iran and can do it only because we are neutral.” Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.