Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ramped up his threats of war against Iran and slammed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, for cooperating with Tehran on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s warning was included as part of a video statement recorded from Tel Aviv’s underground command bunker – at Israel’s military headquarters – where a rare cabinet war drill was convened. The Israeli leader reemphasized his willingness to launch a preemptive war, including bombing the country’s nuclear facilities, if international diplomacy fails with Iran.
“We are committed to acting against Iran’s nuclear [drive], against missile attacks on Israel and the possibility of these fronts joining up,” Netanyahu said. The stepped-up threats come as Israel is carrying out a two-week series of military exercises dubbed “Firm Hand.” The drills are eyeing a war on multiple fronts with Lebanese Hezbollah, Syria, as well as Iran, simulating “multi-arena combat” across the “air, sea, land, electromagnetic spectrum, and in the cyber arena.”
Since taking power last December, the current regime in Israel has waged a brutal bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip which has killed 33 people, doubled the number of air raids in Syria, conducted strikes in Lebanon, as well as drone attacks in Iran. Additionally, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 119 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem so far this year.
While flanked by his security cabinet ministers and defense chiefs, Netanyahu warned that the possibility of a multi-front war means Israeli leadership must “consider, if possible consider ahead of time,” major decisions.
Earlier, Netanyahu also took aim at the IAEA, after the Vienna-based org reportedly resolved some outstanding inquiries with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear energy program. The concerns put to rest pertained to one of three so-called “undeclared” nuclear sites, where trace particles of unprocessed uranium had been found previously, as well as some recently discovered highly enriched uranium particles.
Netanyahu blasted the IAEA’s success with Tehran, including re-installing some monitoring equipment originally put in place under the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal which the US illegally exited. The Israeli leader declared “Iran is continuing to lie to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” insisting the “agency’s capitulation to Iranian pressure is a black stain on its record.”
Without providing evidence to support his claims, Netanyahu said Iran’s explanations are “technically impossible,” and that the agency is politicizing the issue and endangering its own credibility. However, coming under pressure from the US and Israel in recent years, the watchdog group has been increasingly politicized against Tehran.
The issue of the unprocessed uranium traces found at what have long been dubbed the “undeclared sites,” an allegation which originated in Israel, is highly controversial. This is because the the trace particles themselves never posed any proliferation risk, but the allegation has long been used by Washington and Tel Aviv to thwart diplomatic progress on saving the JCPOA. Iran provided the IAEA with full documentation on these inquiries last year and allowed inspectors to access to the sites as well. Only now is the Islamic Republic’s cooperation being officially recognized, something which the White House had actively opposed.
For their part, the Israelis have railed against the JCPOA, hailed the US “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, and called for a credible military threat against Iran. If Israel was truly concerned about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, Netanyahu would support the JCPOA, which mandates the most comprehensive international inspections regime ever implemented.
In any case, both the Pentagon and the CIA have repeatedly denied Israel’s accusations that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb and the country has been a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for more than 50 years. Israel has never signed the NPT due to its open-secret nuclear arsenal thought to contain hundreds of warheads – technically making decades of American aid to Tel Aviv illegal under US foreign assistance laws.