IDF Training ‘Intensely’ for Strike on Iranian Nuclear Facilities, Israeli Media Claims
00:41 GMT 22.10.2021 (Updated: 01:53 GMT 22.10.2021)
© AP Photo / Ariel SchalitIn this Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 photo Two Israeli air force F-15s of the Knights of the twin tail 133 squadron fly over Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel, during the 2017 Blue Flag exercise
© AP Photo / Ariel Schalit
After gaining approval for a special $1.5 billion budget to bankroll the program, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are reportedly drilling for a potential airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities, in case the Vienna negotiations fall through.
The report first appeared on Israel’s Channel 12 on Thursday, claiming that IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi had directed the Israeli Air Force to train “intensely” for an attack on facilities central to Iran’s nuclear program.
The report didn’t say where the drills were being performed or if they were simulated or being rehearsed in actual aircraft. It also gave no source for the report.
The news comes just two days after the government approved a $1.5 billion addition to the 2022 defense budget for preparing for such a strike - a program which was given a two-year hiatus after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions designed to strangle Iran’s economy.
Tel-Aviv has always disapproved of the JCPOA, and then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the few leaders who backed then-US President Donald Trump's claims that Iran had been secretly circumventing the deal’s restrictions.
In response to Trump’s move, Iran began producing higher purities of refined uranium and in larger quantities than had been permitted under the nuclear deal, although nothing approaching that capable of being used to build a nuclear bomb. While Israeli and US leaders have claimed time and again that Iran is just a short time away from having a viable weapon, Israeli military intelligence recently said Iran is “not heading toward a bomb right now.”
© REUTERS / MAXAR TECHNOLOGIESA view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken last week and obtained by Reuters on April 12, 2021.
A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken last week and obtained by Reuters on April 12, 2021.
Since US President Joe Biden took office, six rounds of talks directed toward reviving the JCPOA have been held in Vienna, but no deal has yet been reached. A seventh round is set to begin soon, and the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has made increasing noise about the need for a stronger deal and for Israel and the US to draw up a “Plan B” in case talks ultimately fail.
It’s unclear how Israel would go about striking Iranian nuclear facilities, many of which are deep inside the country and under the solid rock of the Zagros Mountains. It’s been speculated that a new massive 5,000-pound bunker buster bomb tested by the United States earlier this month might be the key, as the recent test was performed by an F-15E Strike Eagle, which the IAF operates under the name Ra’am - “thunder.”
However, it won’t be like the IDF’s 1981 surprise hit on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, which was relatively undefended, unfortified, and sitting on an open plain. Iran has advanced air defense systems reportedly comparable to the better weapons an advanced military like Russia operates.
Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, recently warned Israel against “any miscalculation or military adventure targeting Iran and its nuclear program.”
Further, on Thursday and Friday, Iran is practicing its own nationwide drills involving five air bases and a host of Iranian fighters, strike aircraft, transports, and surveillance planes.