5 March 2023   Leave a comment

I am becoming increasingly concerned that Israel is thinking more seriously about attacking the nuclear facilities in Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. In late February, Iran acknowledged that a report from international inspectors that Iran had purified Uranium to 84% purity, very close to the threshold level for weapons-grade Uranium. Since that time, there have been many high-level meetings among Israeli defense officials. According to Al-Monitor:

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant agreed on Wednesday night on a multiyear defense budget, a large portion of which will be dedicated to preparations for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

“Indeed, reports confirm that Israel is stepping up its preparations to attack Iran’s military nuclear infrastructure. Since Netanyahu returned to power in late December, this possibility is being discussed on a practical level, reflecting the coveted goal of his career. As things look now, the question is not really whether Israel will attack Iran, but when it will do so and whether it will go it alone or with US logistical, political and perhaps even ‘kinetic’ backing.

“Israel’s top security brass took part this week in the Defense Ministry’s 2023 annual work plan conference, among them Gallant, Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. (Res.) Eyal Zamir and the head of the Ministry’s Political-Security Division, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom. Addressing the participants, all three agreed that a real war was being waged between Israel and Iran. Shalom, the most outspoken of the three, said Israel must shift gears and realize that it is already engaged in a war of varying intensity with Iran.”

Moreover, “Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has held a meeting with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in Tel Aviv to discuss the regional security and the importance of international cooperation aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons”. The US has had a contingency plan, code-named “Support Sentry”, for a military operation against Iran since 2018 under the Trump Administration (such plans are not alarming in and of themselves–the US likely has many contingency plans to invade Canada). But the plans have increased urgency given recent events: “Support Sentry is one example of the U.S. military’s growing comfort with — and support for — Israel’s aggressive stance toward Iran. As U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides’ bluntly put it last week, ‘Israel can and should do whatever they need to deal with [Iran] and we’ve got their back.'”

The new Israeli military budget has allocated additional funds for capabilities specifically targeted toward Iranian nuclear facilities. Specifically Israel has requested enough money to purchase the GBU-72 bomb from the US which is designed to destroy underground facilities such as those being used by the Iranian nuclear program. The Middle East Monitor notes:

“Israel’s cabinet has approved a multi-year draft general budget which, amongst other things, grants an increase by approximately $2.8 billion for a potential strike on Iran and its nuclear program.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant agreed on Wednesday night on a multi-year defence budget which will reportedly largely be used to prepare for a potential strike on Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.

“According to media reports, Israel is planning to request the United States to sell to it its new GBU-72 bomb, which weighs 5,000 pounds (2,267.9 kilograms) and has the capability to strike underground sites or bunkers.

“The planned purchase had initially been considered in 2021 when that year’s budget allocated $1.5 billion to the Israeli military for the purpose of attaining arms for a potential conflict with Iran. The military continued that aim this year, but requested an additional $3 billion, of which $2.8 was granted….

“The resumption of the plan to purchase the GBU-72 bomb comes particularly at a time when Israel has been openly considering taking preventative military action against Iran’s nuclear program, with Netanyahu seeking to bomb sites and underground facilities in a repeat of Israel’s striking of Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear facilities in 1981 and 2007.”

Attitudes toward Iran have become sharply more negative since the death of Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022. Amini died in the custody of the Iranian morality police for not wearing an appropriate head covering and the country was rocked by serious protests for several months. According to Ellen Ioanes writing for Vox:

“Amini’s death became the catalyzing event to unleash pent-up fury at the government; political opposition is basically nonexistent, with Iran’s Reform Party suggesting gradual fixes in the face of protesters’ demands for radical change. Ordinary Iranians have little political representation, particularly after the election of the hard-line current President Ebrahim Raisi, Khamenei’s preferred candidate in the 2021 elections who has a record of grievous human rights abuses. Many Iranians refused to vote in those most recent elections, both as the only feasible way to show disgust with the system, and because many understood the vote to be rigged in Raisi’s favor.….

“To date, at least 517 people have been killed during the protests, though the actual number is unknown since the regime does not release data on those killed, arrested, or executed for participating in the uprising. That number includes roughly 50 children under 18, the New York Times’ Farnaz Fassihi previously reported. But casualties and arrests — the latter of which the HRANA activist news agency puts at around 19,200 — are difficult to track; social media and internet access are severely curtailed, and foreign reporters can’t access the country.”

Those attitudes have only hardened with the reports of the poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls, ostensibly to send messages to Iranian women to end the protests. But little is known at this time about those poisonings, other than many of the girls have been sent to the hospital.

My heightened concerns about an Israeli attack on Iran arises because of the domestic turmoil within Israel as the Netanyahu government seeks to change the authority of the Israeli Supreme Court so that its decisions can be overridden by the Knesset. The change would also likely undermine the ability of the Israeli justice system to prosecute him for alleged crimes of bribery and corruption. Additionally, the settler movement is feeling empowered by the Netanyahu government to take stronger steps to annex the entire West Bank at the expense of all the Palestinians who live there. An attack on Iran would probably stimulate stronger nationalist feelings within Israel and put the concerns of many Israelis about the future of Israeli democracy on the back burner. It seems to be a ripe time for Netanyahu to change the political climate within Israel in his favor.

Posted March 5, 2023 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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