Following the change of US administrations nine days ago, and the scrapping of any notions of conducting a joint, last minute military strike under the aegis of Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and company, Israel has openly threatened in recent days to attack Iran alone if the new American president, Joe Biden, eases sanctions against the Teheran regime and agrees to go back to the 2015 nuclear agreement the Israeli far-right government claims is “the biggest hoax in recent history.” Biden has been saying for some time that he does indeed seek to rejoin the multilateral nuclear accord with Iran that his predecessor withdrew from four years ago, albeit with “improvements” to placate Israel.
On Wednesday, January 27, speaking during a visit to a vaccination center in the southern town of Sderot neighboring the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told those gathered, “On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I would like to emphasize that the policy I am pursuing is clear: we will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. I say this to enemies and friends alike, it is our top mission to preserve life here; the life of our country.
A day earlier, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank’s annual conference on Tuesday, January 26, Israel Military Chief of Staff Lt. General Aviv Kohavi said he has directed the military to prepare fresh operational plans to strike Iran to block its nuclear program. In addition, Kochavi has requested an additional NIS 3 billion (approximately $US 900 million) in order to finance an attack on Iran. Despite the deep economic and social crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the past year, Israel’s armed forces have already received an additional NIS 2.5 billion to fund its budgetary requirements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are expected to support Kochavi’s demands.
At the INSS conference this week, Kokavi said that he has ordered the heads of Israel’s military branches “to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year.” According to Kohavi, because of its improved centrifuges and growing stockpile of enriched uranium, were Iran to now “rush ahead,” it could be “months, maybe even weeks” from a nuclear bomb. “With the changing of the administration in the United States, the Iranians have said they want to return to the previous agreement. I want to state my position, the position that I give to all my colleagues when I meet them around the world: Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even to an agreement that is similar but with a few improvements is a bad thing and it is not the right thing to do,” Kohavi said. According to Israeli media, due to the close relationship between the US and Israeli militaries, as well as the latter’s general preference to keep out of political arguments, it is highly unusual for military officials to criticize allies’ foreign policy.
According to a Channel 12 report, the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, is expected to travel to the United States shortly to meet with Biden and lay out Israel’s demands for a future Iran deal, which would include not only Tehran’s nuclear program, but also its missile program and support for the proxies of US imperialism throughout the Middle East.
On Monday, January 25, Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jets were spotted over southern Lebanon and Beirut, amidst a recent uptick in reported Israeli strikes on Iranian and Iran-linked forces in nearby Syria. As the aircraft, which were widely claimed to be Israeli, are able to fly undetected, the decision to fly them low enough to make them clearly visible from the ground was perceived as a clear warning. Lebanon routinely accuses Israel of flying jets through its airspace in violation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War. On the same day, at the INSS conference, Kochavi warned Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, saying in the event of a war, Israel would strike every civilian home that holds weapons “with a deluge of strikes.”