Israel army chief orders plans to counter Iran
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Chief of Staff General Aviv Kochavi said he had instructed the military "to prepare several operational plans in addition to existing ones... throughout the coming year".
"The power to initiate them lies with the political echelon," he noted, referring to Israel's government. However, the offensive options need to be prepared, ready and on the table," he added. Iran, Israel's arch foe, agreed in 2015 a deal on its nuclear programme with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
The accord offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear ambitions and guarantees it would not seek an atomic bomb. Iran maintains it has only pursued a civilian nuclear energy programme. Israel always opposed the deal and in 2018 then US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled Washington out of it and reimposed crippling sanctions in a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran.
In response, Iran has stepped back from key nuclear commitments, leaving the deal hanging by a thread, even as new US President Joe Biden's administration has signalled it wants to salvage the agreement. Israeli authorities openly fear this eventuality. "Any agreement that resembles the 2015 agreement is a bad thing, both strategically and operationally," Kochavi said, addressing a meeting organised by the Institute of National Security Studies.
"Pressure on Iran must continue -- Iran must not have the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb," he added. The army chief also said Israel had hit 500 targets in the Middle East last year. The Jewish state has undertaken air and missile strikes against Syria since the latter's civil war began in 2011, targeting Iranian forces and troops from the Lebanese movement Hezbollah deployed in support of Damascus. "Regarding the northern front, Iran is not displaying any intention of withdrawing," said Kochavi, referring to Lebanese and Syrian territory. Our operations are destined to continue to prevent this (Iran's) deployment from continuing," he added.