JERUSALEM, Israel – The war of words between Israel and Iran is intensifying. The rhetoric comes at a time when the nuclear talks in Vienna to stop Iran's nuclear program seem stalled.
When Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently, he reportedly presented a timeline for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program and told Lloyd Israel is “preparing for the Iranian challenge at the operational level.”
This week the state-affiliated Tehran Times boasted in an article called “Just One Wrong Move!” that Iran can hit Israel anywhere. To drive home the point, they included a map showing targets Iran had already selected throughout Israel.
In this confrontation, the question is how do Israel and Iran view the U.S.?
Michael Makovsky, CEO of the Jewish Institute for the National Security of America (JINSA) says Iranians believe “they don’t have to fear the United States and they're continuing to escalate their program. And in return for the escalation, all they get is more and more concessions to the administration.”
Michael Makovsky recently talked with a number of Israeli military leaders.
“They feel they're alone. They know they're alone,” he said. “I think they see a U.S. that is withdrawing from the region, retreating, afraid of confrontation, desperate for a deal, not able to instill fear in the Iranians and they feel the responsibility is going to be on them, the Israeli military, to prevent a nuclear Iran.”
Makovsky says these Israeli military leaders see American weakness and cite the recent Afghan pullout, U.S. reluctance to retaliate against Iran's provocations, and eagerness to enter into a flawed deal in Vienna. In the meantime, they're looking to the U.S. for tools to strike Iran like KC 46 air tank refuelers.
“These KC 46's, that's not the only thing Israel needs, by the way. They also need precision-guided munitions. They need more 35's, some helicopters, things like that. I would not only accelerate delivery [of this], I would make your show of it. It would be a signal to the Iranians and say the United States is prepared.”
Israelis seem prepared for what might be coming. According to a recent poll, over half of Israelis would favor a military strike against Iran even without U.S. help.
“I don't think the IDF leadership harbors any illusions that the United States will take care of this problem … but I do believe when it comes down to it, they're going to have no choice but to do something militarily,” said Makovsky. "So, therefore, I think the U.S. policy – it has been only to bring us closer to war… so, I think I believe the chances are more likely than not that the Israelis will do something militarily to prevent a nuclear Iran. I just think they know they cannot live with the nuclear Iran. The question is what is their red line?”
Whatever that red line might be, it appears to be getting closer.