Israel’s top general suggested “action” against Iran on Tuesday, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser downplayed any immediate threat posed by Tehran’s new underground nuclear facility.
World powers’ efforts to negotiate new curbs on Iranian uranium enrichment and other projects with bomb-making potential have been fruitless so far, fanning long-bruited threats by Israel to resort to force if it deems diplomacy a dead end.
“Iran has advanced with uranium enrichment further than ever before… There are negative developments on the horizon that could bring about military action,” Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, chief of Israel’s armed forces, said in a speech.
He did not detail what those developments might be, nor what action might be taken and by whom.
“We have capabilities, and others also have capabilities,” Halevi told the Herzliya Conference, an international security forum, in an apparent allusion to Israel’s U.S. ally.
Experts are divided over whether the Israeli military has the clout to deal lasting damage to Iranian nuclear facilities that are distant, dispersed, and defended. Iran denies seeking the bomb and has vowed devastating reprisals for any attack.
There has been speculation that Israel might use countries on Iran’s borders as springboards for strikes. One such country, Azerbaijan, dismissed that idea despite its strong Israeli ties.
“We refrain from interfering in the disputes or problems of other countries, including by allowing or giving our territory for some operations or adventures,” Azeri Dep. Foreign Minister Fariz Rzayev said at the conference.
“This of course limits the capacity to carry out an attack relative to above-ground facilities, which is of course easier. But what can be said about this matter is that there is nowhere that cannot be reached,” Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told the conference.
Iran had announced plans to relocate centrifuge manufacturing halls into a mountainous region near Natanz following a 2020 incident. However, Hanegbi suggests the facility’s completion is years away.
As tensions with Iran have escalated over its nuclear program, the U.S. military this month posted pictures of a powerful bomb designed to penetrate deep into the earth and destroy underground facilities that could be used to enrich uranium. https://t.co/EShFTSDWoP
— Drogon (@drogon_dracarys) May 23, 2023
Hanegbi declined to threaten an explicit Israeli attack and even suggested the onus would be on the United States by noting that it has massive GBU-43/B bombs, which are not in Israel’s arsenal.
Though Washington prefers to pursue diplomacy with Iran, the allies see “eye to eye” and have no significant difference on potential “red lines” for last-resort military action, he said.