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Israel expanding covert attacks in Iran, senior US official tells CNN

Family members of Col. Hassan Sayad Khodaei weep over his body at his car after he was shot by two assailants in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2022. (Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA via AP)
Family members of Col. Hassan Sayad Khodaei weep over his body at his car after he was shot by two assailants in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2022. (Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA via AP)

Israel has carried out a spate of covert operations inside Iran in recent months, a senior Biden administration official tells CNN, further removing the cloud over those responsible for the mysterious attacks against nuclear and military-related targets in the Islamic Republic.

“The situation with Iran is getting very hot,” the official tells CNN, referencing Iran’s recent decision to dismantle several monitoring cameras at one of its nuclear sites in addition to the spate of attacks carried out by Israel.

Iranian ships also came within 50 years of a pair of US Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz yesterday in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner,” the US said in a statement to CNN.

The official tells the network that US President Joe Biden’s July trip to the Mideast will focus on assuring allies that the administration is taking the Iranian threat seriously.

Israel lobbied the US government heavily for Biden to travel to Saudi Arabia and meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The president said last week that he won’t hold a one-on-one meeting with MBS while in Jeddah next month.

US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Collage/AP)

“We are committed to consulting closely with our regional partners regarding US policy on Iran, and in broad terms, we support dialogue among the countries in the region on issues of regional security and stability,” says a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council

The US plans to expand economic sanctions and enforcement measures against Iran if talks to revive the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action fall through, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, adding that the administration has been seeking to build a coalition of countries in the Mideast — including Israel and the Gulf states — that will work together to combat Iran.

The hope in Washington is that this coalition will take some of the pressure off the US to act alone against Iran.

Israel is not waiting for such a coalition to materialize though, with several current and former officials telling CNN that it has expanded its covert attacks on nuclear-related targets in Iran, without giving the US a heads up. CNN does not specify whether its sources are American, Israeli or from another country.

The network does cite a US official who says that Israel was behind the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei last month.

Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei. (Screenshot)

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has not directly asked Israel to cease the operations, which ostensibly makes it more unlikely that Iran will agree to return to compliance with JCPOA, the officials told CNN.

CNN’s revelations contradict those of other news sites, which have reported that Israel notifies the US of such operations ahead of time.

The officials speaking to CNN downplayed the possibility of a conventional war breaking out between Iran and Israel, despite the uptick in attacks. However, they acknowledged that a miscalculation by either side could lead to matters spiraling out of control.

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