The fight has been raging for a long time, but so far neither side has been interested in too much publicity. A targeted act of sabotage here, an assassination attempt or an attack from the foggy cyber world there – that’s how Israel and Iran usually settle their scores. But suddenly both countries turn a few spotlights on the shadow war. This will certainly not lead to de-escalation. On the contrary: the threats are now clearly audible for everyone.
This week, Israel and the United States are holding one of the largest air force exercises in recent years. The maneuver thunder includes the clear statement that air attacks on targets in Iran are to be practiced here. The focus is on long-distance flights of the fighter jets, including refueling in the air, as would be necessary in the case of attacks on the nuclear facilities in the Islamic Republic.
The final green light for the exercise was reportedly given during a visit by Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to Washington last week. He stayed in the US capital for five days, and the focus of the talks was always the Iranian threat. In the end there was a statement by Kochavi in which he spoke of a “critical point in time” that made it necessary to “accelerate action plans and cooperation against Iran and its terrorist allies in the region”.
With the arms aid for Russia, Tehran has isolated itself from the West
Israel has long been demanding that the Americans make a “credible,” meaning massive, military threat in response to the Tehran regime’s nuclear efforts.
In the case of former US President Donald Trump, who, at the urging of then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, the Israelis had an easy time of it. His successor, Joe Biden, on the other hand, never ruled out military action as a last resort, but always gave priority to a diplomatic solution.
But the negotiations for the renewal of the nuclear pact are now at an impasse. Iran has also put itself on the sidelines for the West by providing arms to Russia in the Ukraine war. The joint military exercise by the Israelis and Americans should now be taken in Tehran as a signal that the threat is becoming more serious again.
Iran, however, is not easily frightened – and specifically responds with a counter-threat that is of a different kind than the usual rampage that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be reduced to rubble and ashes. In the current case, the threat is packaged in a slightly camouflaged form in media reports in which Iranian media close to the regime quote a Lebanese news channel.
The threatening gestures appear to be particularly dangerous right now
A long list of possible targets in Israel is specifically named, ranging from the Knesset, the parliament, to Ben Gurion International Airport and from the Ministry of Defense to the Israeli nuclear facilities in the Negev desert. It is estimated that Iran has a considerable arsenal of missiles and drones at its disposal, which could also be used by occupants such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or Islamic Jihad in Gaza if necessary.
The threatening gestures on both sides appear particularly dangerous because they can spread in a diplomatic vacuum in view of the expected final failure of the nuclear negotiations.
On the Iranian side, the at least once rhetorical mobilization against the enemy from outside can also distract from the internal pressure that is weighing on the regime due to the ongoing nationwide protests.
Moreover, a change of government and the return of Netanyahu to the post of prime minister are imminent in Israel. Netanyahu has warned louder than anyone about Iran’s nuclear program and threatened military strikes over the past few years.