Amid growing uncertainty about Iran’s return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and in light of protracted negotiations with the United States, the Israeli Army, with Washington’s direct support, has stepped up efforts to create a real military threat to Iran and unleash a large-scale war in the Middle East.
To this end, the Israeli military has begun practicing a large-scale strike against Iran during its largest military exercise, “Chariots of Fire,” officially set to kick off on May 29. They will largely take place over the Mediterranean Sea, in the vicinity of Cyprus, The Times of Israel reports.
In addition to simulating an attack on Iran’s nuclear and military facilities, these exercises will simulate a regional conflict involving many fronts, including Hezbollah in northern Israel. Israeli state television KAN announced that among the IDF’s goals could be the elimination of Hamas’ leaders. Referring to senior military sources, whose names were not mentioned, it said that “the Israeli Army could eliminate Yahya al-Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, and Mohammed al-Daif, the commander of the Izzeddin al-Qassam brigade, the military wing of the movement.” Even in the Israeli media, it is recognized that such actions will lead to an inevitable escalation. In addition to developing the actions of the Israel Defense Forces against Iranian targets, measures are also being envisaged after them – in response to Iranian and allied retaliatory strikes. Almost all units of the Israeli military will be involved in the exercises.
On May 15, the Israeli Navy had already begun a snap exercise as part of the large-scale “Chariots of Fire” exercise, according to the Israeli media.
On May 16, Israel’s rear command also began conducting civil defense exercises in a number of regions around the country, in the event of an armed aggravation with Iran.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that Israel’s military preparations for war were being closely monitored, IRNA reported. At the same time, Tehran emphasizes that, in case of threats to Iranian citizens from Israel, Iran will strike at the very heart of the Jewish state.
Many business circles have already begun to react to the approaching pre-war situation in the region. According to Arab media reports, teams of Egyptian engineers and builders employed in projects to rebuild Gaza recently left the Palestinian enclave without warning.
The Israeli media began writing about Israel’s detailed planning of strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities as early as last fall, announcing the probable start of a series of such operations in 2022. The Israeli government announced its readiness to allocate separate funding in the amount of many billions of shekels for these missions, and an air force training plan was drawn up. At the same time, it was reported that some aspects of the Israeli Air Force strike plan could be ready within a short period of time, but others would require more thorough preparation. It was explained that Tel Aviv would not only have to strike at Iran’s military and nuclear facilities, which are located deep underground, but also find a way to overcome the Iranian air defense system. The Israeli Army will additionally need to prepare for a retaliatory strike against Israel by Iran and its allies throughout the region by strengthening “their military allies” for this.
It was precisely this circumstance that has caused increased activity by Tel Aviv in recent months, in developing and intensifying ties and cooperation with a number of Arab states in the region to “pull them away” from possible support for Iran in the looming armed conflict. The role and place of the United States in this matter can be clearly seen by Washington’s decision to transfer Israel to the zone of responsibility of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) “after the normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries, in order to expand partnerships in the region.” It is for this purpose that in February of this year, Israel for the first time publicly participated in the US-led International Maritime Exercise (IMX 22) in the Middle East, joining Oman and Saudi Arabia, with which it has no diplomatic relations but who are critical of Tehran’s policies. Israel normalized relations with the Gulf States, the UAE and Bahrain in 2020, and held joint naval exercises with the two countries for the first time in November 2021.
Due to the Israeli media it is already known that the United States will take part in the IDF exercises to practice strikes against Iran. The US Air Force will refuel Israeli aircraft mid-air during the IAF’s maneuvers involving dozens of fighters.
Apparently in order to jointly coordinate such actions, the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael Kurilla, recently completed his first official visit to Israel since taking office. According to the Israeli media, he was presented with an intelligence review, and there was an operational discussion about many issues, including those related to the joint challenges facing the US and Israeli armed forces, including the threat of the Iranian nuclear program and Iranian proxy forces throughout the Middle East. Additionally, key reports were presented on the operational activities of the IDF on the northern border, in Judea and Samaria, in Gaza, with a focus on innovations in fire and attack capabilities, intelligence, and communications. Michael Kurilla was briefed on the “Chariots of Fire” exercise.
Today, many politicians point to the increased risk of a catastrophic war in the Middle East and the responsibility in resolving this situation on the part of the United States and Israel. “US President Joe Biden should intensify efforts to restart the nuclear deal with Iran, otherwise a new catastrophic war could begin in the Middle East,” former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said in an article for The Washington Post. “Biden must seriously consider the costs of his passivity vis-a-vis Iran and find a way forward — or we may find ourselves in another conflict that no one asked for,” concluded Solana and Bildt.