BEIRUT (6:50 A.M.) – Just on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks to The New York Times this week wherein he openly acknowledged plans to continue covert attacks on Iran, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, has followed with his own threat.
“The progress of the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to accelerate its operational plans and the recently approved defense budget is earmarked for that,” Kohavi said according to a Jerusalem Post report published Wednesday.
The IDF chief weighing in to confirm Bennet’s words reveals that the Israeli PM’s comments to the Times this week were not mere political rhetoric or posturing. “Kohavi has made it clear that he views the JCPOA as dangerous, saying publicly that he has directed the IDF to prepare fresh operational plans to strike Iran to stop its nuclear program if necessary,” Jerusalem Post continues.
PM Bennett and his top General Kohavi now openly declaring Israel’s intent to step up covert sabotage and espionage attacks against the Iranians is somewhat unprecedented, given that in prior years it remained Israel’s policy to not comment on clandestine intelligence operations. It remains rare if not unheard of for any country to publicly announce plans for covert aggression against sovereign states.
Ahead of his expected visit to the White House to meet with President Biden which was originally planned for Thursday, but delayed to Friday due to the blasts at Kabul airport which killed American soldiers and many more Afghan civilians, PM Bennett spoke of plans for “clandestine attacks” and espionage targeting the Islamic Republic and its nuclear program. He also made reference to what he called “the gray-area stuff”.
This new approach of brazenly declaring intent to mount “gray-area” attacks appears directed not just at Tehran, but toward putting pressure on the Biden administration to halt its pursuit of a restored Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal.
It suggests Israel is ready to resort to extreme measures as it attempts to press the White House to abandon Vienna talks. The Jerusalem Post underscores that “With no diplomatic options likely to push Tehran to stop its nuclear program, Israel’s military believes that the Islamic Republic needs to be aware that should it continue with its program, it will face harsher sanctions and a true military option to stop it.”
A couple of the most notable major clandestine operations widely blamed on Israel, and which Israeli officials themselves later appeared to own up to, include the Natanz centrifuge assembly facility explosion in July 2020, and the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist outside of Tehran in November 2020.
Israel has also conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, which Israeli officials have claimed are primarily aimed at disrupting Iranian and Hezbollah operations, despite both being there at the invitation of the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad.