The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

Col. Eran Lerman of JISS: The premise among Israeli defense officials is that there may come a time when Israel will enter a major war. This is a risk Israel is willing to take if there will be no other way to stop Iran.

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Xinhua 13.04.2021

by Keren Setton, Gao Wencheng

JERUSALEM/TEHRAN, April 13 (Xinhua) — Tensions between Israel and Iran have reached a new high in the past few days, as Iran vows retaliation for an alleged Israeli cyberattack that caused a blackout at the Natanz enrichment facility in central Iran on Sunday morning.

Iranian officials and Israeli media have claimed that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was behind the sabotage, despite no official confirmation from Israel yet.

This would not be the first cyberattack against an Iranian nuclear facility attributed to Israel. In 2010, both the United States and Israel were believed to be behind a malicious cyber offensive against the same facility. This time, the White House has categorically denied American involvement in the incident.

The heightened tensions come as the new U.S. government under Joe Biden has signalled a potential major change in the U.S. policy toward Iran and the 2015 nuclear agreement. In an attempt to reverse the unilateral withdrawal from the agreement by the administration of former President Donald Trump, and much to Israel’s dismay, Biden has expressed Washington’s desire to rejoin, or at least renegotiate the deal.

Negotiations began last week in Vienna, capital of Austria, to seek a formula that would enable Washington to re-enter the pact. Israel, probably Iran’s arch-enemy, has long been a vociferous opponent to the Iran nuclear deal, citing it contains numerous loopholes which allow Iran to continue its nuclear program.

“We are entering a more dangerous period,” said Eran Lerman, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. “They (Iranians) think they can use the acceleration of the (uranium) enrichment as leverage, but this will be a grave mistake.”

Throughout the years, Israel has vowed to take all steps necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear power. The country is believed to be behind scores of attacks against targets and officials it believed involved in the Iranian nuclear program, including an attack last week on an Iranian cargo ship in the Red Sea.

Wang Jin, an associate professor at Northwest University of China, told Xinhua that Israel’s recent actions against Iran are aimed at exerting strategic pressure on Iran’s regional influence and Vienna nuclear meetings.

“At a time when the international community hopes to put the Iran nuclear deal back on track, Israel tried to deteriorate regional relations, block the return to the Iran nuclear deal, and create a favorable regional landscape for Israel,” he said.

After his meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a remark that even singled out Iran as Israel’s greatest threat.

“In the Middle East, there is no threat more serious, more dangerous, more pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran. I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its goal of eliminating Israel. And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism,” the right-wing Israeli leader said.

Iran, all the while, has maintained that its nuclear program is not for military purposes.

“The premise among Israeli defense officials is that there may come a time when Israel will enter a major war. This is a risk Israel is willing to take if there will be no other way to stop Iran,” Lerman warned.