The latest exchange of threats between Israel and Iran – plus Hizballah – ended this week without action. Israeli officials indicated that Iran’s Lebanese tool Hizballah would be targeted before the IDF tackled Iran proper in order to neutralize the threat from the north. Pointed up was the exercise Hizballah showcased on Sunday, May 21, for striking an Israeli civilian location. Iran was presumed to be pushing its Lebanese proxy to go ahead.
Two days later, IDF Intelligence (AMAN) chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliwa warned in a TV interview: that “Nasrallah [Hizballah chief] is close to making a mistake that could spark regional war” He referred pointedly to an event on March 13, saying “The Megiddo intrusion was not an isolated incident.” He was referring to the undetected infiltration of a Lebanese Hizballah operative who planted a roadside bomb at the Megiddo junction of a major Israeli highway. A motorist was injured in the explosion. The IDF has not yet responded to this incident.
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Hertzi Halevi warned on Tuesday of potential “negative developments” regarding Iran’s nuclear program that “would force Israel to react,” adding, “Iran has made more progress in uranium enrichment than ever before. We are also closely examining other aspects of the [Iranians’] path to nuclear capability,”
The general did not expand on his warning, but he was clearly prompted by three negative developments:
First, Iran is building a new underground site 100km deep in the Zagros Mountains – that will be hard to bomb – to replace an exposed uranium centrifuge manufacturing center at nearby Natanz that was struck by an explosion and fire in July 2020.
National Security Adviser Tzahi Hanegbi acknowledged that “of course it limits the ability to attack,” but added, “There is no place that can’t be reached.” He also said: : “If there is no other option, Israel’s leader may order an attack on Iran.”
The second development relates to the US intelligence discovery that Iran is only days away from the capacity to begin enriching uranium up to weapons grade.
And the third: Tehran has replaced Adm. Ali Shakhmani as national security adviser with the hawkish Revolutionary Guards officer Ali Ahmadian.
Tehran responded swiftly to Lt. Gen. Halevi’s comments on Tuesday by warning that an attack on its nuclear facilities “would set off a major war for which Israel would be held responsible.” The Iranian spokesman said that the general’s words “reflected the depth of Israel’s internal problems,” and went on to say: “We do not seek war, but the world must understand we have lines and that there are no red lines when it comes to our response to Israel.”
This week too, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the AMAN base for an in-depth briefing from Gen. Haliwa and other commanders on plans for countering the Iranian/Hizballah threat, as well as routine operations for foiling Palestinian terrorist operations.
Netanyahu wound up the visit by declaring himself highly encouraged. Israel, he said, “had gained the edge over all its enemies by means of combining human and artificial intelligence. I see the future is already here now. Our enemies would be well advised to realize that we are miles ahead of them.”