Is Israel about to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities? It sure looks that way.
The Jewish state has been preparing for years for such an eventuality, and now it appears the time has arrived.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Raphael Grossi, met with Iranian officials on Saturday and then issued a statement that it would be “illegal” for anyone to carry out an attack on a nuclear facility. Grossi had previously warned that Iran was on the verge of going nuclear.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that Grossi had made an “unworthy” assertion, hinting that perhaps the IAEA chief was pressured to say what he said by his Iranian hosts.
- The timing of Grossi’s visit, his apparent about-face and the urgency of his words suggested something is afoot.
Meanwhile, America’s two top military officials – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense – are in the midst of unscheduled visits to Israel. General Mark Milley arrived last Friday and met with Israel’s chief of staff and defense minister, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will do the same later this week.
- Ron Ben-Yishai, military analyst for Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, said that his sources in the Ministry of Defense revealed that the Americans were concerned that Israel was about to launch a surprise attack on Iran without coordinating beforehand with Washington.
As noted, Israel has been preparing for this for years, and has long stressed that a credible military threat was key to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
So what’s happening now that would make this the time to act on that threat?
There’s the obvious:
- US officials reacted to a recent IAEA report by warning that Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in about two weeks.In other words: Iran is about to become a nuclear threshold state and it’s now or never.
- Iran’s newfound closeness to Russia as a result of the Ukraine war means Israel could soon lose its freedom to act against Iranian forces in Russian-controlled Syria. A nuclear Iran with an unchecked military foothold in Syria is the kind of existential threat Israel cannot accept.
There’s also the diplomatic opportunity presented by present circumstances.
Western powers are today fervently aligned against the “evil” regime of Vladimir Putin. The fact that Tehran is assisting Putin in his war on Ukraine makes it easier than ever for Israel to convince the West that Iran, too, is a common foe that must be stopped.
And then there’s the home front.
Some are suggesting that Netanyahu intends to attack Iran to draw attention away from domestic opposition to his judicial reform. That’s a tactic common of other Middle East leaders, but that’s unlikely to be Bibi’s approach.
Even so, it is undeniable that times of great conflict have historically brought unity to an otherwise-fractious Israeli society.
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