With the United States and Israel in ten-day naval maneuvers, Senator Lindsey Graham has said an Israeli attack on Iran is “probably the way this movie ends.”

As the ‘Negev Summit’ − where Israel hosted the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States − began Sunday, the US Fifth Fleet and the Israeli navy began a maritime exercise in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.

Israel’s ambassador to Manama, Eitan Naeh, said Monday that Israel would “soon” appoint a military attaché to the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. While there have been reports that the Negev foreign ministers’ meeting discussed a possible military alliance, there has also been criticism of the meeting around the Arab world, especially for ignoring Palestinian rights, with Jordan’s King Abdullah pointedly making instead a visit to the occupied West Bank.

Dubbed “Intrinsic Defender,” the US-Israeli exercise focuses on ordnance disposal, “health topics”, and unmanned systems integration. More than 300 US personnel and various unmanned vessels are participating, including an ordnance disposal dive team and US coast guards.

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole – which has been operating in the 5th Fleet region since early January – and dry cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra are also scheduled to take part. The 5th Fleet operations area includes the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean, and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal, and Bab al-Mandeb.

B52s: ‘Maintaining security’

On Tuesday, the IDF published photos of two Israeli F-15 jets accompanying an American B-52 bomber, which crossed Israel from west to east on its way to the Gulf. A tweet described the flight as “a significant step in maintaining the security of the skies of the State of Israel and the Middle East.”

The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that Israel had carried out over 1,000 airstrikes in the past five years, hitting 1,200 targets with over 5,500 munitions during 408 missions. In 2021, 586 munitions were used against 174 targets.

The Post said 239 anti-aircraft missiles had been fired at Israeli jets, apparently referring to Syrian air defense, which includes Russian-made S-300s and S-400s. Israel has intelligence cooperation with Russia to reduce the chances of conflict with Russian forces – part of the reason for its lukewarm response to the US over Ukraine.

The way the movie ends

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in an interview with Jewish Insider Mondaythat an Israeli attack on Iran was “probably” the only way to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The senator, who supported former president Donald Trump in leaving the 2015 nuclear deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program, said that US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions might not stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and that an Israeli attack was probable.

“If you don’t [understand] that, you’re making a huge mistake,” Graham said. He outlined three options – a “change of heart” by Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, a revolution in Iran, or an Israeli attack. “The first one is one in a billion. The second one − who knows − if the Iranian people want to continue to live like this, that’s up to them. But the third one is probably the way this movie ends.”

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