image Photo: Shmulik Almany (IMoD), CENTCOM

Israel, US discuss Iran military options

Israel and the United States are holding top level security meetings in Washington on possible courses of action in the event of failure during ongoing diplomatic negotiations in Vienna to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.  

By Erin Viner

“Iran is the biggest threat to global and regional peace and stability” while posing “an existential threat to Israel,” Israeli Defense Minister Gantz said at the start of talks with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, stating that he looked “forward to deepening our dialogue and cooperation vis-à-vis Iran, including on topics of military readiness.”

Discussion of emerging challenges and opportunities in the region centered on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and its regional aggression, said a statement TV7 obtained from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD).

A senior American official cited by Reuters said the Israeli and US defense chiefs would review possible military exercises in preparation of a ‘worst-case scenario’ to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities if their nations’ leaders request it.

The Islamic Republic not only threatens Israelis “physical security” and “our way of life and our shared values,” Gantz said, going on to underscore, “In its aspirations to become a hegemon – Iran seeks to destroy all traces of freedom, human dignity and peace in the Middle East and beyond. The nuclear program is a means to its hegemonic goals

During “a meaningful discussion that reflected the historic bond and strategic ties between the US and Israel,” Minister Gantz thanked Secretary Austin for the ongoing cooperation between the respective defense establishments, which is unparalleled on all levels, added the IMoD statement. He also expressed gratitude for Secretary Austin’s personal commitment and contribution to the two nations strong bilateral relationship and security of the State of Israel.

Israel’s top defense official also emphasized his nation need to preserve its Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in an increasingly unstable region, including replenishment of key supplies for aerial defense systems.

Israel’s QME will not only guarantee the safety of our citizens but will also enable us to leverage the positive trends in the region,” stressed Defense Minister Gantz, elaborating that, “Only a strong, secure Israel can extend its hand in peace to its neighbors. Only a strong and secure Israel can work with its new partners to expand normalization and create alliances against emerging threats.”

In his second official meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Minister Gantz “emphasized the need for measures to stop Iran’s nuclear program and its regional aggression,” said the IMoD, and reiterated the threat Iran poses to global peace and stability.

Immediately prior to his departure for the US talks, Gantz revealed on Twitter that his intended conversations would include “possible modes of action to ensure the cessation of (Iran’s) attempt to enter the nuclear sphere and broaden its activity in the region,” but added no further details.

A US official told Reuters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity, that Pentagon leaders briefed White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on 25 October about a full set of military options available to ensure that Iran will never produce nuclear weapons. The source declined to specify details on potential action, but said, “We’re in this pickle because Iran’s nuclear program is advancing to a point beyond which it has any conventional rationale.”

These joint US-Israeli preparations – which have not been previously reported – underscore Western concern over complex efforts by the administration of US President Joe Biden to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in 2018.

US and European officials have, however, voiced dismay after Tehran’s new hardline government submitted sweeping demands at the start of the 7th round of the negotiations in Vienna, heightening Western suspicions that the Islamic Republic is utilizing stalling tactics to buy more time to advance nuclear program.

After resuming yesterday following a break of several days, the Vienna Talks lasted only one hour. The US delegation, headed by Special Envoy Rob Malley, will only join over the weekend.

Confirming the so-called ‘Plan B’ military response would be discussed, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said just ahead of the Jerusalem-Washington defense talks yesterday that, “I fully expect regional security issues, including what we’re seeing with Iran and, as we’ve said before, the alternatives that we might be forced to pursue if Iran shows to us, shows to our allies and partners that it’s not willing to return in a substantive, a genuine, a constructive way to Vienna – I imagine, too, those alternatives will be a topic of discussion with Defense Minister Gantz.”

While the Biden Administration is still hoping for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear dispute, the State Department Spokesman reiterated that the “runway” for doing so “is getting very, very short for negotiations – now there is a difference between a short runway and a nonexistent runway;” and that “We should know in pretty short order if the Iranians are going and returning to negotiate in good faith.”

Expressing dismay earlier this week at Iran’s conduct in Vienna, Central Intelligence Agency Director Director William said earlier this week, “Based on the results of the new round of nuclear negotiations with the so-called P5+1, the international partners and the Iranians, you know the Iranians are not taking the negotiations seriously at this point, it was a pretty discouraging result then.”

“The honest answer is that we will see soon enough how serious they are, but what we saw this last week was not at all encouraging.”

In stunning developments that appear to undercut efforts to bring both Iran and the US back into compliance with the JCPOA, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed  on 1 December  that the Islamic Republic has now begun to to enrich uranium up to 20% purity with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP).

The Ayatollah regime has repeatedly vowed to annihilate the Jewish State. Israel has consistently warned that its arch-enemy will try to secure a windfall in sanctions relief at the talks, without sufficiently rolling back nuclear bomb-making potential through its accelerated enrichment of uranium.