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War simulations fueling speculation about Israel’s attack on Iran

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Israel recently stepped up military exercises with regional allies

Israel recently stepped up military exercises with regional allies

Photo: EPA / BBC News Brazil

In the turquoise waters of the Red Sea, the navies of Israel, the Emirates and Bahrain first simulated joint security operations with an American warship a few days ago.

It came after a war drill at a desert air base north of the Israeli port city of Eilat last month in which fighter jets from Israel and seven other countries cut through the skies.

These simulations are intended to send a strong warning to Iran, which has recently conducted its own large-scale military exercises, and emphasize strategic alliances.

But they come at a time when many in Israel fear that this small country will soon feel compelled to go it alone to militarily attack Iran’s nuclear program.

The government has earmarked $ 1.5 billion to prepare the Israeli armed forces for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, and there are almost daily warnings from political and military leaders.

The BBC listened to the views of leading Iranian observers and analysts on what could happen.

“Israel has no interest in a war with Iran, but we will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” an Israeli security official said.

“In light of the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, we are preparing for all options and scenarios, including military capability. “

The threat of military force comes amid negotiations between Iran and five world powers (plus the United States indirectly) to reactivate the 2015 nuclear deal – known as the Joint Global Plan of Action ( JCPOA) – set to resume in the Austrian capital, Vienna. , November 29.

The JCPOA has limited Iran’s nuclear activities and opened its facilities to increase inspections in exchange for the partial lifting of international sanctions. However, it was dropped by then-US President Donald Trump in 2018 with Israel’s approval.



Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Photo: EPA / BBC News Brazil

After a date for a new round of negotiations was set, Iran said it had produced 25kg of uranium enriched to 60% (degree of purity) – just below the level that would be needed for a nuclear bomb – and more 210 kg enriched to 20%.

While Tehran continues to assert that its intentions are peaceful, even Iranian experts have pointed out that such amounts of highly enriched uranium were previously only held by nuclear-weapon states.

“The Iranians are closer to creating fissile material for nuclear weapons today than in the past,” the Israeli security official said.

“This fact has important security implications for the State of Israel. “

The Israel Defense Agency estimates that if Iran decides to do so, it can accumulate enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in a month.

The Basics of the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

– World powers don’t trust Iran: some countries think Iran wants nuclear power because it wants to build a nuclear bomb – he denies.

– Thus, an agreement was reached: in 2015, Iran and six other countries reached a major agreement. Iran would put an end to certain nuclear activities in exchange for an end to severe sanctions, or sanctions, which are damaging its economy.

– What’s the matter now? Iran has resumed nuclear activities that had been banned after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions against the country. As current US President Joe Biden wants to reopen the deal, both sides say the other must take the first step.

The manufacture of such a weapon would also require the construction of a warhead that could be mounted on a ballistic missile. The time frame for this is harder to calculate, but some experts say it could take 18-24 months.

Israel, which supposedly possesses its own nuclear weapons but maintains an official policy of deliberate ambiguity, views nuclear Iran as an existential threat; Iran does not recognize the State of Israel and its authorities often defend the belief that it will eventually cease to exist.

While the United States and the Persian Gulf countries, with which Israel has growing ties, are also deeply opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons, it is unclear to what extent their own interests would prevent them from participating. to any military confrontation.

The clock is ticking

Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror, who is now a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, first warned of the dangers of Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the early years 1990, while working in military intelligence.

He has a grim assessment of recent events.

“Israel cannot live with a situation where the Iranians are getting closer and closer to the bomb, and soon it will have to make a decision on how to stop it,” he said.

“I don’t see any other way but to bomb, because I don’t see the Iranians going back on their dream of having a nuclear umbrella under which they can be even more aggressive than they are today.”

Israel has acted alone twice to destroy the nuclear reactors of its enemies – in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007 – with little retaliation.

But many analysts wonder if the country can actually mount a complex operation to thwart Iran’s much more advanced nuclear program, which involves multiple sites with underground facilities, and what price it should pay.

