The Israeli military has been preparing for the possibility that President Donald Trump will order a strike on Iran before leaving office in January, a report by Axios citing senior Israeli officials said Wednesday.
The officials said that while there is no specific intelligence that such an attack is imminent, Israeli leaders expect “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden’s inauguration in January.
They added that the U.S. would likely inform Israel ahead of carrying out military action against the Islamic Republic.
Still, Israeli officials expressed concern that the time frame would be insufficient for the army to prepare for possible retaliations targeting Israel.
If a strike were to happen, the Israel Defense Forces would expect retaliation from Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria, according to the report.
Last week, the New York Times reported reported that Trump had asked top advisers about the possibility of striking Iranian nuclear sites, including Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, during his last weeks in office, but was warned it could lead to a wider regional conflict.
Trump convened the officials a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had stockpiled over 12 times more enriched uranium than the permitted amount stipulated in the 2015 nuclear deal.
The U.S. last week rapidly deployed several B-52 strategic bombers to the Middle East in a “short-notice, long-range mission into the Middle East to deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has spoken twice in the last two weeks with Christopher Miller, Trump’s acting defense secretary, to discuss Iran as well as Syria and defense cooperation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Saudi Arabia in a historic meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to discuss the Islamic Republic, Israeli officials said.
Biden has said that he plans to return to the nuclear agreement.
If he does so, Israel will find itself alone in the fight against Iran, a minister for the ruling Likud party said Wednesday.
“Until now, Israel did not have to lead the fight against Iran because the leader of the free world did that,” Tzachi Hanegbi told Army Radio in remarks translated by the Times of Israel. “If the US goes back to the nuclear deal, Israel will be left to make decisions alone.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned against rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, saying Israel would push back against American efforts to do so.
“Do not return to the previous nuclear deal,” Netanyahu said.
“We must stick to an uncompromising policy to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons,” he added.
According to Netanyahu, Israel’s “categorical position against Iran’s nuclearization” as well as its opposition to the Obama-led nuclear deal was instrumental in generating a sea change among Arab countries regarding their attitudes towards Israel.
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