Top officials in Israel warned that time could be running out for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities because Russia could provide Tehran with its feared S-400 air defense systems, according to a report on Bloomberg.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to carry out attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and has attended secret meetings with top military officers about a possible confrontation with Tehran. RT, the Russian news outlet, reported last week that the U.S. has given Israel a public green light to stage an attack on Iran.
The report pointed to a comment from Tom Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who said in February that Israel can “and should do whatever they need” because the U.S. has their back. There is also a new sense of urgency because international monitors detected uranium enriched to 84 percent purity—just below the 90 percent needed for weapons, the report said.
Mark Milley, the head of U.S. Central Command, visited Israel last week and the discussion was Iran. Israeli military officials told Milley, “Ongoing cooperation is required in order to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon,” Reuters reported.
The Jerusalem Post reported last week that Iran is believed to have asked Russia for a new S-400 air defense system, which “could prove to be a disaster for Israel.” The paper said Russia has not responded to the request publicly but the system could be operational in about two years. Iran already operates the Russian S-300 air defense systems, the report said.
“The longer you wait, the harder that becomes,” Netanyahu told reporters. “We’ve waited very long. I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Some analysts expressed doubt that Iran would ever receive the systems and said it could be a while before Iranians could even be trained on them.
“Russia-Iran cooperation has the potential to change calculations in the Middle East in the wake of Iran sending drones to Russia. Russia has backed Iran in the past, but any claims of Russia sending warplanes or other systems have not been realized. Russia is cautious and needs resources at home,” Seth Frantzman, a Middle East analyst, told EurAsian Times.
TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal has reported extensively on the clandestine war between Israel and Iran. (See “MIDDLE EAST MELTDOWN: NETANYAHU IS PREPARING FOR AN ATTACK ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR FACILITIES AFTER SECRET MEETINGS” 28 Feb 2023, “ISRAEL LOOKS TO SAUDI ARABIA TO COUNTER IRAN” 21 Feb 2023, and “WHAT DRONE STRIKE? NETANYAHU DODGES QUESTIONS ABOUT ATTACK ON IRANIAN MILITARY FACILITY” 7 Feb 2023.)
Earlier this year, Washington and Israel carried out a war drill called Juniper Oak that included a menu of America’s top military jets and about 7,500 troops along with about 1,100 Israeli troops. The two countries wanted to send a message to Tehran that they can still respond to the Iranian threat while assisting Ukraine in its war with Russia.
The exercise was the largest ever joint exercise conducted by Israel, including over 140 aircraft that the report noted included nuclear-capable bombers and F-35 fighter jets. The hope is that the exercise will improve the “interoperability” of the U.S. and Israeli forces.
Any Attack on a Nuclear Facility is Illegal
Rules, of course, do not apply to the U.S. and Israel, but Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters last week that any attack on a nuclear facility is illegal, whether the facility is in Ukraine or Iran.
Grossi attended a press conference in Tehran last week and told reporters that a military attack on a nuclear facility is “out of the normative structures that we all abide by.”
“We certainly hope that we are going to be able to protect the nuclear power plant which is under threat now, which is [Ukraine’s] Zaporizhzhia,” Grossi said. “But this is valid and applicable to every nuclear facility in the world.”
Last month, Israel’s Mossad allegedly carried out a drone strike on a nuclear facility in Isfahan.
Few details about the attack are known. Iran claimed that it managed to intercept most of the drones, but one slipped past its air defenses and caused superficial damage to the facility. Western sources said Tehran downplayed the strike and called it a success.
TRENDPOST: Ukraine has accused Tehran of providing Russia with drones that have been put to effective use in the war, and cheered Israel’s attack.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, posted on Twitter shortly after the strike: “Explosive night in Iran. [Ukraine] did try to warn you.”
The Ukraine War has pushed Russia closer to Iran, and there are allegations that Tehran is providing Russian forces with ammunition and drones.
John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said Russia has offered Iran “unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics, and air defense and may provide Tehran with fighter jets.”