The Israel Defense Forces is drawing up plans for an attack on Iran’s nuclear program, the Israel Hayom daily reported Thursday in a front-page article.
The newspaper said that IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi has asked for three alternate proposals to derail Tehran’s program, without elaborating on them. It only indicated one of the proposals is a military strike, noting that such a plan would require a significant budgetary boost for the Israeli military.
Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent last week, well in excess of the threshold set out in its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and a short technical jump from the 90% level of enrichment needed to produce weapons.
The Israel Hayom report came a day after Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi, considered an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened that Israel could attack Iran’s nuclear program if the United States rejoined the nuclear deal, as US President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he plans to do.
“If the United States government rejoins the nuclear deal — and that seems to be the stated policy as of now — the practical result will be that Israel will again be alone against Iran, which by the end of the deal will have received a green light from the world, including the United States, to continue with its nuclear weapons program,” Hanegbi said in an interview with Kan news.
“This of course we will not allow. We’ve already twice done what needed to be done, in 1981 against the Iraqi nuclear program and in 2007 against the Syrian nuclear program,” he said, referring to airstrikes on those two countries’ nuclear reactors.
Former US president Barack Obama, with incoming US President-elect Joe Biden as his vice president, signed the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers in 2015. The Trump administration withdrew from the accord in 2018 and pressured Iran with crippling economic sanctions and other measures.
Obama signed the agreement despite fierce protest from Israel, and had a rocky relationship with Jerusalem and Netanyahu, while the premier and Trump have been in lockstep on most Middle East policy issues.
Biden is expected to take a more conciliatory approach to Iran and has said that if Iran returns to the terms of the nuclear agreement, he too would rejoin, removing the crushing economic sanctions that have wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy over the past two years.
The US president-elect has indicated that he wants to negotiate more broadly with Tehran if Washington returns to the deal, notably over its missiles and influence across the Middle East. Iran has said it could welcome the return of the Americans to the agreement, but only after they lift sanctions. It has rejected negotiation on other issues.
Iran and the Trump administration have engaged in an ongoing exchange in recent months as the Trump administration draws to a close and Iran marked the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of its general Qassem Soleimani.
The back and forth has included threats, military maneuvers, legal action and escalating Iranian violations of the nuclear deal.
Further complicating the Biden administration’s plans to reengage with Tehran were two high profile assassinations this year in Iran that were attributed to Israel. Top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was gunned down outside Tehran in November in a hit Iranian officials blamed on Israel. In August, Israeli agents killed al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in Tehran at the behest of the US, according to a New York Times report.