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Iran’s suspected illicit nuclear program can be stopped militarily by hitting targets other than the country’s nuclear sites, the former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency said today in a rare interview.

“You don’t need to hit only the immediate, direct nuclear infrastructure of theirs,” said Shabtai Shavit, who served as Mossad director from 1989 to 1996. “You can achieve this goal by going after some other targets, without (my) being more specific.”

Shavit was speaking in an interview on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s WABC Radio.

Shavit was responding to a hypothetical question about whether a U.S. military strike successfully could eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. Some of Iran’s scattered nuclear installations are known to be deep underground, with some reportedly positioned atop civilian zones.

Iran is concluding 10 days of military exercises along the Straits of Hormuz, a vital oil route that sees 33 percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments pass through each year.

Last week, Iran’s top naval commander boasted that closing the Persian Gulf to oil tanker traffic would be “easier than drinking a glass of water” but that his nation would not do so for now.

“Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran’s armed forces is really easy … or, as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water,” Habibollah Sayyari told the country’s English language Press TV. “But right now, we don’t need to shut it, as we have the Sea of Oman under control, and we can control the transit.”

During the radio interview, Shavit predicted that Iran would not act on its threats for the time being.

“I don’t believe that their threat will be materialized. I do believe that in this case the Iranians are going to be at the end of the day pragmatists and not messianic,” the former Mossad chief told Klein.

Shavit said Iran will be deterred for now by the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, as well as by recent statements from the Pentagon warning that Iran’s closing of the Straits “will not be tolerated.”

Shavit said the international community is rightly focusing on sanctions to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

He suggested, however, that stronger sanctions are needed besides the current restrictions being debated that would target Iran’s oil exports.

“I do believe if these sanctions will be executed they will make things worse for Iran’s general situation. Yet in order to get Iran to stop their nonconventional experiment, sanctions should be more comprehensive,” Shavit said. “In addition to the purchase of crude oil, the Western world should stop selling Iran oil products, since Iran doesn’t have the domestic capability to refine oil.”

Shavit also said sanctions should target Iran’s central bank.

“Such a package,” he said, “may impose on the Iranians to do serious thoughts to meet the Western world’s demands from them.”

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