“Everyone in Israel understands that [um ataque] it can lead to a very complicated war, ”admits Amidror.

Iran has promised “a shocking response” to such an attack. It is assumed that the country would use its own forces, coordinated with those of its well-armed allies scattered throughout the region: Hezbollah, Lebanon, which has tens of thousands of rockets; the Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq; the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen; and Islamic jihadist activists in the Gaza Strip.



An Israel-Iran war would almost certainly also involve militant groups allied with Iran from across the region.

An Israel-Iran war would almost certainly also involve militant groups allied with Iran from across the region.

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

Despite the serious risks, some proponents of a more aggressive policy in Israel believe that an attack might be worth it, even if it only delays Iran’s nuclear plans by a few years.

But the official preference is always to promote peaceful and negotiated solutions.

“I hope the diplomatic route is successful,” said Sima Shine, former research chief at the Mossad intelligence agency, “but I don’t think he’s having much luck at the moment.”

The government of US President Joe Biden has offered Iran a direct return to “mutual compliance” with the JCPOA, but the Israeli government is against it.

The deal lifts many restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program as early as 2025 and does not limit Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or restrict its support for militant groups in the region.

“My assessment of Iran’s position is that it doesn’t really want to take over,” said Shine, who now heads the Iranian program at the Israel Institute for National Security Studies.

“What they would like to see, of course, is a reduction in penalties, and they understand that they have to pay something to get it. The question is, what is Iran’s calculation – how badly does its economy need relief? “

His fear is that the nuclear talks are just a way to buy time as the country allows its increasingly advanced centrifuges to keep running, creating a reserve of enriched uranium.

secret activities

Another veteran Iranian expert, Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington, points out Tehran’s deep ideological commitment to its nuclear program.

But despite his distrust of Europeans and the United States, he thinks Iran wants to return to the JCPOA to ease internal economic pressures; it considers its recent actions and demands as a “strengthening of its control”.



Iranian officials talk about Iran nuclear program as a matter of national pride

Iranian officials talk about Iran nuclear program as a matter of national pride

Photo: EPA / BBC News Brazil

Vatanka theorizes that Iran doesn’t necessarily want nuclear weapons.

“It’s an option they would clearly like to have, but it’s not a question of armaments,” he said, suggesting that Iran could stay on the nuclear threshold.

“This is about Iran being a crucial nuclear state and making Americans understand that regime change will not happen.”

Israel’s threats of an attack do not convince him. He suggests that his clandestine efforts might be more effective in containing Iran’s nuclear advance.

“They have proven that they can do it,” comments Vatanka. “Iran is clearly completely infiltrated at a high level. There is certainly a flow of information that they have.

Ten years ago, there were reports of a coordinated US-Israel attack involving the use of the Stuxnet computer virus to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

More recently, Iran has blamed Israel for the dramatic assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was shot down near Tehran with an artificial intelligence-assisted remote machine gun and explosions that damaged its nuclear facilities.



Iran said an explosion at its Natanz nuclear facility in July 2020 was the result of

Iran says explosion at its Natanz nuclear facility in July 2020 was the result of “sabotage”

Photo: Reuters / BBC News Brazil

As part of what it calls the “war between wars,” Israel has also carried out hundreds of military strikes to reduce Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria and the delivery of precision-guided munitions to Hezbollah.

fear proliferation

While there are many disagreements among experts on what will happen next, there is consensus that the next negotiations over Iran’s nuclear plans will come at a critical time and that the risks to this volatile region. couldn’t be bigger.

If Iran develops its own nuclear arsenal, other powers – Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt – are likely to do the same.

Washington has said it wants to end the “eternal wars” in the Middle East. But he also warned that he would seek “other options” with regard to Iran, and was seen exerting military force.

In a symbolic gesture, at the end of the recent Israeli air exercise, an American warplane capable of carrying a bomb that could be used to target underground nuclear facilities was escorted through Israeli airspace by two Israeli warplanes. .

The paradox – as strategists are keen to make it clear – is that serious preparations for military action against Iran may be the best way to prevent this from happening.



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