Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his weekly cabinet meeting on February 19, 2023

Israel Signals Readiness For Military Confrontation With Iran

Wednesday, 02/22/2023

As news emerged that Iran enriched uranium to 84 percent, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly held top-level secret meetings on preparations to confront Iran.

Israel’s Channel 12reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu met five times in recent weeks with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Mossad head David Barnea, Military Intelligence chief Aharon Haliva and other military figures to examine Israel’s readiness for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear targets.

Netanyahu also reiterated his previous calls on Tuesday that the international community must act to stop Iran’s escalation.

“The only thing that has ever stopped rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons is a credible military threat or a credible military action,” he told a national security conference. “A necessary condition and often a sufficient condition is credible military action. The longer you wait, the harder that becomes. We’ve waited very long.”

Successive governments have warned that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear armed Iran and in recent weeks closer military cooperation and diplomatic coordination have been noticeable with the United States.

US officials have been increasingly signaling that President Joe Biden will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, after JCPOA talks hit a dead-end in September. "If they start getting too close, too close for comfort, then of course we will not be prepared to sit idly by," US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley told National Public Radio in November.

If Tehran has indeed produced a limited quantity of uranium at 84-percent purity, it can signal a possible intentional escalation to put pressure on the West for concessions in nuclear talks. Tehran has been using this tactic since 2019, and specially since 2021 when the Biden administration signaled its readiness to hold talks.

The Times of Israel wrote about Netanyahu’s meetings with military and intelligence officials that “The report, which was not attributed to any source, included few other details about the discussions, and may itself be designed to telegraph the seriousness of Israeli threats to resort to military action in order to shut down Iran’s suspected drive toward a nuclear weapon.”

However, the Channel 12 report said Netanyahu’s meetings resulted in a decision that Israel will act alone if others do not step in. This decision was shared with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

If Israel’s intention is to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic, beleaguered by political and economic crisis, the timing might have been right. This week a serious financial chaos has gripped the country as its battered currency is falling to unprecedented levels against major currencies and panic has gripped the markets about uncontrollable inflation in the weeks to come. This in turn can ignite more popular protests and unrest.

Iran, having missed a chance last August to come to an agreement with the Biden administration over reviving the 2015 JCPOA deal, now finds itself under siege and has to decide to escalate its nuclear confrontation further or make the necessary concessions.

But since the breakdown in the nuclear talks, Washington has been playing hard to get, saying that it is not focused on resuming nuclear negotiations and demanding that Iran should stop military cooperation with Russia and repression at home.

To what extent the new demands are serious pre-conditions, or a negotiating tactic, is not clear, but after the Iranian regime killed hundreds during protests and supplies drones to Russia, it would be politically costly for Biden to simply revive the 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions.

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