(April 12, 2022 / JNS) Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made it clear on Monday that if world powers do not reach an agreement with Iran, Israel will be forced to activate “Plan B” immediately.
Speaking during an online webinar hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Gantz explained that Iran continues to enrich uranium, is expanding its capabilities and is “close to 90% enrichment once they decide to reach it.”
Last October, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley hinted in a conversation with Aaron David Miller of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the Biden administration’s Iran team is working on a “Plan B.”
According to Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, “America doesn’t have a ‘Plan B.’ ”
He pointed to Russia’s invasion against Ukraine, noting how the United States has been unable to stop the alleged Russian massacre of thousands of civilians there, and beyond the sanctions and supplying Ukraine with weapons, it has done little more that could be proven to be effective against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to overtake a nationalistic neighbor state and expand his country’s borders.
Any American new plan against Iran would need to involve military muscle, and Inbar doubted the United States is willing to commit to that. Israel, he said, does have another way to deal with Iran, and that would involve a full military operation.
If a deal is not signed, he noted, it will not be bad for Israel since it will give Jerusalem more legitimacy to attack Iran if it so decides.
But before Israel could carry out such an attack, it would need to first eliminate the closer and more immediate threat that Hezbollah poses on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, said Inbar, and Israel isn’t ready for that.
Israel’s military intelligence suggests Hezbollah has more than 100,000 rockets aimed at its population centers and military installations.
Inbar suggested that Israel should attack Iran’s proxies first. “We have been doing that in Syria,” he said, “and we should be doing that in Lebanon.”
If Israel needs to attack Iran, “we will be subject to a terrible missile barrage [from Hezbollah in Lebanon], so maybe it is time to take it out before we go to Iran.”
Iran continues to deny that its nuclear program is for anything other than peaceful, civilian purposes.
Speaking on Saturday at the 16th national anniversary of the country’s nuclear industry, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi said, “The enemy knows very well that Iran is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon and is only afraid of the independence and empowerment of the Iranian people. The government considers it its duty not to back down from the rights of the nation in the negotiations.”
Those negotiations in Vienna are currently stalled over what appears to be a disagreement between Iran and the United States about whether the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) should be delisted as a terror organization.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh clarified that on Monday, saying there is more than one issue, and that America “hasn’t shown the will” to reach an agreement.
Tehran and Washington have each said recently the ball is in the other side’s court.
Iran has been in negotiations over the last year directly with the P5+1 nations, including France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, and indirectly with the United States, in Vienna in order to revive the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
‘Continue its covert activity’
Raz Zimmt, an expert on Iran at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), seemed to disagree with Inbar and told JNS he does not see a real “Plan B” from Israel’s perspective.
He said it is unrealistic to believe that Israel can send hundreds of warplanes to Iran to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. For that, he said, you would need three things: military capability, a green light from the United States, and a guarantee that an Israeli military option will be successful and efficient.
In Zimmt’s view, that is unlikely. “If there is no return to the JCPOA,” he said, “I assume there will be Israeli efforts to somehow delay this progress in nuclear activity.”
The bottom line, according to Zimmt, is that if there is no deal and no return to the JCPOA, and as long as Iran does nothing extraordinary, such as enriching uranium to 90% or renewing its weaponization project, “the only thing Israel can do now is to continue its covert activity.”
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