The war of words continued between Israel and Iran on Thursday, and the leader of Israel’s military forces confirmed escalation to military conflict is officially an option. In an interview with Ynet published Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated “yes” when asked if Israel was prepared to launch a military attack on Iran, while calling Iran’s threat a “global problem.” In response, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman threatened retaliation against Israel on Twitter.
“We state this clearly: ANY foolish act against Iran will be met with a DECISIVE response. Don’t test us,” posted Saeed Khatibzadeh in a response to Israel’s warning. In another slam against Israel’s American and European allies, the Iranian diplomatic spokesman further noted in his tweet that Gantz’ threat “stems from blind Western support.”
The heated rhetoric comes after an Iranian drone attack on the Israeli owned Mercer Street ship killed two sailors. Following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued his own warning. “Regarding the ship and the Iranian issue in general: We are working on enlisting the world but at the same time, we also know how to act alone,” said Bennett in comments published by his office on Tuesday.
“Iran already knows the price that we exact when someone threatens our security. The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit peacefully in Tehran and from there ignite the entire Middle East. That is over.”
Gantz this week also turned the spotlight on the Head of the UAV Command for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, Saeed Ara Jani, as behind the unprovoked maritime assault.
Furthermore, Gantz—speaking the powerful United Nations Security Council on Wednesday—warned that Iran was just 10 weeks away from the radioactive fuel needed for nuclear weapons capability. “Iran has violated all of the guidelines set in the JCPOA [nuclear deal] and is only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” said Gantz, whose comments were published in an Israeli press release.
“Now is the time for deeds—words are not enough. It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds—otherwise the attacks will continue.”
The United States is working on a response to the blatant Iranian attack on the Mercer Street, even as the US has also been a key player in trying to restart the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
A press statement on Wednesday from US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the two talked “about ongoing efforts to forge a coordinated response to Iran’s attack on the Mercer Street, a commercial ship that was peacefully transiting international waters.”
Meanwhile on Thursday, Ebrahim Raisi took office as Iran’s new president, and his past raises serious questions about Iran’s future. Israel’s Foreign Ministry Twitter feed has been sounding the alarm about Raisi’s behavior, including a post on Tuesday listing out just some of the concerns. The tweet listed out in bullet form: “Despised by Iranians”, “Investigated by Human rights groups for mass executions” and “Committed to the Iranian Regime’s nuclear weapons program”.
A later tweet on Thursday summed up Israel’s view of the new Iranian political leader: “It is unfathomable that a murderer who has been accused of crimes against humanity will take the seat as the President of the Iranian regime, as representatives from the international community sit by and watch.”
While the ultimate authority in Iran rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi will be a key face for Iran’s leadership and his brutal history could indicate a harder line from Iran going forward. The latest drone attack, heated words and movement toward nuclear weapons capability only further underscore that threat.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 5, 2021)