Israeli military chief warns of new plans to strike Iran
TEL AVIV (AP) - Israel's military chief warned the Biden government on Tuesday against re-joining the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, even if it tightened its terms. He ordered his armed forces to step up preparations for possible offensive measures against Iran in the coming year.
Lt. General Aviv Kohavi's comments came as Israel and Iran are both trying to put pressure on President Joe Biden before awaiting his announcement of his approach to tackling Iran's nuclear program. In Iran, leaders said they would not wait indefinitely for Biden to act.
The 2015 deal curtailed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing crippling economic sanctions. Israel firmly opposed the agreement, saying it did not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. It welcomed the Trump administration's withdrawal from the deal in 2018.
Biden has announced that he will try to revive the deal with some changes.
In his address to the Institute for National Security Studies, Kohavi said that despite some improvements, a return to the deal "is operationally bad and strategically bad". He said Iran's permission to proceed with a nuclear program is "an unacceptable threat and will lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons across the region." Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Kohavi said, given the threat from Iran, the Israeli military is ready to attack independently if necessary.
"I have instructed the army to prepare a number of operational plans in addition to the existing ones," he said. “We are taking care of these plans and will develop them further in the coming year. Those who choose to carry it out are, of course, the political leaders. But these plans must be on the table. "
Just hours before Kohavi spoke out against a deal, Iran was pushing Biden to rejoin the nuclear deal. "The time window will not be open for long," said Iranian cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei.
Israeli officials, including Kohavi, say Iran is in a much weaker position than it was in 2015 after years of sanctions by the Trump administration. They say any new deal should remove "sunset" provisions that set certain limits on Iranian nuclear activity phase out, deal with the Iranian long-range missile program and its military involvement and support for Israel's enemies across the region.
Tensions in Iran have steadily increased. During Trump's final days as president, Tehran seized a South Korean oil tanker and began enriching uranium closer to weapon quality while the US sent B-52 bombers, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, and a nuclear submarine to the region.
Iran has also increased its military exercises, including launching cruise missiles as part of a naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman this month.
Iran has missile capabilities of up to 2,000 kilometers, far enough to reach Israeli and US military bases in the region.
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