Threat of Iran crisis grows as nuclear talks fail to curb broader tensions

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Israeli officials are developing an unprecedented array of plans to “deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat,” according to political and defense leaders, as international nuclear talks remain stalled and threats from Iranian proxy forces simmer in key theaters.

“We will be prepared to carry out operations that we haven’t seen in the past, with means we didn’t have in the past, that will hit the heart of terror [entities] and their capabilities,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

Those comments, combined with a recent assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, point to the potential for a major clash in the Middle East. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team hopes to cap that risk through the rehabilitation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, while Iran has continued expanding its nuclear program throughout a suspension of the nuclear talks — and signaled that its recent agreement to return to the table does not foreshadow a softening of its position.

“They must lift the oppressive sanctions completely and effectively,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday, per state media. “Iran will not stop its compensatory actions until it is confident that U.S. sanctions will be lifted in an effective and verifiable manner with the necessary and objective guarantees.”

That statement could bode poorly for the upcoming dialogue, but Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told lawmakers that the IDF “is accelerating operational planning and preparedness to deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat,” one day after the Iranian diplomat’s comments.

“I see the Israeli comments as trying to remind Tehran that the military option really remains on the table, at least from the Israeli perspective,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies research fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu said, arguing that this warning from the Israelis also applies in the event of a nuclear agreement that they deem insufficient. “Even in the context of a bad deal … the Israelis still have unfinished business with Iran because Iran has not altered its foreign and security policy.”

Kohavi touted the low-key conflict “against our enemies in missions and secret operations throughout the entire Middle East,” while Gantz threatened explicitly Iran and the terrorist groups backed by Tehran.

“On an operational level, we are acting extensively,” the defense minister said, per the Times of Israel. “We won’t allow Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in the area to be equipped with weaponry that will harm Israel’s [military] superiority in the region.”

That saber-rattling followed the attempted assassination of al Kadhimi, whose home was targeted over the weekend in a drone attack that is widely perceived as having been carried out by Iranian-backed militia groups.

“There’s a lower threshold for the use of force by these unmanned aerial threats,” Ben Taleblu said. “And I think we’re going to see more of these weapon systems, in more of these theaters in the coming years. Iraq the maritime domain, Syria — these are coming attractions.”

Source » denvergazette

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