JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi announced on Tuesday the IDF is preparing military plans to hit Iran’s nuclear program in the upcoming year.
“I instructed the army to prepare a number of operational plans in addition to the existing ones,” he said during an address to the Institute for National Security Studies. "We are taking care of these plans and developing them during the coming year. Those who decide on carrying them out, of course, are the political leaders. But these plans have to be on the table, existing, ready and practiced."
Kochavi’s warning comes while the new Biden administration plans to revive the deal signed in 2015 to curb Iran’s nuclear program. However, the administration has said it wants to work with Israel and the Gulf States to negotiate a stronger agreement with Iran. The administration has also said the deal is conditional upon Iran’s actions.
Israeli leaders believe the 2015 plan as it stands today is flawed and would allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran, which claims its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes, announced recently it has begun enriching uranium to a level just below weapons-grade. Former President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018 and hit Iran with crippling economic sanctions, citing the country's violations of the deal.
Just hours before Kochavi’s address, Iran urged President Joe Biden to re-enter the deal. “The window of opportunity will not be open for long,” Iran’s Cabinet Spokesman Ali Rabiebi said.
Kochavi said a return to the deal, even with some improvements, “is bad operationally and it is bad strategically.” Israeli officials say any new agreement with Iran should eliminate “sunset” provisions that gradually phase out restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. They also want the US to address Iran’s long-range ballistic program and support for Israel’s enemies throughout the region. Iran’s missiles can currently reach up to 1,250 miles, long enough to reach Israel and American military bases in the Middle East.
“If the 2015 nuclear deal were carried out, Iran would be able to get itself a weapon because the agreement did not include limits to prevent this when [the agreement] ended. As of today, Iran has increased the amount of enriched material beyond what was permitted. It enriched it to levels beyond what was permitted. It developed and manufactured centrifuges that will allow it to rush ahead and produce a weapon at a much faster rate, within months, maybe even weeks,” Kochavi said.
A senior Iranian official on Wednesday dismissed Kochavi's warnings but said stressed Iran would defend itself against any attack.
“We are serious in defending the country,” said Mahmoud Vaezi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff.
“They talk more and seek psychological warfare, and they have virtually no plan, no ability, and no capability to do so,” Vaezi added, as reported by Iranian media reports.
Kochavi said the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program is “an unacceptable threat” that could trigger a “nuclear arms race” in the Middle East.
He urged the Biden administration to continue Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of financial sanctions against Iran.
“The Iran of today is not the Iran of 2015 when the deal was signed. Iran now is under enormous pressure — financial pressure, massive inflation, bitterness, and unrest in the population, whose salaries have tanked — because of the American sanctions. These pressures must continue,” said Kochavi.
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