There is growing concern among Israeli and Western intelligence officials that Iran could initiate a provocation against Israel to escalate its feud with the United States and force Washington to the negotiation table, according to a report Wednesday.
Intelligence analyses have pointed to Tehran being disappointed by the fact that it hasn’t succeeded so far in forcing the US to rethink the crippling sanctions it reimposed on it last year, when it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, the Haaretz daily reported.
After threats and steps the Islamic Republic has taken so far to escalate tensions in the region, it could drag Israel into the crisis through one of its proxy organizations in Syria or Lebanon — including the Hezbollah terror group — the officials said.
The report pointed to the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convening his security cabinet twice this week — a rarity even for normal times. During his transitional government since the April elections and leading up to the September vote, which he called after he failed to form a coalition, the security cabinet has barely met at all for discussions.
The second cabinet meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.
Additionally, the Israel Defense Forces is holding two large-scale drills this week in the north, though both were scheduled ahead of time as part of the annual training plan.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since US President Donald Trump last year quit the multi-nation nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
Iran on Monday announced that it will surpass the uranium stockpile limit set by the nuclear deal within 10 days, raising pressure on Europeans trying to save the accord.
Hours later, the United States said it had approved the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan — who announced he would be stepping down — said the troops were being sent “for defensive purposes” as the US has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denies responsibility for that attack, as well as for separate tanker vandalism in the region last month it has also been blamed for.
But those developments have failed to tone down American rhetoric, cause Europeans and companies to increase trade to bypass the sanctions, or significantly raise oil prices.